Skip the snooze button: 10 good reasons to rise early at these hotels

Borneo houses Gaya Island Resort.
Gaya Island Resort
Borneo houses Gaya Island Resort.

The days of knocking back cocktails and doing your best rendition of “Call Me Maybe” at the hotel’s karaoke bar until dawn are over. Early morning activities are a rising trend at many resorts and hotels. “We’re seeing more travelers taking advantage of early morning wellness offerings on vacation,” says Filip Boyen, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which represents 520 properties in 80 countries. Increasingly, people want to maintain their fitness regime while on the road, he notes. “If they can combine fitness with a local wellness experience, it keeps their routine on track and also enriches their lives,” Boyen adds.

While the late night crowd shuffles to bed, the wholesome, up-with-the-chickens contingent is hiking to volcanoes, communing with proboscis monkeys, and doing downward dogs at ancient ruins. Here’s what you’ll be missing if you decide to sleep in at these properties.

Even the most morning-challenged among us will rise to the occasion on a guided hike through a virgin rain forest on Gaya Island, located off the coast of Borneo in Malaysia. The resident naturalist at the Gaya Island Resort will describe local flora and fauna as you wander through a landscape of lush greenery and ropy vines that are home to fascinating critters like red giant flying squirrels, bearded pigs, and proboscis monkeys, a rare species endemic to Borneo. Situated on Pulau Gaya, part of a natural marine reserve, the resort offers other habitats to explore as well, including coral reefs and mangroves surrounded by the South China Sea. In the distance: Mount Kinabalu.


Would you wake up early if it meant witnessing Bali’s most revered peak, Mount Agung, at sunrise? We thought so. The Viceroy Bali hotel in Indonesia is big on getting guests out of bed to do incredible things, like hike Batur Volcano (coupled with Mount Agung) on a private trek — definitely a bucket list experience. It also offers a guided 7 a.m. walk to the rural wood carving village of Nagi for a look at Balinese life in the countryside. En route to the Petanu River, you’ll traverse a patchwork of rice fields and coconut plantations shrouded in mist, and watch the day unfold. (Hashtag: Magical.) The family-owned Viceroy Bali, located in Ubud, offers 25 thatched-roof villas.

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Meanwhile, guests at Villa Borobudur in central Java are happy to emerge early from their traditional Javanese “joglos” (traditional vernacular houses) to follow in the footsteps of Buddhist monks to the ancient Borobudur Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Encircled by clouds, nearby peaks seem lit from within in the pearly light of sunrise. Later, look for pottery and batik in similar sherbety hues at a local craft market.

“Bush walking at the Bay of Many Coves” — yes, please. Work out the kinks from your ultra-long flight to New Zealand’s South Island with a sunrise bush walk in a private nature reserve. Chilly Boston will feel very far away. The Bay of Many Coves Resort, an 11-room luxury lodge in Marlborough Sounds, offers 128 acres of bush lands, aflutter with exotic bird life. Venture out to the 44-mile-long Queen Charlotte Track, one of the most popular tramping tracks in the country, traversing the ridgeline between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. The bay views are especially luminous in the peachy wash of sunrise.

Heading to North Island for your NZ adventure? The five-room Greenhill Lodge at Hawke’s Bay in Hastings offers two good reasons to arrange for a wake-up call: sunrise horseback riding on the beach, or an early a.m. go at fly fishing with a proper picnic prepared by the hotel. Alas, you’ll want to stay up late as well; they’ve got a telescope set up in a turret for stargazing. Set on the east coast of North Island, Hawke’s Bay is a one-hour flight from Auckland or Wellington.

The early bird gets the birds, on a Dawn Bird Walk at the Tryall Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The property is situated on 2,200 acres of mostly pristine land, vibrant with life and laced with hiking trails. Led by a guide, you’ll discover some of the 60 or so resident species of birds here, as well as 16 migrant species (migrants visit between November and April.) Get the sleep out of your eyes — it’s not easy to spot the rare, 2-inch-long Vervain Hummingbird, the second-smallest bird in the world.


Is 2 a.m. late night or super-early morning? Either way, that’s when guests are on the move for the Strawberry Hill Hotel’s Blue Mountain Peak Trek. Those who stay up all night are forewarned: It’s an 18-mile hike that typically takes seven or eight hours to complete. But watching a scarlet sunrise over Jamaica’s Blue Mountain is definitely worth the inconvenience and the sore quads you’ll have the next day. The goal is to arrive at the summit of Blue Mountain at 5:30 a.m. Watch the plant life change as you climb from 3,500 to 7,000 feet above sea level. The folks at Strawberry Hill Hotel, a cool mountain aerie located in St. Andrew (near Kingston) will supply water, food, and snacks. You bring boots, backpack, and a can-do attitude. www.straw

Sunrise yoga is nice. Sunrise yoga in the shadow of a Maya temple is wowza. The Zen-minded souls at Ka’ana Resort in San Ignacio, Belize, believe that early morning is the perfect time to release your body and your mind. The property’s Eden-like surroundings — the jungle of Cayo — add to the sensation. But for a truly unique yoga experience, join them at the nearby Maya Temple of Xunantunich, set on a natural limestone ledge. After perfecting your poses, take in the lofty views of neighboring villages and on a clear day, Guatemala.

Greet the desert at sunrise — and perhaps some bighorn sheep — at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, Calif. You’ll burn through some of those 10,000 Fitbit steps on a 20-minute (or so) guided hike called the Bump & Grind Excursion. Enter through Painters Path in the Palm Desert to embark on the 3-mile loop trail. The 1,000-foot ascent up switchbacks offers a dazzling reward: sweeping, raspberry-hued sunrise views of the Coachella Valley and San Jacinto Mountains.

Ever imagine what it’s like at a theme park before the stroller-pushing, giant-turkey-leg-eating masses arrive? Wonder no more. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, Fla., offers free early morning group jogs around Walt Disney World on Wednesdays at 7 a.m. Led by a running concierge, the 5k Sunrise Shakeout Runs take guests past some of the highlights, including Hollywood Studios, Epcot Resort, and Disney’s BoardWalk. Can’t make it on a Wednesday? Arrange for a running concierge to run with you on a jogging route customized to your preferred length of run.

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at