Why a classic honeymoon in exotic Bali is better than ever

By the time the classic romantic comedy “Honeymoon in Bali” was released in 1939, a postnuptial jolly to “The Island of the Gods” was a concept as familiar to Americans as gambling in Havana or big game hunting in Africa.

Today, Bali — teeming with temples, oversaturated with lush vegetation and rich with romance — is still as amorous as ever. But unlike a yesteryear journey to the exotic and mercilessly far-flung Dutch East Indies, getting to and staying in Indonesia’s most tourist- and celebrity-friendly island is now a lot easier.

The fastest way from New York to paradise used to involve a stop in Los Angeles (and then another somewhere else). That’s roughly 29 hours on second-rate carriers. But on the first of the month, Emirates landed its uber-commodious double-decker A380 (which has the best stand-up bar in business class in the whole of the aviation industry) at Bali’s Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in the capital of Denpasar. So for the first time, the airline is now offering daily direct flights to the island from Dubai, easily accessed from NYC. That’s just 23 hours all-in on one of the most comfortable planes out there. Not bad.

Once you are on the ground, clever couples know that the beach will always be there (as will the belligerent Australians in Bintang tank tops) and that much of the island’s true beauty and culture are found in the tropical interior of Ubud. With its stunning rice terraces, a primate-packed monkey forest and the best traditional dance venues — many of the island’s top hotels are all here for a reason.

The pool at the Oberoi Beach Resort
The Oberoi Beach Resort delivers twice the fun with a two-island adventure package.
Courtesy of The Oberoi Beach Resort

If you want to knock out the wedding and the honeymoon in one go, check into the five-star Capella Ubud and ask for their new “Balinese Love Ritual.” The three-night experience gives you a one-bedroom rainforest “tent” (a k a a richly decorated, Bill Bensley-designed suite with a canvas roof), as well as a simple ceremony.

You’ll be treated to Balinese flower decorations, a romantic dinner and a couple’s spa treatment, including a traditional Siraman bathing ritual and a Melukat water purification ceremony at Wos River Temple. That will set you back $4,123, including tax.

The lobby at the Capella Ubud
Eccentric style steals the show at the Capella Ubud.
Courtesy Capella Ubud

For an even more “natural” experience, head to the Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape in northern Ubud, which opened just last year. This 16-villa, adults-only concept is “naked” — meaning that it shuns both doors and walls in favor of insect-repelling gauzy curtains — which ironically suggests that you probably shouldn’t be when housekeeping stops by. But none of that suggests that this hotel lacks structure: Each room boasts a private pool, amenities galore and bountiful views.

Their new “Come Closer” experience is good for body and soul. It gives you two nights in one of their luxury bales (a traditional Balinese home), dinner with a fully customized menu, intimate bathtub decor (I say!), plus drinks and meals for $4,000 flat.

But let’s be real, you didn’t come all this way to not make a splash in the Indian Ocean. So start or finish your Balinese love-making marathon on the beach.

Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape in northern Ubud
It’s easy to make a splash at Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape in northern Ubud.

Seminyak Beach — Kuta’s upscale cousin — is one of Bali’s most popular shores for a reason. With sunsets, bars and beach clubs, this is the place to be if hiding in a plunge pool isn’t your idea of a good time.

One of the more interesting offers in the area comes from Oberoi Beach Resort. Check in and you’ll get the standard, oh-so-luxurious couple-on-their-honeymoon treatment: a starlit dinner on the beach accompanied by traditional Balinese musicians, spa treatments and blessing ceremonies.

What isn’t standard is that the Oberoi has a 24-acre sister hotel with a hatched-roofed villa across a small spit of the Bali Sea on the isle of Lombok. A perfect way to see more than the average Bali basher, the resort provides a private sea transfer, activities like sunset cruises, and private chartered boat trips to the Gili Islands for snorkeling and diving. Rates for a garden-view room at Oberoi Bali start at $358 and $255 at Oberoi Lombok.

The pool at Amankilla.
The ritziest retreat on the island might just be Amankilla.
Aman Resorts

From the Four Seasons Resorts at Jimbaran Bay to the Bulgari in Uluwatu on the island’s southernmost tip, Bali abounds with world-class stays. But for those who really want to say they “did” Bali, it has to be Amankila on the much less frequently visited beach of Manggis. Untouched and Aussie-free (unless they inherited an opal mine), the resort is sandwiched between the Lombok Strait and regal Mount Agung. Twelve of the 31 suites here have private pools (one of which is nearly 40 feet), and everything from the spa to the dining are recognized as best-in-the-world quality.

At 31 years old — one of the oldest resorts in the Aman portfolio — Amankila isn’t new. But, it ain’t broke and they shouldn’t fix it. Their approach to romance goes as follows: a sunset satay picnic in the hills, a traditional Melukat water blessing, massages for two and a two-hour morning cruise with snorkeling, all starting at $1,463 per night.

Some things are good for a reason.

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