You are coming to Penang for your vacation. You have planned this trip for a long time. You have decided on a beach vacation, and know that your choice is a Batu Ferringhi beach hotel, and that it has to be somewhere within Batu Ferringhi, Penang's most famous beach destination. Now comes an important decision: which hotel should you choose?
While I can't simply point you to a hotel and say, "You must choose this!" What I will do instead is to take you on a tour of all the major beach hotels in Batu Ferringhi. Through words and photographs, I will try to give you the most accurate picture of the hotel, before you got there. Bear in mind that this is just one person's opinion, though I try my best to be fair to all the hotels.
Okay, now let's start our tour of the hotels. To begin, let's take a look at the map, so that we become familiar with their location:
Hard Rock Hotel
Hard Rock Hotel (GPS: 5.46785, 100.24165) is the furthest hotel along the Batu Ferringhi coast that I surveyed (there is one more mainstream hotel, the Bayview Beach Resort, even further away, but I didn't have a chance to review it yet, and will leave it for a future update).
Hard Rock Hotel on Google Maps Street View
Hard Rock Hotel occupies the hotel building that was formerly the Casuarina Beach Resort. The building underwent a full makeover in 2011 and is today nothing like its former self. The reincarnation turns it into a hip destination celebrating Rock 'n' Roll music.
The porch of Hard Rock Hotel, with the stylized guitar (7 December, 2014)
At the porch of the Hard Rock Hotel is a stylized guitar. To the left of the foyer is the entrance to the equally iconic Hard Rock Cafe, an outlet of the celebrated theme restaurant. In front of Hard Rock Cafe is a statue of the late Michael Jackson, in a seated position. It does not escape my notice though, that it's the statue of the King of Pop greeting visitors - shouldn't they have installed a statue of the King of Rock (Elvis Presley) instead? Oh well.
Here I am with the statue of Michael Jackson in front of Hard Rock Cafe, Penang (7 December, 2014)
Now let's move inside. This is the lounge area of the Hard Rock Hotel. When I visited, I saw that it was quite crowded with guests. Sofas in various configuration are arranged within the lounge area.
The lounge area of Hard Rock Hotel (7 December, 2014)
There is a bar next to the lounge area (pic below). It is right in front of you from the entrance. (You might notice a Christmas tree - that's because I visited on 7 December and their Christmas decorations are up.)
The bar at Hard Rock Hotel (7 December, 2014)
A passage to the left of the main entrance leads to the Starz Dinner, one of eateries at the hotel. On your way there, you pass though the hotel's memorabilia collection, a signature of the Hard Rock franchise. There's a wall with a mosaic rendition of the Beatles, jackets won by Elton John and James Brown, a guitar used by Chuck Berry, and other items.
Restaurent Entrance at Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Celebrity memorabilia Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Restaurant interior, Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Having seen the inside of Hard Rock Hotel, Penang, let's take a look at the poolside. The swimming pool at Hard Rock Hotel is designed in such a way that it almost blends seamlessly to the lobby. A footpath winds its way through the pool area, at one point it crosses a bridge to get to the other side, where the beach is a short distance away.
During my visit, there was quite a lot of people using the pool, it being a very hot day, and a cool dip looked inviting. The section with the water slides is particularly busy, while another section is relatively quiet.
Poolside, Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Sunshade canopy, Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
A quieter spot on the poolside of Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Waterslide, Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Walking between the deck chairs, I made my way to the beach. A hedge serves as a separator between the hotel area and the beach. The beach itself is public property and not part of the hotel. Over here, you can see independent vendors providing various beach activities such as horse riding and paragliding. It was an intensely hot day, when I visited, and the sky was a gorgeous blue.
The Batu Ferringhi beach behind Hard Rock Penang (7 December, 2014)
Parkroyal Penang Hotel
After visiting Hard Rock Hotel, my wife and I drove a short distance to Parkroyal Penang. (You can walk if you want to, but doing so means we have to walk back afterwards.) Parkroyal Penang is located closer to the village centre of Batu Ferringhi. It is next door to Holiday Inn, which we shall visit immediately thereafter.
Parkroyal Penang on Google Maps Street View
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Unlike Hard Rock Hotel, Parkroyal Penang (GPS: 5.47191, 100.24588) hasn't undergone the same amount of makeover. It shows in its façade.
Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
The lounge area is more spacious compared to Hard Rock's, but in comparison (and based on my visit), it was quieter with fewer people around. There isn't anything particularly interesting about the interior, so I decided to head outside.
Interior of Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
The pool area of Parkroyal Penang is gorgeous. They appear to have more space than Hard Rock Hotel, and they decorated their area with maroon-colour parasols and deck chairs. The lawn area is densely planted with dwarf coconut palms.
Poolside at Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
Lawn area at Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
Beach parasols at Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
On the whole, Parkroyal Penang is quieter than Hard Rock Hotel, but if you are seeking some solitude, this may be what you are looking for. If your idea of ultimate relaxation is a massage, I saw that they have a massage house here, where you can have your stress rubbed away.
Two garden paths lead through the lanai of Parkroyal Penang towards the beach. The paths end at stone gateways beyond which you can see the Batu Ferringhi beach. It was simply gorgeous when I was there.
One of the garden paths leading to the beach at Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
The beach at Parkroyal Penang (7 December, 2014)
The next hotel we visited is the Holiday Inn Resort.
Holiday Inn Resort (7 December, 2014)
Holiday Inn is next to Parkroyal Penang, but walking from one to the other also takes a little while. If I'm not mistaken, Holiday Inn (GPS: 5.47256, 100.24655) is only one among the main beach hotels in Batu Ferringhi that comprises two wings separated by the main road.
Holiday Inn Resort on Google Maps Street View
Originally comprising only the beachfront block, the hotel built a tower annex some years ago, to accommodate more guests. An overhead bridge connects these two sections. For added security, guests have to use their room card to unlock the door to the tower block.
Holiday Inn overhead bridge (7 December, 2014)
In terms of size, Holiday Inn lobby area appears smaller than that of Hard Rock Hotel and Parkroyal Penang. And it was a bit dark too. To the left of the reception area is a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.
The restaurant at Holiday Inn Penang (7 December, 2014)
Beyond the restaurant is the lanai and lawn are of Holiday Inn. After seeing the one at Parkroyal Penang next door, I feel the one at Holiday Inn is less spacious. You can immediately see the sea from the lawn area. This is how it looks like:
The lawn at Holiday Inn Penang (7 December, 2014)
There is a single row of red-coloured sun parasols lining the swimming pool, which unlike the ones at Hard Rock or Parkroyal Penang, is a simple rectangle. Behind the pool are another two rows of deck chairs facing the open sea.
The swimming pool at Holiday Inn Penang (7 December, 2014)
A row of parasols at Holiday Inn Penang (7 December, 2014)
View of Holiday Inn from its lawn (7 December, 2014)
Deck chairs facing the sea, Holiday Inn Penang (7 December, 2014)
Lone Pine Hotel
The next hotel in my survey is Lone Pine Hotel (GPS: 5.47635, 100.24997). Unlike the other hotels in this survey, I visited Lone Pine Hotel on two earlier occasions, on 5 January and 23 March. It is a short distance from Holiday Inn, and is within the same cluster as Golden Sands Resort and Rasa Sayang Resort.
Lone Pine Hotel, Penang (5 January, 2014)
Like Hard Rock Hotel, Lone Pine Hotel has also undergone a total makeover, transforming it from an old, age-worn establishment into one of the upscale hotels in Batu Ferringhi. The hotel proper, where the lobby is located, is located a distance from the main road.
Lone Pine Hotel on Google Maps Street View
The pool of Lone Pine Hotel is located away from the main building, next to a historic bungalow that is incorporated into the hotel. The concourse has a high ceiling over an open-air common area, with the lobby, which is quite small, on the left. Corridors leads in various directions to different parts of the hotel.
Lobby and Concourse, Lone Pine Hotel (5 January, 2014)
Among the Batu Ferringhi beach hotels that I survey, I think Lone Pine Hotel is the "quietest". It seems to wear an air of quiet elegance. I have eaten at its restaurant before, and love the buffet here, as I have all the scallops I can eat.
Here I am enjoying the buffet lunch at Lone Pine (5 January, 2014)
Buffet serving at Lone Pine (5 January, 2014)
Unlike the other hotels (Hard Rock, Parkroyal Penang and Holiday Inn), the compound of Lone Pine Hotel is not planted with dwarf coconut palms, but instead with casuarina trees (one of which, according to the story told to me, was mistaken for a pine tree, resulting in the hotel being called Lone Pine Hotel).
The swimming pool at Lone Pine Hotel (5 January, 2014)
Behind the row of casuarina is the beach itself. Here, the Batu Ferringhi beach widens to a smooth expanse of golden sand, an apt description picked up by the hotel next door.
Batu Ferringhi beach behind Lone Pine Hotel (5 January, 2014)
Golden Sands Resort
The Golden Sands Resort (GPS: 5.47658, 100.25166) is a hotel with a crescent-shaped building that was completed in 1980. Despite all the years, it still looks smart today. Golden Sands closed for a period, when it underwent a total makeover. As with its neighbour Rasa Sayang next door, it comes under the umbrella of the Shangri-La Group of hotels.
Golden Sands Resort, Penang (7 December, 2014)
From Parkroyal Penang, I drove down the road to Golden Sands Resort. The parking area in front of the hotel is quite small and completely full. However, there are more parking bays further down, in the area shared between Golden Sands Resort and Rasa Sayang Resort. This parking area is huge, and can accommodate more than a thousand cars.
Golden Sands Resort on Google Maps Street View
As I visited during the Christmas season, the hotel is well decked for the celebrations, with a large Christmas tree at the lobby.
Christmas tree at Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
The lounge area at Golden Sands Resort is quite dark, but cosy.
Lounge at Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
One side of the lounge opens up to the lawn outside, and so there is light streaming in.
Lounge at Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
The pool area of Golden Sands Resort is located within the crescent shape of the hotel building. It has a collection of thatch shelters in lieu of parasols. A plethora of deck chairs are laid out in the lawn between the pool area and the beach. There is a cabana by the pool where guests can buy ice cream and other snacks.
Pool area at Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
Golden Sands Resort building (7 December, 2014)
Deck chairs, Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
Cabana at the poolside of Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
Spread out behind Golden Sands Resort is the Batu Ferringhi beach, a wide expanse of golden sand, punctuated nowadays with the huts of vendors providing watersports activities. The lawn area of Golden Sands Resort is actually contiguous to that of Rasa Sayang Resort, but rather than visiting the last hotel in my survey from the back, we exited Golden Sands Resort from the front entrance to go next door.
Batu Ferringhi beach behind Golden Sands Resort (7 December, 2014)
Rasa Sayang Resort
For the past forty years, the name "Rasa Sayang Resort" (GPS: 5.47859, 100.25401), which means "a loving feeling" in Malay, epitomizes the ultimate grandeur of Batu Ferringhi beach. The grand daddy of the lot, Rasa Sayang Resort is the biggest, grandest and one of the oldest hotels in Batu Ferringhi. And it has a long name to match, the official name being Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa. Being the "first to arrive", it occupies the choicest piece of real estate in Batu Ferringhi, the widest beach front area with ample space for recreation and parking.
Rasa Sayang Resort, Penang (7 December, 2014)
Rasa Sayang Resort is laid out like a stylized cluster of huts. These are not huts, of course, but rather multi-storey buildings that are linked together with a labyrinthine foyer. At one end is the Raja Wing while the other is the Garden Wing. There is over a dozen banquet halls and conference rooms (from the list, I counted 19!)
Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa on Google Maps Street View
Rasa Sayang Resort is so big that there are many quiet corners. At the Raja Wing I came across a reading area with lots of books for you to read. This is the biggest quiet spot of any hotel on the Batu Ferringhi coast that I have come across.
The large reading area at Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
The large reading area at Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
A quiet patio area at Rasa Sayang Resort, just outside the reading area (7 December, 2014)
Of course Rasa Sayang Resort has a huge pool area. But that's not all. It even has its own par-3 pitch and putt golf course, so golf enthusiasts do not have to leave the resort to go anywhere.
Long corridors, like this one at the health centre, connects the various parts of Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
The main swimming pool of Rasa Sayang Resort is located on the Garden Wing. It has a curving kidney shape with numerous corners, affording bathers with private areas of their own. Due to its size, the pool is now as crowded as in the other hotels.
Pool, Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
Garden Wing, Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
The huge swimming pool of Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
Rows of deck chairs line the lawn near the beach. Immediately outside the hotel property is a row of deck chairs with parasols.
Deck chairs at Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
Batu Ferringhi beach at Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
There is a lanai area with an open-air restaurant under the canopy of the rain trees.
An open-air restaurant at the lanai of Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
As I explored the grounds of the Rasa Sayang Resort, I am constantly reminded of its size. The lawn area itself is so big that you can fit some of the other hotels I have mentioned into it. Groves of trees form separators between the different parts of the lawn which otherwise would appear even bigger. Due to its size, it could appear deserted even though it can hold more guests than any of the other hotels.
The lawn area of the Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
More deck chairs, Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
Seaview, Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
And last but not least, there's the par-3 putt and pitch golf course. It occupies the area near the Raja Wing of the resort.
Par 3 pitch and putt golf course, Rasa Sayang Resort (7 December, 2014)
From my survey of the six beach hotels along the Batu Ferringhi coast, I hope the glimpse that I have given you will help you make a decision that is just right for your vacation. You will find some of the hotels more oriented towards family vacationers, while other for party goers. Some are moderately priced while some are decidedly upscale. As you would expect, the biggest and grandest also come with room rates to match, so each to his own expectation and budget.
I would be the first to admit that I couldn't know everything about the hotels, based on just a visit or two. Nonetheless, I have tried my best to describe to you each hotel factually, and with minimal marketing-speak. You are seeing everything that I saw, from the photos I took, so while it isn't "everything", it is still useful details for your upcoming vacation.
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