For the Kids: A Review of the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton in Penang, Malaysia

Apr 28, 2019

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To The Point

The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang is a family-friendly resort in Penang, Malaysia. Pros: lots of child-friendly features, some Eco-friendly practices and just 10k points per night. Cons: most rooms don’t have great views, the resort isn’t beachfront, breakfast can be crowded and the premium Wi-Fi wasn’t fast.

Penang is one of the three best-known travel destinations in Malaysia, along with Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. So when my husband JT and I decided we’d be visiting four Malaysian destinations served by Malaysia Airlines besides Kuala Lumpur as part of a status run, Penang was high on our list. As I looked at hotel options, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang stood out as a budget-friendly option for using JT’s Hilton Honors Diamond elite status and the $250 resort credit that are benefits of his Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

The resort opened on March 22, 2018, but, the hotel’s construction wasn’t new. Instead, Hilton renovated a property previously known as Hydro Majestic Hotel. Here’s my take on the newly renovated property.

In This Post

Booking

I originally reserved a twin guest room for the standard reward rate of 10,000 Hilton points per night. TPG’s latest valuations peg the value of these points at $60 per night. But, when Hilton started an Asia Pacific sale, I cancelled the award nights and instead reserved two nights in a king deluxe room with balcony for 634 MYR (Malaysian ringgits, about $154) including taxes and fees. There aren’t any resort fees levied by this property.

The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang is one of the resorts eligible for the $250 resort credit that comes with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. So, although you might look at the above calculations and think we should’ve booked with points, I wanted to test for myself whether the room rate would be covered under the Aspire Card’s $250 resort credit. Not only was the room rate covered, but the credit posted just two days after checkout. The Aspire card also provides complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status, which got us a Diamond happy hour each day, breakfast each morning and a suite upgrade.

Location

The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang is in Batu Ferringhi on Penang Island. The resort is about an hour from the Penang airport by car and about 20 minutes from George Town by car. We paid 42 MYR (about $10) for each of our rides between the airport and the resort using the Grab ride sharing service. There’s also a bus stop right outside the resort with infrequent service to Penang airport, Penang National Park and George Town.

The resort itself is located across a road from Miami Beach (no, not the one in Florida) in a primarily residential area. So there’s not much besides Miami Beach, Miami Cafe and the bus stop within walking distance of the resort.

Check-in

We noticed while in transit to the hotel that we’d been upgraded to a king one-bedroom suite with balcony. This suite would’ve cost 25,000 Hilton points per night if we’d booked it that way, but we were upgraded as a benefit of the Diamond elite status that comes with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

We arrived around 4pm and were greeted by two bellboys with a cart. We were ushered toward the open-air check-in desk where an agent was available. During check-in, one agent told us about the property while the other handled the formalities. We were given DoubleTree’s signature chocolate chip and walnut cookies but found them disappointingly hard and brittle.

Room

We were given room 702, which is a 536-square-foot king one-bedroom suite with balcony. You enter the suite into a living room with a couch, chair, coffee table and 40-inch TV.

Sadly, the couch had a large noticeable stain. We thought about calling to complain but decided there wasn’t much that could be done besides replace the couch — which seemed like an unnecessary request. So we just tried to ignore it.

In the corner of the living room is a coffee nook. A water kettle, bottled water, tea and coffee were provided.

A lockable door separates the living room from the bedroom. A king bed and desk are in the bedroom.

There are nightstands, each with a small drawer, on each side of the bed. There is an outlet above each nightstand.

A small desk is located in the corner of the bedroom. I found the desk comfortable for working. The electrical panel above the desk seemed, I hope, to be in the process of being repaired or replaced.

At the far end of the bedroom is a large bathroom. The single sink is surrounded by ample counter space.

Crabtree & Evelyn amenities were available on the counter, although the large pad seemed like an inefficient way to display all the amenities. Below the sink were hand towels and a scale.

Next to the sink is a bathtub with a handheld shower. This tub is large enough to relax in, but strangely no washcloths were provided.

And next to the bathtub is a shower stall with a handheld showerhead and an overhead rainfall shower head. Although the rainfall shower was not quite up to Park Hyatt Beijing standards, it was a lot better than the rainfall shower head we’d experienced the night before at the JW Marriott Medan.

There’s also a closet nook and luggage rack located in a corner of the bedroom. Strangely, the hotel decided to put the hair dryer in one of the drawers in this nook — I didn’t find this out until I called the front desk for a replacement.

From the bedroom you can open sliding glass doors to reach the balcony, which looks west. The ocean and coast are visible from the balcony, but the view is primarily of the surrounding cliffs and nearby residential condos.

There were two sun chairs and a coffee table on the balcony. They were fine for lounging with a book but weren’t great for sitting upright or working on a laptop.

There were many outlets scattered throughout the bedroom and living room, although only some of the outlets are universal. I loved seeing multiple recycling bins in our room.

Food and Beverage

The resort only offers one true restaurant, the Makan Kitchen, that overlooks the pool and Kid’s Club on the lower ground floor. Breakfast is served buffet-style from 6:30am to 10:30am, lunch is served from noon to 2:30pm and dinner is served from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. There’s also a grab-and-go food store in the lobby with snacks and sandwiches that is open from 8am to 8pm, as well as 24-hour room service.

At check-in we were informed that there isn’t an Executive Lounge on site, but that all Diamond members could attend a nightly Diamond Hour from 6pm to 7pm in the Axis Lounge. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were offered a selection of cocktails from the happy hour list or draft beer when we approached the bar. The server brought over a selection of appetizers as well.

The Axis Lounge, which offers drinks and food from 10am to midnight, also has live music from 8pm to 10:30pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Axis Lounge is a comfortable space that’s well organized for couples and groups.

We’d planned to eat dinner at the resort on Saturday night, but found that Makan Kitchen was closed because of a full-moon event. So we decided to order some food from the Axis Lounge. We shared a club sandwich with french fries and a Malaysian fried noodle dish. Both dishes were fresh, filling and better than I expected from a lounge.

With the Diamond elite status that comes with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, we received daily breakfast at Makan Kitchen. When we arrived for breakfast at 10am on Saturday morning, the breakfast area was chaotic and we were seated at a dirty table without utensils. We had a better experience when we ate breakfast around 8am on Sunday morning.

The breakfast food itself was better than I expected for a hotel buffet. The egg station was working quickly and correctly made my omelet both days. The pancakes were soft and fluffy, the hash browns were crisp but not burnt and the naan was fresh. There was a good selection of Malaysian, Eastern and Western options.

There’s a special kids section at the buffet that has kid-friendly foods at a lower height so children can reach these items on their own.

The Miami Beach Cafe is located across the pedestrian bridge from the resort. We ate an early dinner and enjoyed the sunset at the cafe one night. The prices are reasonable and the sunset views can be impressive.

The cafe seemed to be popular with expats. We tried the chicken curry with french fries and the nasi goreng with chicken and were pleased with both dishes.

Amenities

Right below the lobby and outside of Makan Kitchen are the resort’s pools, which are open from 6am to 10pm.

There’s a large blue-tiled pool surrounded by pool chairs and six first-come, first-serve cabanas. A variety of seating is available in both the shade and sun, but the cabanas tend to get claimed early each day.

Next to the pool is a children’s pool with an artificial beach. There’s also a shaded garden area with some benches.

There’s a children’s wet-play area on the other side of the pool with various water elements, including a large bucket that drops water every five minutes or so.

Next to the children’s play area is the Kid’s Club, which is open daily from 10am to 8pm. A schedule of activities, including kid’s zumba and language lessons, is posted on the door.

From the pool area, there’s a gated bridge that passes over a road and to the beach.

The bridge drops you at the entrance for the Miami Beach Cafe, so you can either reach the beach through the cafe or walk along the road to the public Miami Beach entrance. Miami Beach isn’t the cleanest, but the water was calm and the atmosphere generally peaceful.

The resort offers daily shuttle service to attractions like Batu Ferringhi and George Town. There isn’t a consistent schedule, but on the Saturday during our stay shuttles left for George Town at 11am and 3pm.

There is a fitness center and spa on the first floor. The spa menu — which is available online — includes spa packages, massages, body treatments, facials, nail treatments and kid’s treatments. The spa is open daily from 10am to 10pm. The fitness center features pool and ocean views. It is an older facility with two elliptical machines, three treadmills, two exercise bikes, five weight machines, assorted exercise balls, various free weights, yoga mats and small lockers.

Standard Wi-Fi is included with rooms for Hilton Honors members. As Diamond elite, we had access to premium Wi-Fi. However, the speeds we experienced weren’t premium. In our room we saw 26 ms ping, 4.95 Mbps download and 4.04 Mbps upload. But, when we tried to work on our room’s balcony, our speeds dropped to 93 ms ping, 1.05 Mbps download and 4.88 Mbps upload.

Self-service parking is provided for 148 cars at no additional charge. There’s no valet, but the parking is convenient to the hotel and some spaces are covered.

The resort has an understated teddy bear theme, which is explained by the onsite TeddyVille museum. TeddyVille proclaims itself as Malaysia’s first teddy bear-themed museum. The museum’s entrance is located in the hotel lobby and the museum is open 9am to 6pm daily. Adult tickets cost 36 MYR (about $9), children over 12 cost 29 MYR ($7) and younger children cost 25 MYR ($6).

Overall Impression

This resort is particularly well-suited for families with young children who can take advantage of the children’s pool and wet-play areas, the TeddyVille museum, the kid-friendly dining options, the children’s spa treatments and the kid’s club. And I appreciated the environmentally friendly practices of avoiding single-use plastics by offering paper straws and compostable forks at the Axis Lounge, using recyclable fiber pens in the rooms and refolding towels that were hung for reuse. Although the resort isn’t bad for couples without children, families with children are definitely the target audience.

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly resort in Penang, want to use your Hilton points, or want to use the $250 resort credit and Diamond elite status that come with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, then the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang may be the right Penang hotel for you. But if you’re looking for a beachfront resort, great views from your room, a location within George Town, a pool bar or a romantic vacation, you’ll want to keep looking.

All photos by the author.

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