A look at the ‘world’s best resort’, which happens to be on Indonesia’s Sumba island, not Bali

Stand up paddle boarding with a view. Photo: Nihi Sumba Island

The world’s best resort, according to Travel+Leisure readers, is in Indonesia, but not in tourist-centric, resort-filled Bali as you may expect.

Ranked at the number one spot on the T+L World’s Best list of 100 hotels, for two years in a row, is the eco-friendly Nihi Sumba Island—formerly known as the Nihiwatu.

Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island
Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island

Located in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara Province, Sumba is just a quick, 50-minute flight from Bali, but might as well be a world away with its remote feel, scattered warm small villages and sprawling nature from impressive beaches to leafy jungles to roaring waterfalls.

“This is paradise,” wrote one T+L reader.

“It is the epitome of escape, adventure, and luxury,” said another.

“The people of Sumba are so warm and beautiful,” raved one family. “They will forever be in our hearts and soul.”

Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island
Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island

The resort encompasses 560 acres, offering much space and privacy for its 33 villas. The villas are made from organic materials like natural stone and teak wood and can accommodate groups, not just couples.

A “near-empty beach” is easily accessible from the resort, along with Occy’s Left, one of the world’s best breaks. But you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the water off the Nihi. Snorkeling, free diving, and spearfishing are on the menu, while you can opt for land-side adventures like hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and yoga.

Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island
Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island
Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island
Nihi Sumba Island
Photo: Nihi Sumba Island

The Nihi, under new ownership since 2012 was expanded to add more rooms and villas, but since taking over, Chris Burch has managed to “preserve the edge-of-civilization vibe and strong sense of community,” writes John Wogan of T+L, in the magazine’s list featuring Indonesia’s highest ranked resorts—which the Nihi obviously topped as well.

Other than the Nihi Sumba Island, the remainder of the top ranked Indonesia resorts were all of course in Bali—which tops another list (Tripadvisor’s) as the best destination in the world.

In second place on the T+L Indonesian list was the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (yes, this is the one where Barack Obama and family just stayed); in third was another Ubud resort, the Amandarai; in fourth, Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay; and finally, capping off the list was Nusa Dua’s St. Regis Bali Resort.

The Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan was the only other Indonesia resort after the Nihi to make the World’s Best, top 100 list.

Rankings for both the Indonesia and World’s Best lists were determined by a survey T+L gives its readers. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value.

The Nihi Sumba Island scored a 99.12, while tied for “last place” (which is still an amazing spot to be in) at 95.20 was the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam and the Wilderness Safaris Little Kulala in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

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