The far east is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches… in fact with a plethora of white sand, turquoise water, palm trees and incredible underwater life, you are spoilt for choice. So, if you’re struggling to decide which paradise island to spend your vacation, then take a sneak peek at our 12 top paradise islands in Asia.
1. Con Dao, Vietnam
If I had to use two words for Con Dao island, off the south coast of Vietnam, they would be “Go Now!” This stunning island, which used to be a French prison colony, has escaped the south-east Asia tourist boom so far… expect vivid and lush green jungle inland with idyllic and untouched beaches all around the coast. There are plenty of old prisons to explore if you feel like tearing yourself away from the island’s stunning and secluded coves.
Best hotel: Six Senses Con Dao is the ultimate place to stay, offering top notch luxury villas with private pools – prices start at £750 per night in the high season but ask us about discounts for stays of four nights or more. Aside from the Six Senses it is hard to recommend any other hotels – the island is a real undiscovered gem so other hotels are very basic and not really up to the standard we look for. To book drop us an email here.
2. Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
There is a small cluster of islands off the south coast of Cambodia but of all of them, Koh Rong Samloem is definitely one of our favourites; its quieter and more idyllic than its sister island Koh Rong, and it is pretty picture perfect (think bleached white sand and calm turquoise waters). While Koh Rong attracts more backpackers, Koh Rong Samloem is the place to head if you are craving a hammock and the sound of crashing waves and are happy to disconnect for a few days (when we were there, there wasn’t even any wifi!) It’s just a short one-hour speedboat ride from the port at Sihanoukville.
Best hotel: Accommodation is basic on the island so this is not the place for luxury stays. If you do want something a bit smarter check out Saracen Bay Resort, which offers smart, almost Scandinavian style wooden bungalows, from about £70 per night in the high season. However, if you’re happy to go a little more basic, check out Lazy Beach, which despite being incredibly basic (think mattress in a basic hut), has the best beach spot on the whole island, is totally isolated and has a fab funky little restaurant area, which is easy to lose a few days in! To book drop us an email here.
3. Don Daeng, Laos
If the sea is a bit salty for you and the sandy just too sandy, then maybe this river island would be just what the doctor ordered! Near the stunning 4,000 islands of southern Laos (but actually a little further north) you will find the delightful island of Don Deang, which is delightfully chilled and incredibly relaxing. With just one (very gorgeous) hotel on the island, you can hire a bike and cycle the dusty paths of the village waving to curious children or observing the locals as they get on their day. A stay here is all about removing your watch and enjoying the slower pace of life; watch river life from the hotel’s private beach area or pool.. or if you are feeling more adventurous you can explore the nearby coffee region (Bolaven Plateau) or cruise around the 4,000 islands. There’s also a fabulous temple nearby that’s well worth a visit.
Best hotel: La Folie, the only hotel on the island, is a firm favourite of ours! The stilted wooden lodges are delightfully appointed and luxuriously finished; it’s an exceptionally well run hotel and we can’t think of a lovelier place to unwind. Prices start from about £130 in the high season. To book drop us an email here.
4. Palawan, The Philippines
Earning labels such as the Best and the Most Beautiful Island in the World, Palawan has won the hearts of many. With stunning limestone cliffs rising from the clear aquamarine waters of El Nido, the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, some of the best diving in the world off the shores of Coron and in Tubbataha Reefs, you’ll find one jaw-dropping panorama after another. The last ecological frontier of the Philippines, Palawan is home to rare purple crabs, unique pangolin, mouse-deer, bearcats, more than 500 species of butterflies, and over 800 species of fish. This is a wonderland of fauna and flora.
The coasts are lined with delightful beaches while lush palm forest fills the inland, hiding countless waterfalls and caves waiting to be explored. A day of island-hopping in El Nido will take you to hidden lagoons and up hills for stunning views over Bacuit Bay. If open water doesn’t appeal, the hot springs and turquoise lakes of Coron are just as gorgeous and easily explored.
Tucked away in bays and on their own islands, luxurious resorts abound in Palawan. When you wake up to the sound of a hornbill’s call and a view of clear blue-green water glittering in the sunlight, the word paradise may just come to mind.
Although Palawan can be reached by plane from Manila and Cebu it feels like a remote corner of the earth. When you’re enjoying a beach all to yourself, you’ll see just what we mean.
Best mid-range hotel: Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort from about £110-150 for the one-bed rooms. Contemporary touches with a feel of traditional Filipino design make for a relaxing beachfront stay at Daluyon. One of the new natural wonders of the world, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, is a quick ride away while hiking paths and waterfalls are at your doorstep. Take in views of the ocean from your balcony or peer up at mountains from the pool. With only 27 rooms, the friendly staff will make you feel at home from the moment you arrive. To book drop us an email here.
Best luxury hotel: El Nido Resorts Lagen Island from about £400-700 per night. The only property on this island in the Bacuit archipelago is committed to preserving its diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna while catering to guests’ every need. Take a walk through the forest to a secluded beach, snorkel in the private lagoon, kayak through mangroves, or gear up for a dive at one of El Nido’s many dive sites. The over-water bungalows are the ultimate place to unwind and bask in the beauty of your surroundings. To book drop us an email here.
5. Bali, Indonesia
The island of Bali…land of a thousand temples, a million smiles and uncounted adventures. This picture perfect paradise is the destination of choice for those more intrepid travellers seeking to broaden their horizons a bit further than the proverbial sun, sea and sand experience. More than just a mere holiday spot, the Indonesian island of Bali offers an exquisite blend of fascinating culture and enticing Hindu Dharma tradition, with tantalizing and theatrical performances such as the famed music of the Gamelan or the exotic Kecak dance. Whatever may be said about the beauty and diversity of this pearl of an island can hardly do justice to what you find upon arrival. Bali is mostly covered with a lush rainforest, with majestic volcanoes towering over the landscape. So, if you’re up for some adventure, there’s room for hiking, off road trekking and more.
Best luxury hotel: Kayumanis Jimbaran – Your private paradise, the villas are extremely spacious so you get a feeling of having a private house. Staying at Kayumanis is all about privacy and getting the best service possible. It’s only a very short walk from the beach and some great restuarants. From £550 per night
Best mid-range hotel: Wapa di Ume – Very special place located just a short drive from the centre of Ubud. Stunning views of the rice paddies and dedicated staff who will make sure you will have a great time. Our favourite accommodation is a private pool villa, ideal place to relax or celebrate special moments with your loved ones. From £166 per room per night. To book drop us an email here.
6. Koh Phangan, Thailand
My lovely friend and colleague Eva has entered this one. She said: “I love Koh Phangan, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand, not only because I got married on this stunning island but also because of its spectacular sunsets (and sunsets are so important to me that I timed my wedding to take place just right before sunset) and its hippie-at-heart atmosphere.
“Despite of its reputation of Thailand’s party Head Quarter, most visitors coming to Koh Phangan are not interested in Hat Rin’s (the party zone in the South of the island) full moon parties but are looking for world-class food, beautiful beaches, strolls through the national park with its diverse flora and fauna and a quiet night in.
“The island is actually considered to be a spiritual place, with numerous Buddhist temples around the island and a thriving spa, retreat, and meditation industry.
“While the island’s bigger sister Koh Samui is fully developed to offer all the luxuries of 5-star travel and has attracted numerous hotel chains, you will find beautiful boutique hotels with an authentic character on Koh Phangan.”
Best luxury hotel: Santhiya Resort Koh Phangan & Spa – This heavenly hillside resort is set on the quiet Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, northeast of the island (the opposite side of the island from the full moon party area), overlooking a crystal clear bay. It offers traditional Thai-style hospitality, a private beach, panoramic sea views, a beautiful spa for total tropical indulgence and gourmet Thai cuisine. The room rate per night starts from £100 per night and includes a beautiful breakfast
Best mid-range hotel: Blue Ocean Garden – This boutique resort run by Europeans has 10 rooms only, all of which are facing the soft sand beach which is only a handful of metres away. The serene and peaceful atmosphere of this stunning place is complemented in a perfect way by the fabulous food (an amazing mix of Italian and Thai cuisine). Don’t need to mention that I have seen some of the best sunsets of my life when staying here. The only problem is that you will never want to leave. The room rate per night starts from £40 per night and includes breakfast. To book drop us an email here.
7. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
We will just never get bored of Phu Quoc and that’s all there is to it. With isolated beaches, tranquil water, huge beaches and fabulous little places to enjoy a cocktail whilst watching the sunset, this island has it all. It’s just a one-hour flight from Saigon to this stunning island and unlike Con Dao (see number one above) or Koh Rong Samloem; Phu Quoc has accommodation to suit everyone – from bargain boutiques to mid-range and full on luxury; it’s an all round winner.
8. Bohol, The Philippines
With beautiful beaches, world class diving, unique geographic formations, a rare primate that looks a bit like Yoda, and a culture of artisans, the island of Bohol is a gem waiting to be discovered. Located a short ferry ride from Cebu’s international airport or a direct flight from Manila, Bohol is nestled in the Visayas island group. At the southwest is Panglao, home to some of the nicest beaches in the Philippines. It’s easy to while away the days here with a book or exploring the stunning corals of neighboring Balicasag snorkeling or diving. Step aboard a traditional bangka (outrigger boat) and explore nearby islands while looking for dolphins.
When your eyes tire of taking in the ocean, head inland to the tarsier sanctuary and look for a primate so small it could fit in the palm of your hand. Continue on to see the 1,268 cone-shaped chocolate hills and try to see them as giant chocolate kisses. Visit a butterfly conservation center or a 170-year-old house for a glimpse of the traditional Boholano way of life. If you’re up for an active day, explore caves and learn a bit of WWII history or try ziplining, quad-biking, or kayaking on the Loboc river.
If all of that isn’t enough, there’s a rich culture of artistic traditions on which to feast your eyes. With freshly caught seafood and a high number of organic farms on the island, a veritable feast of dining awaits. An international airport is in the planning stages so visit now before the secret’s out!
Best mid-range hotel: Amarela – This charming little resort is the perfect place to experience Boholano art and culture. With a private beach, onsite garden, stunning views of the Bohol Sea, a gallery of local art, and historic touches throughout the property, you’ll have all of Bohol at your fingertips. From from £95-160 per night. To book drop us an email here.
Best luxury hotel: Tarsier Botanika – Built in a botanical garden, these luxurious villas provide a true escape in nature. Inspired by traditional Ifugao architecture and appointed with unique touches, each villa is a paradise in itself. Wander the grounds and take in the sculptures amidst the flora, see the horses, and get a glimpse of a Palawan bearcat in the animal rehabilitation center. Round out your day watching the sunset from a private terrace overlooking Alona Beach. From £250-675 per night. To book drop us an email here.
9. Gili Islands & Lombok
Just a short boat ride away, Bali’s little sandy sister islands of Gillis and quiet Lombok are another choice for spending a couple of days sunning and snorkelling. West Lombok has a large Balinese Hindu minority that gives this part of Lombok a distinct flair. West Lombok is home to the Balinese era royal palace and several large Balinese Hindu temples. South and East Lombok are more traditional Sasak areas as reflected in the stone Sasak villages in South Lombok. North Lombok is home to Mount Rinjani, considered to be sacred by many inhabitants of both Lombok and Bali, and is where you will find vestiges of an animist culture in daily rituals and practices. Although Lombok is referred to as “Bali 20 years ago,” it is a culturally distinct and virtually undeveloped island that has numerous unique offerings for travellers.
Best luxury hotel: Tugu Hotel – It is definitely one of our favourite places in Lombok. Located by the Sire beach (one of the best beaches on Lombok) overlooking the Gili Islands, staying here is like moving back in time. The owner of Tugu hotels is an art collector who gathered endless number of antiques which are scattered around the vast land. The beach is nearly deserted and every guest is treated as a part of a royal family. Rooms from £255 per night. To book drop us an email here.
Best mid-range hotel: Qunci Villas – Beautifully designed rooms and villas, the main three pools are located by the beach overlooking the sea. The restaurants are often visited by the best chefs in the world and serve amazing meals. Breakfast is served at the restaurant but if you don’t feel like waking up each evening a breakfast menu will be waiting for you by the door so you can just pick what would you like to have and the breakfast will be brought to your villas at the time requested without disturbing your privacy. Great value from £166 per room per night. To book drop us an email here.
10. Havelock Island (part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Located in the Bay of Bengal, Havelock Island is part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. With its long stretches of white sandy beaches, world class diving, azure waters and tropical jungle it is a true slice of paradise you do not want to miss.
The journey to the island has long been one for an adventurous traveler and so Havelock remains a hidden secret amongst Asia’s islands. Today however, new flight and boat connections are making this easier but it is still a far cry from an overcrowded tourist destination. There are no sun loungers on the beach, infrastructure is still at a minimum and the laid-back lifestyle remains. You can embark on an underwater adventure exploring some of the best coral reefs in the world, or trek through the luscious rainforest but either way you will certainly relax as one of its best features, is its true desert island charm, no WiFi!
Now is the perfect time to visit Havelock, one of the most beautiful unspoilt places on earth, and with the new boutique hotel Jalakara having a huge focus on food we may have just given you the best advice for a beach holiday. But shh, don’t tell anyone!!
Best luxury hotel: Jalakara – this is an elegant and beautiful boutique hotel meticulously designed by its owners with stunning unique interiors from around the world, an infinity pool overlooking the jungle below and exquisite cuisine. It is certainly a place you will not forget. Prices from £139 per night. To book drop us an email here.
Best mid-range hotel: Barefoot – The beauty of staying at Barefoot is that you are in stunning eco-friendly huts set perfectly amongst your surroundings, and you can just stroll through the forest and onto one of the most incredible beaches in the world. A perfect island getaway. Prices from £120 per night.To book drop us an email here.
11. Sri Lanka
While much larger than the other places included on our list we couldn’t fail to include the wonderful teardrop shaped island of Sri Lanka. The island’s warm welcomes, diverse landscape and delicious curries have a magical way of getting under your skin.
The main highlights for us spending time in the hill country, where the saves of tea terraces set around mist covered lakes and accented by red maple trees creates a surreal beauty. While there an overnight climb to the top of Adam’s Peak to watch the sunrise over this breathtaking landscape is a must.
As well as the hills Sri Lanka also has some incredible wildlife. 100s of wild elephants live in Uda Walawe National Park, Yala National Park has the 2nd densest leopard population in the world, you can see blue whales 40minutes off the south coast and the island is home to 27 endemic birds. Of all the national parks through Gal Oya has to be our favourite. Home to Sri Lanka’s indigenous tribesman – the vhedda’s – who have chosen this lush and untouched landscape intentionally, Gal Oya offers true solitude. Guests at Gal Oya Lodge have the chance to peacefully kayak through the national park rather than take a jeep, with the chance to see bathing elephants.
Finally we have to mention the south coast and UNESCO Galle Fort. Originally a Moorish trading post for gems and spices the Fort remains home to a unique Muslim community. Just like in Marrakech, the external architecture and facades of the fort’s mansions deceptively conceal the building’s splendid inner courtyards, with swimming pools, gardens and intricate overhanging balconies. The Fort is a great place to spend a few nights exploring the small cobbled streets full of cafes such as Fortaleza gift shops such as Mimimango – and ice cream palors. For more info visit http://www.gallefort.lk/galle-fort-shopping.
Best luxury hotel: Ceylon Tea Trails. 5 original tea planters bungalows, immaculately restored to their former colonial glory and set in a stunning valley carpeted with tea fields. Want for nothing with an all inclusive concept and personal butlers who will bring you tea in bed and run your baths! From £650 per night, all inclusive. To book drop us an email here.
Best mid-range hotel: Gal Oya Lodge. Luckily the only place to stay in Gal Oya is a fantastic place. Comfortable thatched bungalows sit on the edge of the park with a communal swimming pool and dining pavilion. The hotel offers a range of activities some free of charge such as their morning hikes and animal monitoring programmes. From £230 per night full board. To book drop us an email here.
12. The Trang Islands, Thailand
The colour, vitality and incredible food of Thailand will keep us coming back time and time again (not to mention the shopping and daily massages for £5), but you have to be extremely careful nowadays about where you decide to rest your beach towel. There are literally thousands of islands in Thailand and it is all too easy to end up somewhere overcrowded, seedy or polluted. So if you’re not keen on reaching your beach idyll via a two lane highway or sharing it with giant billboards, we recommend heading south to The Trang Islands.
Located just south of Koh Lanta in the Andaman Sea there are 46 Trang Islands in total, but only a handful are inhabited. We stayed on Koh Ngai, which is a 30 minute long tail boat ride from the mainland. Home to a handful of charming hotels and a huge hornbill colony, this tiny island has just 3 beaches. The fine white sands are sandwiched by impressive jungle covered hills to the back and delicate coral to the front. All the accommodation is found on Main Beach, but a manageable 30 minute jungle walk will bring you through to Paradise Beach on the south west corner. There used to be a hotel here, but nowadays you just find snorkeling and coconut farmers who bring you fresh coconuts. Spend your days doing very little bar sunbathing, snorkeling and benefiting from the excellent dive spots dotted around the island.
Best mid-range hotel – Coco Village – from £150 per night.
Best luxury hotel – Within view of Koh Ngai is Koh Kraden, home to the exclusive Seven Seas Resort – from £300 per night.
PS If you would like me to arrange your island vacation this year don’t hesitate to contact me at Fleewinter or via my contact tab here – I specialise in putting together private, tailor made holidays around Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. And my lovely colleagues cover India, The Philippines, Thailand, Bali and Lombok, Sir Lanka and The Maldives – so between us we’ve got your island getaway covered!