The Top Things to Do in Miri, Malaysia

Visit the small 'Oil City' of Sarawak
Visit the small 'Oil City' of Sarawak | © Apit Zaramiz / Shutterstock

Malaysia‘s booming oil town is in northern Sarawak, beside the South China Sea. Whatever your holiday desires, Miri will fulfil them, as it’s rich in beaches, urban parks and handicraft centres. It’s also the gateway to four nearby national parks, including Gunung Mulu – one of the finest in Southeast Asia. Here they are, Culture Trip’s favourite things to do in Miri.

Visit Sarawak’s best strand, Tusan Beach

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Tusan Beach, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia.
© james wk / Shutterstock

Around an hour’s drive from Miri lies this slender stretch of white-sand beaches, backed by limestone and sandstone cliffs. There’s also a lovely rock that resembles a horse’s head bowed to the beach. City slickers love Tusan for a serene day out. The views before you descend are magical, but stick around on the beach until nightfall for the chance to witness the bioluminescence: the so-called “blue tears” are from tiny micro-organisms that emit ethereal light. The sea begins to sparkle like a star-studded sky.

Stroll Miri City Fan Recreation Park

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Seahorse sculptures in Chinese Garden pool in City Fan park, Miri, Malaysia
© Chris Howes/Wild Places Photography / Alamy

All things to everyone – this triumph of an urban park is so named because it traces the outline of a traditional handheld fan. You’ll find a range of themed gardens, among them Botanical, Chinese, Health and Islamic. What you wouldn’t guess is that it’s also home to the Miri City Library, an amphitheatre and a huge public pool. Then there are the murals and statues here, there and everywhere, depicting the history of Malaysia. For all the activities, it’s also great to just sit on a bench watching families strolling and couples jogging.

Go wild in Gunung Mulu National Park and Lambir Hills National Park

Park, Natural Feature
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Bat Cave in Borneo
© Christian Reinwald / Shutterstock
Gunung Mulu National Park, in northeastern Sarawak, is one of the most entrancing destinations in Southeast Asia: there are fascinating cave labyrinths and lashings of tropical rainforest; if you’re a hiker, strike out for the Pinnacles formation on Mount Api. Lambir Hills is also great for a day or two. Heart-stopping sights include clouded leopards, barking deer and cute, furry little tarsiers, with their big round eyes. Also to stick on your must-see list: the Niah Caves, colossal underground chambers containing some of the oldest human remains found in Malaysia, including a 40,000-year-old skull.

Have fun at Taman Awam Miri

Park, Amusement Park
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If you need to ask for directions, note – Taman Awam Miri is better known as Miri Public Park; 3km (2mi) beyond the city centre, it’s a kids’ paradise: a suspension bridge takes you through the treetops, with views down on the pretty gardens. Kids can then cool off in the water playground, home to a huge shallow pool, water slides and a water fountain. If you’ve got the energy, take a whizz-round on inline skates until you’re ready for the nut-brown satay at the well-known food stall, grilled to perfection and smoky from the barbecue coals. Fried chicken feet are also, as it were, good to go.

Relax at Hai Long Si Temple

Buddhist Temple
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Front gate to the new, colorful Hai Long Si Chinese temple in Miri, Borneo, Malaysia
© James Talalay / Alamy

It’s in a straightforward residential neighbourhood, which makes this colourful, ornate Buddhist temple demand your attention even more. Architecturally, it’s textbook-photogenic, with two large dragons guarding the entrance at the top of the steps. You don’t come to this place for urgent appointments, rather for a meditative morning or afternoon, contemplating the beautiful tiles and hanging red lanterns, as well as the orange flicker of koi carp in the lobby fish ponds.

Browse Tamu Muhibbah market

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Red and green chili peppers for sale at the Tamu Muhibbah central food market in Miri, Borneo, Malaysia.
© James Talalay / Alamy

If you’ve just disembarked your bus in the central station, you might want to head straight to this nearby institution – a market busy with whirlpools of shoppers, picking at teetering piles of sweet, sun-ripened pineapples, long tapioca tubers and fresh and nose-wrinklingly pungent dried fish. Stock up on great-value spices, handicrafts and produce from upriver areas as well, including neatly stacked sacks of fragrant Bario rice from the highlands.

Eat top Kelabit cuisine at the Summit Cafe

Cafe, Malaysian
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You’ll need to queue, but you won’t regret the authentic cuisine from the Kelabit Highlands dished up at the Summit Cafe. Take your pick from the colourful traditional dishes displayed on the counter at this no-frills restaurant just off Jalan Melayu. Do try dure (fried jungle leaf), minced tapioca leaves and daun ubi (sweet potato leaves). It’s always packed, with diners inside and outside happily eating at the plastic chairs and tables, so get there early.

See spectacular views from Canada Hill

Natural Feature, Memorial
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The Grand Old Lady located at Canada Hill Miri is Sarawak first oil rig well, now a petroleum museum.
© ThamKC / Alamy

Canada Hill, or Bukit Telaga Minyak in Bahasa Malaysia, is a limestone hill a short drive inland from Miri. In 1910, this became the site of Malaysia’s first oil drill, giving birth to the long and lucrative industry driving the country’s economy today. The Grand Old Lady, a replica of the first oil well, soars 30m (100ft) at the top of the hill. Enjoy the panoramic views of Miri and the South China Sea – it’s best to be here at sunrise or sunset.

Stock up at Miri Handicraft Centre

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Miri Handicraft Center promotes Sarawak indigenous ethnic arts and craft to tourist
© ThamKC / Alamy

Did you come all this way just to look around malls? This emporium, on Jalan Brooke, is a terrific source of authentic arts and crafts from northern Sarawak. Stalls are run by the artisans themselves, and you can often watch them working – making basketry using plants gathered from the forests, shaping pottery and finessing jewellery. Your list should include Penang mats, Orang Ulu beadwork, or bolts of ikat, tie-dyed and skilfully woven on a loom – an experienced weaver requires an inspirational dream to create a new design and a variety of textiles from around the state. Cultural performances are occasionally held on weekends.

Have a dusk drink at Miri Sky Bar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Malaysian, Asian
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Meritz Hotel_e_445e8960
Courtesy of Meritz Hotel / Expedia

If you’re shopped out and footsore after a session at the Miri Handicraft Centre, this place is close by: 17 floors up at the Meritz Hotel. The Miri Sky Bar majors in delicious dishes and drinks – in particular, try the so-called “steamboat buffet”, which involves dipping raw ingredients fondue-style in a boiling soup base at the table. This is the place to come for a few sunset selfies over one of the generous shared cocktails, as your pulse slows on the terrace, overlooking the city and South China Sea.

These recommendations were updated on June 20, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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