I must admit I hadn’t really done my homework prior to pulling up to the enormous stone columns marking the entrance of The Santai Villas in the laid-back suburb of Umalas, Bali. The Amala Villas, The Santai’s sister retreat and the place I’d just arrived from, was the hotel I was dying to experience after hearing some fantastic reviews from fellow travellers. The Amala was the escape I had been looking forward to and The Santai was an afterthought, a small blimp on my Bali-adventure radar. But after getting-out of the retreat’s complimentary transfer car and climbing up the cascading steps to the open-air reception, what I saw put a huge grin on my gob-smacked face.

The expansive reception, built high above the rice-paddies to catch the light afternoon Balinese breezes, was both simplistic and high-design. A visually stunning combination of modern-Asian architecture with intricate woodwork mixed with stone pillars inscribed with ancient Balinese script as well as a glass-panelled rooftop made for an inviting and impressive introduction to the retreat. It also made for a curious one – my first question, as I pointed in utter disbelief to the glossy-see-through roof above, was: “how do you actually keep that thing clean?” The friendliness of the staff and the delicious bite-sized Indonesian snacks and fresh juices I received at check-in were a nice little touch and made me feel relaxed and right at home. But the real surprise came when I walked to the end of the structure and fixed my peepers on what lay out across the property in front of me: a luscious, manicured-to-perfection garden, complete with stone pathways, bubbling streams of water, wooden trellises and tropical flora a type of high-visibility green colour that could blind someone without specialised sunglasses. The setting was way too Secret Garden-esque to be real. And yet there it was, laid out right in front of me like an orchestrated landscaping seduction. And I hadn’t even reached my Villa yet…

I was ushered down the steps by my personal Butler and led through the newly dubbed ‘Secret Garden’ past a couple of very large vine-covered villa walls. My anticipation was pretty high at this point. I snaked around the labyrinth-like retreat following my Butler like a loyal puppy until I arrived at a big wooden gate – the entrance to my massive two-bedroom pool villa. The first gate took me through a gorgeous little passage with hanging plants, and it was there I caught the first glimpse of what looked to be Bali’s largest ever pool (note: slight exaggeration, but still, it was big!) complete with frangipani tree and jungle-like garden beds surrounding a generously-proportioned sun-deck. I said thank you to the Butler and bid him farewell as I opened the second door leading into the villa and started skipping around like a mad-woman checking out the bedrooms (which were actually two villas, separated by the pool and sun-deck), the open-air bathrooms, the designer kitchen and the living room and taking a million pictures like I do when I’m lucky enough to stay somewhere that really gets me excited! And well, I think the images pretty much speak for themselves…

the santai villas entrance

the santai villas stairs

the santai villas reception stairs

the santai villas reception

the santai villas garden

the santai villa entrance

The Santai pool

 The Santai Villas: The Lowdown

Blissful and exclusive sanctuary for the whole family.
Star in your own Secret Garden sequel, where high-design meets modern comfort.
 Groove Armada – ‘At The River’
Couples; Groups of girls for pampering weekends; Families (but if you’re not fond of running into kids that’s okay. With limited shared space and the villas being so big and spread out you’ll never know they’re there!).
highlights 1
-A special mention to the inflatable pool toys, the dolphin and the li-lo. They made for extra fun pool times!


-The Location (the suburb of Umalas) is perfect for those who want some peace and quiet and to get a taste of the ‘real Bali’, complete with proper working rice paddies and restaurants for locals but who also want to be close to the action (5 minutes from Mozaic beach club and 15 minutes drive to Seminyak).


– Each large open-air bathroom is simply divine! With not one but two outdoor showers, a massive spa-bath, a ‘hanging’ vanity surrounded by floating gardens and flowers it really is designed to be one-of-a-kind.- The ‘Secret Garden’ walkway snaking around the property (refer above).


– Free in-room daily freshly-baked cookies as well as cans of Pocari Sweat (you really need these in the Balinese humidity).


-You really get the sense of total seclusion and tranquility in your villa, with its jungle-like vibe and high walls.


– Free shuttle service to and from Seminyak (about 10-15 minutes by car).

– It’s a bit quiet, there’s limited atmosphere beyond your villa and people wanting a more lively vibe might want to stay in Seminyak… But the retreat has only been open for less than a year so it’s kind of good that’s it’s still under-the-radar of tastemakers. But I’d be willing to bet this won’t last long…


– The on-site restaurant, ‘Gong’, still has a way to go with getting their flavours par with their sister retreat The Amala. Overall the food just isn’t as tasty.

Opened In
 July 2014
 5-star luxury. All 2 and 3 bedroom villas have free and fast WiFi, room-service from on-site restaurant, flatscreen LCD TV, CD/DVD player, iPod docking station, minibar with free bottled still water and an assortment of other drinks, all the bathroom mod-cons, in-villa spa treatments, free bicycles for guest-use, private tours, yoga mats.
 2 bedroom villas from $540 AUD per night.

the santai villas kitchen


the santai villas bedroom

the santai villa pool sun the santai gong restaurant

The Santai Villas, Umalas
Jalan Bumbak Dauh No.88A, Kuta Utara, Bali 80361, Indonesia
+62 361 9002699

AMW xx


Stefanie stayed courtesy of The Santai Villas in April 2015. All opinions are her own.