The 10 hotels that have us longing for island life

Not to brag, but we may well have solved the dilemma of finding a destination that’s far from the madding crowd of mass tourism. Whether a swanky aerie overlooking the Mediterranean or a powdery white beach in South East Asia, every resort on our list makes the grade for stylishly designed digs and attentive service, alongside a postcard-worthy setting that has us longing for island life.

Swimming pool at Como Uma Canggu hotel, Indonesia
(Image credit: press)

Como Uma Canggu

The newest jewel in hotelier Christina Ong’s small but exquisitely edited collection, this 64-room property sits on a stretch of prime beach-front in Bali hot-spot, Canggu. The curiously fusion mood – think copper hued tiles, pale blonde timber furniture and judicious lashings of batik – comes courtesy of Japanese architect Koichiro Ikebuchi and Milan-based interior designer Paola Navone, whilst the restrained landscaping is the work of Bali-based Trevor Hillier. A spa treatment at the Como Shambala Retreat is de rigueur, but so is a lesson at the in-house surf school.

Jalan Pantai Batu Mejan, Echo Beach, Canggu, Bali, T 62. 361 620 2228, Rates from $425

Healing Stay Kosmos
South Korea

The logistics of reaching this oddly-monikered resort – which includes a three-hour ferry ride from Gangneung port – pays handsome dividends. On the side of a steep icepick-shaped peak of a volcanic island, Seongnam-based architects The System Lab have curled snow-white concrete walls that swoop and swirl like the unusually potent chi energy fields that locals believe flow through the island. Inside, sparely furnished rooms with blue-grey stone floors and a severe white palette curve and bend like the interior of a giant seashell. On the menu of diversions is a pristine haul of sea-caves, waterfalls, temples, and ancient forests.

88-13, Chusan-gil, Buk-myeon, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Republic of Korea, T 82. 54 791 7788, Rates from 350,000 won

Healing Stay Kosmos

(Image credit: press)

Dominican Republic

Set on a vertiginous 60ft cliff overlooking the fabled Playa Grande beach, the Aman group’s first foray into the Caribbean is a dramatic combination of ocean views, mountain-scaping and architect John Heah’s 25 casitas (ten of which feature 10m private lap pools) of locally quarried stone, Aguayo tiles and flat gardened roofs. Trade winds sweep through the cool white open pavilions and whilst it’s tempting to hit the adjoining 370-acre golf-course, we’re fully committed to the spa treatments based on energy-based shamanic healing.

Auto. 5 Carretera Rio San Juan – Cabrera Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic, T 1. 809 589 2888, Rates from $1,650

Ocean view at Amanera hotel, Dominican Republic

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Anantara Kihavah Maldives
The Maldives

The Maldives is that rare destination where you could throw down a twig shack on the blinding white sand and it would still be drop-dead beautiful. However, when you frame 80 beach and over-water villas – designed by Ed Pool with grass thatched roofs and lined with white stone and soft drapes – against a horizon of turquoise water and a dome of blazing evening stars, then all bets are off. In the spa, an Ayurvedic shirodhara treatment beckons, whilst a post-prandial treat is the Maldives’ only over-water observatory.

P.O. Box 2098, Kihavah Huravalhi Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives, T 960. 660 1020, Rates from $995

Over-water guestroom at Anantara Kihavah Maldives, The Maldives

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Bawah Reserve

Sailors and divers alike have long flocked to Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago for its sun-kissed beaches and coral-flecked waters of the South China Sea, but more sedentary types have been thrilled by the arrival of the 300 hectare, 35-villa Bawah Reserve. Bolstered by eco-sustainability features alongside a marine conservation programme, the resort comprises six private islands, a dozen beaches and three lagoons – the whole, beautifully anchored by Singapore-based architect Sim Boon Yang’s austere white tented suites and over-water bungalows constructed of bamboo, found and recycled timber.

Anambas, Riau Island, Indonesia, T. 65. 6322 3132, Rates from $1,780

Over-water guestrooms at Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

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Together with Balinese architects Chiko Wirahadi and Ketut Indra Saputra, the New Zealand-born architect Miles Humphreys has created a grown-up fantasy of a Robinson Crusoe getaway, complete with a recently finished spa. Whilst sister resort Nikoi, a half-hour speedboat ride away, is made of driftwood, the 42-acre, 20-villa Cempedak is built entirely of sustainable bamboo, recycled teak and rubber wood, and topped with grass-thatched roofs. There are literally no walls, not even in the second-floor bedroom and shower – the better to catch the sea breezes, and be lulled to sleep by the softly lapping sea.

Cempedak Island, Air Gelubi, Bintan Pesisir, Bintan Regency, Riau Islands, Indonesia, T 62. 811 700 8040, Rates from: S$450 

Infinity pool at Cempedak hotel, Indonesia

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Santorini’s fabled caldera takes centre-stage at the all-suite Erosantorini, the entire two-acre property staking a prime position a thousand feet above the sea. Athens-based studio X2 Architecture terraced five cubed suites into the side of the island, the windows and doors opening over that unearthly combination of sea and wild volcanic rock. The cool white interiors – dressed in Frette linen, rough pebbled surfaces and raw timber – are the work of Paola Navone, her light touch mirrored in the resort’s v-shaped pool and menu of white eggplants, roasted lamb and freshly baked bread.

Messaria 84700, Santorini, T 30. 211 012 9116, Rates from €1,426

V-shaped infinity pool at Erosantorini hotel, Greece

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Olea All Suite Hotel

For this all-suite property on the south-east coast of the Greek isle of Zakynthos, the Athens and Stockholm-based practice Block722architects+ and its interiors arm Block722+ have channelled a subtle modernist take of the island’s raw beauty. Alongside three restaurants and three bars, the 93 spacious rooms – cast in concrete cubed shells clustered around a 4,000sqm pool – are furnished in a muted earthy palette of bamboo, oak, rattan and pleasingly rough fabric. The spa treatments are equally unexpected, not least a blast of cryotherapy and a considerably calmer Ayurvedic session.

Tsilivi, Zakynthos Island, Greece, T 30. 26950 22265, Rates from €253 

Modernist guestrooms at Olea All Suite Hotel, Zakinthos, Greece

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Southern Ocean Lodge

Getting to this South Australian jewel on Australia’s third largest island involves a half hour flight from Adelaide following by a nearly two-hour drive. But the effort is rewarded with a wildly beautiful 21-suite retreat designed by architect Max Pritchard set on a dramatic sea-cliff with views of Hanson Bay. Five hundred kilometres of coastline and 50 beaches are on call, but considerably less ambitious itineraries include a tour of the walk-in cellar stocked with South Australian vintages, a spa treatment scented with local botanicals, or simply a retreat to rooms swathed with limestone and killer views.

Hanson Bay Road, Kingscote, South Australia, T 6. 2 9918 4355, Rates from $1,200 per person per night

Bar at Southern Ocean Lodge hotel, Kingscote, Australia

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The Naka Phuket

Phuket’s sun-lit charms may have diluted a little over the years due to mass tourism, but The Naka distances itself with a secluded location – accessible only by a solitary road cutting through the mountain – in the island’s western fringe. Here, architect Duangrit Bunnag has inserted 94 all-pool, glass pavilions into the thick tropical shrubs, with every bedroom cantilevered over the edge. The interiors are swathed in warm wood to match the exterior greenery, though it would be a pity to miss quality time in the Olympic-sized infinity pool or by the private white-sanded beach.

1/18, 1/20 Moo 6 Kamala, Kathu, Phuket, Thailand, T 66. 76 337 999, Rates from THB11,700

Swimming pool at The Naka Phuket hotel, Phuket, Thailand

(Image credit: press)

Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.