China Town, Kuala Lumpur

Things to do in Malaysia | Islands, Cities, Food, History

Published: 30-01-2020

Are you going to Malaysia anytime soon? Damn, we envy you! But we’re no Scrooge, so we don’t mind sharing our tips on what to do and where to go in Malaysia. Even though it isn’t undiscovered by tourism, Malaysia certainly is way less touristy than its northerly neighbor Thailand. Even though you won’t have the place for yourself, you will not regret going to Malaysia! The country is very multiculti, so there’s lots to see and taste. That is exactly why we love it so much! Read on for our twelve tips on things to do in Malaysia.

1. Enjoy the multicultural metropolis Kuala Lumpur

Many tourists only use Kuala Lumpur as a hub to move on to their destination in Southeast Asia, so they don’t spend much time in the city. That’s their loss really, so don’t make the same mistake;) We always stay for a couple of days to explore the unexplored (by us). Each district has its own vibe, so even though you’re in the same city, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The best districts in Malaysia are:

  • Bukit Bintang (Shopping district)
  • KLCC (Business district)
  • Kampung Baru (Genuine Malaysian district)
  • Chinatown
  • Little India

From this list alone it would be a waste to stay only a day and miss out on all the amazing things to see! A lot of people say Kuala Lumpur isn’t really worth it. As you might have guessed by now, we disagree.

Read our article on what to do in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers seen from Kampung Baru. Things to do in Malaysia
Little India, Malaysia
Drone pic of Little India
China Town, Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur. Things to do in Malaysia

2. Stroll through the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

If you love nature, this is the place to be on the Malaysian peninsula. The Cameron Highlands are home to most of the country’s tea plantations. If you like to hike, be sure to stay a few days as the nature is gorgeous over here. Motorbikes are for rent in case you don’t feel like hiking. We definitely recommend wandering through the surrounding forest though. We’re not true hikers ourselves, but with such beauty literally meters from Tanah Rata, it would be a waste. Most people why visit the Cameron Highlands stay in Tanah Rata, a small village right in the center. The town has a hotels, guest houses and restaurants.

For accommodation we recommend Fathers Guesthouse. We stayed there in 2013 and it’s still going strong. The layout of the guesthouse and garden is nice and cozy.

Tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

3. Admire the corals of the Perhentian Islands

Most tourists go to Thailand to explore the underwater world and rightfully so, since Thailand has amazing islands. Did you know Malaysia also has its own little paradises on the water? Two gorgeous ones are located on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula. The islands are called Perhentian Kecil (small island) and Perhentian Besar (big island), but they are usually referred to as ‘The Perhentians”. The Perhentians are reachable from Kuala Besut from where you can take the ferry.

Be aware that monsoon season starts in November, so there will be no transportation to and from the islands if weather conditions don’t allow it. Ask around to see if the ferries are running.

Perhentian Kecil's harbour
Kirsten on the beach on Perhentian Kecil. Awesome things to do in Malaysia

4. Trek through Taman Negara’s jungle

The jungle of Taman Negara is one of the oldest in the world. Even older than Borneo’s jungle and the Amazon! It’s a great place to hike and to spot loads of wildlife. The natural park isn’t too far from Kuala Lumpur, so a lot of tours go from the capital to Taman Negara.

Check out this one day tour from KL to Taman Negara

5. Wind down on Pulau Pangkor

Need some time to relax from the busy metropolis of Kuala Lumpur? Pulau Pangkor is the closest island to the capital and it’s a nice one! Back in 2013, on our first journey through Southeast Asia we landed here and we loved it! We’ve been back to Pangkor in 2016 and it was still a very relaxing place. In the weekend local tourists from the big city are coming here to wind down for the weekend, so keep that in mind.

Explore the island by motorbike and go full circle in about two hours. Stops included;) That’s how tiny it is. The island houses a large population of Hornbills which you’ll spot without a doubt. We stayed near Teluk Nipah, a relaxing beach with a few restaurants and shops.

Both times we stayed at Nazri Nipah Camp, it has a few basic bungalows and is located about 300 ft from the beach, bordering the jungle. We really recommend it!

Erick on the beach on Pulau Pangkor
Man making freshly made satay on the streets of Pangkor
The breach on Pulau Pangkor

6. Dutch history in Melaka

Melaka, Mellaka, Mellaca, Malacca. This town goes by many names. We’ll keep to the shortest for convenience purposes:) It’s center is UNESCO world heritage because of the historic importance Melaka has. Because of the strategic importance, the town has been Portuguese, Dutch and English between 1500 all the way up to 1957. The center is a true museum with all kinds of historic landmarks and art. Spend at least a day to explore this amazing place.

Canal in Melaka, Malaysia. Things to do in Malaysia

7. Visit one of Malaysia’s most beautiful mosques in Kuantan

The east coast is mostly known among tourists for its gorgeous islands, and rightfully so! But many people skip places like Kuantan. I have to admit, there isn’t a lot going on over here, but it’s nice to see places that haven’t been touched by tourism at all. One place you can’t miss is the Masjid Negeri Pahang, a huge mosque near the city center. It truly is gorgeous.

Masjid Negeri Pahang, Kuantan

8. One of the best things to do in Malaysia: Spotting wildlife on Borneo

One place you have to visit is Borneo. We are destroying this amazing jungle one football field at a time, but it’s good to see that a lot of people do actually care about all this beauty. Flights go to and from various places on Malaysian Borneo. We flew to Kuching, which lies in the southern part, Sarawak. From Kuching we took the ferry to Bako National Park. What we saw here was truly amazing! Animals everywhere! Some of which I really had no clue they existed. Visiting Bako National Park was definitely one of the best things to do in Malaysia!

A trip to Malaysian Borneo can easily be combined with a visit to Brunei to check off a new country on your scratch map;)

Proboscis monkey between the branches on Borneo
Flying Lemur on Borneo
Snake on Borneo. The best things to do on Malaysia
Erick on one of the trails in Bako

9. Malaysia’s multiculti cuisine

While the Thai and Indonesian cuisine are most famous for their amazing dishes, Malaysia is often forgotten. Malaysia is a melting pot of various cultures, so a lot of unique dishes can be found in this country. Eat some Chinese food on a pop up terrace, get an Indian laksa from a stall or eat Malaysian nasi lemak in a food court. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Erick on a pop up terrace in Georgetown, Penang. Eating is definitely one of the best things to do in Malaysia

10. Street art hunting on Penang

You’ll have trouble finding the chill ‘island vibe’ on Penang, since it’s the most visited of all Malaysian islands. Penang is connected to the mainland by two bridges, which makes it virtually a peninsula. There are enough of reasons to visit the island though! The streets of Georgetown are home to an incredible collection of street art. Everywhere you go there are amazing paintings on the walls (and in front of the walls:) ).

Penang is also known for its delicious street food. We have tried it and we can sincerely say that the food on the island is very, very good.

11. Visit bustling Langkawi

North of Penang lies Langkawi, another bustling island. It’s situated on the Thai – Malaysian border, so a lot of tourists traveling Thailand make a stop on the island. Langkawi is all about shopping, as the islands is duty-free. Hopefully you have a little extra room in your backpack..

12. Go ashore on one of Malaysia’s lesser known islands like Pulau Kapas

Malaysia has over 800 islands, so it would be a waste to visit only Penang and Langkawi, right? Most tourists stick to these two islands, but there are many more to explore! What about Pulau Kapas? No roads, just huts and beach. When we were there, the guy owning the bungalows begged me not to mention his place on Travelaar since he liked the place being 50% booked, which it almost always is, according to him. No need for more money, as long as it’s enough. Speaking of a relaxed island vibe..

The beach of Pulau Kapas
Huts on Pulau Kapas. Definitely stay on Pulau Kapas! One of the best things to do in Malaysia
Sunset at Pulau Kapas. Watching sunsets definitely is one of the best things to do in Malaysia

Plenty of things to do in Malaysia! If you have any questions about our tips, please share them in the comments!

Erick - When your girlfriend (Kirsten) has the travel virus, it doesn't take long before you are infected as well. Traveling has become a big part of my life, just as Travelaar has. Web developer and translator for Travelaar.com and it's Dutch counterpart Travelaar.nl. Photo and video editing are also my tasks. My motto: Don't take life too seriously