Wild, wonderful, and just a short drive from Singapore, here's why you should add One & Only Desaru Coast to your list of must-visit hotels for 2022 and beyond

One & Only Desaru Coast was one of the most highly anticipated luxury resort openings for 2020—but having opened just before the world's borders closed due to Covid-19, it never got the opening it deserved, and was only accessible to domestic travellers in Malaysia. Until now. 

First Impressions

At the entrance, there are structures and shelter but no walls—an airiness that immediately puts you at ease. The lobby opens up to a lawn and cascading staircases that lead to the hotel's pièce de résistance: the swimming pool, which stretches out toward the ocean and is canopied by ancient trees. Beyond is a vast stretch of private beach, dotted by spectacular rock formations that are over three million years young. 

Committed to building amongst rather than against its environment, much of the original vegetation has been deliberately preserved. This seamless unity of ancient landscape with the resort's modern architecture evokes an elegant sense of wild.

None of it comes at the expense of comfort, though. The resort was designed by the late architect Kerry Hill, who is behind some of the world's most spectacular hotels: from The Datai in Langkawi, to nine Aman properties including Amansara in Cambodia and Aman Tokyo. At One & Only Desaru Coast, Hill's signature use of clean lines and raw materials carry his legacy forward. 

The Villas

Its 42 Junior Suites, two Grand Suites and one 4-bedroom villa—known as Villa One—are arranged democratically throughout the resort for utmost privacy. Their angular facades, featuring lofty timber shutters framed in white stone, are satisfyingly uniform in design.

We stayed in an Ocean Junior Suite, which comes with its own plunge pool that separates two bungalow-type structures; one being the bedroom, with a large sun room overlooking the South China Sea, and the other being the bathroom, with an oversized soaking tub and his and hers amenities. 

Also worth booking is the Rainforest Grand Pool Suite, situated in lush surroundings with a private 17-metre lap pool. But whichever accommodation you choose, know that there are no bad choices to be made here. 

Food & Drink

Ambara anchors One & Only Desaru Coasts' dining options. It's where breakfast is served in the mornings, and during dinner service it transforms into a chic dining destination, dishing plates of Mediterranean cuisine inspired by local Malaysian produce. 

Dusky Monkey has more charm than your average resort bar. Due largely in part to the lovely staff, who keep framed portraits of the native dusky monkies (the bar's namesake) who are known to visit from time to time, with tales of cheeky encounters to tell. Ten out of ten for bar banter. 

Hoshi, the resort's vibrant Japanese restaurant, serves an innovative omakase menu. Great if you enjoy the bold fusion flavours of restaurants such as Nobu or Zuma. Perhaps less so for sushi purists. 

The highlight for us was Ember, One & Only Desaru Coast's resident beach club. It has a turquoise swimming pool surrounded by day beds and cabanas, and perhaps best of all, a menu designed by Singapore-based chef Andrew Walsh—the man behind Club Street Wine Room, Butcher Boy, and the one Michelin-starred Cure

Located a short distance away from the hotel, Ember can be accessed via buggy or a sweet 10-15 minute walk on the beach. If the tide allows, we recommend the latter.

The Extras

The wellness-focused Chenot Spa combines scientific diagnostics with the best in Chinese and alternative medicines. From a few simple tests, a customised health plan can be designed by its professionals to help you meet your wellness goals. But if you're after a simple massage or facial, that's available to you, too. 

Here, a sprawling lotus pond bows to a majestic banyan tree that has been there for over a century. 

Active travellers will enjoy Club One, One & Only Desaru Coast's sleek recreation club complete with tennis courts and lessons from their resident PBI-certified tennis coach. 

Water sports take place Ember, including stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. Follow your water sports session with a gin and tonic from the bar for maximum vacation vibes. 

Getting to Desaru Coast from Singapore

Being able to travel again is a blessing—albeit exhausting. After a few flights, we were quickly reminded of the stresses of trying to find suitable flight times, of rushing to the airport only to sit around for hours, the ever-present anxiety of lost luggage... you name it. 

This is where One & Only Desaru Coast is a game changer. Just a two-to-three hour drive from Singapore, upon request, they will send a luxury car to pick you up from your home and drive you across the Singapore-Malaysia land border to the hotel. They'll even drop you off at your doorstep when your stay is over, too. 

Opting for this service was a no-brainer. Late on a Friday afternoon, our driver sent us a WhatsApp to let us know he'd arrived at the lobby of our apartment building. We load up the car, and hop in to find a thoughtfully curated basket of snacks prepared by the hotel for our road trip, which was nothing short of pleasant. No awkward flight times, loitering at the airport or waiting around for luggage. Heaven.

It also goes without saying, this is a great option for parents travelling with young kids. 

Another option is the newly launched ferry service, which takes travellers from Singapore's Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Desaru Coast in just 90 minutes. 

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