A Bill Bensley-designed 23-room tented camp retreat in the lush forests of Ubud offering a throwback to the 1800s, Capella Ubud is a fun play on a boutique luxury jungle resort.
Date of stay: November 2019
Room: Balinese Tent (River Tent #XX)
Reviewed by: Chinmoy Lad
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WHAT WE LOVED
- Location. The book and movie Eat, Pray, Love made Ubud popular over a decade ago, which has turned a once quiet and peaceful town into tourist central. Some areas of Ubud still maintain an air of mystique about them though, and Capella Ubud is one of these – set on the outskirts of Ubud in the serene Keliki Valley near Tegallalang (famous for its rice terraces), the resort is a secluded jungle playground.
- Couples and honeymooners. If you’re traveling with a special someone or on your honeymoon, this is really the place to stay to impress. From its tented camp theme to hot chocolate and marshmallow by the camp fire while watching silent black and white movies, this resort is a place made for romance.
- Design. The resort is designed by Bill Bensley, one of the world’s most famous luxury hotel designers for a wide variety of styles from the city chic boutique, The Siam, to the luxury beachside retreat, InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, to his first tented camp, Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. However, this is Bill Bensley unleashed with no borders and no limits, so there is an element of extremes. But for a short stay, we absolutely loved, loved, loved it. There is an element of sustainability to the design and overall resort, where reportedly no tree was cut nor the contour of the landscape altered to fit in the Capella Ubud. Reportedly, much of the resort was also built without heavy machinery, which is also replicated by the porters and staff bringing your luggage by hand. The camp has an overall theme of early 19th century Dutch settlers and explorers, which is seen in some of the interiors (your mini-bar is a single large leather cabinet slab), mixed with Balinese and Indonesian influences (the teak floors, the hand-carved doors). Thanks to both its boutique nature and the stunning layout, the tents blend beautifully into its environment and are the perfect design for the space.
- Rooms. Each room is themed differently, and each room has its own unique design aspects and elements. However, there are 5 types of rooms: Terrace, Rainforest, River, Keliki Valley and The Lodge (2-bedroom), in order of ascending category (and price), and all rooms come with private salt-water pools framed in stone.
Rooms have themes such as Captain, Naturalist, Cartographer and more, and the design within each plays off the theme. Speaking to the team before hand will better allow you to choose your room (both category and theme).
The centrepiece of each tent is a four-poster bed, while each bathroom is framed by a beautiful hammered copper bath.
In our River Tent, we LOVED the large outdoor daybed in the terrace, overlooking the valley with the sounds of water from the gushing river just below us. Particularly come evenings, it was a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the cool of the night and the sound of nature.
Unfortunately, due to high occupancy and a short stay, we did not get a chance to visit all the various room types.
- Service. Service was pretty friendly throughout, as you would expect in Bali. We were greeted by General Manager Mark Swinton, who immediately recognised me from our last meeting years back when he was with a different Balinese property. Apart from minor housekeeping and restaurant snafus, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the staff who were most accommodating with our requests, including special arrangements for a romantic bath setup with a very specific type of flower, as well as appropriate recommendations to Bali veterans in terms of what is new to enjoy nearby (we were recommended an art gallery and cafe, which we had a joy exploring for an afternoon). We do recommend speaking to the Capella Culturists to see what they can offer with regards to unique experiences in the region, for both first timers to Bali as well as seasoned travellers.
- Food. We have definitely loved the various food offerings at Balinese resorts over the years, but we think this was by far the best yet. For a small 23-room (tent) resort, there is a good selection and variety of food available. The elegance even in delivering room service, presented in beautiful stone pots, was much welcomed, as room service can sometimes be a dour affair even at the very best hotels. Careful thought was put into presentation, in keeping the food and plates warm, but also in ensuring that the food doesn’t go soggy (all too often an issues). More surprisingly, even the non-Indonesian dishes were done extremely well, including one of the best shakshukas we have ever had for breakfast. Due to time constraints, sadly we didn’t get to try out the highly rated Api Jiwa which specialises in Asian barbecue, but we enjoyed Mads Lange, the split-level dining room that focuses on local ingredients and the historic spice trail.
POINTS TO NOTE
- Distance. While on site, one of the questions we were asked frequently on Instagram was whether to stay at Capella Ubud or at another resort in Ubud – the answer is that ideally you should do both. If you are looking for daily trips into Ubud town, Capella might not be the most convenient (a 20-30 minute drive from Ubud town – which can easily become 30-45 minutes each way with Bali’s famous one way lanes and traffic). We would personally split it with at least 2-3 nights at Capella Ubud to relax and enjoy the peace of the jungle, using another resort to explore the town.
- Family and the elderly and physically challenged. The resort only has one two-bedroom tent, and the general layout, both of the rooms and the resort as a whole means that it is not ideally suited for family, the elderly or the physically challenged.
- No buggies, so lots of walking. There is lots of walking and there are plenty of steps, especially if you’re booked into a river tent (at the bottom of the valley). For a short stay, the layout of the resort can get a little confusing even if there are signs to help. There are no buggies, so getting to- and from- the main section of the camp can be a hassle, and you may end up ordering in for meals instead.
- Private pool. Capella Ubud isn’t the only Ubud resort we have this issue with, but it is a key one. The pool was not heated, and in fact was frigid – Ubud is at a higher elevation so is often cooler than coastal Bali, and even on sunny days, not all sections of the resort get plenty of sunshine as they sit in the shade thanks to the wonderful plethora of trees, meaning that even on a scorching day, the pools don’t naturally heat up.
Additionally, most of the tents come with small plunge pools, which is certainly disappointing for a new-build.
- Cistern: main pool. It looks beautiful in photos when taken from the main camp site, surrounded by the valley and the soaring trees, and we certainly understand the sustainable element of the Cistern, a water tank (the main pool is actually called ‘Cistern’), but the pool itself never felt inviting (it’s not really properly an infinity-edge, it lacks a real ‘valley view’, and the cistern-design makes for an odd choice when actually at the pool with the taps hanging out from the edges which is a bit jarring and throws you off with regards to sense of place). As a result, we never even once went in for a dip, which is a shame considering we REALLY love our hotel pools.
- Quirky design. In typical Bill Bensley fashion, the resort is very, very quirky and fun in its style and design which, while enjoyable for a short time, we feel can tire for longer stays (certainly for us personally, or for those who prefer a more elegant, less playful and more peaceful design).
- The ‘Throne‘: the toilet is disguised (widely praised, and we can see why – it is quite beautifully disguised, we must say) as a throne to hide itself, but it is decidedly uncomfortable to actually use. A win for form over function.
Capella Ubud is located about a 20-30 minute drive from Ubud town, and about a 1-hour drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS). However, with Bali’s infamous traffic in play, leave ample time for your site visits and flight.
HOTEL FACT SHEET
- LOCATION: Tegallalang, Bali, Indonesia
- OPENED: 2018
- HOTEL ROOMS: 23
- RESIDENCE VILLAS: N/A
- RATES FROM: USD 800/night++
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Special thanks to Capella Ubud for hosting us