We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Irvine, California
Level Contributor
59 posts
4 reviews
Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

I plan on spending a few days in Kota Kinabalu to explore. I thought it might be nice to stay at a resort and just relax by the beach for a one night stay. I'm having a hard time deciding between Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria or one of the resorts on Gaya Island. Where would you stay?

Thanks so much!

12 replies to this topic
Petaling Jaya...
Destination Expert
for Malaysia
Level Contributor
8,203 posts
113 reviews
1. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Depends. Do you want the ability to snorkel off the beach or not?

Horsham, United...
Level Contributor
72 posts
51 reviews
2. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

I'd like to think i'm relatively qualified to answer this, as I recently stayed at both (refering to Gaya Island resort on Gaya Island)! However, the honest answer is, I cant answer! Because I loved them both, but for different reasons! So i'll explain what I thought of both resorts which may help you decide.

GIR's tagline is "distinctively Borneo" and that's 100% accurate. The rooms are nestled in the rainforest and there is no mistaking that you are in Borneo. It that respect it's amazing. Generally speaking the staff and levels of service are brilliant, but it does feel a little "rough around the edges". They try hard but there are just little things that need refining for me. Simple things, like the phone stopped working in our room once, or my wife was given the wrong time for her Spa appointment so turned up half an hour early... so nothing major, just lots of little things like that.

The Rasa Ria on the other hand (we stayed in the Ocean Wing) was everything you would expect from a Shangri-La property. The service and levels of hospitality were perfect. Every attention to detail is considered to make your stay as perfect as it possibly could be, however, unlike GIR, walking around the resort, or waking up in the morning, and you feel like you could be in any tropical country anywhere in the world.

What I would say though either way is i'd strongly recommend more than one night at either resort, but appreciate that's easier said than done.

Irvine, California
Level Contributor
59 posts
4 reviews
3. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Wow! Thanks for all the information. I was already trying to figure out how to squeeze in two nights. I wish I had more days there. It's so hard to choose, I might just flip a coin. 😃

United Kingdom
Destination Expert
for Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan
Level Contributor
1,175 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

My vote is for GIR, having stayed at both, GIR is more suited to short stay, and there is more do there as far as being nature based.

RR is more of a sprawling resort, compared to the smaller size of GIR.

Irvine, California
Level Contributor
59 posts
4 reviews
5. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Thanks, that's kind of what I was thinking, seems like a little more of a experience than the other. Although I think I am going to spend two nights and skip something else.

I appreciate your feedback!

United Kingdom
Destination Expert
for Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan
Level Contributor
1,175 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Welcome.

Kota Kinabalu...
Level Contributor
6 posts
151 reviews
7. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Both hv access to the beach, one is an island so u can't leave, you're there 4 good till thy clean u dry, Jst kidding but ur stuck there nevertheless. Sadly what u see in the brochures can sometimes b deceiving since gaya has a lot of illigal settlers n hv since damaged the beach wth their wastage among other unhygienic ritual. The resort is however protected from these ppl but wats in the water will depend on the sea current n in the event that u decided to leave it's just a short boat ride bck 2 the city. Rasa rasa ria is a good 40min drive out wth beautiful white Sandy beach n it's clean wth no rubbish floating around. If u want 2 relax n tan all day, dis is the plc. Thy also hv an 18 hole golf course, gym, pool, tennis etc. Hv a great holiday either way.

Irvine, California
Level Contributor
59 posts
4 reviews
8. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

Thank you, I did read about the issues with the trash. I thought that I might just do day trips to the islands instead. I appreciate you taking the time to respond 😃

United Kingdom
Destination Expert
for Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan
Level Contributor
1,175 posts
2 reviews
9. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

I am not sure i agree with Terry R fully - the beach at Rasa Ria is not nearly as nice as at GIR, its not particularly warm compared to GIR, at Rasa Ria Sand Fly can be a nuisance, and the beach is often deserted - even when the resort is packed - the beach does not have that "tropical feel". The sea at RR does not lend well to swimming, and it too sees issues with trash, although i love Rasa Ria, i am not in love with the beach there.

The trash issue cannot be fully associated to the Bajau Laut, it is seen across many resorts near Kota Kinabalu, including Rasa Ria, Magellen, and Tanjang Aru, additionally, the trash at Gaya usually collects around the pier at Gayana Eco Resort, and does not usually effect GIR as much.

Edited: 1:51 pm, September 12, 2018
United Kingdom
Destination Expert
for Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan
Level Contributor
1,129 posts
163 reviews
10. Re: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island

I agree with signprint.

GIR is not "Hotel California where you can never leave" The boat transfers are throughout the day so giving you access to the KK city.

RRR has lovely soft sandy man made areas between the pool and the beach proper. Once your beyond the soft sand and near the water/tidal areas the sand is a dark brown, hard and damp with rivulets and ridges from the previous tides and the snakes hide here but they move away before you get near they are normally on their own long but small. The beach is 3km long and is a very enjoyably place to walk along it can become extremely hot. The beach is not a place for swimming as it can be rough, sea lice can also be a problem as they bloom so quickly so read the life guard information etc.

The GIR has a different tidal flow as it is at the rear of Pulau Gaya it does not face the incoming tide directly. The Bajau Kampung Laut (Bajau or Samah people live using the sea, Kampung=village,Laut=Sea.) at the end of Pulau Gaya and the incoming currents sweep past it and push rubbish into the nearby coastal areas of Tanjung Aru all the way along to the Waterfront at the top of KK city. There is an ebb and flow of the tide but mostly the rubbish comes in and is not drawn out again in this area.

The public beaches are cleaned on Thursday and Friday ready for public use so if your wandering along KK's two main beaches you may see a lot of rubbish. Often the natural detritus is left in place, coconuts, palm fronds even tree trunks. It won't stop you enjoying your visit.

Reply to: Rasa Ria or Gaya Island
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
Get answers to your questions about Kota Kinabalu