I had just finished working on a cover shoot over the weekend in Hong Kong and was looking forward to having a bit of a much-needed break, when I remembered that I had a quick trip to One & Only Desaru Coast coming up. This tropical retreat sits amidst a lush rainforest by one of the most pristine private beaches this side of the Malaysian east coast, and prides itself on being a luxurious, serene haven that is at one with nature.
Designed by the late architect extraordinaire Kerry Hill, the expansive estate carries many of his signature design elements: clean, straight lines, a deep respect for nature and the environment, and the incorporation of local elements that give each of his works a distinct flair. I loved how the resort’s raw stone and and natural wood, backdropped by the luxuriant rainforest, made for a warm, inviting and perfectly calming atmosphere.
Checking into the Ocean Front Junior Suite, the same design ethos of using natural materials and blending in with nature is evident. Generously sized at 1,130 sqft, it features natural wood and stone throughout the space, creating an atmosphere that is plush and inviting. The suite is separated into two areas—one for the bedroom and one for the bathroom—with a private plunge pool linking both spaces and incorporating an element of water. There’s also a cosy lounge area overlooking the azure waters of the South China Sea—it was also one of my favourite areas to take a leisurely afternoon snack and read a book.
Dining options are plentiful at One & Only Desaru Coast as well, but personally, Hoshi was the highlight for me. Serving up an innovative omakase dining experience helmed by chef Aizat Nazri, the intimate dinner combines traditional Japanese fare with modern techniques to create beautifully executed morsels. A short buggy ride away, Ember Beach Club is perfect if you want to while away your evening by the seaside enjoying flame-grilled fare by chef Andrew Walsh and a glass of vino. Last but not least, Ambara is arguably the heart of the resort, with an extensive menu of local delights—my pick: the divine char kway teow, with its distinctive wok hei; and the Johor laksa is for those looking for something moreish—available for both lunch and dinner.
Of course, what would a resort the likes of One & Only Desaru Coast be without a spa? Here, you’ll find an outpost of one of Europe’s most famous wellness outfits, the Chenot Spa, where you can indulge your body, mind and senses with revitalising treatments from an extensive menu. Opt for the signature Chenot Relaxing Massage, a 55-minute session of pure bliss that works to destress the mind and body. I greatly appreciated the expertise of the therapist in working on specific areas—my neck and lower back—where she felt I would benefit the most from the treatment. Afterwards, you can enjoy the serene surrounds with a nourishing cup of herbal tea while soaking in the post-massage glow on the grounds of the spa.
One of my favourite experiences of the trip was the barefoot sunrise breakfast on the beach. Waking up at the crack of dawn, we were lead around the resort by one of One & Only Desaru Coast’s in-house naturalists, who gave us an insight into the diverse flora and fauna that the resort encompasses. After a quick stroll, we reached a picturesque corner set up with a basket brimming with pastries, sandwiches, and nasi lemak. Coffee and champagne was also served, which I sipped (the coffee, not champagne) while taking in the sound of lapping waves against a pastel sky.
Getting to One & Only Desaru Coast is a breeze: there are car transfers that can be arranged to pick you up from your residence (fully stocked with snacks and drinks for the journey) to bring you directly to the resort; as well as pick ups from Desaru Coast Ferry Terminal, Senai International Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Changi Airport.
One & Only Desaru Coast
Darul Ta’zim, Persiaran Damai, Desaru Coast, Bandar Penawar, Johor 81930
+60 7 878 3400