Look beyond the all-inclusive resorts and tourist buses to discover the stunning scenery and lip-smacking seafood of this lush Korean island escape.
Like a tiny transplant from the tropics that’s touched down in the Korea Strait, Jeju Island has long been a favourite internal holiday destination for jetsetting Korean’s seeking sandy beaches, striking volcanic landscapes and a relaxed rural pace of life.
But now the wider world is also discovering the many charms of this easy Asian escape. Beyond the mammoth resorts and big tour bus sites lie design-savvy eco-resorts, smart restos showing off the island’s abundant produce, pampersome spas and staggering coastal scenes.
So LUXE, with a little help from our oh-so savvy Seoul resident curator Ines Cho, has picked out the very best bits Jeju has to offer. SPF 50+ on and off we go, Flo.
Designed by Nippon-Korean architect Itami Jun, this arty and undulating eco-resort offers both western rooms, with vaulted ceilings and sweeping mountain views, and hanok-style Korean suites, offering tatami furnishings and intimate garden outlooks. It also happens to be right on Korea’s best golf course. Tee-riffic! Pinx Country Club Compound, 863 Sallongnam-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, thepinx.co.kr
The Shilla Jeju
Yes, it’s big with more than 500 rooms but the service is stellar and so are the ocean aspects afforded by the cliff top locale. Fresh n’ summery pads, beach cabanas, in- and outdoor pools, sublime spa and easy dining, plus a host of activities incase you’ve got tots in tow. 3093-3, Saekdal-dong, Seogwipo-si, shilla.net
This immaculate see-and-be-seen fine-diner is regarded as one of the best on the island. Immaculate interiors showcase Jeju’s signature rock, while simple, fresh fare – like udon, uni pasta, steak and pizza – showcase the island’s wealth of ingredients. Smart crowd, so gussy up! 863 Sallongnam-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, thepinx.co.kr
The native female free divers (haenyeo) are responsible for the surf-fresh raw, steamed, grilled, braised or pickled seafood that hits your plate in this slick Nippon-cool diner. Palm tree-dotted ocean panoramas give the place a tropical vibe. Do try the Jeju-style bibimbap. Haevichi Resort, 537 Misokhaean-ro, Seogquipo-si, haevichi.com
This earthy, warm and inviting all-day Korean bistro offers a traddy garden outlook and some of the tastiest comfort fare you’ll find anywhere in Jeju. Don’t miss their delicious bingsu! Podo Hotel, 863 Sallongnam-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, thepinx.co.kr
The Coastal Road
A trip to this luscious islet would not be complete without a leisurely drive along its staggering coastal roads. We particularly love the 7km stretch between Hagwi and Aewol (the Aewol Coastal Highway) for its black lava landscape, crashing waves and delightful beachfront cafes to cosy up in and admire the view. Finish with sunset sips at the stunning Cafe Aewol Monsant – aka ‘G-Dragon Cafe’, courtesy of its famous rockstar owner. 2546 Aewol-ri, Aewol-eup.
Osulloc Tea Museum
Fancy a cuppa? The stuff of legend in Korea, once-barren Jeju is now home to not only a tea farm, but also an architecturally striking museum to accompany it. Enjoy an eco-walk around the plantation followed by an exquisite tea ceremony, as well as classes and special events during the harvest season. Unwind with a green tea dessert and hot drink at the pretty cafe, before hitting the gift shop for arty bobble and tea-infused beauty products. 1235-1 Seogwang-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seoquipo-si, osulloc.com
Seopjikoji Architectural Tour
Brutalism is so hot right now. But don’t just stand there gawping at this eastern shoreline’s phenomenal architecture – take a tour with a local docent to learn more about works by world-renowned architects like Ando Tadao and Mario Botta, which are starkly backdropped by Jeju’s weird and wonderful landscapes. Popular Korean dramas like Gingko Bed, The Uprising, and One Thousand and One Nights were also filmed here. 107 Seopjikoji-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, min. 2 pax, phoenixisland.co.kr
Grande Bleu Yacht Tour
You’ve done plenty of gazing at the waves, now it’s time to get out there and see the island from a new angle. This 17-metre luxury yacht, departing from Daepo-pogu port, takes in staggering panoramas of the lava cliffs along the southern coast. Fishing equipment, drinks and snacks are included in the 60/90-min public tour, but for ultimate respite book a private outing. Peepers peeled for dolphins! 174 Daepo-ro, Seoquipo-si, see also Yacht Tour Shangri-La, y-tour.com
Hanwha Resort Spa Therapy Center
Jeju’s go-to for the full relaxation package, offering everything from watsu to aquatonic baths, aromatherapy to facials, and reflexology to sports and Swedish massage. Their signature treat is the divine J-detox, which uses local herbs, fruits and stones. The facility is spacious and superbly designed. 575-107 Myeongrim-ro, Jeju-si, hanwharesort.co.kr
A 5-star experience from start to finish, expect luxuriant massage and facial in a private spa room, relaxing foot baths, Vichy shower room and beauty salon, all individually fragranced by Guerlain’s perfumer. 75 Jungmun-gwangwang-ro 72-beonji, Seoguipo-si, shilla.net
– Published 2 November 2016.
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