The Novotel Bali Benoa comes as a splendid surprise! Built in the charming manner of a resort hotel, it is therefore most unlike the stereotyped, no-frills Novotel image. For a 17-year old property, it looks good; maintenance is of a high order here. Quite obviously, this is not some towering edifice but is comprised of low-rise buildings nestled amid verdant greenery of flowering orchid plants and palm trees.
The lobby is spacious and airy, giving on to views of the sea beyond. Look up and you see the typical high-vaulted Balinese roof structure which is made of intricately woven palm leaves locally known as the Sirap and supported on bamboo frames. Complemented by old-style ceiling fans that rotate lazily in the mild breeze, the whole ambience gives you the look and feel of living in a local-styled villa.
With 187-keys, the hotel is actually two separate structures with the main road running between them, however, the crossing is well manned by hotel security. The Garden wing has 150-rooms and is divided into the Deluxe, Family Room and Family Suite categories, while the Beach Wing has the remainder with the Tropical Terrace, Beach Cabana, Pool Villa and Beach Villa categories.
The rooms are large and well appointed and come equipped with mini bar, tea/coffee maker, electronic safe and so on. The villas have the same Sirap ceiling. While the Garden wing is best suited to families with children, especially given that this side has two swimming pools, the Beach wing is allotted more to honeymooners, couples, or singles wanting a quiet beach get-away. The room that I had was in the Tropical Terrace category which is built like individual villas complete with its own little wooden gate. A paved stone path leads to the patio and thence to an expansive room with the option of air conditioning as well as ceiling fan. There is an oval bathtub in the centre of the bathing and dressing area; this can be sectioned off by wooden doors if one so wishes. Bathroom amenities include a body scrub, which is a nice gesture. These rooms are a two-minute walk to the beach, whilst Beach Cabanas are closer still.
There is only one Beach Villa (which would be called the Presidential Suite in other hotels.) It has two bedrooms, each with their own outdoor bathrooms and entrance to the private pool. This villa is well able to handle private weddings and intimate cocktail gatherings for the same. It can accommodate up to 30-pax in its poolside and lawn area, while the patio to the side of the pool and at a raised level is where the wedding ceremony is conducted. The villa itself is quite spectacular, filled with exquisite Balinese artefacts and with the master bedroom giving a panoramic view of the sea. The bathroom is outdoor and has a romantic setting to it. Privacy is assured because of the lush foliage and tall trees that separate this area from the rest of the hotel.
Recreational facilities at the resort include two swimming pools in the Garden Wing area and one in the Beach Wing. Usually, the bigger pool in the Garden Wing is child-free, allowing adults to enjoy a leisurely swim, while the smaller pool near the bar area is typically set aside for the young people’s enjoyment. A really thoughtful gesture is that free sunscreen lotion and sunburn cooling gel is provided near all the pools, just in case guests forget to bring their own. The hotel also has its patch of private beach area adjacent to the Beach Wing pool. This is an added advantage as guests are not hassled by hawkers on the beach. Be warned that December and January sees high tides in the area; sometimes it can get so bad that the hotel has to buy sand to build up the beach.
There is also a tennis court that can be used on a chargeable basis. Further, the hotel has In Balance Fitness – a small, basic gym but adequate for your needs on a beach holiday, and the In Balance Spa, which offers a fair range of treatments with extremely skilled therapists. There are three treatment rooms, including one for couples and it is wiser to book an appointment. I chose the traditional Balinese massage and was offered a choice of essential oils for it. The treatment enabled soothing and skilful strokes which put one in a state of total relaxation.
F&B options include Uluwatu where breakfast and the special buffets are served; Coco by the poolside in the Beach Wing that serves snacks until 7pm and drinks throughout the day; Crocokiss, quite literally a swim-up bar and restaurant by the pool in the Garden Wing which is casual dining and the Nanas Bar near Uluwatu, a level above the lobby. Uluwatu is the largest eating space and the only indoor restaurant. It has a separate kiddies breakfast nook where the little ones can sit on mattresses and colour, read or watch telly while they eat off low tables at a suitable height, making mealtimes a fun affair. There are also swings and hammock style chairs which puts you in holiday mode immediately. Breakfast at Uluwatu is literally quite a spread, in terms of the number of items as also the floor area, with various food counters placed around the large hall. There is a great variety in homemade jams, preserves and fresh juices.
In terms of flaws, it would probably be some service improvement that’s required. Front office staff are helpful and efficient, however, Housekeeping could do with a nudge when it comes to replenishing amenities. The F&B service at Coco needs to be better managed. The food could do with a revamp too, in terms of taste and variety offered.
Not that many people would be looking to work in such a relaxed, resort atmosphere, however, the Novotel Benoa does offer a meeting room that can accommodate up to 150-pax. There is also a Business Centre at lobby level with computer work stations and printing facilities that in-house guests can use free of charge.
The Novotel Benoa puts its best foot forward to ensure that guests need not leave the resort and are never bored during their stay. Each day brings forth different activities and entertainment options, which are listed on conveniently placed boards around the pools. There are dart games, massage lessons, a pool table, a small library, nightly dance or music performances on the stage by the poolside in the Beach Wing and a night market held twice weekly with local kitsch such as sarongs, bracelets, necklaces and suchlike. Children enjoy a special Kids Club zone. In terms of F&B, there are barbeque and satay nights organised twice weekly, while beverage promotions and Happy Hour offers are changed on a daily basis. For basic shopping needs, there is a shop at the lobby level.
The above should not lead you to imagine you are held captive at the resort and unable to venture out on your own with nothing to do. As soon as you exit the hotel, you are faced with restaurants, money exchange centres, massage parlours and convenience stores. The hotel also organises a shuttle service to Bali Collections in Nusa Dua, where guests can pick up local handicrafts.
In terms of location, the hotel is well situated in Tanjung Benoa, which is a much cleaner and quieter beach area than most others in Bali. It’s about 15 minutes away from main Nusa Dua, 15-20 minutes from Jimbaran Bay and half an hour (if you take the highway) from Ngurah Rai (Denpasar) airport. Most major airlines fly in to Bali. A highly useful tip to bear in mind is that most cabs operate without meters which can be awfully stressful for a tourist; look out for the Bluebird Taxis that are the only ones to run by the meter. The hotel can also organise airport transfers at IDR 180,000 (roughly USD 18) per trip.
NOVOTEL BALI BENOA
TEL: +62 361 77 22 39
FAX: +62 361 77 22 37