Asia – Where to Stay and What to Do
Note: This page is part of my Top Spots recommendations. It’s organized alphabetically by country and then by city, but it’s purposely not indexed since I want to inspire browsing, and help you to discover places you may not have thought of as kid-friendly. If you attempt to book one of these activities, restaurants or hotels and it’s not in business anymore, or you don’t find it to be kid-friendly, please let me know!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Destination: I love Siem Reap, both for the town (less charming every year, but still unique) and the nearby temples. It’s included in my Asia blog post.
- Tour Operator: Signatures of Asia handled everything for us, from airport transfers to our guide/driver and activities.
- Activity: See as many temples as you can fit into a day or two! But I recommend skipping sunrise at Angkor Wat. Arrive at 8am instead, after the sunrise tourists have gone back to their hotels.
- Hotels: All Shinta Mani properties! I’ve stayed in two now, but they’re all amazing with gorgeous design elements and excellent service, and they’re just a short walk from the center of town. Our pool villa at Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Siem Reap is probably the nicest place we’ve ever stayed.
- Activity: The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is amazing to see in person. I prefer the Mutianyu section of the wall, easily accessible with a private driver. Plan a trip for when you’ll have the wall almost to yourself. I’ve been able to accomplish this on cold winter days as well as on springtime afternoons.
Hong Kong, China
- Destination: Hong Kong is a great introduction to China (and Asia) for kids. English is still an official language, the metro (MTR) is very easy to use, the food is great, there are theme parks and a lot of interesting sites, and no visa is required to visit. My two blog posts on Hong Kong with Kids are here and here.
- Hotel: It’s expensive, but The Peninsula is the place to stay. Perfect service and location, and my son loved the pool.
- Hotel: The best value for a 5-star hotel is the Kowloon Shangri-La. I love the view and the breakfast. It’s maybe a 10-minute walk to the Star Ferry, so not as perfect a location as the Peninsula, but it’s usually 1/3 the price.
- Activity: Lantau Island. Go to see the giant Tian Tan Buddha, but also wander around the nearby temples, the Lantau trail and the Wisdom Path.
- Activity: Ocean Park is an amusement park with rides, an aquarium, giant pandas, and a lot to do to occupy the better part of a day – without many other tourists. One of the better parks for kids anywhere.
- Hotel: The Taj Mahal Palace is one of the best hotels in the world. Splurge on the palace wing. A great location too, with the Gateway of India across the street and a lot of great restaurants within walking distance.
- Destination: I love all of Rajasthan, but especially Jaisalmer with the Jaisalmer Fort and the desert nearby. One of my favorite places in the world.
- Hotel: The Suryagarh is amazing and not expensive – a literal palace.
- Destination: Bali is great for kids. There are beaches, hikes through amazing rice terraces, water parks and the Ubud Monkey Forest. It’s my 10-year-old’s favorite place in the world. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: The Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. The villas (with private pools), beach, pools, restaurants, service, kids amenities and kids club were all excellent. My daughter loved the AntiGravity Yoga!
- Hotel: The Four Seasons Sayan. Our villa was perfect, and I love the view from breakfast. As with all Four Seasons, the attention to and respect for kid guests is great to see.
- Hotel: Kayumanis Jimbaran is a private villa complex just two minutes from the beach. We loved our villa, private pool (the largest that I’ve seen on the island), afternoon tea and the overall service. It’s also priced far lower than larger resorts.
- Restaurant: Cuca is next door to Kayumanis Jimbaran and is excellent, with inventive tapas and fun attention to retail. Very kid-friendly as well. My 11-year-old says it’s her favorite restaurant anywhere.
- Restaurant: Kayumanis Resto at their Jimbaran location has excellent food, and the teakwood building is beautiful. My very best meal in Bali was here.
- Restaurant: We love Kafe Ubud – it’s our go-to lunch place whenever we’re in Ubud. Great atmosphere and a wide-ranging menu.
- Activity: My daughter’s absolute favorite thing on the island is the Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s a little nerve-wracking carrying/hiding bananas past the monkeys, but she loved feeding them and having them climb all over her.
- Activity: The A Day in the Life of a Balinese Farmer 4-hour excursion at Four Seasons Sayan was brilliant. We started with a hike through the nearby rice fields and forest, ate breakfast by the river, learned to prepare rice fields and plant rice, and then finished with Balinese massages. A really fun morning.
- Destination. Kyoto is amazing. Of course everyone knows Kyoto is amazing so it gets crowded. But go anyway. Just try to time your visit for off-season. My post on everything we did and loved is here.
- Hotel: We stayed at the Kyoto Inn Gion. Small rooms, but the location is great, and the staff is excellent.
- Activity: Head to Fushimi Inari shrine early in the morning to be able to walk through the orange gates without crowds.
- Activity: Arashiyama is known for the bamboo forest, but also walk along the river and visit the temples. It’s a great area of the city to spend the better part of a day.
- Activity: GEAR. A fun non-verbal performance featuring dance, magic and juggling.
- Destination: Tokyo is my youngest daughter’s favorite city in the world. From anime to the temples to Harajuku to the food, she loves it all. My blog post on Tokyo and everything we’ve done is here.
- Hotel: The Park Hyatt Tokyo. Ever since I saw Lost in Translation I wanted to stay here. It didn’t disappoint. Amazing rooms, service and views, and the pool is iconic. Don’t stay anywhere else!
- Activity: A food tour through Asakusa with Arigato Japan. One of our favorite food tours we’ve done anywhere in the world.
- Activity: A tour of Ikebukuro’s arcades with Context Travel. So much fun!
- Activity: The Mori Digital Art Museum is absolutely amazing – interactive light displays throughout two floors and a lot of unique rooms. Maybe my favorite museum in the world? Will be a must-visit every time we return to Tokyo.
Luang Prabang, Laos
- Destination: One of our favorite places in Asia, and still largely non-touristy. It’s included in this Asia blog post.
- Tour Operator: Signatures of Asia arranged everything for us.
- Hotel: We loved Satri House – a colonial atmosphere with an excellent breakfast and pool and only a few minutes’ walk to the night market and center of town.
- Activity: Our favorite thing was our half-day excursion to Kuang Si waterfall. I talk about it in the above post.
- Destination and Resort: Six Senses Laamu. Our favorite resort anywhere. Absolutely stunning in every direction, and very kid-friendly. We loved our overwater villa, the pool, the sunset hammocks, the kid-sized bicycles with customized plates, the food, the beaches and the prices. We moved on to another resort after Six Senses and it was a disappointment. Don’t stay anywhere else! My blog posts from our two stays are here and here.
Zighy Bay, Oman
- Destination and Resort: Six Senses Zighy Bay. This is an amazingly kid-friendly resort, with an option to paraglide in to check-in (my daughter loved it). It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s actually easily accessible from Dubai. From the villa setup to the kid-sized bicycles to the dining options to the kids club and teen club, it’s very family-friendly. My blog post is here.
- Destination: Palawan was amazing and very kid-friendly, with easy island-hopping, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, beaches and short hikes. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: We loved the Miniloc Island Resort. Everything was taken care of for us (airport transfers, meals, excursion bookings) and the other kids at the resort all seemed to be having a great time. The resort will move a third bed into its double rooms for kids.
- Destination: Doha is a great spot for a two-day layover if you’re flying Qatar Airways. My blog post is here.
- Activity: Dune Bashing. So fun!
- Activity: Souk Waqif. Loved walking through the souq. A great place to get dinner too.
- Activity: The Museum of Islamic Art is amazing, both the architecture and the collection.
- Activity: The new National Museum is spectacular.
- Destination: Singapore is a practically perfect city, and one of the safest cities in the world. We’ve found ourselves doing one-day/two-night layovers there frequently and always love going back. My post on how we maximize our short visits is here.
- Hotel: The Fullerton Hotel is perfectly located, just a short walk from the Merlion and the bay, and is very kid-friendly. We loved the interactive exhibits on the history of the hotel (it used to be the main post office). They even organized Segway rentals for us.
- Hotel: The Fullerton Bay Hotel is similarly perfectly located, and we loved the amazing view of the marina from our room.
Seoul, South Korea
- Destination: Sri Lanka has it all: culture; nature; great food; fun activities; and warm weather. My blog post is here.
- Activity: Take the train south from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya / Ella. Incredible!!!
- Hotel: The Cinnamon Citadel Kandy is perfectly located for exploring the central part of the island and is very kid-friendly (rooms, pool and food options).
- Hotel: We enjoyed the Hotel Eclat. The location was good, a few minutes from a MRT station, and kind of in the middle of the all of the places we wanted to go. The food at the basement restaurant was good and my son loved the disappearing wall between the bedroom and bath.
- Activity: Our cooking class with Ivy Chen was excellent, making dim sum, baked duck and pineapple cake. Ivy is a great instructor (very patient!) and the food was great.
- Hotel: The Peninsula Bangkok. I’ve stayed here several times solo and with my kids and it’s probably my favorite hotel in the world. There’s so much to love: the service; the pool; the iconic ferries across the river; the spa; the view (above); the food. My post on the optimal Bangkok layover is here.
Koh Kood, Thailand
- Resort: Soneva Kiri is one of the nicest resorts in the world. From the private flight from Bangkok to the gorgeous villas, excellent food, spa, activities, kids club and the chocolate room, there are very few places we would rather spend a week. My blog post on our stay is here.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Activity: Hot air ballooning over Chiang Mai with Balloon Adventure Thailand. One of my favorite mornings ever.
- Resort: Kempinski Barbaros Bay Bodrum. Very kid-friendly room configuration and a great pool. My blog post is here.
- Tour Operator: Sea Song Tours. We mainly used Sea Song in Istanbul, but they flawlessly organized our Bodrum visit as well
- Activity: A day (or week) on a gulet – a traditional Turkish wooden boat. We loved it!
- Destination: We loved everything about Cappadocia. My blog post is here.
- Tour Operator: Travel Atelier was amazing! They organized everything from our airport transfers to our hotel, car/driver and restaurant reservations. Flawless.
- Hotel: argos in Cappadocia. Our rooms were caves! Loved the location too.
- Tour Operator: Sea Song Tours. Loved all of the tours and kid-friendly activities they organized. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul. A literal palace, and a great location on the Bosphorus. Loved our rooms and breakfast, and the short walk to Ortaköy.
- Hotel: Raffles Istanbul. Absolute luxury and impeccable service, with an excellent pool and a great setup for families.
- Tours: Best of Ephesus Tours. There’s a reason they’re ranked number one on TripAdvisor. Our guide Isik was great at tailoring the tour to our kids, the heat and the crowds, and the lunch she arranged was among the best we’ve had in Europe.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
- Activity: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of my favorite buildings in the world. Go early, and avoid prayer time.
- Activity: The Louvre Abu Dhabi isn’t large – you can go through the entire museum in under an hour – but the collection is excellent and the building is gorgeous.
- Hotel: The Rosewood Abu Dhabi was great, and not expensive.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
- Destination: Ha Long Bay is one of the prettiest places in the world. I’ve been twice now, once with kids. Always worth the journey from Hanoi. My kiddo trip is summarized in this blog post.
- Cruiseline: Hera Cruises is amazing. The nicest boat on Ha Long Bay, and well worth the splurge. Loved our cabin and private deck, and the food was incredible.
- Tour Company: Signatures of Asia is based in Vietnam and we’ve used them twice now in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. They’ve handled all airport transfers, tours, guides/drivers, activities and flight bookings, without any issues at all. Highly recommended.
- Activity: A cooking class with H2H Vietnam. One of our favorites anywhere. We booked it through Signatures of Asia.
Hoi An, Vietnam
- Hotel: Almanity Hoi An Wellness Resort. Every booking comes with a spa treatment! My massage is one of the best I’ve had. Loved our room and the pool too, and it’s only maybe a 10-minute walk to the Japanese Bridge.
- Activity: When a lady comes up to you offering to take you up and down the river on a rowboat, do it! Pictured above. One of our favorite things on our Asia trip.
- Destination: Hue is Vietnam’s former capital and home to many emperors. One of the most interesting parts of Vietnam, and too many tourists skip it on the way to Hoi An. Stop for a night or two!
- Activity: The Imperial Palace (pictured) is amazing, similar to Beijing’s Forbidden City.