What Are the Best Resorts in Malaysia?

Malaysias Pangkor Laut Resort is located on its own private island, with villas built on stilts over the sea
Malaysia's Pangkor Laut Resort is located on its own private island, with villas built on stilts over the sea | Courtesy of Pangkor Laut Resort / Expedia
Siobhan Grogan

Backpackers, honeymooners and wildlife watchers are all mesmerised by Malaysia, with its castaway beaches and ancient jungle teeming with exotic animals and birds. Whether you want to stay in the rainforests or head to Kuala Lumpur for a slice of city life, make your stay even more magical by booking one of these luxurious resorts, complete with resident naturalists, extensive gin collections and trips to spot the local orangutans.

1. Pangkor Laut

Resort

Courtesy of Pangkor Laut Resort / Expedia

This heavenly hotel and spa, located on its own private island where villas are dotted through ancient rainforest or on stilts over the sea, has been voted the world’s number one resort. It’s all about relaxing in nature here, with a curved white-sand beach, fragrant jungle trails and sea eagles circling above. Nothing is too much trouble for the discreet staff either, from arranging barbecued lobster for a private beach dinner to cruising the bay on a yacht, champagne in hand.

2. The Andaman Langkawi

Resort, Chain Hotel, Luxury

Courtesy of The Andaman / Expedia

Surrounded by a 10-million-year-old rainforest and overlooking a kaleidoscopic coral reef, The Andaman is the stuff of holiday fantasies. Rooms include those with direct beach access or their own Jacuzzi – though all have spa-style bathrooms with large bathtubs, Nespresso machines and Japanese kimonos. Spend days cooling off in the pool or joining a nature walk with the resident naturalist, then enjoy seafood and Japanese feasts in one of four resort restaurants.

3. Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa

Resort, Spa Hotel, Golf Hotel, Hotel, Luxury

Courtesy of Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa / Expedia

Even the kids are welcome in paradise at this tropical retreat, just 30km (19mi) from Penang Airport. They have their very own pool shaded by the rainforest and a kids’ club open all day, with extra child-minding services available out of hours. Daily activities include team games, nature walks, sand art sessions and t-shirt painting. Sneak away while they’re occupied to join yoga and water volleyball classes, tee off at the resort’s par-three pitch and putt course or be pampered at the spa.

4. The Danna Langkawi

Boutique Hotel, Resort

Courtesy of The Danna Langkawi / Expedia

No need to be stuck in the resort at this lavish resort in Langkawi. Just 15 minutes from Langkawi Airport, this property is close to some of the island’s unmissable sights including Seven Wells Waterfall and the famous Sky Bridge. If even that sounds like hard work, stay close to the largest three-tiered infinity pool on the island instead, curl up with a book in the library or sample drinks from the island’s largest gin collection at Verandah Lounge.

5. One&Only Desaru Coast

Resort, Luxury, Boutique Hotel

Courtesy of One&Only Desaru Coast / Expedia

It’s easy to do as much or as little as you choose at this One&Only resort on the southeastern shoreline of Malaysia. With a vast area of vanilla sand, an idyllic 50-m (164-ft) infinity pool and a personal plunge pool in every suite, doing nothing is definitely an option. If you’d rather stay active, there are tennis courts, beach bikes to borrow, a nine-hole golf course, cooking classes and even a creative studio in case artistic inspiration strikes. Browse more options in Johor by seeing the best hotels in Johor Bahru, bookable with Culture Trip.

6. Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa

Resort, Chain Hotel, Spa Hotel

Courtesy of Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa / Expedia

Get away from it all on this extensive 162-ha (400-acre) resort with its own 26-ha (64-acre) private forest and 3-km (2-mi) private beach. A great base to explore the wilds of Borneo, there are masses of activities for everyone from families to thrill-seekers. Expert rangers lead treks into the rainforest, water sports including jet skiing, parasailing and windsurfing are all on offer and there are lessons in everything from scaling the climbing wall to weaving coconut leaves.

7. The Magellan Sutera Resort

Resort, Hotel

Courtesy of The Magellan Sutera Resort / Expedia

First impressions count at the five-star Magellan Sutera in Kota Kinabalu. The grand entrance lobby is an impressive architectural tribute to the Rungus natives of Sabah, while communal areas proudly display traditional artifacts throughout. Outside, the hotel’s picturesque pool weaves through manicured tropical gardens while the private beachfront area overlooks the South China Sea and the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

8. Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort

Resort, Chain Hotel

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort / Expedia

Families will find plenty to fill their days at the Hyatt Regency resort on the beachfront of Teluk Cempedak. The hotel has two outdoor pools as well as dedicated children’s activities; but more adventurous families will love to explore the local area, too. Try a cruise along the Cherating River to watch fireflies dancing in the dark, and a visit to the turtle sanctuary on Chendor Beach or a picnic by nearby waterfalls make for unbeatable holiday memories.

9. Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island

Resort, Budget Hotel, Chain Hotel

Courtesy of Vivanta Langkawi / Expedia

Couples craving alone time will feel like they’ve reached paradise at this beach resort in Langkawi. Set on its own private island lapped by blissfully translucent emerald waters, the hotel knows a thing or two about romance, with its own moon deck for candlelit private dinners, a yacht with Jacuzzi cabanas for sunset cruises and stylish rooms surrounded by sweet-scented gardens to hide away together.

10. Shangri La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa

Resort, Spa Hotel, Hotel

A sea-view terrace at Shangri-Las Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa with loungers, chairs and a circular sofa
Courtesy of Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa / Expedia

When another day on a sun lounger just won’t cut it, this resort (15 minutes from the city of Kota Kinabalu) offers plenty of alternatives. There is a huge pool complex with whirlpool bath and adults’ infinity pool, a pitch and putt course, tennis courts and even a water play area. Beyond the resort, try a tour of the neighbouring coral islands from the hotel’s private jetty or spy orangutans in their natural habitat in the neighbouring Kinabalu National Park.

11. Gayana Marine Resort

Resort, Luxury, Eco Hotel

Courtesy of Gayana Marine Resort / Expedia

Water babies will never want to leave this tranquil resort off the coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Forty-five over-water villas are made for star-lit swims while there are kayaks, paddleboards and a PADI dive centre for those who want to spend more time in the sea. The resort itself is centred around a marine research centre and guests can also help replant corals in the reef to ensure the ocean’s wonders last for future generations, too.

12. The Datai, Langkawi

Luxury, Resort

Courtesy of The Datai Langkawi / Expedia

No detail is too small to be overlooked at this luxury hideaway enveloped by a 10-million-year-old rainforest in Langkawi. There are resident marine biologists and naturalists to lead walks through the extraordinary landscape, a nature centre with mini-laboratories, generous free minibars and a traditional wooden Malaysian junk schooner for champagne cruises. On top of all that, 1.5km (0.9mi) of sheltered snowy-white sand place this resort near one of the Top 10 beaches in the world.

13. Sepilok Nature Resort

Resort, Boutique Hotel, Eco Hotel

Courtesy of Sepilok Nature Resort / Expedia

Nature lovers are spoiled rotten at the Sepilok Nature Resort, five minutes from the renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The animals can sometimes be seen in the forest next to the resort and there are twice-daily guided walks through the reserve to spot other wildlife including flying squirrels and slow loris. The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a further 20-minute walk away, so guests can stroll the only canopy walk in Sandakan, 28m (92ft) from the forest floor.

14. Gaya Island Resort

Resort, Eco Hotel, Luxury

Courtesy of Gaya Island Resort / Expedia

Keen foodies will be in gourmet ecstasy at this resort among the mangroves on the sandy coast of Malohom Bay. To-die-for dinner options include an al fresco seafood restaurant with views of Mount Kinabalu, a Japanese eatery nestled in the rainforest and an expansive buffet with live cooking stations and an in-house bakery. Guests can also take a personalised picnic hamper to the private beach (a five-minute boat ride away), start the day with a sunrise breakfast on the sand or learn to whip up local dishes in a cooking class.

Fancy getting closer to nature during your Malaysian holiday? See the Culture Trip list of the best places to camp in Malaysia.

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