Bali didn’t need another luxury resort; the jewel of an island is already teeming with over-the-top properties designed to cater to every jet-set dream. And while the new Capella Ubud, Bali certainly ticks all of the luxury resort boxes—think private plunge pools, 24-hour personal assistants, and state-of-the-art wellness programs—for architect Bill Bensley and the Capella team, it was much more. Opened this week in the artisan village of Keliki, a quick 20 minutes north of Ubud, the secluded camp is a vision of a new approach to plush properties—one that blends almost completely into its lush jungle backdrop.
“I love the idea that the camp in essence disappears into the rainforest,” says Bensley of the property’s 22 one-bedroom tented retreats and two-bedroom lodge. Built using his philosophy of minimal intervention, every aspect of the resort has been designed to preserve the environment that has enchanted locals and travelers—the self-described Baliophile architect included—for centuries. And for Bensley, this means ensuring that all of the property’s existing flora and fauna remained untouched. To achieve this, his team used temporary bamboo structures to bring his architectural plans to life before any foundations were laid. “This method allows us to see exactly how our architectural proposal will fit into the site, the contours [of the land], and most importantly between the trees.”
The result of all of those careful months of planning is a host of transporting structures inspired by the island’s Dutch explorers—ones that are, of course, perfectly positioned in between the centuries-old banyan trees and the sacred Wos River that flows through the nearly 10-acre property. Inside, this exacting attention to detail continues, with Bensley’s singature canvas-top tents (called retreats) and public spaces all individually designed to evoke specific aspects of camp life for these early Dutch settlers. Tucked into the rice paddies and river bank, or perched above the Keliki Valley, each retreat looks like it has been there for centuries, seamlessly integrating into the environment with colonial-inspired furniture (and vintage accessories from the era), hand-carved wood details, four-poster beds, and hammered copper bathtubs. Modern amenities also abound—every room comes complete with private saltwater plunge pools and smartphones preloaded with data to allow guests to stay connected as they venture off the property.
Bensley’s considered approach doesn’t end with the property’s aesthetics. Its flagship Mads Lange restaurant serves seasonally minded dishes inspired by the famed Dutch spice trader using sustainably farmed produce; the Auriga Wellness spa employs a range of locally crafted products through treatments that are created using 100 percent organic ingredients; and there are no single-use plastics anywhere in sight. Off the resort’s grounds, Capella is also working closely with the local villages to build programs designed to educate locals and travelers alike in limiting the use of plastics and employing a more sustainable approach to waste management.
All of this adds up to a strikingly unique addition to Bali’s overcrowded hotel scene, ideal for the Baliophile looking to dive into the destination in a conscious new way. And while the property offers plenty of access points for these types of encounters—taking culinary journeys through the working farms, visiting the centuries-old artist’s workshops of Keliki Village, and participating in sacred rituals at the Wos River alongside locals—guests are also encouraged to create their own experience. “Don’t look at guide books; don’t read TripAdvisor,” says Bensley. “Ask locals what they do and where they eat, and explore! That is sustainable travel.”