While it’s arguably outside of Southeast Asia proper, Hainan Island in tropical southern China is a member in spirit (and climate). The Park Hyatt Sunny Bay benefits from Yalong Bay’s South China Sea exposure, and insulates you from the crowds. The resort goes fairly big at 200 units, though not a one is lacking when it comes to space, comfort, and double-take luxury. Simply deciding which of five pools to frequent will keep you busy for a day or two.
Lest you completely succumb to more-is-more resort fever, here’s a low-profile eco-fixture as an argument for a more modest scale. Its buildings nestle themselves right into the verdant hillsides, gently encouraging a leisurely stroll from the shady palms right down to the immaculate beach. It’s all within easy, sun-drenched reach here: house mojito, guided dive, breakfast in bed….
Vietnam can deliver conspicuous luxury as well, of course, as evidenced by this sprawl of beachfront villas, each a vision in sleek, high-tech minimalism. The ocean hardly needs improving, especially in the throes of a vivid sunset, but everything about the manicured lawns and scrupulously plated seafood bespeaks studied refinement. Not a rough edge anywhere in sight.
Koh Samui has long outgrown its undiscovered phase, but you’d hardly know it from the tip of the island’s northeast horn. Six Senses has taken the light approach, leaving wide swaths of native flora undisturbed, which does wonders for the elevated views from the villas’ infinity pools. Let other resorts sort out their underwater sound systems and late-nigh DJs; this one is truly all about restoration.
Similar aesthetics abound at another land’s-end stunner, COMO Point Yamu, whose seductive comforts are only surpassed by textbook transfixing views. The clean, contemporary architecture sets a slightly imposing tone, but never fear: slip into the freestanding tub (or the 100-meter infinity pool) to balance the visuals with a thoroughly relaxing, whole-body release of tension.
Back-to-nature rhetoric is one thing, but these open-plan villas are something else altogether: stilted (in the literal connotation) and draped with greenery, they’re the absolute picture of the modern upscale treehouse. It’s quite the elemental experience, mixing water, wood, sand, and stone in a hotel philosophy seeking to partake in the jungle instead of supplant it. Get in and slow down.
The prospect of a private island is enough inducement for many of us all by itself. You’ll have your choice of overwater, beachfront, or hillside villas, none without trivially easy access to the Gulf of Thailand’s turquoise expanse — or, for that matter, dozens of other tropical jewels via island-hopping excursions.
Alila is a name with some resonance for the seasoned Pacific traveler — cosmopolitan design meets local character, in perfect balance. Here the seamless indoor-outdoor spaces establish a sense of oneness with nature, well in keeping with the brand’s philosophy and the efforts to preserve the area villages’ original rice paddies.
And if Bali’s somehow too much, or too big, may we suggest its petite neighbor Nusa Lembongan. It’s not nearly as developed yet, which means plenty of space and time to practice water sports, acquaint yourself with the local cuisine, or just vegetate in regal view of the impassioned cloudscapes and seascapes. In fact, why not do all three at once.
Of course, it’s not all about laziness — we also heartily recommend Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines. There’s more than enough pristine beachfront, coral reef, and evocative mangrove forest to keep anyone aquatically entertained for days. And plenty of springy, cushioned surfaces to crash on indoors when you’ve completed your athletic catharsis.