Spanning 4,000 acres across a 17km beachfront, Desaru Coast offers a scenic seaside destination in the southeastern region of Malaysia. Accessible by land, sea and air, the integrated resort destination is home to an array of luxury resorts, one of the world’s biggest waterparks, a fully equipped conference facility, and a golf club.
Earlier this month, Desaru Coast was crowned as the Best Integrated Resort in Asia Pacific by Travel Weekly Asia’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Last year, Time Magazine named it one of the World’s Best Places of 2021. Needless to say, the relatively new development is putting the country on the map—attracting locals and foreigners alike (especially Singaporeans).
During my recent visit, I had the pleasure of staying at the prestigious Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas. First opened in 2019, the 5-star property has also picked up numerous awards in its own right—the most recent being the Best Beach Resort in Asia/Pacific 2022 Award as voted by readers of Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) Asia.
With that in mind, I welcomed my three-day, two-night stay at the property with much anticipation. Read on for my full review.
After a five-hour long drive from Kuala Lumpur (including a stop at Johor Bahru for a late lunch), I arrived at the resort in dire need of rest. As I was escorted to the lounge to check in, however, I couldn’t help but perk up at the breathtaking views of the property that greeted me. The sound of lapping water and the calming shades of blue (from the resort’s pool and the distant sea) instantly eased me into a more relaxed mood.
A few moments of awe later, my partner and I helped ourselves to the welcome drink and hot towel to freshen up before the hotel staff kindly briefed us on the resort’s facilities. Thankfully, our One Bedroom Lagoon Pool Villa was just a short walking distance away and soon enough, we were unwinding in the comfort of our room.
At 110 square metres, the double-storey villa can easily accommodate a family of four with young children. On the ground floor, there’s a small dining table with welcome amenities, a mini bar with complimentary Nespresso coffee (which we helped ourselves to right away), and a cosy living area facing the private deck and plunge pool. A gazebo sets the scene for private poolside dining (more on this later) or lounging in nature with views of the lagoon.
Upstairs, a plush king-sized bed beckons for a good night’s sleep, with a sofa at the foot of the bed from where you can look out into the pool and lagoon below. Dark wooden furniture informs the room’s interiors, reflecting a local design. The bathroom is spacious and features double vanity sinks, a bathtub big enough to fit two average adults, a two-way closet (also accessible from the bedroom), a separate shower area, and a toilet next to it. As far as 5-star accommodations go, the villa didn’t exactly blow me away in terms of design, but was comfortable and well-appointed nonetheless.
The resort has two restaurants and three bars, as well as in-room dining options. On the first night, I had dinner at Turmeric, the all-day dining restaurant which serves Malay and Thai dishes. It has an outdoor terrace facing the lagoon pool for an al fresco ambience, and an indoor setting with dark wooden furnishings exuding a colonial charm.
My partner and I decided to order a starter, a main and a dessert from each cuisine for variety. Among the highlights we tried include the Ikan Bakar (whole roasted fish in banana leaves and homemade sambal) and Gai Yang Takrai (grilled half marinated chicken cooked with lemongrass, fried garlic, shallots, spring onion, coriander leaf, and spicy tamarind sauce). For someone who prefers savoury over sweet dishes, both desserts—Tab Tim Krob and Sago Gula Melaka in Fresh Coconut—left me pleasantly surprised and satisfied.
Guests who book breakfast-inclusive room rates can also enjoy a breakfast spread at Turmeric, which we had on the second day. There’s a decent selection of cuisines and dishes, from your usual continental favourites to local noodle and nasi lemak stations, a salad bar, in addition to an assortment of breads, pastries, fruits, and desserts.
Meanwhile, Sea.Fire.Salt is the resort’s beachfront restaurant that specialises in grilled seafood and steaks. It’s a beautiful space that’s quite popular for dinner service given its romantic setting by the sea. Pro tip: make your reservations early and opt for a table closer to the ocean views for the best experience! The Sea.Fire.Salt Platter is the signature order here, offering a plethora of seafood including soft-shell crab, rock lobster, scallops, sea bass, prawns and calamari served on a Himalayan salt brick with wagamama dressing and lemon butter sauce on the side. On the other hand, meat lovers won’t go wrong with the Angus Rib Eye, complemented by a delicious truffle mash potato, asparagus and sauteed mushrooms.
For a more hands-on dining experience, sign up for the signature Spice Spoons program where you will be taught to prepare Malaysian or Thai dishes under the guidance of a master chef. This proved to be a fun couple’s activity where we each cooked up a set of Roti Jala, Steamed Sea Bass, and Kuih Ketayap—putting our basic cooking and plating skills to the test. As it turned out, my partner—who barely spends time in the kitchen—has a knack for the latter and actually fancied putting the meal together. Whether or not he’ll treat me to surprise meals after this remains to be seen, but at least it was to gratifying to savour the fruits of our labour.
Although I didn’t have time to check out the hotel bars, I did wake up to a delightful floating breakfast in my pool villa on the last day. If you love big breakfasts and a morning dip in the pool, then you don’t want to miss this to relish the best of both worlds. The spread consisted of pastries, pancakes, waffles, salad, quiche, and a charcuterie board, as well as coffee, tea and juice. Should the sun be too hot for comfort, there’s always the option to enjoy your feast on the gazebo instead.
With two beautiful resort pools (on top of a private pool for those in the villa category and above) and a peaceful stretch of beach at your disposal, there’s enough to keep you occupied in between meals and nap times. For those who lead active lifestyles, there’s a fitness club, seasonal water sports, and beach activities to help you achieve your fitness goals. Guests can also explore the resort’s grounds through a bicycle ride, with bike stands placed conveniently around the property.
Alternatively, the Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast is an ideal option for families and friends to have a splashing good time. Situated less than a five-minute drive away, the waterpark is home to the first-ever water coaster in the region and one of the biggest wave pools in the world! We spent over an hour here and had quite a blast, with our favourites being the Kraken’s Revenge, The Tempest and Riptide.
Before checking out, I managed to squeeze in a 60-minute treatment at Anantara Spa. The menu includes facials and massages that are rooted in indigenous healing traditions, designed to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. I had the Signature Massage, which incorporates Eastern and Western massage techniques combined with my choice of oil blend to stimulate circulation, promote deep relaxation, and restore energy flow. After a brief consultation accompanied by a cup of hot tea, I was in the treatment room, falling into slumber as my therapist kneaded the knots out of my body…
By the end of my stay, I felt much more relaxed and refreshed than when I arrived, with fond new memories to bring home. While the journey from and back to KL is rather long, Desaru Coast is worth a visit at least once—and Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas will make your stay there that much more rejuvenating.
Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas
Address: Persiaran Pantai, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor
Contact: 07 828 0888
Email: [email protected]
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