11 Amazing Reasons to Visit Miri, Malaysia

Blue Tears similar to the Sea of Stars in the Maldives can be seen at Tusan Beach
'Blue Tears' similar to the 'Sea of Stars' in the Maldives can be seen at Tusan Beach | © syazwan sabri / Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

Sarawak’s second city often gets overlooked by tourists travelling to Borneo. With easy access to Sarawak’s jungles and caves as well as spectacular sunsets, the mind-blowing ‘Blue Tears’ and traditional markets, here are our favourite reasons to visit Miri.

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Gateway to Sarawak’s best nature

Want to explore the very best of Sarawak’s natural attractions? Head to Miri. The small oil city acts as a gateway to national parks, UNESCO-listed caves and some of Borneo’s best stretches of coastline. One of the popular reasons to visit Miri is to use the city as a base to get out and explore more of the state’s wild side.

The jungle experience in Sarawak’s national parks

Tourists can visit one of four national parks from Miri including Mulu, Niah, Loagan Bunut and Lambir Hills. Each offers a different outdoor experience from trekking along muddy jungle trails in search of wildlife to exploring cave systems and bird watching. While on-site accommodation is available, most tourists opt to stay in Miri and visit on a day trip unless they visit the hard-to-reach Gunung Mulu.

Bring home some unforgettable jungle experience from Sarawak

Convenient spot to explore Sarawak’s caves

Ask any local to name Sarawak’s most famous attraction and almost all will say its caves. Miri provides easy access to the historical and archaeological wonders at Niah Caves and to stand inside the Sarawak Chamber at Gunung Mulu National Park. Explore the caverns and pass through the cave system’s obstacle course while savouring the dramatic views of the surrounding limestone cliffs and pinnacles. The convenient access to Sarawak’s caves is among the top reasons to visit Miri.

Explore the archaeological wonders of Niah Cave
Other caves include Mulu and Deer cave

See the ‘Blue Tears’ at Tusan Beach

Tusan Beach, located approximately an hour’s drive from Miri, is a tropical hideaway with white sand, sharp-angled cliffs and weird rock formations. After nightfall, the unpolluted waters sometimes host the rare and mesmerising natural phenomenon known locally as the ‘Blue Tears’. In the right conditions, tiny micro-organisms in the water accumulate and release a glowing blue bio-illuminance. The gentle waves near the shore start to glow a neon-blue in a similar way as the ‘Sea of Stars’ in the Maldives. While this event isn’t a certainty, it often features among the top reasons to visit Miri.

Head to Tusan Beach on the night and you might be lucky to see the ‘Blue Tears’

Sarawak’s most magical beaches

Miri sits on a stretch of Borneo’s coastline along the South China Sea. Some of Sarawak’s most attractive and photogenic beaches lie within a short drive of the city. Most beaches have clean sand and warm waters against the backdrop of coconut trees and cliffs. Locals often visit in the late afternoon for a barbeque. Check out Tusan, Hawaii and Brighton Beaches.

Secret diving spots in the South China Sea

Few non-Sarawakians know of the diving spots near Miri. More than 40 sites lie near the shore between 15 and 40 minutes away by boat. A typical tour takes visitors on two dives in the morning and returns to Miri for lunch. Expect to find healthy corals, colourful fish and professional tour operators. And most important of all –iving in a secret location practically alone.

Experience Miri’s soul at the markets

Markets burst with life, offer cultural insights and give visitors the chance to buy traditional souvenirs. One of Culture Trip’s favourite reasons to visit Miri is the abundance of local markets. From speciality handicraft and night markets to daily stalls selling produce, Miri has them all. Check out Tamu Khas for ethnic produce, the Miri Weekend Tamu Bazaar to experience Sarawak’s ethnic diversity and the Saberkas Weekend Night Market for regional food.

For a more local experience, head to the markets of Miri

Sarawak’s most spectacular sunsets

Picture the sun dipping below the horizon bathing the sky in yellow-orange shades with hints of pink and purple. Now imagine the entire sky transformed into a colourful canvas for a few minutes before the inky darkness of night descends. Sarawak’s sunset consistently offers this type of experience making another one of the top reasons to visit Miri. Head to Canada Hill to watch the sunset over the city. Or enjoy on the beach at Tusan, Brighton and Pantai Bungai Miri.

Brighton beach offers some of the best sunset views in Miri
Sunset at Pantai Bungai, Miri

Learn about Malaysia’s relationship with oil

Malaysia’s first discovered oil on Miri’s Canada Hill in 1910 transforming the unknown fishing village into a booming oil town. The Grand Old Lady, a replica of the first oil well, sits at the top of Canada Hill. Interested visitors can check out the free Petroleum Museum next door to learn about the industry, extraction techniques and its role in Malaysia.

The Grand Old Lady located on Canada Hill

Miri: a city that feels like a town

Despite being Sarawak’s second city after Kuching, Miri’s population is only 350,000. Contrast this to the whopping seven million living in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding Klang Valley. Anyone who wants to maintain the convenience of a city without the chaos, overcrowding and pollution will appreciate Miri. Tourists can walk to the main attractions and enjoy Sarawakian Laksa at rock-bottom prices in a city that feels like a town.

Despite being the second city, Miri feels more like a town

Location, Location, Location

Look at a map of Borneo’s northern coastline and Miri sits near the centre of an epic road trip around Borneo. Flexible tourists can make the most of the opportunity to explore the very best of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei as part of an extended trip. Culture Trip recommends flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching before visiting Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Ranau and returning to Kuala Lumpur from Sandakan. Attractions include visiting national parks, caves, jungles, beaches and wildlife spotting.

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