Con Dao is a group of 16 emerald green islands clustered off the southern coast of mainland Vietnam. Once infamous as home to nearly a dozen jails that kept political prisoners before and during the Vietnam war, this remote tropical outpost is now one of the country’s top attractions, offering visitors the opportunity to explore miles of unspoilt sandy beaches, with dramatic jungle-covered mountains and an abundance of wildlife.
The Six Senses Con Dao is located on the southern shore of Con Son, the largest and the only inhabited island of the archipelago. Set in a protected national and marine park, this ultra-luxe resort is just a 45-minute flight and a short shuttle ride from Ho Chi Minh City, but it feels a million miles from the bustling streets and punishing pollution of Vietnam’s most populous metropolis.
The hotel’s 50 luxury villas are built from reclaimed teak and spread along a 1-mile crescent of pristine sandy beach, backed by soaring mountains and thick rainforest. Each villa has its own private infinity pool overlooking the shimmering turquoise waters of the South China Sea.
It is the stuff that paradise dreams are made of, and the kind of place you would expect to rub shoulders with Hollywood A-listers at the bar. Indeed, this is where Brad and Angelina based themselves with their six children while visiting Vietnam back in 2011, and by all accounts they loved the place. So it is safe to say my expectations of the resort were high, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The ambience is effortlessly laid back, almost to the point of being horizontal, with every small detail of the hotel’s design – even down to the staff uniforms, which pair linen trousers and shirt with sandals – geared towards creating an environment where guests can feel totally zen. The entranceway is lowkey and unassuming; an open hut with a single, bamboo-clad desk set beneath leaning palm trees, the electric hum of exotic wildlife radiating from the lush mangrove vegetation all around. Stepping through it, you follow a raised walkway to a central ‘marketplace’ of single-storey wooden huts comprising a clothing boutique, the spa desk, a kid’s play centre, ice-cream parlour and a deli, all arranged around a bar and restaurant.
A short way further along the beach, the villas are contemporary in style with just the right amount of boho beach hut-chic. The interiors are fitted with gorgeous wood panelling throughout, complemented by plush sofas upholstered with neutral-colour fabric and cute rustic touches like hanging towel rails made from rope.
We stayed in a split-level Ocean View Duplex Villa. The spacious ground-floor bathroom features a sumptuously deep bath-tub, double vanity basins and an outdoor waterfall shower; while above, the bedroom offers spectacular panoramic views of the ocean from the comfort of the bamboo headboard. For a truly memorable start to the day, wake early, throw open the floor-to-ceiling glass doors at the foot of the bed, and sit out on the balcony to watch the sun rise, burning a fierce orange above the mountains.
The breakfast is one of the best I’ve ever had. Served at the hotel’s aptly named By the Beach restaurant, with the gentle sound of the waves lapping the shoreline floating in through the open windows, there is a huge selection on offer – from tropical fruits and freshly-baked pastries to omelettes, pancakes and, of course, traditional Vietnamese fare, cooked to order at street food-style stations. The restaurant also offers extensive lunch and dinner menus, and there are two other restaurants on site serving a wide range of international and traditional dishes.
There’s plenty to keep you busy in between gorging yourself on the delicious food. The resort boasts a beach cinema, miniature golf, a fitness centre, spa and a large central swimming pool. It also offers lots of excursions including scuba diving, snorkeling and guided hiking into the surrounding forests, where, if you’re lucky, you might spy a black giant squirrel or a long-tailed macaque.
The resort has excellent green credentials. If it wasn’t incredible enough already, every host at Six Senses Con Dao is committed to playing an active role in improving the ecological and carbon footprint of the resort and spa operation. Sustainability is important to the hotel, with plastic banned where possible. In 2018 they helped 2,904 endangered sea turtles to hatch successfully, avoided 142,465 plastic bottles from being used with providing filtered water in glass bottles, and helped locals with their community outreach programs. Proving paradise doesn’t have to come at a cost to the earth…