For anyone who has ever been to Korea in the summer, spending the hottest season in the peninsula might sound a bit like enduring a winter in Russia. Or the monsoon in Malaysia.
Even locals tend to hightail it out of the country during the sweltering summer months.
In these cities, however, hotels have risen to the occasion with tantalizing discounted rates and exclusively seasonal packages, parties and privileges.
These perks do more than sweeten a bitter staycation — they’re pretty damn good reasons to spend a summer in Korea.
And the mass exodus of locals? That just means more ice for our soju margaritas.
Busan Paradise Hotel
Why is the towel dry? Because the guests just want to stay wet.
Busan’s Paradise Hotel’s version of “paradise” means a truly impressive abundance of various in-hotel activities, available in two different packages that have roughly the same content.
The Best “Nak” (pleasure) package, running from July 20 to August 18, includes free passes to their ocean spa, free passes to their outdoor pool (or really, you can just go out to the beach), access to a private sun tanning garden, acoustic guitar concerts, magic shows, cocktail shows, PlayStation games and guided tours of Busan.
The Last “Nak” package, with just minor reductions in content and price, is available during the waning few weeks of summer, from August 19 to September 1.
If you have kids, you can leave them with the hotel while you do the above -– there’s a variety of children’s entertainment designed to relieve parents of their duties.
The best part: the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel.
Packages for two are available in several different sizes with prices starting from ₩230,000 and ₩220,000 for the Best and Last packages, respectively. Prices vary according to room size, view and breakfast buffet add-ons; tax and service charges not included; 1408-5 Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산광역시 해운대구 중동 1408-5); +82 51 749 2111; www.busanparadisehotel.co.kr
Busan Seacloud Hotel
From these benches on the patio you get a stunning view of not just the ocean, but hopefully capsizing kayaking beginners, too. Busan’s Seacloud Hotel lines up outdoor marine activities with its Summer Hot package, available until August 31.
Along with a room, the package includes up to 15 percent discounts on ocean cruises, free outdoor pool access, a voucher for the hotel restaurant, complimentary breakfast and a discounted price for kayak rentals (with safety training for beginners) at the Haeundae Yachting Stadium.
For long-stay guests to Korea who don’t want to follow the hotel’s itinerary, a complimentary fifth night to guests who stay four consecutive nights or more is available until the end of the year.
Prices for the Summer Hot package start from ₩230,000 for two, tax and service charges not included; 287 Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산광역시 해운대구 해운대해변로 287번지); +82 51 933 1000; www.seacloudhotel.com
Hyatt Regency Jeju
We’re assuming the pool has to be pretty damn brilliant to drag guests away from this view.
If the poolside bar was once their pinnacle of summer splendor, the Hyatt has upped the ante with their Grotto Bar, a swim-up bar actually inside the pool that serves tropical drinks to half-submerged guests. The only way to top this would be to somehow directly inject the liquids into swimmers’ mouths.
The pool itself is far from your average, rectangular pool (it’s got a vaguely Carribbean-esque island in the middle and looks like a large, pristine puddle with fluorescent lighting) and features poolside DJ sessions from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as bingo and other giveaway events during evenings.
To promote environmental sustainability, Hyatt Regency guests can borrow an electric car (SM3 by Renault Samsung) free for a day, available only with reservations in advance on a first-come-first-served basis.
Their Summer Getaway package includes free pool access and two complimentary cocktails at the Grotto bar, breakfast buffet at the terrace café for two, a beach pack (flip flops, beach mat and a bag) and a book of coupons for major attractions on the island.
The Summer Getaway package ends on August 31 and prices start from ₩264,000 for two, tax and service charges not included; 114 Jungmungwangwang-ro 72 beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju Province (제주특별자치도 서귀포시 중문관광로 72번길 114) ; +82 64 733 1234; www.jeju.regency.hyatt.com
Haevichi Hotel & Resort
Packaged picnics? It’s like having a mom on vacation. Or multiple moms. Moms that you pay for, of course, but at a place like this, we’re not surprised.
Haevichi Hotel & Resort has all the classic features of a luxury summer resort — a well-appointed outdoor pool area studded with palm trees and sun beds, a poolside bar tended by a world-class bartender and a spa, among many other things.
Despite all this, they won’t try to coax you into hanging out around the hotel this time around. They want to send you on a picnic instead.
Their i40 Picnic package gives you everything you need to go on a leisurely jaunt into Jeju Island, including, of course, a picnic basket packed with baked goods, coffee and other picnic-appropriate snacks.
For package guests, the hotel lends out a Hyundai i40 for 24 hours for every overnight stay. For guests who hate planning, there are several pre-planned picnic courses through various Jeju attractions. Complete one of the said courses and you even get a cake.
The package includes a night’s stay with the hotel, free access to the fitness center, face mask samples and for guests staying for two or more nights, two complimentary glasses of wine at the hotel’s Star Beach Garden, where there are cushioned lawn chairs facing the beach in romantic pairs.
The i40 Picnic package ends on September 1. Prices start from ₩440,000 for two, tax and service charges not included; 40-69 Pyoseon-ri, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do (제주특별자치도 서귀포시 표선면 표선리 40-69); +82 64 780 8000; www.haevichi.com
The Shilla Jeju
Going to the beach has never been so fancy. And yet (for the guests), so simple.
The Shilla Jeju, like its Seoul counterpart, also keeps its swanky outdoor pool, spa, and Jacuzzi open until midnight as a part of their Luxury Summer package.
The Jeju Shilla is particularly big on music: the Jazz & World Music Festival on the outdoor pool deck serenades guests in the evenings. Live saxophone performances are held in the evenings near the private beach houses by the ocean.
These private beach houses, by the way, are free for guests who want a roomy and comfortable lounge with shade and sofas to retreat to after a dip in the sea.
The evening Gallery Winery tour is a pleasant hour and a half stroll through the hotel courtyard.
Along with all of the above, the package includes a room facing Mount Halla and complimentary breakfast service (the hotel will even pack it into a picnic basket if you want to breakfast by the beach.)
Free shuttle buses from the airport will be running until August 1.
The luxury summer package starts from ₩400,000, tax and service charges not included; 3039-3 Saekdal-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do (제주도 서귀포시 색달동 3039-3); +82 64 735 5114; www.shilla.net
Grand Hyatt Seoul
From the pool you get a panoramic view of the rest of the city, warped with heat. That only makes your own swim cooler.
Grand Hyatt Seoul has a reputation as one of Seoul’s best business hotels, but their summer packages make it a sweet place to stay for any vacationer in the summer, with a gorgeous outdoor pool that has a panoramic view of the city.
The summer season poolside grill buffet kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Cost: ₩67,000 (₩33,500 for children).
The Summer Spa package entails a one-night stay at the hotel and an hour-long private session of the treatment of your choice followed, by complimentary organic cookies and tea service.
Nice detail: they let you choose the background menu from a menu before your sessions begin.
The summer spa package runs until August 31 and starts from ₩355,000 per person, the romance package ₩307,000 per couple, and the bed and breakfast package from ₩256,000 for two, tax and service charges not included; 322 Soweol-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 소월로 322); +82 2 797 1234; seoul.grand.hyatt.com
The Shilla Seoul
It’s nothing like Cuba, but we’re OK with that. In fact, I think this is one of the few times we actually prefer it.
Not only does the Shilla’s pool have a spectacular view as well as sun beds, a Jacuzzi, a kids’ pool, a garden, rentable private cabanas and a poolside bar with Cuban-themed cocktails and food, starting this summer, the Shilla is the only hotel in Seoul that lets guests go for a dip in their glassy waters until midnight.
Guests are encouraged to swim even when there’s a slight drizzle out –- the hotel says it just adds to the romance.
After 8 p.m., the live band starts up and people congregate around — and in — the pool drinking, eating or dancing.
Surprise events and themed parties are also in the works.
Also recommended: The Havana Lounge on the third floor terrace.
The Havana Lounge/outdoor pool are open to all guests until August 31; room rates are from ₩240,000, tax and service charges not included; upcoming events can be found online at www.shilla.net; 202 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 장충동2가 202번지); +82 2 2233 3131