A few weeks back I had a special visitor, who I wanted to take to see some wildlife and get spoiled by Asian luxury hospitality. With only a few nights to spend, we figured Kota Kinabalu would be a great base to see glimpses of the magnificent nature of Borneo and to get some beach time, too. We started our mini-break by charging our batteries at the Gaya Island Resort, part of the YTL group known for its impeccable service.

HGKL gaya island 5

The highlight of the resort is the private Tavajung beach, accessible by a jungle path or the hourly boat from the resort’s jetty. The beach is picture perfect with hammocks, sun loungers and cool drinks! There is a small marine conservation centre on the beach with a few aquariums and friendly staff to tell you more about the sea life. We were too busy napping but other guests who went snorkeling reported seeing some great fish.

gaya island 10 HGKL

The restaurant on the beach serves lunch only and offers a set menu of Thai-style food. The residents’ package is great value but includes meals at certain restaurants only, so we didn’t get to try all of them. The Thai lunch was excellent – the best out of all our meals at the resort.

gaya island 12 HGKL

We also had fun lunch companions: these two families of wild boars that apparently were hanging around waiting for the lunch service to finish in hope of leftovers.

gaya island 13 HGKL

The rooms are similar to the other YTL resort: spacious with comfortable beds and quality toiletries. Note though that the daybed in the room is placed in the end of the bed and is not very comfortable for sleeping, making the rooms nor so great for families with bigger kids. According to the front desk staff they haven’t got extra beds. Another point to note is that some of the rooms are on a steep hill with fair walk from the main area. There are no stairs so it’s not a problem with strollers but I can’t imagine walking a tired toddlers up the hill.

The pool is lovely and there are lots of sun loungers but the pool side restaurant has only a few tables. If you are too tired to climb the hill back to your room for an afternoon nap, these beautiful “rooms” are available. I didn’t try them – was too busy napping in the hammock.

gaya island 2 HGKL

You can’t see the sunset but the view towards Kota Kinabalu and the mountain are lovely at dusk.

HGKL gaya island 4

HGKL gaya island 2

As in all YTL properties, the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The food in the main restaurant was just fine – nothing extraordinary.

gaya island 9 HGKL

As in other YTL resorts as well, different activities are on offer every day. A downpour turned our morning nature walk into a nap (did they only sleep, you may ask) but we did get to take part in local crafts and games just before dusk and to sample local delicacies. Water sports equipment is available and free for the first hour.

gaya island 1 HGKL

All in all Gaya Island Resort is a wonderful luxury resort within easy reach of KK. It is maybe more suitable for couples and families with babies than active toddlers, but as always with YTL kids are more than welcome. The residents’ package is excellent value – but be prepared to put on a few kilos with elaborate meals three times a day! When I commented on the large portions, our friendly waiter said it was the chef’s motto to “have people arrive thin and leave fat”.

To love:

– Tavajung beach is truly a paradise beach.
– Residents’ package is great value with all meals and boat transfers included.
– Quaranteed YTL luxury and service: nothing is too much trouble.
– Good range of activities.

Not to love:
– Rooms and pool not ideal for families with more than one (young) child – no family rooms except for the suite.
– Food a bit inconsistent in the main restaurant. If you don’t have the residents’ package restaurants are rather pricey on Malaysian standards.
– Spa looks amazing but the prices are on the high side.

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