In the 30 years that I have been visiting Bali, I had never stayed in Nusa Dua, preferring private villas or smaller hotels in Ubud, Legian or Seminyak. As it turned out, The Westin Resort Nusa Dua offered a lot more than I expected from a big hotel.
After a recent $13 million facelift, the rooms are lovely – light-filled, with a freestanding bath and the Westin’s trademark Heavenly beds. Our family suite was perfect for us: two large bedrooms with their own bathrooms, and a small interconnecting living area.
The grounds are filled with lush plants and flowers surrounding a saltwater pool, a freshwater pool and a paddling pool – all with waterfalls. At the end of the pool area is the beach; a beautiful big swathe of sand and calm, shallow water leading out to the reef. Most days there are fishermen standing thigh-deep in the water with their long rods overhead. The kite-sellers fly their wares – red hawks and rainbow coloured pirate ships hover in the air above you as you relax on the beach. Our boys played in the shallows for hours – digging in the sand and rolling around in the little waves.
Back at the hotel, there was plenty to occupy the boys at the kids’ club. The range of activities included some Balinese-themed ones. The boys were dressed in traditional costumes and visited a local temple, played traditional instruments and made kites, which flew really well, incidentally! There is an outdoor playground with a climbing wall inside the kids’ club compound, as well as indoor activities. Snacks are generally healthy – like the frozen star-shaped fruit on sticks for the kids to eat on the beach.
Upon arrival, the children are given abackpack with some craft activities, a hat and a water bottle can be refilled throughout their stay with water, juices and soft drinks from the Verandah Restaurant. The boys loved going up to the bar and asking for their refills – a great way to ensure they don’t get dehydrated with all the running around in the sun.
You can make your stay in Nusa Dua as active or as leisurely as you wish. The hotel spa offers massages and treatments; they will come to your room, if you like, and there are a number of massage tables by the beach. Within ten minutes’ walk of the resort, there is a golf course and country club. The Pasifika Museum is recommended by Lonely Planet as having an excellent selection of Pacific Island art.
We took bicycles out one day, and rode along the front of the resorts to a local beach and walked out to a temple on a small point. No one else was there. The beachfront promenade stretches for around five kilometres and is lovely for a stroll in the early evening, too.
A number of watersport centres can take you out to dive, surf or water-ski. Twice during our stay, BlueFin Bali Diving collected my husband Simon from the hotel and took him with a dive instructor on a boat dive and a drift dive around Nusa Penida. He saw the giant mola fish, and drifted down the side of a submerged volcano, which he says was a unique experience. They can also do snorkelling trips, dolphin watching and fishing tours.
My mother and I did an all-day cooking class at Bumbu Bali. Bumbu is the name for an Indonesia spice mix, and the class is designed to give you a greater understanding of the different spices and ingredients used in Indonesian cooking. They picked us up from the hotel at 6am and took us to a local market to introduce us to the various spices and ingredients. Then we were off to the fish market in Jimbaran, where hundreds of brightly coloured boats offload baskets filled with all sorts of fish. The restaurants buy the best of them on the beach, then the rest is sold in a sprawling, low-roofed market next to the beach. Afterwards we went to the restaurant and cooking school, a little way north of Nusa Dua towards Benoa. The award-winning restaurant is run by Heinz Von Holzen, a celebrated chef who has done a lot to promote traditional Balinese food.
The cooking classes are limited to 12 people, and you prepare 25 different dishes – everything from satay, noodles and rice, to pickles and salads. Three pastes create the base for many of the dishes; I have made them since, and they’re much better than paste from a sachet. At the end of the morning, you sit down and eat all the food – an amazing spread of colours, textures and tastes, beautifully presented.
On our final night, we took a short taxi ride across to Jimbaran Bay for a seafood dinner at Tebu Café in the Southern Seafood Warung stretch of restaurants. The Northern Seafood Warung has more restaurant-style places with white tablecloths for those you would rather not eat on the beach.
Walking along behind the restaurants, peering into tanks and darkened rooms, I wondered what the excitement was. It was only when walking through the restaurant to the long beach and the setting sun that you can see the appeal. Rows of tables and chairs line the upper part of the beach while corn-on-the-cob vendors park in front, cooking the corn as children play in the shallow waters while the sun sets. The sand is rather dark and muddy, but the children don’t seem to mind. Groups of locals and tourists stroll the length of the beach, in a festive atmosphere. The ultra-fresh seafood is barbecued and covered in a dark, sweet, garlicky, chilli sauce. A delicious garlic and coconut husk smoke fills the air. Yum!
What I love about Bali is that there is always something new to discover – from the cool heights and culture of Ubud, to dolphin-spotting from outrigger canoes near Lovina, to getting funky at Seminyak. And now we’ve found Nusa Dua, too.
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