Over a timely 6pm dinner, we overheard other guests say things like, “I haven’t even turned on the TV yet” and “I got through three novels this afternoon.” We swallowed the fresh Mango Lassi hard, as for a buzzing Bangkokian who is essentially IV-dripped to their iPhone, we then realised we were in for quite a thrill ride – in the most paradoxically paradisiacal of ways.
The Alila Manggis joins the impressive Alila repertoire of luxury resorts across Bali as what is quite possibly one of their more intriguing properties, in large part so for its sleek and spiritual simplicity. The resort lies in East Bali, far away from the mainstream tourist Meccas of Kuta, Seminyak, or Ubud, and prides itself in being exactly that: far, far away from the mainstream.
Nestled between the sea and the sacred Mount Agung, the Alila Manggis has tranquility down to a really well-fulfilled T. It’s an unsuspecting luxury resort, bringing to a coconut grove-lined stage a sense of the real, original, and traditional East Bali. There is WiFi, but the need for it seems irrelevant. Entertainment systems are equipped to broadcast reality TV trash, but it’s not necessary. And books, plenty of them, are the resort wear du jour. Scroll ahead to read about our experience.
The Alila Manggis lies on the far less explored side of Eastern Bali, a good two-hour car ride from Denpasar airport. Regardless, reaching the resort feels like no exhaustive trek and climb, with comfortably massive day pillows neatly arranged for mid-drive napping in the airport transfer limousine.
Once in the regency of Karangasem, Alila Manggis sits on the tranquil Buitan Beach, about a ten-minute ride from the town of Candidasa. The location, though hidden between high palms and feeling-wise, very ‘middle of nowhere’, is actually quite a strategic one: it’s a gateway to the dive islands of the east coast, as well as a short ten minutes away from Padang Bai, the access point for ferries to Lombok and more.
The design ethos at the Alila Manggis is very clear, and sings a song of soothing sustainability in a calm colour scheme of polished ivory and cream. The resort is made up of four two-storey buildings, bringing together traditional and contemporary Balinese architecture. The lobby is covered in a classic alang alang thatched roof, with every room and dining outlet in the resort boasting a sweeping sea view.
To be fearlessly frank, the rooms at the Alila Manggis are very uncomplicated. They don’t offer a generous amount in terms of space or ground-breaking design, yet boast a rustic aura that goes well with the overall vibe. After all, the Alila Manggis is not the kind of place you go to for a Suite Staycation to dive into down-feathered duvets and room service, but rather where the bedroom is a mere afterthought for a day spent outside. It’s a little unsettling at first, but it works.
Come nightfall, no noise can be expected from the neighbouring rooms, bar the lapping of the waves on the shore. The deafening silence may feel slightly anxiety-inducing for the average city dweller — especially since there is a clear sense that everyone seems to be asleep by 9pm – but it’s a rarity that will prove a memorable gem once you leave. Black-out wooden balcony doors ensure a deep slumber, with the rising sun view from the balcony always sure to take your (albeit morning) breath away. As a side note, we also recommend a nap on the cosy daybeds on said balcony – it’ll bring your snooze goals to new tropical heights.
Dining & Drinks
Whilst the size and set-up of the rooms need to be taken with a slight grain of salt for a luxury hotel, the food at Alila Manggis lacks no edge in flavour and finesse. Dining, though limited to only two outlets on the premises, is a key highlight of the resort.
The resort’s main restaurant, Seasalt, is named after the salt used in the kitchens, farmed from the salt pans in Goa Lawah. It is very much fine dining, with a flair for comfortable ease. Served all day, the cuisine combines local and international favourites that are refreshingly well-seasoned. To put it bluntly, the food is very delicious, which is saying something in this highly competitive industry, and is something that deserves a big bonus point should you stay here for longer than just a weekend.
Seasalt is also where breakfast is served every morning – again, no crowded buffet or generic affair – with daily changing arrangements tailored to your taste. We loved their Balinese breakfast options, pairing nicely with fresh organic juices, creative confitures, and extraordinary Bali coffee. To give you a sense: consider the wet and wild humidity that a seaside resort uncontrollably may have to house, and now imagine that the croissants were still a Parisian perfect ratio of buttery crisp to fluffy. That’s quality.
The Ocean Bar is where the Wave soundtrack plays at its strongest, boasting a cosy alfresco spot for sunset cocktails and light bites. It’s small but it’s well-suited for pre- or post- dinner drinks.
As a final cute culinary extra? A complimentary afternoon tea – though, again, we highly recommend you sip the Bali coffee instead – is served daily by the pool, alongside local sweet treats, too.
Activities & Experiences
We’re all for soaking up the strikingly strong Balinese sun rays all day – especially by the superbly ‘grammable inverted pyramid pool – but a visit to the Alila Manggis can not and will not be complete without indulging in the extremely vast activity and experiences offering. It is really what gives the resort a rise above the rest.
Enjoy a traditional massage either poolside or at the seafront Spa Alila. Take part in a cooking class at the in-house award-winning cookery school, and definitely also salute the sun at the recently opened seafront yoga pavilion. These are all activities you can enjoy within the resort grounds, with the Experiences booklet for outer activities boasting even greater variety.
A teaser taste? You can go on treks to the infamous terraced hillsides, you can go snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon, you can take dive classes and try underwater yoga, you can explore temples, ancient villages, and private white sand beaches, you can take walking tours, and you can check out local artisanal handicrafts. You can do all these things in the private company of one guide, or within groups, and you will feel it to be the most beautifully authentic and undisrupted way to see East Bali, with a knowledgeable companion every step of the way. It’s a selling point that can often go unnoticed in the greater scheme of things, but at the Alila Manggis, we recommended it highly.
It was clear from the near start that the Alila Manggis was not going to be an average Bali vacation haven. Sure, it boasts the lush greens, views, and vibes the island is so swooned after for, but it manages to pull together something that is faithfully greater.
You will be called by your name by all staff wherever you go; you will sip refreshments from bamboo straws and glass bottles exclusively. You’ll struggle to find a stereotypical ‘I <3 Bali’ souvenir nearby, and you’ll feel as if your exploration of the land is private, and thereby therapeutically intimate. The daze of the laze too can be a challenge to many, and yet the Alila Manggis truly removes the need for over-the-top material excesses, and sets the bar for a well-executed and effortless reminder to enjoy these simpler pleasures. Alila Manggis: where coconut trees stand tall, and the worries are small.
Alila Manggis, Desa Buitan, Manggis Karangasem, Bali, +62 363 410 11