Bali was purportedly paradise for kids. Everywhere we looked we saw whole websites and numerous blog posts devoted to the subject. And each website seemed to have a long list of great hotels for kids. Scanning each site, reading and re-reading the details, zooming in on the pictures, etc., and we eventually limited our choices to three hotels. We booked the Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali right away (it appeared on the most websites) and waited to book the others. Unfortunately, we waited so long that the others were no longer available when we went to book. And, in fact, one day before we were set to arrive, we were forced to book the only other hotel in the southern region of Bali that had a kids club – The Bali Nusa Dua Hotel. Here’s how those two hotels match up in our first (but definitely not last) battle of the hotels!
Bali Nusa Dua Hotel (“BND”) is a 5-star hotel. Impressive.
Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali (“HI”) is a 4-star hotel. Slightly less impressive (If you believe in this stuff. Do you even know what constitutes each star?).
Winner: BND (again, if you take stock in these star ratings)
BND: 1; HI: 0
BND: Small. Frigid. Empty. No attendants. No lifeguard. No swim-up bar. No sunlight. No real pool toys. No ambiance. No energy. Get the point?
HI: Bright. Open. Kid-friendly. Warm. Large. Swim-up bar. Pool attendants. Next to two restaurants. Dedicated kids pool. Near the beach. Can see the sunset from the pool. Get the picture?
Winner: HI (but only if you like warm, welcoming, enjoyable pools)
BND: 1; HI: 1
BND: Large and bright. However, strangely isolated. Maybe because we were promised a room by the pool but unilaterally moved without warning. I think that might have been a good thing because the rooms by the pool had no privacy whatsoever. But, our corner room felt like it was on another planet. We felt like we were alone (but maybe for multiple reasons) at this hotel. Even though the room split was nice (with two televisions), it really didn’t have the ambiance we wanted.
HI: A bit old and dated. Very Holiday Inn-ish with the standard decor, if you know what I mean. But the view was great from the balcony. And the room had bunk beds for the kids, which was a total score. Overall, the ambiance was just nicer than at BND. It’s hard to explain. But there were at least people and koi ponds right outside our door.
Winner: HI (but just barely)
BND: 1; HI: 2
BND: Breakfast buffet was included each day. There were pancakes, egg stations, etc. It was good. It took place in the one restaurant on the property. Plenty of people were there for breakfast; there was nothing to complain about. Now, lunch and dinner were not included, obviously. And both were fairly expensive, especially since we had to pay for the kids. There was a lot of local faire. Everything seemed to be on the spicy side, and my kids didn’t love it. The mojitos were good but seemed to get progressively worse as our stay continued. We ate dinner alone in the restaurant each night. So, not great marks for cost and ambiance.
HI:Breakfast buffet was included each day. There were pancakes, egg stations, etc. It was really, really good. There were specialty kids items (the waffle station alone was brilliant). There were two restaurants, an upscale one and a more traditional one. There was live music. Very expansive menus. Packed restaurants with great vibes. Finally, almost forgot…KIDS EAT FREE. Done. Winner. I should have led with that one!
Winner: HI (hands down). Seriously, kids eat free.
BND: 1; HI: 3
BND: Cold. Empty. Unattended (they had never heard of anyone asking for someone to watch kids). How to describe it…hmmm…imagine a creepy dentist’s office in rural China. Kids can walk out and drown in the pool in about 15 seconds.
HI: Attended with nice attendants. Cheap – like, $3.50 USD/hour. You just have to book way ahead of time. They have special activities and games. Environment is safe and contained.
Winner: HI (hands down). Only one kids club gave me nightmares, guess which one?!
BND: 1; HI: 4
BND: To be fair, we didn’t do spa services here. The spa, as far as we could tell, was empty the entire time. Also, the hotel itself was fairly isolated from everything/everywhere else. No easy way to go for a walk anywhere. There was a shuttle that could take us to the beach but it was difficult to schedule pickup and the beach really wasn’t great in my opinion.
HI: Kids are welcome in the spa, which was truly great. My kids were pampered and they loved it. Plus, the hotel itself was near a beach (the beach itself wasn’t very good but you could watch the sun setting over it) and there was a playground.
BND: 1; HI: 5
BND: About $100/night for a family suite.
HI: About $250/night for a comparable suite.
Winner: BND I suppose. I know this is a tough comparison because you get so much more at the Holiday Inn, but think of how many drinks $150 buys you each day??
Final Score: Bali Nusa Dua Hotel with two points. Holiday Inn Resort Baruna with five points. But, really, it wasn’t really close.
ULTIMATE WINNER: HOLIDAY INN!