A Family Stay At The Shangri La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is a popular holiday destination in East Malaysia. If you’re travelling with kids, it’s also likely to provoke the great hotel debate of Shangri La Tanjung Aru vs Shangri La Rasa Ria.  Jetlag & Mayhem has several Tanjung Aru reviews and I’m delighted to say that today we present.. the Rasa Ria! A big thanks to Jo (knees pictured below – she makes holidaying with two young daughters look rather relaxing…)

Jo at Rasa Ria

Who: Jo & husband with daughters 2.5 and 10 mths
Where: Shangri La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu
When: A week in early September, looking to laze about in sun and not do much else!  We had mixed weather; it was generally sunny in the mornings, clouded over at lunchtime and then overcast/rainy in the afternoons.  But we did have two very sunny days and one which was a total washout!

Holiday Booking
We booked everything through Flight Centre.  We had looked at using CX Holidays but we couldn’t get the room/flight combination we wanted on the website so I gave up.  We used the hotel’s transfers both to and from he hotel as we wanted a company that would supply a car seat for our 2 year old. The seat they supplied us was fine. Other people we spoke to had used taxis to and from the hotel and apparently that was fine and much cheaper.

The Flight
We flew on Dragonair.  Both flights were fine: staff were helpful, we were more or less on time. Flight Centre had booked us in to the ‘bassinet’ row (there wasn’t actually a bassinet) which was great because leg room in the normal seats was tiny.  The flight times are not great with kids, as it was about 9.45pm by the time we arrived.  However check in was very easy and quick (done in the room) and the staff (both on the transfer and on arrival at the hotel) did everything they could to get us into our room and settled as quickly as possible.

The Room

We had requested a cot for our baby and a bottle sterilizer.  Both were set up in our room when we got there, and were of good quality and recent vintage.  The only cots the hotel has are quite small, so we had brought our own for our toddler.  Very glad we did as there was no way she would have fitted into a hotel cot!

We really liked our room. We stayed in the Ocean Wing, which is the more exclusive part of the hotel.  The room easily accommodated all of us.  We were given a ground floor room with a terrace.  Initially I wanted to change, as I was desperate for a higher up room with views of the amazing sunsets, but the ground floor location was a blessing in disguise as the restaurants were happy to deliver food directly to our terrace.  This meant we could have dinner there once the children were in bed – necessary because there was only one restaurant open at kiddy dinner time (which quickly grew old) and because the babysitting service will only take children aged 2 and over.


There are some pretty large works going on at the moment, as the hotel is building a new block which will form part of the Ocean Wing as well as provide more facilities for the hotel.  The noise wasn’t too bad and we didn’t really notice the works, but that may have been because we spent most of the day on the beach or in the main swimming pool.


The hotel seemed huge to us (as we don’t usually go to resorts like these) and it was great to be in the quieter part. Staying in the Ocean Wing meant we had a use of a separate pool and breakfast was served in a separate restaurant, Coast.  Breakfast was our favourite meal of the day – staff were great, Coast is lovely and the food was pretty good.

The hotel facilities were good.  The main highlight is the onsite orangutan sanctuary that typically has 3 or 4 baby orangutans staying in it.  The minimum age to see them, I think, officially 4, but our 2 year old was allowed to go in without a problem (and I saw babies being taken along in baby carriers!).  We really enjoyed this.

Kota Kinabalu Orangutan

The pools are great (one has two slides which were enough to entertain the children), the gardens are beautiful and very well maintained and the beach is great – 3km of open sand.  So much room for running!  The sea was pretty clean and very warm, and seemed to be shallow for a long way out. There is a Kids Club on site but we didn’t make use of it.

Rasa Ria Waterslide


There is nowhere else to go and eat from the hotel – it is very isolated so it was a good thing the onsite restaurants were generally ok.  There are a few but they have the same kids menu at each one, and although it is quite extensive (and not restricted to chicken nuggets!), the sameness gets boring quite quickly.  We had most of our dinners from the Indian restaurant Naan which was great.  It was a shame we couldn’t try Coast (as we couldn’t use the babysitters), although we found out on our last day that they would ahve done room service from Coast too.  Our major complaint was that all bar one of the restaurants only opened at 6.30pm which was too late for our girls, and meant we were stuck for each kids dinner at the same restaurant, surrounded by staff setting up for the evening buffet.  A bit soulless!  For lunch, the poolside food at the Ocean Wing pool was the best option.

Jo’s Top Tips

  • If you are going in high season, book to see the orangutans before you get there
  • Bring insect repellant.  We didn’t find the mozzies/sandflies any worse than in HK but the staff told us that the mozzie levels were low when we were there.
  • Come for less time.  A week was really longer than we needed.  An extended long weekend would be perfect.
  • If you can, stay in the Ocean Wing.  The rooms are much bigger and much better, having the second pool was great, and the separate breakfast makes it feel more exclusive.

All in all, perfect for what we wanted!


  1. Niamh

    I agree the 6.30pm restaurant opening time is a pain when you have very young children (our youngest was 13 months on our first trip here) but our preferred option was to have the all day restaurant deliver the kids’ supper to the beach bar. We would relax with a sundowner cocktail, watch the lighting ceremony (our girls often take part, as it is all organised by the kids club) and the girls could play on the beach and eat al fresco. We also found that often we could eat a bit earlier than 6.30pm at the pool Malaysian buffet (where kids eat free). Huge choice of food livened up choices for our small girls!

    1. Nicola

      Fantastic advice here, thanks Niamh

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