- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
‘Don’t go to Vietnam for the weather,’ is what I always advise. Because while you get dry, sunny days in one region, another will be humid and sticky. You’ll get good days and bad. So when I arrived at Amanoi in the driving rain, off-season, the climate wasn’t a surprise for me. Falling in love with the resort in spite of this, however, was a real turn-up for the books.
Set in the heart of a national park and surrounded by dramatic, rocky hills overlooking a pretty cove, Amanoi is all about the setting. There is a small but perfectly formed beach, a nearby fishing village, some great hiking and biking, and even a smattering of local temples. This is somewhere to relax completely, read a book beneath the spectacular backdrop, unwind in a stunning and spacious spa and sample some fabulous, local and international cuisine.
I’d expected to spend my time at Amanoi wondering how to fit this property into a Vietnam itinerary – would you end here or start here? However, over the days exploring and relaxing, it became clear to me that this is a destination in itself. Very much its own entity, this experience could form part of a tour, but it could also be an end in itself, particularly given the wellness programmes, the superb cuisine and (these days) the good flight connections.
The hotel occupies a huge parcel of land, but with only a smattering of villas, I wondered whether it would feel soulless, especially off-season. It’s hard to put my finger on what tipped the balance but even with a low-ish occupancy it was fun and convivial. I guess that’s the sign of a great team, a sympathetic architect, a sociable general manager, a creative chef and inspired staff. Amanoi had all those ingredients, and a superb dish it served up, too.
As dramatic and romantic as it was to arrive in the rain, it wasn’t the best weather to take in the extraordinary views from the Central Pavilion. And so it was that the general manager welcomed me at the hotel entrance and promptly let me go straight to my room for a speedy check-in in-situ. Given the weather, it was the most thoughtful and appropriate way to kick off the hotel experience.
Rooms and suites
The villa interiors are almost all the same, as is often the case with Aman properties. My villa, like all the others, was accessed along a private pathway reminiscent of a Japanese home with a low, gabled roof and elegant grey tiling. The interiors featured muted tones and Scandinavian-style, exquisitely crafted furniture, the layout of which had been meticulously planned. The lofty ceiling, the graceful columns, the warm hanging lighting and the soft textiles all made for a surprisingly cosy composition and a setting conducive to complete relaxation.
The villa was technically open-plan, although there was a sliding door to create separate bathroom and bedroom areas should you prefer. The bed was supremely comfortable, with crisp white linen and generous side- tables. The mini-bar was well stocked, and ice was provided daily without being requested. The desk was rather elegantly placed overlooking the fantastic views from the terrace – perfect should you need to compose a letter or, heaven forbid, do any work.
From the bedroom and living area I could walk out onto my private deck. I was lucky enough to be placed in a private Pool Villa, well worth the upgrade, and the terrace offered commanding views. Everything was on one level, making it very accessible and easy to navigate.
Lighting was simple and intuitive, and the sound system easy to connect to a Bluetooth device. Both wi-fi and mobile signals were strong, and although there was a TV in the centre of the room servicing both the bed and the living areas, it didn’t overpower the space. Amans are usually fairly tech-light, and this one was no exception. There were no iPads or fussy controls, just simple and elegant systems.
The zen-like decor continued into the well-appointed bathroom. Amenities were discreetly placed in a chic linen box, and a sun hat was provided along with a dark-grey beach bag. The dressing gowns were made of the crispest white linen, and there were oodles of white towels. The bathtub was the centrepiece of the room with twin vanity units either side. Lighting was a bit low for my liking, but there was a shaving mirror with back-lighting, ensuring that make-up application was easy. There was also a well-placed electricity socket for the salon-strength hairdryer.
Both the WC and the shower unit were behind closed doors for those seeking privacy, and the shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap were unbranded and provided in stylish ceramic containers and refilled twice a day.
The Central Pavilion is host to the main dining areas, both outside and air-conditioned. The outdoor tables are fairly sheltered while still enjoying great views.
These tables wrap around an indoor eatery, which is best described as a Japanese take on a French bistro. In true Aman style, the tables are at a discreet distance from each other, while the atmosphere retains a zen-like hubbub.
The fare is the same no matter where you sit. However, I barely studied the menu as the chef was quick to approach and encouraged me to overlook the daily offerings and instead discuss my likes and dislikes, what I felt like eating and what might work for me. He went off without divulging the results of our exchange, simply indicating that he would create something tailored to my palate.
True to his word, he produced an exquisite local fish, seasoned beautifully and paired with a delicious (and surprisingly reasonable) champagne. Furthermore, he took note of my request for crab, which was neither on the menu nor in the kitchen, and sourced it for the following night. That crab was the most tender and meaty I have ever had.
In spite of the rain, I ventured out to take lunch at the beach club one day, and the offerings there were a twist on the standard burger/pizza menus of other, less creative hotels. My local fish salad was perfectly spiced, and the waiter was quick to notice a flat glass of champagne without me needing to mention it. It’s a lovely venue to eat down by the sea, overlooking the lap pool, even if the weather then was more British than tropical.
Other restaurant options
As Amanoi is limited to two restaurants, it gets creative with private dining and has a wealth of venues as well as an inventive chef willing to tailor-make anything you like. Obviously, there is also room service with a modest choice of dishes, and all rooms have at least one set of table and chairs suitable for dining.
The hotel is somewhat remote, which means that although there are a few lovely Aman excursions that include lunch out, on the whole, guests tend to eat in.
Spa and wellness
The Aman group has not always built dedicated spa complexes into its layouts but Amanoi is one of the first to make it a focal point, and what an impressive place it is.
Modelled on Chinese-style temples, five individual pavilions all overlook a central lagoon and a yoga sala. These treatment rooms are extremely spacious, and two separate hydrotherapy suites can be booked at no additional cost. This is well worth doing as they are beautifully appointed and provide the icing on the cake of any treatment.
The spa menu takes inspiration from Western (mainly Scandinavian) and Vietnamese traditions using local herbal compresses and oils as well as bamboo and hot stones. It’s also possible to get manicures, pedicures and even a haircut.
However, the resort takes a truly holistic approach, focusing on wellness through activity, as well as more traditional spa-based treatments. With a spacious and well-equipped gym, a state-of-the-art Pilates studio and a number of private spaces, the hotel puts on daily complimentary wellness classes including yoga, Pilates, meditation, tai chi, qigong and various others, depending on visiting practitioners. There are also personal trainers on hand for kickboxing, TRX and tailored fitness sessions. They host themed retreats, which are worth investigating if you have specific interests.
For spa aficionados, within the grounds are two Spa Houses, stunning accommodation for those wanting a completely immersive wellness experience. The villas include a treatment room and also a complete hydrotherapy suite.
Pool and beach
Many villas have their own private pool, which means that the two communal pools are often deserted. The spectacular clifftop infinity lap pool, adjacent to the Central Pavilion, is a wonderful place to while away the afternoon on one of the elegant sun loungers. It commands far-reaching views over the resort grounds down to the ocean below, where you’ll find the beach club. Here there is another huge pool next to the open-air, stylish and lofty restaurant area, with views of the ocean and the sandy beach. Although modest in size, the beach is sheltered enough to swim safely, and there is a smattering of loungers. Service is offered from the club.
There is no kids’ club per se, but there was a charming French family at the hotel during my stay who seemed perfectly content with the activities on offer, namely hiking, biking and swimming. This is not a venue where you’ll find structured pursuits but the staff are very accommodating and endeavour to keep little ones entertained. As with many Amans, the hotel tends towards a quieter crowd, so boisterous families may find it hard to settle. They should consider taking a private pool villa or one of the larger residential villas with plenty of space to make as much noise as they like.
Staff and service
As expected, the service experience at Amanoi was exemplary, from my smooth arrival to the time I left. The barman remembered how hot I liked my Bloody Mary, the chef took the trouble to source crab especially for me, the GM managed to give everyone undivided attention and the housekeeping was immaculate. Every last detail was considered, and the service went way beyond expectations.
There is a sophisticated set at Amanoi, well heeled and chic but also adventurous and active. At breakfast, guests are generally dressed for hiking or the spa, but by dinner everyone has smartened up for the stylish restaurant. There was quite an international crowd when I was there, with guests from Korea, America, France, Britain and Germany, but I also understand there is often a healthy dose of regional visitors from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. Everyone is united in their politesse, their discernment for the finer things in life and their interest in wellness and the local culture.
As I was going on to another hotel, Aman co-ordinated the drop-off/pick-up point, organised a snack for the journey and arranged a quick check-out for me, so that from departing the room to leaving the hotel probably took less than five minutes – unfussy and effortless.
How to get there
75 minutes by road transfer from Cam Ranh International Airport
36 suites, villas and residences