Inside the island resort named best hotel in the world

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

After founding or cofounding several internationally known retail brands — C. Wonder and Tory Burch — and investing in several others, Chris Burch is taking his entrepreneurial eye to a new industry: hospitality.

Burch, together with hotelier James McBride, bought a beach hostel on the Indonesian island of Sumba in 2012. The duo spent $30 million renovating the hostel, then reopened it as a five-star resort called Nihiwatu in 2015.

Nihiwatu was voted the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2016.

In an interview with Business Jet Traveler in 2015, Burch said, “I bought it for my children and as a piece of something that I hope we can preserve and give back to the community. When you’re in a place where the palette is so beautiful, you can do things that you can’t do in other places: build a spa under a waterfall, go to places where no others have been, have a butler in every room.”

“Nihiwatu has turned into more than I expected, which is rare because most times things turn into less.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Burch splits his time between Miami, the Hamptons, and his resort in Indonesia. Nihiwatu has 27 private villas, including Raja Mendaka, Chris Burch’s private home. That particular section has a main house and four additional villas, each with its own private plunge pool.

Nicknamed “The Edge of Wilderness,” Nihiwatu is on the west coast of Sumba, a remote Indonesian island.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

The name means “mortar stone,” and the beach was originally named after a rock formation on the tide.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

In 2012, Chris Burch and hotelier friend James McBride bought what was then a beach hostel owned by a couple from New Jersey.

Burch and McBride redeveloped the land and opened it as Nihiwatu in 2015.

It has become the largest local employer on the island. A portion of the hotel’s profits are also given to the Sumba Foundation, an organization that funds projects to help the local community.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

It has 27 private villas with plunge pools.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

Raja Mendaka, Chris Burch’s private home, is also available to guests. It has a main house and four additional villas.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu


It also has a large indoor-outdoor entertaining area.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

There are two, two-story tree houses on the resort. Connected by a bamboo bridge, both villas have a bedroom, a bathroom, and a balcony. The main treehouse also has a living area and private infinity pool.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu

There is a beach spa available, but treatments can also be done in your own room.

The wellness center offers daily group yoga sessions. Instructors can also hold private classes that are tailored to an individual’s needs.

Courtesy of Nihiwatu


You can book excursions to nearby waterfalls through the resort. One trip includes a 90-minute trek to a blue lagoon where guests can jump off the rocks and swim. The trip costs $175 per person.

Prices for a one-bedroom villa start at $750 a night during the low season. Burch’s five-bedroom private estate costs around $14,000 a night in the high season.

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