Don’t feel like spending time in stuffy airports and airplanes putting up with all sorts of queues (or worse, crying children)? Consider going on a road trip from Singapore. Sure, we might be limited geographically to Malaysia, but the easy pace, relatively sound infrastructure, and the wide range of scenic views – not forgetting the exchange rate – is enticing enough (well, it is to us!). So here are our recs for charting your next adventure.

For Culture and Cooler Weather

Travel Route: Malacca, Cameron Highlands, and Kuala Lumpur

Time: 4 days, 3 nights

Stay: Courtyard @ Heeren Boutique Hotel (1 night) and Cameron Highland Resort (2 nights)

Best Time to Go: Throughout the year

Cameron Highland Resort Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highland Resort

With the climate going a little cuckoo, we’re gunning for the cooler highlands in Malaysia. Leave Singapore bright and early, and you’ll be in Malacca, a major port hub for European occupiers in its heyday and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008, by lunchtime. It’s also a centre for Peranakan culture so check out the Baba-Nonya House Museum or the No 8 Heeren Heritage Centre. Take a sunset river cruise, then chow down on some satay celup and chendol.

Depart for Cameron Highlands after breakfast and you should arrive by late afternoon. Take this time to wind down, try out the spa, and have a long, relaxing dinner. Start early the next day – walk in Boh Tea’s plantations, pick strawberries, or take a trip down memory lane at Time Tunnel before heading back to the hotel for a spot of afternoon tea at the elegant Jim Thompson Tea Room.

On the way back to Singapore, make a stop in Kuala Lumpur for a rustic Italian dinner at Neroteca or Asian-style seafood at Super Crab Aroma Restaurant.

For Families with Younger Kids

Travel Route: Kota Tinggi, Desaru, and Puteri Harbour

Time: 4 days, 3 nights

Stay: Kota Rainforest Resort (1 night), Pulai Desaru Beach Resort (1 night), and Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour (1 night)

Best Time to Go: Throughout the year

Pulai Desaru Beach Resort
Pulai Desaru Beach Resort

It’s all about short and manageable drives when it comes to kids, so we’re keeping things within the Malaysian state of Johor for the sake of your sanity. The draw of Kota Tinggi is definitely the Lombong Falls, which has shallow pools ideal for the little ones to swim or wade in. Book your firefly cruise for the night at the reception while checking into the hotel.

The next day, head to Desaru, which plays host to a plethora of educational treats like the Desaru Ostrich Farm and the Desaru Fruit Farm, where the kids can learn about these flightless birds and agriculture. The Desaru Beach, a sandy beach 25km long, should be great for big and little people alike.

It’s back to civilization – and theme parks – on Day 3. Depending on your kids, there’s Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, The Little Big Club, and Legoland. Home is just an hour’s drive away, and good thing too!

For Foodies

Travel Route: Malacca, Ipoh, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur

Time: 5 days, 4 nights

Stay: Ipoh French Hotel (2 nights) and Coffee Atelier, Georgetown (2 nights)

Best Time to Go: Throughout the year

Coffee Atelier Georgetown Penang
Coffee Atelier

Eat your way through Malaysia with this route. Stop by Malacca for a Peranakan meal at Kocik Kitchen or Restoran Peranakan, both along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Make sure you don’t overeat ’cause it’s a 4.5-hour drive up to Ipoh, Malaysia’s lesser-known hawker food paradise. Head to the famous Big Tree Foot for yong tau foo, Funny Mountain for soya beancurd, and Onn Kee for their famous poached chicken with bean sprouts.

After breakfast, depart for Georgetown 2.5 hours away. Spend time purveying the colonial architecture, exploring the quaint nooks and crannies, as well as trying a few of their many hipster cafes. In fact, Coffee Atelier is a hotel-coffee museum-gallery-restaurant all in a collective of 5 shop houses. Indulge in dim sum from traditional pushcarts at De Tai Tong Café and Penang’s famous char kway teow and other hawker food at Gurney Drive.

It’s a looong ride back to Singapore, folks, so make a pitstop in KL for their black glossy KL Hokkien noodles at Restoran Ahwa in Petaling Jaya. For posher nosh, Bijian has fine, unpretentious Malay food.

For Nature Lovers

Destination: Fraser’s Hill, Taman Negara National Park, and Kuala Lumpur.

Time: 6 days, 5 nights

Stay: The Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant (2 nights), Mutiara Taman Negara (2 nights), and The Majestic KL (1 night).

Best Time to Go: February – September

Taman Negara National Park Malaysia
Taman Negara National Park

The longer drives between destinations makes this route unsuitable for the young and restless. It’s a 6-hour journey to Fraser’s Hill in Pahang, but we’re sure the two restful nights you get at this little hamlet of a British relic where bird watching is the nature mainstay is worth it. Looking out for 300 species of birds aside, you can go boating at Allans’ Water, walk the peaceful trails, admire gardens, and have a splashing good time in the icy cool Jeriau Waterfalls.

After breakfast, drive 4 hours to Taman Negara National Park, which is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, it’s estimated at a whopping 130 million years old. Explore this complex, vibrant ecosystem through river cruises, jungle trekking, and the canopy walk. If you’re the sort who can ‘rough it out’, consider staying overnight in the park itself – just remember the mosquito repellent.

Ease back into city life by spending your last night in Kuala Lumpur. North of the city sits Batu Caves, a limestone outcrop with three main caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines. It’s a popular tourist spot and gets incredibly crowded during Thaipusam, but this attraction, with its frolicking monkeys and stunning skyline, warrant a visit all the same.

For Beach Hopping

Travel Route: Cherating Beach, Tanjong Jara, and Tioman.

Time: 7 days, 6 nights

Stay: Impiana Resort Cherating (2 nights), Tanjong Jara Resort (2 nights), and Japamala Resort & Spa (2 nights)

Best Time to Go: April – October

Tanjong Jara Resort
Tanjong Jara Resort

Expect beautiful beaches on Malaysia’s oft-neglected Eastern Coast and quality (couple) R&R time with this itinerary. 6 hours away by highway and 7.5 hours by coastal road, Cherating Beach is 45km north of Kuantan and the first stop on your seaside break. If you time your visit during turtle season, the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary organizes trips to release turtles into the ocean. Other activities include a mangrove cruise along Cherating River and batik painting classes.

Located 2 hours away, the award-winning, all-inclusive Tanjong Jara Resort is an intimate beachfront property that takes immense pride in its Malay roots and culture. Even though their beach appears to be exclusive, we like that they haven’t ‘robbed’ the locals by making it a private beach. Besides lounging by the beach, you can go snorkeling or diving in Tenggol Island, take a cooking class, or go on a guided bicycle tour.

Tioman – 5 hours south, on the way home – doesn’t exactly have a great reputation but trust us, where you stay makes all the difference – think serene treetop chalets and beach villas located in the verdant foliage along the beach. Diving aside, you can explore islands and villages nearby. Something quirky here: you can dine anywhere you want, the folks at Japamala will set the table up for you!

Taman Negara National Park image by Peter Gronemann
Top Image by Kiran Foster