It’s been a challenging year, and it is shocking that we’re about to enter the last quarter of it. We organised this getaway for my parents, and mother in law to just remove ourselves from the daily routine of being trapped in a limited routine for months on end, and at the last minute my two nieces and sister in law managed to join us as well so it became quite a nice big group of us. The Westin in Desaru, a beach resort about four hours drive from KL, just opened up last year and it’s part of the insane mushrooming of luxury chain resorts in this seaside town down south. It wasn’t necessarily my first choice, I wanted to head up north to try out a more boutique type of resort, but we couldn’t get our dates to work so landed up here. For practical, points accumulation reasons, I always try and book hotels which falls under Marriott Bonvoy’s umbrella so Westin it was.
The beaches in Malaysia can differ in terms of purity of water and sand, but it is generally believed that the coasts facing the South China Sea, which includes the Desaru coast, have better quality water and sand. This includes Redang, Perhentian, Lang Tengah and Tioman island. Sand grains tend to be finer and whiter, and the colour of the sea tend to range from brilliant blue to turqoise depending on the weather. Let’s be clear, nothing in Malaysia can really be said to be of the Maldives level, but some of these names beaches and islands are still so beautiful and magical in its own way. My one main observation though is that Malaysia’s coastline in general, and particularly those facing the South China Sea, does not capitalise on tourism the way that neighbours of Thailand and Indonesia’s Bali has. So there aren’t multiple options of hotels and accommodations catering to every type of traveler – it’s either 5 star generic global chains, or 3 star and below independent establishments.
The Westin falls under the generic global chain and offers the usual experience – massive property, massive grounds, hundreds of rooms, big Seasonal Tastes buffet breakfasts, their Italian Prego restaurant and a clean beach with a beach bar. I think what we liked most about it was the private beach it had (which the Hard Rock Hotel from across the road does not have) as it was so well maintained, and which the Premier Sea Facing rooms had such a wonderful view of. Another Westin idiosyncracy are their patented Heavenly beds which can also be bought from the hotel. The mattresses are just so comfortable and makes you feel like you are sleeping on clouds. There is also an infinity pool facing the beach and kids pool, but we spent most of our time on the beach given that we were hell bent on enjoying nature, and not chlorine water. I tried the Heavenly Spa’s aromatherapy massage and it was OK but forgettable – definitely not in my Top 3 spa experience in Malaysia. The buffet breakfast had the usual assortment of Western and Asian breakfast staples and we were encouraged to see Covid-centric guidelines being implemented. Overall, we would recommend the Westin for big family holidays as it has something for everyone. For more romantic excursions, I am interested to try the Anantara Resort which is a few minutes drive away from the Westin and also has its own beach.