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I was reading an article about the travel preferences of Millennials, of which I consider myself a part of, and the interviewee argued that Millennials, “Put substance over style”.
I enjoy luxury, abundance, opulence and excesses as much as the next person but when I read that I realized how much truth there is in that. I don’t shop at the luxury brand stores, I buy my entire wardrobe at Zara, in Spain, where it is 50% cheaper. I regularly book high-end resorts and hotels but I favor brands like the Six Senses or Aman Resorts over Westin, Ritz Carlton or Waldorf Astoria. It is not the gold and precious stones ensemble which appeals to me but the meaningful and barefoot luxury type. I look for hotels which are able to help me organize unique experiences not those who offer a butler at the ready to iron my dress or bring me orange juice in the morning. I try to fly Business Class, with miles, long haul, but I don’t order Dom Perignon or caviar, I appreciate the ability to sleep and arrive refreshed and to catch up on movies.
I am no longer wowed by the flashiest resort but by the boutique, local and personal B&B in a unique location where I can connect with the staff and the surroundings.
The range of resorts in Southeast Asia offering specialty lodging is exploding. They all have the same things in common: fantastic and hard-to-reach locations, exclusivity, all-inclusive rates and understated luxury. These are just five of the newest resorts opening up recently.
1. Nihiwatu, Indonesia
Update: I was fortunate enough to stay at Nihiwatu, now Nihi Sumba, for my birthday in 2017. You can read my full review here. As my stay was paid for in full, it is completely unbiased.
Nihiwatu has recently opened in Sumba Island, about an hour’s flight from Bali. The Resort is a mixture of Africa meets Asia with a Robinson Crusoe feel, feet dipped into the sand at all times, thatched roofs and views over the expansive beach.
Rates are all-inclusive, much like at any high-end safari property in the beautiful African parks, and provide minibar and local activities.
Located at the Southeastern part of Indonesia affords the resort a privileged position for surfers wishing to enjoy uncrowded virgin waves. The resort imposes a ten surfer guest policy per stay ensuring that you will not be fighting for the perfect breaks. The Spa is another attraction, as is the fresh, local produce used for meals.
Nihiwatu is a place to relax, disconnect and rekindle with the loved one. Or simply get away from it all. So close to the buzz of Bali yet so far.
2. Song Saa, Cambodia
Not necessarily a new resort but one that is the universal representation of luxury beach resorts in Cambodia. A country better known for Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s beaches will not take time to be discovered.
Song Saa has pioneered this trend. Designed and managed by a couple chasing a dream, the resort is located on its own private islands, called “The Sweethearts” and located 4 hours by car and speed boat from Phnom Penh, in the Koh Rong Archipelago.
Like Nihiwatu, Song Saa is all inclusive, not that you will want (or be able to) to go anywhere else. Once on the island you can go snorkeling, diving, kayaking or even go on nature tours. The resort prides itself in being truly, all-inclusive so you don’t have to worry about your wallet, even for that lazy sunset drink.
3. Huma Island Resort & Spa, Philippines
A list of the most beautiful island resorts must include the Philippines.
Asia’s most underrated destination has seen a renaissance in the high-end luxury sector with over ten resorts opening in the last five years. And for a reason. This is the most beautiful, friendly and untouched country in Asia. With over 7,000 islands and hundreds of kilometers of coastline, one could spend a lifetime exploring nature’s bounty.
Huma Island Resort & Spa is located in the new kid on the block island of Diciligan in Busuanga, Palawan province. The area is located next to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Calauit National Sanctuary Park in the Coral Triangle. Prepare to enjoy the clearest waters and the most pristine diving including several freighter, sea plane and tanker wrecks from WWII. A larger resort also means more food choices.
Above the raw beauty of the area and the luxury of the resorts what keeps me coming back to the Philippines is its people. The warmth and ever-present smiles of the Filipinos is so contagious I always find myself uplifted when I visit. If you are looking for a dose of happiness with your island getaway, consider Huma.
4. Gaya Island Resort, Malaysia
Gaya Resort is located on Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off the coast of Kota Kinabalu and near Manukan Island, in Borneo. The resort is eco-friendly and nestled in nature’s cradle. Mount Kota Kinabalu can be seen in the distance, the thick rainforest surrounds the island and the marine life is prolific. You can experience all the eco-systems in a day. Dive in the morning, join a tour to discover the various endemic species in the afternoon, go trekking through the island’s trails and indulge in a gourmet diner under the stars. This is a resort where you can remain as active or as relax as you wish.
Dspite being on its own island, Gaya is relatively accessible by a short car and speedboat ride from Kota Kinabalu airport. Read my full review here.
5. Amanwana, Indonesia
In fact, I could just write “All of the Aman Resorts” and I would not be wrong. Aman Resorts is my favorite “chain”, if they can be called that. The care that goes into selecting a special location with stunning value is always a guarantee that your stay will be nothing short of perfect. If location is not enough, service will add the finishing touches to the getaway of your dreams.
I have selected Amanwana but I could have as well chosen Amanjiwo in spiritual Borobudur, any of their properties in Bali or Sri Lanka or Amanpulo on an isolated island in the Philippines. Amanwana has the added appeal of combining a stay on a low-impact tented camp on Moyo island with sailing onboard the resort’s luxury traditional cruiser, Amanikan, to fantastic places like Ringa and Komodo where you can get up and close with the prehistorical Komodo Dragons.
The tented rooms, on the stunning coast, ooze romance and the usual privacy that Aman Resorts always afford is guaranteed to recharge your batteries. Diving is usually the main reason why guests come to this end of Indonesia.
Although you can reach the resort on a scheduled flight from Bali, you may as well go all in and splurge on a private seaplane or helicopter ride for that once in a lifetime window seat.
Photos from resort’s websites