The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa is a large luxury beach resort in Kota Kinabalu, in Malaysian Borneo. 499 rooms are split between two wings – the Garden Wing and Ocean Wing – and set amongst beautifully landscaped tropical gardens, which border a stunning and expansive white sand beach.
There is a huge range of recreational facilities, including two swimming pools (one with water slides for the kids), tennis court, watersports activities, a nature reserve, spa and 18-hole championship golf course.
A fabulous kids club has a comprehensive itinerary of activities to keep the kids happy, while five restaurants and two bars mean you have plenty of choice for your meals.
But above all, what sets this hotel apart from many other beach resorts around Asia is its beautiful natural environment. The rainforest sweeps right down to the beach (and what a beach!), so don’t be surprised to see a monitor lizard sunbathing next to you at the pool!
Bedtime at the Shangri-La
The Shangri-La Rasa Ria is divided into two wings – the Garden Wing and the Ocean Wing. There are 326 guest rooms in the Garden Wing, ranging from Superior Rainforest View rooms to Executive and Specialty Suites, which feature large living/dining areas.
These suites are extremely popular with families, due to the extra space they offer – and their proximity to the child-friendly facilities, such as the pool and kids’ club.
The Ocean Wing is designed to be the more luxurious of the two wings and features 173 Premier Rooms (no other room types available). An additional hotel lobby, swimming pool/jacuzzi and breakfast restaurant are dedicated exclusively to Ocean Wing guests.
We opted for two Ocean Wing rooms (one King, one Twin) with interconnecting doors to accommodate all the family. Note that we could have had both children (aged 5 and 3) in the room with us – using a rollaway bed and there would have been plenty of room for this.
The rooms were beautifully decorated with sofa, writing desk, dressing area and large bathroom, and featuring LCD TV with DVD player and coffee machine.
The balconies were enormous, with an oversized bathtub and large circular daybed. All rooms in the Ocean Wing are sea facing, meaning fabulous views over the ocean, beach and/or swimming pool.
Be aware that the bathtubs on some balconies are visible from other rooms and public areas – so check before you strip off and jump in!
The bathtubs are enormous so may not be practical for bathing your kids every night, although they make for great fun bath time! However, the showers in the bathroom are also sizeable making it easy for the kids to all jump in together.
Playtime at the Shangri-La
The Rasa Ria benefits from acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and a majestic sweeping white sandy beach. There are two swimming pools in the resort.
The main swimming pool at the Garden Wing boasts a children’s pool with water slides, which were a great hit with my kids.
The pool at the Ocean Wing is exclusively for Ocean Wing guests and offers a more sedate experience than the main pool.
This pool has a large shallow area with sloping bank perfect for small kids to play in – my 3-year old could stand in the whole of the kids’ area, meaning we could supervise from the sunloungers when we tired of being ‘mummy and daddy shark’.
A gorgeous Jacuzzi is surrounded by tropical flowers, with views out across the beach to the sea.
The Kids Club is excellent, and complimentary for ages 5 to 11. For younger children, you need to pay for a babysitter to accompany them in the kids club (this worked out at around $7.50 USD per hour).
Within the kids club is an outdoor garden with small playground, flying fox, sandpit and pirate ship, while indoor activities include various arts and crafts, games and competitions, in addition to organized outings for shell collecting or pony riding.
Once a week the kids club host a themed party in the evening. A full schedule of activities is available as a printed timetable to ensure your kids don’t miss out on their favourite activity.
There is also a full itinerary of activities available for older kids and adults. These include archery, tai chi, beach volleyball, table tennis, petanque and croquet.
In addition, sea kayaks, boogie boards and catamarans are available to use free of charge, with chargeable activities such as jet skiing, banana boats and windsurfing and pony riding on the beach all on offer too. There is never a dull moment at the Rasa Ria!
I know that many families have been left disappointed to learn that the orangutans are no longer housed within the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Nature Reserve.
However, the 64-acre nature reserve remains open and plans are in place to enhance the nature trails within the reserve to allow for guided walks to learn about the coastal jungle vegetation and medicinal plants, and to look for other native wildlife such as Western Tarsiers, Slow Loris, Pangolins and more.
My 5-year old daughter took part in the Ranger Experience program within the reserve, which she loved. This involved learning about the symbiosis of plants, insects and animals living in the nature reserve, and helping the rangers to prepare food for the animals.
They then fed the goats, deer and other domesticated animals in the Nature Interpretation Centre, before ending at the orangutan viewing platform.
Although the big draw of the Ranger Experience was the orangutans, in reality this was only a small part of the program, and the orangutan viewing took up just the last 10-minutes.
The Ranger Experience will continue to run for children aged 5 and above, and will evolve to include native tree planting.
The resort also boasts its very own Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club, with a stunning 18-hole championship golf course.
This challenging course benefits from beautiful surrounding jungle scenery, with the 10th and 11th holes bordering the South China Sea. The clubhouse, with its views over the golf course, is the perfect spot for a post-game beer.
Also housed within the Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club is the Spa. We enjoyed a fabulous couple’s massage here, while the kids happily played in the kids club – bliss!
Dinnertime at the Shangri-La
There are plenty of options when it comes to eating and drinking at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, with a choice of five restaurants and two bars, offering a huge range of Western, Asian and local dishes.
As Ocean Wing guests, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast in Oceano every morning – a generous buffet of international breakfast favourites, with several live stations of chefs cooking up a storm of pancakes, omelettes and noodle soups.
By night Oceano transforms in to a high-end Italian restaurant serving delicious pasta dishes and main courses. Our only disappointment (for the kids) was that Oceano doesn’t serve pizza in the evenings, although they allowed us to order this from the room service menu and have it delivered to the table.
For Garden Wing guests, breakfast is held in the Coffee Terrace, an all day restaurant serving a range of western and local dishes.
Our favourite restaurant for lunch was the poolside/beachside Tepi Laut, a relaxed open-air restaurant with a selection of Western and Asian snacks. By night Tepi Laut becomes ‘Makan Street’ – a selection of street food stalls serving up Malaysian favourites such as Satay, Roti Canai and Laksa.
The two remaining restaurants we enjoyed are the Japanese Kozan Teppan-Yaki, with its theatrical Teppanyaki counter, and Naan Flavours of India with its selection of dishes from Northern India and Coastal Goa.
One of my favourite memories of the Shangri-La Rasa Ria is sunset cocktails at the Sampan Bar, which benefits from some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.
The Sampan Bar is right on the beach, meaning the kids can happily play, while mum and dad tuck into margaritas. Another bar, the Lobby Lounge, remains open until midnight and has live entertainment.
A great bonus of staying at a Shangri-La as a family is their Children’s Meal Plan. At the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, children under the age of 12 can enjoy complimentary buffet breakfasts at Oceano (Ocean Wing guests only) and Coffee Terrace and complimentary buffet dinners at Coffee Terrace and Tepi Laut when accompanied by a paying adult (maximum of 2 children per adult).
In the ‘hood
There is so much to do in Kota Kinabalu with kids and we took several daytrips to explore the surrounding area.
Island hopping and snorkeling trips to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a marine park consisting of five islands just off Kota Kinabalu, can be arranged through the hotel and set off from sister hotel the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru.
Other fun trips we took around Kota Kinabalu included a river boat trip to view proboscis monkeys and fireflies (can also be arranged through the hotel), a visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village to learn about traditional life in Sabah, and a trip to Kinabalu National Park to walk the canopy walkways.
Other options include white water rafting, diving, deep sea fishing, visiting the Sunday markets in Kota Kinabalu – and it is also possible to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Reserve as a day trip (requires a flight to Sandakan).
When booking tours, bear in mind that the Shangri-La Rasa Ria is around a 40 minutes (1 hour in bad traffic) drive from Kota Kinabalu. For some tours this works in your favour – such as those to Kinabalu National Park, but for others – such as boat trips to the Abdul Rahman Marine Park, this can add a couple of hours to your trip.
Click here to check availability and prices for the Shangri-La Rasa Ria here.
The Shangri-La Rasa Ria is a great option if you are looking for a family-friendly hotel in Kota Kinabalu with lots of activities and fun. The beach is fabulous, there is a good choice of restaurants, the kids club is brilliant, and the grounds are beautiful.
My kids particularly loved the two swimming pools – both the waterslides in the kids’ pool and the shallow wading area in the Ocean Wing pool were a big hit.
Although it is disappointing that the orangutans will no longer be in the nature reserve, this is still an amazing facility, and a great way to introduce the importance of environmental conservation to your kids.
Visit the Shangri-La Rasa Ria website to learn more about the hotel.
Pin it for Later!
Note: Mum on the Move paid for our own stay at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria hotel. However, we were gifted some experiences during our stay for the purposes of writing this review. This did not influence my review in any way, and all opinions expressed are honest, and my own.
This post contains affiliate links. If you book a hotel through the affiliate website, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
18 thoughts on “Hotel Review: Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu”
Wow! this looks like a great and idyllic place to stay with the entire family. Loved the spaciousness and the natural environs.
I am going through a majour case of travel envy while reading this: it looks fabulous and there is so much to do! It’s a shame about the orangutans, I know I would love to see them, but the nature reserve seems really interesting and fun anyway – good to know what to expect to avoid disappointment: it would be a shame to feel let down with surroundings as beautiful as these!
I love big rooms! We always have so much gear and it is great to be able to spread out, especially with kids! Looks like a beautiful hotel!
Looks like a great place to spend some time with a lot of activities although it might be hard to drag me away from the beach. I like the fact there is a nature reserve and you can see some great wildlife while teaching the kids about conservancy.
Looks like a great place to stay with kids. I love how the kids club has the option of the babysitter for younger ones. $7.50 an hour seems very reasonable.
It looks like a great place to take kids. Lots to see and do to keep the whole family happy!
Now that we will start travelling in Asia – we leave Australia tonight and head to Bali and onwards to Bangladesh – places such as Kota Kinabalu are definitely on the agenda in the next 2 years 🙂 This looks like such a lovely hotel, my kids would love several of these activities, will pin for our future travels in Malaysia!
Have never been to Borneo but this looks fantastic. Did you get to see any fireflies? We were in Thailand in February and I was bummed to learn that we were off-season for fireflies. Great review!
Oh it looks great! I would like very much to discover Malaysia and Borneo with my kids!
Looks amazing i really must get into some of these places in Asia in the upcoming years since they are so close to Australia.
It’s always impressive to see the resorts of Malaysia and beyond. This one looks and sounds amazing, and I particularly love the balcony tub. I think I need that at home.
What a fabulous review. No we haven’t been but I would absolutely love to. It’s time to start visiting Asia with the little ones. They need a little more adventure!
What a beautiful property! It looks like the perfect blend of kid-friendly and adult-friendly. I love the shipwreck and would probably want to play on it myself 🙂 After all, I’m just a big-ole kid!
Sunset cocktails at the Sampan Bar – that’s where you’d find me! I need to send this to my sister. She’s looking for fabulous kid-friendly hotels.
PHANTOM TRAVELMAN.LOOKS EXCELLENT…GOLF BEACH AND LUXURY. KIDS CLUB FOR GRANDKIDS WOW…A PLACE FOR ALL THE FAMILY. HAVE BEEN TO KOTA KINABALU BEFORE AND IT IS A GREAT PLACE FOR A HOLIDAY.WELL WORTH CONSIDERATION.!!
hi – wanted to ask between this and the Shangri La Tanjung Aru, which one would you recommend? I believe you’ve been to both. Which is better for a family of four and kids aged 7 and 3.
Hi – I think both hotels are equally great for families, it just depends which one suits your needs more. The Tanjung Aru has a fun water play area with waterslides etc and is closer to town if you are planning to go out in the evenings or do lots of sightseeing it is more convenient. It’s beach area is quite small though. The Rasa Ria has huge grounds and a much bigger beach plus fun swimming pool for the kids. It has more space but it is more isolated so not as convenient. Both have great kids clubs. Enjoy!
I’ve booked Shangri-La Tanjung Aru for my stay in KK on next month! Actually it’s hard to choose between this two choices. Both are amazing hotels. Finally chose Tanjung Aru because it is closer to the town. I will come again to KK & stay at Rasa Ria one day!