It was term break and we were scratching our heads: where to take the kids. Somewhere local, with both a nice beach and a theme park? Yes, down under… Malaysia – Johor! Beach and Legoland – a winning combo!
I know there are a few very nice island resorts (like Rimba Resort or Batu Batu resort) on the East coast near Johor but we didn’t really want to travel the winding road to Mersing after our last experience when the kids were car sick all the way. I had heard there are a few resorts down South and we were keen to give them a try, so we booked Sand & Sandals Beach Resort in Desaru for 2 nights.
The journey normally takes about 4.5 hours but it took us more than five hours to get there, due to road works and accidents along the highway. There are ample parking spaces in front of the resort.
Rooms at Sand & Sandals resort
We had booked the Family room, that is split between two floors separating parents from the kids’ pirate-themed room with two super single beds. The room is of generous size with two bathrooms – one upstairs and one downstairs – plus an outdoor bath on the balcony! If this is something you want, perhaps it’s worth mentioning at booking since some rooms do not have this addition.
The hotel is very good value: we booked through a booking site and it cost us about RM700 for the family room. You can check the current prices here.
The room was clean and spacious. They have quite a wide range of rooms – suitable for couples and families. There are a few suites and deluxe suites with private pool for the honeymooners!
Activities for kids
As soon as we got into our room we dropped our bags and changed to our swimming gear and yay, it was swim time! There is a kids’ slide at the pool, as well as a jacuzzi pool. In between these, our children were kept amused. The pool is big and we were the only guests there – the benefits of going outside of local holidays and when public schools are in term!
There is a kids playroom by the lobby to keep the little ones entertained. Older kids, or even adults, can visit the arcade room with various games next to the hotel café.
The beach at Desaru
Bliss – a clean beach, nice and breezy. Unfortunately we were unable to jump into the sea as the red flags were up and the waves were pretty strong. But we did have good fun at the beach just chilling and sitting by the shore with the waves breaking in front of us.
Food at Sand & Sandals
The breakfast was quite good with a wide range of dishes to choose from. The only downside was a lot of fruit flies that seemed to claim the fruit station and cold cuts as their territory.
There are three restaurants in the resort – Japanese, Chinese and the coffee house with both Western and Asian cuisine. We tried the Japanese restaurant, Teppan. The food was alright but the service not quite so. They were short of staff and I had to personally go to the teppanyaki counter to collect my own food. We did not try the rest of the restaurants to avoid any further disappointment.
Luckily there are a few restaurants along the beach or a short drive away, including a Thai BBQ restaurant just next to the resort. A Thai boat noodle restaurant outside the Tunamaya Resort is just a short 5-minute drive away. We tried it out and the food was pretty good. The boat noodles come in very small portions so you can eat up to 5-6 bowls per person. There are also a couple resorts along the road – Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and Tunamaya Beach Resort you may want to try.
Overall the hotel is good value but look elsewhere for meals, especially for dinner, as the service leaves room for improvement. Come here for the room, the pool and the beach but not for the food. Read the Tripadvisor reviews here.
The Desaru coast is about to get a new lease on life, with a water park (scheduled to open in July) and new fancy resorts in Desaru like The Westin and Anantanra being planned and built. Read more here.