A quick and easy getaway from the capital to the beaches along the eastern coast
With international borders still closed, it’s the ideal time for a great Malaysian road trip – one that begins right at your doorstep. Or, if you aren’t up for quite so much driving and want to start closer to the finish, just take one of Malaysia Airlines’ newly reinstated domestic flights to your starting point, and pick up a rental car from there.
Avis Malaysia, an international car rental brand, is a great option for road trip rentals. It has a comprehensive fleet of modern automobiles that caters to diverse needs. Whether you’re after an SUV that can withstand rough terrain and fit large families or a sleek saloon for a solo trip, Avis Malaysia has you covered. You can rent a vehicle for the weekend or choose from daily, weekly and monthly rental packages. At your request, the delivery and collection of your Avis vehicle may also be arranged for maximum convenience.
Visit any of its 16 outlets in Malaysia, which include branches at Renaissance Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Penang International Airport, Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport and its head office at Glenmarie Industrial Park in Shah Alam.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the city to enjoy the wide expanse of sand and sea, you’ll love this trip. The drive from downtown KL is relatively short, but there are plenty of interesting pitstops to make along the way. (For seven other road trip ideas, click here.)
Total distance: 295km
Suggested duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Perfect for: Culture vultures and history lovers
Before you hit the road
The journey from downtown KL to Kuantan takes just 2.5 hours if you drive nonstop but where’s the fun in that? Follow our plan for a more exciting route. If you’re planning to spend a night in the city, KL boasts a myriad of digs ranging from luxury outfits to boutique hotels that offer stunning panoramas of the city skyline.
Check out the rooftop infinity pool at MTree Hotel Puchong. Experiencing the sights of any major city, let alone Malaysia’s frenetic capital, can be both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure, so having a rooftop sanctuary like this to cool off in is a smart choice. Take a dip as the sun starts to set behind the Puchong skyline before retreating to the lounge for an ice-cold cocktail. The hotel also offers a combination of rooms and suites with high-speed WiFi, feathered pillows and a host of luxurious amenities designed for a relaxing stay.
Options are aplenty too for those who prefer staying in the centre of the action. Located in the heart of the city, Ascott Sentral Kuala Lumpur is home to 157 serviced residences, ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom units, that boast floor-to-ceiling windows providing unbeatable views of the city below, as well as luxury amenities such as a fully-equipped kitchen, a home entertainment system and, in select units, a washing machine and dryer. The contemporary property, which has gone cashless for convenience and safety, also allows guests flexible check-in and check-out arrangements, and the opportunity to opt for a 24-hour stay. Also available at the hotel are shuttle services, on-call doctors, an in-house clinic, courier and secretarial services, a gym and swimming pools for adults and children.
The next day, before hitting the road, set aside some time to explore KL’s thriving café scene. Swing by TTDI, a neighbourhood popular among locals for its independent coffee roasters and dining spots. Oh Cha Matcha, the brainchild of the sibling duo behind trendy cafes CoffeeSociété and Garage 51, is the country’s first speciality matcha café that blends premium-grade matcha with ingredients such as blue spirulina, ginger and turmeric to create healthy beverages. Try the Ceremonial Matcha, which uses the highest grade of tea leaves grown in Uji, Kyoto and is a favourite of the Emperor of Japan. What’s more, their milky drinks use unsweetened soy milk by default, and you can substitute almond, cashew, oat or coconut milk – all of which are unsweetened as well – at no extra cost. The dusty-pink, Instagram-worthy joint also serves rice bowls, pastas and desserts.
When you’re ready to set off on your journey, look out for durian stalls that can help when you need to refuel. Fans of the King of Fruits can also head to Mountain Cat Durian’s online store and purchase desserts. Made with fresh durian from its own farm in Broga, Selangor, the assorted treats include durian mochi, durian gelato and durian crêpes. The Malaysian brand prides itself on their precise farming and harvesting techniques, and also sells whole durians (varieties such as D24, Musang King and Durian Kampung), the pulp of D24 and Musang King durians, as well as frozen durian paste, which you can use to make your own durian-flavoured desserts when you get back home. Get 15% off with the code, MOUNLC02, when you spend a minimum of RM 200.
Pitstops along the way
Schedule in a visit to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre, about 1.5 hours from KL, to witness the great work the sanctuary does in caring for young elephants that have been orphaned by poaching or logging. You can even help the mahouts give the elephants their bath.
On your way to Cherating, stop by Kuantan for a bite to eat. Kuantan, the capital of Pahang, has welcomed some exciting new openings in recent years and oceanfront Puteh Beach Bar is one of them. With its all-white cabanas, beanbag chairs and nightly seafood barbecues, the chic lounge vibes of Bali and Phuket are right here on Malaysia’s east coast. Occupying its own private area on Pantai Balok, diners can enjoy the gorgeous ocean view without interruption. A lunchtime menu offers Italian classics, including various pizzas, though it’s the evening beachside barbecues that really draw the crowds. Groups of five or more can arrange for their own private grill fest. You can even head off to sea to catch your dinner alongside Puteh Beach Bar’s experienced fishermen.
For a bit more variety, stop off at an industrial-chic take on the traditional food court. The open-air White & Black Cabin has graffiti-covered walls made from shipping containers, fairy lights and a vintage automobile above its sign. Even better: it has stalls selling everything from roti John to Cantonese-style noodles. Start with a kaya naan from Sya Naan as an appetiser, before digging into a chicken burger at Koboi Kerinting and washing it down with an Oreo smoothie from Sugar Ant. Open from 5pm to midnight every day except Wednesday, White & Black Cabin’s plethora of choices deserves another visit on the return trip.
The final stretch
From Kuantan, it’ll take you less than an hour to reach the resort town of Cherating, where sun, sand and even a little surf await. The coconut palm-fringed, white sand beach of Pantai Cherating is a must-visit while here; this quiet strip is markedly less touristy than Malaysia’s other beach locales, but boasts some pretty decent swells for surfing. Try your hand at fashioning your own traditional sarong at Limbong Art, a local boutique which also offers inexpensive batik-making workshops and even a chance to pick up some souvenirs.
Although Cherating is largely a backpacker haven, there are luxury digs you can wind down in after a day’s worth of driving and sightseeing. For a beachfront escape, The Kasturi is an upscale resort that is set on beautiful Chendor Beach, sandwiched between the rainforest and the sea. Designed by, and named after, famed Malaysian architect Hijas Kasturi, the resort is made up of villas that each feature an outdoor rain shower, floor-to-ceiling windows and a private pool. If you can convince yourself to leave your plush digs, you’ll find that there’s plenty to see and do throughout the property, from kayaking to helping to release baby sea turtles. What’s more, enjoy 20% off its F&B offerings (applicable to the a-la-carte menu only) with the code, MHKASTURI20, when you book directly with the hotel.
With thanks to our partners Mountain Cat Durian, Ascott Sentral Kuala Lumpur, Oh Cha Matcha, Puteh Beach Bar, White & Black Cabin, MTree Hotel Puchong and The Kasturi