This is our review of Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, in Bali.
After three nights by the beach in Sanur at the Andaz Bali (review here), it was time for a change of scene – a trip to the Balinese uplands where lush rainforests, rice terraces and Hindu temples converge.
Marriott is well represented in Bali with 15 different brands available, including Westin, W, St Regis, Sheraton and Renaissance. Disregarding the Bulgari hotel, which doesn’t take part in Marriott Bonvoy, Mandapa is undoubtedly the most luxurious of the lot.
The hotel website is here. Marriott kindly provided my room for review purposes.
What is a Ritz Carlton Reserve?
Before we go on I want to quickly explain what a Ritz Carlton Reserve is, as it’s not a brand you have likely heard of. Ritz Carlton Reserve is a sub brand of The Ritz Carlton with just six properties worldwide, including Mandapa and Phulay Bay, a resort in Krabi, Thailand which I reviewed here.
Historically Ritz Carlton Reserve was one of two Marriott Brands – alongside Bulgari – that did not participate in Marriott Bonvoy. This changed in 2022, and you can now earn and spend Bonvoy points at these six resorts as well as have your status recognised.
Ritz Carlton Reserves are also part of the Marriott STARS program which lets you net various benefits during your stay if you book via a ‘preferred partner’ agent such as our partner Emyr Thomas.
Where is Mandapa?
Just north west of Ubud itself, Mandapa descends into the lush valley of the Ayung River which meanders around its Western edge. It is off the main thoroughfare and accessible only via a narrow, single lane alley past local homes before a discreet entrance signposts your arrival.
Ubud traffic is notoriously bad and you should budget over an hour to get here from the airport. Even Padang Bai, where most of the ferries and boats to other islands depart, is 75 minutes away.
The centre of Ubud is about 5km from the resort but it will take you 20 minutes or more to make the journey. Mandapa operates a number of free shuttles throughout the day.
The roar of the river is a constant background hum at the resort, punctuated by the occasional whoops and shouts of rafters, an activity I highly recommend whilst you are here. The hotel even has its own dock so that you can exit straight into the resort.
Arriving at Mandapa
Mandapa occupies an unusual site. It starts very high up, at town level, before dropping off very rapidly towards the river. The lobby, if you can call it that, is at the top with some impressive views across the valley and to the cliffs on the opposite side of the river:
On arriving, we were offered a welcome drink as well as a temple bracelet meant to protect us.
After admiring the views, we were buggied down to our suite in one of the main buildings where checkout was completed. This is all done by your assigned butler who looks after you throughout your stay.
Suites and villas at Mandapa
Mandapa is an all-suite and villa resort with 35 suites and 25 pool villas.
The suites are located in two terraces: a higher terrace, closer to the top of the resort, as well as a mid-level one overlooking the main pool.
We were given a corner suite at mid-level which was, frankly, palatial.
First up is a large hallway that connects the living room on the left with the bedroom on the right – they are also connected via the bathroom behind the hallway. This is a bit of a wasted space and could do with a higher ledge for key cards, sunglasses, hats etc as you come in and out.
On the left is the living room:
There is a large side-table which contains the mini bar, fridge and tea and coffee facilities. The mini-bar is chargeable:
Next to it is a round dining table, should you want to work or eat in the room:
After this you have a couple of armchairs, a coffee table with fresh local fruit and a sofa in the bay window:
There is a large wall-mounted TV opposite and there are also some sockets and USB ports within easy reach, should you need to charge anything whilst lounging here.
If you keep going, you’ll find yourself in the bathroom which also connects to the bedroom:
There are two washbasins here, one on each side. Don’t get confused by the mirrored walls! The washbasins are made of teak – I don’t want to know how often they need to be reoiled / lacquered but they are certainly unique.
In the centre by the window is a gigantic bath tub:
…. whilst the toilet and shower are opposite in separate cubicles. Amenities are unbranded in ceramic pump-bottles.
A mirror image of the living room, the bedroom is equally vast and features a large king bed at its centre:
There is another TV opposite. There are plugs on both sides, including USB ports. As with other hotels in Indonesia, these are all fitted with universal sockets so you don’t need to use an adaptor.
To the left of the bed, you’ll find an armchair and leg rest:
…. whilst on the right is a walk-in wardrobe with massive luggage rack, robes, safe and other essential bits and bobs as well as a pool bag with suncream, insect repellent and aloe vera cooling gel:
A large balcony runs along the entire suite from living room to bedroom and overlooks the rest of the resort. There are a table and chairs as well as a day bed here:
Overall, the suites are impressive. Furnished in dark wood, they are complimented by wall murals and Balinese art for a more traditional design. The only oddity are the light controls, which take a bit of getting used to.
This is also the sort of hotel where you come back after dinner and turndown service has put tiny handkerchief-sized napkins under all the belongings you’ve scattered throughout the room ….
Exploring the rest of the resort
Because of the size of the resort, and the huge changes in terrain, the easiest way to get around is by calling a buggy to pick you up, which you can do at any time.
Fortunately, our suite was closest to the main pool so we could walk down the 30-odd steps within a minute or two.
There are two sides to the pool with one slightly warmer than the other. Both are infinity pools and overlook the surrounding rice terraces which have been here since before the hotel.
There are a range of loungers and day beds to choose from, and the staff will bring you a welcome amenity including a fresh coconut and local fruit every time you arrive:
Every hour or so they’ll also bring other complimentary amenities including fresh ice cream and other treats.
The pool is very attractive but it feels quite exposed with both the Pool Bar restaurant and The Library restaurant overlooking it.
As it turns out there is another pool tucked away on the roof of the spa which seems to be a bit of a hidden gem, although unfortunately I only discovered this the night before check-out.
Speaking of the spa, I enjoyed one of the best massages I’ve ever had here. Like any spa, they ask you for your preferences and any particular areas of concern. However, unlike other spas the massage therapists actually take this into account and respond to your requests as well as any areas of tension in your body.
You’ll also find the gym in the spa complex in a light-filled pavilion, and there are also regular yoga and guided meditation programs on every day.
Breakfast and dining at Mandapa
There are a number of restaurants throughout the resort that you can choose from. including:
- Sawah Terrace offers local Balinese and Indonesian dishes for lunch and dinner
- The Library serves afternoon tea overlooking the pool and is open until 6pm
- The Pool Bar serves a menu of burgers, salads and other pool snacks until 6pm
- Kubu is the fine dining restaurant serving European cuisine with nine private cocoons on the banks of the river
- Ambar serves Japanese fusion from its position high up on the cliff next to the hotel lobby
Breakfast is served at Sawah Terrace, which overlooks the Ayung River and probably wins for best breakfast view at any hotel I’ve stayed at!
Breakfast service is a hybrid buffet and a la carte service. The buffet stocks a range of pastries, breads and other baked goods:
As well as various smoked and cured fish, including salmon:
Fresh fruit, cereals and a small hot buffet are also on offer. The bacon looked a little, erm, crispy?
There is also a noodle bar and an egg bar.
You can order as much as you like from the a la carte menu which includes items such as crab benedict, nasi campur, Martabak pancakes and many other options. Portions are small so you can sample multiple dishes such as this:
At sunset it is well worth enjoying a cocktail from Ambar, although sadly on both nights I was there it clouded over.
The views across the valley are nonetheless stunning and there are some excellent drinks to be had as well as some lovely soft live music in the background.
Dinner at Kubu was also lovely and we enjoyed a delicious tasting menu with beef wellington as the main dish:
Mandapa is probably the closest I’ve come to staying at a Four Seasons-style resort. Whilst not quite as intense as when I was at the Four Seasons Langkawi (review here), the staff make an effort to address you by name and will remember you if you return. Everyone is exceptionally friendly and our butler did an excellent job finding some last-minute seats on the fast boat to the Gili islands.
The resort itself is unique thanks to its unusual topography, although it does mean it is not easily walkable. The entire resort is beautifully landscaped and it feels like a small village perching on the side of the river valley.
The suites were lovely with their traditional Balinese decor and design which lends them an air of timelessness. You certainly won’t be running out of space!
Suites start at the Mandapa at £750 per night. You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here.
However, we recommend getting a quote from our ‘preferred partner’ agent partner Emyr Thomas. You will pay the same as the Best Flexible Rate online, you pay on departure as usual and you will get valuable extra benefits. You can email Emyr via the form here.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (December 2023)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.
You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:
- American Express Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (10,000 bonus Amex points)
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)