To stay at the Novotel Benoa is a true privilege. I have travelled the world on and off for the past 25 years but never have I encountered an experience as well thought out and executed.
I guess I should admit upfront that I'm no fan of big resorts. In saying that I should also say that the Novotel Benoa feels more like a boutique hotel than a full-scale resort due to the low-rise buildings, the lush tropical landscaping and the availability of delicious high quality local food served at, what I consider to be, reasonable prices.
The resort itself is tastefully constructed -- Balinese style -- from natural materials such as wood, thatch, and sandstone. However what appears simple is actually about masterful design and attention to detail. The beautiful beach-side pool (one of three) for example contains sunken sandstone 'beds' that are slightly submerged for those wishing to bake in the sun or read a book without feeling too hot. Many of the common areas are open air, sitting below thatched roofs with fans to keep things cool. So well designed is the resort, that even with 85% occupancy, there is none of the hustle and bustle you might expect when people compete for a place by the pool, a seat to watch a show featuring traditional Balinese dancers or a great spot to eat (the incredible) breakfast and people watch in the mornings; rather the atmosphere feels relaxed and even (thankfully) tranquil day and night.
The staff here deliver service at its best; from the man who keeps the paths clean, to the food and beverage manager who introduces himself to you and then memorises the names of your children - everyone here gives you genuine warm smiles when you encounter them, and calmly but willingly provides you with what you need when you need it, including a beautifully clean and well maintained environment.
There are opportunities to interact with other guests (many of whom seem to be from Australia, France or Germany), by the pools, during the daily activities the resort provides (dressing up local style, aqua aerobics, night markets...) or at the kids club (if you are travelling with the vertically challenged). However, there are plenty of quiet spaces for those who just want to sit quietly and chill out.
Benoa itself is no great highlight. The beach is nice and quiet and there is only a small number of people wanting to sell you things. Food-wise, Bumboo Bali serves delicious local food and offers cooking lessons for those wanting to take a little bit of Bali back with them. The two most popular restaurants - Glaze and Bali Cardamon - underwhelmed me. Also - from my point of view - the shops are nothing to bother about.
So what would I change? Pretty much nothing if I wanted a holiday with kids where I'd be happy to sit by the pool all day.
Will I be back sometime? I sure hope so!