Top Malaysian destinations for the school holidays, from mountains to waterparks

Feel free to take photos with the elves, Santa's helpers and mascots at Resorts World Genting. — Resorts World Genting

The long, year-end school holidays have started in Malaysia. The young ones are surely excited but some parents may feel a little overwhelmed, especially if they have not had the time to make plans for the family yet.

Well, no need to stress out as we have a list of places to go and things to do during the holiday that is fun for the whole family. Time to get the kids (and some adults!) off their devices and create everlasting memories.

Go up and up

If you’re looking for a cool holiday – literally – then head to the highlands in Pahang where the temperatures are low and the air is crisp. Cameron Highlands is a nice place for day trip, one filled with educational visits to farms and plantations. Teenagers and adults may want to consider hiking in the area, but do check with the local authorities first to find out which trails are open to the public. Also, if the weather is not good, then it is not advisable to do this activity.

At Genting Highlands you will of course find Resorts World Genting, a holiday and entertainment destination that’s always popular with local tourists. There’s always something for everyone here, including indoor and outdoor theme parks, outlet shopping and seasonal events. This year, the resort’s Christmas-themed events feature dancing elves, roaming Christmas carollers, water and light shows, and even “snowfall” sessions. On Dec 23, the 19-piece Selangor Symphony Orchestra is set to entertain everyone with classic Christmas pieces.

Over in Sabah, head to Kundasang and Ranau to chill out by the mountain. Along the way, you can visit the Desa Cattle Dairy Farm to learn how dairy products are made (and try some tasty treats like ice-cream and yogurt), or the Sabah Tea Garden to see how tea leaves are grown, processed and marketed.

Meanwhile, animal lovers can check out the handful of animal farms located in both townships, including the Alpaca Club, Sably Goat Haven and the Arnab Village Ranau.

Animals and insects

Any kind of outdoor recreation is usually great for kids and a zoo or wildlife park would make for a good experience as this would give them a chance to interact with animals and connect with nature.

A bird park-turned-mini zoo, the Langkawi Wildlife Park in Kedah is currently home to over 150 species of small animals, and visitors are welcome to check them out. It’ll be an educational trip for the young ones, with guides stationed around the park to provide assistance.

Visitors can also buy animal feed to hand out to some of the furry critters like raccoons and rabbits, and the birds. There’s a special feeding session for the eagles and otters too.

Say hello to the penguins at the Underwater World Langkawi. — Underwater World LangkawiSay hello to the penguins at the Underwater World Langkawi. — Underwater World Langkawi

Also in Langkawi is the Underwater World, an indoor attraction that lets you wander through a tunnel covered in see-through glass, with sharks and various aquatic species swimming all around you. Learn all about our precious marine creatures and see their extraordinary beauty in this aquarium.

Besides fish, you can also find numerous water birds here, like peasants and penguins, specifically the crested penguins. These gregarious marine species are most recognisable by their red-orange beak and yellow feathers, which stretch from the bill to the back of its head.

Another aquarium to check out is the Shore Oceanarium in Melaka. Packed with educational benefits, this oceanarium is a good place to take younger kids to as it has numerous interactive activities like feeding sessions that can help them better understand marine life.

Children can also learn about how important the ocean is, and how we can better care for it and all the underwater creatures. It’s never too early to teach children about the environment!

At Entopia, curious visitors will be assisted by guides on how to correctly handle the delicate butterflies. — CHAN BOON KAI /The StarAt Entopia, curious visitors will be assisted by guides on how to correctly handle the delicate butterflies. — CHAN BOON KAI /The Star

In Penang, check out the Entopia Penang butterfly farm where you can experience being surrounded by thousands of butterflies! The giant greenhouse conservatory is a little heaven of nature, with over 15,000 tropical butterflies roaming around the garden that’s filled with beautiful flowers and plants.

Entopia has an indoor discovery centre with a learning exhibition, indoor activities and an array of interactive edu-stations for visitors to explore and learn.

Of course, there’s also the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park located right in the middle of the capital city, next to the KL Bird Park and the Lake Gardens. This is said to be the largest butterfly park in the world, with over 6,000 winged beauties from more than 120 species housed in a single venue.

If you are in Kuching, Sarawak, check out the Borneo Happy Farm for an up-close-and-personal look at farm animals like the local goat, Saanen goat, Malin Cross sheep, Katjang goat, horse, Asian water buffalo, horse and cow. The farm also has a variety of turtles and terrapins on the premises.

There are accommodations on the farm too so if you’re looking for an “authentic farm life” experience, you can stay the night here. Check out their website for more information.

Water worlds

What kid doesn’t like playing with water? Malaysia is not short on water theme parks and it is especially popular during the warm and dry seasons, as well as during school holidays. But water parks are not just well-loved among children, adults love them too!

In Johor, there’s the Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast, located in the state’s latest tourist attraction. This water park was opened just about a year before the pandemic began, so not many are aware of the place. It actually has one of the biggest wave pools in the world, as well as the first-ever “water coaster” (like a rollercoaster but wet ... ) in Asia. The park has special sections for younger kids and even toddlers, too.

JSK Borneo ReefJSK Borneo Reef

Also in Johor is the holiday favourite, Legoland Malaysia Resort. This theme park is divided into several sections, one of which is the water park. There are over 20 slides, rides, shows and water games at the water park.

This holiday season, however, you might want to check out the main theme park as it has been transformed into Santa’s Toy Factory. The place is covered in colourful holiday decorations, while “elves” are walking about bringing cheer to everyone.

In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah you can check out JSK Borneo Reef, said to be the largest reef activity pontoon in South-East Asia. Located within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, this pontoon – a large, flat-bottom barge – offers exciting water activities like snorkelling, kayaking and sea walking.

There’s also an “inflatable water park” adjacent to the pontoon.

Museums and learning spaces

Despite what some people may think, visiting a museum is not a boring activity! Especially if the museums offer interactive attractions and interesting displays, relics and artefacts.

At the Chocolate Museum in Kota Damansara, Selangor, for example, you can visit the chocolate laboratory for a glimpse of how to make the delicious confectionery by a certified chocolatier. The museum also has displays of chocolate sculptures including one of the KLCC Tower that’s made from 525kg of white, milk and dark chocolate.

There are portraits of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, too, which were made from M&Ms. This art piece took nearly 300 hours to complete.

Check out the section on the history of cocoa and chocolate, especially in the context of Malaysia. Did you know that long ago, cocoa beans were used as a remedy to relieve diarrhoea? Well, you can find out why this was so at the museum.

Also, the antioxidants in dark chocolate are said to be good for the heart so head to the shop at the museum to stock up on chocolates.

If your kids are afraid of going to the dentist, perhaps a visit to the Kodomo dental clinic in KidZania will help them get over their fears. — KidZania Kuala LumpurIf your kids are afraid of going to the dentist, perhaps a visit to the Kodomo dental clinic in KidZania will help them get over their fears. — KidZania Kuala Lumpur

Nearby, in Mutiara Damansara, there is KidZania Kuala Lumpur. Sure, this isn’t a museum but it is an edutainment centre where kids can learn real life skills and have fun while doing them.

Closed for more than two years during the early days of the pandemic, KidZania has recently added two new partners – Kodomo and Optimax – to its space. Kodomo is a children’s oral care brand from Japan while Optimax is a home-grown eye specialist centre.

At this learning space, kids not only get to discover their interest but they can explore their passion too. The immersive career role play sessions are always popular with young kids at this space. Parents or their guardians are encouraged to participate in the sessions too. Who knows, you may just be inspired to change your career path ...

In Perak, check out the Ho Yan Hor Museum to learn more about the history of the herbal drink and company that started it.

Known for its relieving benefits, the tea was the legacy of local herbalist Dr Ho Kai Cheong. When he came up with the formula for the tea, it became a big hit with tin mining workers, who drank it to prevent from getting the flu or cold.

The museum is situated in the busiest part of Ipoh, and is painted in striking blue so you can’t miss it. The building was Dr Ho’s actual home back in the day; it was converted into a museum in 2016 by his family, who wanted to pay homage to his work, as well as his dedication to helping others.

The SplashMania Waterpark at Gamuda Cove in Selangor is set to open in January 2023. — Gamuda CoveThe SplashMania Waterpark at Gamuda Cove in Selangor is set to open in January 2023. — Gamuda Cove

SplashMania Waterpark, Selangor

Calling all water theme park lovers! A new water park is set to open in Selangor in January 2023, and thanks to its proximity to the tropical forest, it is said to be the “first of its kind”.

The SplashMania Waterpark is nestled in the township of Gamuda Cove, located between the Paya Indah Discovery Wetlands and the Kuala Langat Forest Reserve. Surrounded by lush greenery, the rainforest-themed park lets you reconnect with nature.

There are over 24 water slides featured in the 7.2ha park, with another 15 fun activities scattered around the venue. Among the rides and slides are a 78m multimedia and audio water slide called The Shaka Waka, a quickly accelerating vertical and compound curves water slide called Wild Rush and the 250m-long virtual journey through the Lost City Of Atlantis.

Besides the fun rides, you’ll most likely bump into the park’s mascots, Omba King (a dugong), Zoomi (an orang utan) and Max (an otter).

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