The idyllic beaches of Southeast Asia have drawn many a holidaymaker over to the Southeast Asian shores, seeking solitude, sun, sea and sand. Despite the millions that flock to these beaches, globalisation and ease of travelling has ruined much of these stretches of sand as hordes of tourists – both international and local – take over when the sun is shining. Over the decades, largely indistinguishable resorts have cropped up along the coastlines ruining much of the serene hillside that accompanied the beaches, and the beaches themselves. A handful of luxury properties have ensured that the legacy of paradise lives on with careful preservation and selection of location. Below are Southeast Asia’s top beach resorts, split by region.
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Philippines: Amanpulo, Palawan
“Private island” only hints at the paradise that is Amanpulo. Set on Pamalican Island within the increasingly popular region of Palawan, the softest, whitest, most powdery sand forms the coastline that circumnavigates the island. With beaches to rival or even surpass the finest of popular destinations such as the Maldives, Seychelles, Fiji, Caribbean and more, this little-known slice of heaven is only a short trip from Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore, and is accompanied by Aman’s legendary service standards.
Guests stay in ‘casitas’, modelled after local dwellings, on the hillside or on the beach, while also having the option to rent (or buy) privately owned beach-side villas with pools ranging from one- to four-bedrooms.
Thailand: Rayavadee, Krabi
Set on the border of Krabi Marine National Park in Phranang Peninsula in the Andaman Sea within touching distance of the main island of Phuket, the resort is flanked by dramatic limestone karst-rock formations that are a feature of the region. Spread over 26 acres, the resort’s accommodation was built to weave in and out of the canopy of trees, none of which were reportedly cut during the construction process. The whimsically circular accommodation at the resort is designed to blend into its surrounds without compromising on luxury, and offer easy access to both Railay and Phranang beaches.
This dedication to conversation and sustainability means the resort continues to be home to hundreds species of flora and fauna, including the Spectacled Langurs, Macque monkeys, monitor lizards and hornbills that inhabit the grounds.
Indonesia: Soori Bali, Bali
While Bali’s southern regions are populated by a mass of cookie cutter resorts, the island itself is large enough to remain largely untouched. One such area is the south-west, where between verdant rice paddies and a shimmering volcanic black-sand beach lies Soori Bali, a resort with minimalist villas ranging from one- to five-bedrooms, along with the 10-bedroom Soori Estate, that offer the utmost in luxury. The long stretch of beach here is perfect for horseback riding from the southern end of the beach to the northern end, just past the resort, where a small cliff is supposedly home to a bat cave.
Vietnam: Six Senses Con Dao, Con Dao
Although the islands of Con Dao have a dark past, its present and future has more in common with nature than French colonialism. Hosting the 50 one- to four-bedroom villas on a stretch of soft sand sits the Six Senses Con Dao resort, stylised in the signature Six Senses rustic element, but each comes with a private pool and enviable views; the perfect complement to a serene beach.
In continuing with Six Senses’ commitment to an eco-friendly paradise, the resort also sells ‘crystal water’ (mineral water), the proceeds of which provide supplies to building a mineral water supply for children of the Con Dao primary school.
Cambodia: Song Saa Private Island
Cambodia isn’t a destination particularly renowned for its beaches, but a private island sanctuary off the coast of Sihanoukville bucks the stereotype, housing a resort with jungle and overwater villas. The two islands that are collectively known as Song Saa, Khmer for “The Sweethearts”, are connected by a footbridge under which marine life thrives.
One of the islands, also housing the primary facilities of the resort, features a small, intimate beach which makes for the ideal setting for romantic sunset downers and dinners, and provides a peaceful beach sanctuary to end a Cambodia or Southeast Asian trip.
Malaysia: The Datai, Langkawi
Although The Datai is renowned for being set within the heart of an ancient rainforest, and is not strictly on the beachfront, the Datai Bay Beach is within touching distance and has been rated by National Geographic as one of the top 10 beaches worldwide. Although much larger in room count than the other resorts on the list, it’s also a resort where the focus is actually not on the beach and rather on the encompassing wilderness, of which the golden-sand beach plays a small part. The resort is set 300 metres back from the beachfront, on a forest ridge rising 40 metres above sea-level.
The resort, built and opened in 1994, recently added one- and two-bedroom beach villas which give it a new dimension, and is scheduled to undergo a major renovation starting September 2017 which will elevate its status further.