First, I fell in love with the name. Etched on a smooth stone surface next to the resort’s entrance, santai is the Indonesian word for “relaxed.” Even before stepping inside this boutique resort, it’s clear that The Santai more than lives up its soothing moniker.
When planning my parents’ first trip to Bali, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the experience to be like. I wanted us all to stay under the same roof in a villa that captured the tropical feel of Bali and one that also offered that unique strand of luxury everyone craves after a long flight over from Europe. Due to logistics, it was important we stay in South Bali but I was determined to steer clear of the most crowded areas. I wanted my parents’ first impression of Bali to be one of rice fields, not traffic congestion. The Santai ticked all the boxes – and then some.
The Santai Style
The Santai is a boutique complex of just 11 private pool villas. The two and three-bedroom villas are connected through stone walkways with tarlmounia vines cascading over meditative ponds. Me and my family checked in to a three-bedroom villa which was perfect for our group of five adults. The setting is incredibly private with our only reminder of other resort guests being the occasional sighting in the resort’s Instagrammer dream of a lobby.
Our three-bedroom villa was built around a very generous swimming pool with Zen-like stepping stones connecting the poolside deck to the open-air living and dining areas. All three bedrooms are located side by side by the pool. The rooms are very similar in their size and style, though the master bathroom does come with a bathtub and direct access to the pool – perfect for a sneaky late-night dip. For a better idea of the layout, take our virtual tour of The Santai.
Staying in Umalas
The Santai sits pretty in the Umalas neighbourhood, sandwiched between tried and tested Seminyak and what was once an up and coming area but is now a destination in its own right, Canggu. Umalas offers easy access to both areas, but its appeal is not limited to its famous neighbours alone. Umalas has its own understated charm and lately, there’s been a quiet but steady buzz about the neighbourhood with new cafes and restaurants popping up at an unprecedented rate.
The Santai feels perfectly at home here; a boutique complex for those in the know, surrounded by rice fields and a handful of in-vogue eateries. To make exploring your surrounding all the merrier, The Santai offers free bicycles for guests to use. On our first night at The Santai, we strolled over to Kembali Bumbak for dinner. This bistro with its garden lit up by fairy lights offers the perfect introduction to the relaxed Bali lifestyle. Umalas also works as the perfect launching pad to other parts of the island and during our stay at The Santai, we ventured out to daytrips on the Uluwatu cliffs down south and to the lush jungles of Bangli further up north.
The Royal Service
Some people are drawn to Bali by the cascading rice paddies and sacred Hindu temples, while others are more partial to the hip beach clubs and ice cold Bintangs. Whether you’ve been charmed by the cultural landmarks or spent your days in an endless beach party, what everyone remembers about their time in Bali after returning back home is the people. The Santai takes that famous Balinese hospitality to a whole other level.
Upon arrival, we’re greeted with beautifully presented welcome drinks and delicious canapes that almost constitute a full meal. After that, we’re ushered into our private villa by one of The Santai’s butlers (available 24 hours a day) who shows us the ropes and then leaves us to enjoy the villa in private.
For me, one of the best parts of any villa stay is the breakfast and our morning meals at The Santai are easily up there with the best in-villa breakfasts I have ever had. The Santai offers an à la carte menu allowing guest to choose a fresh juice, coffee, entrée and main course each morning.
This means you can start your day with a fresh mango juice and a latte, with a fruit salad followed by a stack of fluffy pancakes. The next morning you could go for a revitalizing juice and a cappuccino, with a bread basket followed by eggs Benedict… You get the idea. Everything is made to order and served in your own villa or at the resort’s well-styled Gong restaurant.
If you’re travelling with kids, The Santai also offers complimentary kids activities ranging from Balinese dance lessons to crafting colourful local offerings. This makes The Santai a great option for those looking to stay somewhere with a kids club. If you have little ones in tow, baby cots and high chairs are also available free of charge.
Our last night in Umalas was the perfect example of The Santai’s superlative level of service. Before moving on to Ubud for the final leg of our trip, I wanted to treat my parents to a sunset at The Lawn in Canggu, about 15 minutes away from The Santai. We enquired about transport options at the reception, expecting the staff to perhaps order us a taxi. Instead, The Santai organised us round trip transfers to Canggu free of charge, allowing our dinner plans to run like a dream. It seems like such a cliché to say that the staff will make you feel like royalty, but a stay at The Santai proves that sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason.