Last updated on August 22nd, 2023
Welcome to Japanese and Balinese paradise! Get ready to immerse yourself in the epitome of luxury and tranquility at Hoshinoya Bali, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Ubud. As part of the renowned 5-star Japanese hotel brand, this exquisite resort combines the best of traditional Balinese charm with the impeccable service and attention to detail that the Hoshinoya brand is known for. Prepare to be enchanted by the lush greenery, breathtaking views, and unparalleled hospitality that await you.
From the moment we arrived, it was clear that Hoshinoya Bali was more than just a resort—it was an experience like no other. The warm smiles and genuine greetings from the staff immediately made us feel like we had stepped into a world of pure bliss. As we entered our beautifully designed villa, we couldn’t help but be captivated by the seamless blend of contemporary elegance and Balinese aesthetics. The delicate touches, such as the handcrafted ornamental walls blended with Japanese minimalism, added an extra layer of charm to the already idyllic surroundings.
But let’s dive into the details of our beautiful stay. From the invigorating daily cultural experiences to the mouthwatering culinary journey that delighted our taste buds, Hoshinoya Bali left no stone unturned when it came to indulgence and authenticity to Bali and Japanese lifestyle.
Arrival & Check-In
As our Grab taxi made its way to drop us off at the resort lobby, we realized we were driving through the quiet and remote countryside of Ubud. Tighter roads adjacent to vibrant rice paddies were the opening scene before we reached Hoshinoya’s unassuming entrance laid with bright stone walls.
We were the only guests to arrive that day and our host was there when we pulled up to greet us with a smile and lead us through the Balinese style wooden doorway into the al fresco lobby.
The lobby was a prelude to the rest of the resort’s property. Contemporary lines and colours blended perfectly with the Balinese materials and interior design. Within the covered waiting area were comfortable couch seating with each glass coffee table having a single plumeria bloom sitting in a glass bowl of fresh water. Throughout our stay, I noticed they would change the flowers when they started to wilt and would place all sorts of coloured frangipani blooms in the bowls that they had at their disposal.
The check-in process was swift as we enjoyed a moist face towel and chilled tea in the waiting area. We didn’t even notice the staff already moving our luggage to our villa on their light feet before one of our hostess’ lead us to our new home with a brief lay of the lands as we passed through the resort.
Tour of Villa Jalak
The villa-only resort provides an outstanding luxurious experience for all their guests no matter the tier of room category. With only 30 villas on property, it creates a quiet and exclusive space to escape to in the heart of Ubud. There are three villa types that each provide a different experience, whether that’s more privacy, open views to the dense valley, more indoor space spanning two floors, or more space to roam around in the sun and by the water.
The Villa Jalak is where we stayed and is defined as a garden pool villa with terrace, focusing on the river valley views with its wide span balcony. It’s the perfect place for two and the one we resided in, villa 207, has a completely unobstructed view of the valley. It sits right on the edge of the semi-private swimming pool closest to the valley where the water from the pool flows down via a waterfall feature. We could hear the calming sounds of the water right from our living room.
The entrance to our villa was just steps away from the main boardwalk that connects the lobby and amenities to the villas. Through the modernized Balinese doorway, we walk into a full blown garden terrace in which a stone walkway leads up to the door to our suite. The terrace was not like any other as a fully grown tree was planted amidst the lush bushes, plants and flowers, which provided quite a bit of shade for us overhead. Hints of a Japanese zen garden exude from this front yard.
Walking up the steps to the door, the leafy plants create a half wall to separate the front terrace from the back terrace which we can peak at before entering the villa, but I’ll get to that space later.
Upon entering the villa, we noticed how much Japanese influence there was on the space, pointing out Hoshinoya’s mark on the design, while it still incorporated Balinese materials and architectural technologies to bring the villa to fruition. Wood is the dominating material used for all the walls, floors, ceilings and doors, and all finishes were left to be the natural wood exposed, including that of the high vaulted ceiling iconic to Balinese villas. Wooden slats were used for many of the partitions, including covering the AC vents, and the partition separating the living area from the hallway was actually used to hide maintenance access panels from plain sight. All behind smooth exposed wood!
The flush wooden look is a common theme in the space. Even the two doors that separate the bathroom and closet space from the rest of the villa slide effortlessly into the walls. When slid open, the entire villa feels like a cohesive piece with no blocked pathways and light can poor into the bathroom naturally.
From the villa entryway, you can head straight to reach the bedroom, right to find the living room and pool terrace or left for the bathroom. The bathroom is incredibly spacious. On the right side when you enter from the entryway, you’ll find the storage and closet space sit against the partition that connects to the bedroom. Placed symmetrically, we have his and hers large built-in wardrobes on each side of the partition, and moving inward, there are open cubbies and soft-closing drawers spanning the entire centre area. On top of this half-height built-in dresser is a granite countertop to place your luggage. There’s enough room on the countertop to place two large suitcases if need be.
In the drawers you’ll find your fresh towels and bathrobes neatly folded, and your branded Hoshinoya indoor slippers placed in the cubbies. I love that the bathrobes are identified by a pink or blue lining for guys and gals, and the pink lined one is slightly smaller than the other, which fit us perfectly. But you can always request the housekeeping team to switch them out if you’d like! Same goes for the soft fabric outdoor flip flops they provide, which are a modern (and much more comfortable) take on the Japanese geta. These have a unique design and size for larger and smaller feet, and fit us – again – super well. But don’t hesitate to ask for replacements if you need a size swap!
Across the wardrobe wall is the double vanity. The large top-mount white ceramic rectangular sinks were another touch of minimalist modernity I love. The countertop granite matched the one for the luggage and that grey colour brought out the earth tones that were spread through the villa. Additional movable bathroom amenities are there for your convenience, including a laundry basket, a wooden seat stool and small portable vanity mirrors.
A bathroom amenities basket is set in the middle cubby under the vanity, which provides everything you need in pairs from toothbrush kits, foldable combs, emery boards and nail maintenance accessories, shaving kits, cotton pads and more. On the counter are further amenities you can use during your stay like a pouch of bath salts, loofahs, and a branded fabric pouch filled with health kit for you to keep. You pretty much have everything you need if you’ve forgotten to pack any toiletries!
On the left side of the vanity is the toilet enclave with a lockable door, which has its own little top-mount ceramic sink, and – you guessed it – the toilet is a contemporary Japanese toilet with all the controls you could ask for. The toilet lid even opens automatically when you enter the water closet!
On the right side of the vanity is what I would call the shower room. The glass partition separates the bathtub and shower stall to be conjoined in one space. It makes it much easier to from one to the other without dripping water everywhere in the common area of the bathroom! A window brings in some natural light into the space to shine against the concrete walls of the shower room, and under the rainwater shower head is yet another wooden stool for balance assistance when you wash up. Something you’ll always find in a Japanese bathing area!
Moving on to the bedroom, you’ll notice how much natural light pours into the space since all the sliding doors are primarily made of glass panes, and in fact, the entire exterior wall that separates the balcony from the villa consists of sliding doors. We counted and there are 16 sliding doors that wrap around half of the villa’s entire perimeter! There are no partitions or doors to the bedroom as it’s left to be a completely open space to the living room.
The bed has quite the view, and you might notice there’s not TV screen in the bedroom – nor is there one in the living room. This was something that Hoshinoya kept out of the design of the room to help their guests be more present with the natural environment of the resort. No clocks or alarms are in the villa either!
Our king size bed was incredibly comfy and this was the first time we had a hotel bed so low to the ground in classic Japanese fashion. The mattress was still perfect so we weren’t sleeping on a futon! But it was unique to be able to step up onto the elevated bed platform and sit low to the large mattress. It left us with a lot of room to place any belongings we had without placing them on the “floor”, but we also had night tables on both side and a linear divot behind the headboard to easily place our phones for quick access.
I absolutely loved the intricate three-dimensional wood carving artwork that covered the entire wall behind the headboard. Its size was enough to be admired, but the detail was so impeccable with Bali’s stories and culture taking the stage.
Jalak Living Room
The minimalist luxury throughout the villa was clear as day throughout the villa and particularly in the living room. The furniture vividly oozes contemporary Japanese comfort with the low profile couches and coffee table. The finishes in the space are smooth with timeless tones.
The bar area is kept simplistic with bountiful counter space if you’re enjoying a meal or drinks in your villa. Or if you’re entertaining! Drawers keep some miscellaneous items for the villa stored with easy access, and coffee and tea accessories can be found here as well.
Our dining table had a welcome apple & mango cider waiting for us in an ice bucket that we couldn’t wait to crack open and enjoy on our commodious Japanese indoor furniture or outside on the terrace.
Jalak Balcony & Terrace
The balcony is incredibly spacious and completely wraps around the villa. It’s honestly the largest balcony we’ve ever seen and we had plenty of room to roam around as we overlooked the valley of the Pakerisan River. And as I mentioned before, you can access the deck by any one of the 16 sliding glass doors, from the bedroom, the living room, or directly from the back terrace.
The panoramic balcony connects seamlessly to the back terrace where you have your own massive daybed under a cabana. Pillows matching the colours of those in the living space are placed neatly on the daybed, as well as fresh pool towels, and a heavy, round wooden block right in the centre to set snacks and drinks while you enjoy the terrace and dips at the pool.
Hoshinoya Bali Pools
From your villa’s back yard, you have your own private access to one of three of Hoshinoya’s swimming pools. It’s much like a swim-up for each villa! As there are three pools and 30 villas on the resort’s premises, about 10 villas share one 70-m length pool, with five on each side. It creates an incredibly quiet zone for all the guests to enjoy their waterside time, especially during low season. At the time we visited Hoshinoya Bali in March, we typically had the pool all to ourselves throughout the duration of our pool time.
These canal-like pools have asymmetrical lines and edges, demarcated by picture perfect water gardens. The lush greenery that accentuates the borders of each pool as well as shades it elevates a sense of wading through a jungle river. It’s unlike any resort swimming pool we’ve ever seen.
We were enamoured by every glance as we slowly made our way up the pool to the pool house situated on the opposite end from our villa. We got to take a peak at all the other villas’ pool terraces that overlook the swimming pool as we passed them by, and each layout was different from the other. At the end of the pool are these wide steps that lead up to the open pool house, where you can relax with the tropical breeze on spacious day beds. Fresh towels and waters are placed here for guest use.
If you wanted to hop over to check out the other two pools, you could! On both sides of the pool house of our swimming pool are outdoor rainwater showers in which you could rinse off and exit through. We didn’t know this at the time, but it’s worth doing some pool hopping if you’re spending the day relaxing outdoors at the resort.
Unique Resort Architectural Features
If you’re off gallivanting around the resort premises, as one should to fully experience what the property has to offer, there are three unique features you don’t want to miss at Hoshinoya Bali.
The first is the Café Gazebo, situated down the steps from the lobby. It’ll be one of the first things that will catch your eye when your host leads you to our villa after checking in. It’s one of a kind in that it consists of seven bird cage style gazebos that perch above the valley. You can step down onto the daybed for a moment of relaxation and order off the QR code menu provided during dining hours. This is also where the afternoon matcha is held which I’ll touch on later! These stunning never-before-seen gazebos are definitely what I would say is Hoshinoya Bali’s iconic architectural feature.
Our favourite architecture piece on the property is the classical open-air glass top funicular that runs down into the valley from the spa’s reception and waiting area to the treatment facilities. It’s the most exquisite mark I’ve seen in a low-key luxury resort before, and was such a great addition to the premises in order to bring guests down to their spa experience from the top of the valley so effortlessly. Not only does it facilitate transport, but it’s truly a remarkable prelude to any spa experience, as you can head down the smooth rails of the elevator with the sounds, smells and sights of Ubud’s natural scenery surrounding you on all sides. I’m not sure what beats this start to a spa treatment!
Lastly, is the resort’s library. It completely evokes Japanese zen and quietness, which is optimal for the place where guests can exercise their minds. Embraced by the natural scenery, you still feel in touch with the peaceful calm of the forest and valley as you can peer out to it through the full glass windows.
Dining at Hoshinoya Bali
There is one place to dine at on the resort and it’s just steps down from the lobby or up from the café gazebo. There is no name for this open-air restaurant as it’s the only one, and it offers all-day dining with à la carte menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Note that reservations may be required to be booked the evening prior, particularly for breakfast and the course dinners.
We had the pleasure of enjoying our breakfast here for both our mornings. There are two types of seating: a more traditional Western table seating which sit right by the guarded edge and have the best view of the valley, and a more traditional Japanese style low profile seating with a rectangular C-shape booth and flush cushioned seating for the whole table.
For the first meal of the day, you can choose to have one of three hearty breakfast sets: Japanese, Indonesian or Western. My husband chose the Japanese set as it’s his favourite style of breakfast. It comes with a fried salmon served with rice, miso soup , a fresh garden salad with Japanese style dressing, and small classic Japanese side dishes to go with the main.
I had to go for my new favourite, the Indonesian set. It comes with bubur ayam which is Indonesian style congee, served with nine different colourful condiments to bring further flavours, textures and spice to to the savoury chicken broth and rice. A banana leaf kept the marinated chicken nice and moist until I was ready to devour my meal.
All breakfast sets come with a side of fresh fruit and a choice of fresh pressed juice and coffee or tea. As we were staying at a Japanese brand, we had to enjoy our breakfast with a hot matcha latte.
For dinner, you can delight in a set course meal or dine à la carte. We were ecstatic to try Hoshinoya’s unique 10-course tasting menu with a blend of Japanese and Balinese delicacies with a French twist.
We opted to dine in the indoor dining room for this meal as the light was falling anyway and in case of rain or wind, our food wouldn’t be subject to it. At the start of our culinary journey, we were provided with a moist face towel and had our drink order taken. We opted for a mocktail each and went with the Summer Blast, a light fizzy drink with soda water, lemon and ginger, and the Amazake Mojito, a minty drink with crushed ice made with fermented rice pulp and sugar cane. That mojito will always be remembered, and I can only dream of being able to replicate it some day with the addicting fermented rice!
Our 10-course meal was about to commence and we were given a menu listing each course and a brief description. I love the story that each dish actually told and how they all came together to tell one large overarching story.
First came Greeting. It was only a few spoonfuls of gazpacho but it made our mouth water. Next was The Story Begins and after the tasty tomato based cold soup with hints of ginger and lime, we were off into the sea world. This gently sautéed bigfin reef squid was so tender and the pistou – which is a cold sauce from Provence made from garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil – embraced it perfectly. The soft and chewy texture collaborated well with the crunch of the squid ink tuile on top. Our third course was called Gentleness. Its first impression definitely brought out its name and so did its flavour and texture. The slowly cooked salmon dressed with thinly sliced radish sat on a soft bed of cucumber sauce.
Our appetite was really opening at this point and we couldn’t wait for the next one. The fourth course was Texture, a crispy and savoury chicken confit served on a bed of greenery and to be eaten with a black olive sambal matah. It had a bit of spice with the chili peppers, which we appreciated, and the garlic and shallots paired so well with the chicken confit. After that was Joy, a sushi mittsu – which means a mix of sushi. We had three incredibly fresh types of fish sashimi served nigiri style and they just melted in our mouths.
We were halfway through and have had nothing but fresh and great tasting meats thus far. Aroma was pleasing to not only our tastebuds but our noses too. The seared tuna with a persillade crust came on this beautiful stone and hidden within a cloche bell jar dome to contain the smoke that infused in this slice of seasonal fish. Once they elegantly removed the jar domes to reveal the smokey aroma, they poured a delicious creamy sauce for our fish. Refresh was our palette cleanser before the main at. It was a modern take on shiraae – a mashed tofu salad and translates to “white mix” – in which the spotlight was on the sapodilla fruit and the shiraae, now a creamy blend of tofu and white sesame, was the perfect compliment to the chef’s choice seasonal fruit.
Finally, our main course arrived, with the most tender cuts of Wagyu beef steak served on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes, with three different sauces and a baked burdock root (gobo) and spinach chip. The three sauces provided very differing profiles to the red meat. First from a sweet soy sauce, second was an Indonesian curry sauce and third a green sambal which had a nice kick to it. There was also ground curry powder garnished on the plate to further season our steak slices if we wanted to. This was Elevation.
After eight courses that made us reflect about food like we never had before, it was time for dessert. Camilan was a classic Indonesian rice pudding called bubur sumsum. Its got a very even and smooth consistency much like a flan and is made with coconut milk. Lightly infused with pandan leaf and topped with jackfruit, it isn’t very sweet on its own, which is why it’s served with palm sugar syrup. Next to it was a fresh housemade coconut ice cream on a bed of chocolate cookie crumbs and toped with a caramelized coconut tuile. Delicious!
After this, our final course came. Sweetness put a scoop of creamy and sweet awayuki strawberry cheese on centre stage with flash frozen cubes of fruit dancing around it. In glass test tubes are two flavours of chilled juices in which our server mixes in true cocktail shaking style before slowly pouring it onto the fruit circle of the dessert glass. This was one of the tastiest desserts I’ve ever had and was a phenomenal end to our 10-course journey of the senses.
We thought we had stayed at resorts that provided a TON of guest activities… until we came to Hoshinoya Bali. I felt like a kid trying to fulfill a scavenger hunt when our hosts gave us a our own booklet upon our check-in with a full list of the current guest activities that are scheduled at the resort. And to my further surprise, all but one activity was complimentary!
Traditional Drink Experiences
All of the drink related activities were schedule in for certain hours of the day and the week but required no reservations. This included the:
- Morning Wedang: a traditional warm Indonesian drink with tropical spices, served three ways: sweet, sour and spicy.
- Morning Jamu: similar to the Wedang, the Jamu Kunyit Asam aims to revitalize your morning, but as a traditional medicinal drink with citrus and antioxidants.
- Afternoon Tape Mojito: much like the the Amazake Mojito I had for dinner, the Tape Ketan, which is fermented sticky rice, makes for a pleasant and refreshing drink for an afternoon in the jungle.
- Afternoon Matcha: you can learn how to whisk your own ceremonial matcha in the comfort of the Café Gazebo complimented with some honey glazed sweet potato.
- Sake Bar: taste the warmth of Japan with a sake tasting at the Bar Gazebo nightly.
While tasting these complimentary and delicious traditional drinks of Bali and Japan, you can learn more about the ingredients, how the drinks are made and the benefits they have for your health – or at least the release of serotonin they give you when you drink them!
Cultural Balinese Experiences
Other more active pastimes will require reservations the day before to ensure your spot. Twice a week, Sun Salutation Yoga is held at the Yoga Gazebo in the morning, to start your day with a comfortable openness to your body. There are even unique cultural Balinese experiences you can join such as the Balinese Crafts Workshop, the Banjar Walking Tour and the Batik Saya.
We were excited for our Batik Saya, in which we learned the traditional and highly skilled art-form of batik painting with our instructor Dika. We had learned before at another luxury resort, in which it was a paid activity, and it came nowhere close to how well organized and fulfilling Hoshinoya’s class was. Dika did an amazing job at setting our space up in the Public Gazebo and giving us the proper kits and instruments for the canting portion of our class. It’s the hardest phase as you draw the melted wax onto your design on the fabric, stretched out onto a wooden frame.
It ended up being a fully private class for just the two of us, even though it is provided complimentary, as they have two available slots daily for guests wanting to learn this age-old Javanese art. After we learned how to efficiently cant across our cloth and let the wax dry, we were provided with a whole array of water colours with which we could mix to bring our tapestry to fruition. We had so much fun in doing it and it gave us a sense of rejuvenation throughout the process.
All was finished and Dika let our works of art dry before processing and melting the wax off to reveal the white borders underneath. The team then returned the pieces back to us during dinner, presenting the final look in protective frames to take them back home with us! Seriously, top tier service.
Ubud Rice Field Walking Tour
Finally, I can’t finish this review without an honourable mention of the best guided rice paddy walk we’ve ever had, and again, it was fully complimentary! Nothing could’ve prepared us for such a beautiful morning, as we did not expect one of the most idyllic – yet unbeknownst to most – sceneries to be just around the corner from this resort.
The nearest rice paddies were not yet ready for a tour as they had just recently planted and the rice was not sprouting yet. But another neighbouring rice field was blooming and that’s where our guide took us. Again, we were pleased to have this walk all to ourselves and our guide did not rush us at all throughout. We were able to take our time capturing the beauty and revelling in the scents, touches and sights.
Marvelling in Bali’s intrinsic beauty brought forth by their people and immersing ourselves in a part of their culture that has dated for millennia was the perfect way to end our time with Hoshinoya Bali.
This post is written in collaboration with Hoshinoya Bali after a PR stay. It goes without saying that all opinions are my own and I am beyond excited to share this experience with my readers!