First published October 2023 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.
With brick, tile and thatch bungalows spread across 8 hectares of tropical gardens and a long stretch of fine sandy beach, Hồ Tràm Boutique is a tasteful, understated and peaceful resort within easy reach of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Discreet and tranquil, Hồ Tràm Boutique has long been a favourite retreat for me: over the years I’ve stayed with my parents, family, friends and partners. Situated on Hồ Tràm beach, just 90 minutes’ drive southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, this is one of the most charming beach resorts within easy reach of the southern metropolis: perfect for a mini-break without having to take a flight. Little details are carefully and lovingly thought about, and most of the complex blends in gracefully with the natural surroundings. This attention to detail and care and respect for the natural environment gives Hồ Tràm Boutique an intimacy and individuality that its neighbouring, high-rise resorts totally lack. [BOOK HERE]
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REVIEW: HO TRAM BEACH BOUTIQUE
Address: Hồ Tràm Hamlet, Phước Thuận Ward, Xuyên Mộc District, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province [MAP]
Average Rates: $100/night
Ho Tram Beach Boutique Resort & Spa
The Location: Only 100km due southeast of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hồ Tràm Beach Boutique is located on the nearest good beach to Vietnam’s southern hub. Just a couple of hours drive from the choked city streets and sprawling industrial zones, Hồ Tràm beach is a long, wide bank of sand that meets the swell of the East Sea for several kilometres. Over the last decade, many large domestic and international developers have bought up beachfront land, cut down all the trees and constructed mega-resorts along the seafront. But Hồ Tràm Boutique was here first – 20 years ago – and still has the best beach with the finest sand and, to their credit, they are the only resort that has preserved the original casuarina trees which once lined the entire length of the seafront. A few kilometres east of the resort, Hồ Tràm hamlet is a small fishing community that is now a thriving seafood mecca for domestic tourists. Behind the resort there are melon plantations, shrimp farms and fruit orchards, but these are slowly being encroached upon by more and more resort development.
Resort Grounds & Layout: Unlike the enormous resorts on either side of it, the grounds at Hồ Tràm Boutique are very lush and the landscaping feels natural rather than manicured. In most cases, the resort structures have been built around the existing plants, trees and other natural elements, such as ponds and inlets. This is simply not the case with other resorts in the surrounding area, who have made no attempt to preserve the original environment, preferring instead to clear the land for high-rise structures. Hồ Tràm Boutique, by contrast, is low-rise and discreet: the tallest features are the trees, and, seen from the beach or the road, there’s no evidence of the resort structures at all.
Hồ Tràm Boutique evolved from a family holiday home by the beach, to a getaway for friends and acquaintances, and, eventually, to a resort. This accounts for the refreshingly non-uniform, informal layout of the resort. Stone pathways meander through clusters of thatched bungalows, red brick chalets and wooden cabanas beneath the shade of cashew trees, bougainvillea, casuarinas, coconut palms and African tulips. The owners’ passion for Vietnam’s architectural and cultural heritage can be seen in aspects of the resort’s buildings: tiled roofs, courtyards, wooden beams, thatched coverings and open-sided communal structures.
Beach, Pools & Activities: The beach at Hồ Tràm Boutique is wide and attractive: the sand is soft and fine and tall casuarina trees provide welcome shade. A few years ago, Hồ Tràm beach was threatened by coastal erosion. Steps were taken by the resort to address the issue by planting ‘Geotubes’ (essentially enormous sand bags) to build up a steeper shelf of sand that would prevent further erosion. It has worked, but the minor drawback is that the tops of the Geotubes are still visible above the sand.
Although the beach is pretty to look at, laze on and walk along, the sea quality at Hồ Tràm is generally quite poor and there’s a strong current. Therefore, swimming is best in one of the resort’s two pools. The chlorine pool, near the beach, is good for children because it features a slide, but the salt water pool, hidden among foliage behind the lake, is more photogenic and perfect for swimming laps. The resort also has an attractive spa, tennis courts, small gym, and children’s play area. In addition, there are daily activities during high season, such as lantern making, and bicycles for guests as well as excursions to nearby villages, hills and attractions.
Guest Rooms & Décor: Because guest rooms are spread around the property and obscured by foliage, it doesn’t feel like Hồ Tràm Boutique has a large capacity. But, the resort is actually comprised of over 80 rooms and bungalows. These range from Hoi An-style brick chalets to thatched bungalows and tiled traditional village-style structures. Room rates follow a hierarchy from garden view bungalows to lagoon view rooms, ocean view chalets and private-pool villas. Architecture and décor vary slightly from room to room, featuring tile or thatch roofs, high ceilings and wooden rafters, wooden doors, tiled floors, four-poster beds with fittet mosquito net, large semi-outdoor bathrooms with plants and stone bathtub, terrace with garden view, lake or ocean view, lamp lighting, wooden furnishings and colourful drapes. Little touches, such as essential oils burning in the room upon arrival, bedtime cookies, and bronze sinks embellished with little frogs around the rim, lend an intimacy and individuality to Hồ Tràm Boutique that its neighbouring resorts lack.
Breakfast, Dining & Drinking: All three drinking and dining options at Hồ Tràm Boutique are housed in beautiful, open-sided structures, providing a romantic ambience in any kind of weather. The Nautical Bar is a wood-and-thatch hut located on the beach. At dusk, a row of lanterns leads from the bar onto the sand and it’s a wonderful place for a cocktail as the sun sets behind the hills of Long Hải in the distance. Breakfast is served at the Gecko Restaurant, an attractive, low-rise structure with tiled roof and a pretty courtyard with a fish pond: at night, the sound of frogs fills the air. The buffet breakfast is good: the outstanding feature being a selection of home-made jams, such as fig, ginger, and tomato. Finally, there’s the beautiful Phoenix Lounge overlooking the lily-filled pond: great for an after-dinner nightcap. The food menu includes both Asian and Western dishes, but the Vietnamese options are by far the best quality.
Summary: As resort development on Hồ Tràm beach continues to spread and the trees are cut down to make way for more high-rise mega-resorts, the charm of Hồ Tràm Boutique only becomes more apparent, as does their love and respect for the natural setting on which their resort lies. While the new developments offer extravagance rather than elegance, and blight rather than blend into the natural surroundings, Hồ Tràm Boutique manages to offer comfort and style while maintaining an intimate attachment to the beach, trees and waterways on which it stands. I hope Hồ Tràm Boutique will hold its ground in the face of these insensitive new resort projects, because their presence only serves to make Hồ Tràm Boutique more attractive and unique.
*To check rates & make a booking for Ho Tram Beach Boutique please BOOK HERE
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Thank you, Tom
*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this review because I want to: I like this resort & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements & my About Page