The moment you land on the tarmac at Denpasar is pretty much the exact moment you start thinking about your first massage or relaxing spa treat in this island paradise. But with so many options — from local, authentic massage parlours that can be ever so slightly 'rustic' to truly luxurious spas with disappointingly, so-so massages, choosing the right place for the heavenly treatment you desire can be tough. The Buro team, armed with some suggestions from W Insider Rika Wisna, visited five spas and tried their signature treatments. Here's what we recommend:
Ayurvedic Simple Bliss Package (120 minutes, IDR 1,000,000)
Prana Spa Seminyak
Jalan Kunti 118x, Seminyak, Bali 80361
Prana Spa might be situated in Seminyak, but the moment I stepped into the courtyard, I might have very well been in Jaipur. Tall palm trees towered over a palatial façade, ushering me into an interior decked with vibrant colours accented with gold paint.
I was booked in for the Ayurvedic Simple Bliss Package treatment which began with a thorough full-body massage that alternated between long, sweeping medium-pressure Balinese-style strokes and Swedish-style kneading that successfully unlocked the persistent knots between my shoulders. A housemade blend of oil was used during the massage. It featured a base of soya oil blended with patchouli and rosewood essential oils — chosen for their relaxing properties — enriched with a good dose of vitamin E. Under the masterful strokes of my therapist, I came close to sweet slumber a few times, but the chatter along the corridor prevented me from doing so. Had the treatment room been soundproof, I would have been knocked out cold.
While the massage was excellent, the more unusual aspect of the treatment came after, where I was put through the spa's signature Shirodhara ritual. Shirodhara, a form of Ayurvedic therapy, features a constant flow of warm oil over the chakra point just above and between the eyebrows, a ritual that is said to awaken the third eye, soothe the nervous system, and induce a deep state of relaxation.
At Prana Spa, the therapist begins with a thorough face, head, and shoulder massage before dribbling a stream of sesame oil fragranced with calming lavender over my chakra point — a sensation that was unsettling for a Shirodhara virgin like me. The uneven flow of oil tickled my forehead, but after it achieved a steady flow, I began to relax and feel calming waves of warmth sweep over my forehead and into my hair. That night itself, I slept like a baby — but not before I shampooed my hair five times to rid the oil slick trapped within. It's hard to tell if the massage or Shirodhara treatment lulled me into a deep sleep, but if the end goal of the treatment was to provide simple bliss, it certainly did just that. — Denise Kok, Lifestyle Editor
Hair Ritual (6o minutes, IDR 650,000)
Rob Peetoom Hair Spa Bali
Jalan Petitenget 16, Seminyak Bali 80631
A client told me that I had to try the hair pampering session at the Rob Peetoom Hair Spa. The hair spa and salon is located along Jalan Petitenget — just 10 minutes away from the heart of Seminyak. The moment I arrived, I understood why it came highly recommended. The spa is designed to allow for all hair treatments to be conducted with a view of the serene rice padi fields, away from all the hustle and bustle.
The Hair Ritual, a Rob Peetoom signature treatment, began with a hair and scalp analysis. Based on the results, the therapist determined the leave-in mask and serum conditioner from the Kérastase hair range that would be used for the treatment. Starting off with a hair wash, we were then led to the lounge chairs overlooking the padi fields for the deep massage hair mask. While waiting for the leave-in mask to set, I was treated to a 30-minute shoulder, hand and leg massage that ended off with relaxing hot-stone therapy. Feeling completely blissed-out, the treatment concluded with a serum conditioner, a thorough hair rinse and a blowout.
Not just a simple hair treatment, the Hair Ritual is a luxurious pampering session from head-to-toe. I left completely relaxed and with extremely soft and healthy hair. Book an appointment on the last few days of your trip to revive your hair from all the abuse (think sun and beach exposure) it has endured during the trip. — Dora Aljoofri, Fashion Editor
Bright and Glowing Spa Package (180 minutes, IDR 3,400,000)
Thermes Marins Bali, Ayana Resort and Spa
Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, Bali 80364
There's a reason why I'd return to Thermes Marins spa every time I'm in Bali. It really feels like you're enveloped in a tropical paradise. Right from the get-go, the walk through the spa grounds take you on a tour through lush foliage, mini-waterfalls and arched bridges, before bringing you the treatment room. 'Room' is perhaps an understatement: The space was more of a suite, with a bathtub, shower and balcony and natural light streaming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows facing a stunning view of the ocean.
And that's just the location. As most treatments go, mine started with foot wash and scrub, where the therapist — God bless her soul — rubbed my tired feet from a day of exploring. She was everything you would want in a masseuse: intuitive, accommodating (I asked her to change the temperature of the room about a million times, and she obliged) and skilled.
The body scrub came next, which combined rice powder, cinnamon and sandalwood for an earthy, gritty finish. While the texture of some scrubs make you feel uncomfortable lying in your own filth (think: dead skin), this mixture wasn't sticky or oily, and was easy to rinse off in the shower. The massage was a combination of Balinese deep tissue and a customised, anti-stress blend of lavender, rose geranium and ylang ylang aromatherapy oils. Anti-stress? More like anti-awake — minutes into my massage, I was kneaded into a lull, and only awoke when the therapist asked me to turn over. Then it was back to dreamland, until I was awakened yet again, this time for a facial.
The 50-minute facial employed ingredients Mother Earth would approve of: aloe vera was used to cleanse and tone; yoghurt and corn to scrub, yoghurt and oatmeal to moisturise; egg white and honey worked as a mask while slices of orange were used as a massage tool. The treatment ended with an aloe vera mask and a head massage.
I was then whisked off to a pedicure in another room. The bonus? The room had an excellent vantage point of Bali's famous crimson sunsets. I came out the spa bright, glowing and just a tad sluggish from having lain down for more than two hours. Would I trade it for anything else? Not a chance. — Adibah Isa, Culture Editor
*The Bright & Glowing Spa Package is available from 21 to 25 December
Favorite Massage with Movement (90 minutes, IDR 450,000)
Jalan Raya Basangkasa 47, Kuta, Badung, Bali 80361
Jari Menari, which translates rather aptly to 'dancing fingers', is one of the most popular massage parlours in Bali, and with good reason. The all-male masseurs are well-trained — they have to undergo extensive training and perform at least 30 massages before they are certified and 'unleashed' onto paying customers. When I asked why only male masseurs are employed, I was told that men have bigger hands and apply steadier pressure throughout the massage — and sexist generalisation or not — I was inclined to agree. What we love most about the place, having visited several times, is the professionalism and expertise of the masseurs — they are respectful of their female customers at all times and the design of each massage is well thought-out and precise.
Jari Menari is currently undergoing renovations in order to expand the premises, which includes a training centre for would-be massage therapists as well as enthusiasts. Unlike the other spas on the list, the surroundings are simple, but clean. Each room is cordorned off by screen doors and face a water feature that runs the length of the rooms. Most importantly, the spa is peaceful and relaxing. All you'll hear are the water sounds and not the idle chatter of off-duty masseurs or other ambient noises that detract from the experience.
Having never tried the Favorite Massage with Movement, I was in for a huge treat. The Jari Menari practitioners receive extensive training in yoga asanas so they can read the body's state and employ innovative, rhythmic and intuitive massage strokes. My therapist stretched me slowly and with careful intention — I was never over-stretched or in any discomfort. However, this massage is probably not for those who are particularly inflexible. The massage works mostly on the back — specifically the lower back — and areas where tension accumulates throughout the 90-minute session. The verdict? All the tension from my body was released and I emerged with supple limbs and felt suitably well-warmed, almost as if I had emerged from a hot yoga session. I slept soundly that night — as my roommate will attest — and didn't wake with any aches or sore spots the day after. Perfection! — Renée Batchelor, Beauty Editor
Ocean Motion Massage (90 mins, IDR 900,000)
The Escape Cabana at W Retreat & Spa Bali
Jl. Petitenget, Denpasar, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361
On an island like Bali, with so much to see and do, you often have to sacrifice one thing for another. Having a spa treatment typically means that you'll miss out on some pool time, but fortunately, that's not the case if you head to The Escape Cabana at the W Retreat & Spa Bali. Located on the soft volcanic sand right beside the W pool, The Escape Cabana faces the ocean and offers a variety of massage treatments that cater especially to sun-worshippers.
Using a blend of aromatherapy oils, Iluh, my therapist went to work on my back, rocking and kneading it into submission. Thanks to a form I had filled out prior to the treatment, she already knew I preferred hard pressure and made an effort to pay more attention to my shoulders. For more privacy, I drew the curtains on the restaurant-facing side of the cabana but left everything else open to fully appreciate being amidst the elements.
After working on my upper body, followed by my legs, Iluh started on the final pièce de résistance — the face and head massage. The relaxing ritual was made all the more meditative by the soothing music and views of the big, blue sky above. You can even plug-in your own iPod if you desire. Lastly, to wake me up from the lulling treatment and to cool me down before I headed back out into the sun, Iluh applied a cold compress to my face and feet for an invigorating end. — Tracy Phillips, Contributing Editor
*Do note that all treatment prices are before taxes
To view more insider tips from our #BuroInBali guide, click here.