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25 Affordable Beach Resorts 2007

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Photo: Paul Bellaart

Asia

$230 • North Sulawesi, Indonesia

It may lack the well-developed, sybaritic appeal of Bali to the southwest, but Indonesia’s North Sulawesi has charms all its own. The lush province, set along the volcanic Pacific Ring of Fire, teems with biodiversity—from forested nature preserves to the world-class Bunaken marine reserve, home to more than 2,500 varieties of fish. Though the island has maintained a low profile, it’s definitely on the rise, thanks to direct flights from Singapore to its capital, Manado, and a wealth of sustainable ecotourism projects in the works (including a recent, successful campaign to prevent a gold mine from dumping its harmful tailings into the sea). The pick of the province’s resorts is the year-old Kima Bajo Resort & Spa (62-43/186-0999; www.kimabajo.com) set on remote Wori Bay. Here, a collection of 32 elegant suites and freestanding thatched-roof villas—some with outdoor rain showers and bathtubs—and a serene spa cascade down a hill to a volcanic-sand beach. Guests spend their days cruising Bunaken and the surrounding islands, dining on superb Indonesian fare, and taking in the breathtaking sunsets over Manado Tua, a dormant volcano rising from the sea.

While There Organize a hike with Tangkoko Ecotourism Guides Club (62-43/187-1845; www.neba.nl) through the densely forested 21,745-acre Tangkoko-Batu Angus Dua Saudara National Park to spot the fabulously eccentric spectral tarsier—a tiny nocturnal primate with enormous eyes that can swivel its head 180 degrees and jump 10 times its body length. Try finding that on Bali.—Leisa Tyler

Security Note Although North Sulawesi has not had security issues in the past, the U.S. State Department has an ongoing travel advisory for Indonesia, which includes the province. For more information, check the department’s Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

$243 • Phuket, Thailand

Just over two years after the Asian tsunami wreaked havoc on Phuket’s coastline, the resort island is back and better than ever. A string of hotels have opened in the past year, the best of which is Indigo Pearl (66-76/327-006; www.indigo-pearl.com), a 277-room property on secluded Nai Yang Beach that is just putting its finishing touches. Designed by Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley, Indigo Pearl recalls the site’s former life as a tin mine with sleek, industrial-style interiors: polished-concrete floors, steel beams, exposed ceilings, and machinery-inspired sculptures. The austere effect is offset by yards of Thai silk on pillows and chairs, plush beds, and oversize bathtubs. The sprawling property has three swimming pools (don’t miss the "snakeskin pool," tiled with glass beads), a yoga-focused spa, tennis courts, a breezy tapas bar, and five other on-site restaurants. Along the beach, a string of cheap and cheerful bars keep a lively beat throughout the day and night.

While There For a dose of culture, venture into the narrow streets of Phuket Town, where 19th-century Sino-Portuguese shop-houses dating from Old Phuket’s prosperous tin-mining days are being transformed into chic restaurants and bars. Stop off at the atmospheric China Inn Café (20 Thalang Rd.; 66-76/356-239, dinner for two $30) to shop for antiques and graze on Chinese-inspired local dishes, including goon jian (prawns in tamarind sauce). —L.T.

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