Much of Asia has finally reopened postpandemic, and for travelers dreaming of visiting the region, this fact alone is worth celebration. But there’s more good news: Dozens of alluring new hotels have opened across the continent, with picturesque locations, inspiring design, immersive cultural offerings, and in many cases, impressive social responsibility and sustainability practices. Read on and start planning.
It wasn’t until mid-October 2022 that Japan finally reopened to independent international travelers sans visa. Thanks to a crop of new hotels across the country, visitors have several enticing new ways to take their explorations beyond Tokyo. In 2022, Japan-based Hoshino Resorts expanded the reach of its intimate hot springs ryokan brand KAI, complete with healing waters and expressive kaiseki dinners. In Oita Prefecture, on onsen-studded Kyushu Island, KAI Yufuin was designed by preeminent Japanese architect Kengo Kuma with wide windows and tatami floors made from the island’s rare shichitoi grass; one room category features woven ceiling lights that resemble the soft blinking of fireflies. Quiet open-air spaces throughout the property face rice terraces whose colors shift seasonally between brown and green. On the southwestern shores of Hokkaido, KAI Poroto was designed by experimental architect Hiroshi Nakamura to honor the Indigenous Ainu people, with cone-shaped bathhouses standing on tripod log structures. The 42 neutral-hued guest rooms pay homage to traditional Ainu design with patterned motifs and carvings, and three accommodations feature outdoor baths.
In a UNESCO World Heritage site on a lake near sacred Mount Nantai, the Ritz-Carlton, Nikko opened with an on-site hot spring experience, and it is the first Ritz-Carlton with its own onsen. The 94 guest rooms are clad in natural wood and stone; all have balconies and large windows that frame views of either a lake or the mountains. On the northern edge of Kyoto, the 114 minimalist guest rooms of the remote Roku Kyoto face the tree covered Takagamine Mountains. Guests can opt for hands-on experiences with artisans, who run workshops on traditional ceramics, paper making, and tea ceremonies.
- Book now: Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape, Lost Lindenberg, Nirjhara, Jumeirah Bali, Elang Private Residence, Orient Jakarta
Many of Bali’s new lodgings take visitors off the tourist-trodden path. In the jungle 12 miles north of Ubud, Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape sits along the Ayung River and has views of a nearby waterfall and a string of volcanoes. The adults-only retreat is the ultimate expression of indoor-outdoor living in concert with nature: Its 16 secluded balés, elevated pavilions made from salvaged local ulin wood, have no walls or doors. A zero-waste farm-to-table restaurant serves mostly plant-based Balinese cuisine, with all produce sourced within a one-hour drive. Some 50 miles west, off a deserted black-sand beach up the island’s western coast, the eight-room Lost Lindenberg caters to those who enjoy a social, communal vibe, serving up plant-based fare, surf lessons, and electric bikes.
Fifteen minutes from the island’s famed Hindu temple Tanah Lot, Nirjhara has 25 accommodations ranging from tree houses to suites with views of a waterfall. The resort’s spa, with four treatment rooms and two Finnish saunas, offers two-hour blessing rituals inspired by such local cultures as Nyepi and Saraswati. Near the sparkling shores of Dreamland Beach—to the Balinese, Cimongka—the 123 pool villas at Jumeirah Bali were designed with a striking blue and white palette. Streams and fountains throughout the property are a nod to the Javanese Hindu water palaces of the Majapahit Empire of the 13th to 16th centuries.
On a secluded private island resort northeast of Singapore, Bawah Reserve reopened in fall 2022 with an additional isle, Elang Private Residence. Powered by a floating solar farm, the residence features six cliffside lodges designed by Singapore-based Sim Boon Yang using sustainable natural materials, like handwoven rattan and recycled copper. Meanwhile, in Indonesia’s capital city, the Orient Jakarta was designed by Bensley with maximalist wall coverings juxtaposed by modern art, Javanese antiques, and sculptural woven ceilings. Opulent touches in the 72 guest rooms include freestanding bathtubs with city views and vibrant batik walls.
In southern Vietnam, the new Regent Phu Quoc is tucked away on the country’s largest island, a tropical destination off Cambodia’s coast. The resort blends contemporary design with touches of Vietnamese culture, like bathrobes that offer a pictorial history of Phu Quoc with pearls, peppercorns, and koi fish. In the 302 suites and villas, everything from artisanal snacks and rice cookers to yoga blocks and playing cards are available at the touch of a button. The accommodations are set around the property’s grand pools, calm shorelines, and five drinking and dining establishments include the Vietnamese restaurant Rice Market and a rooftop gin bar.
Capella Hanoi, meanwhile, puts visitors in the heart of city life. The hotel’s location near Hoan Kiem Lake offers front row seats to mouthwatering street food and early morning scenes of residents performing their daily exercise routines. The sumptuous spaces, also designed by Bensley, range from the 47 individually decorated suites featuring memorabilia from local performers and artists to a mirrored subterranean swimming pool. Don’t miss an evening at the hotel’s Japan-inspired Akio, a zero-waste bar and sake lounge where bartenders hand-cut ice for each cocktail and mist their indoor herb garden with leftover Perrier.
- Book now: the Standard Mahanakhon; The Standard, Hua Hin; Capella Bangkok; Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River; InterContinental Khao Yai Resort
Bangkok’s creative set is flourishing, with evidence on the walls and in the shops of new hotels. One of the latest arrivals on the scene is the Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, which opened in late summer 2022 with 155 colorful guest rooms and suites featuring curvaceous furnishings and picture windows. Inside, the friendly staff wear statement-making monochromatic uniforms by local designer Fah Chak WO+MAN, and the gift shop is stocked with whimsical rattan stools by young furniture label Kitt.Ta.Khon. When not exploring the city, guests have access to the property’s quirky programming (think astrology sessions and themed bingo) and six restaurants, including an outpost of Hong Kong’s acclaimed Mott 32, which serves such dishes as applewood-roasted Peking duck. This is the second Thailand property for the Standard hotels, which also opened a 199-room beach resort in the former fishing village of Hua Hin in 2021.
Travelers seeking a resort-like experience in the city can find it at the new Capella Bangkok and Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, located in the same development along the river. The 299-room Four Seasons offers a clutch of notable dining options, including the Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Yu Ting Yuan. The Urban Wellness Centre offers SUP Muay Thai in the pool, while the ART Space by MOCA Bangkok is a can’t-miss for exhibitions of emerging Thai artists. At the smaller Capella, several large-scale local artworks anchor the lobby and tea lounge, and the 101 glass-fronted accommodations range from rooms with river-facing balconies to waterfront pool villas. At the resort’s riverside restaurant, Phra Nakhon, chef Kannika Jitsangworn dreams up such Thai classics as yum som-o pla (Thai pomelo salad), and tom yum soup in an indoor-outdoor dining room.
About 120 miles to the northeast of Bangkok, set next to the UNESCO-protected Khao Yai National Park, the InterContinental Khao Yai Resort takes its inspiration from 19th-century luxury train travel during King Rama V’s reign. The latest undertaking from noted Bangkok-based designer Bill Bensley, the resort opened in September 2022 on 47 green acres with five tranquil lakes. The check-in desk resembles a ticket counter, and all 64 accommodations were designed with railroad memorabilia and vintage signage. Ask for one of the 19 suites and villas fashioned out of upcycled railcars and train carriages, all sourced within Thailand.
- Book now: Nomadic Expeditions Wilderness Camp
In July 2022, Nomadic Expeditions Wilderness Camp began to offer a new way to experience the country’s center, which is brimming with otherworldly landscapes that three nomadic groups call home. From late May to late September, when some 900 families migrate through Tsambagaray mountain pasture, guests can stay in 10 solar-powered gers, or traditional Mongolian tents, designed with ornate traditional textiles and warmed with wood burning stoves. With an all-local staff from the Bayan-Ulgii province, the camp employs people from more than 40 households. Members of the Uriankhai group teach visitors traditional archery, while the Uuld people share animal husbandry and dairy techniques. Not to be missed: a day with Kazakh eagle hunters, who enlighten visitors about falconry, which has millennia-old roots in Mongolia. Between meals of Kazakh, Mongolian, and fusion dishes in the dining ger, guests can also explore the cinematic region on foot and horseback.
In October 2021, the 48-suite Six Senses Fort Barwara debuted in Rajasthan, three hours south of Jaipur. The nearly decade-long restoration of a 14th-century fort put sustainability front and center, with hidden solar panels and rainwater collection tanks. Forty-eight suites feature new courtyards and fanciful jharokas (medieval stone windows) that reference Rajasthani heritage. The vast spa—with a results-oriented blend of Ayurvedic, Eastern, and Western medicine practices—is located inside the former Zenana Mahal, a part of the palace reserved for royal women. Visitors spend their days spotting tigers in Ranthambore National Park, going on guided walks or mountain biking excursions, or visiting nearby villages. On property, they can take cooking classes or join workshops like candle making or pottery lessons with fifth-generation potters at the sustainability-driven Earth Lab.
Also in Rajasthan, Raffles Udaipur sits amid sculpted gardens on its own 21-acre island in Udai Sagar Lake, reached on a battery-powered boat. Architecturally, the property marries the Rajput and Mughal cultures, with the region’s iconic jali panels, local artisan work, and in some cases vivid murals in the 101 guest rooms. At Sawai Kitchen, chefs reinterpret Rajputana dishes using seasonal, regional ingredients. Every dish comes with a history lesson, such as the Mewari warrior delicacy Rajputana Kheeri Nalli (goat brain, lamb shank, and Bhavnagiri chiles). The nearly zero–waste Writers Bar, which serves champagne and caviar and classic cocktails, is lined with dark paneled wood and some 1,000 books, while the white and pink spa soothes with treatments inspired by the region’s ancestral healing techniques.
One of the latest newcomers to the Indian Ocean’s archipelago of private island resorts is Joali Being, a nature-immersive retreat in Raa Atoll. The resort was designed by Autoban and Atolye4N using biophilic, conservation-driven principles that minimally disturb the natural surroundings, which include a tropical rain forest. The muted hues of the 68 villas—either on the beach or overwater—pay homage to the island’s waves, shoreline, and tropical forest with soothing greens, pinks, and browns. All come with a personal jadugar, the Maldivian word for magician, to guide guest experiences, whether it’s snorkeling the ocean or a day at the spa, which encompasses a sound therapy hall and a sensory deprivation room.
Last May brought ambitious sustainability, visiting musicians, and dive butlers to the North Malé Atoll. At Patina Maldives, designed by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, the 110 beach suites and overwater and beach villas were built with natural materials that blur the lines between inside and out. Adding to the artistic cachet is an installation by American light and space artist James Turrell, a pavilion of vertical wooden slats that frames views of azure Maldives skies. At the solar-powered kids club, Footprints, children can mimic the modular prefab building techniques used to create the resort’s villas by making 3D-printed and laser-cut models from recycled ocean plastic. The staff village, Fari Campus, is located on its own island and was designed to enhance well-being and foster kinship among employees, with ample communal spaces, including a state-of-the-art gym, store, and restaurant.