With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, here are some swoon-worthy lodgings across the region (placed in no particular order) to bookmark for a future escape.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
A 10-minute drive from Ubud brings travelers to the Four Seasons Sayan, one of the brand’s two outposts on Indonesia’s Island of the Gods (the other is located on Jimbaran Bay). The property makes a strong impression from the get-go — guests typically arrive via a bridge soaring over the Ayung River valley that leads to a rooftop lotus pond above the lobby. The grounds are dotted with 60 Balinese-inspired suites and villas, which all feature marble bathrooms and offer views of the surrounding countryside. With a winning combination of faultless service, five-star comforts, and its sense of seclusion, it’s no wonder the Four Seasons Sayan is a preferred holiday retreat for A-list celebrities such as power couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen (who are repeat guests).
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
While the Maldives is one of the world’s top romantic destinations by dint of its postcard-perfect scenery and plethora of private-island resorts, Anantara’s all-villa retreat in the Ba’a Atoll takes the experience up a notch. The place even has the country’s first overwater observatory, where private star-gazing sessions are led by a resident “Sky Guru.” Under his guidance, you can spot faraway galaxies through the field research–grade telescope or view the constellations from a massive circular daybed in the adjacent rooftop lounge. Elsewhere on the property, underwater restaurant Sea plates up gourmet dishes like seared seabass, Japanese wagyu beef, and poached lobster, while couples’ rituals at the overwater spa include A Maldivian Romance — a two-and-a-half-hour treatment that uses local ingredients and the brand’s own essential oils to pamper guests from head to toe.
Here’s a tip for Singapore-based couples looking to get away from it all — a 75-minute seaplane flight from nearby Batam is all it takes to reach Bawah Reserve, a paradisiacal eco-retreat in Indonesia’s remote Anambas Islands. Here, lucky guests can enjoy a luxurious castaway existence, bedding down in 35 overwater bungalows or tented villas, and taking meals at the resort’s quartet of bars and restaurants. Water-based activities like snorkeling, ocean kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are a must given the location: Bawah Reserve comprises five jungled islands with no less than 13 beaches between them, enclosing three lagoons in the middle of a marine conservation area. The complete absence of TVs (not that they are needed) means you’ll be blissfully undistracted by the 24-hour news cycle.
Banyan Tree Lijiang
This elegant spa resort outside the UNESCO-listed town of Lijiang, in the highlands of China’s Yunnan province, plays off the architecture of the area’s Naxi ethnic minority group. Jaw-dropping views of the 5,596-meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain beckon from the property, where a three-story pavilion overlooks a central pond and bamboo-lined pathways lead to accommodation styled as traditional courtyard houses. Our tip? Book a villa with a private garden and outdoor heated jet pool.
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
No roundup of romantic Asian stays is complete without a Rajasthani palace-hotel, and Udaipur’s Taj Lake Palace is undoubtedly one of the best. Originally built as a summer retreat for the ruling House of Mewar in the mid-18th century, the 66-room abode enjoys panoramic vistas of the city from its position amid the placid waters of Lake Pichola. Guests can request a private table for meals anywhere they like, say in a corner cupola on the rooftop. Thanks to the sumptuously decorated rooms, a butler that will answer your every beck and call, and the services of a water taxi whenever needed, you and your significant other will feel like royalty.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
Inspired by the rich marine life of the Indian Ocean, Singapore-based WOW Architects gave the St. Regis Maldives its whimsical, organic design: think an overwater bar resembling a whale shark, villas modeled after manta rays, a library built in the form of an impressive spiral seashell, and a lobster-shaped spa. It certainly makes a fine backdrop for an indulgent private-island vacation. While it’s possible to spend hours stretched out on a sun lounger by the beachfront infinity pool, avid snorkelers and divers will want to explore the underwater wonders of the surrounding Dhaalu Atoll. Guests are assigned personal butlers — a hallmark of the St. Regis brand — who will be on hand to arrange all kinds of experiences, be it wine-tasting sessions or sunset cruises in the resort’s private lagoon.
The brainchild of design extraordinaire Bill Bensley, this jungle-luxe tented encampment in the south-central foothills of Bali takes glamping to the next level. Local artisans were hired to create intricately carved four-poster beds and doors — as well as hand-hammered copper tubs — for each of Capella Ubud’s 23 tents. After enjoying a meal at main restaurant Mads Lange or inspired takes on Asian street food at barbecue-focused Api Jiwa, you can retire to your tent with a large outdoor deck and a saltwater plunge pool, the perfect vantage point from which to admire the surrounding mist-laden rain forest.
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Situated in the lush Mae Rim valley, about a half-hour drive north of downtown Chiang Mai, this rural sanctuary is just the place for an intimate outdoor wedding or honeymoon with northern Thai touches. Much of the 13-hectare property is taken up by an idyllic patchwork of working rice terraces, lakes, manicured gardens, and lily ponds. For couples seeking the utmost privacy, we recommend booking a walled 403-square-meter pool villa equipped with its own whirlpool and private dining sala. Foodies will want to spend a full day with one of the Four Seasons’ Thai chefs — the experience includes shopping for fresh ingredients at local markets, a hands-on cooking class, and an afternoon spent browsing stores for must-have kitchen tools to be shipped back home.
One&Only Reethi Rah
A 40-minute speedboat ride from Male’s international airport, One&Only Reethi Rah raised the bar for luxury hotels in the Maldives when it first opened in 2005. The name means “Beautiful Island” in Dhivehi, the local tongue, and the place lives up to that promise. Its six-kilometer coastline is characterized by stretches of soft white sand backdropped by swaying coconut palms; there’s even a 30-meter lap pool stretching into the lagoon. Guests bed down in villas designed by none other than Jean-Michel Gathy, gourmands have eight restaurants and bars to choose from (including Tapasake for Japanese-Peruvian fare), and the excellent ESPA spa boasts underwater treatment rooms and an onsen bath.
Azerai La Residence, Hue
Centered on a French-colonial governor’s mansion built in art deco style, Azerai La Residence is arguably the most atmospheric hotel in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Its classic interiors feature teakwood floors and original 1930s furnishings; the 40-meter saltwater pool looks out to the nearby Perfume River. While most of the 122 rooms are located in the newer wings, treat your significant other by booking the Resident Suite, which occupies the entire top floor of the restored mansion and boasts an enormous terrace. Romantic experiences include an Imperial Dinner Feast, which puts the spotlight on royal Hue cuisine, and a two-and-a-half-hour dinner cruise that begins with champagne at sunset.
An Lam Retreats Ninh Van Bay
Absolute privacy awaits at this adults-only resort in south-central Vietnam, accessible only by boat from the beachside city of Nha Trang. The beachside property is hemmed in between dramatic Ninh Van Bay and a jungle-clad mountain; its 37 timber-built villas come with canopied beds and private plunge pools. Wellness-minded couples are in for a treat: natural streams and birdsong provide the natural soundtrack to yoga sessions and four-hand massages at the Jungle Spa. A striking lotus-like structure by the pier houses Sen restaurant — where chefs make use of ocean-fresh seafood in an array of Vietnamese specialties — the ground-floor Beach Bar, and the rooftop Sunset Bar, which opens only at night.
Though it’s within walking distance of the iconic Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Aman Kyoto promises a secluded retreat in a hidden garden surrounded by more than 32 hectares of dense forest. Here, a series of minimalist modern pavilions designed by the late and great Australian architect Kerry Hill contain just 26 suites; all feature tatami-mat floors, alcoves decorated with scroll paintings, and hinoki cypress wood tubs in the bathrooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the forest outside, where private dining experiences can be had. After a muscle-melting treatment (and an onsen bath) at the spa, few things are better than sipping drinks by an open fire on the terrace outside The Living Room, the resort’s main restaurant.
What began as a rustic surf camp on the eastern Indonesian island of Sumba has gradually morphed into one of Asia’s most desirable resorts. The thatched-roof villas blend modern comforts with design details taken from Sumbanese culture, and adventure-minded couples have a dizzying range of pursuits to choose from. These include tackling Occy’s Left, the famous surf break out front; horse-riding on the 2.5-kilometer private beach; a pampering “spa safari,” stand-up paddleboarding down the nearby Wanukaka River, and a guided hike into the forest to reach a hidden waterfall and swimming hole.
Wildflower Hall, An Oberoi Resort, Shimla
Perched on a forested ridge high above the bustling hill station of Shimla in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, this 85-room Himalayan retreat was built on the site of a summer lodge used by Lord Kitchener, commander-in-chief of the British Indian Army in the early 1900s. The Oberoi Group set about recreating the feel of the British Raj through Wildflower Hall’s colonial-inspired guest rooms and public spaces: the lobby is paneled in Burmese teak, the Cavalry Bar has chesterfield sofas and a log fire, and there’s even a billiards room. Right outside the front door, nine hectares of Himalayan cedar woods beckon with activities like archery, guided walks to learn about the local flora and fauna (with a picnic included), and a candlelit five-course dinner at the resort’s cast-iron hillside gazebo. Those who come in the colder months will see the tennis court transformed into an ice-skating rink.
Six Senses Yao Noi
A southern Thai retreat doesn’t get much better than this. Taking up a jungled hillside on the offshore island of Koh Yao Noi, a 45-minute speedboat ride from Phuket’s Ao Po Grand Marina, the Six Senses is eco-luxe at its most endearing. The accommodations of choice are the Ocean villas, all of which possess a generously sized terrace and infinity pool with views of Phang Nga Bay’s karst-studded waters. Butlers here are termed GEMs (Guest Experience Makers), and will be more than happy to organize all kinds of experiences for you and your better half, whether that’s an in-villa barbecue, a day-long island-hopping trip, or gourmet picnics on the beach. The Six Senses brand is big on sustainability and fun: you’ll be entitled to free house-made ice creams and sorbets all day, while your GEM can take you around the organic chicken farm and mushroom hut that supply the resort kitchens.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad
This astonishing 13-hectare property crowns a verdant hill that rises above Hyderabad, India’s fourth-largest city. It dates to the 1880s, when it was built for the princely state’s Prime Minister before being handed over to the sixth Nizam (ruler), who entertained European royals like King George V and Tsar Nicholas II in its halls. A careful decade-long renovation by Taj Hotels has restored the building’s former luster, and lucky travelers booked into the 60-room hotel can indulge in a royal fantasy that begins even before check-in. Guests arrive by horse-drawn carriage and are showered with rose petals as they walk up the steps leading to the Renaissance-inspired reception room. Dining here is another highlight: Adaa restaurant serves Hyderabadi lamb biryani and other local delights, while Celeste specializes in Mediterranean fare. And, like the Nizams of old, you’ll get to enjoy high tea beneath Belgian chandeliers at the Jade Terrace.
Ceylon Tea Trails
Perched at an elevation of 1,250 meters in Sri Lanka’s south-central highlands, Ceylon Tea Trails comprises five planters’ bungalows spread out across the tea fields of the Bogawantalawa Valley. Each has been decorated in colonial style, with four-poster beds and teak furnishings; guests can expect delicious meals and afternoon tea to be served alfresco when the weather allows. The property is run by Resplendent Ceylon, the hospitality arm of the world-famous Dilmah Tea brand, and features in the company’s multi-day “Tea, Sea, and Safari” itinerary that also includes stays at two sister properties in the south, Cape Weligama and Wild Coast Tented Lodge – the latter on the doorstep of Yala National Park.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
The cliff-top Alila on southern Bali’s Bukit Peninsula has been known to host its fair share of celebrity weddings for good reason: cue the picture-perfect infinity pool that appears to merge with the Indian Ocean, and beside it, the wooden Sunset Cabana cantilevered over the edge of the limestone cliffs — a space large enough to accommodate 50 guests for the ceremony. Couples on a romantic getaway will delight in the excellent food at The Warung, the Alila’s breezy pan-Indonesian restaurant, not to mention the chic comforts of its 65 villas. These are at least 290 square meters in size, and all come with 24-hour butler service, a plunge pool, and a private cabana.
Bulgari Resort Bali
Just down the road from the Alila, Bali’s hillside Bulgari Resort marries the contemporary Italian flair expected of its namesake brand with Balinese craftsmanship. The chic retreat’s 59 thatched-roof villas are hidden behind walls of volcanic stone; all boast open-air living rooms with mesmerizing ocean views, as well as impressive spa-like bathrooms that (naturally) come stocked with Bulgari toiletries. Dinners are a must at Il Ristorante – Luca Fantin, which harnesses the local produce in its fine Italian cuisine (think black linguine and caviar, and zucchini flowers with spiced tuna). For guests wishing to dine closer to the waves, a funicular takes them down to La Spiaggia, a cozy seafood-focused restaurant and bar (open for lunch) overlooking the resort’s private beach.
Suburban Shanghai might not be anyone’s idea of a romantic destination, but it is home to a sublime Aman resort that effortlessly melds contemporary architecture by Kerry Hill Architects with 13 beautifully preserved Ming- and Qing-era villas, which were dismantled brick-by-brick and transplanted from the owner’s home village in Jiangxi province, some 700 kilometers away. Couples will want to take advantage of the impressive spa, which features private bathhouses with a hammam and Russian banya, and also offers consultations in traditional Chinese medicine. Cultural pursuits here include incense-making and calligraphy lessons at Nanshufang, a space that riffs off the scholars’ studios of centuries past.
The Datai Langkawi
Nature-loving couples will be enchanted by this legendary resort that has been charming visitors to the Malaysian island of Langkawi since 1993. Wildlife sightings are common here, as The Datai is swathed in a 10-million-year-old rain forest inhabited by hornbills, dusky leaf monkeys, and hundreds of butterfly species. A recent US$60-million-revamp of has respected the original spirit of the 26-hectare property, while adding a longhouse-inspired nature center, an elevated boardwalk through the mangroves, new villas, and the five-bedroom Datai Estate. If it’s blissful isolation you seek, go for the One-Bedroom Beach villas, which have private pools, living rooms with vaulted ceilings, and an outdoor lounge that leads directly to the shoreline.