It’s no exaggeration that Malaysia offers a wealth of activities for every kind of person – from shopping and eating your way through bustling cities, to total relaxation on deserted islands, to adventuring in wild jungles and rainforests. It’s hard to summarise all that into a short list, particularly when each Malaysian state offers quite a different taste than the other, not to mention the beautiful islands too. Here’s 10 of our favourite things to do when holidaying in Malaysia, including really popular attractions and some more unique experiences you may not have thought of.
10 Fun Things to do in Malaysia
1. Long-boat adventuring, Sarawak
If you’re a city-dweller, Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo offers the chance to immerse yourself in an entirely different world. Take a long-boat tour to discover ancient villages where the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur will feel like a distant memory.
Sarawak offers many opportunities to stay in the jungle and witness the life of ancient civilisations. Book with a reliable operator, fly to Kuching and take it from there.
2. Eagle watching, Langkawi
The 99-island archipelago that is Langkawi enjoys UNESCO Global Geopark status, and there’s no shortage of wildlife diversity on these islands.
Take an organised tour or, if budget permits, take a private yacht tour. This is the place to go eagle watching – there are 19 species of them in all – and it’s an amazing experience to watch these magnificent birds sweeping and soaring in their natural habitat.
3. Heritage bike ride in George Town, Penang
Cycling is a great way to get around George Town and absorb some of the fascinating history of Penang’s capital.
George Town was heavily influenced by British colonialism, but there are many Chinese, Malay and Indian influences at work here too, so the heritage sites are full of cultural diversity. Cycling will let you work up your appetite for all the tasty fare from the range of street hawkers that George Town is famous for.
4. Diving in Sipadan, Sabah
If you’re an experienced diver – or if you want to try scuba diving for the first time – why not head to what is considered one of the world’s best diving sites at Sipadan, known for its impressive ‘tornadoes’ of barracuda. Sipadan Island itself is protected, but there is a wealth of fabulous resorts on neighbouring islands, such as Mabul Island.
CC 2.0 / Paul Lim
5. Visit orangutans in Sabah
Not just a tourist attraction, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a genuine shelter for orphaned orangutans, and other wildlife. It’s both an educational must-do to help understand an important ecological issue that faces the country, and also a chance to get up close to these fascinating – but endangered – creatures, including the babies! CC 2.0 / amanderson2
CC 2.0 / Paul Lim
6. Shopping and eating in Kuala Lumpur
Don’t think of KL as just a stopover destination to somewhere else; there’s way too much to take in overnight. It’s a place where you can spend days discovering the shopping malls and eating at the diverse range of restaurants – Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine are just the start. And of course a trip up a skyscraper is compulsory – try the Petronas Twin Towers to view the city from the Skybridge, 170m above ground.
7. Embrace the wilderness at Taman Negara
Take a boat trip into the Taman Negara wilderness, a popular ecotourism destination that is known for its wild rainforest and endangered wildlife. Stay in luxury resorts or get really close to nature at one of the more relaxed village resorts.
Activities including canopy walks, white water rafting, fishing, jungle trekking and swimming. Due to its popularity it can get busy, so seek out the best operators and try to avoid the crowds.
8. Discover Malaysia’s past at Melaka
Learn about Malaysia’s rich history at the historic port city of Melaka. It’s been under the control of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British and was a wealthy trade centre, so there are multiple other influences too, including Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Indian. There are Hindu temples, mosques, churches, museums – such is the Melaka’s diversity.
9. Go on a pilgrimage to Batu Caves
Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and just outside Kuala Lumpur, features stunning limestone formations and the magnificent gold Lord Murugan statue. A steep climb up a multitude of steps, with crazy monkeys to entertain you along the way, is rewarded with beautiful caves at the summit.
Go any time of year, but the major Hindu festival of Thaipusam is famously celebrated at Batu Caves in January or February, when thousands of devotees and tourists gather there.
10. Breathe out in Cameron Highlands
If you’re ready to cool off and escape the tropical heat, the Cameron Highlands is the place for you. The green hills evoke a colonial era with hill stations, tea plantations, orchards, cafes for a spot of tea tasting and little farms to drop by and visit. It’s stunningly beautiful and a distant world away from the bustling metropolises, steamy rainforests and hot beaches.