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By Malaysia specialist Jess

For a honeymoon in southeast Asia, Malaysia hits all the sweet notes if you’re a couple who love food and history just as much as sea views. Chinese, Malay, and Indian influences shine through in the cuisine. The British, Dutch, and Portuguese have left their colonial mark in the architecture. Then, there’s a carousel of livewire cities, sugar-white beaches, and unplugged rainforest.

The choice of accommodation ranges from beachside villas to heritage hotels that offer not just exemplary service but great value. Because your money goes further here than in nearby destinations, you can layer up the honeymoon treats and luxurious touches.

Any combination of places is possible, but I’ve suggested a four-stage honeymoon that immerses you in the lush rainforest at Langkawi — starting at the beach gives you time to relax and recover from the flight — before moving on to UNESCO-protected George Town, Pangkor Laut Island, and finishing in Kuala Lumpur. This route concentrates on the west coast where days are generally sunny and dry between January and May.

Langkawi Island

Langkawi Island is the largest of 99 tropical isles strung like jewels across the Andaman Sea, just off Malaysia’s northwest coast. It’s as if it’s been pulled straight from the pages of a romance novel: clear waters lapping white sands, swaying palms, forested valleys, and waterfalls that belong to fairies (so legend has it). All invite you to immediately put on the brakes and melt into newlywed life.

The Datai Langkawi, Langkawi Island
The Datai Langkawi, Langkawi Island

Where to stay in Langkawi for honeymooners

The Datai Langkawi is the only hotel I’ve seen that’s built nose-to-nose with the rainforest — don’t be surprised to be sharing your balcony with the local birdlife. The whole place oozes seclusion and luxury. I’m talking private-pool beach villas, wellbeing classes, forest bathing, massages, and a crescent-shaped bay where the views extend a long arm across the Strait of Malacca to Thailand. They often offer packages specifically for couples which include private in-villa dining with champagne and couple’s spa treatments.

Honeymoon experiences in Langkawi

The highlight of a stay at the Datai, in my opinion, is its relationship with the surrounding environment. The resident naturalists will regale you with stories from the wild, and you can join guides for birdwatching, butterfly walks, sunrise hikes into the jungle, and kayak and paddleboarding tours through mangroves.

The hotel is focused on being a force for good, and there are plenty of opportunities to find our more about their environmental projects, including meeting the in-house marine biologists who are helping to regrow coral reefs offshore.

Penang

Penang, just a 35-minute flight south from Langkawi, is an island renowned for its food and former prominence on the trading route through the Malacca Strait. George Town, the capital, is loosely separated into quarters, with simply designed shophouses in Chinatown, spice-laden stores in Little India, and a liberal smattering of 19th-century British colonial buildings, mosques, and Buddhist temples through the old town. It’s got a vibrant street art scene too, which you can explore on a guided tour by trishaw.

Funicular Train, Penang Hill
Funicular Train, Penang Hill
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Eastern & Oriental Hotel

Where to stay in Penang for honeymooners

For honeymoons, I recommend two hotels on the west coast. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel, popularly known as the E&O, is the grand lady of George Town. The Heritage Wing dates from the British colonial era and features Moorish minarets and a domed lobby. I also love the palm-circled pool overlooking the sea.

Alternatively, The Seven Terraces is an intimate retreat in the heart of the town. Once a row of Anglo-Chinese shophouses, the 18 suites reflect their heritage with gilded shutters and cabinets, mother-of-pearl inlaid furnishings, and cast iron lacework.

Honeymoon experiences in Penang

George Town is overlooked by Penang Hill, a retreat and lookout post during the British colonial period, and still a wildlife haven. I can arrange a ride on the Funicular Train to the top where a private guide will take you on a nature loop through virgin rainforest, which is home to dusky leaf monkeys and lemurs, plus tiny vampire crabs living in the water of some of the cup-like flowers. You’ll also wander along the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk, the highest point in the city, with views reaching to Penang Bridge.

Pangkor Island

Still heading south, it’s a three-hour drive with a private driver and guide from Penang to Lumut, then a 20-minute speedboat ride to reach Pangkor Island. These shores once rang with the sound of pirates. Now, they offer an away-from-it-all setting with coral reefs in glass-clear waters, temples, and bird-rich jungle.

Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor Island
Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor Island
Long-tailed macaque, Pangkor Island
Long-tailed macaque, Pangkor Island

Where to stay on Pangkor Island for honeymooners

For me, Pangkor Laut Resort is a honeymoon heavyweight, not least because it’s the only hotel on tiny — and totally private — Pangkor Laut Island, just west of Pangkor Island itself. You can stay within the gardens, the forest canopy, or by the beach, but the wooden villas lifted high on stilts over the water are my go-to. They’re why the resort’s dubbed ‘the Maldives of Malaysia’ and offers a true retreat with balconies opening onto the sea with just the shush-shush of the water as a soundtrack.

I recommend staying at least four nights. You can enjoy the spa, a large adults-only infinity pool, and a range of dining choices including the Pavilion, which sits on stilts above the rainforest. Another option is a candlelit dinner for two right on the beach, with your toes in the sand and star-strewn skies above.

Honeymoon experiences on Pangkor Island

Nature is king on the island, best showcased on hikes through the two-million-year-old rainforest. I suggest taking a guided hike with a naturalist — I saw lots of monkeys and wild boar, but you may also spy long-tailed macaques and lizards. You finish at Emerald Bay, where a crescent of white-sand beach is fringed by green water. To give it rubber-stamped honeymoon appeal, I can arrange a sunset picnic for soaking up views across the rainforest-trimmed coastline.

Kuala Lumpur

Swapping beach for steel-clad skyscrapers and sea for shopping and street markets, the capital’s the final stop where you can enjoy high-energy life and the ultra-modern side of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur’s a three-hour journey with a private car and driver from Pangkor.

Street food, Kuala Lumpur
Street food, Kuala Lumpur
The RuMa Hotel and Residences, Kuala Lumpur
The RuMa Hotel and Residences, Kuala Lumpur

Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur for honeymooners

My city pick is The RuMa Hotel and Residences. The hotel’s service, comfort, and location (mere steps from the Petronas Twin Towers) all shout excellence. It’s in the middle of the business, shopping and entertainment district, but the skyline-skimming infinity pool and sleek spa on the sixth floor make it feel like an oasis — appropriately, ‘ruma’ is Malay for ‘home’. Design-wise, the interior draws on Malaysia’s 19th-century tin mining boom, with gold, copper, and steel accents, including a gold-plated wedding dress in the lobby, alongside traditional rattan furniture.

Honeymoon experiences in Kuala Lumpur

I've been lucky enough to test out a lot of food tours, and can confidently say that Kuala Lumpur offers the best. Join a local food enthusiast on a walking tour and you’ll get an insight into the city’s different cultures, from temples to mosques to churches, as well as cuisines. It takes about four hours and is privately led, so the guide will tailor it to your tastes.

I started at Little India, sampling roti canai, Malaysian flatbread, with beef rendang and masala tea. Moving to Chinatown, I then tucked into street food, sitting outside on a tiny chair with grilled chicken satay and deep-fried stingray to share as the sun went down. There’s Portuguese heritage here too, which means pasteis de nata-inspired custard tarts on the menu.

East coast beaches

Tanjong Jara Resort, east coast Malaysia
Tanjong Jara Resort, east coast Malaysia

If you’re looking to visit Malaysia from April to October, I suggest switching your beach retreat from the west coast to the east, where you’ll get clear, sunny skies, and diving and snorkeling opportunities are ripe.

Tanjong Jara Resort in Terengganu has commanding views of the South China Sea, and has the air of a 17th-century Malay palace with intricate wooden architecture. A spa village, two pools, and a five-course private dining experience on the beach give it that luxury edge. When you’re ready to see and do a little more, activities include exploring the reefs off Tenggol Island, cruising Marang River, jungle trekking, and bike tours through Dungun’s fishing village.

For out-and-out opulence, the One&Only Desaru Coast is a tropical retreat of stone-and-timber-clad villas quietly nestling between powder sands and jungle. Kayaking, surfing, plus nature walks, monkey-spotting and birdwatching with the resident naturalist are all on the cards. From here, you could end your honeymoon in Singapore, which is only a two-hour drive away.

Read more about honeymoon ideas in Malaysia

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

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