The JW Marriott Phu Quoc has cornered the market in luxury resorts with endless Instagram opportunities and a side of stunning white beaches.
Where is it? On the southern Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc. Part of the Marriot International Hotel group, the JW Marriot Phu Quoc is among an influx of new luxury hotels set to turn the island into South East Asia’s next holiday hotspot.
What’s the vibe? Designed and executed by eccentric architect Bill Bensley, the JW Marriot Phu Quoc is themed entirely after the fictional Lamarck University. And boy do they take the theme seriously – the Hotel Manager is referred to unfalteringly as The Dean, with a statue in the entrance hall made in the likeness of his imaginary scientist great grandfather.
Each building is dubbed after a different area of study – the cocktail bar is the Department of Chemistry, while the spa is the Department of Mycology (mushrooms). And every corner is decorated accordingly with vintage props sourced by Bensley from his travels, while many of the buildings have been painstakingly hand-painted by staff.
If it sounds like something Disney dreamed up you’re on the right track, though the grandeur is Gatsby-level. The blow-the-budget details start before you’ve even stepped through the front door with a drive flanked by two giant brass statues of Lamarck’s mascot, the Phu Quoc Ridgeback dog. Even if you can’t bring yourself to suspend your belief for Bensley’s University vision, the pristine, white, palm-lined beaches will have you falling hook, line and sinker for the resort.
A University, eh? What’s on my schedule? In keeping with the theme, the hotel offers a daily timetable of activities, and there’s something for everyone from traditional Vietnamese lantern making to surf yoga.
Any extra curricular activities? Artisanal cocktail making at the Chemistry Department is a must. Or you can just sit back and let the experts do the legwork while you lounge on one of the plush daybeds staring out over the hotel beach, Emerald Bay. We recommend the hotel’s take on the Pina Colada.
If you’re feeling worse for wear the next day, one of the hotel’s three pools will provide some welcome relief. The shell pool was below our window and we can confirm it provides some mighty fine Instagram opportunities.
Or I might check into that spa you mentioned? Among the shops on the promenade which leads to the beach, the Chanterelle Spa or Department of Myology definitely lives up to its name, thanks to its trippy Alice In Wonderland inspired interior.
Framed pictures of fungi cover the ceiling and staff wear Alice costumes. But don’t be fooled: these ladies definitely aren’t lost. The menu of massages are executed in heavenly style, and afterwards you’ll be treated to fresh ginger tea and a prescription of the divine smelling Aromatherapy Associates oils used during your treatment.
So the rooms must be pretty amazing? Yup. Despite the theme, these are definitely no student digs. We were Conchology (that’s the study of shells) students for our stay, and the sea-view rooms definitely earned their five stars with high ceilings, four poster beds, roll top baths and rainfall showers.
What kind of things did you eat? We previewed the menu at the hotel’s recently opened beachside restaurant, Red Rum. The freshly-caught seafood and complimentary wine menu is divine - especially with a side of citrusy Vietnamese fish sauce. If you love a big breakfast, then head down to Tempus Fugit for its buffet menu of pastries, eggs, continental favourites, fresh juices and a super sweet Vietnamese iced coffee.
Who would like this hotel? Travellers who want pure R&R in a unique setting. You need never leave the resort so it’s ideal for honeymoons.
Price: Doubles from £308 (jwmarriottphuquoc.com) including breakfast. Many of the activities are included in the price.
Getting there: Fly Vietnam Airlines (vietnamairlines.com) from London Heathrow to Ho Chi Minh City, which is a 50-minute internal flight from Phu Quoc.