This place is enchanting, it is paradise here.
One private island, one luxury resort. A solitude where wild hornbills come to perch above your hilltop verandah, overlooking a lush jungle and glimmering ocean backdrop. A wilderness where monkeys meander in the humming rainforest, whose tracks lead you to emerald beaches. A paradise where even late Pavarotti himself nearly cried at the beauty of this island. (I couldn’t make this intro up if I wanted to!)
Pangkor Laut Resort has been one of my favourite getaways in Malaysia, and the most luxury retreat to date. It’s the only resort in the country (that I know of, after excessive research) which owns a private island, has all the bells and whistles -and, most importantly- is not crazy expensive. Considering I got quoted more in London’s Notting Hill to stay at a basic 3* hotel, spending less at this 5* tropical island resort is value for money I say.
Pangkor Laut Resort Review
Here’s a no frills, honest low-down on what to expect from your Pangkor Laut experience. And if you stick around, I’ll let you in on the deal I went on which saved us more than RM 2’000. 🙂
What sets this resort apart from many others in Malaysia, is the location.
Pangkor Laut is a three hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur, followed by a 15 min private speedboat transfer from Marina Island Jetty Complex. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a whole day to get to, so you can easily take that early Friday finish and be on the beach before sunset. 🙌
Also, you’re on a private, tropical island. So there won’t be random muggles stealing your deck chair or building works from a nearby hotel.
As it’s so close to KL for a weekend getaway, most people who come here are KLites with deep pockets. I had a child in my class who’d regularly come to school on a Monday, all tanned and refreshed, who’d happily tell me that she went to Pangkor Laut over the weekend…jealous teacher raise your hand 🙋🏻♀️!
As you can see from the aerial shots, the island is virtually untouched with only a fraction of development by the resort.
Made up of 300 acres of predominantly ancient, virgin rainforest, it has Emerald Bay (the main swimming beach) sitting peacefully the top.
Being a small isle, you won’t see tigers or orangutans lurking amongst the trees. But, which pleasantly surprised me, the bird life is pretty awesome.
Checking into my room, I was welcomed by a gorgeous oriental pied hornbill perched above in a nearby tree. As Malaysia’s national bird, I’d only ever seen them on the ringgit! It was a special moment.
In 2006, the resort put a number of nesting boxes around the island as a part of their hornbill conservation program. They’re all over Pangkor Laut, and will definitely come to say hello during breakfast.
Pangkor Laut Resort
The resort and island was declared a ‘paradise’ by Pavarotti, who was a returning visitor. The first encounter saw him sing to a private and exclusive audience (including former and current Prime Minister of Malaysia – Tun Dr Mahathir) during the resort’s opening in 1994. His legacy remains with the naming of the largest hillside villa, Pavarotti Suite.
Pangkor Laut isn’t an eco-resort, but it is respectful to nature. I love how they have designed the wooden villas to seamlessly blend into the forest backdrop. On many occasions, buildings have been erected around the trees.
Although it might appear small in the pictures, the resort is actually a pretty sizeable and larger than I was expecting. Set along nine estates, it has suites and villas in the garden, hill, sea and spa area. This makes it feel more like a small village than a single hotel.
A perk to this is that guests are nicely spread out, so it doesn’t feel as though you’re on top of each other.
A con is the time taken to get to the different restaurants and facilities. They have a free mini-bus service, but it takes up to 20 minutes to arrive and you can’t pre-book them. And if you get dropped off in the wrong place like we did, then that eats into your valuable holiday time.
We lost an hour during our first sunset-o’clock (tragedy!) as we were offloaded at the wrong stop, to find out that the bar we were going to was closing. 🤦🏻♀️ But I guess there’s shabbier places to be stranded.
Word of advice: study the map when you arrive, take note of closing times (ie. Chapman’s Bar), and make sure you clearly communicate where you want to go in the taxi.
When the Sailor and I entered the villa, our jaws hit the ground. Along with the lush tropical setting, it was breathtaking. I think we spend a good half hour just taking pictures and videos when we arrived!
I booked us in the Hill Villa, which I loved for the views. Morning coffee’s on the verandah listening to the buzzing jungle and watching the hornbills were priceless.
…well, they are until you want more than one cup. Other than the two coffee capsules in your room, additional ones are charged. It’s the small details guys, I think I paid enough to be here already!
I’m just nitpicking though, everything else was faultless. The room was spacious, elegant and beautifully furnished. I’d happily move here.
Food & Drinks
The resort has a number of restaurants and bars dotted around. Our favourites were: Uncle Lim’s Kitchen for dinner which serves Chinese & Nonya food (but be sure to book!).
Lunch was plate-licking at Chapman’s Bar, which serves an ‘all you can eat’ fresh seafood and Malaysian BBQ, complete with beach views = bliss.
And the generous breakfast buffet at Feast Village was pretty special. The roti canai and Chinese noodle soup were top notch (and a great hangover cure!)
As you can imagine being the only resort on the island, food and bevvies are overpriced for what it is, and the food isn’t always comparable to the mainland. You can easily spend RM 300-400 per night for dinner and a bottle of wine.
Which is why, my friends, you’ll be extra chuffed to find out how I can save you on food expenses, by at least RM 1000. Read on 🤙🏻
When you come to Pangkor Laut, it’s all about CTFO (chill the f out) time. Thankfully there’s a few ways to do nothing.
1. Laze around by the infinity pool, overlooking the straits. Read a book and enjoy having fresh coconuts delivered to you.
2. Head to Emerald Cove for a bit of barefoot luxury and sea dipping, followed by lunch at Chapman’s Bar (highly recommend).
3. Head to their award-winning Spa Village. It was the most ritualistic and holistic experience I’ve had in a spa, and I’ve seen my fair share.
Before all treatments you’re invited to spend at least 45 minutes in their in their Bath House. This consists of being whimsically transported to different stations which are meant to represent traditions from around Asia.
Starting with a footbath, you’re then given an invigorating Chinese Foot Pounding, which wasn’t as hard as it sounds, promise. This was followed by a Malay ‘circulating’ [cold] bath (a bit too fresh for me), then a dip in the heated Rotenburu pool which was over all too quickly, followed by a pukka exfoliating wash.
Not sure I was a fan of all the rituals (and some felt a tad gimmicky). But the massage was a huge hit and we both left feeling ultra zen. It was definitely a highlight of the trip, if not a unique experience.
The resort offers a range of activities, but my favourite was just heading into the jungle for a [sticky] late morning trek. It’s always more satisfying earning your beach time 😉
We took the longer 2.4k Southern Perimeter Trail from the Spa to Emerald Cove, and the jungle hummed intensely when we reached the middle, enough to stop us in our tracks.
Tip: Jungle hike before lunch and then you can enjoy the beach and a BBQ lunch at Chapman’s Bar.
Truthfully, the resort and island took us to cloud 9 from the second we sipped our complimentary drink at the speedboat waiting room.
It’s a great value for money, luxury retreat (on the residents package that is! details coming up next), that costs a fraction of what it would in Europe or the West.
The Sailor told me that it was the nicest resort he’d ever been to, and we left with awesome memories of our last staycation in Malaysia.
If you’re living in KL or visiting from afar and want to indulge in a bit of self love, then I’d highly recommend at least two nights at this place. 🧜🏻♀️
Bookings & Rates
You have a few options when it comes to bookings.
Booking option 1
Firstly, you can book via Booking.com to take advantage of their genius discount and free cancellation (plus you won’t have to pay right away). It includes breakfast but not the boat transfer. With the 10% genius discount, per night rates are around RM 1’100.
Booking option 2
Or, you could book directly with Pangkor Laut Resort where you will need to pay right away and bookings are non-refundable.
They have a few different offers, but all come with free speedboat transfers (which cost RM 500 one way) and some have breakfast included. Note that rates vary depending on the time of week (weekends are more expensive) and the time of year.
And then dear readers, if you’re a resident in Malaysia, here’s how you can take advantage of saving over RM 2’000 on your stay 🤟…
The resort offers a residents package, which includes all meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner- (a huge saving here, well over RM 1000 for a 2-nights stay), plus return speedboat transfers (a saving of RM 1’000) AND, you get a special rate on spa treatments upon booking and a free jungle walk with their Resident Naturalist.
This is the offer I went on and it really made the experience more affordable. You can book directly via their website (note: there’s a 2-night minimum for this offer…weekend sorted!) and upon booking, you just need to provide your Malaysian address to show you’re a resident- easy peasy.
If you’re coming from KL or around, the easiest way to Pangkor Laut is firstly by driving to Marina Island Jetty Complex. For easy access, there is a bridge connecting the mainland to this man-made island and you can leave your car in the car park for about RM 15 per night. (If you’re coming from Singapore or Johor Bahru in Malaysia, you can fly to Ipoh which is closer than KL airport).
From there, just head to the Pangkor Laut Marina Island Office to check-in and take the speedboat to the island. The office is to the left of the main jetty and car park, so keep on walking down until you spot the discreet hotel logo on a white wall (we walked around for ages trying to find it! Here’s a pic so you can spot it easily:)
These are the times the boat leaves to the island and vice versa. You need to check in about 20 minutes before departure.
- From Marina Island to Pangkor Laut Resort – 13:00, 15:00, 16:30, 20:00
- From Pangkor Laut Resort to Marina Island – 08:45, 12:00, 13:30, 17:00
Need a car rental?
We don’t have our own car but always rent one in Malaysia using GoCar. There are multiple GoCars dotted around KL, and we’ve found them more convenient and quicker to pick-up/drop of than a regular car rental. They’re also better value.
If you’re a new GoCar user, you can register via their website and then book via the app. They have a newer fleet of Renault Capturs at RM 109 per day, as well as their older Nissan Almeras at RM 90 per day. All you need is an internet connection to get going, which unlocks the door and gives you a code for the key in the glove compartment (apart from the the new Capturs which work solely on internet connection).
Insure for peace of mind
You never know what could happen on the road. We had a car accident on our way back from Cameron Highlands one day and were lucky we didn’t require insurance for that incident (as it wasn’t our fault), but what if we did need it.
As GoCar (and most other rentals) only offer a basic insurance coverage, we always purchase additional protection through RentalCover.com. Their policy insures you against all the things that car rentals do not, including zero excess. For two days cover, we paid £19.60 GBP which insured us up to £60’000 and additional drivers are free.
We always used to use Google Maps on our phone to navigate on the road, but the Waze app is much better! Particularly in Malaysia, it’s great at giving you live updates (Malaysians are fab at reporting hazards!) including traffic delays, and the app is easy to follow. Plus, the lady voice has an English accent that’s entertaining when she pronounces Malaysian places 😄
Don’t forget your Touch ‘n Go card!
You need this for toll roads in Malaysia, which are everywhere. The card costs RM10.60 and you’ll need to top it up. Most petrol stations sell them or 7-Eleven convenience stores. If topping up on the highway, be sure to have cash handy as they don’t accept cards.
Tips for the trip
- As usual, alcohol can be pricey at these places and you may want a tipple in your room anyway. Advice: buy a bottle from KL and take it with you.
- Uncle Lim’s restaurant can get busy on weekends for dinner (as it’s one of two places you can eat at on the residents package), so it’s best to book ahead.
- Walk along the decked coastal pathway (not the road the minibus takes) to get from the reception to Uncle Lim’s/the spa…it saves you walking uphill in the heat and it’s quicker!
- Want to maximise your weekend stay? Once you’ve checked out before 11am, hit the pool and take the later boat back to the mainland! 🙌
Interested in this resort? Pin it for later!