Last April & May, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class Düsseldorf to Singapore
- Review: Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City
- Review: The Reverie Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
- Review: Anantara Mui Ne Resort & Spa
- Review: Vietnam Airlines ATR-72 from Ho Chi Minh City to Con Dao
- Review: Six Senses Con Dao
- Review: Evason Ana Mandara, Nha Trang
- Review: Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
- Review: Amanoi, the best resort in Vietnam (today)
- Review: Avani Quy Nhon Resort & Spa
- Review: Anantara Hoi An Resort
- Review: Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An
- Review: Banyan Tree Lang Co
- Review: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
- Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Düsseldorf
Today (August 23, 2017): Review of Vietnam’s most exclusive hotel, Amanoi.
In 2013, Aman brought the brand’s signature sleekness to its debut resort in Vietnam, a contemporary beachside resort alongside a full-service Aman Spa overlooking spectacular Vinh Hy Bay in Nui Chua National Park, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. The luxury hotel’s polished, slate pagodas peek out from a lush green landscape; its infinity pool segues into the sea; and its spa rests by a lotus-blossom-dotted lake. Amanoi offers total privacy in beautifully designed accommodations that are located in 31 pavilions, a number with private swimming pools, and five Aman residences, all positioned on the hillside with impressive views. The off-the-grid property designed by world-famous architect Jean-Michel Gathy positively encourages calm contemplation, whether lounging by the cliffside pool or at the elegant beach club, or surrendering to the tranquillity of the Aman Spa – set by a lotus-filled lake with a floating yoga pavilion.
Amanoi features in my lists of the hottest luxury hotel openings of 2013, the 10 most fabulous luxury hotels in Vietnam, the 10 most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, the 10 best things to see and do in Vietnam, and my favorite 10 Aman resorts in the world.
In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Derived from the Sanskrit for ‘peace and ‘noi’ meaning place, Amanoi enjoys a dramatic location along the spectacular and rugged coastline of Vietnam’s southern Ninh Thuan Province. Separated from the world by miles of pristine wilderness, the ultraluxe resort is located inside the Nui Chua National Park on a wide, mountainous promontory which projects into the South China Sea. The beachside sanctuary boasts spectacular views of the protected waters of Vinh Hy Bay, which is part of a marine reserve surrounded by unique rock formations. The wild beauty of Amanoi’s surroundings spans ecosystems from tropical dry forest to lush ravines, and will knock you off your feet.
- The feeling of being far away from the civilized world and the stress of daily life is palpable throughout the resort, since Amanoi is removed from Vietnam’s often over-touristy urban resort centers. But despite its remote setting, the resort can be easily reached via a 75-minute drive from Cam Ranh Airport, which serves the popular Nah Trang area and receives regular flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Bangkok, and Seoul. While almost all visitors who arrive at Cam Ranh head north towards Nha Trang’s megalomane beach resorts, the lucky few who stay at Amanoi are driven in a luxury car 75 minutes in the opposite direction towards the lush forests and towering cliffs of Nui Chua National Park.
- Although Amanoi’s massive resort grounds rank among the most expansive in the world, the resort layout itself is quite convenient once you know your way. The rooms – located in stand-alone pavilions – are positioned on the hillside or around an inland lotus-filled lake where you also find the wellness center. Down the hill is a stylish beach club with restaurant and pool, overlooking a private stretch of gold sand beach. But the resort’s eye catcher is the Central Pavilion, which occupies the highest point in the resort and is home to the lobby, main restaurant, bar, library, boutique shop (which sells traditional Vietnamese lacquerware and other handmade items) and a second, even more stunning swimming pool.
- Upon arrival, guests are met by the resort staff with a welcome drink and cold towel at the lower level of Amanoi’s architecturally stunning Central Pavilion. From here, two broad and majestic staircases lead up to the Central Pavilion’s top floor which affords breathtaking views of the turquoise sea and green mountains. The first impressions of Amanoi’s lobby space are more reminiscent of a holistic sanctuary or sleek museum than a hotel. It makes each arrival at the resort an unforgettable, gracious and astonishing experience.
- Amanoi’s designers managed to meld the hotel infrastructure imperceptibly with the majestic topography of the landscape, with the resort’s curves discretely emerging from the green canopy. Featuring Aman’s signature style, the resort’s decor is the epitome of architectural minimalism, both on the inside and outside, and combines traditional Vietnamese influences and centuries-old antiques with natural materials and contemporary elegance. Amanoi is designed by the team of fellow Belgian Jean-Michel Gathy, the master architect behind some of the world’s most iconic hotels, such as The Setai in Miami, One & Only Retih Rah in the Maldives, the Marina Sands hotel in Singapore, and several other Aman resorts.
- Guest accommodations consist of 31 stand-alone pavilions, almost half of them equipped with private pools, and five private residences, all strategically spaced out, ensuring plenty of privacy. There are several accommodation categories to choose from. Mountain and Lake Pavilions offer picturesque views of either the surrounding mountains or the lake, while Mountain Pool Villas offer similar views alongside private swimming pools. Ocean Pavilion are located on the hillside and offer expansive ocean views of Vinh Hy Bay and the East Sea, with Ocean Pool Villas having the added luxury of a private pool. Two pavilions come with their own private spa, so-called Spa Houses (more on that below). Each one of the five Aman residences consists of four or five free-standing bedroom pavilions, as well as living and dining pavilions and a large 120m2 private swimming pool. Residences enjoy butler service in addition to an in-house cook, who meets all guests’ needs, including the preparation of Vietnamese or Western cuisine in the villa’s private kitchen.
- During my holiday, I was upgraded to a spectacular, so-called Mountain Pool Villa (Villa #6). The villa, which could be opened on two sides by pushing enormous pocket doors into the walls, drew on the grace of Vietnamese design by offering a combined bedroom and living room area. The airy space was equipped with an oversized king-size bed, writing desk, LCD TV with international channels, sound docking system, mini-bar, espresso machine, and a cozy seating area with one sofa and two loungers. The open-plan bathroom, which could be closed off from the bedroom with two pocket doors, featured a large bathtub between two sinks, with on one side an enclosed toilet and on the other a rain shower which had a sliding door towards the garden and large timber deck. The latter featured a magnificent private pool, which was heated and came with underwater lighting for night swimming.
- Amanoi’s two Spa Houses are the first of their kind in Asia. The Thuy Lien Spa House (meaning Lotus Spa House in Vietnamese) borders Amanoi’s tranquil lotus lake while the An Son Spa House (meaning Peaceful Mountain Spa House in Vietnamese) affords serene vistas of the national park. Both provide guests with completely private facilities together with one or two beautifully appointed guest pavilions. Facilities include a double treatment room, a contemporary Hammam or a wooden-clad Banya, a 15 m (50 ft) swimming pool, relaxation deck, outdoor dining area, steam room, cold plunge pool and Jacuzzi. Guests staying in a Spa House enjoy a daily Hammam or Banya treatment, a daily 90-minute Aman or Vietnamese massage, breakfast, and return airport transfers.
- Surrounded by million-year-old granite cliffs, the magnificent beach club is located a 10 minute buggy ride from the Central Pavilion along a private patch of gold sand beach. Designed to maximize the stunning views of Vinh Hy Bay, the Beach Club offers a restaurant (open for lunch only), that is outfitted in the resort’s superb minimalist design and wrapped by a large, black tiled infinity pool. Several pairs of very comfortable loungers are placed on the beach and perfectly spaced so that your privacy is never compromised. A range of water sports is available, such as Hobie Cats and kayaks which are perfect for exploring the caves and inlets around the bay. If you are a beach person, you will never want to leave here.
- Amanoi’s guests are spoilt for choice with two fabulous infinity pools, in addition to the private pools in the villas. The largest pool, 400m2 in size (or 130 ft in length), is located at the Beach Club and overlooks the gold sand beach and the turquoise waters of the marine conservation area around Vinh Hy Bay. The most spectacular pool though is the dramatic cliffside, 140m2 infinity pool, located around the corner of the Central Pavilion; this pool is lined with black volcanic rock and offer stupendous and mesmerizing views of the rocky shoreline. It’s without any doubt one of the most beautiful infinity pools I have ever seen during all my years of traveling, and it demonstrates how well thought the superlative design of the resort is.
- Amanoi’s superb wellness center is a destination unto itself, a retreat within a retreat, offering a journey of reawakening and relaxation via ancient healing modalities (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda) and modern spa treatments. Surrounded by the rolling hills of the national park, the wellness complex lies beside a lotus-filled lake. Facilities include five double treatment rooms, all with unique double bathtubs, private dressing areas and showers. Two hydrotherapy suites, each equipped with a heated stone treatment table, steam room, Jacuzzi and cold plunge pool, are complemented by hand and foot therapy rooms and a finishing salon. Unique chemical-free spa products are used in a treatment menu drawing on Vietnamese traditions. The spa complex also comprises a spacious, state-of-the-art fitness center, a Pilates Studio, and a gorgeous lakeside Yoga Pavilion at the bottom of the spa’s majestic staircase.
- Service is impeccable and attentive without being intrusive, as you would expect from an Aman resort. There’s a staff count of four staff to one guest. Rooms are cared for continuously through out the day and the staff magically knows when you’re not there. I did not have any issues with the English standards of the staff. Most speak excellent English, and miraculously, there is always someone popping up to address you in English when confronted with one of the few staff members that is not so fluent in English.
- Amanoi has two restaurants, both of them serving exquisite food. Set in the heart of the property on the Central Pavilion’s top floor, the main restaurant features soaring columns and has no walls, bringing the outside in. It has an elegant air-conditioned room, which might be a welcome respite from the humid climate, although you may prefer shady alfresco dining on the terrace which comes with terrific views. At night, the dining venue serves Vietnamese specialties (such as handrolls with shrimp and pork and beef pho noodle soup) in addition to continental cuisine, while an à la carte breakfast is offered each morning. The chef is passionate about his work and takes time to speak to guests about their individual tastes and preferences before preparing a meal. The restaurant at the Beach Club is only open for lunch, and it offers light meals – such as salads, burgers and catch of the day – accompanied by the pristine sand and the gentle sounds of the surf.
- Amanoi is a self-contained luxury oasis, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
- Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Amanoi is the most exclusive resort in Vietnam and also my favorite Aman resort in the world. The phenomenal resort blew me off my feet, and the scale, design and setting are stunning beyond words. It’s a hotel I found very hard to fault. In fact it’s nearly perfect, but you may want to know the following nonetheless when considering a stay at Amanoi:
- Amanoi sprawls across 100 acres of dense forest and rocky outcrops. Because the resort grounds are so spread out – they rank among the most expansive in the world – it does take some time to get around, although a very efficient buggy service is provided with waiting times reduced to the absolute minimum. The rooms, spa, Central Pavilion, and Beach Club are all located a 5 to 10 min gulf card ride from each other, so it does require a bit of organization to plan your schedule during the day. I believe that the resort experience and guest mobility would be enhanced by providing bikes or gulf carts to the guests for the duration of their stay (although the hilly terrain may make that option difficult and right-down dangerous)
- Although it was probably an anomaly not in line with Aman’s overall superb service, the hotel driver who dropped me off in Nha Trang after my stay displayed a reckless behaviour on the road, despite me asking him to slow down. This is Vietnam, where the lines between traffic safety and danger are not drawn very clearly, but nonetheless, it was the only car transfer in Vietnam where I felt uneasy because of the high speed and repeated overtaking on the narrow winding coastal road. To give you an idea: the route from Amanoi to Nha Trang takes about 2 hours by car, but I was dropped off in less than an hour.
- The resort has one main restaurant, located in the Central Pavilion, and a less formal dining venue at the beach if the weather allows. The menus did not change during my 3 day stay. So, the food options are a be limited when you consider a longer stay at Amanoi. Perhaps that the addition of daily specials, destinations cuisines, and/or private dining experiences would solve this problem.
- This off-the-grid place is as remote as it gets. Amanoi is located about a 2 hour drive from the nearest urban center, Nha Thrang, but IMHO, that’s a good thing. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to decompress for a few days. However, if you like night life and action-filled holidays, you may find yourself disappointed, since the Aman brand appeals to a different type of traveler.
- Yes, the hotel is extremely expensive according to Vietnamese standards, but it’s an Aman hotel, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, where holiday budgets come to die. You should know that going in. The most important thing is that when you can afford it, you will not be disappointed with the unique experience that awaits you. It’s a place you will never forget.
- Be prepared to become an Aman junkie as this will raise the bar for all your future trips.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Amanoi. Book a room at the cheapest price and/or receive many free perks!
- Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary lunch for two).
- Room tip: any accommodation type at Amanoi is bound to be a showstopper, but Ocean Pavilions with private pools are worth the extra price.
- Vietnam travel guide: get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Vietnam with my online travel guide.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time. Please check with your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate prior to travel. Generally, visas are required to enter, exit or transit through Vietnam. A visa on arrival can be obtained with a pre-approval letter procured through travel agents. Exceptions include passport holders from a select number of countries counting Russia, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia and ASEAN member countries.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Amanoi’s own micro-climate makes it ideal for travel year round weather-wise. The five star resort is located in the southern part of Vietnam, near Nha Trang, the driest part of the country with very little rainfall. Amanoi experiences a long hot summer from March to October. From mid-November till the second half of February the wind can be very strong and sometimes there is a lot of rain. The Ninh Thuan Province is known to have one of the best climate in the country, with average temperatures ranging from 22ºC to 35ºC (70°F to 95°F). The area is protected by mountain ranges, which means that storms are rare. Approximately 250 days of the year are sunny.
HOW TO GET THERE
Amanoi is located a 75 min drive from Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), which services Nha Trang. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cam Ranh Airport.