In March 2017, TripAdvisor named Bali island as the world’s top destination in its Traveler’s choice award.
The west coast is one of Bali’s best kept secrets. Far away from the tourists traps and fleshpots of Denpasar and Seminyak in the east, it is home to strings of dark volcanic sand beaches overlooking the Indian Ocean; the atmosphere is completely different: restful, tropical tranquility.
On the outskirts of the traditional fishing village of Pekutatan, guests at KELAPA RETREAT & SPA are surrounded by nature at her best.
‘Kelapa Retreat’ is a modern luxurious boutique hotel comprising of 23 beachfront, private villas with huge double bedrooms, 16 of which have their own private swimming pool. Set in it’s own private garden, another larger villa ‘The Kelapa Residence’ has two double bedrooms, living area and full size private swimming pool.
When I visited in 2012, they only had eight guest villas and the residence was occupied by the original German expatriate owner and his Indonesian lady friend.
Pekutatan is about 5km east of Medewi beach and is pretty isolated in West Bali. They claim it takes about two and a half hours drive from Bali’s International Airport to get to this secluded hideaway on a former coconut plantation. I would factor in 3 hours travel time as it is a narrow mountain road, which can get slow traffic in peak season and on rainy days.
They offer a car transport service from the Arrivals Hall at Depensar International Airport but I would also consider hiring a car if you plan to do some tourist activity. If you just want to hide away in the retreat, then you don’t need daily transport.
The local Malay word for coconut is ‘kelapa’; hence ‘Kelapa Retreat & Spa’. They added the ‘spa’ name recently by opening the ‘Samudra Spa’ to offer deeply relaxing massage therapy treatments.
The management would like to emphasise that they are “GLBT” friendly. While religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognises only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Three of those religions are pretty “conservative” about GLBT activity.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country (87.2% of the 260 million population). However, Bali is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority. With a population of 4.3 million, 83.5% of Bali’s population adheres to a more tolerant Balinese Hinduism.
The reception lodge is surrounded by limpid pools to give an ambience of serene coolness.
Thank goodness for the cool welcome drink and cold compressed towel as relief from the heat and humidity.
For many guests, the first sight of your villa may be after sunset because of flight arrival schedules and the long drive to Kelapa Retreat. You may hear the Indian Ocean as you approach your villa but not see it.
The rooms are spacious and air-conditioned but the ceiling fan allows the option to leave your patio doors open.
The view from your rattan deck chair is spectacular as the infinity pool merges into the ocean view beyond.
There are indoor bath and shower rooms but most guests will want to use the decadent (and a little risqué) outdoor bath or shower in your private courtyard.
Leading from the villas, past the signature butterfly-shaped infinity pool and sun lounging terraces, to the sand’s edge, the panorama of the bay opens up to the resplendent pounding energy of the ocean.
Between the quiet surf beaches of Medewi (5 km) and Balian (20 km), Kelapa Retreat can be your luxury après-surf home, or simply the perfect beachfront hideaway for a truly relaxing retreat. Officially, there is Wi-Fi available but I found the connection speed and sustenance patchy. Together with the elusive mobile phone signal in the mountains, it makes for a good excuse to simply be “uncontactable” for a week.
Another more plausible reason may be taking in the sun and the surf from under this umbrella, together with the ministrations of this chappie…
By the way, ‘Bintang’ means star in local dialect; you’ve learned another Indonesian Malay word!
Another word is Margarita; strangely the same pronunciation in Malay…
There really is nothing to “do” if you set your mind onto masterly inactivity.
You can stroll on the beach to the rock pools. A twenty minute walk by the sea takes you to the village of Pekutatan with its friendly residents; the fishermen can also take you on a morning fishing trip, after which the chefs can prepare your catch for dinner. Optimism is a Hindu trait!
Your can commune with nature and follow the avian neighbours.
At the end of the day, you could just watch the sun go down with a sundowner or two…
Even if your fishing trip was unsuccessful, you can look forward to “Western-style” and local cuisine at Tides Restaurant & Bar on site. Remember that consumption of beef is forbidden for Hindus but they make an exception for foreigners. We really did not like the “beef-burger” at this restaurant mainly because it smelt like the back end of cattle. Also bear in mind that the local cattle are really a type of buffalo and very lean. When it comes to beef…fat means flavour.
However, the Balinese are masters in the art of cooking babi (pig), ayam (chicken), bebek (duck) and tempe (soyabean cake).
Betutu is a Balinese dish of steamed or roasted chicken or duck in rich bumbu betutu (betutu spice mix) consisting of shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, wild ginger, galangal, candlenuts, chili peppers, shrimp paste, and peanuts all finely ground using pestle and mortar. The bumbu betutu paste is sautéed with coconut oil to release its aroma, and applied to poultry: chicken or duck. In this case, it is duck as the Indonesian Malay word for duck is ‘bebek’. Bebek betutu is almost the national dish although the barbeque-lovers opt for ‘babi guling’ (spit-roasted whole pig).
Red Balinese Sambal Chicken really hits the hot spots and needs a lot of cold liquid refreshment to recover from…
The Samudra (Ocean) Spa recently opened to offer Treatments and Massage but you can also request them in the privacy of your villa.
Right from the beginning of Kelapa Retreat, they had Dek-Du, massage therapist and well respected local balian (shaman healer). In Bali it is common to go to the local healer instead of a medical doctor and Dek-Du receives patients in his own home as well as travelling to treat people within the community. His treatments include a variety of natural medicines and massage.
When asked if anyone can become a healer he replies that one needs to be in touch with ‘Taksu’ (Universal Energy) and states that he knows instinctively when there is a problem with a patient. Dek-Du says that massage is an excellent tool to release blocked energy, though believes the most important aspect of staying healthy and happy is a positive attitude and a peaceful mind.
Traditional Ceremonial Balinese Massage
Capturing the essence of Balinese ceremony, this full body massage combines offerings and incense to purify the space. During the massage, Dek-Du directs energy within the body, freeing the mind and promoting total relaxation.
Specialized Neck, Shoulder and Back Massage
Focusing on the neck, shoulders and back, Dek-Du works on trigger points, releasing knots and bringing relief from built up tension.
Traditional Healing Massage
A full body massage combining both traditional massage techniques and pressure point therapy which work on meridians throughout the body, releasing blocked energy and aiding holistic healing.
The Kelapa Retreat & Spa focuses on relaxing activities with low noise levels so that a truly relaxing and peaceful experience can be assured.
Guests can participate in daily yoga classes.
From the beach front, the Indian Ocean awaits for swimming, snorkeling and body-surfing. Boogie boards are freely available whenever you wish. For experienced surfers, the surf beach of Medewi is 5 km away.
Bicycles and motorcycles/mopeds are available for rental. If the hills seem too much of a challenge, you and your bike can be driven up to a mountain village so that you can enjoy a leisurely downhill ride back to Kelapa Retreat.
Since Bali has many attractive and incredible sights, they offer recommendations for full and half day tours. More of that in a later AlphaLuxe report…
Finally, as a popular honeymoon resort, you can experience a Balinese style wedding.
Published Daily Rates (USD) but you may get better deals through the usual channels…..
Room Type Low season High season Peak season
Deluxe Ocean View Villas 302++ 325++ 345++
Deluxe Ocean Front Villas 363++ 375++ 395++
Kelapa Residence 603++ 645++ 675++
Terms & Conditions
Above rates are per room per night for single and double occupancy
All rates subject to 11% tax and 10 % service charge (++)
All rates are inclusive of breakfast
High Season is from 1 July – 31 August and Peak Season 20 December – 5 January
When I first visited, the Kelapa Retreat had only just started business and many things were yet to be refined and polished. It really was “out-in-the-sticks” and had yet to develop its client demographic.
My smartphone didn’t work and I found the isolation disconcerting but now it is a strength of the location. That isolation is also favoured by the GBLT community.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).