Johor Bahru is the southernmost city on the Malay Peninsula. Once a ramshackle border town, JB is on the up, having cleaned up its act (to an extent) to attract travellers from nearby Singapore and beyond. Look past the traffic jams and you’ll find the Glass Temple, Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque and the Chinese Heritage Museum, as well as a selection of fine hotels in Johor Bahru.
Rooms at Midori Concept in north Johor Bahru are a little grandma-esque – thanks to their frilly satin drapes and pastel colour schemes – but they’re clean and comfortable. Common areas are more modern, with plenty of natural light and plants galore. The Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park is just next door and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the vicinity, making this a good pitstop for families and fun seekers.
Want a boutique hotel in Johor Bahru on a budget? Check out Atelier Hotel in Taman Pelangi. Exposed brick, polished concrete floors and black woodwork throughout give a modern, minimalist feel – but form has not been prioritised over function. Reusable water bottles and refill stations give a subtle nod to the hotel’s sustainability goals, while a rooftop garden and shared kitchen mean there are plenty of spaces to relax.
Glex sits within a large, multi-purpose complex in Taman Abad, near KSL City Mall. With big, super-clean rooms, perfect for travelling with groups, it offers great value for money in the heart of the business district. Spend the day sightseeing – the famed Glass Temple is a seven-minute taxi ride away – before indulging in a foot massage at the reflexology centre downstairs.
Looking for a home away from home? Smack bang in central Johor Bahru, just a stone’s throw from the Singapore border, Suasana All Suites provides elegant accommodation in a prime location. Chic apartments feature separate living spaces and well-equipped kitchenettes – and there’s a rooftop pool and sky cafe on the 33rd floor offering excellent views of the city skyline.
There are treasures to be found at TROVE – from larger-than-average rooms to the free-form outdoor pool. Standard twins and deluxe doubles are decorated in one of five themes and pay homage to local artists, JB heritage and the natural wonders of Malaysia. Sights such as the Botanic Gardens and Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque are a five-minute drive away.
Legoland Malaysia Resort is only a 20-minute drive from central Johor Bahru, but kids and hardcore Lego fans will want to stay in a pirate-, kingdom-, adventure- or Ninjago-themed room. Every detail has been designed to keep kids entertained, from treasure hunts and brick building areas right down to the Lego disco elevator. You might even meet life-sized Lego characters as they wander around the hotel pool and restaurant.
Check-in is extra sweet at DoubleTree by Hilton in central Johur Bahru, thanks to the chain’s famous complimentary cookies. Rooms here are large and luxurious and come with top-notch city views. Angry Birds Activity Park and City Square shopping are less than a 10-minute walk away. Craving more cookies? Pick some up before you leave at the casual hotel cafe, The Food Store.
It may be in the suburbs, but there’s still plenty to see and do near the Renaissance in Permas Jaya, including a nine-hole golf course and Greenland Kids Theme Park. Downtown JB is just a 10-minute taxi ride away. Warm-hued rooms feature double vanities, extra comfy beds and views of the Johor Strait. Don’t miss a night-time wander around the Old Street Hawker Centre.
If you want to be near all the action, look no further than Amari. Countless restaurants, two huge shopping centres and the Angry Birds Activity Park are right on your doorstep, while the Zaharah Botanic Gardens are just a 15-minute walk away. Within the hotel you’ll find a luxurious spa, an open-air bar and pool, and a clever hawker-style food gallery serving Thai-fusion delights.
Traffic can be relentless in Johor Bahru – so play it safe pre- or post-flight with a night or two at Impiana Hotel Senai, which is a 10-minute drive from Senai International Airport. Far from a basic stopover, Impiana has warm and inviting deluxe rooms, plus a decent spa, restaurant and infinity pool.
The rooms at this large hotel near KSL City Mall are plain and unfussy – especially compared to the blingy well-lit lobby and palm-lined outdoor pool – but this is a fine choice for business and budget-conscious travellers. The Meisan Szechuan restaurant is a particular draw – try the hot and sour soup or the chilli prawns.
With a free-form swimming pool, a spa equipped with a steam room and plunge pool, plus a gym and tennis courts, Thistle could be your next wellness retreat. Baby blue deluxe rooms feature marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows – some come with views of the pool and the strait beyond. Book a table at the al fresco Italian restaurant for a romantic poolside meal.
Spanning 325ha (800 acres) of green hillside right next door to Senai International Airport, Le Grandeur Palm is ideal for active travellers. Besides the 54-hole golf course, guests can enjoy a range of activities at the on-site sports and leisure centre, including bowling, archery, tennis and squash. There’s even an Olympic-sized pool. The best feature of the hotel rooms has to be the balconies – you’re guaranteed a view, be it of the garden, pool or golf course.
Family-friendly KSL Hotel & Resort in central JB is connected to the popular KSL shopping mall, and has a plethora of fun things to do, including a cinema, karaoke centre, golf simulator and giant dinosaur water theme park. Groups of all sizes are catered for – excellent value options range from simple twin rooms to four bedroom apartments.
This is an updated version of an article originally written by Michelle Leong.
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