The AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort opened in 2011 with much higher room rates and the early reviews were quite poor, but they have been getting steadily better ever since, and room rates are now very appealing for a “water villa.” So I booked myself 2 nights here as part of a short trip to Malaysia, after two nights in Kuala Lumpur.

The AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort has 392 water villas, which made it by far the largest such resort in the world until a nearby competitor called the Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson recently opened with 522 water villas. Still, I've been anxious to see what this place is really like, especially since they are offering very competitive room rates these days starting at around US$150 per night for two people, including all taxes.

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Short version: Overall impressions of the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort

1. At the current room rate (around US$150 per night) this place feels like an amazing bargain.

 

Room rates at this resort were around US$350/night (all-inclusive) when it opened in 2011, and that seemed quite high for a resort like this in Malaysia. After two management changes, in 2014 the rates dropped to around US$150 per night (food is extra) and now I’m amazed at how affordable it is after having stayed here. There is a LOT to like about this resort and its experience, particularly for a relaxing weekend or short stay. The rooms are huge and luxurious, and the views are simply amazing, especially at sunset.

 

My guess is that the people who built it overestimated how much they could charge and later sold it at a big loss. Now it’s in the hands of the AVANI people (a luxury brand of an Asian group operating over 140 hotels), who know how to run a resort like this, and they are aggressive with the pricing to keep it as full as possible all year. Compared to similarly priced tower rooms at nearby beach resorts in the Sepang area, this place feels like excellent value.

2. The resort is FAR larger than you'd expect from the photos.

With 392 water villas, the scale of this place is hard to imagine. When you look at those aerial photos it’s easy to assume that these are small water villas that are tightly packed together.

 

In reality, they are huge water villas that are so spread apart that it can take almost 15 minutes to walk from reception (on shore) to the farthest water villas. Fortunately, there are large golf buggies always going back and forth to the center of the flower, so it isn’t necessary to walk much. There are also free bicycles parked in front of every unit, so you can get around very quickly if you don’t mind pedalling a bit.


3. The experience is quite different from the Maldives or Bora Bora, but it's extremely nice for what it is.

In the Maldives and Bora Bora, the water villas are perched just over turquoise lagoons, with steps or ladders leading down into the water. At the AVANI Sepang (and all other overwater resorts in the area), the water villas are built on tall pylons that are 3 or more meters over the water, even at high tide, and you can’t swim below. As a result, it’s a totally different experience, but that’s also why Maldives resorts are all at least triple the room rate.

 

If you want to be able to swim beneath your water villa, go to the Maldives. But if you are more interested in the amazing sunset views and the peacefulness and serenity of staying in a luxury villa way out over a calm bay, this resort is a fantastic place to do that. As long as your expectations are realistic, this resort should be a great experience.


AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort: Short video tour


Getting there and transport information

One great feature of this resort is that it’s actually closer to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport than KL itself is. It’s only 40 minutes away by taxi or a private van that you can book through the resort. But it’s also secluded along a quiet stretch of beach, so it feels a long way away from civilization.

 

I was staying in Kuala Lumpur and I arrived by Uber in about 90 minutes for a surprisingly affordable US$35 or so. They also have a large car park as well as reasonably priced valet parking, making it an easy reach for Malaysian and Singaporean guests.

 

My one complaint with this is that they don’t allow normal taxis to pick up guests, so the only way to leave is to use their contracted transportation company. I actually hired the company for an all-day tour of other overwater resorts in the Port Dickson area, and the rate was reasonable plus the service was good. Still, I’m not crazy about the idea of having to rely on one company, and they could raise their rates way up so guests would be helpless.

Reception and welcome

Considering how amazing and well done the overwater part of the resort is, the facade and reception area are somewhat modest. There are only 3 check-in (or check-out) stations, which seems like a very small number for a luxury resort with 392 villas. I arrived a bit after noon and was told that my villa wouldn’t be available until the standard 3pm check-in time. It’s their right to do this, of course, but it’s still annoying, especially at a remote resort with nothing nearby.

 

The reception was friendly and professional in finding my reservation and my villa. They allowed me to put my bags in the bag room and then I took a golf buggy to the main restaurant in the center of the flower. It was surprisingly quiet during the lunch hour, but it was a weekday and many guests had certainly checked out or had not yet arrived for the night.

 

Overall it feels like the resort should have more staff to check people in and out, but at least they were friendly and professional when I did get to the front of the queue. And at these room rates, they can’t provide 5-star service, even in such a beautiful resort.

My water villa

As I was on my own, I booked in one of the “Superior Rooms,” which are the upstairs water villas in the main stem of the “flower.” There are two of these upstairs and two more downstairs, with one kingsize bed in the upstairs villas and two single beds in the downstairs villas. The upstairs villas have an A-Frame roof, which takes more time and effort to properly air condition, and also a marginally better overall view.

 

My first impression was extremely positive. Each of the 4 villas has a very private and separate entrance, and once inside the room it’s easy to forget that you have neighbors at all. The larger water villas are on the other fronds leading off the center of the flower, and each of those is free-standing with no neighbors.

 

Once inside I was even more impressed. At 52 square meters (560 square feet), the Superior Room is twice the size of a standard city hotel room, and the balcony is also huge. A bit to my surprise, the construction and all the furnishings felt extemely solid. Some of the more affordable overwater rooms (especially the older ones) feel a bit more like cabins, but these are like luxury hotel suites in every way.

 

The upstairs units take longer to air condition than the downstairs units, and that can be an issue in Malaysia where it is hot every day of the year. But after a short time it was very pleasant inside. The daybed in the living room area is very comfortable, and the large ensuite is surprisingly luxurious for anything close to this price range.

 

I was there as a normal guest, paying my own way, so I didn’t get a tour of the other water villas. Still, I could easily see that this entire resort was built without cutting corners and that the larger water villas are also at least as luxurious.


AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort: Superior Water Villa tour


Restaurants and bars

There are a couple of restaurants and a bar near the reception area on the mainland, but I only went to the main restaurant and the buffet restaurant out in the center of the complex. I ordered a couple times off the a la carte menu, and I had the buffet a few times as well.

 

Not only was I pleased with the food and the prices on the a la carte menu, but I was also quite happy with the selection on offer. Curry Laksa is one of my favorite dishes in the world, and I was pleased with the one I had there for lunch as I waited for my room to be ready.

Food and drink prices

Sandwiches, pizzas, pasta dishes, and the local dishes are all right around 30MYR (US$7.50) each in the a la carte restaurant. Considering the view and the quality and service, that seemed like a bargain, especially considering that there are no other restaurants nearby at all.


Drink prices

  • Beer – 26 to 33 MYR each, or 87MYR for a pitcher of draft Beer
  • Wine – 36 to 45MYR per glass, 169MYR and up per bottle
  • Spirits – 30 to 42MYR per glass, 460MYR and up per bottle
  • Cocktails – 33MYR each, or 26MYR for an alcohol-free “mocktail”

 

The above drink prices might seem high if you haven’t been to Malaysia (or Singapore), but they are actually typical of a decent bar in Kuala Lumpur. I expected them to be higher in light of the setting, view, and service.


Buffet prices

  • Breakfast – 52MYR or 36MYR for a child
  • Lunch – 58MYR or 35MYR for a child
  • Dinner – 76MYR or 47MYR for a child

 

I ate a few times at the buffet and I was extremely impressed with it. There is a wide range of dishes from Asia as well as Western dishes in different areas both inside and outside near the main pool. The quality was better than expected for a buffet as well.

 

You could obviously eat for less at “local” restaurants in Sepang, but you wouldn’t get nearly the variety and even quality that you get at this buffet. Considering that this restaurant is by a pool, over the sea, at a very nice 4-star resort, you’d expect to pay much more than this.


Pool and spa

There is a large infinity pool with an attached kids pool adjacent to the main restaurants in the center of the flower. The pool makes for a lovely setting for the restaurant, but the restaurant being right there means that there is little privacy for those in the pools. Sure, they are public pools in the center of a resort complex, but still it would be more ideal for some swimmers if the pool didn’t have a built-in audience, at least in the mornings and evenings.

 

There is also a weight room and full gym in one of the buildings just off the main pool. They also have a full-service spa with massages and other treatments, but I didn’t go in so I can only guess that they are as well run as the rest of the resort.

Activities and things to do

When I arrived I saw a schedule of daily activities that included beach yoga, power walk, fun dance, giant bubble, kite flying, fun strider bike, towel animation class, batik painting, fruit carving lesson, spin bike, poi spinning exercises, and anti-gravity yoga among other things. There are 4 activity slots per day, with different things offered on different days.

 

Personally, I didn’t see any of these things going on, but I didn’t really look. The resort didn’t seem too crowded on the weekdays that I was there, and I’ve been to many resorts where activities like these never seem to attract many takers. Still, it’s nice that they are offered.

 

There is also a long beach where you can potentially swim. The challenge with that is that at low tide the water is WAY off shore, so it really only seems feasible to swim at or near high tide.

What is (or isn't) nearby

The resort runs a free daily shuttle to and from Sunway Pyramid and Mitsui Outlet Park. There are also a few other nearby activities you can book. Aside from those, there is really nothing worthwhile near the resort at all. Especially considering the heat and lack of sidewalks, there is nothing within walking distance of the resort.

 

The nearest part of the nearby town of Sepang is about 10 minutes away by car, and in that area there aren’t many tourist-friendly restaurants, although there are a few small supermarkets and a liquor store for those who want to stock up their fridges.

 

In other words, when you stay at this AVANI resort, it’s best to assume that you’ll be eating and relaxing there pretty much the whole time. Fortunately, the food is reasonably priced and the bar isn’t any more expensive than a typical bar at a hotel in Malaysia. If you arrive in your own car you’ll obviously have many choices, but anyone else should assume they’ll stay on the property, which is fortunately very nice.

Final thoughts on the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort

Overall I found the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort to be very impressive and far nicer than I was expecting considering the modest room rates. As mentioned above, it’s not the same experience as a Maldives water villa where you can climb down into a clear lagoon below. But it’s a fabulous and luxurious experience that you can’t get many other places on earth.

 

I’m looking forward to my next visit with my partner. It’s a very romantic setting that reminds you of being on a remote island, but with the convenience of being only 40 minutes drive from a huge airport with great airfares. The resort is also very popular with families as well, and it’s convenient that all of the 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units are in different parts of the resort than the Superior Rooms that are meant for couples.

 

For me, 3 days at this resort would be enough, and any more might be too much because there aren’t many things to do aside from relax, and it’s hard to get out of the resort at all. Even if the Superior Rooms were US$200 per night, I think they would be good value for such an unusual and interesting hotel, so the fact that they are far less than that for the time being makes them extremely attractive to anyone in the area.

 

 

 

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  1. My family and I live in Asia and we are looking for a trip to anywhere with water bungalows and hopefully clear, turqoise water with snorkelling and water activities available, and is also budget friendly if possible. We are two adults and one child who is a little over 17. Are there any suggestions or recommendations? Thank you

  2. I am looking to plan a family vacation that is budget friendly. I would love to stay in an overwater hut. Can you tell me the best and most reasonable place to stay with a family the kids are 12 & 16

    1. Kris,

      Since you aren’t even sure which part of the world you want to visit, I’d recommend starting with this list of the world’s cheapest overwater resorts on our other site. Most of those resorts only allow 3 guests per room, even though almost all of them have a pull-out couch in addition to a king bed. You might find some good choices in Central America or in Asia other than the Maldives. And of course it really depends on where you are starting from because the cost of flights could cancel out any savings from a cheaper resort. I hope that helps and I’m happy to help with other questions if you have them. -Roger

  3. I would like to attend an over water bungalow resort for me and about 7 of my closest friends to celebrate my 45th Birthday. As most resorts are for honeymooners, are there single friendly resorts that can accommodate a "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" week long celebration. We live on the East coast and realize we will have to fly West for all the bungalows you have described above. All feedback is appreciated to guide me in the planning phrase.

    1. Kim,

      That sounds like a lot of fun. You won’t find many resorts that are great options for “solo” travelers, but groups of singles will fit in with many other groups there. Most of the resorts in Bora Bora and Moorea allow 3 guests per bungalow, and they all have a sleeper sofa in them for that purpose (most don’t allow 4 guests per room though). So if two of your group are okay sleeping on a pull-out couch then you can get by with 3 bungalows.

      It’s true that many of the guests at these resorts will be honeymoon couples or anniversary couples, but there are also families with older children and multi-generational groups. I think your group would have fun at just about any of those resorts, but I’d probably focus on one that has some nightlife each evening such as a band or DJ. Some of the smaller resorts only have a beach bar and it’ll mostly be couples in those. Long story short, I think I’d look at one of the larger resorts on Moorea or Bora Bora or even Tahiti. The places with at least 100 total rooms (including beach and garden bungalows) should also have plenty of things to keep you happy and a diverse clientele.

      If your budget can handle a bit over US$2,000 per night you might even consider one of the Sandals resorts on Jamaica because the flights will be so much shorter and cheaper. The overwater bungalows there are huge (I just toured both resorts recently) and the nearby beach rooms are really wonderful there as well. The beach rooms start at around US$500 per night, but they are premium all-inclusive with even many activities included so they would be really fun for a group. In other words, maybe you could get 1 (or 2) overwater bungalows and a couple of beach rooms, and take turns in each? And you could mostly hang out in the overwater bungalow during the day, which is plenty big enough for everyone. When you add in the cost of flights and all that time flying to Los Angeles and to Tahiti then the Jamaica plan could look even better. Also you have to factor in the cost of meals and drinks and activities. In the South Pacific the room includes breakfast, but everything else is extra, while in Jamaica it’s ALL included in the price. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  4. My wife and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. It would be wonderful to stay at an over water bungalow.

    Is Tahiti, Bora Bora gay-friendly islands? Are any island more friendly than others?

    1. Merchel,

      Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora are all part of French Polynesia, and the French culture there is quite strong. With that in mind, I’d expect that the islands and the resorts in particular would be quite LGBT-friendly. I don’t recall seeing anything in particular that stood out when I’ve been there, but I have a strong hunch that the resorts are all very progressive with that sort of thing. The island people seem to be quite open minded, and French people are famously tolerant. I wish I could give you more certainty. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  5. I am trying to plan our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are both pretty easy to please regarding vacations.

    I do know that my wife would really love to stay at an over water Bungalow for this trip.

    We would be traveling from Wichita, KS to Bora Bora or somewhere similar.(hopefully if price is right).

    I have browsed a bit and can’t find much for our budget (around $3-4k per person). Obviously I would love to be on the low end of my budget and save as much as possible.

    If not in Bora Bora, we would be okay with over water bungalow’s elsewhere.

    Travel dates would be leaving August 26th and Returning September 2nd (can go 1 day either way if needed).

    1. Michael,

      We are simply an online guide to overwater bungalows and not a travel agency. You’ll find the best deals online for these resorts. You can usually get better value in Moorea, which is another gorgeous island right off Tahiti itself. The room rates are a bit lower and transportation is faster and cheaper as well. If you have any specific questions just let us know. -Roger

  6. We our planning our honeymoon and live near San Francisco. We’d love to go to an amazing bungalow but the issue is we have only around 7 days for our trip, so the long flights really eat into our time. Is there an island you recommend we go to which is easy to reach from SFO? Thanks!

    1. Andrew,

      From San Francisco the closest overwater bungalows are in Tahiti, which is only a couple hours farther than Hawaii. It looks like you’d have to fly down to LAX first, as that’s where all the flights to Tahiti start. There are two resorts not far from the Tahiti Airport that offer overwater bungalows. Those resorts are pretty nice, but there are 4 nicer ones on Moorea, which is a 5-minute flight or one-hour ferry ride from Tahiti. If you are going all that way, it’s probably worth going to Moorea, as it’s also a much prettier island than Tahiti itself. Bora Bora is a 60-minute flight from Tahiti, and it has even more options. Those islands are so gorgeous and wonderful that I think it’s worth the flight, even for a week. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  7. Hi
    We live at the Gold Coast, Australia so can fly out of here or Brisbane. For our 20 year wedding anniversary in April we want to stay at an overwater bungalow – this will probably be a one-off so I want it to be in the clearest water with white sand so that the swimming and hopefully snorkelling is great. Maybe even some other water activities like sailboarding nearby? What do you recommend also considering ease of getting there? Thanks!

    1. Margo,

      There are actually a few resorts in the South Pacific that aren’t far from you, including one in New Caledonia. Have a look at our list of resorts in the South Pacific for more details. The next closest to you are in the Philippines and Malaysia. You can find those under the Asia tab on the top of this page.

      But really you’ll find the best affordable resorts in the Maldives, which has 80 different overwater hotels, each on its own island. Click on the Maldives tab for all of that information. And of course Bora Bora, which also isn’t too far from you, has many of the world’s best overwater resorts if price isn’t a major factor. Best of luck and let me know if I can help more. -Roger