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Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas beckons vacationers with luxurious accommodations and family-friendly activities

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 5 min read
Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas beckons vacationers with luxurious accommodations and family-friendly activities
Anantara is part of Desaru Coast’s gated integrated resort that houses One&Only, The Westin, and Hard Rock Hotel
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Nestled along the pristine shores of the South China Sea in the southeastern region of Peninsular Malaysia, Desaru Coast emerges as a breathtaking jewel of tropical paradise. Opened in 2018 by Khazanah Nasional, this coastal haven teeming with globally renowned resorts has rapidly evolved into a premier destination for travellers seeking an unforgettable escape.

The clear waters of the South China Sea offer a beautiful setting for water sports, sunbathing, and peaceful sunset walks along wide stretches of pristine white sand. Meanwhile, the surrounding rainforests beckon explorers with their rich biodiversity and hidden wonders, making Desaru Coast a prime destination for eco-adventurers. 

For affordable luxury accommodations, look no further than  Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, a coastal gem that opened its doors in 2019. To get there, you can take a 90-minute ferry from Tanah Merah (available from Thursday to Sunday on and a seven-minute drive from Desaru Coast Ferry Terminal. Alternatively, you can take a two-hour scenic drive from Tuas or Woodlands. On my drive up, I could immediately tell we were leaving the district of Johor and entering Desaru the moment we reached the iconic Sungai Johor Bridge. Somehow, the rain magically stopped, and grey clouds turned into a vibrant blue, hinting that an unforgettable holiday was on the horizon.

Modern tradition

Anantara is part of Desaru Coast’s integrated resort that houses One&Only, The Westin, and Hard Rock Hotel, as well as recreational establishments like The Els Club golf club (designed by Ernie Els) and Adventure Waterpark. Unlike the other resorts, Anantara feels traditional yet contemporary, rustic yet luxe, offering all the nuances of a posh home away from home.

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Designed by Singapore architect firm WOW Architects & Warner Wong Design and interiors by Environment Design Consultants from Malaysia, the property’s design is modelled on a traditional fishing village with low-rise buildings set amidst lush gardens and tranquil lagoons. Although it references Malaysian kampungs, there’s nothing old-fashioned about it, as the resort’s overall vibe is very clean and contemporary.

Upon arrival, the helpful concierge assists with our bags while a front desk staff escorts us to the waiting area, which overlooks a majestic pool lined with palm trees, with the calm sea as its backdrop. Just taking in this breathtaking view was already therapy for my eyes.

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There are 116 accommodation types, comprising deluxe guest rooms with garden, lagoon, and ocean views; standalone one- and two-bedroom pool villas; and three- and four-bedroom residences perfect for families or large groups. The residences for sale from RM8 million ($2.3 million) come with their own infinity pool, full kitchen, chef and butler service. (For private viewings or more information, visit

A one-bedroom pool villa offers plenty of sprinting room for a couple with a young child. Spread over two floors, the living and dining room downstairs opens to a large pool deck with a breakfast table and pavilion.

The massive bedroom upstairs fits a king bed, a day bed, a writing table, an en suite bathroom with his-and-hers vanity, and a roomy free-standing bathtub. One of the perks of having your own pool is waking up to a floating breakfast, the resort’s signature dining experience. 

Activities overload

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There is never a dull moment here as the resort teems with activities galore. While the kids can partake in a full day’s calendar of fun at the Kids Club, adults can head to the beach for complimentary non-motorised water sports, sign up for a mangrove tour, nature walk or Beachlife and Tidepool Discovery, enjoy a Sunrise Dong Stick workout, or grab any of the dozens of bicycles parked around the resort and explore the property at your leisure.

If you are a spa hedonist like me, make sure to book a relaxing massage at Anantara Spa, a tranquil oasis nestled in lush gardens and water features. I had the privilege of enjoying a pampering mother-and-son massage with my very sporting six-year-old. Our spa journey started with a cup of floral tea and a refreshing foot bath inside the cosy massage pavilion. There, we indulged in a 60-minute Roots of Malaysia herbal oil massage, where the therapists used their expert thumbs to deliver deep kneading strokes to loosen tough knots.

For lunch, we enjoyed whipping up a delicious three-course Thai-Laysian meal at Spice Spoons cooking class. Suffice to say, the mango salad, grilled fish and pulut hitam were cooked to perfection!

Where dining is concerned, guests can book tables at the neighbouring resorts or dine within Anantara. For Asian cuisine, buffet restaurant Turmeric serves authentic Malaysian selections, delicious Thai, and popular international fare. Enjoy cooked-to-order dishes from live cooking stations as you dine on the terrace overlooking the lagoon pool.

For Western nosh, head to Sea.Fire.Salt, a speciality grill and seafood restaurant with al fresco and beachside dining. Some standouts include the foie gras, scallops, tuna tartare and beef carpaccio. After dinner, you can head to the lawn just in front to lounge on bean bags and watch a movie under the stars.

Travellers seeking quieter Asian destinations will enjoy the sun, sea, luxury, and privacy at Anantara Desaru Coast. Just for the posh accommodations and amenities alone, on top of a high level of service and attention to detail, the resort gives the most bang for the buck among the other properties on the stretch. According to my son, we are coming back here again! 

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