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Malaysia is a fantastic destination for families boasting beaches, culture, wildlife, great food, and plenty of child-friendly 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 trips. Malaysia is one of the most multi-ethnic and multicultural countries on the planet, making a visit to Malaysia with kids a fascinating and educational experience for adults and children.
Malaysia with Kids
On arrival in Malaysia, you will need to arrange transport from your international airport of arrival. There are two major terminals serving KL, and it can be a little confusing!
KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) is in Selangor, some 45Km south of the city. KLIA2 is used by AirAsia, KLIA1 serves most full service carriers. KLIA2 and KLIA1 terminals are almost 10Km apart.
Reserve a transfer from the airports to your Kuala Lumpur hotel here on Get Your Guide, alternatively book here on Viator, both are good reliable companies and you can book just about any tour or activity in Malaysia (or anywhere) with them at a guaranteed price.
12GoAsia also allows you to book airport transfers via shuttle, taxi, train or bus, you can easily compare times and prices here.
There are options for small and larger families. You can also take the bus or train into Kuala Lumpur, but with kids and bags this can be a time-consuming hassle -I’ve done it many times!
If you choose the book buses or trains in Malaysia, or any minibus or private car, 12GoAsia is a useful resource (here). To hire a car for your holiday in Malaysia, use Discover Cars (here) to find the best deal.
Driving in Malaysia is a good option, we’ve rented a car on Langkawi and mainland Malaysia and everything went very well. Malaysian roads are generally very good and for a family, it’s almost always easier to get around by car.
Beaches in Malaysia With Kids
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 known 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 Malaysia’s beach destinations and as such, quite developed. That said, it has plenty to do with a range of both food and accommodation for families and children.
A popular option for families visiting Langkawi, villas and apartment rentals can be affordable or luxury. A good place to find these is here, on Stayz/VRBO. (The link opens in a new tab so you won’t lose your place)
Langkawi has a good selection of kid-friendly resort hotels, check out the Berjaya Langkawi Resort on Booking.com or see it here on Agoda, for a family stay, it’s one of the most family-friendly hotels in Malaysia, with family chalets, a kids’ club and lovely pool and setting. For a more budget-friendly stay. If you’re looking for your own private villa on Langkawi, take a look at the family villas at Limasan Villa Langkawi. For a budget stay, Jasmine Villa (booking.com), or on Agoda here, could be what you’re looking for.
We have stayed in a hotel on Langkawi and it didn’t suit our needs, so, unfortunately, we can’t recommend that one, it’s not one of the three hotels above. We found it hard to find family rooms on Langkawi, with most hotels only having doubles and twins, the three above do have family facilities.
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.
Pangkor has some very affordable hotel options for a family vacation, check out Sea and Wave Coral Bay Apartment on Booking.com or for a family stay on the beach, with a lovely pool.
Alternatively the Pagkor Laut Resort (on Agoda) is one of the Small Luxury Hotels of The World and has over-water villas with multiple bedrooms to suit even a large family.
Malaysian Borneo is another area altogether, also with beautiful beaches. Turtle Beach and Golden Beach are the two top picks, turtles are regular visitors, as the name suggests.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive beacresort in Sabah (Kota Belud, near Kota Kinabalu) check out the Big Fin Beach Resort (Agoda) it has rooms for 4 and is very affordable, the location is amazing! It’s Scuba diver friendly.
Sipidan (an island off Borneo) is the top-rated dive spot in Malaysia with a massive variety of sea life to spot. This hotel is best for scuba divers wanting to visit this remote spot. Borneo is better suited to diving than either snorkelling or sunbathing so if it isn’t your thing then the other islands would be better.
Malacca With Kids
You can’t visit Malacca (Melaka) without visiting the famous Jonker Street. This whole area of old Malacca is a great place to stay and explore over a few days. This is another good spot to linger a few days with your family, to do that, book a home or apartment rental.
If you don’t have time in your family vacation schedule to stay in Malacca, you can book a one day tour to Malacca from KL, here.
The night markets Malacca are a wonderful mix of food and handicrafts to buy and eat and the roads are closed to traffic making them safer for children and strollers. There is a birds’ nest soup house that houses the birds and processes the nests on-site, it’s a great little attraction for kids.
China town is another area near Jonker street that is full of history. Worth having a wander 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 the church isn’t to be missed. Going inside the now derelict ruins and walking amongst the gravestones 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.
There was a kids’ playground and public swimming pool at the base of this hill on our last visit. We also found an indoor play facility at the mall in Malacca.
Don’t miss the museum of The Spice Trade inside a huge replica ship.
As with most cities in Malaysia, Malacca has a “Little India” head here for your Indian food fix, maybe a family “banana leaf” lunch!
Family-friendly hotels in Malacca include The Atlantis by The Bliss apartments, with room for even large families. It’s conveniently close to Jonker Street and is stylishly furnished.
Penang with Kids
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 best hotel for families in Batu Ferringhi is likely this beach resort (Agoda).
Another great way to explore Penang is to reserve a home or apartment. Do that here.
The island also has a host of tourist attractions along with cultural and historic sites. My kids particularly loved the bug and butterfly park and the snake temple. Kek Lok Si is another wonderful temple complex on Penang that my kids loved exploring.
Georgetown is historic, has Little India, trishaws and famous street art, Batu Ferringhi is a modern resort area. Look for a place to stay in Georgetown here. Or opt for the family-friendly Hard Rock Hotel, right on the beach and with a water park for the kids. There is an indoor play place nearby and plenty of restaurants and food courts.
- Full Post on Family Things to Do on Penang Here.
Kuala Lumpur with Kids
If your flight offers you the chance of a Kuala Lumpur stopover, grab it, there is plenty here to see for families.
Explore slick modern malls and marvel at the magnificent Petronas Towers. You can take in the panoramic views from the observation deck high in the towers (there is a high-speed lift) by reserving a place here. 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 (an interactive science museum, great for kids) and the fantastic Kuala Lumpur Aquarium.
The number 1 hottest ticket in KL is the Kuala Lumpur Tower Observation Deck, 276m above the city, the glassed in, glass-bottomed platform isn’t for those with a fear of heights (that rules me out!) but it’s a great spot for family photos or to enjoy the 6D movie theatre. Places are limited, so book your place here.
KL also has ancient architecture and diverse cultures to explore. You can visit a huge modern mosque, a Hindu Temple and a Chinese Shrine in one afternoon.
Go indoor climbing, visit a museum, or maybe the bird and butterfly parks. The Kuala Lumpur Botanic gardens is one not to miss too. There is even a zoo.
KL is super-easy to get around with trains, subways, monorails, even some free buses and shuttles. The two airports serve KL well and AirAsia makes arrival easy enough.
If you want to visit Batu Caves, just outside KL and would prefer to be picked up from your hotel rather than take the bus/train combo, you can book a very affordable half-day tour of this gem of Malaysia right here.
Alternatively, combine Batu Caves with Genting Highlands (and the longest cable car ride in Asia) to make a full day tour from KL. Book here.
In the heart of the city, you can find a lush tropical reserve filled with towering vegetation, monkeys, and raised walkways. If your kids have never seen a jungle, this is a great place to start. There’s a small hands-on museum that’s great for kids here too.
Don’t forget to sample local food offerings, authentic Indian in Little Indian, and good Chinese in China Town. For more on Kuala Lumpur check out our full post on Kuala Lumpur with kids as well as the posts below.
- The Shopping Mall with a Roller Coaster and Indoor Archery
- Batu Caves, they’re nearby and reachable by bus/train if your budget doesn’t stretch to the tours above.
- Kuala Lumpur Family Accommodation
For a fun, and very affordable quick stay in KL, we can recommend this space-themed capsule hotel in a great location (Chinatown), your kids will love the space slide between floors. We took a family room with 4 capsules, however, I wouldn’t want to sleep in a capsule for more than 2 nights!
If your budget is larger and you’d like a more comfortable child-friendly hotel in Kuala Lumpur, take a look at this resort hotel. It’s situated at Sunway Lagoon KL, a huge water and fun park, and has family fun suites. You can take an Uber into KL central from here
If your visit to KL coincides with the Thaipusam festival, you’d better read up on what happens then, there will be crowds and much to see.
If you want to see orangutans from Kuala Lumpur, you’ll need to book a trip to Taman Negara National Park. This is a full-day trip. If you have the chance to go to Sarawak, it’s easier to see orangutans and proboscis monkeys there, but if you’re only visiting KL, book this wildlife trip.
If you don’t have time on your family vacation to get down to stunning Malacca and spend a few days there, you can even see this historic beauty on a one day tour from Kuala Lumpur. You kids will love the colourful shop houses, waterways and cheerful trishaw rides. Reserve your one day tour to Malacca from KL, here. Malacca is one of our very favourite places in Malaysia, so this trip is well worth doing.
Malaysian Food and Cooking With Kids
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. That said, if you or the kids have never had anything other than western food, you may struggle with spices and fishy flavours in Malaysian cuisine.
Look out for delicious street foods and stalls selling tropical fruits and smoothies. Malaysia also has some yummy sweet baked goods, such as the pineapple pies above. Make sure you try famous Malaysian specialities such as:
- Nasi Lemak
- Mee Goreng
- Roti Canai
If you’re travelling Malaysia with kids they’ll love sweet treats, look out for the green pandanus, coconut and palm sugar pancakes, my kids’ favourite!
Malay Borneo With Kids
Malay Borneo is a wildlife lover’s paradise. Here you can visit with orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and giant Rafflesia flowers.
We have a full post on Sarawak, Malaysia here, including a jungle trek and longhouse stay. We did it with older kids, but yes, certainly, if you like an adventure, you could do this with younger kids.
Kuching is a lovely city in Sarawak and there are plenty of things to do in Kuching that would suit families with kids, teens, and tweens.
Don’t miss the cultural museum just outside Kuching, pictured above, this is a fantastic family day out and your kids will love clambering around the traditional village houses and exploring foods, costumes, dart pipes, and dance.
The cat museum is a fun place with kids too. Kuching means cat and the city is filled with cat statues alongside traditional shop houses, temples, and wonderful street art.
We’ve also visited Sabah, Borneo, sadly this trip was a disaster and we didn’t enjoy Sabah at all. Maybe it was bad luck, but I’d never go again.
Malaysia with Kids – Family Fun and Theme Parks
Malaysia has several huge theme parks and water parks and most have their own resort hotel on-site. These places make for an unforgettable family holiday with child-friendliness built in.
One of the world’s 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:
The Lost World of Tambun, just outside Ipoh Malaysia, is another must-visit Malaysian attraction with kids. KL also has its own waterpark and entertainment complex, Sunway Lagoon.
Check out the Sunway Lagoons Resort Hotel in KL here. (links open in a new tab for your convenience).
We’ve visited all three water parks and I’d say Legoland was best for younger kids.
Family Friendly Hotels and Accommodation in Malaysia
Finding family accommodation in Malaysia is fairly easy and prices are moderate. You will find good hotels, beach resorts, simple guesthouses, and hostels, and all are suitable for families visiting Malaysia with kids.
For family backpackers, 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 Southeast Asia.
Airbnb is also an option in Malaysia, working best for apartments, longer stays, and unusual housing options, but we have also used it for hotels and guest houses in Malaysia. It’s good for apartment rentals in Kuala Lumpur but the cleaning fees can be steep and the booking process inconvenient.
Generally we prefer to book a hotel, hostel, or guest house via one of the big online booking sites in Malaysia.
More Information on Holidays in Malaysia With Kids
We cover loads of destinations in Malaysia for travel or vacations on our site, if you go to our Malaysia archives you should find what you need, or simply use the search function at the top of the page. The Malaysia archives are here (opens in new tab).
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. See Lonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei (Travel Guide) here.
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I hope you found our Malaysia with kids post and introduction to the highlights of Malaysia for families useful. To read more detailed Malaysia content and to start planning your trip go to our Malaysia Travel Home page for lots more Malaysia information