If Bali is the Land of the Gods, then Ubud is where the Gods come to relax. Nestled amongst the rice paddies and foothills of Kabupaten Gianyar, Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali and also its spiritual home. The Balinese locals have embraced this spirituality, and a traditional Balinese massage in the hands of an expert can be one of the most relaxing experiences in the world. It’s no accident that Ubud took its name from the Balinese word ubad, which means ‘health’.
There are as many treatments on offer as there are massage locations, and it’s hard to know where to start. Are the cheap ones any good? Are the expensive ones really worth the extra money? Where are the best spas located? Well, we’ve spent a lot of time in Bali, and over the next few minutes we’re going to help you answer all these questions.
So put on some gamelan music, light a reflexology candle and relax with a glass of tuak as we help you choose your ideal spa treatment….
What Types of Spa Treatments are Available in Ubud?
Firstly, we’re going to suggest you forget about the $5 per hour massage parlours. The massage itself may be fine, but you won’t get the same levels of service available from the Day Spas and Wellness Centres. The best spa packages are all about pampering, indulgence and well-being, and choosing the right one can be the highlight of your relaxing stay in Bali. And if the locations are too far from your hotel don’t worry – most spas will arrange a free pick-up.
Traditional Balinese Massage is a full-body, deep-tissue, holistic treatment using a combination of acupressure and reflexology to help stimulate the flow of qi (life energy) around your body. As well as leaving you feeling calm and relaxed, pressure-point massage can target physical issues such as knotted tissue in your back and shoulders. Treatments are usually complemented by aromatherapy massage techniques, such as the use of ayurvedic and essential oils.
Balinese massage treatments are based on ancient traditions that have been in use throughout Indonesia for many years and are heavily influenced by Indian, Chinese and Thai styles. We’ve prepared a detailed guide on the types of massage available in Bali, but here’s a summary of the typical treatments on offer:
- Javanese Lulur: Beauty ritual, traditionally performed on brides to prepare them for the wedding day
- Tuina: a therapeutic massage based on traditional Chinese medicine techniques
- Warm Flower Bath: A bath made with rosewater, which soothes irritated skin and tightens pores. Usually paired with a traditional Balinese or Indonesian massage.
- Balinese Hair Crème Bath: a deep conditioning treatment for your hair. Usually offered with a head, neck, shoulder & arm massage.
- Ozone Steam Sauna: combines the beneficial oxygenation and detoxification effects of both Ozone (activated oxygen) and traditional steam room therapy.
- Hot Stone Massage: helps melt away tension, ease muscle stiffness, and increase circulation and metabolism
- Reiki: an energising massage technique that reduces stress, promotes a sense of deep relaxation, and encourages healing on many levels
- Balinese Boreh: a paste created by rice farmers to ease pain, using a preparation of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, rice powder and other spices
- Usadha: A Balinese term that means ‘knowledge of healing’. Balinese believe that Gods created everything in this universe, including disease and also its cure.
Our Choice of the 7 Best Spas in Ubud
Located in the village of Bangkiang Sidem, just behind Karsa Kafe, the Karsa Spa started as a small local business in 2012 and has since grown to be one of the best spas in Ubud. Using only Ayuvedic and locally-produced herbal products for all of their treatments, they offer a range of packages up to and including their 7-hour ‘All Day Transformation Package’ which includes a 1-hour reflexology session, a manicure or pedicure, reiki healing, a 75-minute massage with spicy Balinese Boreh body scrub and bath, and an organic tamarind and honey facial to finish – all for less than £85! Their signature treatment is a deep tissue massage based on Chinese acupressure techniques.
Wayan Karsa and Jen True, the couple who run the spa, are very eco-aware and have designed their spa to actively protect the surrounding rice fields. Everything is ethically recycled, and the spa is cleaned each day using only natural soapnut liquids. They actively support the promotion of work opportunities for local people with disabilities, and through the D Network Organisation they are delighted to have added two deaf therapists to their team.
For a therapeutic massage, Karsa Spa is a very popular choice. They tend to be booked up to ten days in advance, so contact them early to sort out an appointment.
Spa at Maya Ubud Resort
The Spa at Maya is not cheap, but it does offer an experience like no other. Perfect for couples, the Spa is part of a multi-award-winning resort tucked away in a secluded location on the Petanu river. Just getting to this spa from the main resort is part of the experience – elevators carry you down to river level, and then wooden walkways lead to private treatment pavilions offering breathtaking views of the rain forest valley. Everything is completely organic and natural – all you can hear is nature’s chorus whilst you enjoy a full range of speciality massages and body recharge treatments. In recognition, Spa at Maya were awarded Green Globe Elite certification for their eco-aware management practices.
Signature treatments include the 3-hour ‘River Side Special’, which incorporates a Maya massage, floral bath, body scrub and facial treatment at a cost of £138. Cool down in the complimentary infinity pool, or recharge with an all-over chocolate body mask for an indulgent finish. The Maya Wellness Centre, part of the same complex, also offers yoga classes and a fully-equipped gym.
If you’re serious about wellness, then the award-winning Spa at Maya is hard to beat. The stunning location and gorgeous resort make this a haven for couples, especially honeymooners.
Jaens Ubud Spa
If the opulence of some of the resort spas isn’t your style, then Jaens Ubud Spa may be just what you’re looking for. Conveniently based in downtown Ubud, Jaens offers traditional Balinese and Indonesian treatments in relaxing surroundings without you having to travel too far from your hotel. The interior décor uses all-natural healing elements such as bamboo, water, stone, natural sunlight and fragrant plants. Their 5-hour Relaxation Body Scrub and Mask session includes a facial treatment, cream bath, pedicure and manicure for less than £50, all with natural products and handmade skincare recipes.
Jaens Spa takes its name from Gusti Jayeng, the founder from North Bali, who started up a door-to-door spa service when he was 21, determined to make something of himself. His years of hard graft paid off and in 2014, at only 26 years old, he was the first ever winner of the Bali Young Entrepreneur competition. With support from his young family, he used the prize money to open his first Day Spa centre in downtown Ubud. He is now the proud owner of three spas, and the proud father of five children.
Taksu Healing Haven
Although all traditional Balinese massage is infused with spiritual elements, the therapists at Taksu Spa take this a stage further with holistic ThetaHealing® and Access Consciousness® techniques. Their whole ethos is one of inner peace and balance, and your treatments take place in the rainforest overlooking waterfalls, Balinese pavilions and stands of wild bamboo. As well as industry-recognised professional training, all of the therapists have studied extra-curricular subjects such as astronomy, forestry and ecology – they believe their healing should ‘take strength from the spirit of the river and the forest’.
The range of services available at Taksu is impressive, including standard spa treatments plus Craniosacral therapy, Past life regression, Indonesian Kundalini Healing, somalogy, tuina, Japanese facelift massage, reiki and ozone steam sauna therapy. Unique to Taksu is Ground Alpha Alignment, overseen by Indra, a yoga Instructor from Jakarta. It’s a series of physical movements designed to relieve stress and discomfort and, judging from the testimonials of impressed clients, it genuinely has a positive effect.
Taksu also offers an extremely pleasant open-air restaurant with a truly international menu, and they have a villa which is available to rent. Treatments at Taksu are not cheap, but a day spent at their healing haven is a journey for the mind and soul as well as the body.
The original Balinese Day Spa, Bodyworks was founded by Ketut Arsana in 1987. Its chilled ‘Moroccan’ vibe feels very old-school and authentic, and the no-fuss, no-frills atmosphere has earned it a great reputation as one of the best spas in Seminyak. Still located in Ket’s Balinese family compound, there are treatment rooms on three levels, interspersed with odd little areas such as an open-air bale with a scattering of gamelan instruments.
Ket is a Mahatmā therapist, Master Usadha practitioner, Yoga Instructor and spiritual teacher, and his influence extends throughout Bodyworks with its combination of Ayurveda (the science of life) and Usadha (ancient Balinese healing) treatments. Their signature therapy is the 2.5 hour Hot Lymphatic Treatment, which starts with a deep tissue massage followed by a full-body lymphatic scrub, and ending with a rejuvenating facial -all for an extremely reasonable £35. All their spa treatments are similarly priced, with the exception of healing from the legendary Pak Artana, who charges at least double and is often booked three months in advance!
Bodyworks is a reasonably-priced, well-established spa with a well-deserved reputation, and should definitely be on your list if you’re looking for a traditional Balinese massage or a full day spa experience.
Part of the Alila Ubud Hotel complex – designed as a Balinese hillside village high above the Ayung River – the Spa Alila is close to the height of luxury. Their treatments are focussed on blending ancient healing techniques with all-natural, fresh ingredients sourced from the local rainforest, including massage oils infused with virgin coconut, sweet almond, kukui nut and wheat germ. The Virgin coconut oil is specially prepared for Alila by a small village in East Bali where they take the coconut milk, ferment, separate and then filter it; producing an essential oil with natural antioxidant properties, perfect for moisturising and conditioning.
One speciality is a 5000-year-old Indian therapy called Shirodhara, which uses ayurvedic medicines to deeply relax the nervous system, lower metabolism, integrate brain function and induce mood stability. Their signature treatment is the 90-minute Balinese Therapeutic Massage, where they promise “a complete body awakening with a combination of therapeutic massage techniques that draw on healing traditions from around the world”. Prices start from around £50.
Apart from the spa complex, Alila is an equally beautiful hotel and restaurant, and spa visitors are invited to dine in the award-winning Plantation Restaurant after an exhilarating rejuvenation massage.
Our last choice is something different, especially for Ubud: a Japanese spa. The owner, Australian Nigel Mason – who founded Bali Adventure Tours in 1989 – came up with the idea to present a unique style of spa retreat. He realised that Japanese and Balinese cultures have many things in common, so the Shinto Spa would fit in well. In contrast to the opulence of the Balinese spas, Shinto’s zen-like environment is modern and minimalist.
The White Lotus Purification Ritual is a 2.5-hour revitalizing treatment that combats the stress and pollution of modern city living. The ritual starts with a lemon and camomile scrub, then a White Lotus body wrap, scalp massage, body steam, Jacuzzi bath and lastly a micro-emulsion body massage. Follow that with a Pevonia Lift & Glow facial for a tighter, firmer and younger-looking complexion, all for a total of £85. Or try the signature Luxury Chocolate body treatment, for the ultimate in pampering. After your treatment, unwind on the wooden deck in front of the ponds filled with koi carp – a genuine touch of Japanese culture.
The Shinto Spa is part of the Bali Adventure Tour Centre, and so guests can also continue the Japanese theme with a meal at the premier sushi bar at Yanies Restaurant. In fact special packages are available that combinine spa treatments with any of the Mason Adventures tours. Adrenalin first, relaxation after – what a great idea!
There are over 300 spas and wellness centres in Ubud (and over 1,250 in Bali!) and we hope we’ve been able to help you narrow down your list. Wherever you choose to go for your session, we know you’ll find friendly, helpful and skilled therapists all keen to ensure your spa experience in Ubud is a memorable one. And if you’re feeling rejuvenated and raring to go, check out our list of the coolest nightspots in Bali for some great venues.
Making plans to visit Bali? We’ve put together some helpful guides which we think will help! Click the links for more information.