Clear waters and sandy beaches, plush rooms and delicious dining options, not forgetting dedicated kids club and one for teens – Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas offers all these, and more.
Ah, beach resorts. What’s not to love about them? My dream family vacay can be summed up in two words (in the form of a hashtag): #ResortLife. Resorts are more than just a luxurious room and board. What makes resorts so popular among families are the amenities and entertainment options it offers within or nearby its premises. In fact, the best resorts in the world are, more often than not, amazing holiday destinations themselves.
And guess what? There’s one such resort that’s less than two hours away from Singapore, and you won’t even need to take a flight! Read on for our review of Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, a tropical oasis just across the Causeway.
Getting to Anantara Desaru Coast
Located in Desaru Coast, a beachside getaway in the Malaysian state of Johor, Anantara Desaru Coast isn’t too far away from Singapore. No need to hop on a plane – you can get there via a ferry (Batam Fast is the only provider) or car ride. The ferry ride takes about one and a half hours; and the car ride about the same if the traffic gods are kind.
Personally, both options are viable for families as the travel time isn’t too long. The kids will find ferry rides exciting; while a road trip allows for a stop at Johor Bahru for food. However, I do recommend the ferry on peak seasons such as school and public holidays. Just a note to check on the ferry schedule, as it usually runs from Thursdays to Mondays only.
Checking into Anantara Desaru: What. A. View!
If you’re someone who lives for the ‘gram (me: guilty), Anantara Desaru Coast is really a dream come true. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the resort is picturesque from every vantage point. You could see a glimmer of light through the double doors as you make your way towards the resort lobby. Almost as if you’re entering another world, you’re suddenly greeted by the most breathtaking view of sky and sea after passing through the doors. Is this heaven? No, it’s Desaru – but it sure comes close!
Staff members greeted us warmly and ushered us towards the Lounge for check-in. We were served with a refreshing calamansi drink, kuih loyang (fried honeycomb-shaped snacks), and cold towels (inserts relaxing sigh). We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome after enduring a 20-minute road block enroute to the resort.
All sea-view rooms at Anantara Desaru Coast
We spent our 3D2N stay in one of Anantara Desaru Coast’s Deluxe Sea View Room. The great thing about the resort is that all of its rooms face the sea, with the first floor enjoying partial views of both the sea and its lush gardens.
Our room was spacious enough to accommodate a king size bed and a sofa bed (just nice for kids aged 11 or younger). The bathroom is also of good size, featuring both a bathtub (yay!) and a rain shower area. But what we love best is the huge balcony, with seats for four (or even five), and even more space to walk around. My two year-old was just ecstatic with the amount of space to roam.
Things to do at Anantara Desaru Coast
The whole point of a resort vacay, for me, is so that we don’t need to head out to town for things to do. While I’m the type of person who can lounge in her hotel room or the pool for hours, the same can’t be said for my curious and active toddler. The activities available at Anantara Desaru Coast are really what makes it a great family resort!
1. Layang Layang Kids Club
Aren’t kids’ clubs the answer to every parent’s prayers? Anantara Desaru Coast’s Layang Layang Kids Club has a climbing wall, space and tools for art and craft, children’s books, age-appropriate video games, and even a soft play area for infants and toddlers. The kids’ club also hosts daily activities, from games to craft workshops and more.
2. Luncur Ombak Teens Club
While most resorts have kids’ clubs, not all have a dedicated space for mini adults, i.e. teenagers. At first glance, Luncur Ombak Teens Club may look simple with pinball machines, a foosball table, movie room, and video game rooms. But upon recalling the needs and wants of my teenage self, a safe space away from the parental units with devices and games sounds heavenly!
3. Daily nature walks
Anantara Desaru Coast has a timetable full of daily activities that are complimentary for its guests. These range from simple morning and evening walks around the resort, to birdwatching and beach life discovery walks. There are even seed collection and tree-planting activities as part of non-profit organisation ReWild Desaru’s initiatives. These are all kid-friendly – we brought bub on the Desaru Beachlife & Tidepool Discovery walk and he was chuffed to get up close and personal with a ghost crab!
Pro-tip: Bring some insect repellent as well if you’re planning to spend lots of time in the wild. The sandflies can be unforgiving with their bites (true story, speaking from firsthand experience).
4. Wellness activities
Early rising teens, parents, and grandparents can join the free Sunrise Dong Stick or Yoga By The Beach sessions. If you prefer something more laidback, there are also wellness workshops at Anantara Spa that teach you how to make lip scrubs, herbal poultice, bathbombs and more. Do note that a minimum age requirement may apply for some of these activities.
5. Swim in the pool or the sea!
Speaking of pool, Anantara Desaru Coast has not one but two pools. There’s the lagoon pool, which is nearest to the rooms; and there’s the infinity pool that’s right in front of the beach. So, take your pick! The resort also has direct access to the beach, which we highly recommend as the waters are pristine. We spent the first half of our second day on the beach, which is also where the beachlife discovery walk took place.
6. Free bicycle rentals
Bicycles are free for guests to use within the resort. You can find adult-sized ones, kid-sized ones, bicycles with training wheels, and ones fitted with child seats at any of its many bicycle hubs. Anantara Desaru Coast has vast grounds with paths made for walking and cycling. A great way to exercise, plus you can get from your rooms to the infinity pool faster too!
7. Cinema under the Stars
It’s as dreamy as it sounds! We’re talking beanbags on a field surrounded by lanterns, with family favourites shown on a big screen. Oh, and there’s popcorn too! Don’t worry if it rains, because your family movie night can still take place in Layang Layang Kids Club.
What to eat at Anantara Desaru Coast
If you think it’s all just buffets with the conventional Western and Asian dishes, think again. Anantara Desaru Coast is proud of its Thai roots, which you can experience through its resort restaurants.
Our first dinner was at Sea.Fire.Salt, Anantara Desaru Coast’s signature steak and seafood restaurant. The menu features organic herbs and vegetables from one of Desaru Coast’s hydroponic farms and fish from a sustainable Johor farm. Start your meal with a cold or hot appetiser (or both), pick a main from the butcher’s block or its seafood selection, and end the night on a sweet note from the restaurant’s selection of desserts. For those with refined taste buds (and ringgit to spare), Sea.Fire.Salt has a caviar collection that includes a Malaysian caviar brand, T’lur Caviar.
The Sea.Fire.Salt Platter Himalayan Salt Brick was our favourite. This must-have platter treats you to the best of the restaurant’s grilled seafood offerings, including fresh rock lobster, succulent scallops, generous servings of seabass and yellow fin tuna, calamari, and prawns.
This is Anantara Desaru Coast’s main restaurant, where breakfast, à la carte lunch and dinner dishes, and the twice-weekly Thai-Laysia Night buffet is served.
The breakfast offerings are extensive. There’s a specialty sandwich station, coffee made by baristas (big yay!), a roti canai station, fresh juices, a mix of Western and local delicacies (nasi lemak and nasi dagang – a breakfast staple from the East Coast of Malaysia), some of the juiciest local fruits, and the ever-important egg station. The Malaysian in me was so happy!
We had the chance to sample Turmeric’s Thai-Laysia Night on our second night there. Foodies will love this dinner buffet that showcases the best of Thai and Malaysian food. We especially enjoyed the satay, cold seafood bar, Massaman curries, rendang, and ice kacang station.
This casual restaurant serves up some of the popular poolside grub, from burgers, to buffalo wings, and tacos. We enjoyed one of our lunches here, and we were blown away by the generous portions! You can’t go wrong with the Crispy Chicken Taco (young picky eater satisfaction guaranteed); and I personally love the simple but flavourful Smoked Duck Breast Spring Roll.
It may sound oh-so-basic, but do try the fresh coconut here! It came highly recommended, and did not disappoint. The fresh coconut juice was probably one of the best things we had at Anantara Desaru Coast, especially after the 90-minute beachlife walk.
Final thoughts on Anantara Desaru Coast for families
Anantara Desaru Coast is definitely high on our list when it comes to fuss-free family vacays.
- Spacious and comfy rooms with five-star views? Check.
- Variety of dining options? Check.
- Activities for the fam? Check, for babies, teens, parents, and even grandparents!
If you’re holidaying with the extended family and would like to stay close together, Anantara Desaru Coast has two to four-bedroom villas and residences for booking as well. All villas come with a private plunge pool; while the residences have private infinity pools and direct beach access. Perhaps what we appreciate most is that the three and four-room residences are all single-storey, perfect for families with little ones and elders.
As with all beach destinations in the region, the weather can be a tad unpredictable. Three days is just enough to make sure you get the most out of what Anantara Desaru Coast can offer.
Anantara Desaru Coast rates start from $263 per night.
Experienced that #resortlife at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas? Let us know what you think! Stay tuned for more checking in reviews coming soon!