Look Inside the World's Best Resort Nihiwatu in Sumba


It may be located on one of the lesser-known islands in the world, but Nihiwatu has been dubbed the world’s best hotel and rightfully so. The luxurious cluster of villas is pleasantly off-the-grid, perched atop the high grounds of Sumba Island. The villas are nestled in traditional Sumbanese houses and come with an unconventionally beautiful ocean view.

Photo by Nihiwatu Doc.

About 300 kilometres east of heavily tourist-laden Bali is the quiet island of Sumba where more than 600,000 people still live like their ancestors, practicing elaborate traditional rituals and living in traditional Sumbanese houses. A good number of them work at the island’s only resort, the idyllic Nihiwatu, whose architecture involves vernacular houses set on about 230 hectares of natural reserve.

The jewel in the crown is Mendaka, the compound’s largest estate that is also the private retreat of the owner Chris Burch, an American entrepreneur and co-founder of the luxury fashion brand Tory Burch. Nihiwatu was once a surfer’s hideaway before Burch morphed it into the world’s best resort.

Mendaka is a five-bedroom villa whose interior is dotted with Sumbanese artefacts, paintings, knick knacks and ethnic ikat prints. Sulawesi marble inlayed with teak wood runs on the floor. It has a vast living, dining and entertainment area, as well as an expansive sundeck with day beds perfect to lounge around in. Beside it is a 19-metre infinity pool that overlooks the white sand coastline of Sumba. When the sun shies away, there is a covered lounge that is perfect for sunset-watching. There is also a snug library for the quiet readers.

The master bedroom in Mendaka enjoys the ultimate position in all of the resort as it is cantilevered over the beach for an unobstructed panoramic view. It has its own private pool with more day beds and an outdoor bathtub.

Three two-storey one-bedroom villas stand along a slope nearby. Upstairs, the bedroom continues to an outdoor area set amongst the trees. There is an outdoor bathroom that invites guests to a refreshing rinse under the jungle shower or a decadent bubble bath overlooking Nihiwatu’s unrivaled view.

Aside from the living compounds, Nihiwatu offers a number of activities that you can request your dedicated butler to reserve on your behalf. Highlights include a unique Spa Safari experience; whereby guests, who are keen, embark on a 90-minute trek through gentle hills, traditional villages and lush rice fields to finally alight at Nihi Oka, an indulgent treetop spa. The reward for the trip includes being pampered by dedicated therapists in a private bale, while serenaded by the soft thunder of rolling waves. Those looking to stay close to the ground would enjoy guided horse rides at the resort’s equestrian centre. Beach-goers can relish a relaxing paddle boarding session or surfing Nihiwatu’s waves. To maintain exclusivity for surfer guests, the resort only permits ten surfers at a time.

At the highest point of Nihiwatu is Menara, a lobby lounge and game room for guests to enjoy afternoon tea and welcome drinks. It echoes the traditional Sumbanese architecture of the resort. Also open-air is Ombak, a sandy-floored restaurant serving delectable breakfast and dinner options. Both dining spots are exceptionally romantic, especially with Nihi’s spectacular view.

Whether you are enjoying Nihiwatu with a significant other, family members or a group of friends, the getaway is guaranteed to be memorable. Being the world’s best may entail high expectations, but Nihiwatu proves its worth quite effortlessly.

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Natasha Gan
Natasha is a writer and a digital marketing professional currently based in Toronto, Canada.