Southeast Asia is no stranger to scorching summers. In fact, many destinations keep warm year-round, which is why the region is often the first port of call for beach lovers. If you’ve already been to big hitters like Bali, Maldives, Philippines and Thailand, look beyond the usual suspects to discover a slew of blissful getaways.
Whether you’re sneaking away as soon as possible or saving up for a rainy day, these sun-drenched destinations in Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam will spoil you with clear water, golden sand and memorable activities — both in and out of the water. All that’s left to do is set your email auto-reply and enjoy.
KOH RUSSEY, CAMBODIA
Cambodia has probably been on your bucket list for a while. After all, it’s home to the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex and countless historic sites showcasing the brilliance of ancient Khmer civilizations.
By all means, visit this UNESCO World Heritage wonder, but don’t miss Cambodia’s oft-overlooked corners. If you have sand and sun on the mind, skip down to the Gulf of Thailand to take in its rapidly evolving islands and coastal towns.
About a 45-minute flight south of Siem Reap, Sihanoukville city is the entry point to Thailand’s tropical paradise but far from the highlight. Instead, find your way to one of the 60 islands peppered across the inviting turquoise waters, including top spots like Koh Rong, Koh Ta Kiev and Koh Rong Sanloem.
Tracing the coastline to the south, Kep plays host to pretty beaches, a famous crab market and delicious seafood restaurants where dishes like Kampot pepper crab are a must-try. And just inland, Kampot beckons with charming river scenery, open-air bars, yoga studios and such a low-key, relaxed lifestyle that you might consider planting some roots.
Where to stay: Opened earlier this year, Alila Villas Koh Russey is the ultimate choice for a few pampered nights in beach paradise. There’s nearly a mile of sand to explore, gorgeous modern Khmer architecture, standalone beachfront villas with private pools, complimentary yoga sessions, private picnics on a tiny sister island next door and several commendable environmental initiatives. For instance, every Sunday, the plastic-free hotel invites guests to join a beach cleanup to keep the island free from incoming debris.
When to go: The skies above southern Cambodia run like a faucet from June to October. It can be extremely wet during this time period and, due to extensive construction, the southern coastal roads can be congested and, occasionally, inaccessible. It’s best to visit between November and May for clear skies and lots of sunshine.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site that was a bustling trade port from the 15th to 19th centuries, Hoi An has long charmed travelers with its leafy lanes and coffee shops, French colonial buildings and ancient temples, local restaurants and silk tailors. It’s a wonderful complement to sunny Da Nang, where the coastline stretches as far as the eye can see.
On the coast, you’ll bask in clear water and powdery sand framed by Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain in the distance. Whether you’re here for a few days or a week, boredom is never an issue: choose from snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, a hike through the majestic Marble Mountains to the south or a full day trip to Hue Imperial City up north.
Where to stay: A beachfront home base is the way to go in Danang. Pullman Danang Beach Resort, a Forbes Travel Guide Recommended property, sits along golden Bac My An Beach and offers a comprehensive selection of water sports and activities, ranging from surf lessons to beach volleyball.
Heading south toward Hoi An, Five-Star Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An presents a lesson in luxury with waterfront restaurants, sparkling pools and ocean-view villas, plus one of the most beautiful spas in the country.
In the heart of the Son Tra Peninsula Nature Reserve, where red-shanked douc langur monkeys rule the jungle, you’ll find the Bill Bensley-designed InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. In addition to ogle-worthy architecture, the Four-Star property also delivers excellent views, a private beach and phenomenal cuisine thanks to the Pierre Gagnaire-helmed La Maison 1888.
When to go: Danang is warm year-round, but the rainy season can put a damper on your plans. It’s best to avoid October through December, when monsoon season is most intense. Aim instead for the sunniest and driest months, from February to April.
Sitting in the Andaman Sea in northwestern Malaysia (about 55 minutes northwest of Kuala Lumpur by air), Langkawi is one of the most alluring islands in Asia. In-the-know sun-seekers flock here year in and out, lured by the crystal-clear water, dramatic cliffs and lush jungle scenery.
The beaches won’t disappoint, but there’s much more to do besides sunbathe, from going on mountain hikes, scuba diving and island-hopping to exploring action-packed night markets, mangroves and a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Where to stay: There are many beautiful properties in Langkawi. We’d recommend recently renovated The Datai Langkawi, which has reigned as one of the island’s top properties for years, or idyllic The St. Regis Langkawi for its spacious suites and Andaman Sea views.
When to go: The most popular time to visit Langkawi falls between November and April, when the rain recedes and blue skies prevail. But if you don’t mind short but intense downpours in the evenings — this is the tropics, after all — we’d recommend considering offseason for fewer crowds.