Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast: A Rather Mixed Performance
This road trip feels like driving to the ends of the earth.
We just crossed the monumental Sungai Johor Bridge, the longest single plane cable-stayed bridge in Malaysia, on our way to Johor’s untouched eastern shoreline of Desaru. The long weekend has turned an otherwise deserted toll plaza into a slog fest as holiday makers from Singapore and Johor had the same destination in mind. Once freed from the frustrating bottleneck, we snaked towards our three-day abode: Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast.
Hard Rock Hotel does know how to make us feel like a rock star when it comes to a grand entrance. A giant bronze guitar statue carved with floral motifs and the iconic Hard Rock logo proudly stood in the middle of the drive way as we looped around it to the reception. As the porter unloaded our luggage, we took the opportunity to snap some family photos with the even more colorful concourse.
The lobby was thronged with tourists from everywhere as we could hear all kinds of languages being thrown around. Despite the high volume of guests, our check-in was smooth and the bell boy quick to deposit our bags in the room. As we walked pass GMT+8, the lobby bar, I could not help but notice the dearth of rock memorabilia of which Hard Rock is famous for. Sure, gowns and suits worn by Rihanna and John Entwistle (Who? The Who) are fine but I was hoping for a rare guitar here and a platinum record there.
Through a stroke of luck, our Superior King room was on the same floor as the lobby and the closest to the swimming pool. The riffing guitars of Jimi Hendrix and a portrait of Bob Marley greeted us upon entering our 42 square meter room made of impeccable wood finishing. A beautiful butterfly mural graced our bed while the balcony overlooking Adventure Waterpark had a sofa to hang out and sliding blinds if we wanted some privacy.
I have to give credit to the Hard Rock Hotel team at for focusing on the finer details.
Our room came with a cot for the little one with one little surprise – his very own elephant-themed toiletry kit! The cute green bag, which we currently still use it, came with its own toothbrush, gels and loofah. Another aspect that makes this resort stands out from the rest is its commitment to the environment. Each room is equipped with its own recycling bin and two metal tumblers – there are no plastic water bottles in the room so guests have to refill their tumblers at designated water stations.
Tea Watch: I was pampered by a trio of flavors from Dilmah – Green Tea, English Breakfast and Chamomile Flowers. Satisfactory.
Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast is an all-inclusive resort so there are plenty of dining options. We managed to try the food at all establishments over the course of three days including room service and sadly we were far from impressed.
Sessions is Hard Rock Hotel’s casual all-day dining restaurant serving up a la carte meals and buffet spread. On our first night, I had grilled salmon while the missus went for the stir-fried beef with rice. The meals were nothing to shout about as I felt the fish was rather dry due to being overcooked. The little one had no complaints because he was busy jumping and crawling around the strategically-placed playground right beside the restaurant.
Sessions also hosted the daily breakfast buffet and it sure felt like going to a music festival. The long lines to get in, the constant chatter and screaming with all the tables packed to the rim made us feel like being in one big mosh pit. However, the spread was thoroughly satisfying from the opening act all the way to the headliner. I particularly enjoyed the scrumptious pastries while kiddo was happy to gulp down his bowls of cereal and porridge.
Constant Grind is the hotel’s cafe with a selection of cakes, coffee, sandwiches and even gelato! Although the coffee bar has a modern setting, it also pays homage to the rock stars of yesteryear with a cool pop-out collage of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Unlike The Beatles, I could not really come together to sing praise for the chocolate cake as it tastes like your typical off-the-shelf hotel cake – dry, hard and a little bit too long in the chiller.
After a long evening at the swimming pool and by the beach, we opted for room service on our second night. It was all out
junk comfort food as the three of us shared chicken tenders and Hard Rock’s signature cheeseburger. Again, our entrees were not the best chicken tenders and cheeseburger we had and I felt let down considering Hard Rock’s dishes has always been the best among its fast casual peers since time immemorial.
I do hope this experience is just a blip because there seems to be a running theme for the food here – everything seems to be a tad too dry.
Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club
Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast is not just for adults!
Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club is a place for kids to let loose and have fun with all sorts of programs, both dry and wet. It was a bummer for us because kiddo was below the required minimum age of four to join in the guided activities. However, the club has two special Junior Roxtar Sessions at 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. where children three years old and below have free reign at the open play area under the supervision of adults.
Dan Junior took the kids clubs like a duck to water. As soon as he entered the gate, he quickly scampered around looking for toys to play with. He started by “cooking” toy hamburgers before serving it to us followed assembling Duplo blocks to make a gun fit for a shootout. He also loved the miniature drum set where he would bang on the drums and cymbals for five minutes, take a short breather, and continued banging for another five!
While my son was busy practicing his drum skills, I took a quick tour of Hard Rock Roxity Kids Club. Besides the main play area, there is a dedicated room for arts craft as seen by display of paintings and handicrafts done by children who joined in. On the other side is a huge TV room where everyone would hang out for movie sessions. Finally, the outdoor Water Splash Zone is where little rock stars are let loose to have some soaking wet fun.
Read Also: Review – Momijiya Ryokan, Kyoto
Here’s the deal: if I am staying at an all-inclusive resort at a relatively isolated corner in Malaysia, I will be expecting a lagoon-like swimming pool which can fit
100 99% of the guests at full occupancy.
Imagine our disappointment when we saw Hard Rocks Hotel’s swimming pool.
It was a rectangular-shaped infinity pool that’s more suited to a space-starved high-rise city hotel than a fun-in-the-sun resort. We did not dare take a dip on our first evening because the pool was so packed to the brim, even looking at it made me feel suffocated. I just have this strong hunch that the presence of Adventure Waterpark facing the hotel has something to do with the sad size of this swimming pool.
The second day was relatively better as many holiday makers returned home and the crowd more subdued. We actually enjoyed the panoramic view of the coast and forest with clear blue skies acting as a backdrop. All of this was done while munching mozzarella sticks from The Elephant and The Butterfly, the hotel’s Mexican poolside bar and grill graced with a great set of murals inspired by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Once kiddo was bored of the swimming pool, we took a free shuttle from the lobby to the shores of the South China Sea. Desaru beach is an untouched strip of soft and white sand that reminded me of a family trip to Tioman Island many, many years ago when I was a child. We were dropped off by the beachfront facing the newly-opened The Westin Desaru Coast Resort and the little one quickly rushed towards the sea with us scurrying behind.
One of the most unexpected revelations of this trip was my kid’s bravery and fondness of playing in the sea.
From the first time we introduced him to the beach at the age of 18 months until this very moment, he was adamantly scared of setting foot into the salty waters of the ocean. Somehow he miraculously overcame his fear and was happily getting chased and swamped by the waves. You know when your child really loves the ocean when you have to deliberatively argue with him about going back to the hotel!
So, what do I make of our stay at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast?
Like a latter day Pink Floyd concert, it was a rather mixed performance. My dissatisfaction stems from this establishment not being up to par with other Hard Rock franchises in Malaysia. The Hard Rock vibe here seems to be lacking – the lack of rock star memorabilia, forgettable food and the absence of a Hard Rock Cafe (which happens to be every guests’ complaint) made me feel like I was just staying at just another resort.
On the flip side, this Hard Rock Hotel has top notch service. From the moment our luggage was brought out of the car to the time we surrendered our keys at check out, every staff we came into contact with was amiable, talkative and knowledgeable about the ins-and-outs of the resort, even if they were just a few weeks into the job. Our room had the right mix of cozy and cool while the kids club had a little bit of everything for everyone.
Like a newcomer going on their very first world tour, Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast is undergoing some growing pains (they celebrated their first birthday in September) and I do hope one day when we ever reach this southern corner of Malaysia again, we’ll be treated to the best ever show in town.
– Entry to parking is cashless via Touch N Go or debit card that must be validated before exiting. Parking can be far so make sure you request a shuttle.
– Don’t worry, there is a Rock Shop on the premise to satisfy your Hard Rock merchandise needs. Store opens daily from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm.
– If you are lazy like us, request a room nearest to the pool or lobby . However, these rooms are near the lounge so there might be noise disturbances from the resident band at night.
Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast
Jalan Pantai 3, Desaru Coast
81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor
Website: Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast