Malaysia is a fantastic destination for families boasting beaches, culture, wildlife, great food and plenty of child-magnet attractions. It’s not the cheapest place in the world, but being in South East Asia, prices for family travel and vacations are moderate. There are 2 parts to Malaysia, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia ( Malaysian Borneo) and the two parts offer different types of trip. Malaysia is one of the most multi ethnic and multi cultural countries on the planet, making a visit to Malaysia a fascinating and educational experience for adults and children.
Finding family accommodation in Malaysia is fairly easy and prices are moderate, but Malaysia is a country that we would recommend you book hotels in advance. There isn’t the strong backpacker set-up of other parts of South East Asia. We prefer Agoda for Asian destinations as they are local specialists, you could also compare prices on the same hotel from multiple agents, using our orange search box at the top of the page. AirBnB ( join here, for free, and get our special discount) is also an option in Malaysia, working best for apartments, longer stays and unusual housing options.
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Highlights of Malaysia for Families
Malaysia’s best beaches lie on both sides of the country and can rival the better know Thai destinations further north. Being less known they are less busy and touristy, perfect for a quiet holiday. Avoid the east coast between the monsoon season of November to March. Perhentian Islands on the east coast are my pick for their beauty and scuba diving. A more budget destination, it is popular with people getting their dive certification. Redang is the most famous of the eastern islands and is know for its turtle sightings. Few locals live here so it is quiet and peaceful yet only a quick 45 minute flight from KL.
Langkawi is the most famous of Malaysias beach destinations and as such quite developed. That said it has plenty to do and the range of both food and accommodation is second to none. Pangkor island is only a short drive from KL so perfect for a weekend away. The island isn’t rated as highly as others further north but being close to KL is an advantage if you’re time short.
Malyasian Borneo is another area altogether, also with beautifiul beaches. Turtle Beach and Golden Beach are the two top picks, turtles are regular visitors as the name suggests. Sipidan is the top rated dive spot in Malaysia with a massive variety of sea-life to spot. Borneo is better suited to diving than either snorkeling or sunbathing so if it isn’t your thing then the other islands would be better.
One can’t visit Malacca without visiting the famous Jonker street. This whole area of old Malacca is a great place to stay and explore over a few days. The night markets here are a wonderful mix of food and handy crafts to buy and eat. There is also a birds nest soup house that houses the birds and processes the nests on site, it’s a great little attraction.
China town is another area near to Jonker street that is full of history. Worth having a wonder around and sampling some of the delicious food,
Red square at the end of Jonker street is steeped in history and is where the Dutch, Portuguese and British all came over the course of hundreds of years.
The Shore Oceanarium is great for the kids. You can handle rays here and it makes a change from busy Jonker street. Being indoors, it’s a great way to beat the heat during the day.
If you want a view of the surrounding area then a walk up to the top to see St Paul’s hill and church isn’t to be missed. Going inside the now derelict ruins and walking amongst the grave stones you get a sense of how Malacca was when the colonial powers first came. Getting buggies up here isn’t easy and best avoided but if kids are happy walking up they will love it.
Penang is an island and part of mainland Peninsular Malaysia to the north of Kuala Lumpur. The two portions are joined by a road bridge. Penang has long been a popular family holiday destination with historic Georgetown and the beach resorts of Batu Ferringhi being popular places to stay. The island also has a host of tourist attractions along with cultural and historic sites.
- Full Post on Family Things to Do on Penang Here.
If your flight offers you the chance of a Kuala Lumpur stop over, grab it, there is plenty here to see for families. Explore slick modern malls and marvey at the magnificent Petronas Towers, take the kids along to the nightly light and water show at their base and while away a few hours at the huge playground and kids water park, free for all and just steps away. Right here you will also find the Petrosains Museum and Kuala Lumpur Aquarium.
Kualur Lumpur also has ancient architecture and diverse cultures to explore. You can visit a huge modern mosque, a Hindu Temple and Chinese Shrine in one afternoon.
Don’t forget to sample local food offerrings, authentic Indian in Little Indian and good Chinese in China Town.
For more on Kuala Lumpur check out our posts on:
- The Shopping Mall with a Roller Coaster and Indoor Archery
- Batu Caves, they’re nearby and reachable by bus.
- Kuala Lumpur Family Accommodation
Food and Cooking
Be sure to sample Indian, Chinese and Nonya cuisines while in Kuala Lumpur. Food tours are popular and available in most towns and cities. Malaysian food generally isn’t too heavy on the chilies so you should be able to feed your family with relative ease. Look out for delicious street foods and stalls selling tropical fruits and smoothies. Malaysia also has some delicious sweet baked goods, such as the pineapple pies above. Make sure you try famous Malaysian specialities such as:
- Nasi Lemak
- Mee Goreng
- Roti Canai
Family Fun and Theme Parks
One of the worlds best theme parks for children is to be found in Malaysia. Legoland Malaysia is in the south of Peninsular Malaysia, near the Singapore border and Johor Baru. The associated water park is right next door.
See our posts on:
Don’t Forget Your Guide Book
Lonely Planet guide books are, as ever, indispensable in helping you plan your tour of the highlights of Malaysia with your family. They aid you in understanding the history and culture of the region, give you ideas on what and where to eat and help you out with useful phrases and maps. We highly recommend them.
Check prices and availability or order here Lonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei (Travel Guide)
Check prices and availability or order hereLonely Planet Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang (Travel Guide)
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I hope you found our introduction to the highlights of Malaysia for families useful, don’t forget to visit our Malaysia Travel Advice page to help you plan your trip. To read more detailed Malaysia content, go to our Malaysia archives