Gem Wellness Spa & Island Resort
What to Expect: Set within a marine wildlife sanctuary off the central-eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula, rocky eight-acre Gemia Island has golden beaches as well as a turtle hatchery, where baby turtles—green, hawksbills, and even rare leatherbacks—are helped along until they’re big enough to survive in the South China Sea. The 52 “water-villa” rooms, with clean lines and simple rattan furnishings, face the sea and nearby Kapas Island. From the veranda, watch for sea eagles and reef herons before heading to the bar and restaurant for lobster and local fish.
What to Do: Snorkel over natural undersea gardens teeming with colorful corals, parrot fish, and sea anemones. Later, rinse off in the pool and indulge in a Thai mint foot massage, herbal sauna bath, or Asian herbal compress treatment at the spa.
Getting There: Ask the hotel to arrange the15-minute boat ride from Marang to the island, or look for your own water taxi at the dock.
Insider Tip: If you enjoy walks on a beach or poking in tidal pools, head to the northeastern side of the island at low tide. Warning: take shoes with good soles, because the rocks are sharp.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.