With beautiful beaches, fun theme parks and fascinating cultural experiences, Malaysia is a wonderful destination for families. Discover the best things to do with kids and family-friendly resorts in our ultimate guide
Image: See traditional dance in Sarawak, Malaysia
In the heart of South-East Asia, Malaysia offers a wonderful range of experiences for families. From the bustling capital Kuala Lumpur, with its colonial-style buildings and cultural sites, to attractions such as LEGOLAND Malaysia and wildlife experiences on the island of Borneo, there really is something for everyone! Malaysia is made up of 13 states and three federal territories, separated into two regions by the South China Sea. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, lies on Peninsular Malaysia (also known as West Malaysia), while East Malaysia (also known as Malaysia-Borneo) includes Sabah and Sarawak.
Image: An aerial view of Sunway City Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia
It’s worth spending at least a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur to see the sights, including the 88-storey skyscrapers Petronas Twin Towers and Kuala Lumpur Bird Park in the scenic Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens, which is home to around 200 species. Exploring the magnificent temples created amongst the limestone hills at Batu Caves, which is around a 20-minute drive from the city, is a must. The quirky mini-museum MinNature Malaysia is also worth checking out, along with the Aquaria aquarium and beautiful KLCC Park, which has a gigantic playground, wading pool and sculpture garden.
Image: Batu Cave near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia
LEGOLAND Malaysia has eight themed areas, as well as a water park with more than 20 slides, rides and a wave pool, plus an aquarium displaying 13,000 sea creatures
Malaysia also boasts a tonne of fun theme parks. Berjaya Times Square Theme Park in Kuala Lumpur is the largest indoor theme park in the country, with a range of rides across two sections – Galaxy Station for the thrill seekers and Fantasy Garden for young ones. LEGOLAND Malaysia in Johor, in Malaysia’s south, has eight awesome themed areas, as well as a water park with more than 20 slides, rides and a wave pool, plus an aquarium displaying 13,000 sea creatures. ESCAPE Penang has 40 rides and attractions, including rope and obstacle courses, ziplines and the world’s longest inner tube slide.
Admire the view over historic Georgetown from 13 metres above the ground on the oval-shaped Treetop Walk at The Habitat Penang Hill, and walk amongst dinosaurs, brave the Observatory Deck and discover marine life in the aquarium at The Top Penang. In the state of Pahang, East of Kuala Lumpur, Genting SkyWorlds has more than 20 rides and attractions spread throughout nine movie and adventure inspired “worlds”, including Ice Age, Eagle Mountain and Rio. Around two hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur or Penang, Sunway Lost World of Tambun has everything from natural hot springs to rollercoasters. Sunway Lagoon, around 15 minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur, has more than 90 attractions spread across six adventure zones, including Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, Scream Park, Water Park and Wildlife Park.
Images: DUPLO Splash Safari at LEGOLAND Malaysia, A family at Lost World of Tambun, SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND Malaysia
Animal attractions and adventure activities
Animal lovers should also include The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, which was established in 1964 to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans, in their itinerary. Located in Sabah, it has an outdoor nursery viewing area and daily feeding times. Adventurous families with older kids could tackle climbing Mt Kinabalu – the highest peak in Malaysia at just over 4,000 metres. It usually takes two days and a night to climb the mountain, which lies in Sabah. You can also go whitewater rafting and visit Mari Mari Cultural Village in Sabah. Sipadan Island, off the East Coast of Sabah, is a great destination for snorkelling and scuba diving, with beautiful coral and the opportunity to swim with marine life such as turtles and manta rays.
You can also go rafting or abseiling down waterfalls in Perak, on Malaysia Peninsula, and walk on one of the world’s longest canopy walkways in Taman Negara National Park in the state of Pahang, east of Kuala Lumpur. Elephant lovers can see the creatures being bathed at the National Elephant Conservation Centre at Kuala Gandah, around two hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur.
The beautiful islands off the state of Terengganu, including Redang Island, Perhentian Island and Tenggol Island, are Malaysia’s hidden gems, with pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear water.
Image: Whitewater rafting at Gopeng Perak in Malaysia
Go whitewater rafting in Sabah, and rafting or abseiling down waterfalls in Perak
Family-friendly resorts in Malaysia
LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort has a hotel with themed rooms, including a Pirate room, a Kingdom room for wannabe kings and queens, and an Adventure room ideal for little explorers. Families can meet and greet LEGO characters in the lobby, take part in treasure hunts, or spend a day by the pool. The Desaru Coast, also in Johor, is also home to some great hotels, including a Hard Rock Hotel and a Westin. Sunway City, which is also home to Sunway Lagoon theme park, also has three resorts. They include the flagship five-star Sunway Resort, the four-star Sunway Pyramid Hotel, and Sunway Clio Hotel. Shangri-La also has several family-friendly resorts in Malaysia, including in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. Parkroyal Penang Resort has a Koko-Nut Kids' Klub, Amazonia watersplash theme park, and a pool with a baby wading pool.
All-inclusive holiday company Club Med also has a resort at Cherating Beach, on Malaysia’s East Coast, and plans to open a sustainable resort in northern Borneo. It will be surrounded by rainforest at pristine Kuala Penyu Beach, 90-minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Guests at the 400-room resort will be able to go island hopping, whitewater river rafting and immerse themselves in Borneo’s heritage through activities such as evening dance shows, traditional rug and jewellery making, and interactive cooking classes. The resort’s design will be inspired by traditional Borneo ethnic cultures, and built using local and sustainably sourced natural materials.
Images: An aerial view of Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, The Splash Zone at Shangri-La Golden Sands, Penang in Malaysia
How to get to Malaysia from Australia
Malaysia’s flagship carrier, Malaysia Airlines, flies to Kuala Lumpur, with connections to other parts of the country. Flights take around eight-and-a-half hours from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, seven-and-a-half hours from Adelaide and five-and-a-half hours from Perth. Budget carrier Scoot flies to several Malaysian destinations via Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Perth. They include Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi.