Puri Ganesha, Bali
Vibrant beachside private villas for foodie retreats and total relaxation
Hedonists who want to escape the noise and pace of Ubud and eat and sleep well
Those who want red meat or a structured retreat with group activities
Set on the beach near the fishing village of Pemuteran in the North West of Bali and far from Bali’s tourist crowds, this shabby-chic-de-luxe retreat is the creation of charismatic chef Diana Von Cranach. Come here for foodie retreats or just the chance to relax, have treatments and feast on Diana’s indulgently healthy dishes from her purely ‘living food’ menu of Southeast Asian cuisine, which are worth the visit here alone. You stay in one of four spacious thatched villas with eclectic interiors, each set in an acre of frangipani-scented beachfront garden with its own beautiful swimming pool.
Diana herself. Her raw food is simply amazing, and she’s a rumbustious storyteller, so an evening meal can be magically enhanced by her presence. The villas are far away from the ‘Eat Pray Love’ tourist crowds of Ubud, and you can bring children here for a family-friendly retreat too – a rarity.
The rubbish-laden state of the sea at certain times of the year. Staff can be seen every afternoon picking up detritus from the beach, but the actual water itself was polluted with plastic bags and more when we visited in January. It’s an ongoing problem for the whole of Bali, and one that the team at Puri Ganesha are highly mindful of.
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Come for a 3, 5 or 7 night raw food retreat or stay on a B&B basis and dip in and out of treatments, activities and healthy feasts as and when you please.
Diana’s 3, 5 or 7 night inclusive Clean Break & Rawfully Good Retreats offer an introduction to her vegan, raw and living food that uses only local produce with Southeast Asian flavours. You can choose to be totally raw, or have a combination of 60% raw with 40% carefully cooked vegan or vegetarian dishes. Each retreat includes cookery classes, special natural beauty remedies and treatments. You can also choose to come here for a dedicate cleanse using raw food.
On the 3 and 5 night retreats you’ll get a class in Local Flavours. On the 7 night retreats, you get two cookery classes of your choice, covering Local Flavours or Healing Herbs and Elixirs.
In the Local Flavour class, guests learn how to make many of the spice mixtures that form the basis for Indonesian cuisine. The three hour classes take place in the special Cooking Pavillion by the beach and include lunch, recipes and an apron.
The Healing Herbs and Elixirs class gives an insight into how the many different herbs and spices are used every day in Indonesia for culinary, medicinal and ritual purposes. This two to three hour class includes tastings, recipes and information on where to buy the different ingredients at home.
A Balinese therapeutic healing massage from a third generation healing masseur, Pak Putu, is included in the retreat, taken in the exotic treatment hut. You get one if you’re on a 3 or 5 night retreat, and two if you’re here for 7 nights.
Unusually, special Harem treatments for women are also available. These are intimate cleansing treatments created centuries ago in the harems of the Javanese courts and entail natural applications using 35 herbs and spices to cleanse, purify and tighten the vagina – especially useful for young mothers who have not long given birth.
Rather deliciously, a complimentary range of freshly prepared natural hair and skin remedies made to order by the staff are delivered to your fridge daily for you to use whenever you like during your retreat. They include a Special Hair Treatment made from the young leaves of a local tree that acts as a miracle conditioner for thick, curly hair that has become matted after swimming or snorkelling.
Whether you are here on a retreat or just to relax independently, you can swim in your private pool, read or nap on your daybed, walk, sunbathe or meditate on the beach, or do your own yoga with the mats available. There’s also a library with books, games and puzzles. Wifi is only available in the library, so Puri Ganesha is also a great place for switching off digitally and giving yourself a well-earnt rest from social media.
Refreshing and gentle private classes in Balinese dancing can be arranged at Puri Ganesha, and the team can also organise local dancers and musicians to come and perform for you. Lasting one to two hours, the dance classes are led by a local Balinese dance teacher in the Library pavilion or on the grass in front of the restaurant, with local Balinese music to accompany you.
Diana has a passion for unusual, indigenous, locally and regionally grown ingredients, and you can go with her on a fascinating trip to local markets to see such produce, from rambutans to snakefruit. She can also arrange creativity-inspiring trips to local textile artists, who grow their own cotton, dye it with plant dyes and weave it into vibrant, wonderful fabrics on ancient backstop looms, and visits to see North Bali’s unique range of historic temples.
Diana and her Balinese partner Gusti have a huge knowledge of their local area and can organise any kind of trip you would like, from to bird and wildflife watching in the nearby National Park to trips to fabulous nearby rice terraces. For action, go on treks into the hills behind Singaraja, arrange to scuba dive or take a snorkelling trip on nearby Menjangan Island.
The villas: The four private thatched villas were designed inside and out by Diana, who originally bought this land in the late 80s when it was desolate, windswept and an unlikely location for such extraordinary splendour. There is a one-bedroom villa, two two-bedroom villas, and a three-bedroom villa, and for each she used the traditional Balinese meeting place – the Wantilan – as architectural inspiration. As an interior designer (as well as cook) with a degree in Egyptology, she’s also paid lavish attention to the interior style.
Huge coconut-wood French windows on the master bedrooms, the height of the ceilings and the furnishing details in each are truly impressive. There are triumphant lampshades in the sitting rooms, and Dutch colonial rattan chairs add a cosiness and warmth. Divine outside bathrooms have funky showers, shell-inlayed doors, sunken baths and glass paintings of voluptuous women receiving massages.
Other spaces to be: Each house has an outside daybed with covers and cushions made especially out of fabrics from East and Central Java. Each also has an antique rice barn for lounging by the beach, and its own private 12 x 5 metre swimming pool. It’s the perfect place to find some time and space alone or with a special partner, family or group of friends.
You can book the whole place out to host your own retreat or for a special group holiday. Families who want baby-sitting support do well here – Diana can arrange for you to leave young children in the capable and willing hands of onsite staff.
Go with space in your suitcase to take home all the Balinese fabric and trinkets you’ll fall in love with. Consider flying into Surabaya, East Java rather than the main airport in the South of Bali. Then take a comfortable six hour train journey through some spectacular scenery, or a 35 minute flight from Surabaya to just across the Java Strait where a driver will pick you up and bring you over on the ferry to Java. You can even arrive on the back of a Harley motorbike.
When to Go
It’s difficult to predict when the rainy season will begin or end in Bali. April to November are good, warm and sunny months to visit, and there are always local festivals to experience year-round.
Meals can be served in the villas at anytime, in the dining pavilion by the pool, in the little beachfront restaurant, as a picnic or at a table on the beach for a candlelight dinner.
For a treat you can book one of the following creative experiences too: a little street cart to come to your villa to prepare an Indonesian dish, breakfast on a glass-bottomed boat to see the fish and corals in Pemuteran Bay, a champagne breakfast in bed, Diana’s Surprise Tasting Menu served at a table set on the beach, or a private Balinese Feast with a special dance performance in your villa garden.
Diana is one of the leading lights in the Raw and the Slow Food movements and the only purely raw vegan chef to use purely Southeast Asian flavours, so her amazing food is worth the visit here alone. As well as raw there are vegan, vegetarian, and other delights, no red meat, no sweet canned drinks in the fridge, no deep frying and a policy of using local produce and introducing guests to lesser-known wherever possible. Diana’s Gusti does all the shopping and buys pesticide-free, local and seasonal ingredients.
Breakfast is a choice of seasonal fruit salad including purple dragon fruit, pancakes, eggs of choice cooked to perfection or a Balinese yellow rice breakfast, toasted multi-grain home-baked bread plus Diana’s Scintillating Strawberry Jam and Seven Fruit Marmalade.
Liquid refreshment comes in the form of herbal teas, elixirs and seasonal juices, plus unlimited local volcanic mineral water. Alcohol is available if you wish, or you can choose to be alcohol free throughout your stay.
Rubbish is carefully sorted, and plastic straws and water bottles are not allowed – instead, unlimited local volcanic mineral water is available in glass bottles.
All the staff are local, and more than half of them have been working here for over 20 years. Some staff have also been recruited from Gusti’s not-for-profit children’s education programme. Through donations from abroad, Gusti has supported 150 children who could otherwise not have afforded to go to secondary school. Some of these children have now won scholarships, gone on to university and been able to make their own way in the world.
Pantai Pemuteran, Gerogak, Singaraja, North West Bali
Transfer time: 3.5 hours