Sunset Bunga Raya

Sunset at the Bunga Raya

Kota Kinabalu is one of those destinations that is very family friendly and easily reachable from HK and Singapore in particular. Then there are the Koreans who come for the golf, and finally those people like me who use it as a transit point to the far more interesting destinations either deep in the jungle, or off the eastern and northern coasts.

The first two categories of tourist head to the resorts out of town, so as I wish to avoid them, I stay elsewhere.

This year I’ve stayed in three of KK’s hotels and enjoyed my short stays in town immensely.  KK has a fantastic set of night markets that sell some of the best seafood in the whole of South East Asia – all freshly caught and grilled including king prawns that are literally a foot long, and amazingly cheap beautiful lobsters.

In town:

Hyatt Regency

The best of the in-town hotels. Right on the seafront, the rooms on the front afford astonishing views of the sunset over the South China Seas. Among the most incredible sunsets I’ve witnessed.

The hotel has been refurbed more recently than the Meridian, so whilst it’s quite a bog-standard and bland business hotel with averagely sized rooms, it’s well appointed and doesn’t feel tired.

The hotel is close to the more interesting bars in town and just by one of the night markets.

What I did like particularly was the super old-school club lounge. Great service, some smashing snacks and again, that awesome view that really makes you enjoy your sundowners which are free and plentiful between the hours of 5pm – 8pm.

Location and contacts:

Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong, 88991,
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 88 22 1234


The Meridien

I stayed here the first time I came to Kota Kinabalu after reading reviews of both the Hyatt and the Meridien on Trip Advisor (Why did I do that I ask myself? It seems that people who write on the website are just not used to the same standards of accommodation that I am, cooing as they do over the fact that there is a separate shower and bathtub…)

Anyway. Again I had a seaview room, and the views made up for the fact that the hotel is stuck in the 1980s. The service was fine and the room-size was good, but oh my, it’s a tired old girl, and the club lounge wasn’t competing with the Hyatt either.

Once we’d stayed in the Hyatt, we wouldn’t go back to the Meridien, as they were basically the same price at a very reasonable US$200 for a sea-view room with club access.

Location and contacts:

Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Sinsuran, Kota Kinabalu, 88000
Phone: +60 8832 2222



The Bunga Raya

Whilst not particularly convenient for the airport, I did spend a couple of days at the Bunga Raya on Gaya Island.

Originally there were only the sister hotels of Bunga Raya and the Gayana Eco Resort on Gaya Island, but there is some busy building now across the bay from the Eco Resort. Fortunately the Bunga Raya sits in it’s own bay so will never be compromised by further development.

The Bunga Raya is the smaller of the two resorts and is somewhat more expensive.  Although guests of the two hotels are free to come and go between them, the beach and facilities were almost deserted when we were there back in Easter. Astonishing given the quality of the accommodation.

Make sure you are given a true sea-view room if you stay there, and you won’t be disappointed. The rooms all have large terrace balconies, and large bedrooms. The decor is precise and although the bathrooms are dark, they are well stocked.

Service was patchy. Nice touches like a morning muffin and fruit basket, but generally the service was very, very slow – the pool was without towels for a couple of hours one day so we all had to just sit around drip-drying. Was also surprised when seated at the bar that there were no snacks served with the drinks. Unusual for a 5 star hotel.

The staff were very good at remedying problems when they occurred, but it begged the question as to why the problems occurred in the first place. We were given a really late check-out of 5pm and a free transfer back to KK because the staff were changing shifts which were much appreciated.

Again though, the staff were more concerned about giving us a present of a necklace when we left than actually help us take our luggage along the dock, which was just a bit baffling.

Food was also patchy. The breakfast was very decent, but the evening meal we had was surprisingly disappointing considering the amazing ingredients on offer in the town. I had a chicken soup that was overpowered by too much cinnamon, and a fish salad that had so much lime and vinegar on it that it destroyed what was potentially an excellent dish.

I was also confused as to why the evening menu tended towards the international rather than the local with a very limited choice of seafood, and no beach barbecue.

They have a spa which has a number of treatment rooms spread up the side of a hill and is accessed across a suspension bridge. All quite fun, very nicely styled and we had a couple of very good massages.

Anyway. Considering the price of the room, which was US$500 a night, we decided that the location, environment and standard of the accommodation did make this a hotel we’d go back to if we had more than 24 hours to spend in the town, despite the dodgy service delivery at times.

It is so convenient for KK, has beautifully clear water, a lovely beach, is surrounded by jungle, is delightfully landscaped (as long as you ignore the Italianate fountains out the back, and the gigantic fake mushrooms in the pond), is quiet, friendly, has a great pool, and a wealth of wildlife to marvel at like wild boar, monitors and hornbills.

Location and contacts:

Malohom Bay, Gaya Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Tel: +6 088 442233, 475533