The very famous Rock Bar is situated within the Ayana Resort complex and while all 80 hectares of Ayana sprawls out above the coastline, the Rock Bar is down on the, well… rocks.
To get to the Rock Bar, you need to walk through the resort towards the ocean, then when you can walk no further, take the inclinator. There is just one inclinator and it only takes eight people at a time and it is used by staff, in-house guests and drop-ins. Alternatively, you can take the stairs and as we don’t like queues, that was our preferred method of getting down to the bar.
Without question, the most popular time to be at the Rock Bar is at sunset. With the sun setting at around 6pm, people start heading down to the water from about 4pm.
The Rock Bar is internationally well known and it does seem that if you are going to holiday in Bali, experiencing the Rock Bar at sunset will be on most tourists ‘must-do’ list. As such, there’s a problem with crowds, queues and getting a table.
Here’s how the system works. If you are staying in a villa (and here’s another reason for booking a villa besides the private pool), you can book a table. And these tables will be in the actual bar where you can sit up at the bar or have a table right over the ocean.
If you are a guest at the resort but not staying in a villa you can queue for a table. If you are not staying at Ayana but would like to visit the Rock Bar, you can queue also but in a line on the left while in-house guests queue in a line on the right and the line on the right is given priority.
Given the one and only inclinator takes a maximum of eight people, be prepared for some lengthy queuing. And when I say ‘lengthy’, I mean you may miss the sunset altogether. The drop down to the bar is almost vertical and so the inclinator practically does a vertical drop before leveling out and dropping you off right where the main bar is situated.
If you don’t want to queue for the inclinator, you can take the flights of stairs situated about 50mtrs away however, there are staff on the stairs who make you queue and only let a few people proceed down the stairs at a time. Getting to the Rock Bar is a business!
I don’t like queuing especially when I’m staying in an expensive resort; who needs their time wasted like that. What we did was make friends with someone staying in a villa. He booked a table and invited us to join him. Sorted!
On another occasion Drew and I went on our own. Somehow we were able to book a table even though we weren’t staying in a villa. Not sure how we accomplished that. We went down to the bar at about 4.30pm. We were not able to sit in the actual bar but were given a table in a seating area beside the bar that fronted the ocean and had an unobstructed view of the sunset.
When we arrived the sun was incredibly hot and umbrellas were handed out so that as the sun became lower on the horizon and hit us squarely in the face, we could shield ourselves with a large umbrella.
I did feel sorry for the staff who all wear black uniforms and no sunglasses or hats and walk around squinting and perspiring profusely.
We were offered an ice-cold scented face washer which is very refreshing and so welcoming after queuing in the sun to be allowed entry to the bar. There is an extensive cocktail menu with everything being quite reasonably priced except if you’re after a glass of champagne. Drew had a fruit smoothie and I had a frozen lychee daiquiri. It was lovely to sip on an icy cold tropical drink while seated in all that heat.
At the time when the sun is setting you see people putting away their umbrellas and all focus is on the sun lowering itself on the horizon. The sunsets viewed from the Rock Bar at Ayana are truly magnificent with nothing between you, the ocean and the descending sun.
Perched above you on the cliff is a stage where the DJ sits and while the sun is setting, evocative and romantic music is played. However, after the sun sets and the twilight turns to darkness, the music suddenly changes and becomes ‘doof-doof’. I found the doof-doof music a little intrusive and would have preferred the sunset music which is played at a lower volume so the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks is not obliterated.
At the Rock Bar there is a good bar menu for appetisers and canapes and we found you could easily dine at the Rock Bar, tapas style. If you are after something more substantial, you can walk along the path that has been cut into the cliff and wander past the ocean pool where if you keep walking you will find Kisik Restaurant.
Rock Bar is definitely a unique experience and if you are in Bali, you really do need to visit to experience an unobstructed sunset where you sit almost perched on rocks above the Indian Ocean. I did find the crowds alarming and the rigmarole of trying to get there and get a table quite off-putting. However, we noticed that to the right of the existing bar, there is evidence of another bar being built that will hopefully ease the wait-times on tables. I’m not sure what they’ll do about the inclinator situation but perhaps more people will choose to take the stairs; it’s not a challenging or demanding walk after all.
Verdict: An experience.
Rock Bar, Ayana Resort, Bali.