Top 10 luxury hotels in Malaysia
Complete with an impactful slogan, "Malaysia, Truly Asia" really does have it all: emerald tea plantations, golden temples, buzzing cities, glittering white-sand beaches, orangutan-filled jungles, and a rich cultural heritage most noticeable in its architecture and gastronomy. We check into the most luxurious hotels this country has to offer, many of which are located on the sun-soaked islands off the mainland.
Cameron Highlands Resort, Pahang
The scene: Ravishing views of the tea plantations and the rolling hills of Pahang dominate at this boutique-style stunner set at the highest point of mainland Malaysia. Housed in a striking colonial heritage building that exudes olde-worlde glamour, it offers an 18-hole golf course, award-winning spa, and plenty of tucked-away spots where you can enjoy a decent cup of English tea.
The sleep: All of the 56 salubrious rooms and suites mix colonial styling with contemporary chic. Expect lashings of cream and neutral hues, polished floors, timber-beamed ceilings, plantation shutters, and statement-making four-poster beds (king-size or twins). You’ll also find French-style doors leading onto private balconies, luxe bathrooms, and flatscreen TVs with digital channels.
The stay: Tea-infused treatments, healing therapies, and ancient local beauty rituals take centre stage at the Spa Village - a jungle-inspired sanctuary overlooking the emerald landscape. Equally tempting is the well-equipped gym for workouts, the peaceful reading room for curling up with a book by the fireplace, and the bar for the tinklings of a resident pianist. There’s also an excellent choice of English-meets-Asian dining options - all of which can be enjoyed in the main restaurant, the resplendent tearoom, the gorgeous tea gardens, or the candlelit private gazebo.
More information and to book: Cameron Highlands Resort, Pahang
Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
The scene: Boasting the most Insta-worthy views of anywhere in Malaysia’s capital, this upscale hotel facing the Petronas Twin Towers has the Suria KLCC shopping centre and the lush City Park on its doorstep. Dazzling cityscapes aside, facilities include a superb choice of restaurants and lounges, a small spa, and an awesome rooftop pool with sun decks on the 33rd floor.
The sleep: There’s 571 rooms, half of which have Petronas Twin Towers views. All come with soothing décor, spacious beds, roomy bathrooms with separate shower cubicles, and heaps of mood-setting luxuries. Those upgrading to a Traders Club room (floors 25 to 31) are rewarded with slightly posher amenities as well as limitless use of the club lounge during daytime hours.
The stay: The show-stopping 33rd-floor Sky Bar that wraps around the rooftop pool is easily one of the city’s trendiest places for pre- and post-dinner cocktails (it was named “Best Malaysian Bar" by Malaysian Tatler). Further highlights include the small spa with sauna, steam bath, and private cabanas, the city-view gym (it stays open around-the-clock), and the two signature restaurants: Gobo Chit Chat for international buffet-style fare and themed nights and Gobo Upstairs Lounge & Grill for wining and dining in a far more intimate and swanky setting.
More information and to book: Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor
The scene: A “Best Hotel” nod by Condé Nast Traveller is justified at this just-remote-enough hideaway along the Straits of Malacca, just three miles off Malaysia’s west coast (15 minutes by boat). Set on a 300-acre private island of pristine beaches and lush rainforest, there’s two great pools, seven unique restaurants, an outstanding spa, and a splendid range of activities.
The sleep: Facing onto the Malacca Straits, the villas and suites are either resting on stilts above the waters or set back in the hillside. All have sumptuous Malay design touches (high ceilings, dark woods, soothing hues), balconies with cushioned sunloungers, king-size beds with luxe linens, and bathrooms with large vanities, separate showers, and oversized stone bathtubs.
The stay: In addition to seven globe-spanning restaurants (including private dining options), there’s a whopping amount of land and sea activities (fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, rainforest walks, tennis, swimming at Emerald Beach, and more). Most standout, though, is the award-winning Spa Village that occupies a whole bay on the south of the island. Here you’ll find treatment pavilions, healing huts, bathhouses, nap gazebos, and 22 sea-facing spa villas for local and international massages, facials, herbal scrubs, and indulgent body wraps.
More information and to book: Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor
Japamala Resort by Samadhi, Tioman Island
The scene: A persuasive draw for luxury-hunters and South Pacific fans (the movie was filmed here in 1958), the tiny Tioman Island in the South China Sea is the backdrop for this back-to-nature boutique resort. Leading the way in chilled-out living, it has a pool dotted with tanning pavilions, a unique spa for otherworldly pampering, and three rather divine dining spots.
The sleep: For a true castaway feel, all of the South China Sea-facing treehouses and chalets set between the trees and boulders are secluded, serene, and stunning. Assuming a rustic-chic design theme, each has a terrace with wicker furniture, bathroom with powerful rainfall shower, flatscreen TV with DVD player, and queen-size bed so comfy you’ll struggle to get out of it.
The stay: Those who want to be left in a state of relaxed bliss will adore the signature Samadhi Spa for its lush jungle canopy, clifftop hot tub, natural cave, and selection of treatments and therapies using age-old healing traditions and contemporary techniques. The resort also has three crowd-pleasing dining spots: Tamarind for Asian cuisine with a focus on Thai and Indo-Chinese flavours, Mandi-Mandi for open-air barbecues, grills, cocktails, and chilled-out tunes, and Il Tempio for classic Italian dishes paired with a selection of fine wines.
More information and to book: Japamala Resort by Samadhi, Tioman Island
The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi
The scene: Bordered by a 10-million-year-old rainforest and the peaceful Datai Bay, this Langkawi Island resort ups the ante for its idyllic spa, excellent kids’ club, specialist restaurants, coral nursery (part of a project to repopulate the bay’s 8,000-year-old fringing reef), and diverse nature activities. And for golfers, the 18-hole, Ernie Els-designed course is four minutes away.
The sleep: All of the 178 rooms and suites have dark wooden floorboards, plush beds swathed in 300-thread-count linens, and step-out balconies (or large terraces) overlooking the rainforest or Datai Bay. Nice extras include flatscreen TVs, fully-stocked minibars, and spa-like bathrooms with large bathtubs, glass-enclosed rainforest showers, and scented toiletries.
The stay: There’s no shortage of thrills when it comes to food and drink; mostly in the four unique dining venues that entwine gourmet cuisine (Japanese, Scandinavian Western) with indigenous flavours. Further thrills include well-deserved pampering at the spa, exciting watersports (kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, snorkelling), nature walks, cookery classes, and a lovely Bamboo Cineplex where you can watch movies. Families with young kids will enjoy the lagoon-style pool that has waterslides as well as a special wading section for toddlers.
More information and to book: The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi
Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang
The scene: Setting the bar high for stays in Penang, this sparkling retreat wows with 30 acres of lush gardens framed by towering rain trees, contemporary Malay architecture, and unrestricted views across the fabled Batu Ferringi Beach. There’s three pools (one is for grown-ups), a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course, a secluded spa, and a fun-filled adventure zone for families.
The sleep: It’s all about the carved woods, colourful fabrics, and Minangkabau-style design touches in the 304 rooms and suites. Expect king-size beds (or twins), spacious bathrooms, and furnished terraces or balconies overlooking the Andaman Sea or landscaped gardens. Guests staying in the more exclusive Rasa Wing will enjoy upgraded amenities and resort privileges.
The stay: Everything at this smart seaside hideaway is upmarket without remotely flashy. There’s an above-par selection of sports (Tai Chi, yoga, jogging, acquafit, tennis, table tennis), a state-of-the-art gym with high-tech cardio equipment, and ad-hoc activities such as cooking demos and guided jungle walks. For eats and treats, the atmospheric restaurants and bars are all sensational - especially the beachside Feringgi Grill in the Rasa Wing that serves exquisitely-presented modern grill cuisine, a selection of vintage wines, and a choice of fine cigars.
More information and to book: Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terengganu
The scene: Designed to resemble a 17th-century Malay palace, this dreamy resort on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia has two pools, exceptional diving opportunities, and access to a golden beach backed by the South China Sea. It also offers several brilliant cultural experiences, including trekking in the jungle and meeting batik and bamboo weavers in the nearby villages.
The sleep: Ranging from deluxe to decadent, each of the 100 guest rooms (either in a single storey beach cottage or two-storey unit) affords views of the glistening sea or the landscaped tropical gardens. All come with a day bed, open en-suite bathroom with oversized bathtub and separate shower, outdoor terrace, and all the creature comforts you’ll likely to need.
The stay: The award-winning Spa Village champions the ancient Malay way of life in a beautiful complex complete with gardens, ponds, and a therapy centre with treatments based on traditional healing methods and natural remedies. Equally noteworthy are the unique restaurants: Di Atas Sungei for authentic Malaysian cuisine, The Nelayan for fresh-off-the-boat seafood, and Teratai Terrace for evening cocktails, private dining experiences, and the sweet sounds of live Gamelan music. Exciting excursions and activities can be organised at an additional cost.
More information and to book: Tanjong Jara Resort, Terengganu
Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur
The scene: Located in the Malaysian capital's leafy embassy district, this peaceful boutique resort (the sister property to Japamala Resort on Tioman Island) has a lagoon-shaped pool, a guest-only restaurant and bar, and a prime location just 10 minutes from the Petronas Twin Towers. Please note that this hotel is suitable for children aged 12 and older only.
The sleep: Attention to detail is everything in the 21 ultra-private rooms, including 10 suites. Expect vast living spaces with Asian-style décor, salvaged-timber floors, reclaimed wood furnishings, plush beds, and plenty of high-tech gadgetry. While some have fully-equipped modern kitchens, all of the ground-floor rooms offer direct access to the lagoon-style pool.
The stay: Overlooking the beautiful pool, the exclusive Dining Room opens daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (guests are invited to join nightly cocktail gatherings hosted by the manager). Further highlights include the cosy Bumbung Bar for speciality drinks and canapés during selected hours and a very cheery concierge team who will help with excursion bookings (there’s also a free shuttle service to nearby restaurants and city attractions).
More information and to book: Villa Samadhi, Kuala Lumpur
Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Borneo
The scene: With Pantai Dalit Beach as a sparkling backdrop, this salubrious resort surrounded by 400-acres of nature reserve does a great job of keeping its guests firmly rooted to the spot. Beyond luxuriating on the golden sands, you can keep busy with at the spa, gym, tennis courts, and adjacent 18-hole championship golf course complete with putting green and driving range.
The sleep: Divided into two sections (the exclusive Ocean Wing and the more family-friendly Garden Wing), all rooms have bright décor and nature-inspired hues. Each comes with a king-size bed (or twins), furnished lanai or balcony, large flatscreen TV, and marble-clad bathroom with bathtub, glass-enclosed shower, fluffy bathrobes, and Shangri-La branded toiletries.
The stay: The lagoon-style pools, watersports centre, and excellent dining options are what make this place so special. There’s also plenty that appeals to parents with children; most fabulous of which is Adventure Zone - a 10,300-square-feet family entertainment centre with exciting drop slides, state-of-the-art play equipment, a multi-use reception area, a toddler zone, and a daily kids’ club with supervised activities for children aged five to 12.
More information and to book: Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Borneo
The Danna Langkawi
The scene: Luxury finds its home at this beachfront colonial-style resort on the west coast of the island of Langkawi. Not only is it within rolling-out-of-bed distance of some of the area’s must-see attractions (Seven Wells Waterfall, SkyBridge, Oriental Village), but it also boasts a massive three-tiered infinity pool (the largest on the island) and an incredible nine-room spa.
The sleep: The 125 lavish rooms and suites arranged over four floors reveal British-Malayan décor, timber flooring, and lashings of dark wood. All have flatscreen TVs, bathrooms with rainfall showers and deep-soaking bathtub, and balconies with sea, pool, rainforest, marina, or courtyard views. The gorgeous beach villas have private pools and private spa treatment areas.
The stay: Given its huge amount of facilities (outdoor hot tub, kids’ club, games room with billiards and snooker, library, children’s pool, fitness room, watersports), boredom at this award-winning resort is never an option. There’s also four spectacular restaurants for Mediterranean, European, and Malay cuisine, a relaxed drawing room with a separate cigar and wine room (choose from approximately 200 international superior-label wines), and plenty of chill-out spots with drop-dead-gorgeous views of the marina and rainforest.
More information and to book: The Danna Langkawi
Explore the best of Malaysia with these recommended tours, multi centre holidays and experiences
Gaya Island & Kuala Lumpur Twin Centre (7 nights)
Family Adventure in Malaysia (10 nights)
Luxury Cameron Highlands Escapade (3 days)
Trek Mount Kinabalu (3 days)
Sabah Discovery Escorted Tour (7 days)
Malacca Experience, Walking Tour with Serge (1 night)
Borneo Rainforest Lodge (2 nights)
Borneo Jungle & Beach (10 nights)