The Best Destinations in Asia for Families

Dec 16, 2018

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Asia is a natural destination for adventurous family travelers. It’s generally safe, the people are welcoming of children, there are rich cultures and cuisines to explore, and there’s a diversity of experiences, from relaxing beaches to pumped-up cities. But Asia is such a huge place that it can be hard to figure out where is best suited to your family’s needs. We’ve identified our favorite destinations in Asia for families to help you with your trip planning.

And, if you don’t know the best ways to get to Asia, TPG outlines them in the following resources:

Bali, Indonesia

How to get there: Ngurah Rai Airport is located a few miles south of Denpasar, the capital city of Bali. Major airlines that fly there include Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, Qantas, Emirates and Cathay Pacific. Here are the best ways to get to Bali on points and miles.

What’s special: Bali has an exciting mix of nature and culture. It’s a lone Hindu-majority island in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and its culture has developed in unique and interesting ways. It has both white and black-sand beaches, warm waters, colorful and healthy reefs to snorkel, volcanoes, picturesque farmland and cultural attractions. In short, it’s a perfect island getaway. It has two seasons, wet (October – April) and dry (May – September).

Why it makes sense for families: Families with kids of all ages will find something to suit them in Bali. With younger kids, chill out at a beach. The south coast, with its white sand and greater development, is most popular, but the west coast offers a simpler and less crowded alternative, with black sands and colorful underwater life. Older kids will also enjoy the culture of Ubud, with its ornate Hindu temples, Monkey Forest and cultural performances.

Don’t miss: A cycle tour through the bright green terraced rice fields and villages of Ubud; snorkeling off the uncrowded west coast; visiting the Monkey Forest in Ubud.

Where to stay: Many high-end hotels with rewards programs have a presence in Bali, especially on its southern Bukit Peninsula and around the Kuta area. Four Seasons, the Hilton, Shangri-La and the Hyatt all have properties in these areas. The Ritz-Carlton Bali (Category 6, from 50k Marriott Rewards points) is especially well-located for family travelers, as it’s in a tranquil corner of Nusa Dua, away from the party scene of other southern beach areas. The St. Regis Bali (Category 7, from 60k Marriott Rewards) is also in Nusa Dua and the InterContinental Bali (from 40k IHG Rewards Club points) is on Jimbaran Bay. Alternatively, family-run guesthouses are plentiful throughout Bali, and allow a glimpse into traditional Balinese family life.

A traditional dance performance at a temple in Ubud, Bali. Photo: Elen Turner
A traditional dance performance at a temple in Ubud, Bali. (Photo by Elen Turner)

Koh Samui, Thailand

How to get there: Koh Samui is home to Samui Airport, which mainly offers domestic flights from Bangkok. Bangkok Airways operates most flights to and from the island, but SilkAir is among a handful of international airlines that fly there.

What’s special: Thailand has an experience (and an island) for every type of traveler, but families would do well to head to Koh Samui. It’s Thailand’s second largest island, so there’s plenty of variety here, with both pristine beaches for relaxing and water sports, and dense forest for hiking and other jungle activities. Avoid Koh Samui from November to January, as this is the wet season.

Why it makes sense for families: Koh Samui is more upmarket than some other popular Thai destinations, meaning the vibe is a bit more suitable for kids than places with a wilder party scene. While Koh Samui is certainly not an off-the-beaten-path or undiscovered destination, the well-developed facilities mean that parents don’t need to worry about keeping their kids safe or entertained.

Don’t miss: Snorkeling and kayaking at the Ang Thong Marine National Park; zip-lining through the forest at Samui Canopy Adventures; a day in the calm clear waters of Thong Takhian Beach (otherwise known as Silver Beach).

Where to stay: Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort & Spa (Category 5, from 35k Marriott Rewards points) has private access to a beach, as well as villas with private pools. The Conrad Koh Samui offers convenient one-, three- and five-hour touring itineraries that revolve around culture, art, food and adventure. The Points Guy himself has had a good experience at the W Retreat Koh Samui (Category 7, from 60k Marriott Rewards points). Alternatively, there is plenty of high-quality budget accommodation on Koh Samui, both with and without A/C.

Check out Silver Beach in Koh Samui.
Check out Silver Beach in Koh Samui.

Kyoto, Japan

How to get there: The nearest international airport to Kyoto is the Kansai Airport, one of the busiest airports in Japan. Airlines that fly there include Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways and United Airlines.

What’s special: Kyoto, in the western part of Japan’s main Honshu island, offers some of Japan’s finest cultural attractions. Because it was spared damage in World War II, there are more ancient temples here than in other Japanese cities. While it is still a big, modern, developed city in many ways, there are also endless peaceful parks, forests, gardens and other delightful and relaxing spots. It’s a year-round destination, as each season offers something different, but it can be unpleasantly hot and humid in the summer (June – August) and bitterly cold in the winter (November – February).

Why it makes sense for families: Japan in general is a comfortable place to travel with kids as everything is very orderly, clean and efficient, and there are well-maintained public parks and amusements of all kinds. Kyoto is especially interesting for older kids who would be intrigued by stories of samurai, ninjas, geisha and emperors, but younger kids would also enjoy the green spaces. There are many kid-friendly museums and attractions, such as the Kyoto Railway Museum, the City Zoo and the Samurai and Ninja Museum.

Don’t miss: The Golden Temple (locally called Kinkaku-ji); the Gion entertainment district, where you can still see real geisha decked in their finery; the chilled out Arashiyama District, where you can take a rickshaw ride through bamboo groves and along the riverside.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (Category 7, from 60k Marriott Rewards points), Hyatt Regency Kyoto (Category 5, from 20k World of Hyatt points) and ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto (from 30k IHG points) all allow guests to use points. Alternatively, traditional Japanese ryokan inns are delightful places to stay for a full Japanese experience.

Kyoto is full of green spaces and dotted with temples. Photo: Elen Turner
Kyoto is full of green spaces and dotted with temples. (Photo by Elen Turner)

Taipei, Taiwan

How to get there: Taoyuan Airport is Taiwan’s busiest airport, and is west of Taipei. Major airlines that fly there include United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

What’s special: The capital of Taiwan is a less “obvious” East Asian destination than, say, Tokyo or Hong Kong, but that’s a good reason to go to Taipei. There are fewer tourists, yet the tourist infrastructure and attractions are really good. Plus, it’s affordable. The Taipei 101 Tower was the tallest building in the world when it opened in 2004 (it’s now the 10th), and is still one of the most distinctive-looking skyscrapers in the world (think stalk-of-bamboo meets Chinese pagodas meets stacked takeout boxes!). The summer is very hot and humid and can be uncomfortable, but other times of year are more pleasant. Plus, Taiwan is an underrated island destination with beautiful forests, mountains, beaches and interesting indigenous cultures, if you want to escape the city.

Why it makes sense for families: While Taipei is a big, bustling Asian city, it’s also very kid friendly. Essential facilities like baby changing tables are easy to find, and there are parks and green spaces all around. The public transit is good, and there are hop-on hop-off bus services that make sightseeing a breeze. Plus, there are a wealth of attractions that are just as fun for adults as they are for kids, so parents don’t have to sacrifice their own needs and interests!

Don’t miss: The Taipei Zoo is one of the largest in Asia and has a mini train as well as a cute panda cub; the observation deck at Taipei 101; the Taipei Night Markets, but go early (before 7pm) to beat the crowds.

Where to stay: The Grand Hyatt Taipei (Category 4, from 15k Hyatt points) is one of the largest hotels in the city, with 865 rooms. Le Meridien Taipei has a heated indoor pool (not necessary in the summer, but a nice touch at other times of year). Alternatively, Taipei has a lot of good value midrange hotels, which make a family trip here quite affordable.

Taipei 101 is a landmark in Taiwan and the tallest building in Taiwan. (Photo by keckl / Getty Images)
Taipei 101 is a landmark in Taiwan and the tallest building in Taiwan. (Photo by kecl / Getty Images)

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

How to get there: Sihanoukville Airport is Cambodia’s third largest, but only a limited number of international airlines fly there, Air Asia among them. Many visitors will enter Cambodia through the capital city instead, at Phnom Penh Airport. Major airlines that fly there include Emirates, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, Air Asia and Korean Air.

What’s special: While neighboring Thailand gets most of the attention from beach lovers, Cambodia’s western coast is just as stunning without such crowds. Sihanoukville is a convenient jumping-off point for less developed beaches in the area, including numerous small islands. The weather is warm year-round, but there is more rain between May and November.

Why it makes sense for families: Although Sihanoukville and some islands have a growing party scene, the area in general is more low-key than many of its Thai counterparts. It’s an ideal destination for families looking for somewhere a bit more off-circuit, especially if you stay out of Sihanoukville city. On some offshore islands you can have whole stretches of undeveloped sand all to yourself. Facilities can be few and far between, however.

Don’t miss: Chilling out on white-sand Otres Beach or Ochheuteal Beach; taking a small boat out to one of the islands, such as idyllic Koh Ta Kiev.

Where to stay: Several points-accepting high-end hotels are currently under construction in Sihanoukville (Marriott, Le Meridien and InterContinental), so watch this space. Alternatively, some of the beach ‘shacks’ along pretty Otres Beach are way more developed than they sound, and only steps from the beach, so are a good option for family travelers on a budget.

Koh Ta Kiev Island off Sihanoukville. (Photo by Elen Turner)

Penang, Malaysia

How to get there: Penang Airport is served by major international airlines such as SilkAir, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Air Asia. Alternatively, Penang is a short domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur, which is a major air hub in Southeast Asia.

What’s special: Colorful Penang — and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Georgetown area in particular — is famous for its delicious food, extensive street art and mix of Chinese and Malay cultures. It offers a wealth of cultural and natural attractions, from ornately decorated Chinese temples to hiking trails through the forest, so should appeal to all kinds of families. Malaysia has a tropical climate, with a wet monsoon that runs between May and October.

Why it makes sense for families: Penang is a great introduction to Asia for kids. It’s exciting without being overwhelming. The food is famous as among the best in Malaysia, and even picky eaters should find some tropical fruit or noodle dishes to enjoy. There are many food courts and (hygienic) street-side food stalls, so everyone in the family can try something that appeals to them. There is street art everywhere in Georgetown, and older kids can enjoy searching for it down back alleys.

Don’t miss: The Tropical Spice Garden north of Georgetown; the Clan Jetties, houses on stilts out over the water; Batu Ferringhi Beach.

Where to stay: When choosing a place to stay in Penang, it’s important to realize that atmospheric Georgetown is only one area of Penang. Georgetown has many budget and boutique accommodations, but few international chains. For these, it’s necessary to stay in other parts of the city or around the beach areas. Hilton’s DoubleTree Resort (from 10k Hilton Honors points) and the Holiday Inn Resort (from 20k IHG points) are located at Batu Ferringhi Beach.

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Colorful shop fronts in Georgetown, Penang. (Photo by Elen Turner)

Singapore

How to get there: Singapore is a major air hub in Asia. Its Changi Airport has some of the best airport facilities in the world. Major international airlines that fly there include its own Singapore Airlines, as well as United Airlines, British Airways, Qantas and Emirates.

What’s special: Singapore is multicultural, tropical and vibrant, and also very safe and hygienic. While it’s a fast-paced city, it also houses an impressive zoo, extensive parks and interesting museums. As a city state, visitors can see quite a lot of Singapore in a short time. Plus, it’s a very convenient stopover destination if traveling further afield in the Asia-Pacific region.

Why it makes sense for families: Singapore is an exciting family destination, ideal for both younger and older kids, and a perfect introduction to Asia. There are indoor and outdoor activities, plus many educational opportunities disguised as good fun.

Don’t miss: The Singapore Zoo; the Gardens by the Bay; riding a bumboat down the Singapore River and past the Merlion.

Where to stay: There’s no shortage of high-end hotels in Singapore where you can use your points cards, and that also cater well to kids. The Grand Hyatt (Category 5, from 20k Hyatt points), Hilton Singapore (from 54k Hilton points) and Marriott group have well-designed pools with plenty of lounge chairs and special features like kiddy pools, shaded areas and bars.

Gardens By The Bay and Marina Bay Sands reflection in water.
Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands reflection in water. (Photo by fiftymm99 / Getty Images)

Bottom Line

Asia is a fascinating and sprawling continent that would take a lifetime to completely explore. But your family can start by choosing one of the destinations from this list. Once you’ve been to Asia, we bet you’ll be hooked and will plan to go back again and again. What Asian destination have you enjoyed with your children? Tell us about the trip in the comments section below.

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