Extra Photo Gallery: Room | Restaurant | Pool, The Beach & "Pulau Bayu"
On a secluded peninsula of Pantai Tanjung Aru, a popular beach in Kota Kinabalu. About 10 kilometres to the south of downtown Kota Kinabalu. Taxi fare from the city centre is RM15 per way. The resort is much closer to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) which is served by extensively Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, apart from lesser frequency by the Royal Brunei Airlines, Asiana Airlines and Korean Airlines. Taxi fare from the airport is RM10 per way.
Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort (or occasionally being referred to as STAR) is probably the oldest resort in Kota Kinabalu. The resort has been making its mark in the city tourism industry well before other international hotel chains set foot in the city of Kota Kinabalu often renowned for its natural beauty and exquisite tropical islands.
The resort consists of a whopping 500 rooms and suites, all with private balconies that face either the azure-blue South China Sea, the gardens or the 9-hole greens. In general, the rooms can be divided into two distinct sections, namely the Kinabalu Wing and the Tanjung Wing. The latter has been renovated about 2-3 years ago while the former is currently undergoing a floor-by-floor facelift at the time of my writing. At the Tanjung Wing, there are 219 Deluxe rooms, 22 Executive Suites, 11 Deluxe Suites and one Presidential Suite, while at the Kinabalu Wing, there are 81 Superior rooms, 110 Deluxe rooms, 32 Horizon Club rooms, three Horizon Executive Suites, 15 Executive Suites and one Presidential Suite.
One important fact to note is that the Tanjung Wing is regarded as the more premium offering of the resort while the Kinabalu Wing presents a more standard room offering. In as much as I wished to be put into an exquisite Tanjung Wing room, my corporate rate price only put me into a Kinabalu Superior room on the 1st floor which had its corridor partitioned for the on-going renovation. The room that I was assigned to did face the beautiful gardens and the ocean but that probably was the only consolation I could find. I thought that the "old" Kinabalu Superior room was just that, ie: old and tired-looking. The upcoming new Kinabalu rooms will look so much better surely based on the artist impression that I saw at the resort. I guess at the meantime, I had to make do with what the current room had to offer. The overall room design looked bland and the furniture seemed to be outdated. I hope the renovated rooms will feature timber-strip floors because I thought the current carpeting was pretty unappealing. Anyway, some pluses on the not-yet-renovated room include spacious bathroom, somewhat comfortable king-sized bed, ample-sized wardrobe and a great balcony. Overall, the room was a disappointment and it was about time for the resort to renovate the old wing.
A little bit on the resort lobby which I thought was quite nicely done. At the main entrance, there were resort personnel aptly dressed in traditional costumes greeting for newly arrived guests. There was also a traditional musical gamelan performance that was being staged every few hours or so. From the reception and lobby area to the Kinabalu Wing is a great exhibit of ethnic sculptures, weapons and instrument from the mystical land of Borneo. It was like walking along a mini museum before arriving into your room.
The main selling point of this Shangri-la resort is the waterfront area where various sights and sounds can be enjoyed by the patrons. The resort features a nice boardwalk that spans across from the Kinabalu Wing through lush tropical gardens, circling the man-made island of Pulau Bayu and the beach, and another detour into the Sunset Point before ending at the Tanjung Wing. During my visit, the swimming pool area was totally busy with a hive of activities. Most patrons did enjoy the November sun, be it by the pool, or by the man-made beach, or even on the rolling grass with magical vista of the swaying coconut trees. The swimming pool area even features an open-air massage parlour. The man-made beach is decidedly nice, but honestly, I would not take a dip into it.
As for the F&B outlets, the resort is not short of them. There are five restaurants and three cocktail bars spanning across the expansive resort. The most popular one (but not necessarily the most affordable) is the Peppino Restaurant which often bags various national accolades as one of the best in the country as reviewed by culinary magazines and leisure literatures. The restaurant offers signature Italian fares overseen by Chef Giuliano Ungaro. For all-day buffet dining and a la cartè meals, Café TATU is the place to go. One would normally think that a buffet restaurant will look unpalatably ordinary, but I found Cafè TATU to be exquisitely designed in a contemporary setting with options to dine indoor the cooling air-conditioner or al fresco style with views of the gardens and the azure-blue ocean. For Chinese food lovers, one should head to the Shang Palace Restaurant. Its dim sum is said to very good. For 360-degree view of the ocean (well, almost), you can opt for a nice and intimate dinner at the Pulau Bayu Restaurant. Here, exquisite cultural performance is held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The last but not least, the Coco-Joe's poolside restaurant offers light meals and snacks along the boardwalk. It offers great view of the ocean and often regarded as the most intimate eating place during sunset.
Disappointing Kinabalu Wing room. The renovation is indeed for the better. Superbly designed Tanjung Wing room. Great lobby ambience with Borneo-inspired cultural and ethnic displays. Great selection of dining outlets. Beautiful gardens and tropical coconut trees.