Gaya Island Resort
Islands and Beaches, Borneo, Malaysia
At a Glance
Gaya Island Resort is nestled into a lush hillside, offering wonderful views over the sea towards Mt Kinabalu
Gaya Island Resort has plenty of exciting activities, including walks with the naturalist and kayaking through mangrove forests
The Spa Village is a tranquil haven, with a focus on traditional treatments using fresh, local ingredients
The beach in front of the resort is sandy but slightly narrow, however the resort also has another beach only a 5-minute boat ride away with a restaurant and wider shore
There are some great restaurant options including candlelit dinners over fresh seafood, and authentic Omakase-style Japanese dining
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Like the rest of Malaysia, Sabah’s climate is hot and humid. Expect temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s throughout the lowlands. The state’s rainfall averages about 300cm annually and though it rains throughout the year, the heaviest rainfall generally occurs between October and January. At higher elevations the temperature is refreshingly cool, dropping to colder temperatures at night. Mount Kinabalu has its own climate and, above 3500m, temperatures can drop to freezing.
To start planning your vacation to Gaya Island Resort
Gaya Island Resort is a luxurious retreat just off the coast of Kota Kinabulu in Borneo. Backed by lush green forest, and facing sandy shores and cerulean-blue sea, offering beautiful views towards Mt Kinabalu, this is an idyllic place to unwind.
With a relaxed atmosphere, plenty of activities available, and only a 30-minute journey from Kota Kinabalu, Gaya Island Resort is a great location to start or finish any Borneo itinerary. The island lies within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is home to a number of coral reefs and plenty of marine life. The resort has two house reefs just off the jetty, which can be explored on guided snorkeling tours or at your own leisure.
The accommodation is located up on the hillside, with 120 villas and one suite. The design is sophisticated and modern yet retains some Sabahan elements, using natural materials. All of the air-conditioned rooms have spacious en-suite bathrooms with large bathtubs, and verandas looking towards the rainforest or sea, furnished with day beds.
Gaya Island Resort has a great choice of restaurants. Feast Village offers a vibrant atmosphere, serving a diverse range of international dishes. Fisherman's Cove is perfect for a romantic evening, offering delicious fresh fish and seafood. For an exciting and authentic Japanese dining experience, head up the hill to Omakase. The Pool Bar & Lounge is also a pleasant seafront spot for light lunches and sundowners.The resort has an enticing 40-meter lap pool down by the beach, and if you go in the opposite direction up the hill you will find the tranquil Spa Village, offering a range of treatments using local ingredients and techniques. The beach directly in front of the resort is on the narrow side, however the idyllic Tavujun Bay is just around the corner, and the resort offers shuttles throughout the day. The resort has a private beach here with its restaurant where lunch is a single dish meal made over charcoal embers that changes daily, or you can bring a gourmet picnic. Gaya Island Resort has its own marine and wildlife centers, providing an interesting and educational opportunity to learn about Borneo's biodiversity. There are some fantastic tours with the resort's naturalist, including walks in the rainforest and kayaking through mangrove jungles.
There are three different villa categories at Gaya Island Resort. Each villa is exactly the same in terms of size, it is just the view that differs. The Bayu Villas are located on the lowest level of accommodation. Whilst this means they have garden rather than sea views, they are closer to the main facilities. The Canopy Villas have partial sea views and are located on a slightly higher level and the Kinabulu Villas are on the highest level and have the best sea views. The Suria Suite has two en-suite bedrooms and an outdoor bath. Spread over two floors, the bedrooms are upstairs and the living and dining areas are downstairs.
Children are welcome to stay at Gaya Island Resort, however this is probably a more suitable property for couples or families with older children. There are a lot of steps to reach some of the villas, and whilst some are able to interconnect, the number is limited therefore cannot be guaranteed. The Fisherman's Cove only welcomes guests over the age of 12.
There are a number of dining options at Gaya Island Resort. Feast Village serves a diverse range of buffet and a la carte options. The Fisherman's Cove is the resort's romantic fine dining option, featuring a menu of fresh fish and seafood. Omakase offers a fun and authentic Japanese dining experience. The Pool Bar & Lounge is a good spot for a light lunch or watching the sunset behind Mt Kinabalu, cocktail in hand. If you take the shuttle to the nearby Tavujun Bay, the resort has its own restaurant here, or can provide gourmet picnics. There are also some lovely destination dining options available.
The resort has a 40-meter lap pool down by the beach. The Spa Village is a peaceful haven up on the hill, offering traditional and culturally-inspired treatments using fresh local ingredients.
There is plenty to see and do at Gaya Island Resort. There are two house reefs close to the resort's jetty, which you can either either explore on your own, or on a guided snorkeling tour. There are also some lovely boat trips and kayaking adventures through the mangrove forests. back on dry land, it is possible to go on nature walks with the resort's naturalist, or why not visit the wildlife or marine center to learn more about their conservation efforts.
Katie Kennard (Staff)
Just fifteen minutes by boat, passing lots of local floating villages on your way, leaving the smog of the city behind you, you will arrive at Gaya Island. Gaya is famous for its prime location, the Coral Triangle, being the world's epicenter for marine biodiversity, the snorkeling, diving and nature walks are exceptional here. Other than this hotel and Gayana, there is nothing else in sight. Their villas are nestled in the canopy of the trees, and there are three fantastic restaurants to chose from. They even have their own private beach around the cove with a charming restaurant and lots of shade. It's idyllic.
Clare Barratt (Staff)
This really is a lovely boutique island beach resort! You check-in before boarding the boat at Kota Kinabulu where they have a lounge and upon arrival at the resort you are given your key and a quick tour of the resort so you are familiar with the areas. I found the resort very welcoming and unpretentious. Even though it was pretty much full when I was there, it didn't feel crowded at all and there was still lots of room to sit on the beach or by the pool. Rooms were lovely with big bathrooms and spacious terraces; although your terrace is right next to your neighbor's terrace so does lack privacy, and watch out for monkeys! Canopy villas are closer to the facilities but are without the sea views. A few nights spent here before or after the jungle is idyllic!
Best of Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Sandakan, Kinabatangan River & Gaya Island
from $4700 pp 11 nights
- The perfect introduction to Borneo and its highlights, combining incredible wildlife with the stunning beaches
- Enjoy a night or two in Kuala Lumpur to get over the long flight and adjust to the time zone before beginning your adventures in Borneo's Sabah state
- Stay at a traditional rainforest lodge deep within the Danuum Valley - a truly special experience
Location & directions
Islands and Beaches, Borneo, Malaysia
Gaya Island Resort is located on the stunning Gaya Island on the east coast looking towards Kota Kinabulu with Mount Kinabulu in the distance in Sabah.
How to get there
12-hour international flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by a 2-hour domestic flight to Kota Kinabulu and a short road and boat transfer to the resort.