Wa Ale is the first hotel to open in Myanmar’s Myeik Archipelago – 800 jungle-draped islands in the Andaman Sea. You’re barely a speck on the map and reality is many nautical miles away, so it’s time to get swept up in Wa Ale’s wild spirit: daring dives, jungle hikes and kayak expeditions. In the evenings, you’ll swap stories over sundowners before gathering for Chef Ray’s Burmese noodle salads, vegetable curries and spicy grilled fish. With sea breezes swishing through your capacious tented villa, you can drift off with the comforting knowledge that this do-no-harm eco-resort has a solid heart of green.
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A string bag handmade by local artisans in Myanmar
14, including 11 tented beach villas and three thatched treetop villas perched up in the canopies.
There are no formal processes here because Wa Ale organises your transfers to and from the island, so your villa will always be ready when you arrive. Arrivals and departures are on Tuesdays and Saturday only, unless you make special arrangements.
Double rooms from £455.41 ($620), including tax at 5 per cent.
The all-inclusive rate includes breakfast, lunch and dinner; house wine, beer and all non-alcoholic beverages; speedboat transfers; paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, jungle hikes and cultural visits.
Have a cinematic workout in the 700sq ft open-air jungle gym with panoramic island views. There are yoga classes for sea-breezy asanas or HIIT and TRX classes if you’re feeling fierce. Craving cardio? The deserted beaches are long, flat and perfect for running.
Wa Ale closes for the rainy season from 1 June to 30 September.
At the hotel
9,000 acres of private-island paradise, a PADI-certified dive center, paddle boards, kayaks, snorkelling equipment, spa, outdoor exercise pavilion with yoga, HIIT and TRX classes, bocce court, table tennis and free WiFi. In rooms: mosquito nets, citronella insect repellent, coral-safe sunscreen and biodegradable bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Forget everything you know about tents, because this has nothing to do with camping. Wa Ale’s sprawling villas offer the ultimate in castaway romance: private teak terraces with lots of options for lounging, king-size four-poster beds draped with mosquito nets, indoor-outdoor bathrooms so you can shower under the stars and uninterrupted ocean and jungle views. The thatched treetop villas are perched up in the jungle canopy.
There’s no pool at Wa Ale but with that clear, calm ocean, two spectacularly beautiful beaches and a freshwater lagoon, you won’t give it a second thought.
After a day’s hiking, diving or paddle-boarding, you can have a delicious massage on your villa’s private terrace. Or unwind in the Ayurveda-led spa set in the forest by the beach. You'll first have a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor to customise your wellness plan then you'll indulge in bespoke treatments such as Abhyangam anti-stress massages and reflexology.
The hotel provides the diving and snorkelling gear, coral-safe sunscreen and citronella insect spray, so just bring your adventurous spirit and your breeziest beachwear. If you're going hiking, we also recommend long trousers and closed-toe shoes.
Wa Ale is spread out and sandy, so it’s unsuitable for wheelchair users.
Adventurous little Smiths aged 10 and over are welcome at Wa Ale (prices range from $160 to $265 a child, each night depending on the season). The beach villas are best for families – the sofas convert to twin beds.
Safeguarding the Lampi Marine National Park’s pristine ecosystem and local community is Wa Ale’s raison d’ȇtre and founding mission. Twenty per cent of the resort’s revenues go straight into the Lampi Foundation, which invests in initiatives like sea turtle hatcheries, coral protection and local entrepreneurship. The lodge’s carbon footprint is minimal: it relies almost exclusively on solar power and doesn’t use traditional air-conditioning – high-efficiency fans and sea breezes work remarkably well as alternatives. All water from every tap at Wa Ale is drinkable and double filtered, the bath products are biodegradable and the sunscreen provided is coral safe. Plus, all the food that Chef Ray cooks up is locally sourced, organic, fair trade, seasonal, free range or grown on site at the resort’s organic garden. Take a deep breath: a stay at Wa Ale is good for the soul in more ways than one.
Soak up the ocean views and sea breezes at the alfresco tables in the main pavilion.
Light dresses and linen.
Not a single tree was removed from the island when Wa Ale was built, so every part of the hotel blends in perfectly with its wild jungle surroundings. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the open-air main pavilion, made with reclaimed wood from old fishing boats and traditional Burmese buildings, with views over the ocean. Chef Ray dreams up the menu daily to incorporate the best of the organic produce from Wa Ale’s garden and the so-fresh-it’s still-wriggling catch of the day. Breakfasts offer healthy fuel for morning adventures: gluten-free granola, chia bowls, yogurts, made-to-order juices, smoothies and delicious omelettes. Lunch is a rolling, communal affair with zingy salads and earthy grain bowls or hearty pad thais to share. In the evenings, you’ll be seated under the stars for Asian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes like brick oven-roasted pizzas, grilled duck breast, masala-spiced fish, pork belly curries and crab dumplings.
Pull up a brightly patterned beanbag at the River Café, a jaunty beach shack with friendly bartenders who’ll happily pour out iced coffees, Singha beers, house wines, killer margaritas, caipirinhas and Burbrit craft beer (Myanmar’s first and only micro brew). This is the place for sundowners and, a few nights a week, casual beach barbecues.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am. Lunch is served from 1pm and dinner from 7pm. The River Café Bar is open from 7am to 9pm.
There’s off the grid and then there’s Wa Ale – the resort is the first to open in the untouched Lampi Marine National Park in southern Myanmar.
Wa Ale suggests arriving on a Tuesday or a Saturday, so you’ll want to book flights on these days to take advantage of their speed boat service (or, ideally, stopover in Yangon). If you’re coming from Yangon, take the short flight to Kawthaung airport in Myanmar. If you’re coming from Bangkok, the one to aim for is Ranong in Thailand. Once you’ve arrived at Kawthaung or Ranong, you’ll be met by a Wa Ale representative who’ll speed you through immigration and escort you the rest of the way. From Kawthaung airport, you’ll take a car to the Kawthaung jetty and then board Wa Ale’s boat for the hour-and-forty-minute journey to the island. From Ranong airport, it’s a twenty minute ferry ride to Kawthaung jetty where you’ll board the boat to the island. Wa Ale's boats leave no later than 2pm from the Kawthaung Jetty to the island for navigation safety and all boat transfers from Wa Ale back to Kawthaung Jetty depart at 8am. If you’d like to travel on a day other than Tuesday or Saturday, it’s an extra $250 round trip charge per person or $175 each way.
If you’re coming from Phuket, it’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Ranong, Thailand, followed by the 20-minute boat to Kawthaung jetty to board the Wa Ale boat to the island.
Worth getting out of bed for
It may take a bit of extra travel time to reach the rainforest-draped islands of the Mergui Archipelago, but having one of the world’s last hidden paradises almost entirely to yourself will make it all worth it. This is a region of the world that only the hardiest of adventurers has ever seen before now - the journey used to take a day and a night via rickety fishing boat. Ouch. Though you’re miles away from anywhere, cast adrift in the Andaman Sea, there’s no shortage of adventure to be had or ways to discover the aquatic and jungle wonderland that surrounds you. Explore the archipelago’s coral reefs and sea caves with the resort’s PADI scuba instructors and dive masters: there are eight sites for snorkelling and diving just a short boat ride away. If you prefer to stay above the water, you can kayak or paddleboard around the island’s coastline, rivers and mangroves. Wildlife watchers can hit the jungle trails with the resident naturalist to spot green and leatherback turtles, monkeys, pangolins, hornbills, fish eagles and sunbirds. And there are two paradisiacal stretches of beach to explore (Turtle and Honeymoon) – arrive in season and you might even be lucky enough to see sea turtles hatch in the protected nesting area. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the floating villages of the Moken locals – the hotel can organise boat trips. And there’s no need to put your workout regimen on pause- head to the jungle gym for sun-soaked yoga classes and sweaty HIIT sessions. After a day’s exploring, unwind with a blissful in-room massage, before trading tales with your fellow guests over barbecued seafood skewers and crisp caipirinhas at the River Café.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this island eco-paradise in the Myeik Archipelago and readjusted to modern life, a full account of their castaway adventures will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Wa Ale Island Resort in Myanmar…
As you step off Wa Ale’s slick speedboat and feel the sand beneath your toes, it sinks in: you’ve made it to the Myeik Archipelago, meaning you’re one of a miniscule group of humans who has ever laid eyes on this untouched utopia. With only 13 rooms on the island, the dazzling beaches, gargantuan rock formations and lush jungle canopies are almost all yours to explore. So far, so Avatar. Perfectly camouflaged in these astonishing surroundings is Wa Ale resort, its smart-looking safari tents peeking through the trees. And that’s just what you can see. Underneath the waves, the sea caves and coral reefs are humming with life: dolphins, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and dugongs (a cuddly-looking relation to the manatee) all call this protected marine park home. It’s enough to make your shoulders drop several inches, but you can relax at Wa Ale for another reason: 20 per cent of the resort’s revenues go towards protecting this luscious landscape, as well as the people and animals within it. The hotel is game changing in its eco-conscious efforts – not a single tree was removed during construction and all the building materials used were reclaimed or sustainably sourced. That doesn’t mean you sacrifice on luxury, though: the tented villas have acres of living space, private teak terraces for lounging, king-size canopy beds and outdoor showers, perfect for counting your lucky stars that there’s such a place as Wa Ale.