I always try to review hotels based on a plain concept: does it represent value for money? I am struggling to answer that for the Bunga Raya, so let's park that for a moment, and go to the specifics:
This is a true "resort" nested inside Pulau Gaya, and from the moment you step in, you get the all important feeling of being "in the middle of nowhere". Even more important, all the time I spent there I did not see more than one or two couples on the beach or the pool. In one word: peaceful.
You reach the resort after a 20 minutes boat trip from the Jesselton pier (where you check-in), with one stop first at their sister resort, the Gayana Eco Resort. The trip although short, can be exciting if the weather turns, as it did on our return. It got scary for a short while. Once in the island, you are met by your own personal representative who shows you around, and drives you to your room.
As many other people remarked here, most of the villas have steep stairs, and the "cheaper" ones are on the top of some steep hill. Not a problem for me, but if you have any mobility problem, and don't want to depend on being driven, either get a beach front villa, or choose another resort.
Room: I stayed on the most basic (Villa Superior), but from the Bose sound system to the amenities in the large bathroom, there isn't anything basic about it. It is not incredibly big, but it has a great king bed, free soft-drinks and beer in the mini-bar, and a balcony overlooking some of the forest and the sea. Running the risk of repeating myself: peaceful.
I also had a chance to peek into the "Royal Villa", their £3500/night exclusive two-bedroom house with private infinite pool, chef and butler. Awesome, if you can spare that extra dime.
Breakfast: Really good, fresh fruits, fresh juices, eggs, variety of pastries and breads, and more hot options catering to the chinese audience.
Food: This being an isolated resort, there are no outside options, so you must eat on one of their two restaurants. I am no food critic, but the food seemed to be adequate in size, taste, and surprisingly, price. It is of course more expensive than any restaurant in Kota, but nothing to break the bank, if you are already paying £200+ for a room. Meals for two will set you back MYR200 and up (very much "up" if you go for barbecue NZ steak, or fish).
The resort has all the water activities you would expect, plus some interesting forest trails (they all need a guide and cost $). I did not have time to do the long one, from the Bunga Raya to the Guayanna Resort, but it must be incredible.
To summarize: this is an awesome and peaceful resort, ideal for you to just kick back, enjoy a good book by the pool, or trek your way through the forest.
Negative stuff: House keeping could be better. I had to ask more than twice for shampoo and soap. Not really what you would expect for the price, but to my mind it is the only negative.
A note about other negative reviews here: A lot of negative reviews refer to the sea, which is subjected to red-tides (true while I was there), and rubbish washing on the shores (did not see it). The sea is not great, but the pool area integrates so nicely with the beach that you can live without the sea for a while. And blaming the hotel for red-tides is like blaming them if a solar eclipse ruined your day in the sun...
As for the rubbish, come on people, think... who is responsible for the pile of rubbish that endangers and pollutes our seas? A hint: look at your mirror. We travel all over the world, requiring bottle water wherever we go, using bottled sun protector, bottled shampoos, etc. Well, unfortunately plastic does not disappear from the planet, ever. They work hard to keep the sand clean (successfully while I was there), but it is a losing battle: they clean the beach, and supply each room with two bottles of water every day. Math and nature are against them.
Back to the original question, is it value for money? If you are already in Kota, or want to include Borneo in your itinerary, yes, it is, just about. It is not cheap, and there are lots of other places in the world were you get either more for your money, or pay less for the same. But it is not rip-off, and I know one when I see it.
Special final note here: the people in the hotel are really nice. You get tired of saying good morning, good evening, and smiling at people. The reception immediately knows your room number, and treats you by name, which is a nice touch.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- As sensual and exotic as the hibiscus flower that bears its name, Bunga Raya Island Resort is a luxurious jewel set on a coral reef island just off the coast of Borneo. A secluded island hideaway of 47 timbered villas, the resort is framed by white sand beach and virgin jungle. Hillside villas reflect the simplicity of the Borneo architectural style. A hilltop spa blends the finest Traditional Asian and Western treatments using restorative powers of indigenous plants and oils. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bunga Raya Island Resort And Spa
- Bunga Raya Island Hotel Kota Kinabalu