Quy Nhon, Vietnam (CNN) — After a couple of days at Anantara Quy Nhon, you may start to feel things.
Relaxed but alive. Empowered and at peace. Energized and edified.
Just over an hour by plane from Hanoi, Quy Nhon has remained largely undiscovered by international travelers, most opting to follow a worn path to Vietnam destinations such as Hue, Hoi An and Sapa -- often with a final stop in Ho Chi Minh City.
The coastal city's relative tranquility adds to its allure, and the five-star Anantara, which opened in December 2018, makes it absolutely worthy of a visit.
Reasons for Quy Nhon's under-the-radar status aren't easily articulated given its general appeal: It's a culturally rich destination in its own right. It boasts miles of coastline, fresh cuisine reliant on its seaside location and a handful of accommodations priced for all tastes and budgets.
There's a small national museum (the war photos may be the most interesting part), empty beaches (most locals prefer the beach at night to avoid the oppressive daytime sun and heat), a bustling market, thriving cafe culture, ruins and pagodas.
It has everything a discerning traveler could want -- minus the huge crowds and inflated prices.
A stay at Anantara Quy Nhon is about as luxe as it gets.
Quy Nhon Anantara Villas
A stay in one of Anantara Quy Nhon's pool villas is about as luxe as it gets.
There are more centrally located hotels, but the views or vibe won't be the same as a stay along the private beach in front of the Bay of Quy Nhon.
Anantara is remote but still just a 10-minute walk to several other spots along this quieter part of the beach.
First, take some time to settle in. Each villa's amenities include a fridge stocked with complimentary cheese, charcuterie and chocolate bars and a sparkling oversized tub that beckons with bath salts and more of that unbelievable view.
Panoramic ocean or beachfront villas designed with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors for breathtaking views that stretch beyond a meticulously decorated and detailed room are so warm and inviting, you might never want to leave.
That is, until you get a whiff of what's on offer outside the property.
The Cham ruins are part of the My Son historic site.
Getty Images/Demetrio Carrasco
It's a testament to Quy Nhon's diversity and charms that there's so much to see and do beyond the confines of your hotel room.
Backpackers staying up the beach at one of the budget accommodations may inspire you to rent a motorbike -- a Vietnam staple for getting around -- and explore on your own, but there's no shame in casting your cares aside and succumbing to the thoughtful Anantara tour program.
Start with a visit to the Banh It Towers, one of four Cham ruins sites in the area. This is where Vijaya, the Cham capital, existed until 1471 when the north took over.
The only way up to the crumbling brick red towers is via stairs on foot.
The view from the top vantage point offers excellent views of the city, the sprawling countryside and the ocean. And you won't have to fight the crowds to get a close look -- these are seldom visited sites, and you may even have the serene place all to yourself. (The Binh Dinh Museum in Quy Nhon offers additional information on the Cham sites.)
After you've had enough of the ruins, ask your guide (or Google Maps) to direct you to the pagodas, set on immaculate grounds with intricate Japanese-imported landscaping.
Taking pictures inside the solemn Buddha-filled spaces is not allowed, but paying respects with an incense offering is encouraged. According to Mai Vu Bao, an Anantara villa host who loves taking guests on tours and practicing his British English, you don't want to risk getting ghosts and spirits in your photos.
A stay at Anantara is akin to staying on a private island, yet there's so much to do outside the resort.
Quy Nhon Anantara Villas
Following the ruins and pagoda tours, we recommend going for a spa treatment in the middle of an ocean-facing jungle.
Avani, Anantara's sister property with a bohemian vibe, is lorded over by Bach Thi Anh Dao, a Quy Nhon local who's exceptionally skilled at locating tension and coaxing it away until your body has become putty under her hands.
For a more energizing experience, check out one of her daily yoga classes, which include several moments of silent meditation -- perfect for helping to unlock those creative juices.
Fruits of Quy Nhon
Guests can opt for in-room dining or head to the city center for a meal in a local restaurant.
Quy Nhon Anantara Villas
Quy Nhon locals shilling eel and morning glory at the daily market, selling whole coconuts for coconut water (for about 7 VND) on the road and whipping up egg coffee at the cafes in town are all part of what makes a visit to this hidden part of Vietnam so special.
As with any city or town, there's no shortage of ways to experience the wide-ranging, fresh flavors of Quy Nhon. If you've gotten comfortable motorbiking on the winding mountainous roads leading into the town's center, you'll want to go in search of Vietnamese pancakes or crepes (Bánh xèo) stuffed with shrimp, pork and a bounty of fresh herbs.
For a deeper dive -- and taste -- of the culture, opt for Anantara's Night Market experience. Bonus: If you plan to drink, it's a good idea to have a designated driver, especially if you like karaoke.
Bao, a regular tour guide who can only be booked through the Anantara, knows his way around town and can point out the best spot for the popular pastime. If singing isn't your thing, stroll along the city's ocean-facing promenade and check out the giant Ho Chi Minh statue.
When you're ready to get off your feet, head to the bar on the beach for a nightcap. There's imported beer on offer at Quy Nhon's main beach bar -- Surf Bar 2 -- if you're tired of the ubiquitous Saigon or Hanoi beer options, but you'll have to go back to the villa for anything resembling craft beer.
Another Quy Nhon specialty is oysters.
At Sea.Fire.Salt., Anantara's on-site restaurant, Chef Mr. Marcus Meek serves the plump, juicy bivalves naked or with a variety of condiments including lemon, cocktail sauce, black bean sauce and mignonette. Pair the starter course with Champagne or a Heart of Darkness IPA before moving on to another of Chef Meek's local specialties.
The British-born chef is excited about the menu he's created -- formerly heavily American and now decidedly more Vietnamese, thanks to early guest feedback -- and is particularly enthusiastic about another of the property's programs: Private beachfront dining celebrations.
The 5-star Anantara, a 26-villa, full-service resort, is a recent addition to Quy Nhon.
Quy Nhon Anantara Villas
This gives Meek a chance to grill all manner of vegetables and proteins (it's a toss up between the head-on prawns and the Wagyu for best dish of the night) in a sublime setting with music playing in the background and mosquito repellent appearing before you even know you need it.
The intimate, in-villa experience can stretch hours into the night.
Away from the resort, the nearby fishing village, Bai Xep, is where you'll find Life's a Beach -- a hostel, bar and restaurant just down the way that's also worth checking out.
Bai Xep's narrow streets and alleys are home to women who make bread over a hot fire on the street, while fresh crabs, clams and whole fish swim in cold-water tubs until selected by hungry diners.
The aroma is overwhelmingly fishy, and stray, mangy dogs sniff for crumbs while shop owners proffer cigarettes and soda for pennies.
Paradise comes in a lot of different forms -- and this is one, too.
Several airlines offer non-stop flights to Quy Nhon from Hanoi. it's a full day on the road (650 miles) for travelers wishing to drive from Hanoi to Quy Nhon, but another overland option is to stop in Hue for a day or two to break up the trip. It's a 14-hour bus or train ride south for each leg of the journey.