SPONSORED | Rainforests, tropical beaches and orangutans – why Malaysia is a must for a two-week family holiday
Discover all you need to know for a family-friendly two-week family holiday in Malaysia with our itinerary, in collaboration with Malaysia Airlines
We’re not exaggerating when we say Malaysia has it all. Where else will you find vibrant, multicultural cities, lush rainforest and jungles teeming with wildlife, and heavenly tropical beaches?
The Southeast Asian country has all this and more, and you could easily spend weeks if not months travelling around, discovering all it has to offer. To kick off the adventure, we’ve created this two-week family-friendly holiday itinerary in collaboration with Malaysia Airlines, the only carrier that has non-stop direct flights between London and Kuala Lumpur. It takes in the best places to visit in Malaysia, and the airlines’ flight routes across the country make it easy to get around once you’ve arrived direct from London. Passengers can also book Malaysia Airlines’ flex products, which allow complete flexibility if plans change.
Malaysia’s borders have reopened, and since May, no testing has been required to enter the country for UK passport holders.
This two-week family-friendly itinerary for a family holiday in Malaysia takes in Sabah and Sandakan in Borneo, George Town and Penang, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur. It’s a great starting point for how to spend a fun-packed, adventurous and family-friendly two weeks (or more) in Malaysia.
First stop on your family holiday in Malaysia? Borneo, for adventure and wildlife
Dive straight in and start your Malaysia adventure on the tropical island of Borneo. Head for the state of Sabah, a region rich in biodiverse jungles and pristine beaches, a three-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and an easy connection from London with twice daily flights. Aim to spend about five nights here.
Land at Kota Kinabalu airport and, depending on how old and how adventurous your family is, take a private yacht from the boat club next to the airport to Manukan Island, a marine reserve with a low-key beach-front resort. Alternatively, head to one of the two Shangri-La resorts in the area – Tanjung Aru, 10 minutes from the airport, or Rasa Ria, 40 minutes north and with its own nature reserve and jungle walks.
Once settled in, there is plenty to do and highlights include white water rafting at Kadamaian, and the tourist village at Tegudon, where visitors can go fishing, plant and harvest rice, and take part in some traditional cooking classes.
Dominating the Sabah skyline is Mount Kinabalu, at 4,095m it’s Malaysia’s highest mountain and it’s well worth going for a guided hike among the rainforest in its foothills. Between the mountain and the coast, you’ll also find Kiulu Rural Tourism in the Kiulu Valley, where there are such traditional activities as a stingless bee tour, honey harvesting and homestays.
A 40-minute flight from Kota Kinabalu is Sandakan, well worth visiting for a couple of days because of its large Sepilok nature resort, where orangutans live in the wild and come to the reserve to eat. As you take a stroll along the walkways that run through the resort’s prehistoric jungle, expect to see orangutans swinging among the trees.
Next door is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which rescues these rare bears before releasing them into the wild. The smallest bear in the world, visitors can spot the sun bears among the forest as well as learning about the animal welfare work carried out.
For something a little different, head to Kuching for a few days. It’s a less well known area of Borneo, to the south west of the country, and has a stunning wildlife centre at the Bako National Park, an area of coastline with unusual rock formations and protected wetlands. There's also a colony of semi-wild orangutans at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, 20km from Kuching.
Many of the area’s attractions are close to Kuching, including bamboo rafting, cultural river cruises and visits to traditional long houses, where visitors can see how multi-generational families live on ever-growing long houses built on stilts. Every time there is a new family they add on a new room, and it makes for a very social and communal living space.
Visit Penang – a 40-minute flight from KL
One of Malaysia’s best foodie destinations, Penang was an important trading hub on the Straits of Malacca since the 1200s and is a multicultural mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay communities, which each influence the local food.
George Town is the capital of Penang and sits across the water from mainland Malaysia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its history and its incredible street food options. Top of the list to try is Char Koay Teow, which is flat rice noodles stir-fried with chives, eggs, bean sprouts and prawns over charcoal.
There’s so much to see in the city, from street art and night markets to floating houses and temples. Visiting Little India is a must – the city’s Indian-Muslim community know how to eat – and the floating houses at the clan jetties are fascinating. The houses, on stilts above the sea, form six water villages and are home to seven old Chinese clans. Just be respectful when you visit, as it’s a residential community.
In the hills behind the city is the Penang National Park, Malaysia’s smallest national park. The beach-fringed forests are home to silvered leaf monkeys, flying lemurs, leopard cats and green turtles, and there are plenty of easy-going walking trails, including a 15-minute route to Sungai Tukun and its natural swimming pools. Take the funicular from the edge of George Town to the park entrance.
To learn more about the local delicate rainforest environment, visit Habitat Penang Hill, an eco-park with walks among some of the island’s oldest rainforest (an ancient 130 million years old). It’s a great destination to visit with children, as not only are the guided walks spectacular there is also a five-course zip wire down the hillside.
It’s easy to spend at least three days in Penang, exploring George Town, eating well and relaxing on tropical beaches, as well as taking in all the history and seeing as much wildlife as possible.
Noordin Mews is a popular choice for families to stay at – it’s a friendly and small boutique hotel in a 1920s trishaw shophouse full of original details, and there’s a little pool in the garden.
Time to relax in Langkawi
After the buzz of Penang and George Town, it’s time for some R&R on your family holiday in Malaysia and there’s nowhere better than Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 (or 104, depending who you ask) islands off the north-west coast of Malaysia. With up to six flights a day from Kuala Lumpur, it’s an easy hour-long flight to Langkawi airport.
There are about 200 beaches across the Langkawi archipelago and all sorts of accommodation, mostly found on the main island. Every budget is catered for, from big five-star resorts such as the St Regis Langkawi and the Ritz Carlton to more independent places, such as the D’Lima Beach Inn and the Temple Tree Resort with eight holiday homes right on the beach.
Langkawi is bigger than you perhaps think, so don’t expect to easily travel from one side to the other. Popular beaches are the neighbouring Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah on the south-west of the island, but one of the main attractions is the area’s UNESCO Geopark status, which celebrates and protects its unique geological landscape.
See the best of it on a kayak tour through the mangroves in the Kilim Geoforest Park on the east of the island. Paddle among the cliffs, caves and mangrove forests, and spot sea eagles, kites, kingfishers, herons, fiddler crabs and monitor lizards.
Then for a different perspective on the islands, ride the Langkawi Skybridge Cable Car from the ‘Oriental Village’ just north of Telaga Harbour to Gunang Machinchang, at 708m above sea level. As well as fabulous views across the archipelago from the top, you’ll also find the Langkawi Sky Bridge, a 125-metre long floating bridge among the tree tops and between two hilltops at Gunung Mat Chinchang.
Exploring the capital, Kuala Lumpur
Round off your two-week holiday in Malaysia with a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. For a big city, KL is surprisingly family friendly and you could easily spend a week here.
Highlights include pottering around Chinatown, with its ancient Indian and Chinese temples, markets and street food, playing in the water fountains at the foot of the Petronas Towers, and exploring the Botanic Gardens.
Visiting a night market is a must, and it doesn’t get more vibrant than Jalan Alor. Hawker stalls and outdoor restaurants line both sides of the road, selling everything from barbecued chicken wings and coconut ice cream to frog porridge and oyster omelettes, and the most delicious five-spice doughnuts.
Kuala Lumpur has every international hotel chain you’d expect to find in a major city, and one of the attractive things about Malaysia is the price of accommodation, compared to other Southeast Asian countries. Here, you can typically find a good five-star hotel for under £100 a night, but for something a little different, we like Anggun, a small guesthouse with great family rooms and a traditional spa.
Book your holiday to Malaysia with our preferred travel agent partner
Check out some brilliant holiday offers and deals in Malaysia from our preferred travel agent Charitable Travel and fly with Malaysia Airlines to visit this beautiful destination. When you book with Charitable Travel you get to give 5% of the total cost of your holiday to charity at no extra cost to you.