12 Hidden Gems in Malaysia That Even Some Locals Don’t Know About

12 Hidden Gems in Malaysia That Even Some Locals Don’t Know About

Discover a new and underrated side of Malaysia.

From windswept peaks and white-sand beaches to rustic villages and urban meccas, Malaysia has no shortage of destinations to visit. After a while, however, every travel checklist gets crossed off. The blank edges of the map are filled in, and suddenly, it feels like you’re left with nowhere new to explore. Fortunately, that’s not true for avid travellers looking to explore hidden gems in Malaysia. 

Here are some destinations that even locals might not know about (yet). Ready to explore Malaysia off the beaten path? We know we are! 

Also read: 12 Dreamy Treehouses in Malaysia You Can Book on Airbnb

Hidden gems in Malaysia you need to check out

1. Royal Belum State Park, Ipoh – Perak

hidden gems in malaysia

Image credit: adznee abas

The Royal Belum State Park is a preserved tract of land that stands as one of the oldest rainforests in the world, with a history stretching back 150 million years! A pristine destination, visitors can expect to immerse themselves in pure natural beauty and outdoor activities like riverboat rides and scenic hikes. 

Besides that, there are a couple of beautiful waterfalls in the park worth checking out; the Sungai Kooi Waterfall and the Sungai Ruok Waterfall, the latter of which is a natural fish sanctuary. Hidden by thousands of acres of flora are a massive variety of wild animals, rarely seen outside the deep jungle including elephants, tapirs, and even the Sumatran rhino. Among the many Malaysia hidden gems, you don’t want to miss this one.

2. Pulau Sembilan – Perak

Part of a tiny cluster of islands off the coast of Perak, Pulau Sembilan is famous for its rich marine biodiversity. This island is one of a handful of places in the world where visitors can experience the popular “blue tears” phenomenon, making it one of the hidden gems in Malaysia.

What is the “blue tears” phenomenon, you ask? This refers to bioluminescent algae that burst to life with blue light when waves make contact with the shore. In addition to that, you’ll be able to discover a vibrant coral reef around Pulau Sembilan that’s home to seahorses, butterflyfish, bamboo sharks, and more.

So far, Pulau Sembilan and a handful of other islands in Perak have been closed for years due to the conservation and restoration of the local ecosystem. However, the good news is that there have been whispers about a reopening soon! Just make sure to be a responsible citizen when you’re visiting, and dispose of your rubbish properly.

3. Tasik Kenyir, Hulu Terengganu – Terengganu

Image credit (L-R): Fahmi Rosli; Momoc HDR

Welcome to one of the largest man-made lakes in Southeast Asia and a bona fide entry on your list of Malaysia hidden gems. Tasik Kenyir is another gorgeous nature retreat that hasn’t quite gone viral yet. Here, you can stay on a houseboat and discover a marvellous range of activities including fishing, kayaking, going on jungle walks, and more. Besides admiring the scenic view and letting the serene atmosphere melt your stress away, the lake and its surroundings have a couple of points of interest that are worth checking out. 

You could visit the Lasir Waterfall, which is pretty much just a beautiful waterfall. Then again, does it need to be anything else? There are also fishing opportunities here for those who are interested, but you’ll need to bring your gear. Other than that, visitors can check out Gua Bewah (Bewah Cave). This limestone cave is easy to explore (even for beginners) because there are stairs and automatic lights set up.

4. Sasaran, Kuala Selangor – Selangor

Sasaran is one of the hidden gems in Malaysia that takes the “out-of-the-way” vibe to a whole new level. This quaint little town is only an hour away from Kuala Lumpur and is a great option for escaping the hustle and bustle of the big city. 

Pay a visit to the Sasaran Fishing Village for a taste of the simple life, and feel your worries fade away in the cheerful quiet of a small town that few know about. This town is also home to the famous Sasaran Sky Mirror, which is Malaysia’s very own version of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. You also might be able to spot silver-tailed monkeys swinging between the trees of Sasaran’s thriving mangrove landscape. 

Also read: 12 Most Instagrammable Places in Kuala Lumpur & Selangor

5. Mari Mari Cultural Village, Kota Kinabalu – Sabah

Dive headfirst into the culture, lifestyles, and activities of the five major ethnic groups of Sabah at Mari Mari Cultural Village. Located in Kota Kinabalu, this attraction will get you familiar with the talents and prowess of the Dusun, Rungus, Lundayeh, Bajau, and Murut people of Sabah. 

Their skills range from wood carving and fire starting, to learning how to cook traditional Sabahan delicacies with bamboo. Besides that, you’ll also get a front seat to different cultural performances, and even play some traditional games. With all these in mind, Mari Mari Cultural Village should certainly make your list of hidden gems in Malaysia.

6. Rainbow Waterfall, Sungai Lembing – Pahang

Image credit: Khwon

Rainbow Waterfall is one of Malaysia’s most spectacular yet untouched waterfalls. Of course, the reason why it’s famous is pretty obvious. In the mornings, sunlight shines through the effervescent spray from the cascading waters to form an arcing rainbow over the river water below.

The waterfall is located in Sungai Lembing, which used to be a tin mining town. To get to the falls, you’ll have to follow a local guide through the jungle via a four-wheel drive, and then endure a 45-minute trek to reach your destination.

7. Gunung Datuk, Rembau – Negeri Sembilan

Image credit (L-R): Izudin101; tina yake

This particular location is one of many hidden gems in Malaysia and is perfect for travellers who are into outdoor activities. Gunung Datuk (Mount Datuk) is the tallest peak in Negeri Sembilan, with an intriguing folktale that goes along with it. Legend has it that a famous Malaysian folk hero, Hang Tuah, conquered this mountain ages past, and left his footprint embedded in one of the rocks atop the mountain’s peak. So, it’s an exciting thing to look for on your hike up!

Fair warning, however — this particular trek isn’t for the less experienced. Gunung Datuk puts forth a strenuous hike. So, make sure to wear the proper footwear, do your stretches, and bring plenty of water. Try to get a local guide to accompany you on your journey; the Malaysian wilderness can be rather daunting at times. As with any good jungle hike, you can expect to see lots of interesting plants and animals on the way up.

Also read: Hiking in Malaysia: 14 Trails With the Most Picturesque Views

8. Kampung Boyan, Kuching – Sarawak

hidden gems in malaysia

Image credit: Dustin Iskandar

Among the hidden gems in Malaysia, this village offers a more authentic, down-to-earth perspective of Sarawak that goes beyond the frenetic environment of Kuching City. Kampung Boyan is a traditional Malay village that sits on the north bank of the Sarawak River. You’ll be able to see many rows of colourful traditional Malay houses, interspersed with touches of modern architecture. 

If you’re visiting Kampung Boyan, bear in mind that it’s one of the best places to get your hands on Sarawak’s famous kuih lapis (layered cakes). These delicious treats are made out of layers of colourful batter and are most popular during the festive season. In the village, you’ll also be able to try out the local river taxi, also known as penambang.

9. Maxwell Hill, Taiping – Perak

malaysia hidden gems

Image credit: SRTG

Elevated at an altitude of 1,250 metres above sea level, Maxwell Hill is a peaceful hideaway that is yet another one of many hidden gems in Malaysia. Up on the hill, the climate is cool, and the atmosphere is peaceful. You can enjoy an excellent view of the town of Taiping below. Popular activities at Maxwell Hill include bird watching and exploring nature trails.

The entire destination exists as a resort area, and private vehicles are not allowed up. Fortunately, the resort owners provide Land Rovers at the hill’s base for transport. As for accommodation, there are plenty of modest options available, including certain bungalows that were built almost a century ago.

Also read: 18 Cold Places in Southeast Asia for Your Next Getaway

10. Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion, George Town – Penang

Image credit: Uwe Aranas

Penang’s Blue Mansion is an iconic structure, with a unique architectural style and great historical value that cements its place among hidden gems in Malaysia. It was built by the merchant Chong Fatt Tze in the late 19th century, an eclectic seat of power while he conducted business in Penang. 

Its indigo-blue, Gothic windows, and mesmerising design will definitely draw you in. There’s no doubt that this Blue Mansion is one of Penang’s most Instagram-worthy places. As of today, you can visit and even spend the night here, as the mansion now serves as a heritage hotel, complete with a bar and restaurant.

Also read: 17 Airbnbs in Penang Where You Can Live Like a Local

11. Astaka Morocco, Putrajaya – Kuala Lumpur


hidden gems in malaysia

Image credit: Qaedi Shamssudin

Within the tranquil grounds of the Putrajaya Botanical Garden, you’ll come across the eye-catching Astaka Morocco. This exotic space brings the essence of Morrocan architecture right into the heart of Malaysia. Marvel the intricate carvings on the walls, beautiful mosaic tilework, and majestic columns – and don’t forget to take lots of pictures for the ’Gram while you’re at it!

It’s also a great place to take a breather while you’re exploring the surrounding gardens, which also happen to be one of Malaysia’s largest. There are a total of eight different sections featuring a variety of exotic plants. In a way, you’ll be able to explore two hidden gems in Malaysia for the price of one!

Also read: 18 Gorgeous Airbnbs in Kuala Lumpur You’ll Want to Live In

12. Pulau Gemia – Pulau Terrenganu

This last entry is a Malaysia hidden gem that promises plenty of sun, sand, and simply good times. Pulau Gemia is a sight to behold, with wind-sand beaches, gorgeous waterfront villas, and a relaxed vibe. It’s a popular destination for honeymooners, with the name Pulau Gemia quite literally translating to “Gem Island” in English. To get to this underrated island in Malaysia, you’ll need to hop on a boat from Merang Jetty, and it’s just a 15-minute jaunt over to Pulau Gemia.

Also read: 14 Top Islands in Malaysia for the Perfect Beach Getaway

For all the destinations in Malaysia that you might have explored by now, there’s clearly more to be enjoyed in the future. To discover more underrated places in Malaysia and all across the globe, follow us on Instagram @tripzillamag!

About Author

Jeremiah Patrick
Jeremiah Patrick

A journeyman wordsmith wandering the creative lexicon, looking to craft a masterpiece. The only thing on par with Jerry’s love for a good story is the time he spends playing dauntingly difficult video games, reading works of fiction, and listening to horror podcasts. His mood shifts between dark brooding and cheery quips, depending on how much caffeine swirls in his system.