Hotel Review: Four Seasons Sayan, Bali

WOW. Just wow!

We had the pleasure and privilege of staying at the Four Seasons Sayan in beautiful Bali. The resort blew me away with its beauty, elegance and harmony with nature. I think it may be one of the top ten hotels I’ve ever stayed in — perhaps one of the top five.

In the backyard of our private villa. Just WOW.

We stayed in a riverfront villa and it was spectacular. Nestled on a hillside overlooking the Ayung river, it featured its own infinity pool and spacious outdoor veranda. We were there for four nights, and I didn’t want to leave. In terms of activities, this is what we did:

  • Whitewater river rafting along the Ayung river. We booked this activity through the resort because we wanted a private boat experience. Why? Because we did this on our first full day in Bali, so we wanted a fun but peaceful experience without a bunch of other tourists. We were super lucky to have the guide who led former President Obama’s family on their river expedition. The guide’s name was Madeh and he was an absolute expert at navigating the swift waters and pointing out the wonders of the river, including huge iguanas.

Expert guide Madeh with the Geno.

  • Bicycling through rice fields near Ubud. We went with eBikes Bali for this activity because of its high Tripadvisor ratings. So much fun! And the lunch at the end was super yummy.
  • A full day with a car and driver to see the temple at Uluwatu (a monkey stole my water bottle!), Padang Padang beach (so crystal blue), Jimbaran and the Ubud art market. We went with this company.
  • Lots of R&R, including 90-minute massages at Karsa Spa, Ubud Traditional Spa and the Spa at the Four Seasons resort. Yes, that’s right. We were in Bali for 4 nights, but had 3 massages! With 90-minute massages priced at $15, how can you resist? (That price applies for all the spas I listed, with the exception of the Four Seasons).

I would actually love to spend a year in Bali someday to write and paint/photograph and travel…what a dream that would be! When I think of Bali, I think of so many vibrant colors…

Anyway, here’s my list of pros and cons of the Four Seasons Sayan:

PROS:

  • Absolutely stunning. The place will take your breath away from the moment you step onto the bridge walkway leading to the reception.
  • Phenomenal service. Everyone was really wonderful, and we had some fun conversations with the staff, who seemed genuinely interested in giving us great pointers about visiting their country. The staff seemed genuinely happy to be there. I later heard from Bali residents that it’s highly competitive to work at the resort and once you’re in, you’re one of the lucky few.
  • The food was out of this world. Every meal was delicious, but my favorite was breakfast. Instead of a vast buffet, they give you an a la carte menu. You can mix and match and order as much as you want. The benefit is that each meal is personalized and fresh. The downside is that the food is so good, you won’t be able to resist ordering another item. Best blueberry pancakes ever, served with a dollop of creme fraiche. Also, they had a list of Asian options, which I really enjoyed. Korean breakfast = small bowl of steaming rice + soup + small plate of tender bulgogi + banchan. Japanese breakfast= small bowl of steaming rice + soup + grilled fish + pickled veggies. Balinese breakfast= small bowl of steaming rice + curried chicken in a banana leaf. A Frenchman is the head chef, so all of the pastries were super legit. The croissants + pain au chocolat = YUM!

Along with an Asian breakfast plate, I had one or two pancakes with blueberry compote and creme fraiche every morning — the syrup at the top was unnecessary and IMO would’ve taken away from the subtle deliciousness of the rest of the dish.

A proper English breakfast tea + fresh watermelon juice every morning. The breakfast menu (all you can eat) is above, and they had delicious daily specials.

  • Heavenly experience within your villa and outside. You are living in nature, with the rushing river lulling you to sleep and birdsong waking you up. And you walk out to see small green hills and rice fields. It’s just a gorgeous place.
  • The price is high, but for what you get, it’s not that bad. Especially when you compare it to other Four Seasons resorts, like in Bora Bora, which I think is really overpriced. Don’t get me wrong — you’d be fortunate to stay at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora and it’s really beautiful, but the resort in Sayan makes you feel like royalty without requiring a royal’s bank account. So in comparison, the Four Seasons Sayan is worth it.
  • Probably the most astounding resort on Bali, and one of the most astounding resorts in the world. Stay here instead of the Four Seasons Jimbaran, which is the sister property by the beach. We stopped by there for lunch, and while it is pretty and well-appointed, it is not breathtaking like Sayan. But if you want to party every night, Sayan is too remote to fit the bill.
  • Situated near Ubud and the rice fields. This was my favorite area of Bali. I loved it more than the beachy, party-party areas. If you’re looking for warm azure waters, go to Bora Bora or Cancun or any number of places in the world. But Bali’s charm is in its local villages and its endless green fields of rice.
  • I LOVED the pool!! Our villa had a private dipping infinity pool (which was amazing and I dipped in it each day), but the main resort pool is spectacular! It’s a huge infinity pool situated by the river, and when you’re floating on your back, you look up at all the gorgeous trees and the fluffy clouds, with birds chattering all around you. The service by the pool was excellent — they come by every few minutes with little nibbles, a sample of a smoothie, cool towel, etc. I normally don’t like hotel pools because I don’t like crowds or swimming with a bunch of strangers, but this one was serene and heavenly. We were usually the only two people in the pool. The kids’ pool is separated by a small wall — thank you! 😉

Swinging over the Tegalalang rice fields near Ubud.

CONS:

  • So far from the airport. We arrived at the airport late at night, and then it was another hour to Sayan. So be prepared for a very long transit.
  • The welcome ritual was a little hokey. A greeter at the entrance of the resort ties sashes around your waist (I loved the colors, though) and then pounds a gong and makes you pound it, too. We were pretty tired and just wanted to check into our villa, rather than stand around for 5-10 minutes banging a gong and hearing about the welcome ritual. Maybe some people will find this charming, but it felt a little forced to me.
  • The spa is overpriced. It’s not overpriced compared to other Four Seasons spas — in fact, it’s on the cheaper end (at the time of our stay, a massage was $100 per 90-min treatment instead of $150-200, which is the usual price at a Four Seasons). But when you’re in a country famous for its spas, most of which are lovely and charge $15-20 per 90 minutes, the resort spa is kind of unnecessary. Yes, the facility is gorgeous and I’m glad we experienced it, but in retrospect, I would’ve gone back to Karsa Spa for Round 2.
  • So. Many. Stairs. Up and down, up and down whenever you get a meal or go to the main entrance. This is a great workout for your legs, but sometimes you just don’t feel like sweating profusely on your way to dinner. This is a minor quibble, though, because I do really appreciate the fact that the resort is so harmonious with its hilly surroundings. And I partially blame ourselves because we were often too impatient to wait for a buggy to pick us up. Most villa residents ride around in buggies because the grounds are extensive.

I would go back in a heartbeat. Bali blew my mind, and the Four Seasons Sayan is truly a piece of heaven on earth. I feel grateful to have experienced it, and the review above is for the benefit of anyone who’s interested in knowing more about the resort. The pros FAR outweighed the few cons, so feel free to ignore the cons and just GO. You will not regret it 🙂

A last glimpse at the backyard of our wonderful private villa. Just WOW!!!

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