The Best Resort Hotels in Indonesia in 2016
Travelers who go as far afield as Indonesia are looking for an experience that transcends the regular beach vacation. There should be sun, sand, and water, of course, but they’re also seeking a connection to the local culture and a sense of wonder.
The winner of our inaugural list of the Best Resort Hotels in Indonesia delivers on all fronts.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated hotels on their rooms and facilities, location, service, food and drink, and overall value. Properties were categorized as city or resort based on their locations.
For years, Bali has dominated the ranks of the Indonesian properties featured in the World’s Best Awards. So the debut of 2016’s winner, Nihiwatu, located on the little-known island of Sumba, is a sign of the evolution of high-end travel across the wider Indonesian archipelago — not to mention an indication of how intrepid T+L readers are.
Nihiwatu’s win points to another wider trend: the emergence of super high-end, low-impact properties that are destinations in their own right. The only proper resort on an island that is twice the size of Bali, Nihiwatu started its life back in 1988, when an American surfer and his German wife earmarked the land for a 10-room surf retreat. Its development was slow and painstaking. The resort finally opened to guests in 2001, and in 2012 was bought by U.S. entrepreneur Chris Burch.
Since then, the facilities at Nihiwatu have gone more upmarket (nine villas and 13 rooms were added, as well as a beach restaurant and a tree-house spa). But the principles on which it was built remain the same: strong engagement with the local community, and a featherlight footprint on the ecology of Sumba itself. That’s a win all around.
No. 5: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, Bali
No. 4: The Oberoi, Bali
No. 3: W Retreat and Spa Bali-Seminyak
No. 2: The St. Regis Bali Resort, Nusa Dua
No. 1: Nihiwatu, Sumba
It was an extraordinary surf break that attracted Nihiwatu’s founders to the plot that grew into this very special resort. Though surfers made up the majority of guests when it opened in 2001, its client list is now far more diverse. Villas take inspiration from traditional Sumbanese homes, with thatched roofs and ikat accents. The island’s exceptional seafood is a focus in Nihiwatu’s three restaurants, but what really sets Nihiwatu apart is its strong connection with Sumba and its people, who make up 90% of the staff. “I would return here again and again,” wrote one T+L reader.