In my previous post I did a quick and much belated review of Amanjiwo Resort in Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and it was so amazing I still dream about my stay. I mentioned that i was part of Aman resorts’ Bali & Beyond package and that for Bali we opted to stay at Amankila. Amankila was one of Aman’s first resorts and the first in Indonesia, set on a hillside in the far less touristy and far less explored East Bali town of Manggis, the resort is quite stunning just like almost every other Aman. On a quick side not, East Bali is the perfect spot to stay for those seeking to experience true local Balinese culture untouched by drunk tourists in Ubud and also for those seeking some incredible diving (one of the world’s top dive sites and most accessible wreck dives is just off the coast here: the U.S.S. Liberty). It was also during this stay that we had a fabulous dinner at Locavore. Many Amanjunkies claim Amankila to be their favorite or the best in the profile, however after our experience at the Dalem Jiwo Suite in Amanjiwo, we were left disappointed with Amanakila. Dont get me wrong, the famous and picture perfect three-tiered pool as well as the stunning jungle beach club pool are worth a stay here, and the management team is making efforts to streamline and make things better, but nonetheless the age of the hotel shows in both hardware and software and is in need of a facelift.
Anyways, here is my quick review. I do mention this in the text below, but realistically, the flaws I found with Amankila arent detrimental, in fact its still a superb 5-star hotel. Im just comparing it to the Aman brand and how the Aman brand sets out to differentiate itself as a tier above the rest.
For a 5-star hotel this place is perfectly fine, and nice. But this is an Aman, a chain that prides itself for its exceptional service, location and experience; creating a home away from home. We have heard many people say this is their favorite Aman, but for us we simply didnt understand why other than the beautiful views as the service here just wasnt as great as other Amans. Perhaps it was because we came after a perfect stay at Amanjiwo in Java (beyond recommended when in Indonesia) and from prior stays at Amankora and Amanpulo, and perhaps because we’ve stayed at other resorts in Bali with lower prices but better service and food.
The resort is incredibly beautiful for sure, the three-tiered pool, the beach club pool, sunsets and sunrises from the breakfast restaurant and the hotel bar are out of this world. The resort layout is very mystical and really architecturally stunning. The winding steps, fauna, thatched roof villas, and the stone walls blend perfectly into the Bali hillside.
The food is delicious here. From breakfast, to lunch to dinner. I recommend lunch at the beach club where it seems no one goes to (but was my favorite spot), the food here is great and the club is relaxing and secluded. We had a wonderful poolside Indonesian BBQ after a nice performance from locals of a East Bali chant with a Ramayana ballet; quite magical. Though a slight let down was the use of swiss-miss for hot chocolate, why not use local organic Bali chocolate for hot chocolate, by the way the organic Pod chocolate dessert is a must-order if you like chocolate.
We stayed in a connecting Ocean Suite and Pool Suite (27 and 26), one of the more private villas in the resort, as many other villas arent so private (you can accidentally look right into other villas from the steps and walkways), but not really a huge problem as the resort is still so private and you hardly notice other guests as everyone is around the beautiful pools. The rooms are fine, while good upkeep for a 23 year old resort, the age is starting to show.
The age is also starting to show with the service. The staff here are friendly for sure, and are definitely proud and happy to be at Amankila, after all many have been here since the opening, but it seems some have this complacent attitude and lack the warmth found in other Amans. There was less of the famous Aman “knowing what you need before you do” level of service here. We also found the service to be rather inconsistent depending on where you chose to hangout in the resort (poolside, beach club, library, restaurant). The housekeeping was probably the most inconsistent. Aman turn-down service usually comes with a sweet or gift, some night we did get a gift or sweet other nights we received nothing. Flowers were never replaced in our villa and some left to rot. Some nights we had bedside water, other nights we didnt, some nights the mosquito screen fully closed some nights they forgot. Aman is known for the attention to detail and the small touches that separate it from other luxury chains, the attention came only from the very pro-active GM Sandra it would seem. But in real Aman fashion, the grievances were quickly and professionally addressed. One of us got injured in Amanjiwo and as such couldnt really walk, we were glad our villas were close to the lobby (whether or not it was a last minute change), Sandra had her team arrange for complimentary fast-track departure at Denpasar Bali seeing as he couldnt stand for long periods of time. Housekeeping shortfalls were also quickly addressed. Big props to Sandra for her constant smile, passion and pro-active attitude in seeing how everyone is doing and following-up on any issues guests encounter.
If you dive, then you must do the USS Liberty Wreck dive and the Manta Point dive, Amankila works with a exceptional dive shop called Geko Dive Bali, it wont disappoint. East Bali is definitely where you can see “the real Bali” away from all the tourism that has flooded the island. The East Bali Tour is ok, the palaces are nice and Tenganan village is worth a nice stroll through, though it can feel a tad touristy despite it being a real village. Wander around here, talk to the locals, and just ask to walk into one of their homes, they are very welcoming and most know enough English to explain their house and culture to you! I would skip the coffee tour in Tenganan as its very touristy and the coffee is only all right. Also I would do a little research beforehand about the history and culture, unfortunately the Amankila drivers do not have guide licenses and cannot take you around, but the palaces are fairly straight-forward with their pamphlets, its Tenganan Village that requires a bit more digging for information, and our driver unfortunately was more interested in getting us to buy batik and scarves than explaining the culture, traditions and architecture of traditional Bali.
Overall not a terrible stay. But I wouldnt call it amazing either. For an Aman it was a tad disappointing. I really hope Sandra’s efforts and passion will pay-off and things can improve here.
I think this review shouldnt deter you from staying at Amankila, but that you should go in with far more realistic expectations.