For my recent return visit as part of my ASEAN Explorer tour, I wanted to start out with a little bit of luxury on what is a budget adventure – so I booked the Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu using Hyatt Goldpassport points – and it turned out to be more luxury than I expected.
The Hyatt Kota Kinabalu is one of the few 5-star hotels in Sabah, Borneo, and together with the Le Meridien a few blocks down the waterfront, the only one available on reward points. I remembered the building from a previous visit and it seemed like a convenient choice, even more so, as it is available as a category 1 hotel in the Hyatt award program for only 5,000 points!
Location: The Hyatt has a prime spot in the downtown area of Kota Kinabalu, sitting right on the waterfront with great ocean views and the whole down town area in walking distance! You also have easy access to all the touristy things you might want to do and it’s a 20 minute ride from the airport. Being one of the first big hotels in town does have it’s downsides though – the neighbor hood is old – in this case lots of little alleys with shops, the fish market right in front and the (old) Wisma Merdeka mall next door. While it makes for fun exploration, it’s a sharp contrast to the 5-star luxury of the Hyatt and most of the new developments are on the Southern end of the waterfront.
Service: I have had lots of good experiences with hotel service in South East Asia – it’s generally so good that it spoils me for trips to the US or Europe where service on average just can’t measure up! But the Hyatt still managed to surprise me in a positive way – it was exemplary, even at 5-star standards. The front desk welcomed me and managed to not only find a room that was ready for my early arrival, but also to upgrade me to a Club Room with access to the Regency Club Lounge – that’s an unexpected treat, considering that I have no status with Hyatt’s Passport program and used points for my reservation! The services was excellent throughout, with the General Manager following up via email to ensure a happy stay (pretty rare for a first-time, no status guest) and the lounge staff having my name and drink preferences down by the end of day one! The staff at the gym/spa was equally pleasant and helpful and housekeeping was on top of its game, too, leaving nothing really to suggest for improvement here!
Room: I was upgraded to a waterfront room with a great view over the ocean. The rooms appeared to be recently renovated and were modern and gorgeous! I liked the hardwood floors and tasteful art displayed in the room! The layout is close to my ideal room – spacious and open! The bathroom is open to the bedroom, with separate, frosted glass cubicles for the toilet and shower/bath combination. The sink is in the middle of the room, overlooking the bedroom and out through the window. If that is too much openness for you, there are wooden shutters to close it off, perfect solution! The shower is next to the tub, using the whole cubicle as a shower enclosure, both practical and spacious. Standard Hyatt Portico bathroom amenities were provided and regularly and proactively refreshed. There is a nice chaise lounge by the window and a good-size desk against the wall. There are universal electric outlets near the desk and bed (a must-have in the age of live-depending-on-smartphones), so you can leave your UK/Malaysia adapter at home! There is also a master light switch near the bed, so you don’t have to hunt around the room to turn off all the lights at night. There is a large flat-screen TV and laptop-size safe, as well as water, hair dryer and glasses. The fridge/mini bar and coffee/tea kettle are nicely hidden under the sink, accessible from the bed room – so hidden, I almost missed them! Both the main housekeeping service and the turn-down service were thorough. The free wifi was fast and reliable, not a given in this region!
Amenities: The hotel has a nice, ground-floor pool with loungers and cabanas – an uncommon luxury in most city hotels these days. There is also a large spa, gym and wellness area with sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. It was free for me as a hotel guest and also has local members, making it feel less abandoned than most hotel gyms! There are multiple restaurants and bars – Chinese, Japanese, and local cuisine as well as a cafe to the street, a downstairs pub, a lobby lounge and pool bar – plenty of choices. I had both breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres at the club lounge – the breakfast offered a nice selection of fruit, yogurt, pastries, cheeses and make-to-order eggs, enough for a full meal. The evening reception food was also a nice selection and great tasting, I ended up enjoying the sunset over my snacks – and skipping my meal! A concierge and business center can help as well. Being connected to the next-door mall (although I’d categorize it as low- to mid-scale) beats having a gift shop!
Overall, the exemplary service, gorgeous room and good amenities make this a great choice for a visit to Kota Kinabalu, I’d be happy to return and recommend it! The only downside is the location – the Le Meridien down the road is in a nicer neighborhood and closer to the nicer restaurants and malls you are likely to visit if you are staying at a 5-star hotel!