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Phuket has a new rival — the “Hawaii of Korea” may be Asia’s new best weekend getaway.
It packs diversity in its modest size, but the best of Jeju Island juggles multiple attractions with aplomb and never at the expense of quality.
To go exclusively to the beach and stick to the shores?
Or to go wandering around the semi-tropical island’s natural wonders, including the dormant volcano at the center of the island, the lava tubes or the curious cliffside rock formations?
It’s a difficult choice.
There are also wacky museums, unique local dishes (black pig, thick abalone porridge) and an ever-increasing crop of luxury resorts.
This leaves only one option: try a bit of everything and you’re bound to find the best of Jeju Island.
Hyatt Regency Jeju
Located on a sloping cliff overlooking the ocean and surrounded by cultivated greenery, amenities at this 223-room hotel include traditional Korean-style ondol rooms with heated floors and a private balcony in each room.
Olle Trail No. 8 (see below) is within walkable distance.
The hotel’s proximity to the Jungmun Tourist Complex means easy access to a casino, golf, shopping and ocean sports. Fans of the massive hit Korean drama “Boys Over Flowers” might recognize the triangular white wedding chapel from the wedding scene.
Hyatt Regency Jeju,114 Jungmungwangwang-ro 72 beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju Province, South Korea; +82 64 733 1234; standard rooms from ₩250,000 ($220) a night.
More on CNN: 50 beautiful places to visit in Korea
Lotte Hotel Jeju
Unabashedly extravagant, this best of Jeju Island hotel has whimsical touches like the Pungcha Lounge, a cafe inside a windmill. The in-house casino on the sixth floor runs 365 days a year and has a modest claim to fame from the Korean wave drama “All In.”
The hotel’s outdoor spa and garden, He:on, is the largest in Jeju, but guests who’d rather not mingle with others can opt for a private cabana or head toward the private beach lounge.
The showiest feature is the volcano fountain show at 8:30 p.m. each day, from the creators of the volcano show at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Lotte Hotel Jeju, 2812-4 Saekdal-dong Seogwipo-si, Jeju Province; +82 64 731 1000; standard rooms from ₩310,000 ($270) a night.
Villa de Aewol
This boutique hotel is close to Jeju Airport and Hyeopjae Beach and has on-site golf, a 25-meter-long outdoor swimming pool and spa. The sea of Aewol can be seen in the distance while the fourth-floor suite has a view of the sea and Halla Mountain.
There’s nothing excessive or lavish about the place, but it offers excellent value for chic and spacious rooms in a quieter area of the island.
Rates begin at about ₩130,000 ($114) a night for a Deluxe Double room, a studio-sized room with a Queen-sized bed; rates vary by season.
Villa de Aewol, 2768-7 Sineom-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju Province; +82 64 720 9000
Jeju Island is at its essence a volcano in the sea. The mother volcano is Halla Mountain, no longer formidable as a volcano — it’s been dormant for tens of thousands of years — but still South Korea’s tallest peak at 1,950 meters (6,397 feet) above sea level.
The mountain, the surrounding Hallasan National Park and the volcanic cones have collectively amassed an extensive list of national and UNESCO designations for their biodiversity.
But none of these honors really convey the sheer scale of the mountain, or the beauty of the flora that change character at higher elevations.
The number of identified plants alone amounts to more than 1,800, and the place is also home to thousands of different animal species.
A trek to the peak is worth it for the sight of Baekrokdam, the volcanic crater-turned-lake that tops the mountain. Starting at the Seongpanak Entrance, the 9.6-kilometer (6-mile) hike to the summit takes about five hours. It’s a true best of Jeju Island experience.
Halla Mountain, Seongpanak Entrance; San 137-24, Gyorae-ri, Jocheon-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju Province; +82 64 725 9950
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