I reviewed the Oberoi after last year's stay, but am writing up my most recent visit because the hotel somehow managed to be even better this time around. For those unfamiliar with Bali, I'll first provide some background on the island's different beach areas, before getting to the hotel itself.
General Bali information:
Denpasar's new international airport opened late last year, and it still working out the kinks. The long visa-on-arrival lines seem to have carried over from the old airport to the new one. Especially if you're traveling with young children, I highly recommend getting your visa in advance and avoiding what may well be a lengthy wait on arrival. On the plus side, the new toll highway has eased some of the traffic congestion in the southern part of the island, and shaved 15-20 minutes off travel times between the airport and both Seminyak and Ubud. Depending on traffic, plan on about 45 minutes between the airport and Seminyak, and about an hour between the airport and Ubud.
In general, I don't think fantastic beaches figure high on the list of Bali's many charms. The beach areas each have very different characters. Kuta is a fantastic wide sandy beach, but is crowded, overdeveloped, and features hot-and-cold-running tour groups. Depending on the resort, Nusa Dua has reasonable stretches of sandy beach that are good for swimming, but you're in a relatively artificial planned resort neighborhood. Nusa Dua is great if you want to park yourself in a big, integrated resort with activities for children, but isn't ideal if you want to get out and around to feel the texture of the island itself. Sanur is an older resort area with smaller hotels and an offshore reef that helps keep the water calm for swimming, but stretches of the beach are narrow and rocky. Since the 90s, Seminyak/Legian has emerged as the island's most fashionable beach area, but the beach itself is only mediocre at best. The sand is dark and firm, and the beach is quite narrow at high tide. In the winter, at least, the surf makes it hazardous to swim. For whatever reason, the beach also tends to be littered with trash and debris - I believe it depends on currents and the weather. Some of the resorts, and the Oberoi is definitely one of them, clean up their sections of the beach. In other areas, however, you may well be weaving through a fair amount of plastic embedded in the sand. Seiminyak is an attractive spot, but it's not the place to go if you want to feel the sand between your toes and plop down into a beach lounger under a palm tree.
Seminyak is, however, an excellent choice for those interested in some of Bali's best shopping, food, and nightlife. The Oberoi is the dowager of the neighborhood, and as I noted in my last review, has been updated beautifully. In contrast to newer resorts, which try to cram as many rooms as possible into Bali's dwindling beachfront, the Oberoi is all on one level, and blessed with an abundance of garden and open space.
The hotel is designed in traditional Balinese style, and rooms are either individual villas or lanais. We have stayed in Villa 206, which is a small compound with ocean views and a comfortable private pool, and this year, in Villa 201, which does not have sea views or a pool, but like the other villas has a walled-in private patio in the rear, and in the front has a view of open garden. Villas feature a large main room, as well as big bathrooms with a tub, shower, twin sinks, and a small outdoor area. The patios have chaises longues and separate seating areas. 201 is close to the entrance, and there's a slight amount of traffic noise, which wasn't distracting to me.
I've also stayed in the lanais, and you're definitely not slumming if you're in a basic room. - they're just a bit smaller. My lanai had an outdoor seating area, as well as an ocean view. Some of the lanais are closer to the pool, and there's a bit of pedestrian traffic from other guests, so they may not feel quite as private as the villas or more secluded lanais.
This year, we got a rate that included breakfast, and it was outstanding. Weather permitting, breakfast is served at outdoor tables overlooking the beach. Instead of the typical buffet, there's an extensive a la carte selection. I especially liked the daily specials, which often included an Indonesian option. Everything was of uniformly high quality.
Seminyak is littered with good restaurants, and we weren't originally planning to have dinner at the hotel - but are very glad we did. The Kura-Kura dining room is a bit formal, without feeling fusty, and the menu includes a daily three-course special that comes in at under $40 U.S., as well as many other Western and local choices. In addition to being a great value, the quality of the food compares well to what's on offer elsewhere in the neighborhood.
The Oberoi's service is another standout: attentive and detail-oriented without feeling fussy. Staff address guests by name, and really appear to care about their work. As an American, I'm comfortable with tipping, but the hotel does not encourage gratuities - a policy that has no apparent effect on the staff's gracious professionalism. John Halpin, the general manager, pays enormous attention to detail, and his efforts really pay off in the fluid service and seamless arrangements.
The hotel seems to draw guests from all over the world, with no one region or country predominating. Most are middle-aged or older couples, as well as a smattering of families. The Oberoi is not the place to stay if you're interested in a happening lobby or poolside scene - instead of guest DJs, there are Balinese dances and cultural performances. Everything is quiet, discreet, and slightly "retro" in the best possible way.
Seminyak has a clutch of flashier new beach resorts. I've enjoyed stays at a couple of them, but was drawn back to the Oberoi. Some of the newer places are like the alluring young woman with the plunging neckline who first attracts your attention at a party, until you find yourself drawn back to the elegant lady with the thoughtful conversation and an interesting story to tell: she's the Oberoi, and somehow you want to spend more time with her.
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- Also Known As:
- The Oberoi Bali Hotel Seminyak
- Oberoi Hotel Bali
- Oberoi Hotel Seminyak
- Oberoi Bali
- Oberoi Seminyak
- Seminyak Oberoi
- The Oberoi Bali Seminyak