JapaMala Resort

Tioman Island, Tioman & East Coast, Malaysia Book from RM570

Uber-stylish villas in an awe-inspiring setting, complete with aqua ocean and lush jungle views
Tioman island is home to rugged rainforest, talcum-powder beaches and translucent sea. The set for the 1958 film South Pacific, it's utterly idyllic: honeymoon heaven. Yet when we visited it was almost tourist-free, and there were no big chain hotels dwarfing the beautiful virgin landscape.

Set in a tranquil, picture-perfect cove of its own, JapaMala is the ultimate jungle outpost - but one with deluxe accommodation. Its 13 wooden villas peer over pristine ocean and tropical jungle; the vibe is exclusive yet friendly.

Blissed-out couples can enjoy free snorkelling, kayaking, diving or island trips; guides can lead you on wildlife tours and rainforest treks to nearby villages. But as you sink into your lounger, listening to birds chirrup and the gentle roll of the waves, you may decide to just stay put and let nature do the talking.

Highs

  • Peaceful island life - perfect for those seeking serenity and rejuvenation
  • Stylish villas with a view, perched in the jungle or overlooking the crystal-clear ocean. Some have private hydro pools
  • A snorkellers' paradise - we saw tiger fish, blue crabs, red snapper, garoupa and coral in the technicolour underworld
  • Attentive, friendly staff
  • The resort owners now operate their own flight from Kuala Lumpur (see Rates)

Lows

  • Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food rule the day; we would have liked more local fare
  • There's only one kayak - bag it early!
  • Likewise, there are only 6 sunloungers on the beach; not enough for 13 villas
  • Tours are quite costly and the free trek to the nearest village was more of a climb, which we couldn't finish

Best time to go

The dry season is from March to October. Temperatures range from 21°C to 35°C (70°F to 90°F); water temperatures are always a pleasant 25°C to 28°C. The east coast monsoon is between November and February; avoid this time as the rainfall is quite heavy.

Our top tips

JapaMala is very laidback. By day you'll need swimwear, sunglasses, insect repellent and beach wear (a sarong or sun dress); by night, casual clothes.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 13 villas
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • TV room
  • Snorkelling + kayak
  • Diving (by arrangement)
Room:

Rooms

There are 13 beautiful, Malay kampung villas. Each is rustic-chic unique. They were built around nature, rather than cutting down trees, removing rocks or disturbing wildlife. Best of all, each has stunning views of the rainforest and ocean. Decor is tasteful with cream linens, glossy dark wooden flooring and bright, silk cushions. Nice touches include air con, DVD players, iPod docks and custom-made organic toiletries, though be aware that there's no in-room WiFi here - a good thing for some.

Right on the beach, the newer 2-storey Penghulu's House is the resort's only family villa. The double bedroom has a vast living space opening to a spectacular view of the sea; the twin has direct access to a beautifully decked plunge pool.

The Seaview Sarang villa is the most covetable and spacious. Ideal for honeymooners, it has a private open-air dining room, swimming pool, hydro pool and timber sun deck.

Hillside Sarang villas are split-level properties, planted along the hillside. These have a hydro pool, outdoor shower and sunloungers on a private deck.

Sea Cliff Chalets jut out into the ocean, offering glimmering views of the South China sea. These are the cheapest properties and are light and breezy.

Tree Top Chalets are perched high above the rainforest canopy so you're immersed in nature. Although lovely, the walkway up to them is long and rickety; not suitable for older guests or children.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

JapaMala has 2 restaurants: Mandi Mandi, which has overhung pavilions and is on stilts designed to hover over transparent waters containing the catch of the day. And open-sided Tamarind, set back in the jungle with sea views. The former is an Italian restaurant, the latter specialises in Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese fusion and is decorated with stone-carved statues of Buddha. Both make use of fresh seafood.

Dinner favourites at Mandi Mandi included tomato bruschetta, a seafood soup packed with fresh squid, snapper and tiger prawns, a herb-laden calzone and juicy, barbecued grouper.

In Tamarind, the Vietnamese spring rolls were delightfully crispy and the lemongrass prawns plump and juicy. Seafood is definitely the best bet all round; we found the steak a bit flavourless. Staff will happily bring snacks or drinks to the beach or pool area.

Breakfast is included in the tariff, but was a little disappointing. Our eggs were underdone, and buffet food sat outside in the hot sun - not ideal if you rise late. That said, we found the apple pancakes sweet and yummy, and the fresh juices (especially the Detox with cucumber, carrot and broccoli) a perfect kickstart to the day.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Make the most of the fabulously clear water and abundant marine life. The hotel offers free snorkelling equipment and can arrange diving expeditions

  • Have a massage up amongst the trees at Samadhi Spa; all products are 100% natural, made from plant and aromatherapy oils

  • Paddle around the headland in the kayak, laze by the pool or just sit on your verandah and watch butterflies, squirrels and monkeys, eagles and hawks. Keep an eye out for the rather docile Oriental Whip snakes too

  • Go island hopping to Coral Island Marine Park - just 20 minutes by boat - where you can see whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins and killer whales; other boat trips can be arranged to wherever you want to go

  • Order a glass of wine and watch the sun set by the pool - fabulous

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children under 12 can stay in an extra bed in parents' room. 12s and over are charged as adults.
Bear in mind though that the ethos here is very much R&R, so if your little ones are very active or loud, you may feel self-conscious.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for JapaMala Resort