Level Up Your Road Trip Game By Visiting The Malaysian East Coast

Take a road trip towards the east coast of Malaysia!
By: Cherelle Lim
July 15, 2023

You’ve been to Penang, you’ve been to Melaka. If you’re hoping to explore more of Malaysia, why not take a road trip to the east coast? The Malaysian east coast is where the states of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang sit. You might be surprised, but the east coast of Malaysia doesn’t just have gorgeous beaches for you to lay on. Each state definitely has some signature dishes you need to try as well! More importantly, Glitz is here to discover all the hidden gems you can find while road-tripping to the east coast of Malaysia.

When’s The Best Time To Visit?

If you’re planning a road trip to the east coast of Malaysia to visit pretty beaches, you’ll want to visit during our dry season. Avoiding the monsoon season will definitely save you a lot of heartbreak and disappointment. So, booking your trip around April to October is a wise idea! It’s always better to come back from a trip tan than sad you weren’t able to do anything!

Must-Visit Locations on Malaysia’s East Coast

1. Cherating 

45 km north of Kuantan is Cherating, a fairly relaxed village. Split into Cherating Lama and Cherating Baru, it is appealing to families and small travellers due to its inviting and warm community. Resorts can be found further down the coast of Cherating Baru where families can enjoy the beach comfortably! Take a stroll on the beach during sunset or visit the turtle sanctuary for an incredible experience.

2. Gua Cheras

Trip Advisor

If you hire a taxi from Kuantan (RM100 return including waiting), you can visit both Gua Cheras and Sungai Pandan waterfall which are close in proximity to each other!   Sungai Pandan waterfall also has various pools you can splash in. But if you’re planning a laid-back day trip, be sure to visit Gua Charas. If you take the bus, you’ll start your journey at Panching village. Here, you’ll find a sign pointing down a track through plantations to the cave. Inside the cave, a 9m sleeping Buddha is almost miniaturised by its large surroundings! Definitely, a sight to behold if you are ever on the east coast of Malaysia. 

3. Kuala Terengganu

Trip Advisor

The majority of Terengganu’s most well-known attractions, including the beautiful beaches that line much of its coastline and magnificent islands like Pulau Redang,  the Perhentians, Pulau Lang Tengah, and Pulau Kapas, are only accessible from the city. You can travel inward to Tasik Kenyir Lake from the city as a base. However, Kuala Terengganu itself has enough to offer to warrant a day or two of sightseeing. In particular, the old town, with its bustling Central Market and the nearby old Chinatown neighbourhood. Check out the State Museum and Pulau Duyong to explore the city’s maritime heritage as well!

4. Kuantan

The Star

Since 1955, Kuantan has served as the state capital of Pahang. It is an unremarkable collection of concrete structures centred on an older neighbourhood of shophouses adjacent to Sungai Kuantan. Although Kuantan itself offers virtually little in the way of historical or cultural interest, it can be a welcome change of pace after spending time in Terengganu or Kelantan. A few hidden gems to look out for when in Kuantan is their padang and between their oldest streets and the river hides a few restaurants and hotels too!

5. Marine Turtles on the East Coast

While four different species of marine turtles lay their eggs along Malaysia’s east coast, the huge, critically endangered leatherback turtle has long been the main lure of Rantau Abang in Terengganu. On the beaches and islands along the east coast, there are a number of authorised viewing locations for nesting turtles, including Cherating, Pulau Perhentian Besar, and Pulau Tioman (near Juara Beach). Whelpourpenyu.com, created by an organisation named Ecoteer that promotes volunteer opportunities on Perhentian Besar, is a fantastic resource.

6. Pekan

Tourism Pahang

About 50 km south of Kuantan is the royal city of PEKAN. Its name literally means “small town” too. Until 1898, Pekan was the capital of the state of Pahang and still retains some charm and tranquillity, although this has been difficult in recent years with the growth of its modern centre and the renovation of more of its historic buildings. However, the city is definitely a worthwhile day trip from Kuantan! You’ll find charming and almost simple houses with several museums, wooden former royal residences and beautiful gardens.

7. Pulau Perhentian

Backyard Travel

The name Pulau Perhentian actually includes two islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil (meaning Big and Little resting places; sometimes used interchangeably with Big Island and Little Island). Both are picture-book tropical paradises still appealing despite their tourism development. The basic requirements for a beautiful island holiday – wonderful sandy beaches and swimming and diving – are there. Both islands have forested hills within them with hiking trails and the chance to see monkeys, monitor lizards and flying foxes!