Overall Rating: 7.30

After the long and busy drive from Seminyak we were super-excited to arrive at Villa Tao. As we sipped our welcome drinks and gazed out at the ocean, the glistening black-sand beach and the waves of Balian surf break just a short stroll down the grassy hill, we felt we had landed in paradise. And we loved the rooftop garden with its 360-degree views of the mountains and the beach. Looking down on the cows roaming the pastures, fisherman catching their dinner and the waves rolling in, we got a very real sense of the simple lifestyle that has attracted so many visitors to Bali’s shores.

At sunset we went to check out some of the local bars and eateries at Balian beach on the other side of the river. A very laidback surfer/backpacker crowd was hanging out in the beachside bungalows. It was obvious that the word was out that this was the place to be if you want to escape the hectic Kuta scene.

The staff were pleasant, and Komang the chef is on hand to cook up a wide variety of home-style meals according to a priced a la carte menu.Just be sure to give the villa a heads-up for any special dietary requirements as there are no western style supermarkets close by.

The villa itself had heaps of space and the gladak houses were definite standout features, but we felt the downstairs concrete bedrooms lacked a bit of soul. The villa is quite new (we visited in November 2011) and there were a few things missing – mosquito nets and blinds on the bathroom windows – but overall it was very well equipped.