The Best Hotels
The enormous, bustling, and diverse continent of Asia offers the consistency of genuine hospitality and exquisite design across its varied lodging options. Hotels from India to Japan showcase glamor as well as warmth with all manner of accommodation options: the Japanese ryokan, an Indonesian tree house, opulent Cambodian “tents,” Indian historical mansions, ultra-modern Chinese resorts—the range of experiences and stays are as arresting and assorted as the travelers who wisely choose to stay awhile.
Galle, Sri Lanka
This property dates back to the 1700s, when it was first a Dutch colonial residence; since then, it has remained a historical fixture in Galle—much like the fort it resides within, and the other, more official landmarks surrounding. Today, it has been refined and refurbished as a luxury Aman location, with plenty of elegant touches to make it special—like its original teak floors dating back more than 300 years. A stay here still feels like one at a stately colonial compound, with well-tailored antiques and period pieces making up its decor; a swimming pool enclosed within its lush gardens; and a chamber-like spa with plunge pool, sauna, and on-site Ayurvedic healers.
Capella Ubud, Bali
Deep within the Bali forest are elegant tents with ornately-carved wood walls and romantic, 19th-century European touches like copper tubs, canopied beds, and antiques from the owner’s eclectic personal collection. Under the painted panoramic ceiling of the Mad Lange dining tent, you’ll snack on seasonal Ubud dishes; other times, you’ll want to enjoy the elegant set up of a private picnic. The Capella Ubud organizes a range of Balinese cultural experiences, from art and meditation to jungle treks and coffee and chocolate tours, making it more of a full experience than simply a hotel, perfect for the adventurous couple also seeking luxury.
Cauayan Island, Philippines
Tucked into a lush seaside cove and flanked by Palawan’s signature dramatic cliffs and pristine clear waters, the Cauayan Resort is a remote location celebrating the best of the natural Philippines. Days are dreamy here: mornings spent diving or snorkeling in El Nido, trekking up the grand cliffs for a view, or swimming or kayaking with sights of wildlife; afternoons unwinding at the seaside spa or enjoying cocktails, fresh juices, and dinners beachside; nights relaxing in your personal villa—along the beach, or stilted upon the ocean or lagoon—stretching out on the wooden deck or soaking in the sunken tub.
Como Uma Paro
In a largely untouched corner of the world nestled in the Himalayas, Como Uma Paro’s location is choice: the setting is both restful and rural, and an easy jumping-off point for exploring monasteries, museums, and the city of Paro. Yoga, meditation, and Himalayan hikes are popular here, as are the organized Shambhala retreats and spa treatments in the hot stone bathhouses. The round dining room, with panoramic views, centers around the stunning traditional Bhutanese fireplace; throughout this refined hotel, the decor is elegant and traditional, with clean lines of white linens, wood beams and plenty of natural light.
Four Seasons Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
On a remote tip of Thailand’s Koh Samui Island lies the Four Seasons Koh Samui, a series of elegant villas tucked into the hillside and surrounded by rainforest. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the outdoors, but villas here are anything but rustic, with dark wood floors and classic decor, wooden decks with daybeds, and private infinity pools—all with open-air construction and sweeping views of the Gulf of Thailand. Socialize at the large poolside bar in the main building, or book a select family-sized villa, ideal for a sophisticated group getaway, with an option for a private retreat experience that includes an on-call butler and in-villa chef preparing afternoon cocktails, exquisite dinners, and beach barbecues. If you ever decide to leave your beachside sun lounger, there’s much to explore on the island: a fisherman’s village and historic town, lush rainforests and coconut groves, serene Buddhist temples, and miles and miles of pristine beaches.
Cheap & Chic
Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka
OMO5 is all about taking its guests off the beaten path. While the hotel is conveniently located near the Yamanote railway line for easy access to the rest of Tokyo, the hotel is dedicated to helping guests seek out the best that Otsuka (a quieter, out-of-the-way neighborhood that’s not typically central to tourists’ Tokyo experience) has to offer. Guided tours can be easily arranged with OMO Rangers that show guests where to find local bars, restaurants, and other hidden gems. OMO5’s playful approach to hospitality is also reflected in its signature YAGURA rooms, which cleverly combine traditional Japanese touches (like tatami mats) with unique designs (like the lofted bed space) for the grown-up-yet-stylish pillow fort experience you didn’t know you needed.
The series of thatched-roof structures that make up the Nihi Sumba blend in, rather than compete, with the natural surroundings of sweeping sea, tropical forest, and beach. There’s a more diverse choice of lodgings here than at the typical island resort: multi-roomed villas (with infinity pools) perched high above the trees, oceanfront abodes with secluded gardens, and design-forward mini manors with outdoor living rooms and tubs are just some of the select accommodations. Fresh ingredients abound in the kitchen here, from the catch of the day at the beachfront sushi bar to the organic garden vegetables at the open-air restaurant, where you’ll also enjoy social barbeques on the weekends.
Rich & Famous
There are few hotels in the world with a location as stunning as the Oberoi Amarvilas. In the dusty town of Agra, this lush and majestic property welcomes you to a different world, where the throngs of tourists and honking car horns disappear and you’re left with a paradise—and an incredible view of the Taj Mahal. At sunrise, at sunset, in the middle of the day or night, the iconic pearlescent dome of the Taj Mahal can be seen from every guest room at this luxe palace. And if you happen to be truly rich and famous and staying in one of the top-floor suites, you can even see the Taj from the bath or shower. But even without the view, this hotel is special. A dramatic fountain with multiple pools greets you as you approach the royal-looking abode, where inside, a massive chandelier hangs from a golden dome. Outside, multilevel terraces, pools, and gardens all offer different views of the Taj, while the sophisticated bar and inventive restaurant Espahan make this not just the most luxurious hotel in Agra, but also the most delicious. It might be hard to leave this place for your 5 a.m. sunrise tour of the Taj, but trust us—it’s worth it.
PuShang Hotel & Spa
On Xiamen Island in the South China Sea, the new PuShang Hotel & Spa is a marvel of modern design. Minimalist rooms are impeccably designed with sleek furniture and crisp linens. Even basic rooms are outfitted with deluxe round soaking tubs and spacious bathrooms. Not a single thing is out of place at this hotel, where every square inch feels thoughtfully curated. The spa at PuShang takes up an entire wing of the hotel, with an old-meets-new approach to wellness. It’s inspired by ancient traditions but updated for the modern traveler. Guests can get an introduction to Tai Chi, indulge in a scrub or wrap, or swim at the mirror-like outdoor pool. Ask for a room facing the marina for views of turquoise water beyond the bustling city.
An iconic building with a long history, Raffles Singapore was restored to much of its original grandeur when it reopened in the early ’90s and went through another three years of restoration beginning in 2017 (renovations completed on August 1, 2019). British captains, international literati, and WWII allied refugees all make up Raffles’ storied past, and many guests and day tourists still flock here for the historical significance alone—and for the famous Singapore Slings at the handsome bar. Luxurious updates to its sunny suites, well-appointed spa, and elegant dining outlets make staying at this architectural marvel a unique—if not pricey—experience in Central Singapore.
New & Noteworthy
The RuMa Hotel and Residences
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A city-stay that’s elegant and understated, The RuMa Hotel is a surprisingly secluded oasis within Kuala Lumpur’s hectic downtown, combining homey ambiance and modern design, global influence, and traditional warmth—all with a superb designer’s touch. Tailored rooms often have sweeping city skyline views, with gold, marble, and dark wood accents throughout the spacious building. On the sixth floor, you’ll find the spa, gym, and 25-meter outdoor pool and deck; on the mezzanine, enjoy delicious Malaysian cuisine at the hotel’s restaurant, which serves three-course lunches, dinner, and decadent Sunday brunches featuring stick rice, bao, and various specialty cakes and pastries.
The small Japanese village of Kurashiki, with its weeping willows and meandering canals, may be off-the-beaten-path, but it’s one of the most romantic cities in the world. So it’s befitting a town so beautiful that it should also be the home to a hotel this remarkably glorious. The Ryokan Kurashiki is a charming traditional experience that also provides all the comforts of modernity, all set within a lovingly converted complex of industrial buildings that were erected two centuries ago. With only eight rooms and a private co-ed onsen, this is a quiet and peaceful world where you’ll often be more comfortable lounging and dining in a robe and slippers than anything you brought from home. And speaking of dining—the restaurant, a Kaiseki wonderland, is so superb that should Michelin ever wander into this region of Japan, surely it would be granted a star or two.
You’ll find royal-grade respite at Samode Haveli, a boutique hotel inside the colorful, buzzing city of Jaipur. Built in the 19th century as a manor for a member of the royal court, the hotel still sports some of its original details like frescoes and palatial inner gardens—with extra opulence and modern comforts layered on over the years. Rooms are large and luxurious, as are the inner courtyards, pool, and drawing rooms; the modern amenities are nice, but the rambling Indo-Saracenic architecture and ornate decor, done up in the traditional Jaipuri hues of pink, set the old-world ambiance that truly makes the experience.
Shinta Mani Wild
South Cardamom National Park, Cambodia
On the way to Shinta Mani Wild, you’ll need to make an important decision: Would you prefer to arrive by zipline, Jeep, or helicopter? A dramatic entrance is just the beginning of this grand adventure in remote South Cardamom National Park in western Cambodia. Opened at the end of 2018, the luxury 15-tent camp came to life at the hands of resort designer Bill Bensley and Cambodia-based hospitality company Shinta Mani, as part of their mission to protect a 350-hectare wildlife corridor that’s home to endangered animals such as Civet cats. At Shinta Mani Wild, no two days are the same: ask your “Adventure Butler” to arrange anything from anti-poaching excursions with Wildlife Alliance rangers to river kayaking, foraging walks, butterfly walks, cooking classes, or a bit of jungle trekking.
Tried & True
St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives
Arriving from above via seaplane, St. Regis Maldives appears out of the blue (or ocean-bright azure), much like a spaceship landed in the middle of the sea. On a private atoll and pristine coral reef, the dramatic curvatures of this resort’s modern design make it visually stunning; its remote, exclusive location gives it even more allure. With a private lagoon full of marine life and six restaurants to choose from, the St. Regis is a private island and well-rounded, indulgent experience that leaves little else to be desired.