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Southeast Asia With Kids: 9 Best Family Destinations

kids on vacations

Travels to Southeast Asia with kids can be a surprisingly wonderful and rewarding experience for many reasons; any challenges that do arise, from energy-sapping heat to lack of child seats and cots, are far outweighed by the smiles and priceless memories of shared adventures in exotic lands that last a lifetime.

In our highlight countries, there are no Disneylands or Disney Worlds; instead, the beautiful great outdoors and a geographically stunning region blessed with diverse natural attractions, providing one giant playground for fascinating activities and experiences the whole family can enjoy. And with all the weird and wonderful wildlife on both land and sea, why bother with zoos and aquariums, when you can see orangutans and multi-colored tropical fishes in their natural habitat.

You’ll find locals across Southeast Asia are naturally friendly and children are the focus of life and well-loved; kids are generally warmly welcomed here. Traveling through Southeast Asia, kids will be wide-eyed, excited, and culturally engaged, this is truly a hands-on educational experience, so switch off the iPad!

If you need extra help, surprisingly affordable international five-star hotels are a boon for family-friendly services and facilities and kids’ clubs with a range of fun activities. Planning well is an integral part of getting the most from your trip, down to choosing the most suitable country and destinations. Here’s our selection of the best family destinations in Southeast Asia.


kids having fun while diving

1. Phuket, Thailand

Thailand is by far Southeast Asia’s most child-friendly destination in Southeast Asia and the most popular beach destination, with some of Asia’s most stunning beaches. The best are found in the south, with masses of beaches and islands to choose from, but the most popular destination is Phuket, Thailand’s largest and busiest island.

Phuket Island is also extremely family-friendly, whatever the weather and there’s plenty to do, natural and man-made to keep everyone entertained while relaxing on holiday. Phuket Island boasts more than 30-plus glorious beaches, but not all are suitable for children and family holidays; those that are, include Bangtao, Kamala, Karon, Kata, and Patong.

Many have large beachfront resorts offering diverse water sports and children’s activities and kids’ clubs, while some major resorts, such as JW Marriott Phuket, boast their own private beaches. From Phuket, there are abundant day cruises available to outer islands such as the Phi Phi archipelago, for yet more swims and snorkeling. Or cycle into the scenic rainforest interiors with Phuket Countryside Bike Tours, or picnic at one of Phuket’s waterfalls.

Otherwise, plenty of amusements cover Rawai Park and Splash Jungle Water Park, Patong Go-Kart speedway, or Surf House Phuket.

Recommended hotels:

JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort
Splash Beach Resort

lady wearing a typical hat in a festival

2. Hoi An, Vietnam

Everyone loves visiting Hoi An, especially families! This 16th century Silk Road trading port today ranks as one of Southeast Asia’s oldest, most alluring towns and one of Vietnam’s favorite destinations for umpteen reasons. Hoi An’s beautifully preserved Ancient Town and World Heritage Site is a compact pedestrianized area covering a few narrow streets alongside picturesque Thu Bon River, crammed with centuries-old Chinese pagodas and shophouses, cultural treasures, and quaint French colonial-era buildings housing cafés and craft shops that are all easily walkable.

The waterfront fish market here is especially interesting for children, as are the slew of Vietnamese cooking classes and artisan workshops where you can learn how to make traditional crafts, including lanterns. There are also great value, riverfront restaurants, where you can watch the chug past from shaded balconies.

Don’t miss the monthly, full moon lantern festival: kids will marvel at the hundreds of multi-colored lanterns illuminating the Ancient Town, the traditional games, and impromptu performances out on the streets. Beyond, cycle out to scenic rice fields and farming lands (you may get to ride a water buffalo) and the pretty town beach. Or hire a small fishing boat along the river at sunset; captains invariably let children helm the boat for a while!

Recommended hotels:

Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort
The Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa

family visiting a temple in cambodia

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia

In northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap town is the gateway to World Heritage Site, Angkor Archaeological Park, containing an ancient Khmer civilization’s stupendous remains; not only 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex, one of the world’s great ancient wonders, but also hundreds of other majestic temples and monuments. Little ones should enjoy the Indiana Jones-inspired adventure and living history lesson, exploring all the crumbling ruins and moats, especially on memorable family bicycle tours through the Park’s jungle trails, stopping off at leisure at favorite spots.

Siem Reap itself is a lively stand-out destination, increasingly popular with families for the wide choice of interesting activities and things to do. Learn how to make Cambodian pottery at Khmer Ceramic Fine Arts Centre, visit the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre or head to the circus, namely, Phare, The Cambodian Circus, a Khmer-style Cirque du Soleil, where performers use theatre, music, dance, and daring modern circus acts to convey historical and modern Cambodian stories in a new way. Instructed by experienced guides, Kids can also soar through the dense jungle within the Angkor Archaeological Park on a zip-line besides getting to learn about the rainforest environment and the park history and see some free-roaming cheeky gibbons.

Recommended hotels:

The Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa
Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort

luxurious temple in cambodia

4. Kratie, Cambodia

A day’s drive from Siem Reap, in Cambodia’s central interiors, the mellow riverside town of Kratie is a popular base for sightings of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, which inhabit this area of the Mekong River, albeit in ever-dwindling numbers. All children love to see dolphins in the wild and they get an amazing opportunity while on a guided boat tour around Kampi, several miles north of Kratie. Taken to the Mekong’s best vantage points, the family should spot these elusive freshwater dolphins, along with rare birds and local fishermen casting their nets.

Besides dolphins, the tranquil and unspoiled countryside of emerald rice paddies and traditional Khmer stilt houses surrounding Kratie is ideal for family bike rides and picnics. Or take the ferry boat to Koh Trong, an island set amidst the Mekong River opposite Kratie; without cars or typical modern facilities, villagers live a simple rural life in palm-shaded villages. Even charming Kratie is lovely to explore, a former French colonial port with an expansive riverfront and broad promenade that is perfect for evening strolls.

monkeys on branches

5. Kuta-Legian, Bali, Indonesia

Two traditional coastal villages merged together along with Bali’s southwest coast urban sprawl, Kuta and Legian are one of Bali’s most popular destinations, especially fun for kids. Bali is a world-renowned surfers mecca, but one of the best places to learn is on the beaches of Kuta and Legian, for their well-defined surf waves and sandy-bottomed shallow waters.

Amongst the dozens of surf schools, reputable Rip Curl School of Surf offers a ‘Little Ripper’ surfing course specifically designed for kids under 13 years. From around April to October, along Kuta beachfront, don’t miss releasing baby turtles at sunset at the Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Centre, an NGO established to protect sea turtles and their natural habitats. Amongst Kuta’s countless amusements, the top family choice is Waterbom, twice voted Asia’s Leading Water Park at the World Travel Awards. Make a splash all day here at the 16-plus world-class water slides, including Asia’s steepest, ‘The Climax’ and its 360-degree loop and numerous water-based activities set in sprawling tropical gardens.

Recommended hotels:

Padma Legian Resort,
Holiday Inn Resort Baruna, Bali

kites in the sky

6. Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Over on Bali’s east coast, the charming seaside suburb of Sanur, sets a more relaxed and tranquil tone than its frenetic counterparts, Kuta-Legian. That and its fabulous beach – one of Bali’s longest and prettiest – are some reasons why Sanur has been a popular family destination for decades.

The extensive stretch of golden sands is lined the entire way with a shaded wooden promenade, along with beachfront low-key resorts and restaurants – perfect for an early morning or late afternoon stroll with the family. Sanur’s beach also boasts sandy-bottomed, shallow calm waters, ideal for safe swimming, snorkeling to the outlying coral reefs, and the multitude of family water sports available. Activities extend to kite flying (Sanur hosts a major kite festival between July and August) and Bali Seawalker, exploring the bottom of the Indian Ocean and immersed in tropical fish using a specially designed, underwater helmet.

Sanur also makes a great base for day cruises to a trio of lesser-known, neighboring islands, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan, boasting some of Bali’s most dazzling white sand beaches and clear azure waters brimming with fantastic marine life, including dolphins. You’re also not far from Bali’s quintessential rice field countryside and two top family attractions, Kemenuh Butterfly Park (www.facebook.com/kemenuhbutterflypark.id/) and Bali Safari Park, the latter, where over 100 animal species, including Komodo Dragons and orangutans, roam free in large enclosures that mimic their natural habitats – visited on fun safari trams.

Recommended hotels:

Fairmont Sanur Beach
Mercure Bali Sanur Resort

monks walking on a bridge

7. Luang Prabang, Laos

The enchanting riverside town and former royal capital, Luang Prabang, is one of Southeast Asia’s most alluring and popular destinations, highly appealing to both children and families, keeping everyone happy and entertained for days. When traveling to Laos with family, you’ll make some great memories in Luang Prabang!

The whole family can enjoy some of the ancient town’s main attractions: climbing up Mount Phousi – easy for kids – for sunrise or sunset fantastic views across towny, or the lively night markets on a pedestrianized street, with piles of colorful textiles and handicrafts hand-made by local ethnic communities. Or jumping on a longtail boat up the Mekong River for magical Pak Ou Caves, an elevated river cave temple crammed with thousands of centuries-old Buddha images.

Other distractions cover cooking classes (when parents can sneak away for a Laotian-style spa treatment) or cycle rides through the countryside to the three-tiered Kwang Si Falls – the largest waterfalls in the region – engulfed in tropical rainforest and cascading into shallow turquoise pools, perfect for a refreshing dip. If you visit nearby Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, kids can get up close to adorable rescued bears, now free to play in a safe and natural environment, while Green Jungle Park provides safe, jungle-based activities for all ages, including zip-lining adventures, a rope course, and trekking.

Recommended hotels:

Rosewood Luang Prabang
The Luang Say Residence

kids playing on the river shore

8. Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng lies mid-way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang on the banks of Nam Song River, but its surrounding rural scenery of ethereal limestone mountains and caves, rice paddies, and lagoons has made this unassuming town the top adventure destination in Laos. Here, tour agencies offer diverse adventures and extreme sports suitable for families, especially with active kids and teenagers.

Families can spend a few exciting days here, burning off all that excess energy, with no temple visits needed! Highlight activities cover kayaking tours amidst mist-shrouded karsts, or a more relaxing option of boat tours at sunrise or sunset, mountain biking to explore caves and blue lagoons and hiking the verdant hills. Older kids will surely enjoy rock climbing with the reputable, Adam’s Climbing School.

Children under 12 can go on guided pony treks on trails through mountainous landscapes or along the riverbanks, with Ponies Of Vang Vieng.

For a fun breakfast, head to Organic Farm, sampling their famed Mulberry Pancakes by the riverside, then afterward, taking a farm tour to meet various farm animals.

Recommended hotels:

Amari Vang Vieng

floating houses in Inle lake in Myanmar

9. Inle Lake, Myanmar

Deep in Myanmar’s central highlands, beautiful Inle Lake is the nation’s second-largest freshwater lake and elevated at 2,900 feet, one of its highest. The main activity here, naturally, is boating: kids will love exploring this magical water world on a long-tail wooden boat and stopping off to visit some of the 200-plus ethnic villages built on stilts over the lake and their floating gardens. Some consider Inle Lake an absolute must when visiting Myanmar.

Gliding past the local Inthar fishermen, uniquely rowing their boats with one leg wrapped around an oar, is equally fascinating. Part of a Biosphere Reserve and Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, the lake is home to heaps of exotic water birds, besides exceptional flora and fauna, which can also be explored on kayaks. Around the lake, there are opportunities for interactive ‘cooking classes’ within local homes and visits to artisan workshops, and seeing how traditional Burmese crafts are hand-made.

The Inthar Heritage Burmese Cat House is a big hit with kids: a cat sanctuary aiming to reintroduce the near-extinct Burmese cats back into Myanmar, where you can freely interact with these feline creatures. The captivating Cat House is just one component of Inle Heritage a not-for-profit organization striving to preserve Inle Lake’s nature and culture, funded by their quaint accommodations, restaurant with shaded verandas, craft shop, and ethnic Inthar cooking classes – l housed in a traditional Burmese timbered dwelling. Beyond, village homestays and cycling and hiking in the surrounding countryside are further engaging activities.

Recommended hotels:

Pristine Lotus Resort
Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min




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This entry was posted April 26, 2021
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