The Best Hotels
Our picks for Asia’s best hotels seamlessly pull inspiration from their surrounding nature and culture. A resort inspired by a halcyon Javanese-Hindu water palace perches atop the cliffs of Bali. A hotel in India sits inside a gemstone market, with each of its luxurious suites inspired by a gem and featuring hand-embroidered headboards. And in Japan, suites overlooking the Oi River are flanked by cherry blossom springs and lush foliage.
Aramness Gir National Park
Junagadh District, Gujarat, India
Fancy seeing Asiatic lions, leopards, and four-horned antelopes in the wild? Aramness, nestled within the protected teak forest at the rim of Sasan Gir National Park, makes those animal-filled dreams a reality, albeit in a luxurious way. Rumbling along in an open-air jeep on a game drive twice a day is just part of the hotel’s magic. You can also go on guided jungle walks, picnic in the bush, or visit the local Maldhari homes. If that all has left you a little too tired, there are cures back at the hotel. Take your pick from the traditional Indian head massage or a dip in the infinity pool. When your stomach starts a-rumbling, try the traditional Gujarati thali, an elaborate all-vegetarian platter where local produce plays a starring role on the plate.
Throughout the hotel, an earthy color scheme reflects the natural surroundings. Traditional mud and mirror work (known as lippan) is created by local artisans, and applique scatters cushions, and hand-cut sandstone jalis (perforated screen) infuse the 18 double-story kothis or bungalows with the spirit of the region. An outdoor shower, a marble bathtub, and a petite pool echoing India’s ancient stepwells add luxury to the kothis.
Far from the temples and tourist crowds of central Kyoto, Hoshinoya is a crafted world of traditional serenity. It sits among the lush hills of Arashiyama, a short train ride from the picturesque bamboo grove. Induction into the secluded scenery begins before you even arrive. Wooden boats glide guests peacefully along the curving Oi River, carrying them deep into the forested mountains to the entrance of the 100-year-old hotel. Staying at this old-world ryokan is all about the experience.
From the moment you check in, the staff provides impeccably polite service. Guest rooms comprise a selection of 25 unique wood-framed cottages. Each suite, replete with tatami (mat), shoji (sliding paper-and-wood screens), and carefully placed woodblock prints, is a masterpiece in craftsmanship and considered design.
The meticulous minimalism allows nature to take center stage: windows frame the deep green of the trees that burn bright with fall foliage or bloom a dusted pink in spring with cherry blossoms. Watch out for a glimpse of deer or monkeys in the mountains.
Evening meals revolve around multi-course kaiseki dinners served in the hotel’s intimate dining room, featuring a menu of delicately balanced local specialties. Then it’s back to the seclusion of your room for a herb-seasoned soak in a cypress wood bathtub before drifting off to sleep to the sounds of the mountains. In the morning, a hot-pot breakfast is served in the quiet contemplation of your room.
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Set among the hubbub of Johri Bazaar (Jaipur’s gemstone market) yet blissfully quiet inside, The Johri is a modernized 19th-century haveli with both subtle and overt nods to the host city. Each of its five suites, inspired by a fine gem, features hand-embroidered headboards, hand-woven cane light fixtures, and brass accessories. Go for the rooftop moti (meaning “pearl”) suite with a private veranda overlooking the Old City, where you’ll inevitably spend half your time drinking in the stunning vistas. That’s if you can tear yourself away from the Ayurvedic spa and guided open-air yoga on-site.
While copious restaurants are easy strolling distance or a short rickshaw ride away, The Johri’s own courtyard restaurant is a must-visit for its creative and organic vegetarian Indian fare. End your night at the guest-only Pukhraj Lounge. Order a martini and allow yourself to be sucked into one of the rich, velvety yellow chairs set up against the wall of Rousseau-esque murals. The lounge shows off its sophisticated side with daily high-chai tea service in the afternoon.
Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
The flawless and authentic integration of multiple cultures into a single property is a complex endeavor. However, Jumeirah Bali—opened in 2022 as the first Indonesian property of the Jumeirah Group—has created an elegant haven reflective of both Balinese and Arabian cultures. Inspired by a halcyon Javanese-Hindu water palace and the grandeur of the Majapahit Empire, the resort is reminiscent of an ancient royal city perched gracefully by the sea. This all-villa resort’s location on the southern edge of Bali, surrounded by endless white sands and those daunting limestone cliffs, cultivates a romantic-yet-adventurous atmosphere.
Each of the resort’s 119 private pool villas exudes privacy and luxury, with modern interiors, private swimming pools, and tropical walled gardens. The resort’s personal butler service creates a palatial stay for all guests. Further aligning with its Arabic roots, Jumeirah Bali is home to the only traditional hammam in Bali, the ultimate means of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Napasai, A Belmond Hotel
Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui is the largest of the trifecta of eastern Thai islands that lure international tourists for their pristine white-sand beaches, vibrant party scenes, and main streets buzzing with motorbikes. Napasai, A Belmond Hotel, a secluded sliver of paradise nestled between Thailand’s bucolic sea and wild jungle, dually juxtaposes indulgence and simplicity, relaxation and adventure.
Guests can lounge by the infinity pool, soaking in that southern Thai sun, or practice yoga throughout the property’s lush green space. Those looking to indulge extravagantly can book a scrub treatment at the ambient spa, where they’ll feel revived and enriched after being wrapped in local plant extract. Of course, if they’d rather immerse themselves in the unique natural environment saturated with coconut groves and troves of hibiscuses, guests can tighten their hiking boots and wander the extensive property (and greet the resident water buffalo). Other resort activities that promote cultural awareness and immersion include Muay Thai boxing, Thai massage classes, and interactive language lessons (Kup Kun Ka, indeed!).
One&Only Desaru Coast
The sleepy Desaru coast may not be your immediate choice of a beach getaway, but a one billion dollar masterplan to revive this once popular seaside spot and the luxurious confines of the One & Only Desaru Coast–the hotel group’s first Southeast Asian resort–may change your perception of this stretch of golden coastline.
Exuding an effortless modern tropical style with airy kampong-inspired courtyard spaces and local accents (think batik artwork and yellow balau timber details), the resort is one of the last hotels designed by the legendary architect Kerry Hill (Amankora in Bhutan, The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia). Beautifully spaced out, each of the 42 Junior Suites, two Grand Suites, and solo four-bedroom Villa One is privy to either a lush rainforest setting or calming ocean views, and all come with a private plunge pool for cooling dips in complete privacy.
Tempting as it may be to cocoon yourself in-room, venturing out to their private beachfront may bring a chance encounter with a sea otter, while activities like the Call of Gibbons offer a guided trek through the Panti Forest Reserve to spot white-handed gibbons and pig-tailed macaques. Without a doubt, book some time at The Chenot medispa for one of their detox body massages or the game-changing Bastien Gonzalez mani-pedi experience. Five distinct restaurants promise to be a treat for your tastebuds, sample Malayan-inflected cuisine at Ambara, indulge in exceptional fresh sashimi at Hoshi, and definitely plan a sunset session at the Mediterranean-style Ember Beach Club for smokey barbecue bites with a view.
Pangkor Laut Resort
This lush, palm-tree-lined resort is perfectly placed for wanderlusters seeking a tranquil escape without the flood of Instagram geo-tags. Located a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and built on a sprawling 300-acre private island where hornbill and sea eagle sightings are a daily affair, the 140 villa and suite Pangkor Laut Resort (with eight exclusive residences) has been a longtime secret of the well-heeled–Pavarotti was a regular–since it’s opening in 1985.
A destination all on its own, the resort has curated experiences that celebrate its Malayan roots and fantastic tropical setting. Every morning, guests are invited to breakfast on the beach before venturing on a guided jungle walk with a local naturalist, culminating in a tree-planting ceremony. For more relaxing endeavors, the Spa Village beckons with its extensive menu where traditional Malay, Chinese, and Indian healing treatments offer top-to-toe rejuvenation. And since the resort is only reachable by a 20-minute speedboat ride, there are seven different food and drink concepts to try, so you’re not dining at the same buffet every evening. If you have to pick, Uncle Lim’s Kitchen overlooking the famed Emerald Bay offers authentic Nyonya and owner-approved Hock Chew Chinese-style home cooking, while the fine dining Fisherman’s Cove focuses on sustainably caught fish and seafood prepared however you like.
Six Senses Fort Barwara
Sawāi Mādhopur, Rajasthan, India
Fourteenth-century origins are mixed with modern comforts in Six Senses Fort Barwara, tucked away in Rajasthan’s Aravalli Hills, 70 miles southeast of Jaipur. It has 48 suites spread across two wings and features sustainable amenities and vistas of the starkly beautiful Rajasthani countryside. For a royal touch of opulence, check into the turret-set Raja Man Singh Pool Suite, as you’ll bag your own private garden with a swimming pool and dining pavilion.
Welcome the day with sun salutations at a yoga session atop the fort’s soaring sandstone ramparts or clock lengths in an Olympic-sized pool. For downtime, the spa housed within the former women’s palace beckons with a menu of Ayurvedic massages. If you fancy doing something a little different, the hotel can arrange a unique experience, including game drives into tiger-rich Ranthambore National Park, romantic lakeside sundowners, and immersive heritage walks. Come evening, retreat to the Viewing Gallery bar or the atmospheric Rajawat Room (lobby lounge) for an aperitif before settling in either of the two restaurants serving pan-Indian and international fare prepared with produce grown by local farmers or picked in the fort’s organic gardens. Or, request a private dinner in the alfresco Rani Bagh by the poolside or Shikar Bhuj (observation tower) overlooking the landscape.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is the archetype daydream of luxurious overwater bungalows in cerulean tropical waters. But there’s nothing typical about this resort–no thatched roofs or kitschy island vibes–with its chic, modern villas and airy, design-forward digs. The thoughtful and luxurious details ensure that guests want for not–from charming vintage cruiser bicycles to daily laundry pressing. Even the terraces and decks are opulent: overwater hammocks and sumptuous plunge or infinity pools lined with daybeds, outdoor showers, and private docks.
Bonus amenities include a library, kids cooking station and play center, full gym, water sports equipment rental, private baby pool, and myriad other considerate details designed to scratch any itch. The restaurants serve diverse and traditional flavors with an elegant flourish and refined techniques. Decanter, the on-site wine cellar, hosts a five-course prix fixe menu with wine pairings and sommelier instruction to rival Michelin stars in major cities. But perhaps the most stunning thing about an exquisite private island of luxury villas is the superlative, unparalleled guest service. The individual butler service is neither stuffy nor overly solicitous but genuinely thoughtful and attentive. This is a bucket list stay for the books.