If I could have given 3.75 stars, I probably would. It's way better than average, but not quite very good. Yet.
We read previous reviews of Gaya Island with some nervousness. We need not have worried.
This may not be a world-class resort, but it’s pretty good. If you want an accessible, tropical resort, quiet, not too packed with water sports and ‘all-inclusive’ families – with some good food and great accommodation – this works.
We wanted somewhere luxurious to spend some serious down time after two weeks exploring Borneo in less glamorous accommodation. This did that job well.
Approaching the island, it’s hard to spot the hotel hidden among the trees - and that adds to the excitement. The jungle seems to gather the buildings into itself. The rooms, built as stilted villas, climb steeply up the hillside. As a family of three, needing a second bedroom, we lucked out by booking the Suria Suite. Huge, spacious, light and contemporary design, with wrap around balconies on two levels, exterior bath and shower where hornbills and monkeys join you from the jungle. There are views over the forest, across the bay to Mount Kinabalu and down to the hotels’ beach. This is special. Large bathrooms, games room, kitchen and more.
The hotel has all kinds of corners to hang out in and relax; from the super-special spa to a glass reading room, plenty of loungers on decks overlooking the beach, or little shady niches near the pool, when you need to grab the shade. Beautifully planted, the grounds will only get better as the gardens mature around the villas and disguise more of the still-exposed concrete.
Food was less wonderful. The ‘Feast Village’, (the main restaurant), provides a good choice though quality is variable, and the ambiance is like a motorway service station/meets school canteen. It desperately needs to be made more welcoming, classier space.
The small bar by the pool serves great smaller meals, with friendly service, but it is very small, and as the hotel filled up, people competed for seats – both at lunch and the evening cocktail hour.
Another criticism is the lack of a golf buggy, or similar, to ferry people up the hill to their villas and the spa. It’s a 10-minute climb, at least, along an ugly concrete road. Just a small courtesy vehicle would make all the difference, especially as families with small kids tend to be allocated those more distant rooms… I have been to similar resorts in the tropics where this has worked well.
Some previous reviewers criticised the resorts setting and the views. If you are dreaming of an island idyll, with infinite sea views and endless beach walks, this is not for you. It’s not Turks and Caicos or the Maldives. But there are fine views anyway (see pics). We didn’t mind the large ships moored in the very distance. It’s all part of the tableau.
Plans are afoot to add a sushi restaurant and increased bar services, so that will help, though mostly aimed at the rapidly growing Chinese clientele, now the largest visitor group.
We had a great 5 days here. Fabulous spa treatment, snorkeling, forest walks and messing about on paddle boards. Beers and cocktails by the pool and time spent in a luxurious room. Not world class. But good with lovely staff.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Gaya Island Resort is located on Pulau Gaya, the largest of a cluster of five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a natural conservation area off the coast of Borneo, close to Kota Kinabalu. Gaya Island Resort has a unique setting: the land is fringed with a golden sandy beach, rocky coastal outcrops, and surrounded by coral reefs. The hilly island landscape is covered with lush tropical rainforest and an abundance of flora and fauna. And to complete this perfect setting, visible in the distance, is the stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu. The guest villa exterior respects Sabahan architecture uses local materials and blends harmoniously with the natural environment. The interior living space is designed with contemporary elegance to create warmth, comfort and a serene indoor setting. Gaya Island Resort is committed to ecologically sustainable practices to minimise the carbon footprint within its environment. Therefore the resort is a walking resort and only minimal motorised vehicles are used for operational purposes. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gaya Island Resort Malaysia/Pulau Gaya