Malaysia offers tremendous scope for adventure, whether you’re an urban explorer keen to ascend the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur or take in the heritage architecture of the Unesco World Heritage Sites of Georgetown and Melaka. Fresh air fiends may like trekking in the Cameron Highlands or the jungles of Borneo. To complement the other attractions, such as encounters with indigenous communities with distinctive cultures and world-class diving off its islands, Malaysia also has a superb range of boutique hotels to make your stay complete, all bookable with Culture Trip.
Walkable to the major attractions in Kuala Lumpur such as the Petronas Towers and the vast Berjaya Times Square shopping mall, this boutique hotel in Malaysia has a pared-back, industrial vibe to its common areas – all bare brick and exposed piping – in stark contrast to the more conventional offerings in upmarket Bukit Bintang neighbourhood. A calm colour palette and concrete walls dominate inside the individually-styled rooms, ranging from skyline or courtyard-facing doubles to roomier artist lofts, the latter catering to creative types and bedecked with greenery.
Located in the heritage town of Melaka, the Heeren Boutique Hotel is far enough away from the tourist-heavy locations but is still within comfortable walking distance of the main attractions. Located in a sensitively revamped historic building on an affluent road, this hotel offers traditional Peranakan decorative flair and modern essentials. The rates are on the higher end, but this place has a reputation as the best lodging house in Melaka.
Part of the Penang Unesco World Heritage area and a well-known landmark on the island, The Blue Mansion (officially the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) has embarked on a mission to expose visitors to Chinese and Peranakan heritage. The striking building is both a museum and a boutique hotel. Treat yourself to historical luxury by staying in a remodelled 19th-century room. The Blue Mansion has been behind efforts to preserve remnants of Old Malaya, safeguarding them from the damaging effects of modern construction projects. A traditional neighbourhood surrounds the building, so immerse yourself in traditional local life.
For budget travellers, the Hotel Maison Boutique in Kuala Lumpur is a zany place to stay. Featuring fun themed rooms based on global pop culture and icons, the hotel is located in a corner of Bukit Bintang, close to the Berjaya Times Square shopping mall. It’s far enough away from the action to provide a peaceful stay and is close enough to the train station and the more affluent parts of Kuala Lumpur can be reached on foot. The striking red modernist exterior reflects the funky stylings within, and helpful staff make staying here unforgettable.
This restored Jawi Peranakan mansion in Penang reflects a more unusual Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture: South Asian influences are stronger here than East Asian ones. The property has a Mughal Anglo origin making it an attractive building, and the luxury service is among the finest in the city. The two rooms and the villas are individually-styled; the Mansion Suite comes with a claw-footed, free-standing soaking tub. The hotel is located on what locals call the Millionaire’s Road, part of the heritage area in Penang.
Located a short walk from the historic heart of George Town, this boutique hotel in Malaysia offers quality and affordable lodging in the form of snug, playfully decorated rooms with feature walls resembling chocolate bars and blond wood floors. Its convenient location, with the Komtar Skywalk, Penang Little India, Pinang Peranakan Mansion and the Kimberley Street Night Food Market all within a short walk away, makes it an excellent base for sightseeing, while the complimentary breakfasts fuel you up for an adventure-filled day.
While Sabah, a Malaysian territory on the island of Borneo, is best known for Mount Kinabalu – the highest mountain in Malaysia and a challenging trek in Southeast Asia, its bustling capital, Kota Kinabalu, offers modern lodgings where you’re likely to meet other adventurers looking to head into the jungle or the mountains. An easy walk from the Night Food Market, the harbourfront shopping malls and the cafes and restaurants of central KK, this boutique hotel is all stylish contemporary comforts, with good-quality beds, arctic a/c and colourful statement walls.
If Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to Sabah, the bustling city of Kuching is the jumping-off point for exploring Sarawak, the other Malaysian territory in Borneo. This boutique hotel sits in a prime spot on the waterfront in the heart of Kuching, overlooking the slow-flowing Sarawak River and a short stroll from the most popular eateries in Kuching. Comprising two respectfully updated 19th-century shophouses, this all-suite, adults-only property lets you choose between 24 individually-styled rooms, some with private verandahs and French windows framing views of Fort Margherita.
Surrounded by the natural and cultivated forests of Negeri Sembilan and on the edge of a nature preserve, just an hour away from Kuala Lumpur, this secluded boutique hotel in Malaysia consists of six constructions, from a traditional Malay-style house on stilts overlooking a pool to contemporary apartments and an open-concept house, which lets in rainforest scents and sounds. The hotel follows eco-friendly practices and doesn’t come with air-conditioning or television sets in an attempt to encourage guests to appreciate the nature surrounding them; at night, watch out for sparks of fireflies and enjoy some of the clearest skies you’ll ever sleep under.
Bristling with mountains and carpeted with rainforest, tear-shaped Pulau Tioman is an island off the east coast of Malaysia, renowned for its superb scuba diving. Bringing a touch of luxury to the remote west coast of the island, this boutique hotel consists of hillside sarongs or nests, wooden chalets and beachside villas peeking out of the riot of greenery, true to the eco-friendly mission of the hotel to minimise environmental impact on the location. The lodges are simple, but come with such creature comforts as satellite TV; some boast private plunge pools. Boat excursions, short jungle treks and all manner of dives are all on the menu. Insect repellent is a must.
Want to get closer to nature during your Malaysian holiday? See the best campsites in Malaysia with Culture Trip.
Georgia Platman contributed additional reporting to this article.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.