Planning your next trip and want to know the top things to do in Malaysia?
With a landmass of over 30,000 square kilometres, Malaysia has a lot to offer tourists. From the high rises of Kuala Lumpur to the beaches on its coasts and islands to its UNESCO World Heritage sites to its hill stations and diversity of cultures, there really is something for everyone in Malaysia.
The mixture of its Malay, Chinese and Indian people combined with a colonial past leads to an interesting and mixed history which is evident in its architecture, food and cultures. From the peninsular Malaysia to the mysterious Borneo to a zillion little islands, there are many great tourist sites in Malaysia waiting for you.
You may already have some ideas about the top activities in Malaysia, like visiting the Petronas Twin Towers or lounging on a beach in Langkawi, and perhaps you want some more ideas or off the beaten track suggestions for what to visit in Malaysia.
Or maybe you are working out whether Malaysia is somewhere you would enjoy and you want to know some of the fun things to do in Malaysia to see if it’s for you.
Whatever the case, you are sure to have 20 new items to add to your Malaysian bucket list by the time you finish reading this list of Malaysia top things to do that I compiled with other travel bloggers.
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Table of Contents
Top 20 Best Things To Do In Malaysia
Enjoy Petronas Towers Views from Traders Hotel
With any visit to Kuala Lumpur it is hard not to be drawn, like moths to light, to the rather magnificent Petronas Twin Towers which can be seen from pretty much all over the city. But to make the most of a visit, I will forever recommend a stay at the Traders Hotel which shares probably the best views of the Petronas Twin Towers and Malaysia’s crown jewel in Southeast Asia. It’s one of the top tourist destinations in Malaysia for a reason.
The towers are framed perfectly, up close and intimate, with front row seats to the symphony of lights as the sunsets over the city. So I while l will always recommend at least 1 night at the hotel (Traders Twin Tower View Room: RM500), there is always the more affordable option of the Traders Hotel’s rooftop Skybar, with some serious cocktails and intoxicating views of the twin towers.
To get there, a quick shuttle service connects both the hotel and the Suria KLCC mall at the base of the towers, although the surrounding KLCC Park and fountains also make for a serene beeline between the two.
Contributed by Allan from Live Less Ordinary
Get Up Close To Elephants At The Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre
The Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre is by far my favourite of the unique things to do in Malaysia especially as it’s just a day trip from Kuala Lumpur. This is because this government-run sanctuary is here to help raise awareness and understanding of the importance of these beautiful animals. With elephants in Malaysia at the brink of extinction, this centre is there to educate the public and care for the animals on site.
The centre itself is free. However, I encourage you to hire one of the many volunteered guides for RM50 or make a donation at the registration office as all money goes to the care of the elephants.
Arrive early as they only allow the first 100 people to bath the elephants, this too is an extra cost of RM10 (adults) and RM5 (children). Prepare to get wet, so bring an extra pair of clothes. There are other free options around the centre and these include educational videos, elephant crossings, feeding the elephants and enjoying the observation areas.
The easiest (and most affordable) way to get to Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre is by hiring a car from Kuala Lumpur and driving the 105 kilometers yourself. If this is not an option then many tours offer this service which you can book by clicking here now.
Contributed by Paula from The Travelling Expat
Splash Around At The Beaches Of Port Dickson
If you are travelling around South East Asia you will probably end up in Kuala Lumpur at least once. It’s the main aviation hub in this part of Asia. While there are many awesome things to do in KL, spending time in the big city may not be for everyone. If you want to find a green oasis close to Malaysia’s capital city, head to Port Dickson.
This small town, located about one hours drive from KL, may not have the most beautiful beaches in the country. Still, it has the closest beaches to Kuala Lumpur since KL doesn’t have direct access to the sea.
Pantai Cahaya Negeri and Blue Lagoon are arguably the best beaches in Port Dickson. If sunbathing isn’t really your thing, you can always try some water sports. There are some great accommodation options in Port Dickson as well with affordable luxury in over-water pool villas.
The easiest way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson is to rent a car or take a taxi. You can also travel by public transport. There is no direct train or bus from KL to Port Dickson. You have to go to Seremban first and then take a bus to Port Dickson. Read more details of how to do this here. You can also easily take a taxi directly from KL Airport.
Contributed by Karolina from Lazy Travel Blog
Enjoy A Melaka Boat Tour
If checking out the history of Melaka (also spelt Malacca) is on your list of best things to see in Malaysia, a Melaka boat tour will give you a great first glance into Malaysia’s colonial past.
The 45 minute return trip takes in the views of old shop houses, modern street art, colourful bridges and glimpses of traditional Malaysian life and architecture. The cool breeze along the river is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity in the city. Night tours are a great way to see Melaka lit up in the colours of the rainbow.
There are 3 jetties where you can start your cruise, the most central one being Muara Jetty which is situated next to the Quayside Heritage Centre, close to the Maritime Museum. Tourist maps are available at the tourist information booth opposite Red Square.
You can aboard your cruise at the Taman Rempah Jetty next to the Hang Jebat Bridge or alternatively combine a retail experience with your boat tour and commence your trip at The Shore Jetty, next to The Shore Malacca.
Grab one of Melaka’s favourite drinks, an icy cold mango smoothie and sit back and soak up the sites of the UNESCO world heritage city.
Melaka River Cruises are open daily from 9 am to 11:30 pm. Boat tours depart every 30 minutes and a return trip will cost you RM30 for adults and RM25 for children. An inexpensive way to familiarise yourself with the wonder that is Melaka.
Contributed by Julie from A Not So Young Woman Abroad
Get Back To Nature At Taman Negara National Park
It is hard to believe that what is said to be the oldest rainforest in the world is just a 3-hour drive from the bustling Kuala Lumpur. This national park is a great choice of the things to visit in Malaysia to get to know the flora and fauna of Malaysia and get a feel of the rainforest.
You can opt to stay in Mutiara Taman Negara Resort inside the national park or in one of the many small guesthouses in the nearby villages. The resort is large and comfortable, if a little old, and you have the benefit of waking up in the jungle and heading out to hikes from your doorstep.
There is a variety of walks available, from easy ones on boardwalks to multi-day expeditions into the interior of the park, as well as boat trips on the river or visits to the villages of the Orang Asli, the aboriginal people of the area. Don’t expect to see big mammals – the forest is thick and the areas near the resort are fairly busy.
Bring mosquito repellent, sturdy footwear and swimming costume for a cooling dip in the river.
You will need to pay a RM1 park fee and a RM5 as a camera fee at the park office next to Mutiara Taman Negara resort.
Contributed by Kirsi from Happy Go KL
Have The Most Fun Day Ever At Legoland Malaysia
Legoland Malaysia is a giant lego-themed theme park in two parts. There is the standard Legoland Theme Park but there is also a Legoland Water Park which is a great place to cool down in the hot Malaysia weather. The perfect age for visiting Legoland is about ages 3-10 years, our kids were a bit older so we got through it in one day. However if your kids are young, I recommend staying two days and utilising the onsite Legoland Malaysia Hotel.
Just opened in May 2019, there is a new attraction at the Legoland Malaysia site, SEA Life Malaysia. This interactive learning experience will teach the kids all about the ocean and how to care for it. The 180 degree ocean tunnel has black tip sharks swimming around and over your head, and the rock pools create a touch and feel environment that kids will love.
Not only is it convenient it is also a very affordable activity for all the family. There are many special deals available here that make Legoland Malaysia a great price especially if you buy combo tickets with entry to the different parks.
Legoland Malaysia is in Johor Bahru, just over the border from Singapore so you can visit this one of the things to do in Malaysia with family from either Singapore or Malaysia. It take about an hour to get there from Singapore depending how long it takes to cross the border. Alternatively, you can stay in Johor Bahru. Getting to Legoland Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur takes approximately 3 hours, making it very difficult to do in a day trip.
Help Sea Turtles On Tioman Island
My family and I volunteered with the Juara Turtle Project on Tioman Island, and it was an amazing experience! Volunteers from all over the world support the dedicated staff to monitor for new turtle nests, to keep eggs safe in their hatchery, maintain the Project’s headquarters, release hatchlings into the water,and help with community education and clean ups.
We were lucky to be able to see many baby turtles scurry to the water for the first time at this Malaysia travel spot, excavate a nest that had hatched, and help with transferring eggs to the Project’s hatchery. We also met many new friends, patrolled the beaches, learned much about turtles and corals, enjoyed amazing food, and swam in the most beautiful beach we had ever seen!
Volunteers are requested to spend a minimum of a week at the Project. The cost to volunteer is RM1000 for 7 nights over the turtle season, and discounts are given for longer stays, children and volunteering through the off-peak season. The cost includes fully cooked breakfast and lunch daily, use of the Project’s recreational equipment and facilities, and rustic shared accommodation.
You can also just visit Juara Turtle Project if you’re staying on Tioman, and staff or volunteers will give you a tour and explain all about their excellent work.
Tioman Island is off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and still has pristine jungle surrounded by amazing coastlines and mangroves. Several coral reefs attract divers and snorkellers to Tioman, and a couple are in Juara Bay. It takes about two hours on a ferry from Mersing to get to Tioman, and Juara Bay is on the other side of the island to the jetty.
Contributed by Emma from Small footprints, big adventures
Snorkel At Gem Island
One of the Malaysia spots to visit for snorkelling is Gem Island (Pulau Gemia). It is a privately owned island in the South China Sea.
Gem island has a small 3-star resort and spa on site. Fortunately, Gem Island has a house reef so you can snorkel straight from the shore. There are several types of villas with an overwater villa at an affordable price.
The easiest way to get to Gem island is to fly into Kuala Terengganu. A road transfer to Marang Pier and finally a short boat ride, complete the journey across to the island.
Snorkelling hire was available. Other water sport options offered by the resort include kayaking and diving trips. Although not formally offered, a fishing trip with a traditional fisherman is also possible. It was an eye-opening experience in the middle of the South China Sea.
Like the rest of the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Gem island is closed from October to February. The house reef was great, but there was a significant rip. Wearing a life vest is highly recommended.
If you want a beautiful, secluded and affordable resort with some of the best snorkelling in Malaysia, Gem island is just the place.
Contributed by Alana from Family Bites Travel
Snorkel The Perhentians
The Perhentian Islands lie off the east coast of Malaysia and are one of the Malaysia best things to do. They’re a popular place to visit for diving and snorkelling trips where you can feed the fish, see sharks and often times swim with turtles. Reaching the Perhentians is easy, take a bus to Kuala Besut, then a fast boat to the islands (more information here).
There are two Perhentian Islands, both have accommodation, tours and places to eat. Perhentian Kecil is usually the most visited as it has cheaper accommodation.
You’ll need to pay the RM30 National Park fee (for foreigners, it’s RM5 for locals and RM2 children) as well as the fast boat fee to get here. There can also be a transfer fee from the fast boat to the shore depending on your end location, unless you want to swim your bags in.. You’ll want to stay several days and chill out, but the main things to do here is to see the sea life.
Snorkelling in the Perhentians is fabulous, especially if you visit in the low season. There are turtles and huge numbers of vividly coloured fish. Sadly, there is not much coral, although the evidence of people who’ve stood on it is very obvious. There are even black-tipped reef sharks here too, although they’re a little too fast to photograph!
The snorkelling tours in the Perhentians give a great variety of sea life, in calm, easy waters – and certainly when we travelled there were only a few others in the water, making it a superb experience.
Contributed by Sarah from A Social Nomad
Visit The SkyBridge And SkyCab in Langkawi
If you’re in Langkawi, make sure you visit the SkyBridge and SkyCab – one of the most popular tourist attractions in Langkawi.
To reach the SkyBridge you must take the SkyCab which goes up the second highest mountain called Gunung Machinchang and so it has incredible views. Before reaching the very top, the SkyCab makes one stop before reaching the very top. The views from here are absolutely amazing and you can see over all the beautiful islands of Langkawi.
Once you have finished admiring the views, you should head for the Langkawi SkyBridge. The Langkawi SkyBridge is the longest free span and curved bridge in the world. It is 2,000 feet above ground and is 400 feet long and it hangs between two mountains above the jungle. There is a small section that has a glass walkway beneath your feet. The views from here are spectacular and given it is a suspended bridge, you will feel the slight movement from side to side.
The SkyBridge and SkyCab are easy to each, but unless you have a car, you will need to get a taxi there.
The area does become extremely busy with tourists so it’s recommended to come first thing when it’s a bit quieter.
Entry for the SkyCab is RM55 per person and the SkyBridge is RM5 per person.
Contributed by Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels
Look For Street Art In Penang
Penang is a state on the north-west coast of the Malaysian peninsula. The old part of Penang Island, George Town, is listed as a Unesco Heritage site, but in recent years, Penang has become famous for its street art.
This springs from the work of Ernest Zacharevic for the 2012 George Town Festival. The Lithuanian artist expected his murals only to survive a few months, but they have become icons for the town – inspiring other street art too. Big wrought-iron caricatures illustrate the history of George Town, and now there is also more graffiti made by other artists too.
It’s fun, easy and free to walk around Penang graffiti-spotting, but when you get ambitious and want to find them all then you have to work a bit harder. Our search turned into a two-day project. On the first day, we just wandered about and spotted as many as we could. But now we were hooked.
So on the second day, we located all the works on Google map and completed our hunt on foot. To make the job easier, you can also rent a four-seater pedal car. This is a funny bicycle structure designed for two adults pedalling at the back and two kids in the front.
We found lots that we had missed on the first day; some were just around the corner from where we had been. It didn’t matter; the whole two-day hunt was super fun. We have great photos and many happy memories.
Contributed by Ania from The Travelling Twins
Go On A Habitat Walk On Penang Hill
The Habitat Walk on Penang Hill offers a brilliant escape from the vibrant mix of colours, flavours and cultures on offer in nearby George Town. Set amongst a 130 million year old rain forest, and giving spectacular views of the island, it’s a must do during any visit to Penang.
We spent a couple of hours wandering along the (pram-friendly) paths with our 7 and 8 year olds, taking in the amazing flora on display and taking plenty of photos. There are numerous places to stop along the way and simply sit and take in the scenery, and there is also a walkway which extends out above the forest canopy giving you literally a bird’s eye view.
Also, make sure you climb to the top of the 13 metre Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk – a viewing platform that gives you the very best uninterrupted views.
The easiest way to get to Penang Hill is with Grab, a taxi app. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the heart of Georgetown. Once there, you will need to buy tickets to the funicular train, witch cost RM30 for adults and RM15 for 4 – 12 year olds for non-priority seats. The train itself is a real experience, being the longest funicular track in Asia.
Once you are at the top of the hill, hunt out the Habitat ticket tent which is in the courtyard area just up from the food outlets. Tickets for adults are RM53 and RM31.80 for kids between 3-12 years. Once you have the tickets there is a shuttle service which drives you the kilometre or so to the entrance.
Contributed by Kylie from Visiting Dordogne
Explore The Ipoh Cave Temples
Exploring Ipoh’s mystical cave temples is one of the major reasons for visiting the city of Ipoh in Perak State, Malaysia. Ipoh’s magnificent limestone karsts are dotted with several Chinese Buddhist cave temples just begging to be explored. These include Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong.
Perak Tong is the most popular choice for its enormous cavern, stunning murals and panoramic views. Located just six kilometres north of central Ipoh, Perak Tong is just a short taxi ride away. Tucked into the side of a cliff face, the exterior of Perak Tong temple disguises the cavernous space within. Perak Tong Buddhist cave temple is home to stunning murals and Chinese calligraphy adorning the cavern rock face.
The cave has a mystical feel with bronze statues of Buddha sitting peacefully in niches, together with other deities from Chinese mythology. Climb a steep set of stairs on the outside of the hill to reach a small viewing platform for panoramic views of Ipoh town.
Perak Tong Cave Temple has no entrance fee, but a small donation is greatly appreciated.
Learn History With The Archaeological Heritage Of The Lenggong Valley
The Lenggong Valley is Malaysia’s lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Site, and comprises a series of caves and archaeological sites scattered around the quiet village of Lenggong, about 50 kilometres north of Kuala Kangsar along interstate 76. The valley itself was cut into the surrounding hills by a meteorite that fell here a staggering 1.83 million years ago.
Regardless of the poor publicity by local tourism boards, the sites around the Lenggong Valley are one of the Malaysia top sights given their incredible archaeological importance, as they represent the oldest evidence of human civilization outside the African continent.
The Lenggong Valley is particularly famous for the remains of the Perak Man, Southeast Asia’s oldest, most complete human skeleton, which dates back to 7,000 years ago. Scientists believe that this early man, affected by a physical deformity, was indeed revered as an ancient shaman. His skeleton was found inside the Gua Gunung Runtuh, surrounded by hundreds of shells and tools, and curled into a fetal position. Today, the Perak Man lies under glass inside the Lenggong Valley Archaeological Museum in Kota Tampan, about 5 kilometres south of Lenggong town.
It’s a perfect place to learn about the history of the area, and entrance is free of charge. You have to contact the director of this museum if you want to take a tour of Lenggong’s interesting cave complex, which has been fenced off to avoid further vandalism.
The tours are free of charge (a donation to the museum is appreciated) and must be booked in advanced from 9am to 5pm on weekdays.
Contributed by Marco from Penang Insider
Take A Boat Ride From Kuala Sepetang
We think that a boat ride from Kuala Sepetang is one of the best things to see and do in Malaysia. The town of Kuala Sepetang lies on the west coast about half an hour from Taiping and is fringed by mangrove forests and islands that dot the estuary out to sea.
It is a bit of a mystery why the town is not better known to tourists as it has a great mix of natural attractions and characterful old wooden buildings that overhang the water.
It is only really from the water that you can get the best out of Kuala Sepetang so our advice is to hire a boat for an hour or two and visit some of the attractions.
The standard tour will take you down the main ‘street’ of the town that is flanked on either side by old weather-beaten fishermen’s homes, to the mangrove forest, to a fish farm and they will feed the sea eagles so that they swoop down all around your boat.
The fish farm was a particular highlight for our young children who got the chance to hold puffer fish and giant horseshoe crabs.
If you have more time you can take longer boat trips that include all of the above and also visit some other villages.
For our boat trip, we found a boatman near to the jetty in town and paid RM30 per adult and RM20 for a child (babies are free). These prices seem to be fairly negotiable.
Contributed by Chris from More Life In Your Days
Go Diving At Sipadan Island
For those who love to dive, Sipadan island is one of the top adventurous things to do in Malaysia. This small island, formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, is one of the richest marine habitats in the world.
Over 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in the waters surrounding Sipadan. It’s not abnormal for a diver to see more than 20 turtles on a single dive! There are twelve dive sites around the island, each with its own distinctive views of coral and aquatic life. During interval stops, divers get the chance to relax and recharge on the beautiful beaches.
Sipadan island is located in the state of Sabah, in the northern part of Borneo. It is not possible to stay on the island overnight. You can either stay in the town of Semporna, or on the nearby islands of Mabul and Kapalai. The closest airport to Sipadan is Tawau, about an hour drive from Semporna.
Prices vary depending on how many dives you do and with what shop. In 2018, I paid RM950 for a 3-tank, all-day dive tour from Semporna. If you plan to go diving at Sipadan Island be sure to book in advance. Dive permits are limited to 120 a day and space can fill up quickly.
Contributed by Lora from Explore with Lora
See Orangutans At The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Ever wanted to see an orangutan up close in the wild? Here’s your chance!
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a must visit tourist destination in Malaysia. This famous rehabilitation centre in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve covers 43 square kilometres and is set up to care for and rehabilitate orphaned and injured orangutans (as well as other animals) before returning them to live independently in the forest.
Visiting this one of the Malaysia things to see is an easy way to both see orangutans and help support this conservation effort. There are two feeding times a day on platforms where you can see the orangutans up close. These take place at 10am and 3pm. Since these are wild animals, there are no guarantees, although there are usually at least a few that show up. We saw many when we visited.
It’s estimated a couple of hundred orangutans currently live here although since this is a huge area, you definitely will not see all of them.
You can also visit an outdoor nursey where you can see younger orangutans. I recommend you turn up at least an hour before the feeding times so you can see a presentation and video about the centre and orangutans. This starts an hour before each feeding time.
Located in the state of Borneo in Sabah, this is a slightly more difficult to reach best tourist spot in Malaysia. However, it is located just a short distance from Sandakan Airport so you can fly in here and catch a taxi directly to the centre. There are also regular buses from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan.
It costs RM30 for foreigners and an additional RM10 to take a camera.
Contributed by Suzi from Survey Suzi
Visit The City Mosque In Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is a beautiful city to visit in Sabah, and one of the most iconic places to see is the City Mosque. Everyone is welcome at the mosque, regardless of their religious affiliation. After being given appropriate clothing and a short tour, you can wander around the mosque and take as many photos as you wish.
It is a much larger complex than it looks, and we enjoyed the washing rooms, main prayer rooms, and relaxing rooms. The guides were so open and welcoming. When we went we asked many questions while we ooh’d and ah’d over the intricate geometrical designs that cover the walls, floor, and ceiling.
From the city center, it is easy to take a bus or taxi to the mosque if you don’t have a rental car, and it’s free to enter. You may have to pay a small fee to rent clothing, but it’s nominal, only enough to take care of the cleaning fee. If you are an early bird, the absolute best time to go is at sunrise for some great shots, but even if you go later, the mosque is beautiful.
The minarets and dome are reflected in the man-made pond outside. There is a gift shop and some food stalls on the premises. Don’t miss out on this cultural gem, and while in Borneo visit the City Mosque.
Contributed by Corinne from Reflections Enroute
Take A River Tour In Kuching
Kuching is the capital of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. One of our very favourite things to do in Kuching is to take a river tour. Cruising along the river lets you get a glimpse of local life and lets you see an amazing array of wild animals.
The adventure starts in the afternoon where you board the boat as we did with 3 other families. We were lucky enough to see wild probiscus monkeys, crocodiles and fireflies! After a dinner snack on the boat of fruit and rice, we headed to the local Muslim stilt village that is isolated from the rest of the mainland relying on generator electricity.
We were met with the most beautiful smiles and all the kids on our boat loved playing with the local kids and watching their everyday life. We got to see how their houses were built up on the water and how they fished for food and chatted with the kids about attending the village school. It was a great cultural and engaging adventure for everyone.
We booked our boat trip through Brendan at Basaga Residences a small school turned guesthouse in Kuching. It included transport to and from our accommodation plus the boat trip and dinner.
Adults were RM150 and kids were half price at RM75.
Contributed by Bron from Smiths Holiday Road
Try The Local Coffee At A Traditional Kopitiam
Trying the local food and drink is an essential experience in any foreign country, and no less so when visiting Malaysia.
Malaysia is renowned for its Kopitiams, also known as coffeehouses. Noisy, hot and frenetic, you won’t find fancy décor and food here. People visit the Kopitiam for one thing – kopi.
So what makes kopi unique? Unlike most coffee roasters in the west who prefer arabica beans, kopi is made with robusta beans that have been roasted in butter and sugar. In the Kopitiam the beans are ground and filtered through a coffee sock to produce an intensely dark coffee drink.
Traditionally served with condensed and/or evaporated milk, Kopi is a sweet, rich coffee style. Order whatever snacks the locals are eating and enjoy.
The increasing popularity of contemporary coffee chains in Malaysia has meant a slow decline in the number of traditional coffeehouses across the country, especially in Kuala Lumpur. But if you are looking for a genuine Malaysian food experience, a visit to the local Kopitiam should be on your list of things to do in Malaysia.
Contributed by Rachel from Creators of Coffee
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Looking for more things to do in Borneo? Read our list here.
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Have you been to Malaysia? What are your suggestions for the top 10 things to do in Malaysia?
Sharon is an Australian who has fallen in love with Malaysia! She explores Malaysia multiple times a year, often with her kids, and has previously lived in Penang.