It’s been a tough 12 months for hotels in the region, but that didn’t prevent the debuts of a number of exceptional properties. A select 19 Asia-Pacific openings made this year’s Luxe List, each visited by our roving (and masked) network of reporters and appraised on the strength of their design, service, location, and value. All, ultimately, deliver what we expect from a superlative stay, even amid challenging times.
A six-story lobby chandelier of crystal-clad “blades,” 14 restaurants and bars, a design-driven spa, and Sydney’s sexiest infinity pool … small wonder it took four years and US$1.6 billion to craft the sky-scraping 275-meter spire the Crown Towers calls home. British firm Wilkinson Eyre (behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay) was charged with the architecture, creating a curved geometric high-rise clad with 8,000 floor-to-ceiling reflective panels. From the inside, this equates to unbroken views over Australia’s largest city, whether toward the Harbour Bridge and Opera House or across the buzzy Barangaroo precinct the hotel calls home. Glam interiors by New York–based design studio Meyer Davis complement the exterior eye-candy with mirrored balustrades, egg-shaped tubs, and plush fabrics—check in to one of the villas for additional perks like butler service and a private terrace. The only reason to leave your room is food: Peruvian-Japanese at Nobu, refined Italian at a’Mare (try the tableside pesto), or mod-European at Michelin-starred chef Clare Smyth’s soon-to-open eatery, Oncore, her first foray outside the UK.
crownhotels.com.au; doubles from US$360
Shortly after arriving in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia in the mid-19th century, Englishman Arthur Hardy planted three sequoias at his summer residence, Mount Lofty House. The 170-year-old trees still tower over Hardy’s original estate (rebuilt as a boutique hotel in the 1980s) as they now do this freshly minted lodge. While the 14 suites at Sequoia share Mount Lofty’s 12-hectare grounds, they are set apart in a leafy private enclave complete with spring-fed hot tubs and panoramic views of the Piccadilly Valley. The open-plan accommodations are all stone, wood, and glass, with local artisans celebrated through floral paintings and decorative installations. Guests wishing to dine in can order hampers of regional produce; otherwise, on-site Hardy’s Verandah restaurant offers fine dining with glimpses of the estate’s own vineyards. The new Gate Keeper’s spa, which occupies its own cottage, is well worth a visit, as are the winding trails of the adjoining Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.
sequoialodge.com.au; doubles from US$735
For its first foray into India, the Raffles group chose an eight-hectare private island accessible only via a boat ride across Udaipur’s flamingo-dotted Udai Sagar Lake. The palatial East-meets-West estate features Tuscan columns, chhatri (Mughal-style domed pavilions), muraled walls, and symmetric gardens, but also spectacular local craftsmanship: think grand inlay tables and entire walls covered in metallic tikri work. This is Rajasthan à la Rome. The 101 rooms—some with heated pools and cabanas—come with untrammeled views of the lake and the surrounding Aravalli hills. The cherries on the cake are the signature Raffles experiences like a 90-minute massage at the exquisitely designed spa, high tea at the highly photogenic Writer’s Bar, and Udaipur Slings (a localized version of the classic Singaporean cocktail) at the Long Bar. All in all, it looks set to give Rajasthan’s legendary hotels some stiff competition.
raffles.com/udaipur; doubles from US$540
A sparkling new diamond set amid Jaipur’s chaotic gemstone market, this intimate five-suite hotel is already a hot favorite with the jewelry designers and writers who frequent the Rajasthani capital. It occupies a restored 19th-century merchant’s mansion, Lal Haveli, whose salmon-pink facade looks like it’s been plucked from a Wes Anderson film. Designer Naina Shah, who runs a couture embroidery business based in New York and Mumbai, enlisted local artisans to produce the traditional accents—brass accessories, bone-inlaid furniture, wall murals—that decorate the beautifully revamped interiors, while giving each suite a unique color palette based on the gem for which it is named: the Manek (“ruby”) suite, for example, is done up in shades of pink and red. Downstairs, the all-vegetarian Johri restaurant is the trendiest table in town, so don’t leave without trying the truffle-cheese kulcha (flatbread), galouti kebabs, and a tart-salty kulfi popsicle made with jamun berries. A cocktail program, spa, and curated tours are in the works.
thejohrijaipur.com; doubles from US$300
While it is by no means the first hotel on Bali to be styled after a traditional village, the Andaz brand’s debut resort in Asia does so with aplomb. This 149-room property in low-key Sanur impresses from the outset: guests are greeted by an imposing red-brick gateway and a lotus pond whose elephant fountain lights up dramatically after dark. Built around the site’s decades-old trees, rooms and suites are arranged in clusters around leafy courtyards; there are also 22 pool villas, four with direct beach access. The interiors by Japanese firm Design Studio Spin are just as soothing—batik headboards and other local touches contribute to the bright, contemporary feel. Rise early to take in Sanur’s famous sunrises, then end the day with dinner at the beachfront Fisherman’s Club, where the catch of the day is grilled over coconut husks.
hyatt.com; doubles from US$250
A far-flung fishing island famed for its citrus fruits and sun-flecked waters is the setting for one of Japan’s most hotly awaited yet low-key openings. Dreamed up by legendary hotelier Adrian Zecha, the 22-room Azumi Setoda—located on Ikuchijima in the Seto Inland Sea—is a fresh (and impeccably executed) take on traditional ryokan inns, fusing a minimalist Japanese aesthetic with community ties. The tiled roof and timber facade of the 140-year-old former residence hide an airy network of serene spaces replete with washi paper screens, traditional plaster, and light cypress wood; there’s also a lovely inner garden. The semi-communal restaurant blends local produce with Silk Road herbs and spices, while across the street, a sento bathhouse called Yubune invites guests and locals alike to soak in its steaming baths and saunas.
azumi.co; doubles from US$700
It’s all about the transient beauty of nature at Japan’s first Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which opened its doors in the Hokkaido ski town of Niseko last December. Underpinning its concept is the proverb kachou fuugetsu—which means “flower, bird, wind, moon”—with hints of nature interwoven throughout the sleek design of the 50-room hotel. The biggest scene-stealer is Mount Yotei—often dubbed a mini Mount Fuji due to its perfect conical form—which looms large through walls of windows in the two restaurants: atmospheric Yukibana, with its antler chandeliers and seasonal Hokkaido cuisine; and Sushi Nagi, an elegant omakase-style restaurant that does wonderful things with the region’s famous seafood. Guest rooms are opulently decked with plush forest-inspired carpets, cherry-blossom textile panels, and deep stone-clad baths with views of either Mount Yotei or the ski slopes of Niseko Annupuri. Best of all, this is a year-round destination: despite Niseko’s reputation as a mecca for winter sports, the surrounding countryside transforms into a fresh expanse of green every spring, with boundless opportunities for outdoor recreation.
ritzcarlton.com; doubles from US$500
The 18th-century gate that welcomes guests to this elegant new addition to Kyoto’s hotel scene offers a hint of the site’s heritage: it once marked the entrance to the residence of the powerful Mitsui clan. It’s but one of a number of historical features woven through the newly built property by architect Akira Kuryu and Hong Kong– based designer André Fu. Folding around a scenic central garden, the hotel showcases countless touches of contemporary Kyoto—from a modern tea ceremony space to a light-flooded corridor of wooden arches echoing the red torii gates of the Fushimi Inari shrine. The 161 Fu-designed guest rooms reflect a contemporary riff of Kyoto aesthetics, with wabi sabi ceramics, tea-green window shades, and abstract water motifs. The Thermal Spring Spa, which spans the basement, is a temple to self-indulgence, with its dramatically lit hot spring baths, pampering spa rooms, and private onsen suites. Food is another highlight, with exquisite French-meets-Kyoto gastronomy served up in chic Toki restaurant and more laid-back Italian fare at Forni.
hotelthemitsui.com; doubles from US$1,100
Hard as it is to imagine a floating jungle lobby on the 31st floor of a Tokyo skyscraper, this is precisely the sight that greets visitors upon arrival at Japan’s first Edition hotel. Sleek and sexy, the 206-room property has been brought to life by visionary hotelier Ian Schrager and architect Kengo Kuma and has quickly become a magnet for the city’s party-loving fashion crowd. Housed at the apex of a shiny new tower in the Toranomon business district, the plant-packed lobby is its hip (and very green) heartbeat, with an open layout loosely inspired by Buddhist temples. Tucked amid the foliage is the Blue Room restaurant, with its menu of modern comfort food; the white-marble Lobby Bar; and intimate window-side seating for afternoon tea or cocktails (The Jade Room, by British chef Tom Aikens, will open soon). The guest rooms offer a minimalist antidote to the lobby, with light oak paneling and jaw-dropping views across the urban landscape; 15 come with private roof terraces—the ultimate luxury in Tokyo.
editionhotels.com; doubles from US$545
Known to few travelers outside Malaysia or nearby Singapore, the recently revamped resort area of Desaru Coast in Johor is now firmly on the map thanks to the arrival of One&Only. With just 44 standalone suites and a capacious four-bedroom villa, this is one of the last projects of the late, great Australian architect Kerry Hill, whose feted brand of site-sensitive modernism produced some of Asia’s most innovative hotels. Here, clean-lined pavilions dressed in timber shutters channel Malaysian village vernacular; terraces of stone and lawn cascade down to the sea; and pools reflect the wild tangle of the surrounding rain forest. Amid the enveloping lushness are all the indulgences that you’d expect from a One&Only property, including a Chenot-managed spa and Ember Beach Club, which features poolside cabanas and a barbecue-centric menu by Singapore-based Irish chef Andrew Walsh. Another draw is the beach itself: a one-and-a-half-kilometer stretch of pristine white sand lapped by the South China Sea.
oneandonlyresorts.com/desaru-coast; doubles from US$980
Take note of Patina: judging from its debut property in the Maldives, you’re going to hear a lot more about this classy new hotel brand from Capella. Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan is behind the bodacious aesthetic, a tropical-modernist vision of woody salas, low-slung buildings, and striking artworks, most notably the Skyspace chamber by Light and Space artist James Turrell. In the villas—some on the beach, some stilted over the lagoon—retractable glass walls open onto decks with private pools, while beds are wrapped in dove-gray sheets and bathrooms come stocked with Haeckels products, which smell like the sea and won’t harm the stingrays swimming past outside. Elsewhere, there are 12 different dining concepts, each one a knockout; a swanky marina with a beach club and dock space for over a dozen superyachts; and a revelatory spa that combines age-old wellness practices with high-tech accouterments.
patinahotels.com; doubles from US$2,180
One of three resort islands in the mini man-made archipelago of Fari in the North Male Atoll (neighboring Patina is another, while a Capella is slated to arrive in early 2023), the Ritz-Carlton Maldives takes its circular design inspiration from the swirling flow of water currents and ocean breezes. Devised by Kerry Hill Architects, most of the 100 sleek villas are round in shape, with curving decks and plunge pools that sweep onto the beach or above the cerulean sea. It’s all very grown up but also brilliant for families, with an endless roster of activities for all ages—snorkeling with a marine biologist, say, or movie nights on the beach. There’s also a super-cool kids’ club hidden in the hollow of a grassy knoll, with a giant climbing frame and a pool with slides and dancing fountains. Teens have their own recreation zone equipped with a pool table, video games, and even a photography studio. The resort is also home to a good selection of restaurants and a halo-shaped spa set on stilts above the lagoon.
ritzcarlton.com; doubles from US$1,855
The near two-decade gentrification of Auckland’s Britomart precinct—a transformation of derelict heritage buildings into what is arguably the city’s most stylish waterfront neighborhood—has culminated in the opening of the first 5 Green Star–certified hotel in New Zealand. A central, Melbourne-style laneway connects a beautifully renovated historic warehouse building to a modern, 10-story hotel tower clad in hand-made bricks. Cheshire Architects, the city’s go-to designers for contemporary, restrained elegance, have outfitted the 99 cocoon-like rooms and five rooftop suites with timber-clad walls, sexy tiled bathrooms, and local ceramics. Contemporary Kiwi art lines the walls, while The Libraries, located on the first floor, provides possibly the chicest conferencing and private-dining facilities in the city. Kingi, the hotel’s sole restaurant, serves up delicious, sustainably sourced seafood including signature Chatham Island cod “wings.” The Britomart might lack big-city hotel facilities, but never mind: some of Auckland’s best dining spots, luxury stores, gyms, and other conveniences are within a one-minute walk.
thehotelbritomart.com; doubles from US$200
While Krabi’s beaches have been lined with resorts for decades, Banyan Tree still managed to snap up one of its prettiest stretches of sand: a golden slice of Tab Kaek beach bordering the jungle rolling down Dragon Crest Mountain. It’s this mountain, or rather the ancient folk tales based on it, that inspired the design of the 72 rooms and villas, with purple scalelike motifs in the whitewashed rooms and a hilltop lobby lounge designed like a gold-studded dragon’s lair. All rooms open to both a private pool and an outdoor jet tub, but the resort’s trump card is its spa, where treatment rooms come with therapeutic lighting and Krabi’s first hydrotherapy lounge is equipped with a steam room, sauna, vitality pool, and ice fountain. A funicular leads to the jungle-clad Saffron restaurant where Thai cuisine leans toward the finer side of dining, while the poolside Naga Kitchen dishes up comfort food from breakfast to dinner.
banyantree.com; doubles from US$330
In a city where almost every luxury hotel amenity has already been introduced, it takes a special set of perks to make an impression. Yet Capella’s first foray into Thailand did just that by bringing in something Bangkok hadn’t seen before: handsome villas with pools and gardens right on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, plus, in the blocky main building, 10 suites equipped with balcony lounges and travertine plunge pools. The standard hotel features are equally impressive: there’s a Mediterranean signature restaurant spearheaded by Mauro Colagreco (of chart-topping Mirazur in France); a bijou cocktail bar that doubles as a dessert omakase; and a lush spa where treatments draw on Asian healing traditions and medicinal herbs found at the age-old apothecaries just outside the gates. Wrapping it all is a pared-back design of straight lines, muted hues, and lots of marble, making this one of the city’s swankiest yet most discreet hideouts.
capellahotels.com; doubles from US$550
Taking over one wing of the flashy Chao Phraya Estate along Charoen Krung Road, Four Seasons’ return to the Thai capital gives a stamp of approval to this burgeoning creative district. Designed by Belgian starchitect Jean-Michel Gathy, the hotel puts Thai contemporary art front and center, from wall-spanning pieces commissioned by Gathy himself to a private gallery with works curated by Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Sculptures dot the hotel’s bamboo-walled courtyards and expansive riverfront area, where a two-tiered pool and promenade lend the hotel a resortlike feel. The art-studded lobby borders signature restaurant Yu Ting Yuan, for which Michelin-starred chef Qiu Xiaogui flew in his team from Guangzhou to serve real-deal (and real fancy) Cantonese dishes such as lobster dumplings and baked abalone tarts. Closer to the river, Brasserie Palmier presents French classics with a tropical touch, while guests at Riva Del Fiume’s waterfront terrace can order house-made pasta, tangy crudo, and steaks from chocolate-fed Mayura beef.
fourseasons.com/bangkok; doubles from US$335
The latest outpost of homegrown boutique hotel group Sala proves that Thai island retreats don’t necessarily involve palm trees and beaches. Taking over the tip of a narrow forested island in the Chao Phraya River some 30 minutes downstream from temple-studded Ayutthaya, this 24-room resort is built like a small village of duplex villas and studio rooms housed in modern interpretations of vernacular architecture. Swathed in blonde woods, textile wall panels, and wickerwork accents, most of the villas come with private plunge pools and lounge decks with river views, while the studio rooms open to snug balconies that look out over a traditional village just across the water. The riverside restaurant specializes in plump river prawns—a local specialty—and is the starting point for dinner cruises and sightseeing tours to the nearby Bang Pa-In Palace on the resort’s wooden riverboat.
salahospitality.com/bang-pa-in; doubles from US$170
With a performative teppanyaki restaurant, memento-filled lounge, and vivacious spa, the latest Vietnamese outing by architect/designer Bill Bensley is Hanoi’s swankiest stay. As with Bensley’s other hotel projects, immersive storytelling informs the fanciful design concept here. Capella Hanoi’s proximity to the city’s iconic opera house inspires a theatrical theme, with many of the 47 rooms named after composers, playwrights, librettists, singers, actors, divas, and major works. The top-floor premium suites, though jam-packed with furniture (Bensley is a self-described “maximalist”), come with private terraces and glorious views over the leafy neighborhood. The hotel staff, which includes “Capella Culturists” who know Hanoi intimately and can design exclusive experiences in the city, are determined to make each visit special. Guests are invited to join three daily complementary “rituals”: coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and cocktails in the evening. This final ritual—the “Diva’s Entrée”—is especially entertaining: the hotel’s resident prima donna, who sings, dances, and banters with the guests, presents a rotation of signature cocktails inspired by the lives of legendary divas like Coco Chanel and Anna Held.
capellahotels.com; doubles from US$400
Obscure locations are nothing new for French hotelier Arnaud Zannier, whose latest outpost has put down stakes on a secluded peninsula in Phu Yen province on Vietnam’s south-central coast. Like Zannier’s four other properties (which include a pair of Namibian safari lodges), Bãi San Hô embodies a deep sense of place through local materials and traditions. The 98-hectare grounds encompass lush hillsides, rice fields, and a kilometer-long stretch of white sand, but it’s the 73 thoughtfully considered villas (most with plunge pools) that make the biggest impression. Taking their cues from the rustic architecture of regional fishing villages and ethnic groups, the stilted accommodations feature bamboo ceilings and walls of cob (a plaster made from clay, sand, and straw) beautifully accented by homespun linens and handicrafts. Such attention to detail carries through to Bà Hai, the resort’s Vietnamese restaurant, which borrows its design from the communal houses of the Bahnar hill people and showcases dishes from across the country in tasty sharing menus. The seafood at beachfront Làng Chài is also a must-try, as is the indulgent, two-hour Hoa Sen Ritual at the hillside spa.
zannierhotels.com/baisanho; doubles from US$415
Reported by Chris Schalkx, Jasreen Mayal Khanna, Martin Westlake, Joshua Zukas, Natasha Dragun, Lee Cobaj, Andrew Glenn, and Danielle Demetriou.
This article originally appeared in the September/November 2021 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“The Luxe List 2021”).