Long time Bali brand Kayumanis has been delivering the goods for long enough to achieve a legend status. Katie Truman experiences the magic.
Since 2002, Indonesian Kayumanis hotel group has successfully nurtured an exceptional concept of luxury all-villa boutique resorts in Bali for discerning, culture-thirsty travellers – despite stiff competition and more private villa resorts on the island than you can shake a bamboo stick at.
As a sweet, scaled down alternative to some of the bigger brand resorts, there are however a stack of reasons which set the Kayumanis villa properties apart from the rest, which not by accident happen to be in some of Bali’s loveliest locations and top tourist highlights – Jimbaran, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Ubud.Although located in diverse localities, each offering their own unique characters and natural settings to suit the wildest of individual preferences, all four Kayumanis bijou properties are equally gorgeous, serene and intimately sized – no larger than 23 villas. And follow a distinct Kayumanis blueprint, ensuring villa stays are in utter privacy in luxurious comforts with personalized, toasty-warm service.
Despite the “exclusive’ touch, it’s all about the small details and immersing guests in authentic Balinese traditional lifestyle, culture and charming local traditions. All starting with the reception front desk – or lack thereof; rather, a miniscule semi-open bale (pavilion) doubling as the lobby, and after being greeted with a traditional Hindu offering, whisked away pronto by your personal butler for a private villa check-in. There’s no mass-market intrusions or facilities overload here, albeit each property houses a divine little spa.
Even with contemporary infusions and luxuriously appointed – including at least two flat-screen TVs and gourmet kitchenette per villa – to various extents, all villas follow a traditional Balinese architectural lay-out, purposely designed to emulate the Balinese family compound set-up and that irresistible semi-open style of island living. Villas are super-secluded and serene, tucked away behind high walled gardens providing heaps of space and privacy, with a generous-sized private pool and stone sundeck, and stand-alone pavilions combining indoor-outdoor living and air-conditioned bedroom suites, topped with alang thatched roofs. None of the villas are numbered; rather individually-named relating to a cultural or nature-related theme.
Guests get to experience excellent destination-related cultural activities, anything from in-villa full moon blessing dinners, early morning Barong dance performance and sunset fishing expeditions with the locals. In Bahasa, Kayumanis means “cinnamon” and a tasty recurring theme extends to cinnamon-scented bath products and breakfast toast.
Like their pretty villa gardens, the Kayumanis brand has grown organically. The first, Kayumanis Ubud Private Villa & Spa, debuted in 2002 with just nine villas in Sayan village, nestled amongst paddy fields and aromatic cinnamon trees overlooking tropical rainforests and Ayung River. Kayumanis Ubud has since undergone a major expansion, now with a total of 23 villas: this back-to-nature hideaway now the jewel in the Kayumanis crown and super-romantic for loved-up couples – hence a “no children under 12” policy.
Perhaps created as an antithesis to its monster-sized, resort neighbours, Kayumanis Nusa Dua Private Villa & Spa welcomed its first guests in 2004, submerged in luscious botanical plantations, a short stroll from Nusa Dua’s golden sands and Kayumanis private beach facility. Like Ubud, there’s a distinct romantic vibe with a no kid’s policy and Honeymoon Suite Villa, and a traditional Balinese ambiance, but here infused with some contemporary design elements. Spread across grounds of manicured gardens and waterlily ponds, the 20 units of one, two and three-bedroom pool villas reveal interiors with a strong local feel, contrasting with a contemporary glass wall design – design elements extending to two, super-stylish in-house restaurants.
Established 2006, Kayumanis Jimbaran Private Estate & Spa, hidden down a quiet Gang and set amidst a vast coconut grove, comes inspired by the surrounding traditional fisherman’s village.
This magical 20-villa property is super family friendly, with kid’s services and amenities, (anything from kid’s spa menu to mini-bathrobes) while the sheer size of the estate and shaded lawns, and Jimbaran Bay itself, with its gentle waters positively lends itself to family activities. Down at the beach, a brief bike ride away, there’s no Kayumanis branded beach facility, however complimentary shuttles to Kayumanis Nusa Dua beach facility are provided. Kayumanis Jimbaran signature restaurant, specialising in authentic Indonesian cuisine, is housed within a traditional Javanese joglo replica crafted from sustainably sourced hardwood, complete with wrap-around veranda overlooking coconut palms. Alternatively, butlers can set-up a five-course set dinner on a floating platform on villa pools.
And finally, originally launched in 2005 in Sanur, as The Gangsa Private Villa & Spa, this fourth Kayumanis property of just 11 villas is the smallest and the most aesthetically traditional: it also signifies a significant milestone in the brand’s history: rebranding in April 2017 as Kayumanis Sanur Private Villa & Spa, it marks the consolidation of Kayumanis as four named luxury properties in four key locations, besides a concerted push to reignite Sanur as a quality destination.
Following the rebranding, Kayumanis Sanur discreetly underwent some low-key enhancements and upgrade of existing services and facilities throughout the year; all 11 villas spruced up with several aesthetic upgrades resulting in a fresh designer look – exteriors bear lighter hues and all wooden fixtures white washed – plus additional flourishes of contemporary-style furnishings and décor.
Naturally, it’s imperative I check this all out, discovering, ironically, despite the name change and subtle facelift, idyllic Kayumanis Sanur, concealed down a back lane in a leafy hamlet in southern Sanur, in a stone walled compound crammed with mature trees, is still evocative of an old Balinese community, nurturing with lovely warm village charm and strong traditional spirit. No wonder guests return year after year. In fact, if you’ve got a bit jaded with the island, this is a magical spot to reconnect with the Bali you used to love.
Hidden away behind lofty stone walls, the one, two and three-bedroom villas may be housed in contemporary-style buildings but again, the style is inspired by centuries-old Balinese family-style compounds. There’s not just thatch on the roofs but atop the imposing black wood entrance gate. Each villa is named after a Balinese orchestra musical instrument showcased in the living-dining pavilion. Kayumanis Sanur also offers a family-orientated environment; three-bedroom villas can sleep up to six, there are family-friendly services, tours and kids activities, and Sanur beach, just two kilometres away by private car shuttles, offers shallow, calm and safe waters protected by coral reefs.
Suffice to say my 24-hours holed-up here is bliss. My butler escorts me to my gorgeous one-bedroom villa with a young coconut welcome drink: along with the huge-sized swimming pool set in vast gardens, this affords a far larger amount of space than normal and feels like a second home – there’s even an additional studio upstairs for extra beds, yoga or meditation.
Post-swim, my (overworked) butler serves up complimentary afternoon tea, a pot of lemongrass iced tea and home-baked cakes, prior to my complimentary half-hour back and shoulder massage at the in-house spa, a heavenly stone sanctuary centred around a pond. I snack on a jar of yummy cinnamon-spiced cookies thoughtfully placed in the villa – so addictive, they should come with a government health warning. Dinner at sweet-yet-upmarket Gong Restaurant, a rustic-inclined, semi-open wooden pavilion, is a treat for all the senses: not just for the traditional Balinese cuisine and age-old recipes simmered with local served by impossibly nice, batik-clad waiting staff, but also for the utter romance, at night, providing tables set on shaded lawns overhung with colourful hanging lanterns. Next day, am whisked off at the crack of dawn in a private car – one from their new fleet – to Kayumanis exclusive beach facility on Sanur’s white sands.
Life is indeed a private celebration in Sanur and all the other Kayumanis gems; all you need to do is decide on which one. Despite their popularity and ever-increasing awards – and forays into the Chinese market – for the time-being, Kayumanis remain focused on quality rather than quantity, sticking firm with their original concept and core values.