Macau may be small, but it is brimming with all sorts of attractions, so we always recommend staying at least two nights here. But which part of Macau should you choose? We’ll discuss just that in this article, so keep on reading!
Many travelers see Macau as a side trip from Hong Kong, but it is actually a worthy destination in its own right. It is much cheaper and easier to explore. It also has a globe of wonders to offer – most of them, family-friendly – that it is impossible to see them all in just a day or two. So yeah, consider staying in Macau, too, especially if you’ve explored Hong Kong before.
WHAT’S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Macau’s Four Main Areas
Geographically, Macau is composed of four main districts. Three of them have always been around:
- the Macau Peninsula, where the historical core of Macau is located
- Taipa Island, where you’ll find the airport and the Taipa Village
- Coloane Island, the least developed and most laidback
In between Taipa and Coloane Islands is the fourth, newly established area — Cotai. Yes, COTAI, a portmanteau of Coloane and Taipa. Built on reclaimed land, Cotai is occupied mostly by hotels and gaming buildings.
Out of these four major areas, two of them are what I believe ideal for tourists – the historic core in Macau Peninsula and the Cotai Strip. These two are packed with tourist sites and a wide, wide selection of dining and lodging options, but they do appeal to very different types of travelers. So, let’s break them down.
Macau is best known for its five-star luxury hotels and resorts, and the biggest chunk of them are located along the Cotai Strip. I bet that when you picture Macau in your head, you have images of The Venetian, The Parisian or the Galaxy Macau. Well, they are all located here in Cotai.
It is an ideal area to stay because it is dotted with most of Macau’s modern attractions. In fact, the majority of them are housed within these hotels! For example:
- The Londoner is home to this Big Ben replica and a Harry Potter Exhibition, where potterheads will surely have a field day.
- The Venetian is where you’ll find the Grand Canal and TeamLab SuperNature, one of the best TeamLab museums we’ve visited so far.
- The Parisian boasts a replica of The Eiffel Tower, which has also become an icon of the city.
- Studio City brags about the world’s first figure-eight Ferris Wheel called Golden Reel and a fantastic indoor water park.
- Wynn Palace (not to be confused with Wynn Macau in Macau city center) just newly opened Illuminarium and has its own cable car system called SkyCab.
- Grand Lisboa Palace Resort (not to be confused with Grand Lisboa on the mainland) houses the Martial Arts Arena, AI Wonderland, and a French courtyard!
All these have their own selection of in-house restaurants and shops. And all these are within walking distance of each other, which means that if you stay at Cotai Strip, you have easy access to all these attractions.
The rooms are spacious, and often, with a view of the strip or other landmarks around the area, which are all stunning at night. It can be romantic, so if you’re on a honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary or special occasion, consider these hotels. Or if you just want to indulge and treat yourself to a well-deserved vacation or staycation, these are great, too!
But of course, these hotels are full-service and on the expensive side by Macau and Southeast Asian standards. But compared to Hong Kong hotels, these are much cheaper.
By the way, although Cotai lies on an island, it’s easy to get to other parts of Macau from here. Taipa Village, a community popular for its street food, can be reached on foot! It’s quite a long walk, but there are travelators along the way. Here, you can go on a food trip like we did!
For longer distances, most of these hotels offer FREE shuttle bus services to and from the airport, and key attractions around the city. There are plenty of public buses too, like Bus 26A, which can take you from The Parisian or Studio City to Senado Square, the heart of Macau’s historic center.
Where We Stayed in Cotai
We wanted to see what it’d be like to stay in Cotai. Thankfully, on our most recent trip, we were able to experience staying at one of these fabulous hotels – Studio City — thanks to the Macao Government Tourism Office.
This is a standard room called Celebrity Vista King Room. It is quite spacious, absolutely squeaky clean, well-appointed, and has a gorgeous, gorgeous view of the strip. The bed was so comfy, and there are a dozen bottled water on the desk.
But when I checked how much this room usually costs, I was surprised that it’s not as pricey as I expected, as long as you stay on weekdays.
This room can go as low as MOP 917 (PHP 6420, USD 114) per night on weekdays! For a room like this, I think this is an amazing deal considering all its amenities and the location! But on weekends, the rate can skyrocket.
Studio City Rates
- Weekdays: as low as MOP 917 (PHP 6420, USD 114)
- Weekends: as high as MOP 2150 (PHP 15,000; USD 267)
If you’d really like to stay in Cotai but you’re working with a limited budget, stay on weekdays.
Top Hotels in Cotai
Here are some of the best hotels in Cotai, regardless of the price!
Search for more Cotai Hotels!
DOWNTOWN MACAU (Historic Center)
True, Macau is best known for the flashy hotels of Cotai strip, but it also harbors cheaper forms of accommodations. Most of them are located downtown.
Macau’s downtown area is also its historic center. It is the most populated part of the territory. Most tourists gather here because the most recognizable landmark of Macau is right here, the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The Portuguese influence is in full display here and in the adjacent Senado Square, connected by mosaic-art cobblestone streets, flanked by stores selling meat jerky, egg tarts, and other souvenirs!
Much of the tourism activities are concentrated in this specific area. As you walk farther away, you’ll find quiet parks and gardens and very local spots.
If Cotai shows off the modern edge of Macau, the downtown area puts its historic roots front and center, especially its Portuguese colonial past. You’ll sense it in the street signs and the architecture and the Portuguese and Macanese cuisine. It’s a completely different vibe.
Budget hotels, hostels, and guesthouses can be found within and around downtown, which can go as low MOP 359 (PHP 2500, USD 45).
Where We Stayed in Macau City Center
In one of our previous stays, years ago, we stayed at a budget hotel called Fu Hua Hotel! We had a very pleasant stay – the room was neat and the service good. But again this was years ago, before the pandemic, so I’m not sure if it has changed since. But its location was fantastic. We just walked most of the time, and it was surrounded by restaurants and bakeries that locals frequented.
Top Macau City Hotels
Below is a list of the top hotels in Macau’s downtown area on Hotels.com, regardless of the price.
Top Budget Hotels in Macau Downtown
If you have limited budget, here are some of the most affordable but top-reviewed properties on Agoda!
Search for more Macau City Center Hotels!
What is the Best Area to Stay in Macau?
As always, the best area to stay depends on your itinerary. Both areas are close to a great concentration of tourist spots. It’s just a question of what type of tourist spots are you more interested in.
If you’re in Macau mostly for its modern, spectacular attractions and you have a bigger budget, choose the Cotai Strip.
But if you prefer a more local and more cultural experience, stay in the downtown area in the Macau peninsula.
How to Get to Macau
Philippine Airlines offers direct flights from Manila to Macau! So if you haven’t booked a ticket yet, consider flying with PAL. One thing I love about PAL is the generous baggage allowance that automatically comes with each booking. For Macau flights, check-in baggage can weigh 25 kg maximum for Economy passengers.
That’s on top of the 7-kg carry-on baggage allowance. Often, although some flights with low-cost carriers really do appear cheap, when you start adding baggage allowance, the total cost gets close (sometimes even exceeding) PAL’s prices.
Another reason we prefer PAL is its four-star service and delicious inflight meals and unlimited drinks on board, which are already included in the booking.
Visit philippineairlines.com to search for flights to Macau!
Updates Log & Acknowledgment
2024 • 02 • 07 – Original posting
Special shoutout to the Macau Government Tourism Office for making our most recent trip possible.
That’s all for now. Remember, plan smart, travel safe, and make every trip WORTH IT!