Backpackers, honeymooners and wildlife watchers are all mesmerised by Malaysia, with its castaway beaches and ancient jungle teeming with exotic animals and birds. Whether you want to stay in the rainforests or head to Kuala Lumpur for a slice of city life, make your stay even more magical by booking one of these luxurious resorts, complete with resident naturalists, extensive gin collections and trips to spot the local orangutans.
This heavenly hotel and spa, located on its own private island where villas are dotted through ancient rainforest or on stilts over the sea, has been voted the world’s number one resort. It’s all about relaxing in nature here, with a curved white-sand beach, fragrant jungle trails and sea eagles circling above. Nothing is too much trouble for the discreet staff either, from arranging barbecued lobster for a private beach dinner to cruising the bay on a yacht, champagne in hand.
Surrounded by a 10-million-year-old rainforest and overlooking a kaleidoscopic coral reef, The Andaman is the stuff of holiday fantasies. Rooms include those with direct beach access or their own Jacuzzi – though all have spa-style bathrooms with large bathtubs, Nespresso machines and Japanese kimonos. Spend days cooling off in the pool or joining a nature walk with the resident naturalist, then enjoy seafood and Japanese feasts in one of four resort restaurants.
Even the kids are welcome in paradise at this tropical retreat, just 30km (19mi) from Penang Airport. They have their very own pool shaded by the rainforest and a kids’ club open all day, with extra child-minding services available out of hours. Daily activities include team games, nature walks, sand art sessions and t-shirt painting. Sneak away while they’re occupied to join yoga and water volleyball classes, tee off at the resort’s par-three pitch and putt course or be pampered at the spa.
No need to be stuck in the resort at this lavish resort in Langkawi. Just 15 minutes from Langkawi Airport, this property is close to some of the island’s unmissable sights including Seven Wells Waterfall and the famous Sky Bridge. If even that sounds like hard work, stay close to the largest three-tiered infinity pool on the island instead, curl up with a book in the library or sample drinks from the island’s largest gin collection at Verandah Lounge.
It’s easy to do as much or as little as you choose at this One&Only resort on the southeastern shoreline of Malaysia. With a vast area of vanilla sand, an idyllic 50-m (164-ft) infinity pool and a personal plunge pool in every suite, doing nothing is definitely an option. If you’d rather stay active, there are tennis courts, beach bikes to borrow, a nine-hole golf course, cooking classes and even a creative studio in case artistic inspiration strikes. Browse more options in Johor by seeing the best hotels in Johor Bahru, bookable with Culture Trip.
Get away from it all on this extensive 162-ha (400-acre) resort with its own 26-ha (64-acre) private forest and 3-km (2-mi) private beach. A great base to explore the wilds of Borneo, there are masses of activities for everyone from families to thrill-seekers. Expert rangers lead treks into the rainforest, water sports including jet skiing, parasailing and windsurfing are all on offer and there are lessons in everything from scaling the climbing wall to weaving coconut leaves.
First impressions count at the five-star Magellan Sutera in Kota Kinabalu. The grand entrance lobby is an impressive architectural tribute to the Rungus natives of Sabah, while communal areas proudly display traditional artifacts throughout. Outside, the hotel’s picturesque pool weaves through manicured tropical gardens while the private beachfront area overlooks the South China Sea and the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
Families will find plenty to fill their days at the Hyatt Regency resort on the beachfront of Teluk Cempedak. The hotel has two outdoor pools as well as dedicated children’s activities; but more adventurous families will love to explore the local area, too. Try a cruise along the Cherating River to watch fireflies dancing in the dark, and a visit to the turtle sanctuary on Chendor Beach or a picnic by nearby waterfalls make for unbeatable holiday memories.
Couples craving alone time will feel like they’ve reached paradise at this beach resort in Langkawi. Set on its own private island lapped by blissfully translucent emerald waters, the hotel knows a thing or two about romance, with its own moon deck for candlelit private dinners, a yacht with Jacuzzi cabanas for sunset cruises and stylish rooms surrounded by sweet-scented gardens to hide away together.
When another day on a sun lounger just won’t cut it, this resort (15 minutes from the city of Kota Kinabalu) offers plenty of alternatives. There is a huge pool complex with whirlpool bath and adults’ infinity pool, a pitch and putt course, tennis courts and even a water play area. Beyond the resort, try a tour of the neighbouring coral islands from the hotel’s private jetty or spy orangutans in their natural habitat in the neighbouring Kinabalu National Park.
Water babies will never want to leave this tranquil resort off the coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Forty-five over-water villas are made for star-lit swims while there are kayaks, paddleboards and a PADI dive centre for those who want to spend more time in the sea. The resort itself is centred around a marine research centre and guests can also help replant corals in the reef to ensure the ocean’s wonders last for future generations, too.
No detail is too small to be overlooked at this luxury hideaway enveloped by a 10-million-year-old rainforest in Langkawi. There are resident marine biologists and naturalists to lead walks through the extraordinary landscape, a nature centre with mini-laboratories, generous free minibars and a traditional wooden Malaysian junk schooner for champagne cruises. On top of all that, 1.5km (0.9mi) of sheltered snowy-white sand place this resort near one of the Top 10 beaches in the world.
Nature lovers are spoiled rotten at the Sepilok Nature Resort, five minutes from the renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The animals can sometimes be seen in the forest next to the resort and there are twice-daily guided walks through the reserve to spot other wildlife including flying squirrels and slow loris. The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a further 20-minute walk away, so guests can stroll the only canopy walk in Sandakan, 28m (92ft) from the forest floor.
Keen foodies will be in gourmet ecstasy at this resort among the mangroves on the sandy coast of Malohom Bay. To-die-for dinner options include an al fresco seafood restaurant with views of Mount Kinabalu, a Japanese eatery nestled in the rainforest and an expansive buffet with live cooking stations and an in-house bakery. Guests can also take a personalised picnic hamper to the private beach (a five-minute boat ride away), start the day with a sunrise breakfast on the sand or learn to whip up local dishes in a cooking class.
Fancy getting closer to nature during your Malaysian holiday? See the Culture Trip list of the best places to camp in Malaysia.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
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