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EXPERT REVIEW: Beach, spa and Balinese culture, combined with decent green credentials, make the tranquil Alila Villas Soori a seductive retreat for honeymooners and Eat, Pray, Lovers

Eco


Overall eco rating


Located on the south western coast of Bali amid the lush green hills of the Tabanan Regency, Alila Villas Soori is a resort custom built to blend in with its local surroundings.

From the start, Alila Villas had a vision to make their Soori resort sustainable.  All of the effort and thought has clearly made a difference – we like the sensitive layout of the site, the way the local community have been involved in the project from design stage onwards and the effort put in to finding local contractor and building professionals.  The water strategy goes well beyond the minimum, recycled water is used throughout the resort, and clearly considering green issues from the design stage has had some effect. 

The resort has a good go at addressing the main energy demand – cooling – by omitting it from some areas and having a hybrid system to allow guests to readily switch off the AC if they choose to do so.  Energy generation systems aren’t quite so imaginative – diesel generators – but some extra efficiency features are incorporated.

  • Close consultation with nearby villages on development
  • Hotel works with locals on hospitality skills and provides English language teaching
  • Site maintains the subak (ancient and culturally important paddy irrigation ecosystem) for the rice fields within and adjoining the site and allows access to local farmers
  • Beach is a pilgrimage route to nearby Tanah Lot Temple and right of way is maintained
  • The development was guided by the Earth Check Building Planning and Design Standard (BPDS) which is similar in concept to LEED and required an Environmental Impact Assessment to comply with Indonesian law
  • 100% of water needs met from rainwater and self contained biological water treatment for the site means zero effluent
  • Locally sourced materials such as sand stone and natural stones were used in building the resort.
  • Villas are designed to encourage free flow of air and reduce heat from direct sunlight.

  • The energy supply systems show some good points but could be further improved
  • Although low wattage bulbs are used, outside lights within the individual villas are kept on all night

People

The Alila Villas Soori development wasn’t without controversy but there is evidence of close consultation with nearby villages and the resort clearly responds to important cultural factors such as Tanah Lot Temple and maintaining subak (the Balinese water management system for paddies – a pulsed ecosystem which is important in Balinese spiritual life).

The local community were employed during the construction process as well as daily operations of Alila Villas Soori. Majority of the staff are Indonesian, with more than 50 percent coming from the nearby Kelating village, including former fishermen, farmers and housewives.

  • Close consultation with nearby villages on development
  • Majority of staff are Indonesian, 54% are directly employed from the local area and 72% come from the surrounding regency.
  • There’s a temple on site for local villagers
  • Local contractor built hotel
  • Hotel works with locals on hospitality skills and provides English language teaching
  • Various excursions arranged for guests to local communities
  • Site retains rice paddies and allows access to local farmers
  • Beach is a pilgrimage route to nearby Tanah Lot Temple and right of way is maintained
  • Staff training on green issues
  • Regular beach cleaning is organised

  • It’s difficult to find fault with the resort, especially when they strive to buy locally produced products and use local suppliers, but you can’t do this 100% of the time if you are running a five star operation. 

Animals & nature

The beach front resort was built on a green field site and the philosophy is to make as little impact on the site and its immediate surroundings as possible. 

Indigenous local plants and hardier species like Beach Morning Glory and Coconut Palms are dotted around the resort as they need less long-term maintenance and can withstand a fluctuating water supply. Herbs and vegetables are grown in an on-site organic garden, supplying the spa and kitchen with fresh produce.  The resort’s water systems are self contained and operations minimise chemical use.  Beyond this, there are minimal steps to develop new wildlife.

PETA assessment of cruelty free credentials of cleaning products and toiletries to come.

  • Site layout includes areas designated for biodiversity protection
  • Minimal disturbance of the site during construction
  • An on-site organic garden supplies the kitchen and spa with freshly grown herbs and vegetables.
  • Indigenous trees that need little watering have been planted around the resort - no exotic species
  • Water systems for the resort use only rainwater and treat sewage biologically so there is no effluent
  • Choice of biodegradable cleaning products, biological treatment of waste water and preference for non chemical pest control where possible (e.g. choice of planting)
  • Maintains the subak (ancient and culturally important paddy irrigation ecosystem) for the rice fields within and adjoining the site

  • As is the case in most places in Bali, mosquitoes are a problem, especially around dusk.

Environment & buildings

The resort was built using environmentally sustainable design principles – allowing natural light to filter through the 48 villas, including features such as overhanging roof eaves, deep ledges as well as flat lava rock roofs to help reduce heat from direct sunlight. Low wattage light bulbs are used throughout the property and a potable water supply ensures no ground water abstraction was used during the construction as well as daily operations.

All of the effort and thought put in has clearly made a difference in some areas – we like the layout of the site, water strategy and commitment shown to reducing chemicals and clearly the scrutiny placed on the resort at design stage had some effect. The energy strategy shows intent to reduce air conditioning by omitting it from some areas, providing a design that makes abstinence easy where air conditioning is installed and some effort to select more efficient cooling and lighting systems to reduce demand. However, the energy generation relies on diesel generators.  Some energy saving features such as heat recovery from the generators’ exhausts to provide hot water and better than average control of generators are included – but more could be done in this area.

  • The development was guided by the Earth Check Building Planning and Design Standard (BPDS) which is similar in concept to LEED and required an Environmental Impact Assessment to comply with Indonesian law
  • Use of local materials and local construction company
  • Careful site layout protects local access, adjoining rice paddies and reserves large areas for biodiversity (see also people and animals)
  • Passive solar design ensures careful orientation of buildings, materials selected to help buildings stay cool, good daylight and use of shade
  • Ventilation is ‘mixed mode’ (can switch between either natural ventilation with roof fans or air conditioning)
  • Diesel generators are not great but several smaller systems helps efficiency and heat is recovered for heating hot water
  • Lighting is energy efficient with timers and presence detection
  • Rainwater harvesting helps reduce run-off and erosion
  • 100% of water needs met from rainwater – dual feed from tanks for potable and non-potable water uses means volume of treated water is reduced
  • Use of low flow fittings, low volume appliances and drip irrigation reduces water consumption by an estimated 50% when benchmarked against similar hotels
  • Cleaning products are selected to be biodegradable where possible.  Laundry and pool use auto-dosing to limit quantity of chemicals

  • The energy supply systems show some good points but could be further improved, for example, by including renewables
  • Even though there are low wattage light bulbs and timer systems in place, the outside lights in our villa were kept on all night. This might look aesthetically pleasing, but it really wasn’t necessary.
  • When we first entered the villa, it was quite chilly – the air conditioning needn’t be so cold when there are no guests in the room.

Reviewed by

Tim Starley-Grainger and Carmen Roberts


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


EXPERT REVIEW: A stunning, beachfront property, flanked by verdant rice fields, Alila Villas Soori is the perfect place for a honeymoon or in an indulgent family getaway. There are 38 stylish one-bedroom villas each with a personal butler, or push the boat out and treat yourself and your favourite friends to the 10 bedroom residence.

The scene

Overlooking a black-sand beach and the Indian Ocean in Tabanan, one of Bali’s most fertile and picturesque regions, Alila Villas Soori is a resort that enjoys views of mountains and verdant rice fields. These eco-luxury villas are for relaxing far from Bali’s maddening crowd but you’ll want to venture out to see the island's Tanah Lot Temple and the famous Balinese dance school, both cultural highlights of any stay here and not far from the hotel.

  • Situated between a black-sand beach on one side and rice terraces on the other
  • Far from the overdeveloped parts of Bali
  • Near Tanah Lot Temple
  • The private villa concept ensures that the public areas never feel crowded
  • Each villa has its own personal butler

  • Far from the bigger towns and cities, so if you want nightlife, it’s a bit of a drive
  • The ocean has strong currents

The style

Alila Villas Soori is the ultimate indulgent getaway destination. Situated in one of the most picturesque areas of Bali, it’s remote location on the island’s north west coast means you are far from the maddening crowds of Kuta and Seminyak. Charcoal grey stone, teak wood and white accents give the 48 villas a cocoon feeling, wonderfully soothing after time under Bali’s bright sunlight. Better still, all villas have private pools to cool off in the hot weather. The setting amongst infinity pools and beachside sun loungers beneath white canvas umbrellas gives the resort a relaxed yet luxurious feel.

  • Extensive use of locally sourced natural stone and wood and native landscaping seamlessly merges the outdoors with the indoors
  • Lots of huge day beds and seating encourage hours of sunbathing and reading
  • Sharp angular architecture looks decidedly 21st century, yet its low-rise design somehow manages to make it blend into the scenery
  • Villas with private courtyards and plunge pools afford guests the utmost privacy
  • Each villa has floor to ceiling glass doors that fully open into a private courtyard making the most of light and space

  • With lots of sharp edges, stone and hardwood, this isn’t the place for toddlers
  • The in-room electronics and lighting is difficult to operate for first time users

The facilities

The Spa is a calm haven steeped with aromatic essential oils, stocked with Alila branded, locally made, organic products. Yoga classes are available daily for in-house guests. There are two restaurants – Cotta, overlooking the crashing waves along the beach serves Western comfort food as well as authentic Indonesian fare, while Ombak, is a slightly more formal affair serving “ingredient driven” cuisine created by Chef Ashton. Guests are also encouraged to make use of the ‘leisure concierge’ – who will tailor one-of-a-kind experiences like visiting a local village to learn about rice farming, or take in the traditions of making terracotta earthenware.

  • Unusual black-sand beach steps from the resort
  • Main infinity pool by the beach
  • Luxurious spa that offers Balinese treatments, mainly using organic, locally produced products
  • An open-air main casual restaurant and a beachfront gourmet restaurant
  • 30 meter infinity swimming pool
  • 24 hour gym and daily yoga classes
  • Free wifi throughout the property

  • The ocean currents are strong here, so you’ll mostly want to swim in the seaview pool
  • The boutique shop ‘Soori Living’ stocks some amazing, casual resort-style clothes as well as designer arts and crafts items, but it’s certainly not cheap

We love

  • Amazing setting - overlooking a black sand beach, surrounded by rice paddy and mountains in the distance
  • Private swimming pool in every villa
  • Expansive bathrooms with his and hers sinks, indoor rain shower, sunken bath as well as an outdoor shower
  • The sleek architecture that blends into the scenery
  • The extensive use of natural stone and wood
  • The off-the-beaten-track location

You might not love

  • The strong ocean currents
  • Remote location

Reviewed by

Carmen Roberts


Alila Villas Soori

Banjar Dukuh, Kelating, Kerambitan, Tabanan 82161, Bali

Indonesia
+62 361 894 6388

Standard room rates from US$510

Eco

Luxury*

"It has 84 one-, two- and three-bedroom villas built from local rattan and recycled wood and clad in flat lava rocks, which absorb the heat and camouflage the villas. A screen door behind the bed opens up on to a private, planted courtyard with an outdoor rain shower (which is also a night-time hangout for copulating frogs)" The Guardian