Need to know
52 villas (Smith recommends top-tier Bayu and Palm Villas only).
11am, or later subject to availability and a 50 per cent charge until 6pm, or the full rate beyond that. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $216.48 (MYR905), excluding tax at 16 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, speedboat transfers, non-motorised watersports and entrance to the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC).
Solace Spa, with its horizon-view rooms, offers a selection of Asian and western massages, scrubs, facial and beauty treatments, which use natural Florian products. Book ahead for the bamboo massage, which combines soothing strokes and acupressure with tapping by a thick piece of bamboo; it’s fantastic on overworked muscles.
At the hotel
Solace Spa, PADI dive and watersports centre, free WiFi throughout, DVD library. In rooms: minibar with free beer and soft drinks (Bayu and Palm Villas only), flatscreen TV, DVD player and Thann toiletries. Palm Villas also feature a plunge pool and an espresso machine.
Our favourite rooms
Don’t settle for less than a Bayu Villa or Palm Villa, overwater abodes with private decks and direct access to the sea. Plump for a Palm Villa and you’ll also get a plunge pool and luxe bathroom with sea-view soaking tub. Style-wise, it’s a rather incongruous mix of rustic luxury and classic New England: the cool hardwood interior and Malay batiks fit in effortlessly; the high-backed armchairs and white leather sofas less so. With knockout views from your deck or through the glass-bottomed floor, you won’t be assessing the decor for long.
There’s an infinity pool by Macac restaurant, which has chic blue day-beds for lounging. It’s a lovely spot for a quick dip and is great for children, but if you’re after a proper swim, just dive into the ocean from your deck. Guests craving watery frolics can hop on the boat to Gayana's sister property, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Spa, without having to pay the usual transfer fees.
With all that surrounding water and jungle, mosquito spray is essential and you’ll need high-factor sunscreen: Borneo is equatorial and the UV rays are potent. If you’re planning to trek, remember hardy shoes or trainers, although Gayana has all you need for snorkelling and diving.
Take the 10-minute boat ride to sister resort Bunga Raya, which ramps up the luxe level a notch with its private beach, smart poolside scene and award-winning wine cellar. Active types will love the gym, jungle paths with canopy walk and zip-line.
With its wide range of activities, island location and super-friendly staff, Gayana is fabulous for kids. Owing to the resort's overwater nature, you’ll have to keep an eye on smaller children.
Kids of all ages will enjoy the watersports and eco activities on offer here. Baby cots are free and beds for older kids cost RMB350 a night. Babysitting with hotel staff costs RMB35 an hour.
Children of any age, but keep an eye on the under-fives around water.
All rooms are spacious, and can easily accommodate extra cots (free) or beds (RMB350 a night).
Besides the kayaking, snorkelling and swimming on tap, there's a daily line-up of activities, such as sandcastle building, cooking classes and organised educational visits to the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC).
The main pool has a shallow end for kids, with a lifeguard on duty from 7am to 7pm.
A children's menu is available in both restaurants, but kids (and parents) will probably prefer the laid-back vibe of Macac. Staff are happy to pack lunches and heat up baby food and milk on request.
Babysitting with hotel staff costs RMB35 an hour, and needs to be arranged at least a day in advance.
No need to pack
Baby cots, changing mats and high chairs.
True to its name, this is one of the most ecological resorts in south-east Asia. Much of the hotel is built on stilts so it occupies very little landmass, buildings are made from indigenous belian hardwood and furnishings are mainly locally sourced. Gayana is committed to recycling and island clean-ups, and most of the seafood comes from the resort’s fish farm. MERC also runs giant clam breeding and coral restoration programmes, which guests can experience.