For seasoned travelers, there’s nothing particularly memorable about the typical hotel arrival.
Whether you take public transit, a taxi or an Uber, you’ll eventually find your way to the lobby and then wait your turn to check-in – rarely a highlight of the trip.
But what if you could zipline over a waterfall and land in the hotel bar? Take a serene river cruise through a lush gorge? Soar over snow-kissed mountain peaks in a helicopter?
Now that’s an entrance.
From Thailand to India, Cambodia to New Zealand, we’ve hand-picked a few of the most epic hotel arrival experiences across the Asia-Pacific region for a first impression you’ll remember forever.
If you’re staying at ÀNI Thailand – an all-inclusive private sanctuary on Koh Yao Noi Island in the Andaman Sea – you’ll have a choice of sea-faring arrival: Thai longtail boat or speedboat.
You can’t go wrong with either option, but the hour-long longtail ride careens through UNESCO-listed Phang Nga Bay, known for its famous karst rock formations, at a slower pace, providing more time to soak up the surroundings.
Meanwhile, the swift private speedboat picks you up at the Ao Po Grand Marina on the eastern coast of Phuket, then zooms across the bay in about 15-30 minutes.
While it’s a short ride, guests are spoiled along the way with personal slippers, refreshments and bamboo boxes full of snacks.
When you reach the island pier, a tuk-tuk magically appears to transport you to the arrival pavilion – a gleaming wood structure inspired by ancient Lanna architecture – where a ceremonial bell and refreshing Thai soda mark the beginning of your stay.
ÀNI Thailand, Koh Yao Noi, Ko Yao District, Phang-nga, Thailand
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand
Hidden in a bamboo forest near the Golden Triangle – where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand converge – the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle channels 19th-century expeditions with glamorous interiors by resort designer Bill Bensley.
It’s an intimate experience where you’ll be surrounded by nature. After all, just 15 tented rooms and a cluster of dining areas pepper the hillside.
As for activities, you can get to know local life in many ways, from trying your hand at fish trapping and bamboo fishing with nearby fishermen to biking through hillside villages and fruit plantations.
Arriving here offers a local experience all its own. After a private transfer from the airport, you’ll wait for a few minutes at Hirannakron Pier in Chiang Rai while staff handle your immigration paperwork – a necessary step since you’ll be cruising through international waters.
Soon enough, you’ll board a wooden longtail boat (typically used for fishing or transporting goods) that ventures into the mighty Mekong River, passing by paddy fields, fishermen and villages before turning onto a smaller waterway, the Ruak River.
A few minutes later, the engine slows, and the hotel’s pier comes into view.
As you step back on solid ground, the hotel gently strikes a large gong three times – once for luck, once for health, and once for wealth – to signal your arrival.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, 499 MOO1 T. Vieng, Chiang Rai, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai 57150, Thailand
Gangtey Lodge, Bhutan
Perched above Phobjikha (or Gangtey) valley, a protected nature reserve in central Bhutan, Gangtey Lodge is the definition of intrepid luxury.
Home to 12 picturesque suites with sweeping Himalayan views, the boutique lodge strives to immerse you in Bhutan’s fascinating culture, history and natural wonders – starting with a scenic journey via a five-passenger Airbus H130 helicopter.
After a pickup at the country’s only international airport in Paro, you’ll spend the next 30 minutes flying eastwards over the country’s capital city of Thimphu and across majestic valleys, forests, houses and hills.
On a clear day, you can see the country’s main valleys, such as ancient Paro and Thimphu, as well as the 17th-century Paro Dzong Buddhist monastery, giant gilded Buddha Dordenma statue, and cloud-piercing mountains like Jumolhari and Jitshu Drake.
After the helicopter touches down in a nearby field (Gangtey Lodge staff often clear away grazing cows before your arrival), you’ll be whisked away to the lodge to enjoy a welcome song, neck massage and cup of warm spiced apple cider.
Gangtey Lodge, just below the Monastery, Gangtey (Phobjikha) Valley, Bhutan
HOSHINOYA Kyoto, Japan
You’ll be immersed in the natural beauty of Kyoto, Japan’s capital of ancient culture, during HOSHINOYA Kyoto’s unique arrival experience.
To calm your mind and celebrate the seasons, the refined ryokan (traditional inn) ferries guests down the Oi river in one of the hotel’s small wooden boats – one of which has a terrace.
The experience begins in the boat’s waiting area, north of Kyoto, where you can sip on kosen (a fragrant herbal tea blend believed to relieve travel fatigue) or seasonal pours like ruby-red shiso juice in the summer or ginger-infused arrowroot tea in winter.
Once everyone’s aboard, the 10-seat boat travels for 15 minutes through Oku-arashiyama, a protected nature sanctuary, showing off the beautiful natural scenery along the steep Rankyo Gorge.
No matter the time of year, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty, from cherry blossoms in early spring, lush greenery in the summer or brilliant foliage in the fall.
After the boat docks, you’ll walk up to the ryokan, slip off your shoes and enjoy live instrumental music in a beautiful water garden.
HOSHINOYA Kyoto, 11-2 Arashiyama Genrokuzancho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0007
Minaret Station Alpine Lodge, New Zealand
Situated in a secluded glacial valley in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Minaret Station transports guests to a mountain paradise.
There’s no road access to this luxury lodge – which is home to just four spacious chalets and a 50,000-acre working farm – so you have no choice but to arrive by helicopter.
And such a hardship it is, given the breathtaking scenery along the 20- to 30-minute flight from Queenstown or Wanaka Airport to Minaret Station.
Sitting in the lodge’s Squirrel AS350 or MD500E aircraft, which are ideal for mountainous conditions, you’ll peer over shimmering lakes and glaciers, snow-capped mountain peaks and untouched gorges.
After you’ve settled in at the lodge, you can continue the adventure with an array of mountain adventures, from hiking to fly fishing, heli-skiing, hunting and mountain biking.
Minaret Station Alpine Lodge, 10 Lloyd Dunn Avenue, Wānaka 9343, New Zealand
Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
It’s not every day you can travel to a remote lodge in the middle of a Cambodian jungle, let alone arrive by zip line.
But that’s exactly what you can look forward to at Shinta Mani Wild, designed and co-owned by Bill Bensley.
Home to 15 whimsically designed tents along Thmor Rung River in Cardamom National Park, this innovative tented camp promises an adrenaline-pumping arrival.
After a private transfer from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, you’ll be dropped off at a seven-story tower overlooking the sprawling forest canopy.
From there, you’ll pull on a helmet and harness, clip into the zipline wires, and then follow your guide off the platform and into the air.
During the quarter-mile journey, the zipline cruises up to 31 miles per hour over lush greenery and the Thmor Rung River to reach your first stop.
After a short jaunt across wooden walkways through the woods, it’s time to fly one more time.
The final leg zips over the gushing Raging Sisters Waterfalls and right into the aptly named Landing Zone Bar, where a “Pineapple Trap” welcome drink awaits.
Shinta Mani Wild, A Bensley Collection, Prey Praseth Village, Ou Bak Rothed Commune, Kampong Seila District Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Originally known as Jag Niwas, a summer retreat of the Mewar royal family, Taj Lake Palace isn’t your typical hotel.
For starters, it’s set in the middle of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, northern India, and is only accessible via boat.
At the hotel’s exclusive jetty, staff will greet you with a cool towel and refreshments before it’s time to hop aboard an open-air barge.
It’s just a seven-minute ride, but every second is packed with beautiful scenery.
To the south, soak up views of the 16th-century Jag Mandir, a former summer holiday destination for the royal family of the Mewar kingdom.
Off to the east, peek at the gleaming City Palace while a panoramic view of Udaipur’s old city unfolds in the northeast.
Better yet, the boats ply the water 24 hours a day, so it’s possible to request a sunrise or sunset cruise for an extra-special experience.
The royal experience continues upon arrival at Taj Lake Palace.
It’s a swirl of color and joy as the staff shower you in rose petals, serve welcome drinks on a silver platter and escort you into the floating marble palace under sequinned umbrellas.
Taj Lake Palace, PO Box No. 5, Lake Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan, 313001, Rajasthan, India
The Nautilus, Maldives
Located in the northern Baa Atoll’s UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve, The Nautilus Maldives is among the most luxurious resorts in the archipelago.
While staying in one of the 26 beachfront or over-water ocean houses, you’ll appreciate the personalized touches and ‘anything is possible’ philosophy.
The pampering begins as soon as you land in the capital, Male, where you’ll be escorted to a VIP lounge to refuel with refreshments and snacks while the staff handles your immigration and customs paperwork.
When the resort’s distinct purple seaplane is ready to take off, you’ll embark on a scenic, 30-minute flight northwest to the Baa Atoll with stunning views of islands and sandbars stretching out below.
After landing on the water, you’ll disembark on a tiny floating platform in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Soon enough, a luxurious speed boat or the Nautilus One yacht, depending on which room type you booked, pulls up to whisk you away to the island.
Armed with cool towels and broad smiles, a dedicated “House Master” (akin to a private butler) will guide you to your house, where complimentary Champagne and snacks await.
The Nautilus, Thiladhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Anchoring the Kowloon peninsula in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, The Peninsula delivers on its reputation for superb service – even before you step through the doors.
Private jet, helicopter, Rolls-Royce Phantom… There are several ways to reach this grande dame in style.
The most iconic way, of course, is via Rolls-Royce Phantom. At the Hong Kong address alone, the hotel boasts a fleet of 14 – all finished in the signature shade of Peninsula Brewster Green.
If you choose this signature arrival experience, you’ll be greeted at your airport gate inside Hong Kong International Airport and fast-tracked through immigration.
Moments later, you can stretch out inside the spacious Rolls-Royce, where you’ll appreciate the ample leg room, leather upholstery, plush carpeted floors and chilled refreshments on the 45-minute ride.
What’s more, there’s complimentary WiFi and you can play your favorite music via Bluetooth.
The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong