The luxe properties in this corner of the planet have it all, say Travel + Leisure readers.

By Hannah Walhout
July 10, 2019
Courtesy JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most vibrant, dynamic cities: Bangkok, with its ornate architecture and youthful energy; the street food Valhalla that is Singapore; electric Kuala Lumpur; imperial Hanoi. But as mesmerizing as they are, one of the greatest joys of visiting this region is getting away from those urban environments to experience some of the best resorts on the Asian continent.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

RelatedThe World's Best Awards 2019

Once again, Thailand dominates the list of top resorts in Southeast Asia, with six properties that span the beaches and islands in the south to the forests, mountains, and lush coffee plantations of the north’s famous Golden Triangle. One perennial favorite (and a mainstay in the World’s Best Awards) is the Six Senses Yao Noi, an all-villa property overlooking island-studded Phang Nga Bay. All of the respondents commented on the stunning views from their villas and, seemingly, every corner of the resort.

But alongside that perennially popular destination are a few countries whose role in Southeast Asian tourism is still emerging. The Philippines, for example, is not a major market for travelers from the United States. But No. 10 Amanpulo, the beautiful Aman property on Pamalican Island, is reason enough to visit — one respondent said it’s a favorite because it has “the best beach in the world,” while another lauded the “fantastic resort, fantastic service, and friendly staff.” Laos — in particular, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang — is also a lesser-traveled, but equally beautiful destination. Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao, just outside the town, has been one of the premier properties in the area since it opened 28 years ago, and this year it rose four spots to No. 6.

Many of the top brands in the business are represented (Four Seasons, Six Senses), but it’s worth noting the outsize presence of Anantara, a Thailand-based company with properties in destinations a bit farther afield from the typical tourist circuit (think: a mountain in Oman, a national park in Zambia). With three properties on this year’s list — including one in the lesser-traveled Hua Hin region on Thailand’s Malay Peninsula, which comes in third — this brand is clearly one to watch.

Our readers’ No. 1 pick this year is a relative newcomer, earning a spot on the It List 2018 just months after it opened. Read on for the full lineup of the best resorts in Southeast Asia.

15. JW Phuket Resort & Spa, Thailand

Courtesy of JW Marriott

Score: 90.00

More information: marriott.com

14. Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara

Score: 91.16

More information: anantara.com

13. Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara

Score: 91.24

More information: anantara.com

12. Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 92.33

More information: fourseasons.com

11. Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines

Courtesy of Amanresorts

Score: 92.96

More information: aman.com

10. Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, Thailand

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 93.28

More information: fourseasons.com

9. Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara

Score: 94.13

More information: anantara.com

8. Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Thailand

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 94.71

More information: fourseasons.com/chiangmai 

7. Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos

Courtesy of Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao

Score: 95.37

More information: belmond.com

6. InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, Danang, Vietnam

Courtesy of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort

Score: 95.66

More information: danang.intercontinental.com

5. Six Senses Samui, Thailand

Courtesy of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

Score: 95.75

More information: sixsenses.com

4. Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort

Score: 96.13

More information: anantara.com

3. Anantara Hua Hin Resort, Thailand

Courtesy of Anantara

Score: 96.24

More information: anantara.com 

2. Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand

Courtesy of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

Score: 97.74

More information: sixsenses.com

1. JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, Vietnam

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

Score: 98.56

More information: marriott.com

This property on Phu Quoc, an island near the Cambodian border, began life as a colonial university, established in 1880 to educate the budding scholars of French Indochina. Or, at least, that’s what Bill Bensley, who designed it, will tell you. In reality, this romantic backstory — the legacy of the university’s founder, naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck; the influences of visiting Chinese and Japanese intellectuals — is just a guiding principle, a fun, fictional narrative around which the whole resort is built. Bensley’s master plan incorporates elements of local Hoi An architecture, university aesthetics, and French-colonial style. The 234 rooms, suites, and villas occupy the “old halls” of various academic disciplines; you can even stay in the Dean’s Quarters. The cocktail bar is located, naturally, in the Chemistry department. Of course, the resort has all of the modern comforts one would expect from a JW Marriott, including a palatial spa and a variety of French-inflected bars and restaurants. No wonder one reader admitted, “I've stayed here twice now — it’s one of my favorite hotels!”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.

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