Malaysia is an incredibly diverse country with so much to offer to any type of traveler. While Peninsular Malaysia is known for its bustling cities, historical towns and pristine beaches, Malaysia Borneo feels more rugged with diverse wildlife, lush rainforest and spectacular mountains peaks.
Although I’ve traveled to Malaysia on multiple occasions, I still have a lot more to explore. That’s why I’ve asked some of the best travel bloggers to share their top recommendations for the best places visit in Malaysia for a short trip.
So, whether you’re tired of being stuck at home or need a short break from work, this ultimate list of 20 weekend getaways in Malaysia will help you plan a short but relaxing vacation in Malaysia!
Check out these other Malaysia travel guides:
***This article may contain affiliate links, which means that each time you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Getting around Malaysia
Being well connected with other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Thailand, traveling to and within Malaysia is very cheap and easy.
Booking your transportation through 12go.asia enables you to compare the price of different train and bus companies and hence guarantees that you’ll get the best bang for your buck.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend hours on the bus or train during your short Malaysia getaway, AirAsia offers very cheap flights and usually has some pretty awesome deals if you book well in advance.
Weekend Getaways in Peninsular Malaysia
Penang Island is located in the northwest of Peninsular Malaysia. With a diverse cultural heritage that can be seen through its temples and mosques, historical buildings, interactive street arts and world-class street food, Penang, also known as the food capital of Malaysia, is the perfect getaway for foodies and history buff.
The cheapest way to get to Penang is by taking the bus and there are also direct flights available from Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Singapore. The best time to visit Penang is between December and April.
One of the top things to do in Penang is to go on a self-guided street art tour. The city of Georgetown is covered with an abundance of quirky and interactive murals that make for really fun photo backdrops!
You can also visit the Blue Mansion, Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple and spend the evening on Chulia Street to feast on some tasty Malaysian food.
Other things to do include taking a dip in Batu Ferringhi beach, hiking Penang National Park or visiting the Botanical Gardens.
If you want to stay right in the middle of Georgetown, I highly recommend Hotel Chennai by Wink which is super cheap and even has a jacuzzi on its rooftop!
Related post: How to spend 3 days in Georgetown Penang?
If you’re looking for a short getaway from Kuala Lumpur that’s rich in history and culture, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka is right up your alley!
Melaka, sometimes referred as the Amsterdam of Asia, is famous for its colonial architecture with Dutch, Portuguese and British influences, colorful river canals, majestic floating mosque and night markets.
Although most people visit Melaka as a day trip, there’s quite a lot to do to fill in a weekend. Explore around the Dutch Square to see all the major attractions such as the Christ Church, Saint Paul’s Hill, Stadthuys and A’Famosa Fort.
You can also take a river cruise, hunt for street arts, visit the Maritime Naval Museum, watch the sunset at the Melaka Straits Mosque and more!
To sample some of the tastiest local dishes, make sure to visit the famous Jonker Street night market that happens between Friday and Sunday.
If you want to stay within walking distance of the Dutch Square, Stadthuys Home (formerly known as Buffalo Soldier Home) is an affordable guesthouse that offers both dorm and family rooms, inclusive of free bicycle rental.
Related post: 12 awesome things you must do in Melaka
Situated in the state of Perak, Ipoh is one of the most underrated getaways in Malaysia! While exploring Ipoh, you’ll come across colorful and interactive murals, cute alleyways and beautiful cave temples etched into the limestone cliffs.
You can get to Ipoh directly from most major cities in Malaysia by either bus or train. For the best weather condition, plan your visit between December and April but avoid Chinese New Year if you don’t want to get stuck in traffic on your way to Ipoh!
Start your trip by heading to Mural’s Art Lane that’s covered with dozens of colorful street arts before making your way to the Old Town, the center of all Ipoh attractions.
In the Old Town, you’ll find Concubine Lane, a little alley flanked by cute cafes and shops selling souvenirs, clothes and delicious food. Market Lane is also not to be missed with its colorful hanging umbrellas and interactive murals.
If you have time, make sure to visit at least one cave temple. There are over 30 of them dotting every corner of Ipoh, some providing the most scenic views. I highly recommend visiting Perak Tong, Kek Lok Tong and Sam Poh Tong.
Finally, you can’t say you’ve been to Ipoh without sampling some delicious egg tarts accompanied by a cup of Ipoh white coffee! Follow the locals to either Nam Heong White Coffee or Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong and you’ll be in for a treat!
Related post: 10 best things to do in Ipoh in 3 days
Featuring the world’s tallest twin towers, bustling neighborhoods, impressive temples and mosques and an omnipresent food scene, Kuala Lumpur or KL is the perfect place to visit for a short vacation in Malaysia.
The city is found about 50 minutes from the airport and can be reached by bus, train or taxi/Grab.
The starting point for exploring Kuala Lumpur is Bukit Bintang where you can do some seriously cheap shopping and eat to your heart’s content at the famous Jalan Alor Night Market.
From Bukit Bintang, take the air-conditioned walkway that leads to the Petronas Twin Towers. I actually recommend visiting at night to see the towers light up and just in time for the lake symphony show.
Make sure to visit the KL Forest Eco Park where you can hike over a canopy bridge surrounded by the only remaining rainforest in KL city. Chinatown, Little India and the Batu Caves are also not to be missed on any Kuala Lumpur itinerary as well as a visit to the impressive Thean Hou Temple.
If you’re wondering where to stay in KL, Gold 3 Boutique Hotel, featuring stylish and modern rooms, is a cheap option centrally located in Bukit Bintang.
Related post: 17 things to do in Kuala Lumpur in 48 hours
Anyone visiting Malaysia is likely to stop by Kuala Lumpur. While the city is amazing, it can feel too busy for some. Luckily for visitors looking for a relaxing getaway in Malaysia, there’s the small fishing village of Sekinchan, located only two hours away.
Sekinchan is considered as the hidden gem of Malaysia. It wasn’t until recently that it started to receive an influx of tourists due to the popular TVB drama “Outbound Love”.
What’s so special about this peaceful fishing village is the rice fields that lie on its perimeter. Acres of stunning and lush rice fields cover the eastern outskirts of town, stretching beyond the eyes’ reach. When admiring these rice paddies, an unknowing traveler might even think that he or she is in Bali!
Just remember to visit when the rice paddies are in full bloom, or else you might not see anything at all. March to May and September to November are considered the best time to visit.
Many visitors do a Sekinchan day trip, enjoying the rice paddies during the day, relaxing on the Redang beach at sunset, and enjoying some fresh seafood before heading home. However, I would advise staying for a whole weekend to relax and enjoy some of the attractions of the neighboring town such as the fireflies tour and Sky Mirror in Kuala Selangor.
If you’re spending the weekend in Sekinchan, make sure to stay at Padi Box which is an adorable container hotel!
Recommended by Sean from Living Out Lau
Cameron Highlands is the perfect place to escape for a couple of days and enjoy some time in the mountains. It’s well known for its endless beautiful tea fields that cover the rolling hills and valleys.
The local busses are a cheap and easy way to get to Cameron Highlands and run regularly from major hubs such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
You can visit all year-round but January and February are the months with the least rainfall, so you may want to visit then. The best thing to do in Cameron Highlands is to explore the local tea fields.
There are several hikes in the area or you can visit some of the tea plantations. BOH Plantation is one of the most popular due to the beautiful scenery surrounding the tasting room.
The region is also known for growing lavender, strawberries and other fresh produce with lots of markets and shops selling local goods.
A great option for those staying on a budget is The Cave Guesthouse which is a 10-minute walk from the town center.
Recommended by Luke from The Coastal Campaign
Port Dickson is probably one of the best weekend getaway destinations due to its close proximity to cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It’s also a region that’s well-known for its picturesque beaches, quaint colonial architecture, and breathtaking natural attractions.
Within easy reach of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, most tourists and locals get to Port Dickson by private transport. However, public transportation from Singapore is more straightforward with the availability of direct coaches such as the Golden Coach Express. It’s also easy to arrange a transfer from Kuala Lumpur airport.
January and February are the best months to visit Port Dickson if you want to avoid the wet season. As this is the peak season, it’s best to visit in early March and perhaps to take note of the auspicious dates of the Lunar New Year as this is when locals from Singapore, Malaysia and other neighboring Asian countries would be on holiday.
Aside from lying on one of the beaches across Port Dickson’s 18-km coastline, one of the best things to do is paying a visit to the oldest lighthouse in Tanjung Tuan and using this location as a starting point of a hike through a verdant jungle trail. Once you’ve reached the peak, do not turn back. Instead, follow the descending trail that leads you to a secret bay with granite formations amid gleaming blue waters.
Port Dickson has a variety of accommodations that suit all types of travelers. For those looking for a luxurious break, the Grand Lexis Dickson with its sea chalets and swimming pools is highly recommended. A cheaper option would be the Glory Beach Resort with its serviced apartments, pool, and private beach.
Recommended by Karolina Klesta from Lazy Travel Blog.
Johor Bahru is located in the southernmost point of Malaysia – just on the border with Singapore and is great for a short getaway in Malaysia with kids.
The city has excellent shopping and restaurants and everything is much less expensive compared with Singapore.
If you’re traveling as a family, Johor Bahru is the perfect place! Your kids will be spoiled for choice of fun – LEGOLAND Malaysia or Hello Kitty Town. We spent the whole day in LEGOLAND enjoying the rides and other activities, and guess what was the best – no queues! You can fully enjoy the rides instead of waiting for them.
If this isn’t enough, you can always go from Johor Bahru to Singapore, the trip takes max 45 minutes (by local bus), and Singapore has everything you can imagine!
If you travel as a family to Johor Bahru, you should stay in the LEGOLAND Malaysia Hotel. Alternatively, if you’re traveling as a couple, the brand-new Z Hotel is a great choice! It’s conveniently located in the heart of Johor Bahru close to shopping malls and restaurants with mouthwatering food – especially at “Flowers in the Window” restaurant.
Recommended by Ania from The Travelling Twins
Island Getaways in Malaysia
Located off the west coast of Malaysia, Langkawi is a stunning archipelago of 104 islands with waterfalls, gorgeous white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and lush rainforest.
Langkawi is a great destination all year round but the best time to visit is between November and March during dry season where the days are beautifully sunny.
You can reach Langkawi either by air or by ferry – there are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Penang, or you can reach Langkawi by ferry from Penang Island or from Kuala Perlis on the mainland.
There are heaps of fun things to do on Langkawi’s main island and it’s perfect for short Malaysia getaway. Take a ride on one of the world’s steepest cable cars to get amazing panoramic views of the islands from the magnificent Skybridge. After you’re done, make your way to Seven Wells Waterfall which is found within walking distance of the Skybridge.
The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is a beautiful UNESCO heritage site and home to mangroves, macaque monkeys and eagles.
If you like water sports, head to one of Langkawi’s many beaches to go parasailing or jet boating or jump on an island hopping tour to enjoy some diving or snorkeling. The island is also duty free and there are lots of shopping centers selling bargain clothing and alcohol.
There are accommodation options to suit all budgets here. Check out the mid-range priced Berjaya Resort – spacious chalets situated on the beach on the edge of the rainforest with restaurants, bars and an outdoor pool. For a more budget option, there’s Chenang Inn found only a few minutes from Cenang beach.
Recommended by Caroline from CK Travels
Just off the southeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia lies the beautiful island Tioman. This wonderful speck in the ocean offers amazing beaches, tropical forest and laidback villages.
Note that Tioman can only be visited between March and October, the island is closed off to tourists during monsoon season (November to February).
Getting to Tioman invariably involves a boat trip as there’s no airport (anymore) on the island. There are two jumping-off points for Tioman Island: Mersing and Tanjung Gemok. Ferry departures depend on the tide and on the weather conditions.
Tioman is a great place for scuba diving as well as snorkeling as the ocean around it is marked as a marine reserve. It’s an excellent place to get your PADI as dive prices are very reasonable and you’ll see plenty of colorful fish and corals while learning how to dive.
Other things to do in Tioman include relaxing on one of the pretty beaches, hiking through the jungle and watching the monitor lizards and monkeys roam around the tiny towns.
A good place to stay in Salang (my favorite village on Tioman) is Ella’s Place, a simple but lovely budget accommodation on the north side of town. There are small bungalows with fan or aircon, no hot water but with the tropical Tioman temperatures this isn’t really necessary.
Recommended by Lotte Eschbach from Phenomenal Globe.
Redang Island is a gorgeous destination located off the east coast of Malaysia near Kuala Terengganu. It’s located in a protected marine park and is perfect for people wanting to explore nature with its jungle filled interior, fantastic coastline and coral surrounded exterior.
There’s no bridge to Redang and only charter flights operate here which means you need to catch a ferry across from Kuala Terengganu or Merang. Ferries are quick and easy and this is part of the fun of visiting Redang. Once on the island, you’ll generally get around by foot, kayak or boat since there aren’t many roads.
Redang has two seasons – dry and monsoon. You should avoid the monsoon season as ferry rides to the island stop and the island basically shuts down. For this reason, visit Redang from late March to October.
Most of Redang’s things to do centre around nature. You can dive, snorkel, kayak, swim, explore the island by boat or trek across, play volleyball and other land and water sports.
During the turtle hatching season from April to October, you can even release baby turtles. Of course, you can also relax on one of the gorgeous beaches.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, note that Redang isn’t a budget destination and it’ll cost you more than the mainland. A good option for bargain seekers is Redang De’ Rimba as long as you don’t mind not having direct beach access. You can find more information about visiting Redang here.
Recommended by Sharon from Dive Into Malaysia
Pangkor Island is Malaysia’s little local paradise. It’s the ideal island getaway since it’s situated only a few hours from Kuala Lumpur. Yet it’s still very overlooked by tourists. Pangkor Island is for those who seek the quiet beach life and fun scooter adventures.
It’s easy to get to Pangkor – from Kuala Lumpur it’s a 4-hour bus ride to Lumut where the ferry leaves for the island every half hour. You can visit Pangkor Island all year round, but you might want to steer clear of the rainy season from October to December. The island is also very popular among local tourists, so avoid the busy holiday season.
The west side of the island has beautiful beaches and often accommodate the few tourists who visit, whereas the right side has more of a local feel.
There are many things to do on Pangkor Island apart from relaxing on the beach. You can rent a kayak, go jungle trekking, visit the local fishermen village or simply go explore on a scooter. Since it’s a local island, you can find a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple, and a floating mosque which are worth a visit.
Pangkor Waterfall Beach Resort is a budget-friendly option for those who want to stay close to Coral Beach, good restaurants and wildlife.
Recommended by Cecilie from Worldwide Walkers
The Perhentian Islands are located on the quiet east coast of Malaysia. Perfect for a short vacation in Malaysia, the islands are famous as a haven for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The Perhentian Islands are split into two inhabited islands known as Perhentian Besar (the big island) and Perhentian Kecil (the small island). Both offer different vantage points to explore the abundant marine and wildlife in the region.
For travel to and from the islands, it’s easy to find boats leaving from Besut and make sure to book in advance as accommodation is limited and somewhat exclusive on the island. It’s also to best to visit during the dry season (March to November).
One of the best spots has to be Teluk Pauh Beach where the coral reefs run right up to the sands, with a ridiculously diverse marine life! Just a short swim out, you’ll find “turtle point” which is a famous snorkeling spot in Malaysia to swim with sea turtles.
The beaches as well are pristine with golden sand, the interiors of the island are dense with forest and the wildlife, such as silvered leaf-langurs, mingle on the shores.
A great place to stay is the Perhentian Islands Resort on Teluk Pauh Beach which has its own jetty for arrivals from the mainland.
Recommended by Allan from Live Less Ordinary
Kapas Island is one of the best places you could visit for a weekend in Malaysia. It’s a stunning island located off the east coast and due to its hidden nature, it remains empty most of the year. Because of this, the coral reefs remain intact unlike many contrasting locations in Malaysia such as the Perhentian Islands.
Kapas Island is best visited from March to October as storms can hit in the other months. It’s a short flight into Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur. Afterward, take a taxi to Marang Jetty and a 15-minute boat journey to the island itself. Alternatively, buses are available in Kuala Terengganu from all major locations in Malaysia.
One of the best things to do is to take a snorkel and swim onto the colorful reefs. Alternatively, boat tours are available to further locations. If you’d prefer to dive, it’s very cheap costing less than US$ 300 for your PADI open water. If you prefer dry land, there’s a hike through the jungle to the beaches on the opposite side of the island.
There are many beautiful places to stay, but I have to recommend Qimi’s Chalet. It has a private beach where it hosts candlelit barbeque dinners in the evening. The rooms are like treehouses and have a rustic feel. But if you prefer something more modern, do consider Turtle Valley Resort.
By Hannah from Hannah’s Happy Adventures
Rawa Island, translated in the local dialect as ‘white doves’ is the very definition of peace. This picture-perfect tropical island resort within the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park off the east coast of Malaysia is perfect for a short relaxing getaway.
The white sand, verdant groves and warm, clear waters feel like a world away from the stress of modern life. And yet this idyllic haven is just a 30-minute speedboat ride from Mersing in the province of Johor. Rawa Island is hugely appealing between February and October for a family break or romantic paradise getaway.
Rawa’s main attraction is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings, to kick back and unwind on its soft-sand beaches under the never-ending sun. For those rare moments of activity, take a short stroll along its coastal walkways or snorkel its coral reef.
If this isn’t enough, there’s always the resort spa for indulgent pampering as you gaze across the calming ocean beyond.
At the end of each day, Rawa will reward you not only with a fabulous feast from the restaurants but a splendid sunset. Ideal to enjoy with a glass or two of something cold and refreshing, Rawa will no doubt leave many wonderful memories.
Recommended by Paul from The Two That Do
Short Getaways in Malaysia Borneo
An easy getaway from Kuala Lumpur is Kuching, one of the most charming and action-packed towns in Sarawak and a perfect place to start a Borneo itinerary.
The only feasible way is flying from Kuala Lumpur or Penang with the cheap AirAsia flights. You can come to Kuching pretty much any time of the year, but avoid the period between November and February when the rainy seasons make the task of exploring the surrounding jungles a wet mess. Also, in July it’s the time for the iconic Rainforest World Music Festival — this is a fantastic music event, but also a time when Kuching is packed, and accommodation prices skyrocket.
Kuching itself has plenty of charming lanes packed with bars and a beautiful waterfront set next to the Sarawak River. Take the bridge across to Fort Margherita, where an excellent gallery resumes the history of the Brookes, the White Rajahs of Sarawak.
In half an hour from Kuching is Semenggoh’s Orangutan sanctuary, a must-visit place to get close and personal with one of the world’s most endangered primates.
There are also many national parks around Kuching: Bako National Park, set on a rugged promontory is ideal for a 2 days/1 night trip to properly explore its many hiking trails.
If you come at the right time, the Gunung Gading National Park near Lundu is a perfect place to spot Rafflesia, the world’s biggest (and foulest-smelling) flower. If you still have time, a trip to Mount Santubong or the endlessly empty beaches of Tanjung Datu National Park will bring you off the grid in an already pretty offbeat Malaysian destination.
Recommended by Marco Ferrarese from Monkey Rock World
Sandakan might not be on everybody’s bucket list, but after visiting a couple of years ago, it now ranks really high on our list of recommendations!
It’s easily accessible with direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, as well as other Malaysian cities such as Kota Kinabalu.
The best time of year for visit is between May and August, but traveling in the shoulder months of April or even March means fewer crowds, cheaper prices and less rain.
Not only is Sandakan a beautiful and peaceful little city with great food and friendly people, it serves as a perfect place to base yourself for a bunch of really exciting activities!
Not to be missed is a visit to Turtle Island National Park, where you get to experience all of the important conservation efforts going on there while also enjoying an almost off-grid retreat on the paradise island!
Alternatively, just south of Sandakan is the Kinabatangan River, with a couple nights’ stay at an incredible river-side lodge, a few wildlife river cruises, all of your meals and a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Center often included in the tour!
We chose to stay at Sandakan Central Hotel as we were wanting somewhere affordable but still in a desirable location, and we were pleasantly surprised by it!
Recommended by Alex and Harmony from By The Compass
Bako National Park
Bako National Park is situated in the Sarawak region of Borneo and features some of the most unique wildlife and natural rock formations.
The closest city to Bako National Park is Kuching. It’s easy to get from Kuching to Bako National Park as there are buses that go there directly. Take the number one red public bus that departs from the Kuching Waterfront area, opposite the Riverside Shopping Complex.
It’s best to visit Bako National Park in the dry season from March to September. Keep in mind that it tends to get very hot in July, so make sure to stay hydrated.
There are many hiking trails to explore, ranging from easy to more strenuous hikes. In addition to the hiking trails, wildlife is abundant, and visitors are guaranteed to see some animals. If you’re lucky enough you may even spot a proboscis monkey!
Depending on the hike you choose, you may need to pay to catch a boat back to the entrance. The boat trip back is amazing though, as you get to sail past the Serpent Rock.
There aren’t many accommodations close to Bako National Park, so if you’re on a budget, plan to stay in Kuching – Imperial Riverbank Hotel is a great mid-range option. Kuching is a great place to stay as there are amazing food options to refuel after a day on the trails.
Recommended by Beth from Frugal Female Abroad
Mulu National Park
Mulu National Park is difficult to get to, but a world away from regular Malaysia and well worth the trip. There are stunning caves, hiking trails, ecotourism activities and extreme adventures. Plan ahead with the National Park guides to include canopy experiences, a visit to the Deer or Clearwater caves and definitely arrange to be there for the dusk exodus of the bats from the caves.
The night walk with rangers is definitely recommended! One of the joys of visiting Mulu is that the sheer numbers of bats mean that there are no mosquitoes!
There’s no specific best time to visit although July to September is the dry season and will be hotter, so is best avoided if you’re planning on doing strenuous hikes – this is also the peak season to visit and will be busiest.
There are three ways to get to Mulu National Park the riverboat trip (only in the wet season), by hiking the several days’ long Headhunters Trail or the more practical way for a weekend getaway in Malaysia, by flying in from Miri. The airstrip is walkable to virtually all accommodation and there are transport options also available at the airstrip.
You can choose to stay inside the National Park in the park accommodation, which you can book directly through the Park offices here but this can be limited. A recommended homestay option that you can pre-book is Mulu Village.
Recommended by Sarah from ASocialNomad
The State of Sabah in Malaysia is famous for its beaches, forests, wildlife and water activities. Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, reflects the beauty of the state.
Kota Kinabalu is a heady combination of art, history, shopping, beaches and parties. From experience, we can say it’s one of the most tourist-friendly cities we’ve visited. If you’re looking for a short break, a visit to Kota Kinabalu could be a rejuvenating experience.
Kota Kinabalu is approximately a 2.5 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur and cabs are the best way to get around the city. The weather is moderate throughout the year with regular showers keeping the heat at bay.
Things to see and do include Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, the City Mosque. Surrounded by water, the Mosque is a beautiful example of modern Islamic architecture.
Another attraction is the Sabah Museum. They have several display of history, art, textiles, ethnography, archaeology and even a heritage village. You can also visit Tanjung Aru beach late afternoon for the most beautiful sunset, providing a gorgeous assortment of colors.
There are many cool cafes and bars and The Waterfront is the most popular hangout zone for locals and tourists. If you’re in the mood for shopping, Imago Mall has a variety of stores.
One of the best places to stay in Kota Kinabalu is Hotel Avangio which is moderately priced with comfortable rooms with enough facilities, including a pool.
Pro-tip: There are some amazing trekking, water sports and diving destinations around Kota Kinabalu.
Recommended by Sundeep and Bedabrata from Delhi Fun Dos
I hope this guide gave you some ideas for your short getaway in Malaysia. Let me know in the comments below which location you’re planning to visit first for your short trip in Malaysia!