Nihiwatu on the island of Sumba in Indonesia is the number one hotel in the world, voted by Travel + Leisure readers globally for its annual World’s Best Awards, the magazine announced last week.
Re-imagined and re-opened in 2015, Nihiwatu has quickly captivated travelers from all corners of the world. On the remote island of Sumba in southeastern Indonesia—the size of the state of Massachusetts and only a 50-minute flight from Bali—the once cult surf destination with its own popular, private wave was acquired by Burch in association with hotelier James McBride in 2012 and developed into a culturally immersive enclave of equal parts active adventure and endless indulgence, in an exotic and authentic setting.
The recognition acknowledges the changing travel habits of today’s consumer who seeks a new type of luxury: experiential in scope, activity-driven, cultural, philanthropic, and with attention to the details that encourage guests to discover the very best adventure, immersion, and fun.
“Hospitality-centric luxury has changed,” said Nihiwatu owner Chris Burch. “It is more than just the finer touches. It has evolved to a custom itinerary, a personal journey, unexpected experiences, and a curiosity for the unknown.”
Among it’s unique and idyllic features are a three-villa tree house atop a cliff overlooking the Indian ocean, a day-long spa safari with endless spa treatments, private balés, and healthy, bush-cooked meals, 33 villas each with its own plunge pool, and views of Nihi Beach Island exploration that includes hidden waterfalls, scenic views of farmed rice paddies, local villages and artisans, freshly harvested coconuts, and picnic lunches, world-class surfing on the famous ‘Occy’s Left’ wave, and so much more immersive experience.
Maintaining its deep-rooted philosophy, and through the generosity of Burch, a portion of Nihiwatu’s profits are now repatriated into the Sumba Foundation established by Nihiwatu founder Claude Graves, and Sean Downs 2001. With the enthusiastic support of hotel guests, Nihiwatu is a philanthropic vehicle dedicated to fostering community-based projects.
During their stay, guests are introduced to the Foundation’s efforts through an impactful presentation and short film. Many guests subsequently become benefactors to the Foundation. The result is a rare collaboration between a resort and its local community that today co-exist with compelling interdependence: the resort has become the biggest employer on the island and the Sumba Foundation gives back to the local communities.
“The location is hyper critical for the growth of Nihi,” said Burch. “We will only advance the brand in very special ways so that guests discover something truly extraordinary. It is an experience like no other, and we are committed to keeping it that way.”