I will be honest, I had no clue what to expect when we were invited to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Penang for a review. We are strict creatures of habit and usually, if we find a hotel that we love, we really really LOVE it. We literally have gone back to the same hotel in Phuket for the last six years! All that to say, we have our family-favorite hotel in Penang so this stay at the Hard Rock Hotel really did have some serious competition in terms of our expectations.
I think every parent knows this: if you have a little one, the last thing you want to figure out on vacation is where to eat, what to feed her, what to expect, what to pack, etc. You want the stay to be as stress-free as possible and just have fun. Here’s a little spoiler, we LOVED the Hard Rock Hotel Penang and it’s definitely been added to our list of favorites.
Here’s why we loved Hard Rock Hotel Penang
From the moment we stepped in to the moment we left, the service was really great. From front desk and life guards to waiters and housekeepers, everyone was really pleasant and the service had that special touch you look for on vacation. You know, the little things that can take a place from “nice” to “great” – like one of the waiters always asking if Ella Grace would like an off-menu hot honey lemon after she had ordered it the first day, or extra watermelons after she had devoured our fruit platter, or even something as small and kind as remembering our names. I was curious and wondered if we were given preferential treatment (a review was coming up after all!) but was happy to learn that all the staff actually goes through additional service training every month from bottom to top and – it was certainly reflected in our experience.
The pool at Hard Rock Hotel Penang
I could write a novel about this pool. Ella Grace practically lived in it and had so much fun. It has three different slides that cater to different ages (from toddler to adult), a splash pad with a variety of water features and even clean sand for the little ones to play with so you don’t have to worry about waves, sea flies, jelly fish, trash. Theirs is apparently the largest free-form pool in Northern Malaysia, which is equivalent to 3 times of an Olympic size pool. As parents, we also loved that there were lifeguards stationed around the pool especially as it got busy and a little crazy with lots of kids!
There were deep parts, shallow parts, medium parts, sandy parts, just really, a little bit of everything for everyone including a drink or two from the swim up bar. What we loved, however, was the little cabana we rented. At only RM80/day, it came with a fruit platter and jug of water, a locker, two wooden deck chairs, speakers for music and a phone to call for service/food/massages.
Because we had it for the whole day, we would spend the morning, afternoon and evenings there while popping back into our room for naps or the restaurant for lunch and in true Malaysian style, everything stays open until late so you really could party all night long if you wanted to.
The cabana we chose had its back facing the ocean but in front of the pool. It was also nice to have a little tap to wash off the sand as you came in. Because it was a solid wooden structure, it provided a really nice shade and quiet which was especially treasured as Friday approached and the weekenders landed.
One afternoon, my child had a coconut next to her, snacking on a watermelon and oranges, while a lovely lady from the spa was giving her a nice little strawberry foot massage after a morning of going down the slide 829278297191273917293719371973 times. What a life.
The kids’ spa menu
This is perhaps my three-year-old’s favorite part of the hotel. A lot of hotels don’t really cater for littles. If they have a kid’s menu at the spa, it’s usually for older kids or at the kids club so Ella Grace felt extremely special that she could finally go to the spa with mama. From Tutti Frutti facials (RM95) to Chocolate Sundae bodywraps (RM95) or an Eenie Meenie massages (RM75) to a variety of equally adorable treatments sure to suckah a mama in for their little, Ella Grace spent most of the afternoon grinning ear-to-ear feeling like a little big girl and trying to smell her lotion and bursting into pure joy when she caught a whiff of strawberry each time.
We hear from Happy Go KL contributors with older kids that the Ultimate Foam Party – on every first Saturday of the month – at the pool is great fun, too!
The Roxity Suite with Courtyard
Guys, this is officially our dream room as parents. It features a separate room that opens up into a courtyard with a small playset (appropriate for toddlers!) that comes with a swing and slide. If you have an early waker like we do, you know what a treasure it is for your little one to have safe space to entertain themselves while you somewhat still sleep in and not have to worry that they will wander or get hurt.
And if you have an early waker, you also know how tricky it is to have an early sleeper on holidays when you don’t have any extra care. Either we bring her along to the restaurant (feed her earlier, do bedtime routine early and dress her in pjs then let her fall asleep on a couch or stroller while we have a little dinner date together) OR in this case, because we had another little room that was made for her, we put her to sleep, closed the door, then ordered room service and had a much coveted super fun movie night in!
The best part is that there’s also a little window that you can look in from your room so we didn’t have to wake/disturb her while checking in on her. We also put Ella Grace to sleep on the additional trundle bed (available in all Roxity Kids Suites) for siblings or so we didn’t have to worry about her rolling off an unfamiliar bed!
Some other kids’ amenities in the room are activity packs, books, stuffed toys, a PS4 with games and a separate TV in their room with some free kid movie options too. I would say the only drawback of this room is that it would have been awesome if it had a little microwave or pantry area to prepare snacks or sterilize bottles.
I would highly highly highly recommend getting this room if it’s available but snap it up fast as there are only a handful available on the property – check prices here
Rock Royalty Lounge
Want my favorite #kacaumamahack for holidays? We love booking into a club room or in this case, a suite room, as it comes with lounge benefits that can be a lifesaver when you have little ones.
The food selection is usually smaller but better than the main breakfast restaurant and it rang true for the Hard Rock Hotel Penang’s Rock Royalty Lounge too. Overlooking the pool and ocean, we had breakfast every morning with an amazing view and equally great service. The food was so good too with an á la carte menu with more premium ingredients including organic free-range eggs, fancy coffee and lovely cocktails in the evenings.
Little ones eat and snack every two hours so the option of having well-prepared fresh food at different times is always nice to have. There was Afternoon Tea from 3-4pm (after-nap snack!) and Evening Cocktails from 6-7:30pm, that usually comes with a good hot food selection like pastas, grilled lamb, fresh fruit, hot and cold canapes – it makes for a complete early dinner for little ones while mama and daddy get something to eat later.
What we valued most of all was the privacy and quiet of having a beautiful space to retreat to whether to check-in and check-out, grab a snack or beer, or just relax. Having tried the main breakfast buffet one day when the hotel was at full capacity for the weekend, we thought the Rock Royalty Lounge is worth every penny to upgrade to if you aren’t booked into a suite. It was loud, chaotic, insane in the main breakfast buffet and when we retreated back to the lounge, it was almost like we were the only ones there which makes such a huge difference in helping your little one regulate from being overstimulated when you’re already off-schedule.
The food was really one of our favorite parts. As a mama and as a Child & Family Development Specialist who teaches workshops on healthy happy mealtimes, the food options are usually my biggest headache when we travel. At Hard Rock Hotel Penang the options were great. At every restaurant, there was always something we could order for Ella Grace that was relatively nutritionally balanced. Steamed veggies, fish, wood oven pizzas and fruit platters could also be ordered alongside the typical chicken nuggets, burgers, fries, etc. served in fun guitar-shaped kid plates, with menus with activities and crayon packs, quick service, and high chairs if needed.
For mama and daddy, the selection was also really exciting and very American! While there were a few places to dine, we loved going to the Hard Rock Café for dinner every night (there’s that creature of habit again!) and getting to order things we miss like potato skins, spinach & artichoke dip, hickory smoked barbecue ribs (beef) and sinfully delicious desserts like this amazing hot fudge brownie that came topped with two giant scoops of
Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry!
Things I wish we got to check out
If we had more time or wasn’t living by the purple slide at the pool, we would have loved to check out:
- Rock Om: a complimentary service where they send you yoga mats to your room and you can find your inner zen with guided videos available on your screen.
- Sound of Your Stay Picks: try out a variety of Stratocasters, Telecasters, and bass guitars to live out your rock n’ roll fantasy. Check out a Fender guitar and premium headphones to rock out in your room as long as you want (complimentary).
- Roxity Kids Club: A kids-only hang out for little ones aged 4-10, open daily from 10am – 9pm. Ella Grace was still a little too young to be unaccompanied but we did enjoy the small play area in the Lil’ Rockers Infant Club (0-3 years old) that had a playhouse, slides, bean bags, and some toys. This is located inside the Tabu Teens Club for older ones which has a variety of video games, foosball and pool table, mix DJ console, and the Fender Guitar picks.
- Rhythm and Motion spa treatment. The description says: “bass vibrations ripple through the massage table as treble beats come from above, sending pulses through the body and leaving guests feeling energized and invigorated.” Sounds crazy and awesome! I had a little peek at the room but was already booked in for a little massage in their amazing private outdoor pavilion. I absolutely loved it and was pleasantly surprised to find that although it was near the pool, you couldn’t hear any of the screaming and playing but only sounds of the waves crashing, the spa music playing, and an occasional bird or two chirping.
- Rock Shop: silly us completely forgot on the way out to stop at the little shops for Ella Grace to pick out a little souvenir of her visit. I had taken a little peek at one of their three stores on the property and knew she would love picking out a little keepsake (bears, pins, keychains, etc) or an iconic Hard Rock shirt!
The good thing is, I’m pretty sure we’ll be back so it’s good to have some new things to discover when we do.
When we do come back, I would love to:
- Get the Roxity Kids Suite with Courtyard
- Stay on quieter weekdays and leave by Friday at the latest before the onslaught of weekenders come
- Fully utilize the Rock Royalty Lounge (comes with a suite booking or can be purchased separately)
- Take totally cheesy and touristy photos in front of the giant guitar (each Hard Rock hotel in the world has a different design and a monument that sets it apart from each other) and memorabilia (totally cheesy, totally over the top, but unique – they rotate out all the memorabilia from all 223 hard rock properties worldwide every 7 years)
- Eat at Pizzeria for lunch and Hard Rock Café Penang for dinner
- Book a cabana all the days we are there (you can pre-book), and basically, just live in the pool.
Pack a life vest for your little one and just enjoy each other and the time together! Check the latest prices for Hard Rock Penang here.
Racheal Kwacz is a Child and Family Development Specialist, mama tribe advocate and writer. Creator of the ‘RACHEAL Method’, she combines her 20+ years experience working with children in the USA and in Asia with the foundations of ‘Respectful Parenting’, leading parents and teachers to raise kind, confident, compassionate, resilient little ones. She moved to Malaysia with her husband, determined to raise children with the incredible gift of urban kampung, the community and mama tribe. She is a mum to a joyful, curious, and fiercely independent, toddler foodie who is her poster-child for the ‘RACHEAL Method’. Connect with her on her website or follow her on social media @rachealkwacz!