Hard Rock Penang Review: Amazing Family Holiday Fun

Blaring music. Rock memorabilia everywhere. Carpets, walls, and lighting a deep shade of purple. Yeah, not really my thing either. Add wet kids running around everywhere straight out of the pool and it seems like damp, technicoloured mayhem. Take me down the street to the Shangri-La, please!

But wait, give it a chance!

Sure, this hotel isn’t my usual style, but it’s going for something completely different. It’s not aiming for luxury, or sophistication; it’s aiming for FUN.

Wait, what’s that word again? FUN? Fun when traveling with kids? Seems kinda suspicious to me.

But the Hard Rock Penang is just that. Sure, it’s not going to win any awards over at Conde Nast but I promise the kids will love it. And honestly, if you stop being such a goddamn snob for a second, you will too. Here’s my Hard Rock Penang review.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a booking, I earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay and all opinions here are honest and my own.

Here’s a quick video for those who aren’t big readers. But please bear in mind, I’m a MUCH better wordsmith than I am a photographer/videographer

It’s a typical Hard Rock Hotel… I think?

It’s not quiet by any means. From the DJ spinning tunes at the pool to the cover band that plays at 11pm every night, be aware of the noise factor. But you’re on holiday, remember? There’s no reason to be up at dawn every day (ha, ha, forgot about the kids).

And these days, what counts as “Hard Rock”? I’ve always thought my dad, who likes to play the likes of Frank Zappa and Rolling Stones very loudly on original vinyl from the 70s, would love the Hard Rock. But on display are outfits worn by Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga for things like perfume ads soooo…. Guess they’re trying to cater to a broader range of tastes?

But that said, my dad is a loveable dag. And Beatles fan or no, he’s not really the Hard Rock’s target audience these days (he is – gasp! – pushing 60). Let’s face it, modern families are less The Doors and more Drake (shut up, I love Drake). It’s a generational thing. I’m not heading out to enjoy the beach with my friend Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Most of my peers wouldn’t even get that reference (shout out to my hippy parents, hi!)

The food at the Hard Rock Penang

There’s a lot I could say here. Some critical, some raving.

Firstly, the usual “don’t order Western food in Asia” trope really doesn’t apply at the Hard Rock. And nor should it – it’s an international brand known for American cuisine (you know, the super tasty, “looking at this makes me put on five kilos” stuff, like buffalo wings with blue cheese dipping sauce). If you can’t get a good, consistent buffalo wing at the Hard Rock Café, where can you? The whole appeal of the Hard Rock to Westerners is the ability to get something Western when you’ve had one too many serves of nasi lemak. We ate at the actual Café on our last day after we’d checked out, and it was absolutely delicious. The service was slow but friendly which I’d come to expect from three weeks in Malaysia.

What I did love about the hotel was the ability, in some situations, to order from the Café menu. This is possible if you order room service, or if you rent out one of the cabanas by the pool. We did both, and loved both. Prime example:

We ate a fair bit of room service on this trip. Our eldest found the constant change in scenery pretty overwhelming and got sensory overload at times, so room service was great. It made him feel calm and safe and in control of his surroundings. And honestly, it made for great family time. We all sat together on the bed in our pyjamas, watching a movie and eating our dinner. Sure, it’s not cocktails and canapes on some rooftop bar, but it’s the stuff memories are made of. For us, but also for our kids. It’s not fancy but our eldest will remember chicken nuggets and Despicable Me on his holiday…  Probably more fondly than that hot, sweaty, crowded temple Mum and Dad dragged him to!

We ate at the Starz Diner buffet on the first night because we can’t resist the allure of seafood. It was…. Uninspiring. But then again, most buffets are. They did have a really lovely pasta, which the kids tried to eat but found too spicy (such delicate Western taste buds, it literally WAS NOT SPICY). But the staff whipped up a custom Carbonara for them in a flash, which was so lovely of them to do.

Breakfast was a funny one. Each morning someone greeted patrons in the lobby, asked their room number then told them where to go for breakfast. Some were sent to the huge Starz Diner; others like us were sent over to the Pizzeria. After the second day, we realised: everyone dining with us had young families. Maybe it was meant to be “exclusive” – maybe we were the suite occupants? – but it kind of felt like we were hidden away a bit so our kids didn’t bother anyone. Which… yeah, that might be fair enough.

But it also felt like our buffet was smaller. I have no idea what breakfast wonders awaited those in the Starz Diner. Anyway, for a 4-star hotel, the breakfast was definitely decent, but it definitely wasn’t mind-blowing either. The kids had coco pops and hash browns so they were happy; I was sufficiently caffeinated and noodled so I was happy too.

Rooms at the Hard Rock Penang

There are 250 guest rooms at the Hard Rock Penang and they all have huge TVs, BOSE sound systems and comfy beds. Some views are definitely better than others, as with any hotel. We stayed in a Roxity Kids Suite on the third floor, which was huge, but overlooked the air-conditioning plant. That wasn’t really a big deal though, because the window was in the kids’ room… and they’re not even tall enough to look out of it. If this is a problem, you can pay a little more and get the Roxity Kids Suite with Courtyard… a little mini playground in the privacy of your own room!

In-Your-Face FUN: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #asia #travel #travelblog

In-Your-Face FUN: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #asia #travel #travelblog

The Suite was large but the bathroom was tiny – the designers could have taken a metre out of the room and into the bathroom and there still would have been heaps of bedroom space. Because it was it was so small it was nearly impossible to bathe the kids. The bathroom also had flimsy sliding doors behind that partitioned the bedroom – so don’t expect to do anything in the bathroom without those in the bedroom hearing.

The room featured a King bed (so comfy) and a couple of chairs. The wardrobe was huge and there was a safe (this is a must for us). A sliding door led into the kids area: a king single with a slide-out trundle, heaps of toys and books and a TV with PS4. So while our kids are really little, this room would have suited them well into their teens. Again, though, the partition was flimsy and didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling so if your kids are older and you’re expecting some, ahem, privacy for the grown-ups, this isn’t the room for you.

I didn’t have the time, nor the inclination, to explore all the other room types (this was the end of our holiday and I was exhausted) but the website has a full list here and they look lovely.

Facilities at the Hard Rock Penang

Kids Clubs

For once, a kids club service our kids could actually go to! While they were too young for the Roxity Kids Club, the Lil’ Rockers Infants Club takes kids three and under. Unfortunately for us, Mister Three was not keen so we didn’t test it out. But it’s worth a mention as every other kid’s club we’ve encountered won’t take kids under four. There’s also the Tabu Teens club for older kids that looks amazing.


I think I read that the Hard Rock Penang has the largest free-form pool in Malaysia and, yes, it’s awesome. It also has a water play area including two water slides, and there’s a beach bar, a swim-up bar (oh yeaaaaah) and cabanas for daily hire. We loved hiring a cabana: you can plug your own music into the stereo and there’s a phone to order cabana-service.

When you arrive at the pool in the morning, you’re given a wristband to verify your status as hotel guest, and a bright purple towel.

There are lifeguards on duty whenever the pool is open, and the DJ spins sweet tunes all day long.

One minor criticism: to get from the pool back to the room you have to go through the main lobby – so the floor is always wet (even though the staff did an amazing job of mopping it up).

Where To Stay In Penang | Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #travel

Where To Stay In Penang | Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #travel

In-Your-Face FUN: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #asia #travel #travelblog


Yes, there’s a gym. Yes, it’s well equipped. Hell no, I didn’t use it.

Jokes aside, I did go and have a look. It has everything you need (though it’s not groundbreaking). That said, I made a friend by the pool who went every morning and who agreed it had everything she needed for a quick holiday workout to start the day. One thing to note: It’s right by the pool so you get a great view, but that means swimmers can also see you sweating it out. You’ve been warned!


The Rock Spa looked great, though the menu was certainly in Western-resort pricing. I didn’t try it out and I regret it.

You’ll find the Rock Spa tucked away by the beach, a short walk from the furthest corner of the pool.


The Hard Rock Penang sits right on Batu Ferringhi beach. There’s a jetty and lots of motorsports such as jetskiing on offer. There are also beach volleyball nets and you can ride a horse along the beach too. It’s not the most pristine beach (the motorised watersports wouldn’t help) and when I looked off the jetty I saw jellyfish (they didn’t look like the really harmful kind but still… jellyfish) so we didn’t swim in it. The pool was a better option. But the sunset was pretty magnificent from the beach so I do recommend checking it out.

In-Your-Face FUN: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #asia #travel #travelblog

In-Your-Face FUN: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #asia #travel #travelblog

So, would we go back?

Ask the husband and he’ll say no. But take that on face value: we spent a week in Penang and absolutely crammed in sightseeing each day so we’re not likely to head back very soon anyway. (But it’s amazing, here are some things to do in Penang) I guess my opinion is along a similar vein… I’d probably choose to stay at the Shangri-La, or a nice condo apartment, before I’d book the Hard Rock again because I’d want to experience something different.

But I would recommend staying at the Hard Rock

Yeah, I absolutely would! Do you want somewhere with reasonable rates, a huge pool, fun vibes, friendly staff, and good location? Somewhere that’s 100% kid-friendly? Then why the hell wouldn’t you book the Hard Rock? Don’t listen to my husband, he’s grumpy. Listen to the kids, who had an absolute BLAST.

Convinced? Great!


And here are some activities you might want to consider (see my Batu Feringghi post for more ideas)

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In-Your-Face Fun: The Hard Rock Penang Review #penang #malaysia #hotels #asia #travel #travelblog

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    1. One of my favourite regions in the world Sheryl! You’re in Singapore, is that right? We would love to move there but there’s no jobs in my husband’s industry, so we have to settle for visiting as often as we can!

    1. Me either! At first I just thought, maybe there’s not enough space? But after a couple of days we began to see a pattern!

  1. Love love love Penang and the food! I’ve always pass by this hotel but never tried staying in it because we never actually read a review about it this detail. Now that I’ve read yours, I would definitely want to try staying there.

  2. Sounds fun, especially the kids club and cabana service would be cool! Thanks for giving your honest and open view about the pros and cons 🙂

  3. I don’t often read hotel reviews, but I really like this. You’ve got a very engaging and entertaining style of writing and it makes me want to visit this place! We were actually planning to go to Penang earlier this year, but we made changes to our itinerary and went to the Philippines instead. We’ve only heard good things about Penang since, and we’d love to go.

    1. Thank you SO much Alex! I agree to some extent in that I often don’t read them myself, but occasionally I feel compelled to write them – especially if it’s somewhere I had a hard time booking myself! I am so, so keen to get to the Philippines but haven’t yet… but I absolutely recommend Penang!

  4. As Hard Rock Penang has kid’s club, pool, friendly staff all in reasonable rates, then staying here looks worth. Though your husband is not recommending it, I will go with your advice.

    1. Haha thanks Yukti! If you asked him I don’t think he’d have anything bad to say, it just really wasn’t his thing. It’s definitely very bright and busy! But yes, for the facilities it has and the comfort factor, the Hard Rock Penang is extremely good value for money

  5. This is such a very detailed review and I enjoyed reading your experience. I must say, I have not considered staying at the Hard Rock but the pool looks inviting. I never expected it to be a 4-star hotel!! However, I also felt the ‘fun vibes’ through your words and pics. I am also a family traveler who prefers to stay at the Shangri-La (thanks for your honesty, btw)! But as you mentioned, I’ll give it a chance!

    1. Thanks Carmen! Yes, I agree. We stayed at The Andaman in Langkawi (there’s a review on here if you’re interested) and holy WOW it was incredible for us and the kids. But the bill reflected that. The Hard Rock still wasn’t cheap but we had a suite and the kids were still so well looked after. So I could complain that the music was too loud or the carpets were purple, or I could recognise that I’m a little old lady and just try to have some fun with it!

  6. Never visited Penang but sounds like Hard Rock hotel is the place to be. As a young couple we prefer to stay somewhere a bit more lively.

    1. Thanks Rio! Yes the Hard Rock definitely caters to couples, as long as you just keep in mind that there are lots of families there too (some couples don’t like to stay at places with lots of kids). But there’s a whole bunch of activities for you to do in and out of the resort, and Batu Ferringhi is really cool. We also stayed a few nights in Georgetown and loved that!

  7. The property looks very chic and uber.WOnder, why your hubby wasn’t sure about the place.Glad you went ahead with your stay. Oh! loved the decor of your room and the pool looks so inviting 😀

    1. Thanks Meenakshi! The pool was wonderful – big, perfect temperature, and some parts even had a sandy bottom like the ocean! I think the whole thing was just a bit of overload for my husband, and I totally understand. It’s loud and bright and busy. But he is a big introvert. I like a bit of party atmosphere as it gets me out of my shell… so while the Hard Rock wasn’t my usual style, I think it was nice to try something different.

  8. Thanks for sharing and it seems there are a lot of facilities for kids and families, I like you tune the color tone pinkish because Hard Rock to me is always bright, you made it soft and romantic. @ knycx.journeying

  9. I have never come across a hotel review post so this was a very infesting and fun little post, especially since you reviewed every pro and con in a way that would not make it boring and easy to read! I really like your writing style!

    1. thank you SO much Batool! I’ve really struggled to find my voice since starting this blog and I think I’ve finally got there, so that feedback means a lot. So glad you enjoyed the post!

    1. Thank you SO much! Hehe I think he’s cute but I’m biased. So nice to meet another traveler who agrees with my opinions haha

  10. Great experience! Hard Rock Penang has a lot to offer to their clients. I love that they have the largest free form swimming pool in Malaysia. I’d love to stay here for my vacation.

    1. Thanks Alexine! Yes, I did really enjoy it. As I said not my usual style, but we all have to mix things up every now and again 🙂

  11. It looks like you had a great time at the Hard Rock Penang! I never even knew there was one. I’ve not yet been, but will consider it when I do eventually go 🙂

    1. Thanks Lisa!Yes, I absolutely LOVED Penang. We had a week there and divided into a stay in the city (George Town) and a few nights at the Hard Rock in Batu Ferringhi as a nice, resort-y end to our trip before heading home.

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