Remember when you thought a week wasn't a long enough time to visit Japan, so you never went on vacation? Well, here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, travel at a near standstill. A week in Asia (or anywhere, really!) will never be taken for granted again. Once this thing is over, there will be no vacillating about whether to go on a trip — you'll only have to decide where. How about one of the amazing new hotels that opened in Asia despite the craziness of 2020? Now that your boss knows you can get your work done out of the office, you'll be able to make a case for tacking on some remote work hours. Silver linings!
Don't miss all our picks for the World's Best New Hotels in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States, we've broken down our favorite new hotels by region: the Northeast, the South, and the West.
Where: Kyoto, Japan
Why We're Excited: That the first hotel from Mitsui Fudosan, a mega Japanese developer, occupies the former home of the Mitsui family, the most powerful dynasty from the Edo period in the 1600s, is the first hint that this place seriously honors Japanese traditions and design. The second is the entrance, which is just opposite Nijō-jō Castle: a restored gate from 1703. Even more bragging rights: The hotel is the only one in the city center with a natural hot spring on site.
Where: Hakuba, Japan
Why We’re Excited: Kengo Kuma collaborated with outdoor lifestyle company Snow Peak on the all-inclusive glampsite in the Japanese Alps. Cozily decorated rustic tents open to expansive wooden decks in the great outdoors. A Japanese chef prepares Italian cuisine using fresh local produce paired with local wines. Outside, there’s skiing, hiking, and Japanese bathing.
Where: Kyoto, Japan
Why We're Excited: The buzzy brand's first Asia outpost was supposed to hit right before the Olympics, but now it's had some time to ease into the area. It's big (213 rooms) and showcases various forms of Japanese craftsmanship in a mid-century industrial space — the former Kyoto Central Telephone Office. Three restaurants plus a rooftop bar and a Stumptown Coffee Roasters foster the brand's signature community vibe. A courtyard garden is lined with chic boutiques from the world of Ace.
Where: Okinawa, Japan
Why We're Excited: The Japanese brand all about omotenashi (high-level hospitality) extends their ethos to a beach resort across from one of the country's most popular island destinations. Every one of the 100 rooms has an ocean view and access to a calm sea protected by a coral reef; traditional stone walls create an intimate beach house feeling. The Okinowan cuisine served at the restaurant has a hint of Sicily (the two destinations share common ingredients like tuna and lemons), for a unique culinary experience.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Why We’re Excited: Ian Schrager brings his brand of sophisticated minimalism to Tokyo. Design-y and clubhouse-y, expect the type of guests who can wear shades of white from head-to-toe no matter the season. Amenities include panoramic skyline views, tons of verdant plant life, a Michelin-starred chef, and a pool "conservatory" for swimming off the jet lag.
Where: Ehime and Hiroshima, Japan
Why We're Excited: Travelers can get a feel for small-town Japanese living (the exquisite version) by staying in a beautifully preserved merchant building or thatched roof home, sampling the work of old-school artisans (paper, candles, silk), visiting the mom-and-pop specialty shops (sake), and forest bathing among cedar and maple trees and babbling brooks.
Feel-Good Factor: Turning traditional Japanese cominca homes into vacation rentals is a means of preserving the traditional architecture and culture of remote towns with aging and diminishing populations.
Where: Phu Yen, Vietnam
Why We're Excited: The boutique Belgian hoteliers selected 245 jungled beachfront acres in central Vietnam for its second Asian property, whose name translates as "bay of corals," a nod to the riches guests will discover on a scuba diva. All 71 villas offer maximum seclusion, with private pools and terraces. Engaging and relaxing resort activities include three restaurants (one serving the four main Vietnamese cuisines, another built to look like a fisherman's shack), tennis courts, gym and yoga studio, ping-pong and badminton, a kids club, and a spa.
Feel-Good Factor: From the start, they developed the resort without disturbing the environment too much, preserving the surroundings and replanting some 1,000 trees. The villas were built with local materials and time-tested techniques, to minimize waste and impact and maximize authenticity. The hotel's rice paddy supply the restaurants, and any extra rice is donated to local communities. There's more: Waste materials are separated. They bottle still and sparkling waters, so no plastic here.
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
Why We're Excited: It's a welcome, serene, and beautiful newcomer in a city of skyscraper hotels. Located along the Chao Phraya River on the site of the former Swedish Embassy, Capella Bangkok's 101 spacious suites and villas have outdoor space, plunge pools, and river views. Côte restaurant is overseen by three-Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in the south of France (currently ranked as the World's Best Restaurant). A team of "Culturalists" help guests make the most of the city’s offerings.
Where: Fasmendhoo Island, Raa Atoll, Maldives
Why We're Excited: Travelers intrigued by all-inclusive resorts (zero hassle! good value!) but also apprehensive about all-inclusive resorts may want to look into the Italian company building luxury versions across East Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. Their remote island resort has 60 beach villas and 60 overwater bungalows nestled into soft white sand beaches or perched above turquoise waters. The contempo-tropical design extends to four restaurants, pool cafes, and spa. Activities are the name of the game, and the resort offers tennis, paddleball, pools, water sports, and an excellent diving center (the owner, an avid diver himself, has been drawn to these waters since the ‘70s). There are fat tire bikes for getting around and hammock swings to lounge in while sipping icy coffee drinks. At the vast breakfast setup, the staff are eager to share the local dish of choice — a refreshingly light but flavorful bowl of tuna, coconut, chilies, minced red onion, lime, and Indian flat bread.
Where: Elang, Anambas Island, Indonesia
Why We’re Excited: Overwater bungalows, villas, and jungle lodges are nestled in nature with lots of activities around marine conservation and education (and great Instagram photos) at guests' fingertips.
Feel-Good Factor: The six islands (once destined for destruction due to dynamite fishing) are now designated marine conservation areas. The design and construction of the resort was planned to avoid erosion and damage of island flora and fauna and built with sustainable and locally recycled materials. Preserving the biodiversity and complete ecosystem of the remote island is paramount to Bawah.
Where: Flores, Indonesia
Why We're Excited: Twenty-five cute bungalows are situated at the north end of Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where you'll find the giant lizards known as Komodo Dragons.
Feel-Good Factor: Being remote and embedded with wildlife, eco consciousness is top of mind. The resort uses its own distillation system to turn saltwater into clean water; a hybrid AC conserves energy use; coral conservation efforts protect and preserve underwater life.
Where: Bali, Indonesia
Why We're Excited: If the set designers of Avatar had to build a hotel, it would look like this bamboo village that knows no right angles. With three rooms in the main house and eight villas (with private salt water pools), the jungle forest resort can accommodate no more than 22 guests, making for pretty ultimate relaxation — all a mere half hour from touristy Ubud.
Feel-Good Factor: The structures are made primarily from bamboo, one of the world's most sustainable natural resources. The nearby river will soon power the hydro-turbine system that will provide the resort's electricity.
Updates and Renovations
Where: Baa Atoll, Maldives
Why We’re Excited: The flagship private island resort built eight enormous new one- and two-bedroom over-water villas with sunrise/sunset views, private pools, catamaran net seating, and a slide that leads directly into the Indian Ocean. The master bedroom’s retractable roof makes stargazing from bed a comfy joy.
Feel-Good Factor: Soneva has been logging eco initiatives for the past 25 years — each Soneva recycles 90-percent of its waste through its Waste-to-Wealth facility, sources sustainable building materials, bans single-use plastics, composts, raises coconut trees for oil, and operates a swim program for Maldivian children.