By Beth Weitzman and Misty Milioto
Where the lush jungle meets the Ayung River and temples stand majestic against a backdrop of rice terraces, you’ll find Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, one of only four Ritz-Carlton Reserves (the others located in Krabi, Thailand [Phulay Bay], Puerto Rico [Dorado Beach Reserve], and Mexico [the just-opened Zadún on the coast of San José del Cabo]). Mandapa is a place like no other, special in every way. The refined yet relaxed resort is located 60 miles from Ngurah Rai International Airport and offers a distinct sensory experience, from culinary to wellness and nature.
A center for traditional crafts, dance and music, the town of Ubud is the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali. From the property, it’s easy to get to the town, where the not-to-be-missed Ubud Traditional Art Market offers handmade woven goods, artwork, clothing and more (at amazing prices). Also in town are shops, restaurants (many of which are organic), coffee and juice shops, and so much more. Ubud’s rainforest and terraced rice paddies are dotted with Hindu temples and shrines, and ancient holy sites including the intricately carved Goa Gajah (or Elephant Cave) and the rock-cut shrines of Gunung Kawi are well worth a visit.
Spellbound is what you will be from your moment of arrival, when the resort team welcomes you, until your moment of departure, when they bid you a farewell until next time.
The architecture and interior design work in harmony with the resort’s surrounds, creating a strong sense of place and constant sense of awe. Gorgoeus Balinese design sets the stage for an authentic luxury experience. Once here, you won’t want to leave. Traditional yet contemporary Balinese interiors by Jeffrey Wilkes and renowned Asia-based DESIGNWILKES are designed to embrace the surrounding tropical landscape, including an historic temple and large rice terrace on the property. Inspired by the mandapas (Sanskrit for temples) of Ubud, the interiors act as a sacred space to rest the body, mind and soul. Eye-catching textiles and patterns are contemporary, yet are derived from local historical references.
The architecture pays homage to the village atmosphere of Ubud, thanks to a collection of buildings connected by pathways, temples and gardens. Natural materials throughout the resort include soft leather finishes, marble stone walkways, textured glass and woven ceiling panels—all boasting a welcoming and zen vibe. The earth-tone palette reflects the surrounding landscape and river, while accents of fuchsia, marigold and green provide pops of color.
With 35 suites in the main building and 25 private pool villas along the edge of the rice paddies overlooking the river and rainforest, this exclusive enclave is simply surreal. Suites in the main building boast a private patio, spacious bedroom, inviting living space and beautiful views. Two suite types are on offer, including the 1,075-square-foot Reserve Suite with a daybed for lounging, and epic views of the rainforest and rice paddies; and the 1,560-square-foot Mandapa Suite with large veranda daybed, living area, guest and master bathrooms, and rainforest views.
Meanwhile, the estate-like villas (which we highly recommend) offer a most memorable private piece of paradise. Each combines a Balinese-style main house comprised of a super-spacious and luxurious bedroom, bathroom and dressing area; and private outdoor spaces, including a pool, garden, dining and lounge area; as well as a separate enclosed living room. The one-bedroom villas (either forest or riverfront facing) boast a total of 4,630 square feet. For a family, group of friends or sets of couples, the 10,710-square-foot Reserve two-bedroom pool villa and the 21,530-square-foot Mandapa three-bedroom pool villa are great options. The villas are especially magnificent. You won’t need or want to leave, but the restaurants, spa and menu of activities may compel you to do otherwise. An added perk? All guests have a 24-hour certified patih (butler). The overall service is absolutely divine!
The verdant rice paddies surrounding Mandapa serve as the foundation for nearly every meal, accompanied by fragrant spices, colorful vegetables, tender meats and local fish. Mandapa offers four unique dining concepts that celebrate Indonesian cuisine alongside international dishes, plus exclusive “dining beyond” experiences within the Reserve.
At Sawah Terrace, an all-day dining restaurant overlooking the Ayung River and tropical forest, a true Indonesian culinary journey highlights the distinctive flavors of the archipelago. The menu brims with flavorful Balinese dishes, Asian cuisine, healthy delicacies and farm-to-table concepts directly from the chef’s on-property organic garden. While all dishes are delicious, the Rendang Pipi Sapi (slow cooked beef cheek in coconut and tamarind scented rending curry) is not to be missed.
The signature, jaw-dropping Kubu restaurant sets a unique, romantic scene along the Ayung River, surrounded by bamboo and cooled by tropical breezes, where diners can savor Mediterranean-European cuisine. Nine private dining cocoons are inspired by kubu, the bamboo huts in which Balinese farmers store their annual rice harvest. The signature six- to eight-course degustation menus are a must. Delectable dishes include cold almond soup, cherry tomato crispy tart, lobster cocktail, grilled black cod and grilled Wagyu rib-eye. Desserts include berry frappe, chocolate cappuccino and petits fours. A meal here is truly one to remember.
The Pool Bar, meanwhile, spotlights wellness with a menu of salads, soups, sushi, smoothies, juices and teas (as well as cocktails for those so inclined). Try the tea mixology with the sea bass tartare (served with wasabi, avocado, ginger flower, onion and capers). Finally, The Library overlooks the pool and rainforest with an open-air lounge hosting Mandapa Dulang Premium, the signature afternoon tea offered in both English and Indonesian traditions, plus a menu of fresh juices, light fare and cocktails. It’s a nice afternoon spot in which to unwind and chill for a while.
Something extra special are the “beyond dining” experiences — distinctive private dining beyond the resort’s restaurants. Options include Sounds of the Ayung River (a six-course degustation menu served under the stars, just steps from the river), Grace by the Rice Field (a six-course degustation menu served on The Gracefield deck overlooking the rice terrace), In-Villa Romance (a six-course degustation menu served in the privacy of your villa, with fresh flower petals and candles), the Mandapa Picnic (brunch, lunch or afternoon snacks served next to the Ayung River or at the resort’s iconic Lumbung [rice barn]), the Barbecue by the Rice Field (with a bountiful buffet selection and table-side cooking by a private chef) and The Cliff at Sawah (refined open-air dining at the edge of the cliff, with gorgeous views of the Ayung River).
Mandapa offers comprehensive wellness and lifestyle programs based on six pillars: Balinese Spa, Detox, Nutrition, Alternative Therapy, Body Therapy and Healing.
A peaceful sanctuary, the riverfront Mandapa Spa draws on Bali’s long tradition of healing and inner reflection. The modern, luxury retreat is set among the lush rainforest and offers authentic Balinese treatments infused with subtle energies and locally sourced products; unique services include varied sessions with local Balinese healers—a must experience. In addition to five well-appointed treatment rooms, the spa features a yoga pavilion, meditation temple, vitality pool, 24-hour fitness center, saunas and relaxation areas.
Bali is known for its rich culture, traditions and holistic healing, and Ubud (a name derived from the Balinese word ubad, which means medicine) was originally a source of energetic holistic healers and medicinal herbs. The incredible local healers at Mandapa share their gifts and are reason enough to stay here. There are many selections from which to choose, here’s a highlight.
One of the most unique spa treatments is the Ibu Ketut Mursi – Intuitive Blind Healer, with a highly skilled, intuitive healer. Each session is customized, as the healer assesses each individual’s emotional and physical issues and recommends herbs necessary to treat specific conditions. She and her assistant, Ibu Kis, use body work and reflexology to realign and release any blocked energy, and employ Ketut’s secret family herbal oil blend, which has been passed down through generations. The session takes 60 or 90 minutes, depending on individual needs. At the end, a translator assists with suggestions related to health and well-being.
Another distinct treatment is the Pranic Acupuncture Healing with Pak Ketut (75 or 120 minutes) that works with both the subtle energetic system and the physical body. Ketut begins with pranic healing, followed by acupuncture to release any energy blocks. For the two-hour session, Ketut integrates his signature healing massage.
Meanwhile, the Mebayuh–Water Blessing Ritual with the Resort Priest (60 minutes) is a traditional ceremony meant to cleanse and purify. Conducted in the resort temple, the ceremony is intended to release accumulated experiences and negative energies, while purifying and reconnecting with the divine energy within.
Another distinctive experience at Mandapa is a traditional blessing ritual performed by a traditional healer. For example, the Homa Yajna–Fire Blessing Ritual (60 minutes) is a sacred ceremony that originated in the ancient Vedic texts. It begins with meditation in the fire space, where the ceremony priest rings a Balinese bell and chants Sanskrit mantras to evoke health and abundance. Following the lighting of the fire, participants make offerings of grains, lentils and other foods. The ritual is a process of purifying unwanted beliefs, habits or thought patterns, while manifesting new intentions.
Alternative healing energy options include reiki, conscious breath work and more.
With so much to do on the property, it’s tough to pull yourself away, but Mandapa offers a full menu of activities and private excursions around the island. We spent a day with the amazing Eriwah and Roger on the Volkswagen Vintage tour. Cruising in an open-air, classic VW 181 convertible, we toured the Goa Gajah, an elephant cave that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 9th century; Gunung Kawi temple complex, with 200 stairs down to the temple, rock-cut shrines, walking path through the rice field and jungle with meditation caves, waterfalls and running rivers; Segara Windhu Coffee Plantation (as seen in the movie The Bucket List) for authentic Kopi Luwak coffee paired with a yummy picnic lunch from Mandapa; and the Ubud monkey forest, home to about 500 monkeys. Our memorable private tour included an inspiring meditation session among the trees and waterfall: truly, an experience like no other.
Wedding & Commitment Ceremonies
Drawing inspiration from local Balinese tradition, as well as the area’s lush jungle location, distinctive culture and spirituality, Mandapa offers a naturally striking setting for a destination wedding. Local traditions impart a very real sense of authenticity to the ceremony and reception. Bridal party prep, the wedding ceremony and cocktail reception can be held in one of the luxurious three-bedroom villas, featuring a private outdoor garden and pool. The Rice Terrace lawn is another great outdoor venue option. Whether small or large, the team will ensure every detail is perfectly executed.
Couples wanting to express their love for each other while creating lasting memories of their romantic journey together in Bali can choose the Enchanting Love Journey—a romantic experience combining a traditional Balinese commitment ceremony and a sumptuous private dining experience for two.
A stay at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is one that will fill your body and mind with memories of a lifetime. For more information visit mandapareserve.com