Tioman Island, Malaysia

Japamala Resort

Rates from (inc tax)$129.31

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (21MYR), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.


Rustic-chic treehouses


Jungle-covered isle

Japamala Resort hotel is a wonderfully-wild retreat on the tiny Malaysian Tioman Island. Walkways skim the treetops at this hideaway, where luxurious treehouses and chalets clinging to cliffs offer rainforest seclusion and vast views of the South China Sea.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

A traditional sarong. Guests in Jungle Luxe Sarang rooms (and higher categories) will also get a massage for two


Photos Japamala Resort – Tioman Island – Malaysia

Need to know


Six chalets and seven villas


Midday; check-in, 2pm.


Double rooms from $129.31 (MYR538), excluding tax at 6 per cent.

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (MYR570.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

More details

Rates include buffet breakfast.


You'll need to be an early riser to nab one of the three cushioned cabanas that line the beach, but latecomers aren't left out: staff will happily spread sunloungers and bamboo mats on the sand.

At the hotel

Gardens, day spa, boutique, library, free WiFi in common areas. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, Samadhi toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

With a day-bed cantilevered out over the ocean, the views from Seaview Chalet 16 take some beating. If privacy is your priority, plump for the Seaview Sarang, which has a cool waterfall pool, courtyard Jacuzzi and a secluded sun-deck.


A curvaceous, seaside stunner, Japamala's main pool is complete with overwater cabanas and a soothing waterfall. There's a petite, older pool in a courtyard behind Tamarind restaurant, but the beachfront oasis is the prime spot for splashing.

Packing tips

Leave the sarong at home – there are colourful batik wraps to borrow in your room. Be sure to stash some hard-core insect repellent – the sandflies here are vicious.


This is more of an adults' retreat – leave the smalls at home.


When building the 13 chalets, the resort's natural environment wasn't altered in any way, so rooms are reached via winding bridges and walkways, and huge boulders inform the interiors of some of the rooms.

Food and Drink

Photos Japamala Resort – Tioman Island – Malaysia

Top Table

We liked the laid-back elegance of the overwater perches at Mandi-Mandi, cabana-style tables that jut out over the sea. For a more look-at-me locale, ask staff to set up a torch-lit table on the beach.

Dress Code

During the day, simply slip your sarong over your swimwear. Things aren't too fancy at night, either, with jewelled sandals and sundresses for the gals, and cotton shirts for the guys.

Hotel restaurant

Breeze-blessed Tamarind restaurant is set in an open-sided pavilion between the beach and the pool, dotted with Buddha statues, solid wooden furniture and a series of ponds (mind your step!). Authentic Thai and Vietnamese dishes are the stars here, including zesty salads and lip-smacking seafood curries. Bountiful breakfasts and virtuous juices are also served. At the end of the jetty, Mandi-Mandi deals in classic Italian fare, such as pasta, pizza and steak, and beach barbecues are set up twice a week (when the tide cooperates!).

Hotel bar

There's a little lounge in the Tamarind pavilion, overlooking the pool, or pop over to Mandi-Mandi for a freshly shaken fruit cocktail and chilled tunes. You can also order drinks in the cushioned salas down on the beach, which are perfectly placed to take in the sunset.

Last orders

Japamala isn't a late-night lush... expect things to wrap up around 10pm.

Room service

No official room service, but there is a minibar stocked with snacks and wine, and it's often possible to pre-arrange in-room meals in advance.


Photos Japamala Resort – Tioman Island – Malaysia
Japamala Resort
Kampung Lanting, 86800 Palau Tioman
Tioman Island


From the UK, British Airways and Malaysia Air fly direct to Kuala Lumpur International Airport; Etihad, Cathay Pacific and China Eastern arrive via Shanghai. The next nearest international hub is Singapore Changi; British Airways and SIngapore Airlines fly there from the UK, and China Eastern and Etihad flights come in from the US. The easiest way to get to the hotel is to hop on the Japamala's flight service from Subang Airport to Tioman Airport. Up to 10 people at a time can fit in the Cessna Grand Caravan; expect journey-worthy views on this low-altitude flight of an hour and 15 minutes. These flights leave on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday; tickets cost from RM1,250 (return), RM850 one way (prices exclude boat or car transfers from Tioman to the hotel, fuel charges and six per cent goods and service tax a person). Flights depart from Subang at 10.30am; 12.30pm from Tioman to Subang. Transfers to Tioman airport from Japamala. Alternatively, the hotel offers private daily charter flights in a Diamond DA 42 plane from Kuala Lumpur (RM1,500 a person for a return trip; minimum two people, maximum four). Transfers to Kuala Lumpur airport from Mersing Jetty can be arranged (RM110 for a car, one way).

Worth getting out of bed for

A whole host of boat trips are available from the hotel, including missions to Monkey Bay Marine Park, village visits to Tekek and Genting, fishing tours and waterfall excursions. To really get the lay of the land, opt for the round-island cruise, which circumnavigates this tiny isle.

South China Sea scuba sessions can be teed up through the Tioman Dive Centre (www.tioman-dive-centre.com). If you're happy to linger on the surface, simply borrow a snorkel and fins from the hotel to glide over the house reef just offshore. Sadly the coral here has seen better days, but you'll spy schools of tropical fish and spiky sea urchins. Kayaks are also up for grabs, giving you free rein to explore the secluded coves and beaches that surround Japamala. Afterwards, simply kick back on in one of the cabanas that line the beach, or a bamboo mat laid out on the sand.

Tioman's untouched interior is home to monkeys, monitor lizards and an array of birds. Take a 30-minute trek to the neighbouring village; guides are available if you'd like to be led, or simply follow the well-trod path through the jungle.

If pampering is more your bag, get thee to the day spa. There are only two treatment rooms, so be sure to book in advance. Tempting treatments include Javanese massage, post-sun soothers and indulgent three-day retreats. 

Local restaurants

Japamala is tucked into an isolated pocket of Tioman, so once you've arrived by boat there's little reason to stray. Fortunately, the food at Tamarind and Mandi-Mandi is top notch, and chefs are happy to cater to off-menu cravings. 


Photos Japamala Resort – Tioman Island – Malaysia

Anonymous review

The trouble with Paradise? It's only ever going to be a let-down. Set your expectations too high and you're bound to find fault. Love your harp music, nothing but praise for the angels you have serving nibbles, but I have to enter a password for the free WiFi?!

Tioman once stood in for Paradise, or so the story goes. Back in 1958, this tiny Malaysian island, barely an hour's flight from both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, was allegedly used as a backdrop for romantic musical movie South Pacific. In the 1970s, Time magazine voted it one of the world's most beautiful islands. What was that about high expectations?

Since then, though, Tioman has fallen off the radar, overshadowed as an easy weekend escape from South-East Asia's big cities by Bali, Bintan, Phuket and anywhere else with a bigger marketing budget. Instead, it quietly chugs away as the preferred destination for divers looking to do their PADI scuba courses on the cheap. So, despite regularly plotting minibreaks from Singapore, neither Mr or Mrs Smith had ever given it much thought. Until, that is, we hear about Japamala Resort.

It turns out that Paradise is still served by a daily twin-prop plane from Singapore, the kind that conjures up images of adventure the moment you get on board and which has Mrs Smith's heart in her mouth as we circle the jungle landing strip (Mr Smith is too busy squeezing his eyes shut to be scared). But there's nothing like a seamless, scenic transfer to calm the nerves: we are out of the airport and onto Japamala's private boat within just 10 minutes of touching down. Another 15 minutes across the blue of the bay, past some ramshackle fishing villages, and we’re pulling into the hotel’s very own, very small cove – not another property in sight. Two minutes more and we’re stood on the jetty, icy lemongrass welcome drink in hand. Score one for a Tioman we've not been told about.

If the in-house spa quickly becomes Mrs Smith's favourite haunt (more on that in a minute), it is that same jetty where you'll be most likely to find Mr Smith throughout the weekend: snorkelling beside it in the morning, enjoying some perfectly grilled seabass for lunch at informal Italian restaurant Mandi-Mandi (perched on stilts right over the water), then back there for cocktails at happy hour (surely the most comically unnecessary name when you're already spending the entire day kicking back somewhere like this) with stunning sunset views over the ocean. Purely for research purposes, Mrs Smith insists we visit the resort's other restaurant for dinner: the more formal Thai-Vietnamese Tamarind, set back behind the beach. While it is hard to fault, especially given that all ingredients are brought in by boat, it doesn't quite have the same away-from-it-all excitement of eating out over the water and it does have a fair few more mozzies. They do a mean tom yam, though.

Our days take on a pleasantly predictable routine. A lazy morning in our Jungle Luxe Sarang (there are 13 ‘rooms’ at the resort, but even this affordable option is a stand-alone chalet hidden from view), and the terribly tough decision of whether to start the morning in our private alfresco hot-tub or take in the views up the jungle valley through the glass wall of the shower (we do both). Then, an even lazier breakfast (the espresso-infused smoothie a perfect, liquid metaphor for the pretence that we'll be in the slightest bit busy). A few hours tanning on the golden sand, with something to read from the small bookswap library. Some manoeuvring to make sure we get our preferred cabana, though with so few other guests, and all of them couples, there isn't much to squabble over. A dip in the new, beautifully designed swimming pool right beside the beach (the old pool, tucked away under the trees, is much less appealing and, now, rather redundant). It's all what's referred to throughout the resort, embossed on both the dressing gowns in your room and the bag of cookies they give you on departure, as the Japamala State of Mind. It's certainly a nice state to be in.

Fancying himself something of a Bear Grylls, on the second day Mr Smith sets off down the coast in one of the resort's sea kayaks, although the hunter-gatherer charade quickly falls away at the promise of a pasta lunch. The view of the island from even a few hundred feet offshore is jaw-dropping, with towering, jungle-clad peaks tumbling down to aquamarine shores: it's an easy excursion we highly recommend. We also spy some construction underway a short distance down the coast, suggesting the next year or two might be the best time to make the most of this currently unspoilt spot.

Whether it is sore shoulders from kayaking or simply scorched feet from the sand, we find ourselves measuring out the day in terms of whether we've yet earned the right to visit the spa. Not that it's fancy – during the day just a couple of massage beds overlooking the beach, in the evening or for the more indulgent treatments a little wooden cottage at the top of some stairs – but boy, is it good. Who'd have guessed that the lady offering us an aromatherapy turndown service on check-in would also be such a master masseuse? Who knew that foot reflexology could feel so restorative when you've barely walked a hundred yards all day?

It's perfectly possible to be a bit more active during a stay at Japamala. The resort offers half- and full-day tours out to nearby islands, where the snorkelling is apparently much more impressive, as well as fishing trips and even a hike through the jungle to the nearest village. But we are in no rush to leave, happy just to settle into that lazy routine and ensure that, whatever else happens, we are on the jetty and have drinks in our hands come sunset.

Paradise? There's no such thing. But the perfect, relaxing weekend away? It's hard to imagine a much better one. You don't even have to enter a password for the WiFi.


The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith Hotel with us, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Japamala Resort’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The location is absolutely fabulous! Surrounded by jungle with a stunning beachfront. Snorkelling right in front of the hotel, we saw plenty of coral fish and the water is crystal clear. Small enough to feel secluded but big enough so you don't feel completely isolated. The staff is wonderful, attentive yet very discreet. We will definitely be back.

Don’t expect

Lively nights - the resort is very quiet and perfect if you're looking to escape from it all. Not much activity around although there was the option to go to nearby villages on the island which seemed to have a small nightlife.


Stayed on 5 Jul 2015