Outside of India, Bali is probably one of the world’s most popular destinations for yoga and wellness retreats.
Most retreats in Bali are concentrated in Ubud and Canggu, but a fresh one has just popped up in East Bali: One of the newest options to consider if you’re looking for a yoga retreat experience on the Island of the Gods is Alila Manggis’ recently launched Signature Yoga Retreat, held with Indonesian yoga teacher Ami Effendy.
We were invited to partake in the dry run of the yoga retreat in what turned out to be an intimate experience with only two other participants: someone from another local media outlet and an Indonesian celebrity chef/influencer. We got a pretty good taste of the retreat, as Manggis used the opportunity to do, in their words, “a trial run to optimize our operations running in the resort and find tasks to improve on by all departments.”
Read on for our rundown of the experience, where we break things down by location, food, yoga offerings, and more, so that you can assess if this is the yoga retreat for you.
Known for having high standards of luxury design and service, Alila has hotels and resorts throughout Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, and soon, in Sri Lanka. Bali locations include Seminyak, Ubud, Uluwatu and of course, the site of the new yoga retreat program in Manggis.
What sets Manggis, a small village near Candidasa, apart from Alila’s other Bali locations is that it’s well off the trodden track with its more remote location up in Bali’s quiet East Coast. Dare we say it? You actually feel like you’re in (a luxe resort) in Bali and not, say, in Australia.
Even though it’s outside of busy South Bali, one of the things we liked about Alila Manggis was just how easy it was to get in to from the south. It’s pretty much a straight shot 60 kilometers up the By Pass, so there’s no jarring journey on winding or broken roads to deal with. The retreat includes pick-up service from the island’s Ngurah Rai Airport, which takes about 75 minutes.
And while the hotel is far from all the stuff in the South, it’s relatively close by to a bunch of cool points of interest that would otherwise be a schlep to get to from tourist hubs Kuta or Seminyak. Manggis makes a great base for exploring around Mount Agung, Tirta Gangga, Pura Lempuyang, the Mother Temple Besakih, the traditional Tenganan Village, the diving town of Amed, and quiet east coast beaches. You can even take a short fishing boat ride from the hotel over to a snorkeling spot or jump in a car to the famous Blue Lagoon Beach. These two outings are among the “crafted experiences” included in the yoga retreat package, amongst trekking, cycling, and a few more (take note that diving is excluded, so be prepared to pay if you want to play scuba).
The Accommodations + Property Grounds
Unlike many larger commercial hotel chains with uniform cookie-cutter styles, Alila is known for each of its locations having its own unique design elements, integrating the design with the landscape.
Located on a small bay, Manggis is centered on a seaside coconut grove, forming a horse-shoe like shape with a pool in between the grove and the rooms. Breezy two-story building structures with thatched roofs and fish ponds wrap around the pool, with the bottom floor rooms having a patio and second-floor rooms a balcony for sitting out and enjoying the outdoors. The hotel’s on the smaller end of things with 53 rooms and two suites, so it didn’t seem to ever too crowded in any one spot, at least when we were there.
If you’re lucky like we were with the weather and get clear skies during your visit, then prepare for epic technicolor sunsets from the pool and a view of the island of Nusa Penida beyond the bay.
The interiors of the rooms themselves, however, felt a bit dated and show their age with some with the older-style furnishings, shower hardware, and overall bathroom design flow. They were super clean, though — and the fact that every room has a great view is nice.
Each room has its own French press and Alila’s signature coffee grounds along with a fresh tropical fruit basket — details we love.
The only thing we felt was missing during our stay was an on-site fitness center, but apparently, the resort’s spa manager told us that plans for one in the resort are currently in development.
We also hit a snag when the shower clogged on the first night and caused the whole toilet area of the bathroom to flood with water, but the resort’s reaction to the situation speaks to the excellent level of service that we experienced throughout our stay. All it took was one phone call to reception and by the time we went back into our room after dinner, the shower was draining perfectly and the issue didn’t recur.
Okay, so the location’s excellent for a tranquil getaway and the grounds are straight from a postcard, but how about the actual yoga part of the retreat?
The yoga is led by Indonesian teacher Ami Effendy, who practices traditional Hatha-style yoga. Yoga programming is a mix of workshops and actual practice. During this dry run of Alila’s yoga program, there was a lot of emphasis on the meaning of poses as well as different pranayamic breath exercises and what yoga itself is all about.
There are three yoga sessions offered each day, which includes workshops. In between sessions is when you have time to eat your meals, hit the spa, or go on an outing. The schedule had a nice balance of having enough stuff to do without getting bored, but also offers you time to just chill.
Sessions where we actually practiced yoga covered a lot of ground, with a balance of what was a more energetic-style vinyasa flow and chiller, restorative yoga, as well as yoga nidra. That last one, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is “sleep yoga,” and you’ve absolutely got to try it (if you haven’t already). You’ll thank us later.
Effendy’s teachings are very well-suited for yogis of all levels — even people who have never practiced before. She very readily adapted to the different experience levels of the three people in our group.
If you want to relax, practice yoga in a beautiful and tranquil space, and learn the history and meanings behind the poses and practice, then this retreat checks all the boxes.
If you’re looking for a more advanced yoga retreat and have very specific goals, however, it would be beneficial to get in touch with Alila to discuss the retreat’s course materials.
One thing to note: The yoga mats were brand new and hella slippery when we practiced, so we had to put towels down to keep from popping into the splits during each crescent lunge or warrior two position. The mats may have broken in more by now, but we recommend bringing your own yoga mat towel if you have one, or even your own mat if you already have a mat in Bali or like to travel with one. If not, it’s really not that big of a deal to borrow towels from the hotel for your yoga session, either.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the brand new yoga shala that’s on the very edge of the property, right over the water. It’s modern yet so well incorporated into the natural space — to us, it feels like something an evil billionaire in a Bond film would have on his property.
Included in the yoga retreat is breakfast at the hotel’s Seasalt restaurant, as well as unlimited wellness-oriented food and beverages from Manggis’ “Live” menu (AKA, their food menu with healthy options). And by “unlimited”, the resort means you can go nuts and order as much as you want throughout the day (excluding alcoholic beverages), even ordering two dinners if you’re up for it.
The “live” menu, the name for the resort’s wellness food menu had just launched when we were there, and had pretty much what you’d expect a healthy menu to have: superfoods, smoothies, plant-based dishes, and lots of vegetables.
Currently, you can choose from smoothie bowls, lots of salads, rice and quinoa bowls, and baked and steamed fish with an Indonesian flair — meaning fusion using a fair amount of staple local ingredients like lemongrass, chili, ginger, and soy sauce.
One of the highlights of breakfast at the hotel had to be the tropical fruit platter that they always seemed to bring out before we could even decide what we wanted to order (we’re big fans of fruit being given to us without us asking, you see), as well as the staffer who acted as the designated juice guy, circulating us with a tray of different fresh juices.
The food is gourmet and a lot of care is taken into ingredient sourcing. For instance, the restaurant gets its name for the sea salt that it uses from nearby Goa Lawah salt pans.
Some of the existing dishes that were already deemed as healthy from the restaurant’s regular menu are on the “live” menu so you’ll find some overlap there. Like the tuna sambal matah, or grilled tuna with “Balinese salsa” made of fresh chili, lemongrass, garlic, shrimp paste, lime, and salt.
The menu has enough variety that you would be fine to eat there for the course of the retreat and not get tired of things or need to repeat meals.
The one dish we weren’t huge fans of was the “tortilla scrambled,” which was essentially a breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs and mixed vegetables. Some sort of sauce or more seasoning would have been welcome additions, we felt. The instant we mentioned this as the chef and staff made rounds (they’re super attentive without being smothering), they hurried to the kitchen and came back with some fresh tomato salsa. We were grateful for that — the salsa gave the dish the flavor boost it needed.
It was this willingness to improve on their new menu items, accommodate varying tastes, and just take great care over what guests thought about their food that — in our eyes — earns the restaurant a five-star service tag.
Another example: One of the other guests mentioned to the chef that she loved the passion fruit at the resort, so the next night for dinner, the chef whipped her up a custom dessert centered around passion fruit. They also offered us one, so we got to have that for dessert, too.
We couldn’t resist trying some more Indonesian and Balinese items from the restaurant out of curiosity, like the nasi campur and the megibung — and we weren’t disappointed. Eating Indonesian home-cooked classics is never the same in the restaurant as it is in a warung, but Seasalt’s takes on the classics are in such a fresh, flavorful way that we still enjoyed it.
We would definitely recommend going in with a group to partake in the megibung feast, where you’re served a traditional Balinese feast with yellow turmeric rice, and a variety of vegetable and meat dishes (plus sambal, of course). Megibung’s usually reserved for special occasions and not typically found at just any warung (most often you need to place a special order for it in advance), so it’s a cool experience to order straight at Seasalt since they do it exceptionally well.
A huge perk of doing Alila’s signature yoga retreat is the included spa treatment offered each day of the program. You get to pick whichever treatment you want off the menu, so massage, facial, mani/pedi, reflexology, body scrub, whatever strikes your fancy.
If you like a stronger massage rather than more gentle rubbing, we can recommend the therapeutic massage — ie, one of the best massages we’ve ever had, which combined “long Balinese strokes” and Swedish deep tissue techniques.
We also tried the “gentle purification facial”, the spa’s only facial offering, which we were told is suitable for all skin types. The facial mainly involves drainage facial techniques and exfoliation and definitely gave our skin a glow. Products used in the spa are from Alila’s own line, which is a nice touch and are all-natural.
Our massage and facial treatments were done by the seaside, within the property’s own outdoor structures, so you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury as you’re getting pampered.
Upcoming Retreats. Should you join?
There area three more retreats scheduled for the remainder of 2019, thus far: April 24-29, May 22-27, and June 20-25.
Since the dry run, Alila has upped the retreat duration to add an extra day, so it’s now six days/five nights.
Pricing for the six-day, five night retreat varies on whether you take a superior room, deluxe room, or seaside suite and on if the room is single or double occupancy.
Superior Rooms are US$1,360++ for single occupancy and US$2,010++ for double occupancy; Deluxe Rooms are US$1,480 for single occupancy and US$2,130++ for double occupancy; whereas, Seaside Suites are US$2,000++ for single occupancy and US$2,650++ for double occupancy.
It’s certainly not cheap (doing a yoga retreat in Bali hardly ever is), BUT for all that you get included, the unlimited gourmet food, three yoga sessions per day, one spa treatment per day, outings, airport transfer, and other amenities, and compared to what we’ve seen for other similar yoga retreats, the level of luxury isn’t a bad deal, as far as we’re concerned.
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