One of the most elegant hotels in Malaysia’s capital, the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur offers the perfect combination of rest and relaxation, action and activities. Contemporary, with accents of Malaysian culture in design, spaces range from cosy and intimate to majestic—but it’s the wellness floor of pools, spa suites, fitness rooms and the Aqua Restaurant that keeps guests (wellness-oriented or not) coming back for more. Compare Retreats wellness expert Catharine Nicol checked in to learn just how much she needed to master the difficult art of switching off.
The hotel is an easy 45-minute transfer from the airport (depending on traffic) via hotel car, Uber or local taxi app Grab. Located in the very heart of Kuala Lumpur’s City Centre, addresses don’t get much better than this: the Mandarin Oriental is a neighbour to none other than the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. In front of the hotel is the oasis that is the KLCC Park, and the district as a whole is home to a number of luxury hotel brands as well as malls full of retail therapy, imaginative gastronomy and plenty of urban entertainment.
Spacious and elegant, the lobby makes a great first impression, giving the immediate feeling of luxurious amounts of space and a vibrant atmosphere. Ten dining and drink outlets span a huge variety of gastronomic options from the brand signature Mandarin Grill and MO Bar to this property’s Kyo for Japanese cuisine and Ren for craft cocktails. Aqua Restaurant and Bar stands out as the poolside eatery, while Mosaic offers all-day dining.
Inevitably, guests gravitate poolside, a haven of greenery where views over the stunning 25-metre pool and across KLCC Park to the urban skyline beyond are magical. The atmosphere morphs from quiet and contemplative in the morning with front row seats for sunrise, to bustling during the day as guests lounge in popular cabanas between dips and pool staff deliver ice water and cool fruit skewers, to electric in the evenings. On the same floor are the sophisticated gym, tennis courts and The Spa, which offers day retreats like the Digital Detox programme.
With 629 rooms, suites and executive apartments, a sense of place exudes through subtle local design features and the views of the twin towers or KLCC Park through panoramic windows.
The rooms are calming and elegant, many offering sofas and coffee tables as well as work-friendly desks. Bathrooms sleek with marble, amenities branded Kan if you’re in a deluxe room, Aromatherapy Associates (also found in the Spa) for Club rooms and suites, and Bulgari for the Presidential and Royal Suite. The beds are seriously comfy—an essential at any wellness retreat worth its salt.
North-facing rooms have front-row views of the Petronas Twin Towers, while early risers should book rooms with views to the east over KLCC Park, the city’s green lung, complete with an inbuilt running track and beautiful morning sunrise views.
Pre-yoga or before an early morning run around KLCC Park, the Club team can rustle up a ginger tea and light snack of fruit if you need some workout fuel, or turn to your in-room kettle and fruit basket.
Breakfast happens at the Mosaic Restaurant, with an extensive buffet breakfast that includes specialities from the city’s main cultures Hindu, Chinese and Malay, as well as international goodies. Chefs create eggs to order and the coffee is particularly excellent.
Lunches, afternoon teas and evening cocktails are served at the Club throughout the day. I found the lack of dinner proved to be a good thing: when on retreat going to bed without an indulgently full stomach meant better sleep and a slightly less bulging waistline at the end of my stay. There are, of course, a legion of options both in and just outside the hotel if missing meals isn’t your thing.
Aqua deserves a special mention: the poolside eatery on the wellness floor serves up lunches and dinners as healthy or indulgent as you like: I recommend the incredible Salmon Poke Bowl, though I was sorely tempted by the wood-fired pizzas.
For those on the Digital Detox programme, breakfast and lunch are provided along with a healthy menu of light snacks, such as edamame, salads, wraps and fruit dinners.
Offering a variety of spa treatments and packages, I took part in a bespoke version of The Mandarin Oriental’s globally renowned, five-hour Digital Detox, a fantastic urban wellness programme that helps guests disengage with their devices. Giving your phone to The Spa in the morning puts temptation out of reach, while simultaneously revealing the extent of your addiction: I can testify that it does feel extremely uncomfortable.
It’s fascinating how discombobulated you can feel without your digital crutch. I discovered the key to de-stressing rather than re-stressing when phone-less is to be as prepared as possible, then jump in 100 percent. Even if you start your day wondering what you have forgotten to do, by the time you’re deep into your journey of yoga and meditation, running or tennis, massage, or light lunch, you’re beginning to enjoy the enforced disconnection with the outside world and connection with yourself.
The Digital Wellness menu offers two options: a short single-item package, which includes the Digital Wellness Escape massage with post-treatment mindfulness options like journaling or colouring to clear mental chatter; or a half-day (five-hour) programme which additionally includes private yoga and meditation and light snacks. And, bonus, this is a global programme so you can find it in whichever Mandarin Oriental you’re near around the world.
As a resident guest at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, I was also encouraged to cherry-pick from the many wellness options available throughout the day. During the weekdays, for example, group yoga is offered in the Mind & Body Studio, or take your mat poolside to salute the sun as it comes up at the perfect spot opposite the pool between the high rises.
Morning laps in the pool are another great way to start the day, while the gym is an inspiring place for treadmill jogging overlooking the pool. And there’s always the KLCC Park’s running track just outside, which undulates under the tropical greenery and around water features, offering multiple views of The Petronas Twin Towers, for just over 1 kilometre. What is especially motivating is joining the many locals who clearly make this their regular, morning routine before the sun gets too hot.
The hotel’s tennis-pro Cristian is a charming Argentinian who gives full-on hand-eye coordination, sweat-inducing training that’s such fun you don’t even realise how much you’re running around. A warm-down stretch with Thana in the gloriously air-conditioned fitness centre is highly recommended afterwards: her static and assisted stretches fast track recovery while targeting long-term aches and pains, and she has fantastic advice for home routines too.
08:00 Group yoga at Mind & Body Studio
09:00 Fresh coconut and relaxation time in heat and water facilities
10:00 Mindfulness activities (journaling, colouring, origami etc)
11:00 Digital Wellness Escape bath and massage
13:00 Light spa cuisine lunch at Aqua
15:00 Psammo Serenity Gold treatment at The Spa
17:30 Drinks at Aqua as the sun goes down
18:30 Last call for snacks in the Mandarin Oriental Club lounge
20:00 A very early bedtime
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur is the only place in the country to offer Psammotherapy, a hot sand therapy using centuries-old techniques to relax physically and mentally. In The Spa’s beautifully decked out suite, the specially created Gharieni bed holds the warmed, gold-coated alpha quartz sand, which moulds to the shape of your body for ultimate comfort and heats the muscles with a deliciously even and comfortable warmth to deliver extra muscle release. The Psammo Gold Serenity treatment includes heated poultice massage with the same quartz sand inside while singing bowls offer sound therapy. Towards the end of the massage, the bed tips first head up then toes up for changes in circulation.
The Digital Wellness Escape bath and massage are ideal for soothing muscles, and targeting ‘text-neck’, shoulders and back pain, and any other repetitive strain injury with grounding massage techniques. The Spa also offers Biologique Recherche treatments with their facials particularly effective, the only spa in Malaysia to offer the French brand.
While Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic city for shopping, eating and drinking, the Mandarin Oriental offers an incredible healthy hideaway. Following a retreat programme in an urban environment can be tough with so much temptation around, but the extensive wellness facilities and location make it feel more like a resort than a hotel. If you’re burned out and need quality rest on a short break or in an accessible location, this is the place to do it, thanks to the fantastic staff, irresistible pool and soothing spa treatments on hand.
I loved the mix of active options with more calming activities and spa atmosphere. It made me realise that a slow down was exactly what my body and mind needed. I always thought I was a mild phone user, and while separating me from my smartphone did cause some separation anxiety, it gave me surprising insight into how addicted I was and the impetus to factor in phone-free time once back home. I left feeling rested and spoiled, yet energised.
Dividing my time between the Mandarin Oriental Club lounge and the wellness floor emphasised the feeling of being in a resort rather than a city hotel. I can’t recommend the Mandarin Oriental Club and its phenomenal staff highly enough at the hotel. Private check-in comes with a glass of bubbly and access to day-long food, drinks and their absolutely flawless service. It creates the ideal retreat atmosphere and is the perfect complement to your time in the Spa, as it’s always quiet and calm.
Early risers should ask for a room facing KLCC Park for the best sunrise views, and take advantage of the hotel’s proximity to the KLCC Park running track: it made me feel like one of the locals as I paced out the start of my day.