Heading to Malaysia or based in Singapore or Malaysia and looking for the ultimate Malaysia road trip?
You are not alone. Malaysia is a great country to explore by car with many fun destinations and experiences waiting for you. In fact, a road trip around Malaysia is our favourite way to explore this country as it’s just so easy and there are so many places worth visiting within a short drive of just about anywhere!
To help make planning your own road trip in Malaysia, I have listed the best 12 road trips Malaysia offers. I have separated them into sections depending on whether you want Malaysia road trip ideas for a great weekend from Kuala Lumpur, a road trip from Singapore to Malaysia, an East Coast Malaysia road trip, a Borneo road trip or the absolute best road trip in Malaysia.
Just keep reading and pick your best choice from the Malaysia road trip planner below.
I hope you enjoy this Malaysia road trip blog! As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or in our Malaysia travel planning Facebook group.
Table of Contents
Driving In Malaysia
If you are new to road trips in this part of the world and are wondering what it’s like to be on the road Malaysia, read my full guide to driving in Malaysia here.
I spent a year living and driving in Malaysia and found it very straightforward and not scary at all. On our frequent trips back from Australia, we usually hire a car as it’s just such a great way to travel in this country. So don’t be worried!! You will be fine.
Road Trip Malaysia Quick Adventures: From Kuala Lumpur
The following road trip ideas in Malaysia are written for either a weekend trip from Kuala Lumpur or slightly longer. You could also follow the first two suggestions if you are looking for a one day road trip in Malaysia.
If you are looking for something longer, keep reading for the big Malaysia road trip section below.
Port Dickson Fun
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Port Dickson – Kuala Lumpur
Driving Time: 1.5 hours each way
Perfect For: Beach lovers looking for a weekend escape
If you need a beach break then the best place for road trip in Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur is Port Dickson.
This coastal area is just an hour and a half from the centre of KL and makes for the perfect escape of city life.
This is the place to lounge on the beach, enjoy a great resort for a great price or maybe even swim in your private pool (see here for the top private pool villas in Port Dickson).
There’s also some great things to do in Port Dickson if you want to fill your days. You can go to the Army Museum, check out ostriches at the Ostrich Farm or play paintball! Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to hike to Cape Rachado and relax at Blue Lagoon.
Read more about Port Dickson in our full travel guide here.
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Melaka – Kuala Lumpur
Driving Time: 1.75 hours each way
Perfect For: Culture lovers looking for a weekend escape or day trip.
Malaysia road trip destinations don’t come much better than the UNESCO-listed city of Melaka. Less than two hours from Kuala Lumpur, the city is full of historic buildings from the British, Dutch, and Portuguese. Mixed communities of Malays, Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians, Eurasians and more, give Melaka an astonishing mix of culture, religious buildings, customs, and festivals.
Discover the eclectic mix of temples and churches, and soak up the present-day atmosphere at the main squares of 1Malaysia and Alor Gajash. Dive into more than 30 museums where you can view restored 19th-century houses, learn about the city’s colourful history and take an in-depth look at Malaysia’s maritime adventures.
Families will adore the plethora of interactive wildlife options in the city, such as the Melaka Crocodile Farm, Bird Park, or Zoo. And, your children will beg for a visit to A’Famosa Resort with its fun Water Theme Park, Safari Wonderland and Old West attractions.
Get discounted tickets for Melaka Crocodile Farm here, Melaka Bird Park here and Melaka Zoo here. You can also get discounted tickets for A’Famosa Resort’s Water Theme Park here, Safari Wonderland here and Old West here. .
Dine on a fantastic variety of street food at over 50 night markets, and enjoy haggling for bargains and souvenirs at the market stalls.
For a romantic stay, select The Majestic Malacca, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Relax in sumptuous rooms and suites with four poster beds, and spoil yourself with treatments at their Spa Village.
Families can choose to stay overnight at A’Famosa Resort Malacca – integrated with the theme park – or The Imperial Heritage Hotel in the city. Close to many attractions, the Imperial is a favourite for children with a swimming pool and karaoke room, whilst parents will appreciate their two-bedroom suites.
Read more about Melaka in our full travel guide here.
Cameron Highlands Escape
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Cameron Highlands – Kuala Lumpur
Driving Time: 3 hours each way
Perfect For: Nature lovers wanting a weekend or long weekend trip to cool down
One of the best places for road trips in Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands is another top favourite of ours. You’ll reach this scenic hill station in a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, where the cool climate and spectacular green views provide a welcome change from city life.
Set along a mountain plateau, high above the river valley, a trip here is a delight for all the family. Enjoy the lush green terraces of the Boh Tea Plantation, taste sweet strawberries at Raaju’s Hill Farm and smell the exotic roses at Mrs Robertson’s Gardens. With traditional English Cream Teas at mock-Tudor mansions you’re excused for wondering if you’ve woken up in England!
Trek rainforest trails in search of local wildlife and revel in the spectacular jungle vegetation, followed by a cool off at a freshwater waterfall. Along the route, look out for the Orang Asli tribe who reside in traditional villages dotted throughout the area.
Couples should splurge on a stay at the Cameron Highlands Resort – a majestic colonial hotel with stunning views across Pahang’s rolling hills. Families can consider the mid-range Copthorne Hotel Cameron Highlands also with scenic views, an indoor heated pool, and a great location close to many attractions.
Read more about Cameron Highlands in our full travel guide here.
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Ipoh – Kuala Kangsar – Taiping – Kuala Lumpur
Driving Time: 6.5 hours total
Perfect For: People wanting great food and culture in some of the best places in Perak and who have 4-7 nights to spare.
Perak, known as the Land of Grace, is the wonderful west coast state of the Malay Peninsula. Follow our itinerary for an extreme road trip, Malaysia style!
Depart Kuala Lumpur travelling three hours to Ipoh, the state’s capital, and check-in for a couple of nights. Once a small village, Ipoh is now one of Malaysia’s largest cities but has retained its gorgeous British colonial architecture. Best discovered on Old Town’s Heritage Walk, marvel at the pretty buildings, relax at ancient shophouses operating as cafes, and admire the city’s more recent addition of colorful street murals.
In modern times Ipoh was known for its tin-mining industry – the focus of the wonderful Han Chin Pet Soo Museum. However, the region is most noted for its centuries-old Buddhist cave temples (check out one with Neolithic images dating back 5000 years and others with stunningly large Buddhas), and dramatic limestone cliffs best discovered at Gunung Lang Recreational Park.
The Lost World of Tambun theme park will keep children busy, with its Tiger Valley, Water Park and Lost World, and families should stay at the onsite hotel to fully appreciate the park’s many rides and attractions.
Get discounted tickets for the Lost world of Tambun here.
Ipoh is perhaps most famous for its food culture, with hundreds of restaurants and hawker food markets mixing Malay, Chinese – Cantonese and Hakka – and Indian flavours. Hawker stalls, dim-sum restaurants, speciality noodle shops will all tempt you with wafting aromas, and dine on iconic dishes such as nga choi kai, hakka mee, chicken ho fun and wanton mee… washed down with a mug of Ipoh White Coffee.
For those looking for a little pampering we suggest taking a suite (with balcony and lake views!) at The Haven Resort Hotel, Ipoh. For families or those on a slightly less budget, M Roof Hotel & Residences is ideal. Set a little outside of the main hustle and bustle of the city centre, the hotel has a variety of apartments and basic hotel rooms, and features a nice rooftop swimming pool.
Next stop is Taiping but en route take a side trip to Kuala Kangsar, the royal town of Perak. This off-tourist-route town is home to some of the most impressive buildings we’ve seen in Malaysia, including the Ubudiah Mosque, the Royal Museum of Perak, the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery and Istana Iskandariah, The Royal Palace. And check out the markets for souvenirs in the form of locally made pottery items.
Reaching Taiping, check-in at your accommodation for another couple of nights, giving yourself time to appreciate this lesser known town. Similar to Ipoh, Taiping was a centre of the mining industry for decades, with British and Chinese influences still strong today.
The town’s Heritage Trail, 11.5km, covers over 40 attractions including the British colonial clock tower and the National Heritage All Saints Church. And pencil in at least a half day for the Perak Museum, with national history galleries and zoological specimens.For children, ensure to include a trip to the Taiping Zoo near to the city’s stunning Lake Gardens. Home to over 1200 animals, the zoo supports endangered species and is active in conservation and research.
In the evening, return to the zoo for a Night Safari Taiping Experience or travel slightly out of town for a lovely fireflies river cruise at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve.
If you have time, extend your stay and visit the Orang Utan Island at Bukit Merah. Easily enjoyed as a daytrip from Taiping, Orang Utan Island is a quiet sanctuary that’s home to endangered Orangutans. Spend a morning learning about efforts being made to protect the natural habitat of these wonderful primates.
Get discounted tickets for the Orang Utan Island Day Tour here.
The Novotel Taiping Perak, in the centre of town and minutes from Lake Gardens, is the ideal option for all travellers. Equipped with a Kid’s Club and swimming pool, the hotel has a bar and international restaurant.
Read more about Ipoh in our full travel guide here. With extra time, you could also combine this road trip with the one above and add a stop in Cameron Highlands
Malaysia Road Trip From Singapore: Top Options
This section is especially for people who are looking for a road trip to Malaysia from Singapore. They are designed for a weekend or long weekend but you could also extend them to add more time to relax if you have more time for your road trip Malaysia from Singapore or you could combine them with the suggestions above or below.
Port Dickson and Melaka are also popular Singapore to Malaysia road trip destinations and you could follow those itineraries above as well.
Overview: Singapore – Johor Bahru – Singapore
Driving Time: 50 minutes each way
Perfect For: City lovers or families wanting to explore Johor Bahru and Legoland Malaysia
Less than an hour’s travel from Singapore, this popular destination makes for an easy Singapore Malaysia road trip. Home to the amazing Legoland, Johor Bahru offers many attractions suitable for both families and couples. Visit for a daytrip, for a weekend or make this part of a much longer Malaysia trip.
Start your day discovering Johor Bahru’s Old Town, with its mosques, temples, churches, and historical buildings. Browse the heritage shops and art galleries, admire colorful murals, and relax at alfresco cafes.
The Chinese Heritage Museum – Tiong Hua Museum – is a great place to spend an hour – or drop by the equally interesting Royal Abu Bakar Museum, housed in what was once the Grand Palace and home to the Royal Family.
A fun place to visit is the famous Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory. With a history spanning over 80 years, sample delicious buns, biscuits, and their signature banana cake. Other family favorites include the small Johor Bahru zoo and the Angry Birds indoor playground with 5 fun zones.
But, of course, children and all those young-of-heart will be hoping to include a visit to the famous Legoland Malaysia. Super fun for all ages, there are multiple Lego-themed zones and worlds to explore. Lego bumper cars, Lego planes, interactive Lego… and even a Lego roller coaster!
Get discounted tickets for Legoland Malaysia here.
Looking for somewhere quieter? Head to Danga Bay, with its 25kms of scenic waterfront that includes a pleasant park, the Danga World Mini Theme Park, Danga City Mall and some fine dining restaurants.
In the evening check-out Pasar Karat, a large flea market with antiques and souvenirs, and sweet-smelling food stalls that offer vast Asian menus.
If staying overnight, treat the children to a wonderful Lego-themed stay at the Legoland Resort. Rooms come in various sizes and themes, and the hotel offers special activities for inhouse guests. Alternatively, for a city stay we suggest the DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru. Ideally located for most attractions, the hotel has an outdoor swimming pool on the 13th floor, four restaurants and a spa, all helping to make this an excellent choice for couples or families.
Read more about Johor Bahru in our full travel guide here.
Overview: Singapore – Mersing (ferry to) Tioman (ferry to) Mersing – Singapore
Driving Time: 2.5 hours driving each way plus ferry ride
Perfect For: Beach and nature lovers who want to escape it all
Tioman is a paradise island, fabulous for anyone looking to chill out for a few nights or families happy to immerse in nature, without the trappings of large resorts and cities. From Singapore, travel just 2 hours to Mersing and catch the ferry – 1.5-2 hours, weather dependent – to Tioman.
Stunning beaches and coves are surrounded by jungle on one side and the beautiful turquoise sea – teeming with live corals and colourful fish – on the other. Explore by bicycle, ATV or on foot, trekking jungle trails, passing waterfalls and quaint traditional villages.
Renowned for its excellent diving and snorkelling, the island lures divers from all corners of the globe. Families visit for a back-to-nature experience, spending relaxing days island-hopping and enjoying reef-protected swimming and water sports in the South China Sea.
Turtle encounters, an 18-hole golf course and duty-free shopping are just a few other available attractions… if you can pull yourself away from the beach!
Treat yourself to a stay at the highly rated Berjaya Tioman Resort, beach-facing with an outdoor pool and home to the golf course. The resort offers spacious chalets with air conditioning and private balconies, and often promote special packages for families and honeymooners.
Read more about Tioman in our full travel guide here.
Overview: Singapore – Desaru Coast – Singapore
Driving Time: 1.75 hours driving each way plus a ferry ride
Perfect For: Beach lovers who want a fun and easy escape
22km of Desaru Coast awaits you, with stunning beaches, terrific water sports, and a range of top resorts and accommodation options. Easily reachable from Singapore – by a short ferry ride and 30 minute drive or alternatively by a 2-hour drive via the Causeway – the Desaru Coast is ideal for weekend or longer stays.
Surprisingly, this popular region continues to have an unspoilt, untouched feel, despite the development of a 21-acres integrated resort. Boasting five spectacular wet and dry zones in the Adventure Waterpark, a world-class golf course and other attractions, there’s something for everyone!
Don’t forget to explore the local region too, checking out wildlife interaction at the local Ostrich or Crocodile Farms, cultural experiences at the Tanjung Balau Fishing Village, and fresh-water fun at the Kota Tinggi Waterfalls.
Just looking to relax? Head to any one of the empty stretches of beach that the area is famous for, all with fine golden sand and calm waters ideal for the plethora of water sports on offer.
Read more about Desaru in our full travel guide here.
Singapore To Kuala Lumpur
Overview: Singapore – Legoland Malaysia – Melaka – Port Dickson – Kuala Lumpur
Driving Time: 6.5 hours in total
Perfect For: People who like variety in their road trips! Have fun at Legoland, experience the culture in Melaka, relax the beach in Port Dickson and then dive into Malaysia’s biggest metropolis at Kuala Lumpur
While you could do this as a direct trip between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, why not have more fun and visit some destinations along the way?
If you are looking for a fun and varied Malaysia adventure, this Singapore to Malaysia road trip itinerary, with exciting stop-overs along the route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, is perfect.
Take a walk through Old Town and enjoy a snack at any one of the local cafes. And then it’s time for fun and adventure-overload, as you enjoy a day at Legoland Malaysia. Offering more than 70 rides, shows and Lego-themed attractions, you’re sure to have a blast!
Next morning, it’s a leisurely coastal drive (3h45m) along Route 5 or the faster Asian Highway AH2 (2h30m) to Melaka. Stay for two nights at The Imperial Heritage Hotel or check here for other recommendations, and prepare to discover this ancient UNESCO-listed city.
Travel by trishaw, taxi or on foot, spending your days exploring museums, historic buildings, temples and churches that all reflect the city’s turbulent history of colonial rule under the Portuguese, British and Dutch. Feel the Chinese culture, from early settlers of the Ming Dynasty, that continues on today in the Baba & Nyonya communities.
Take a ride on the Taming Sari Revolving Tower for great city views – noting colonial buildings covered in traditional cherry-red facades – and enjoy a river cruise along the Malacca River.
Get discounted tickets to Taming Sari Revolving Tower here.
Melaka Zoo and the local Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary are great escapes from the bustling streets. Or immerse yourself fully in the craziness of the city at the Jonker Walk Night Market and at the bars and karaoke clubs of Melaka Raya.
And, if all that’s not enough to keep you busy, one of the most famous theme parks in Malaysia – A’Famosa Resort – is on the outskirts of town!
Melaka’s mix of nationality and heritage has spawned a completely unique cuisine in the form of delicious Nyonya dishes, best experienced at street hawker stalls. Boasting rich food traditions and unique mouth watering flavours, ingredients include tamarind, lemongrass, laksa leaves and coconut milk. Dine on tasty desserts of sweet potato and yams, combined with glutinous rice.
After two days of fun, it’s time to wave goodbye to Melaka. Take the coastal road (or re-join the AH2 motorway) for the 1h40m drive to the beach resort town of Port Dickson. With many affordable hotels, often with ocean-views, select from our listing of best hotels in Port Dickson. Get your suntan-lotion and a book ready, as it’s time to relax!
For your first day, discover the famed 18km shoreline with over a dozen beaches and excellent water sports. For a real get-away-from-it-all-day, head out to Cape Rachado with 75 hectares of forest wildlife reserve, a historic lighthouse and small secluded beach. Alternatively, relax at the busier beaches of Pantai Cahaya Negeri or Pantai Saujana offering great facilities and food stalls.
The following day, wake refreshed and ready to explore the region’s history at Lukut with its fort ruins, rainforests at Sungai Menyala, or up the adrenaline with ATV, archery and go-karts at Extreme Park Port Dickson. Phew!
After two days at Port Dickson it’s time to depart to the bright lights of the capital city Kuala Lumpur. We recommend a minimum three night stay to enjoy the great range of attractions and things to do in Kuala Lumpur.
Visit Chinatown, head to the top of the world’s tallest twin towers at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and discover the rainforest at KL Forest Eco Park. Massive shopping centres, temples, wildlife experiences, busy street markets, iconic food, art and cultural museums… the list of things to do is truly endless! Check out our Kuala Lumpur 3 Day Itinerary to help plan out your stay.
A multicultural and dynamic favourite city of ours, accommodation options in Kuala Lumpur run from hostels to world-class luxury hotels. To help you book your ideal stay we’ve reviewed the best areas and our top selections here: Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur.
Read more about Kuala Lumpur in our full travel guide here.
The Big Malaysia Road Trip
For the ultimate Malaysian road trip, you can combine both of the following by driving between Penang and Kota Bharu to make a big circuit. This also means you can start and finish your Malaysia East Coast road trip from any of the points on this itinerary.
You could use either of these itineraries for a road trip to Thailand from Malaysia as both get you closer to the Thai border.
Kuala Lumpur To Penang
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Cameron Highlands – Ipoh – Penang
Driving Time: 7 hours in total
Perfect For: People who love exploring different areas and love great food! You need at least 4 nights for this road trip.
Time to hit the road for a West-Malaysia tour! Commencing from Kuala Lumpur, set off on the 3-hour drive along Route 59 to the cooler climate of the Cameron Highlands hill station. Check-in to your hotel for a couple of nights and relax, taking in scenic views of rolling hills and rainforests, tinged with colonial nostalgia.
We recommend a 2-night stay to enjoy all the fun activities, and to explore the nature of this gorgeous mountain plateau region. Temples, tea plantations, rose gardens, cream teas at mock-Tudor mansions, butterfly and bee farms, and possibly your first-and-only taste of Lavender Ice-Cream, will keep you and the family well entertained!
With fresh mountain air and stunning views, this beautiful region is a delight for trekking. Follow trails in the lush rainforest to waterfalls and through Orang Asli native villages. Climb Mount Batu Brinchang, or discover the Mossy Forest and Cactus Valley.
Hotels are speckled throughout the small towns that combine to make up the Cameron Highlands. One of our favorites is the mid-range Heritage Hotel Cameron Highlands, with private balconies offering breathtaking views. Discover more about the towns and accommodation options here.
Time to say goodbye to the Highlands and head down the twisting mountain road to Ipoh, 2 hours by Route 59 and 185. Capital of the Perak state, Ipoh is Malaysia’s third largest city and is famed for its cave temples, towering limestone cliffs and well preserved British colonial architecture.
A pleasure to explore by foot, Ipoh centre is split in two by the Kinta River with Ipoh Old Town on the west side and Ipoh New Town on the east. Walk the historic streets of the Old Town, lined with ancient Chinese shophouses, admiring wall murals that street artists have added to the crumbling walls.
Take a hit of Ipoh White Coffee at any one of the cool hipster coffee shops in this laid-back area, set against the backdrop of heritage architecture. Head to Kong Heng Square, full of vine covered ruins with renovated buildings now housing stylish boutique shops and colorful market stalls.
Spend a day discovering the famous Buddhist cave temples (some with ancient images dating back thousands of years) and the oldest in the region, Sam Poh Tong Chinese Temple. Travel slightly out of town for spectacular lakes and gorgeous limestone scenery at the Gunung Lang Recreational Park, or to Gopeng for the Gaharu Tea Valley.
A mixture of Malay, Chinese Hakka and Cantonese, and Indian flavours have helped make Ipoh famous for its food culture. Hawker food markets are numerous and cheap, offering an endless array of local specialties, or head to Jalan Leong Sin Nam for some tasty dim sum!
Luxury resorts, family hotels with pools and Kids Clubs, and cheap budget hotels are all available. Splash out on a stay at the majestic Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat with garden, lake or water villas. Slightly easier on the pocket is the Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites with standard and suite rooms, including 2 and 3-bedroom apartments great for families. Compare Ipoh hotel options here.
Stay in George Town or at any one of the sprawling beach resorts. Diverse in location, style and budget, accommodation options are numerous. Indulge with a stay at the 5-star Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa Penang, located by the beach at Batu Ferringhi. With multiple pools, restaurants, Kids Club, private golf course and gym, there are endless activities that make it hard to find time to explore the rest of the island!
Discover more of our favourite Penang accommodation options here.
Depart from Penang International Airport, or continue your adventure by road travelling approx. 2-hours to the Thai border at Wang Prachan, making this part of a wonderful road trip from Malaysia to Thailand.
Read more about Penang in our full travel guide here.
East Coast Malaysia Road Trip
Overview: Kuala Lumpur – Cherating – Kuala Terengganu (ferry to) Redang Island (ferry to) Kuala Terengganu – Kuala Besut (ferry to) Perhentian Islands (ferry to) Kuala Besut – Kota Bharu
Driving Time: 8 hours in total plus ferry times
Perfect For: People who love gorgeous beaches, tropical islands and interesting cities and have at least 9 nights
Let’s explore East Coast Malaysia! Departing from Kuala Lumpur, it’s a 3-hour drive across the country on E8 highway to the coastal resort town of Cherating.
A popular beach resort area in Pahang, Cherating is a quiet fishing village opening onto a wide beach. Indulge in snorkeling, surfing and kitesurfing.
Nearby, the Cherating River is good for kayak adventures or jump on a short cruise to explore the local mangroves. Keep an eye out for snakes and monkeys along the way and head back in the evening for thousands of fireflies. Drop by the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary in the north of the village, walkable from most accommodation, to see baby and rescued leatherback turtles.
Dotted with guesthouses and small hotels/chalets, Cherating is also home to Asia’s first Club Med – a 5-star all-inclusive beach resort. Somewhere a little quieter to stay, the Royale Chulan Cherating Villa is excellent with 34 beachfront villas and suites.
After a night or two at Cherating, travel north along Highway E8 (2h15m) to Kuala Terengganu. The royal capital of the Terengganu region, this town was once a simple fishing village until developers discovered oil and rapid development took off!
It is home to one of the best Chinatowns in Malaysia with Kampong-style stilt houses, and the beautiful “Floating Mosque”. Discover the history of the region at the largest museum in Malaysia, the Muzim Kompleks Negeri Terengganu. And head to Bukit Puteri for a 200-metre hill climb for great views across the city, the Sungai Terengganu river mouth and the South China Sea.
Feeling hungry? Head back to Chinatown and try some delicious Peranakan dishes at Madame Bee’s Kitchen or the Town City Food Court. For your overnight stay, we recommend the Grand Puteri Hotel. Only five minutes’ walk from Chinatown and with reasonably priced all-air conditioned rooms, it’s ideal for all travelers.
After a good night’s sleep, wake refreshed and ready for your boat trip to exotic Redang Island! Ferries depart – usually in the morning – from the Shahbandar Jetty, within Kuala Terengganu. Remember to check the timings directly at the jetty or have your hotel assist as schedules can be volatile. See here for full details on travelling to Redang Island.
Reaching Pulau Redang – best visited between late March-October – you’ll gasp in awe at the stunning white powder beaches and crystal-clear waters, set to the backdrop of lush tropical rainforest. This is paradise, Malaysian-style!
Check-in for 3 nights at our recommended hotel – Laguna Redang – located on one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. Spend your time relaxing beachside or poolside, snorkeling or diving with the onsite PADI team, sampling treatments at the D’Manja Forest Spa or trekking in the cool rainforest.
After 3 nights at Laguna Redang it’s hard to pull yourself away but there’s still much to discover. Catch the return ferry to Kuala Terengganu and travel (1h40m) further north along the coast to Kuala Besut for your small ferry (15-pax speedboats) to the Perhentian Islands.
Expect the boat crossing to be a little wet and to stop at multiple locations dependent on where your fellow travelers are staying… which gives you a great chance to check-out hotels and the islands along the way! Learn more here.
Check-in for a 3 night stay at either Kecil – the party-backpacker style island and more livelier of the two, especially at Long Beach – or Besar, the more chilled and family-orientated.
Both islands have simple hotels usually opening directly onto the beach, serving Asian and some international cuisine. Water sports are popular, as is exploring the interior jungle of the islands.
No super-luxury resorts on offer, but arguably in the best position and with a swimming pool – a rarity for Perhentian hotels – is The Perhentian Island Resort. Located on Besar, it has its own stretch of beach with restricted boat access.
Enjoy slow, peaceful days where time almost seems to stand still until… it’s time to leave! Jump back on the small ferry/speed boat to Kuala Besut and transfer 1 hour north along the coast to Kota Bharu.
The largest city in Malaysia’s north-east, we suggest a one-night stay at Hotel Perdana, Kota Bharu – 4-star accommodation near museums and markets. The city offers a handful of tourist attractions, all located within walking distance of each other. Discover our Things To Do In Kota Bharu guide, whilst you wait for your onwards connection.
A popular transit point with its well-established airport – the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport – and railway connection to the south, Kota Bharu is also near to the Thai border for those looking to extend their tour into Thailand.
Borneo Malaysia Road Trip Itinerary
Looking for a road trip in Malaysian Borneo? Here’s two great choices!
Overview: Kota Kinabalu – Poring Hot Springs – Sandakan – Sungai Kinabatangan – Tawau – Kota Kinabalu
Driving Time: 20 hours in total
Perfect For: Nature lovers who want to see the best Sabah offers on land with two weeks available
On the northeast coast of Borneo is the Malaysian state of Sabah. Most visitors fly into Kota Kinabalu International Airport and spend a few nights in the city before heading out for epic Borneo nature and wildlife adventures. We suggest to check-in for four nights as Kota Kinabalu, its surrounding rural jungle, and beautiful coastline offer an awesome array of activities and tours!
Discover the town’s bustling markets selling locally made handicrafts, admire the beautiful City Mosque built on stilts above a lagoon, visit Chinatown, take in spectacular views at Signal Hill Observatory Platform, and don’t miss a ride on the famous Borneo Railway through leafy jungles along the beautiful Sabah coastline.
Outside of the city, you can undertake a fairly easy (relative!) 1N2D climb of 13,000ft Mount Kinabalu, challenge yourself with white-water-rafting at Kiulu River, visit the Klias River for a wetland river cruise searching for proboscis monkeys, or the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park home to tigers, monkeys, gibbons and orang utans!
A full day is needed for island hopping at the spectacular Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the “jewel in the crown” of Sabah. Covering five islands just off the coast from Kota Kinabalu, enjoy your day snorkeling and lazing over a bbq beach lunch.
A final favorite of ours is the Monsopiad Cultural Village, 30 minutes outside of the city, which offers a fabulous fun glimpse of life in a traditional Kadazan village.
The city’s accommodation caters for all budgets with many backpacker style options, alongside more luxurious global-brand hotels. The Magellan Sutera Resort is our top selection, located at the Sutera Harbour. This sprawling resort is set amongst tropical gardens and has beautiful South China Sea views. If time allows, split your stay with a couple of nights at the 5-star Gaya Island Resort, set on an island within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
Dragging yourself away from action-packed Kota Kinabalu, drive across Borneo to the northeast coastal town of Sandakan. This long 330km travel is on well sign-posted but often pot-holed roads. Passing alongside Mount Kinabalu, you’ll enjoy stunning views across the Kinabalu National Park.
Break up the journey with a few stops, including at the awesome Poring Hot Springs to float in their high sulfur pools, and the Sabah Tea Resort Restaurant is a good spot for lunch.
Reaching Sandakan check-in to your hotel. Not too many options here, with possibly the best being the Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan, with rooftop infinity pool and sea-views.
For most travelers, Sandakan is synonymous with The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, being the main draw for many tourists to Borneo. Combined with a visit to the adjacent Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, you’ll spend an interesting day learning about these endangered animals and their disappearing habitat.
Around Sandakan you’ll find many tour companies offering a myriad of wildlife day tours and encounters, such as visiting the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary or Turtle Islands National Park, special Rainforest Discovery Tours and exploration of the Gomantong Caves, home to millions of swiftlets.
Best arranged with the hotel as part of a package tour, depart Sandakan for possibly the highlight of your trip, with two nights at the Bilit Rainforest Lodge on the Kinabatangan River. Stay at simple rainforest accommodation and spend your time enjoying day cruises and night treks in search of primates – such as the endemic proboscis monkey – birds, and other wildlife.
After two amazing nights depart on a very bumpy drive towards Tawau, where we recommend a 3 night stay. Many tourists will use this time to head into the Danum Valley Conservation Area – approx. 2.5 hours from Tawau town and, unless you have your own 4WD, only accessible as part of a package with the Danum Valley Field Centre.
Stunning secondary forest leads slowly into the warm humidity of the primitive jungle. Stay overnight at the basic Danum Valley Field Centre chalets and experience epic early morning birding, night jungle drives and ancient rainforest day and night guided treks. Extremely remote, the Danum rainforest is one of Borneo’s most legendary adventures.
If long travel and muddy treks is not your thing, choose to stay in Tawau – Sabah’s third largest city – and check-in for 3 nights at the Borneo Royale Hotel.
Spend a day visiting the Tawau Hills Park (Taman Bukit Tawau) with several easy, low-altitude jungle treks, a canopy walk and bird-breeding centre. 22km north of Tawau, you’ll enjoy towering flora, a botanical garden, hot springs and swimmable waterfall, alongside the easy- trekking peaks and trails.
Another full day can be enjoyed at the nearer Bukit Gemok Tawau, only 10km from the town. With untouched forest full of giant trees and some unique elusive creatures, hike for approximately an hour to the Titian Silara canopy walkway.
Back in the town, visit local markets specializing in dried salted fish, anchovies and prawns, or handicraft markets full of handwoven baskets and wooden souvenirs. And drop by the Teck Guan Cocoa Museum factory to watch first-hand cocoa processing into beverages and chocolate.
Return to Kota Kinabalu on direct domestic flight from Tawau Airport.
Read more about Kota Kinabalu in our full travel guide here.
Driving Time: Minimal
Perfect For: Nature lovers who want an easy way to see Borneo without switching hotels a lot and have a minimum of 4 nights
Capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Borneo, the fantastic city of Kuching is slowly becoming a top tourist draw. Charming, compact, with riverside walks, historic buildings and colorful street art, there are many options for easy day trips to the surrounding wilds of Sarawak.
Check-in to your hotel – with our top choice, the Hilton Kuching, centrally located with excellent views of Sarawak River- for 4 nights, giving ample time to discover the city and enjoy our suggested day trips.
One of the most charming cities in southeast Asia, the city’s architectural heritage of White Rajah Brooke-era buildings and 19th-century Chinese shophouses is well preserved. Though perhaps the focal point is the winding Sarawak River, flowing through the historic heart of the city.
Stroll along the river walkways and you’ll find historic buildings such as the Square Tower, Chinese History Museum and Sarawak Steamship Building.
Kuching also has some excellent museums and galleries, reflecting on the region’s fascinating history. The Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita is a must see, telling the remarkable story of the White Rajahs of Sarawak. And visit the Sarawak Museum, said to hold one of the best collections in southeast Asia.
Cross Kuching’s famous Darul Hana Bridge for good views, and at night enjoy the Darul Hana musical fountain and light show. Drop into the Main Bazaar and Carpenter Street at Kuching’s old Chinatown, for temples, Chinese medicine and food stalls.
Now it’s time to head out of town, travelling self-guided or as part of a guided tour for some terrific wildlife experiences!
For the best national park experience in Sarawak – and one of the best places in the area to spot those funny, long-nosed proboscis monkeys – spend a day exploring Bako National Park. A hot destination for hiking, with a mix of easy and longer trails, and epic jungle rainforest, mangrove swamps and limestone cliffs.
To reach the Park, get an early start and travel approx. 1 hour outside of Kuching to the small pier next to the Bako Market. A 20 minutes (often wet!) boat crossing takes you to the Park, where you’ll complete a quick registration at the National Park Headquarters and then you’re all set to explore!
Trails from 0.5km to 5.8km, with varying difficulties, spread out through the park with usually a wide range of wildlife easily spotted not too far from the Headquarters. Keep binoculars at the ready for cheeky monkeys, Bornean bearded pigs, large monitor lizards and many colourful birds.
If you prefer to explore the park by kayak, join an organized tour from Kuching for a peaceful 11km river kayak.
Next up, how about meeting the orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve? Probably the most popular day trip from Kuching, whilst there is no guarantee of seeing these semi-wild intelligent primates, there is a fairly good chance outside of the fruiting season (Dec and Jan). Previously rehabilitated at the centre and returned to the wild, the animals regularly return for twice daily feedings.
Check latest schedules but expect a 9-10am and 3-3.30pm feeding schedule, with the best chance of viewing them at the earlier session, and also be aware of the 1.5km walk from the main building to the feeding area.
Another great day out is a full day at the Santubong Peninsula, only 35km outside of Kuching. A popular weekend destination for locals, enjoy the beach and swimming in the South China Sea.
Take lunch at the gorgeous Damai Beach Resort and walk over to the Sarawak Cultural Village, an open-air “living” museum featuring a collection of longhouse replicas and traditional instruments. Aim to catch their twice-daily splendid cultural show.
In the late afternoon make your way to the nearby Kuching Wetlands National Park, with over 6000 hectares of mangrove forest. A mosaic of small rivers, creeks and streams meander through the Park, and are best explored on a Santubong Wildlife Cruise. Cameras at the ready in search of Irrawaddy dolphins, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, and as the light fades fireflies come out to play…