Review: Club Bali Hai

With my eyes closed, I’m tuned in to the sound of water gently lapping upon the shore and the chatter of exotic birds.  The sun tickles my skin as the breeze gently tousles my hair.  This is paradise.  As I let my mind drift, my attention is quickly caught by a couple of older gentlemen swapping tall tales of reeling in a ten foot catch – that is until the shark showed up to wrestle it from their line.  This is precisely what you’ll find during your stay at Club Bali Hai.  After the first day, I wouldn’t have recommended the place to anyone but the most basic budget traveler; but, I’ve been partially wooed over by the family atmosphere.  To be honest – I call it the Buena Vista Social Club.  We are the youngest couple at this resort by far.  The demographic is mostly over 60 – something I chuckled at upon arrival, but now it just adds to the charm.  We have spent three days soaking up their tall tales and travel stories; it’s almost as if we’re spending time relaxing with old friends.  The people who generally stay a Bali Hai are regulars – either this is their place to say when visiting the island often or many of the older generation here own time shares on the property purchased as many as twenty years ago when Club Bali Hai was in it’s heyday.  It reminds me of a luxury resort from the 60s or 70s.  Most of the baby boomers gracing the property are from the US – so at least it’s easy to strike up a conversation.

That’s where the fairytale island vacation ends.  If this hotel was top of the line back in the day – it hasn’t been updated since.  Upon check in, “the resort” seemed basic but very accommodating.  A small gift shop graces the entrance followed by a large, open-air lobby area with some inviting patio furniture.  You’ll find yourself here often as you make an effort to escape your room and catch a free wireless signal near the front desk.

The rooms are bare bones, but have what you need: two beds, a small bathroom with sink and shower, a chair, a kitchenette with a small fridge, what amounts to a camping stove and a sink.  Inside the cabinets you’ll find what you need to make a meal – a couple pots and pan, knifes, plates, cups, etc.

To call the rooms clean would be a bit of a stretch.  The bathroom sink was littered with termite wings and termite frass,  the white tile floor was a little sandy, the shower had mold gathering around the caulking, etc.  I avoided showering as much as possible here after a cockroach ever so gently crawled down my leg during my first shower.

I figured I would be OK if I stripped the bed of its comforter and blanket and slept on the sheet in my travelers sleep sak.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  After a day of sunblock and bug spray, I wanted to shower before cinching myself inside my sleep sak.  The water, that had been previously working, was no longer flowing from the faucets.  The shower, the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink – nothing. If we didn’t have a bottle of water with us in the room – we could have been in real trouble.  Luckily, I was able to wipe down using a travel pack of cleansing face wipes I purchased before we left.

I wouldn’t recommend spending time in the room at all.  It may be different if you splurge on one of the original over the water bungalows, but from the outside looking in they seem to have the same tired tapestry and worn bedding.  I must say, the kitchen inside looks to have been updated and the bed, which is contained in a japanese style bed box, looks much more inviting than those found inside the main lodge rooms.

A restaurant on site provides a place for a pricy breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.  The pool area is great for lounging – at least you’re out of the room right? However, the pool itself is very old and unkept.  Broken tiles on the steps and side of the pool make it a little rough on the feet, but it serves it’s purpose – jump in to cool off!

The views from the property are to die for.  The jagged peaks of Moorea can be seen jutting up from nearly every side of the property.  If you’re looking for more of a panorama of the bay, Club Bali Hai offers a free outrigger canoe, kayak and paddle board to take out into the lagoon.

A five to ten minute walk gets you to several great restaurants including a delicious pizza place, a gas station and a supermarket.

Overall, I truly believe on an island like this – the resort can make or break your stay.  I wouldn’t recommend Club Bali Hai to any discerning travelers, but only those looking to get by cheaply.  Outside of the room, the place can be quite relaxing, but if I had it to do all over again – I may look a little harder to find another place to stay.