I have just returned from my visit to Surf Haven and thought I would share some details of my trip (my apologies now for the long review!)- Surf Haven is not a cheap holiday option, so all feedback, I think, is useful! Overall I had a really great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed surf haven.
I was on the Co-Ed week of Surf Haven and stayed in Villa Issi which is the 'sister' villa to the 'Villa Jepun' where most of the Surf Haven retreats are held.
Firstly- a couple of details on this site and on Surf Haven website are not accurate, which I’ve detailed below.
The pictures mainly on this website are largely out of date. Surf Haven have now moved to a new villa called Villa Jepun. Villa Jepun is beautiful, and very nice, but some of the details of the villa are a little different to what you might expect if you were to look at trip adviser and Surf Haven website directly. You can look up Villa Jepun as it can be rented as a villa without being part of Surf Haven, if you want to see more pictures.
Yoga and Meditation
I really enjoyed the yoga sessions. The instructor was relaxed and informative and made the sessions enjoyable, especially for me as a beginner- I have since managed to find yoga classes back home to continue with yoga practice.
Surf Haven website advises there will be Yoga and Meditation offered daily- this is not the case. The meditation sessions are part of the yoga sessions, and there is not a yoga session every day. As someone who has been on meditation workgroups, I would say there is no real meditation in the yoga sessions. There is no yoga session on the last day. The first yoga session is only 1 hour, but the website advises “Your day at our surf spa retreat begins with a 90-minute yoga and meditation class, taught in our open-air yoga space poolside”. The website would make you believe that Yoga is practiced outside, or in a studio that looks Balinese in style (depending on which pictures you look at). This is not the case. The Yoga session is in a squash court at Villa Jepun (not quite as Bali feeling, but actually the room was adequate).
Massages and spa treatments
The website makes the massages look absolutely idyllic! Don’t be fooled by these pictures! The 2 hour spa treatment is wonderful, and this spa treatment is at Bodyworks (a spa centre about a 5 minute drive away)- however the massages at the villa are nothing like what you see on the web! The massages are on a massage bed in the gym area of the villa, with the gym equipment moved to the side. Also, you may have your massages at the same time as someone else, so there are 2 of you in the room.
Some people also felt uncomfortable as the masseuse’s were male (maybe not always the case).
Surfing and the beach
I thoroughly enjoyed the surfing and it was absolutely the highlight of my trip.
There are surfing sessions for 5 of the days that you are at Surf Haven and the instructors from “Double D” surf school are brilliant. They will get you standing on the board and they will teach you how to surf and the basics of surfing. Surf Haven have also employed ‘Carli’ who is from Australia who is a brilliant and a very motivational and enthusiastic instructor. It is great to be able to ask Carli questions and get an ‘English’ response, because sometimes with the Double D instructors questions and answers can be lost in translation!
On the last 2 days you have to be at breakfast at 6.30 to get to the surf early. Although this in theory makes sense, the surf wasn’t even at its best. The surf instructors said the better surf would be about 10am, however, this likely didn’t fit into Surf Haven’s schedule of events. When a few of us gave Surf Haven feedback about the timing the subject was disregarded as quickly as the subject was opened. A shame.
To get to the beach there are 2 options- walk for about 20 minutes or take a car for about 20 minutes (the traffic is not good!). I loved the walk there and back, but it is a shame that for those who had to take a car they were spending 40 minutes a day getting to and from the beach. The beach is about actually only about a 10 minute walk away, if you want to go to the beach, which is good (surf school is about another 10 minutes along the beach).
Food and drink
The food was superb, and there will be more food on offer than you can eat! The website states you will get daily fruit baskets- this is not the case. You do get some fruit and snacks in the afternoon, which is nice, but no fruit baskets.
Dinner is way too early! Dinner is generally about 6 or 6.30, which after a full day of activities and massages, yoga, surfing and everything else, is too early and leaves no real time for yourself. Most people thought it would be better to have dinner about 7.30 giving you a little more free time later in the afternoon (especially as you’re given snacks late afternoon).
The Villa’s are not in the heart of Seminyak, which is nice, in my opinion, as it means they feel more relaxed and restful. Some of the villas and hotels nearer the beach are probably swamped at night by loud music and bars, so it was blissful not to worry about noise issues at night. Because the villa’s are not right in the heart of Seminyak to get around you may find it useful to get a taxi, or if you feel comfortable hire a bike to get around.
The staff at the Villas are exceptional and will cater for your every whim- you will feel spoilt rotten. Janine and Dan will also try to make sure everything you want is catered for and if you need anything let them know. I was ill for a day and ‘Sari’, at Villa Issi was so helpful and considerate. Unfortunately there was not the same concern from Surf Haven organisers, but…… I am old enough to look after myself!
Alcohol and drinks are expensive- you can get soda’s, if you want them for under half the price in Seminyak itself. For me it was a great week to drink plenty of water, coconut milk, and the lovely juices prepared.
Prior to your departure you will be asked to complete a preference sheet by Surf Haven- in this sheet they will ask you questions about your food and drink preferences- this preference sheet makes it feel as if you are going to get a really tailored service, however, you don’t. The food that is served is what is served, and it caters for everyone. The only reason I can see that they send the preference sheet is to ascertain if you have any allergies or food/drink intolerances , and to ask which spa treatments you want. To be fair they did take into account one food issue I had, which I did appreciate, but this could have been handled without having to complete a preference sheet.
On the web it says there will be scented candles and fresh flowers- I didn’t see any scented candles, but I did get a little flower on my pillow most evenings which was sweet!
I found being at Villa Issi that it was difficult to integrate into the group at Villa Jepun. Surf Haven organise some of the activities by groups staying at the 2 villas- although I can see the logic behind this, it can make the 2 groups feel less integrated. This, of course, may ideally suit some people.
Overall I think the concept of Surf Haven is brilliant- the retreat, the yoga, the surfing and the idea of meeting some great new people, all sounds perfect, and Surf Haven do strive to deliver a great holiday. Overall I had a really great time, met some lovely people, discovered yoga and surfing, and really relaxed and unwound. I do think the website needs to be updated and made more accurate, and I do think that the people running Surf Haven need to be more open to feedback that is being given. When I asked if there was a feedback sheet, there was a look of genuine surprise that I wanted to give some feedback. During the week I heard several people trying to give some feedback and the response was fairly non-committal and a bit like “but we’re doing everything perfectly”. There is an excel spreadsheet put up for the week so you can see what is happening and when, and where you need to be and how long for. There is fairly limited flexibility in the timings of events and the structure of the week, which makes some sense, but seeing an excel spreadsheet detailing your week holiday is a bit frightening initially, especially when you’re on holiday, trying to get away from schedules and routines and diaries and formalities! However, I do appreciate that trying to organise a group with yoga, surfing, massages, and everything else, there does need to be some routine and schedule.
Unfortunately due to illness I wasn’t able to go on the cultural tour day, so I can’t make comment on this day.
Would I recommend Surf Haven? Yes, I would. However, I would say that Surf Haven isn’t as spiritual and ‘real’ as I had anticipated. I think Janine and Dan are genuinely nice people, they will go out of their way to help you, if they can, but ultimately they are running a business and unfortunately it does feel as if you are on a treadmill of organisation and supporting a wonderful lifestyle choice they have made. For those of us going on holiday we are lucky to have a glimpse of that lifestyle for the week!
If I were to give you one tip – make sure you have a few days either side of your Surf Haven trip for your ‘holiday’- There is so much going on when you are Surf Haven, you will need more time to explore the shops, see a little bit of Bali, relax on the beach, or around a pool, and if you try to do all of this in your week at Surf Haven you may feel that you have to make compromises on activities or what you want to do.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bali's leading Luxury women's active spa retreat. Offering week long programs across surf, fitness and yoga. Included in the rate is surfing lessons, daily yoga, delicious healthy food, spa treatments and a cultural tour. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Surf Haven Bali Hotel Seminyak
- Escape Haven Bali Seminyak