Vietnam's Best Barefoot Luxury Retreats

The open-air concept of Six Senses Ninh Van Bay by Six Senses Resorts

Eco-sensitivity goes hand-in-hand with high-style indulgence at these supremely green resorts.

A generation or two ago, luxury hotels were all but synonymous with grand, gilded finery, crystal chandeliers, towering marble columns, and fluffy duvets dusted with lace. Many of today’s travellers, however, crave a more understated sort of opulence. The following resorts swap the gaudy details for a paired-down, effortlessly chic aesthetic and a refined, yet relaxed vibe. Aside from spas and some very fine dining, these resorts offer visitors something slightly more substantial: a clean conscience. Guests can indulge while knowing their hosts make every effort to reduce their carbon footprints, protect the surrounding landscapes, and often support local communities. Though some sport dazzling designs, each endeavours to complement the stunning beauty of its surrounding environment rather than overwhelm it. After all, unimpeded access to some of the most striking nature on the planet is perhaps the greatest luxury of all.

Victoria Nui Sam Lodge

victoria nui sam lodge

Travelers seeking refuge from the constant barrage of emails, social media and obligations associated with our ever-more plugged-in lives should head to this blissfully quiet spot on the side of Vietnam’s spiritually revered Sam Mountain. The 36 rooms and villas stick to a natural aesthetic, using locally sourced stone and wood to blend in with their sacred surroundings. There’s little to intrude on your meditative contemplation here as you survey sweeping views of rice paddies stretching the horizon. You may well never want to leave the premises, but for the adventurous, the stunning 850-hectare Tra Su Bird Sanctuary is just a short trip away. In addition to its brilliantly plumed avian inhabitants, this biodiverse flooded mangrove forest houses mammals, reptiles, and fish between within its gnarled branches and emerald canopy.


Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

six senses barefoot luxury

Set at the foot of a verdant slope on a supremely picturesque, tree-studded shoreline, the Six Senses Ninh Van Bay’s greenery extends well below the surface. Sustainability is a hallmark of this hotel group, which consistently goes the extra mile to protect the fragile ecosystems of its resorts’ often remote natural surroundings. In addition to minimising waste and recycling wherever possible, the resort’s coral conservation initiative, launched in April 2013, aims to study the local reef and promote biodiversity. Meals overlooking the sapphire crescent of Ninh Van Bay highlight organic produce specially grown just three hours away in Ðà Lạt, as well as the region’s local seafood. The spa goes above and beyond the usual list of massages to create bespoke healing journeys designed to ease away the stresses of urban life, including one- to three-day detox programs.


An Lam Saigon River

An unadulterated view of the Saigon River at your own private villa. Photo courtesy of An Lam.

It might be only a short boat ride down the river from the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, but this intimate green getaway feels like another world. With only 15 rooms, the place feels exceptionally private and the staff extraordinarily attentive. The resort revolves around a pool meticulously designed to mirror feng shui principles. Ancient trees and river grasses merge at the edges with the resort’s paradisiacal gardens perfumed with tropical flora. Settle into a riverside seat at Luc Binh Restaurant and Bar, order a cocktail, and watch the Saigon River creep by.


Evason Ana Mandara

evason ana mandara barefoot luxury

Situated directly on the sugar sands of Nha Trang, this plush oasis takes its eco-ethos to the next level. While some resorts are content to simply talk the talk, Evason Ana Mandara takes every detail into account to stay as green as possible, right down to the natural, biodegradable garbage bags and mostly recycled, double-side printed paper. The resort also runs its own recycling facility, uses naturally dyed fabrics to avoid toxic bleach, keeps its pools clean without chlorine, collects harmful electronics such as batteries, and sends all of its food waste to a nearby farm for composting. If that sounds like a lot, rest assured that all those sustainability measures merely enhance the overall experience. During their visit, guests can kick their shoes off to salute the sun right on the beach, sample local delicacies at the weekly hawker market right on the property, or heal mind and body with holistic spa treatments using all-natural ingredients like green coffee, ginger, saffron and even Nha Trang’s mineral-dense mud.


Topas Ecolodge

Topas Ecoldoge Barefoot Luxury

Perched up on one of the highest of Sapa’s verdant peaks, the Topas Ecolodge consists of rustic-chic, thatched-roof bungalows overlooking seemingly endless rice paddies. The view alone would be more than reason enough to spend a weekend here, but the resort also invites guests to trek, mountain bike and explore the highlands. The lodge takes its commitment to both the local community and environment seriously. Not only does the resort train and employ members from neighbouring villages, but it also contributes water to rice farmers during planting season, buys local produce whenever possible, and supports a school in the area. A combination of hydro and solar power, as well as careful waste recycling programs and a natural water purification system help ensure that Sapa remains lush and lovely.


Mango Bay Resort

mango bay barefoot luxury

This low-key charmer is all about enjoying the slow life on the sleepy shores of Phú Quốc. What Mango Bay Resort lacks in amenities—there’s no air-conditioning, no televisions and no phones in the 44 bungalows—it more than makes up for with its stunning 10 hectares of pristine beachfront. For those looking to disconnect from the stresses today’s hyper-connected society, this place offers an authentic back-to-nature experience, plus yoga, tai chi and a spa to complete your digital detox.

by Diana Hubbell

A former editor at Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia and a current contributor to The Guardian, Travel + Leisure, VICE, Voyeur, and SilverKris, among others, Diana Hubbell has been smitten with Southeast Asia for years. She is currently obsessed with Vietnamese street food and is already plotting where to find her next bowl of phở. You can follow her work at her website, dianahubbell.com.