Does your family seek adventure in a luxe setting? We've got the spot for you. On our second stop in Malaysia, we found our favorite resort of our entire Asian trip. In Malaysian, Bunga Raya means hibiscus, for me it means a destination that meets all my requirements. I want to be close to nature, I want to work my muscles during activities and I want a friendly staff to do all the rest! Bunga Raya (the sister property of Gayana reviewed here both properties are Preferred Boutique resorts) was built from the ground up with the purpose of providing luxury set in the Borneo wilderness.
Whether you are coming straight from the Kota Kinabalu airport via Jesselton Pier or wandering over after a few days at Gayana you'll arrive to Bunga Raya by boat to a warm welcome at the Bunga Raya Pier.
Bunga Raya has 48 timbered villas, tucked away on a tranquil and hidden bay. The resort is framed by centuries old virgin trees. Bunga Raya means hibiscus is Malaysian and the name suits. The resort hosts dozens and dozens of varieties some quite rare adding glorious bursts of color to the resort.
Our room was a Deluxe Villa and included two bungalows and was spacious and attractive with stunning views of the China Sea. Each villa is hand-crafted by local tradesmen, reflecting the traditional simplicity of the Borneo architectural style. Decorated with Malaysian flair, the room had all of the conveniences we expect including a enormous soaking tub and a huge king-sized bed with Frette linens. The two spaces were connected by a deck with a seating area. One room was the media center and the other the sleeping/bathing area. (Note: if I were the management I would have set up the kids beds in the media room to give parents a bit of privacy).
Bunga Raya Resort Rooms
Despite the allure of our room, we really didn't spend much time there. The activities beckoned us (but note, if I were on a romantic escape I would have been thrilled with the lodging!). In the morning we loaded up with a healthy, hearty breakfast and then took off to explore.
Highlights of our adventures included snorkeling off the beach, endless hours at the enormous infinity pool, a 2km jungle trek and the big one--a short zip line course through the tropical trees. At the end of the day, you'll have burned plenty of calories to make tucking in to the fine food guilt-free. And if you didn't get enough activity, I suggest a trip to quite possibly the best hotel gym I have ever seen. The athletic facility is built on the beach in an air-conditioned bungalow. As I put in some miles on the treadmill, I was overlooking the China Sea. All with air conditioning. Nice.
Bunga Raya Resort Food Options
Dining options include the seaside grill and the Koi restaurant. There are also lovely nooks that can be arranged, such as a secluded pier or the handsome wine cave, if you are craving privacy. The food options are vast. From traditional (and spicy!) Malaysian dishes, to fresh European-style seafood, to lively Chinese cuisine, you'll find it all at the resort.
The food was quite fresh and flavorful. Nothing bland to be found. TIP: Order as much fish as possible, most of it is organically farmed just for the resort. But let?s be honest, you aren't coming to this remote location via, boat and plane for some swell island fare. It's the stunning views and the pristine water that attracts visitors to Bunga Raya.
Bunga Raya Resort Activites
Snorkel right from the wide, sandy beach and you'll sea colorful fish, starfish, and maybe even a ray two. Feeling adventurous? Try the paddleboard or a kayak excursions. For us the huge pool keep the girls busy for hours on end. They simply couldn't get enough and they quickly made friends with two girls from Australia.
This is a resort that will delight your entire family. There's enough pampering and sophistication (Mr. Momtrends reports they make a mean vodka gimlet and a delightful espresso) to keep the parents happy and all the amenities to make the kids whine-free and smiling.
Which brings us to the staff. My girls were lucky to have the team at Bunga Raya tending to them. Little touches like a poolside henna tattoo and coloring pencils at dinner matter. The staff remembered all the little niceties that make a resort truly great. And when it came time for adventure, Nelly, our trail guide, literally carried our 4yo over some huge felled trees and up a steep embankment. Chris, our Borneo adventure guide, strapped our wee one to a tandem zip line and escorted her from platform to platform so she could take part in the activity.
Since the resort is tucked into a hilly bay area (it's a bit like San Francisco) there is a bit of a vertical challenge. Instead of trolley cars, the staff uses golf carts to shuttle guests and luggage about. Our little ones found the hilly walk home after dinner or an outdoor activity a little daunting, but whenever the whining was about to start a staff member with a cart seemed to magically appear to whisk us to our room.
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We won't soon forget the kindness of these standouts or meeting the warm General Manager Thomas. It's easy to see why the staff excels with his strong leadership and passion for impeccable service. Of all the memories from this resort, the kind, amiable staff really will stick with me.
Borneo requires a commitment to travel. If you plan to take your family half way around the world, you better do your research and make sure the resort you pick can stand up to your expectations. Booking a holiday at the Bunga Raya is an easy way to insure that your family has a special vacation indeed.
Bunga Raya Resort Review
What you can get here that you can't find anywhere else: Glorious warm water, refined wilderness, and a genuine caring staff.
If I were GM I'd change: Add a shop on the premises (even a small boutique would be nice), more options of wine by the glass, tighten up the schedule'??the timing for activities was constantly being altered.
Food highlights: Breakfast. Don't miss the banana bread and the espresso.
For those pint-sized visitors with picky palates: Children's menu is available, we were thrilled to find a red snapper with fresh veggies option for the kids.
Activity highlights: Zip-lining through the jungle and chilling at the 30M-infinity pool.
Come for the: Relaxed vibe.
Stay for the: Unlimited access to water-related fun.
Splurge on the: Wine cellar, treat yourselves to a great bottle of wine one night. The Bunga Raya was just awarded a second "glass" a high honor.
Favorite souvenir: Sand we saved up in a small glass vial.
High Season/Low Season: January-July is busy November/December are the slowest times
Where to go for more information:
Here's how Momtrends travel reviews work. We're given access to extraordinary places thanks to creative help. For this trip, we were given planning help plus one night free. We paid a special rate for the other four nights. Were we given special treatment? Probably. But you can't change the physical location or the essence of the resort to fool one travel writer. All the opinions, photos and experiences should give you a great feel for this resort.