Thailand and Malaysia are two of the most beautiful honeymoon destinations in the world.
While both of these Southeast Asian nations offer sunny beaches, vibrant cities, delicious food, romantic accommodations, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and warm weather, they each have their own personalities.
This comparison will help you figure out which country is best for your honeymoon and how you should spend the most romantic vacation of your life.
Read on to discover the best things to do, food to eat, places to stay, shopping, and experiences to enjoy in Malaysia and Thailand.
What Are the Best Things To Do in Malaysia?
Eat Everything in Georgetown (Penang)
As a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, Malaysia offers a diverse selection of cuisines and hybrid dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
However, true foodies must travel to Georgetown to sample the delicious street food. As a robust east-meets-west trading port, Georgetown has a long culinary history with Chinese, Indian, European, and Malay influences.
Dishes to try: nasi lemak (fragrant rice topped with curried meats and vegetables served in a pandan leaf), hokkien mee (thick noodles fried in pork or shrimp stock), and roti canai (roti topped with creamy curry, a chicken thigh and a fried egg).
Indulge in World-class Nightlife
If you and your spouse are fans of lively nightlife, head to Changkat Bukit Bintang and party the night away at the many bars and clubs.
If a sophisticated pre-dinner drink is more your speed, make a reservation at one of the city’s lofty sky bars, such as Deep Blue (Rooftop Bar), Canopy Lounge Rooftop Bar, Man Tao Bar, or Marini’s on 57.
After a night of dancing (or a cocktail or two at an upscale bar), head to Jalan Alor to experience a true late-night food lover’s paradise. Don’t forget to order mouthwatering chicken wings and other Malaysian comfort foods.
Stay at a Romantic Overwater Bungalow
You don’t have to go to the Maldives to experience incredible overwater bungalows!
Imagine waking up to the gentle sea breeze, opening the doors of your private bungalow, and diving into the warm, turquoise waters.
You can have all of this plus kayaking, oceanside massages, stunning swimming pools, snorkeling right from your room, and excellent service.
For scuba divers, we recommend staying at Mabul Water Bungalows or Lankayan Resort. However, if you enjoy easy relaxing, we recommend booking a stay at Pangkor Laut Resort complete with a high-end spa, a private beach, and traditional building designs.
Experience the Beauty of Islamic Architecture
No trip to Kuala Lumpur is complete without a visit to the world-famous Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia.
This carefully curated space showcases over 10,000 pieces, ranging from fine jewelry to Persian tapestries. The building itself is also a modern architectural wonder, which features Iranian tile work and a series of turquoise domes.
However, as a majority Muslim country, Malaysia is home to other exquisite examples of Islamic architecture, including the Masjid Mosque (Kuala Lumpur), Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan (Kuala Lumpur), Masjid Tengku Tengah Zaharah (Terengganu) and Masjid Zahir (Kedah).
Shop, Shop, Shop
While the markets in Malaysia are not as famous as the markets in Thailand, you will not be disappointed.
Handmade batik sarongs, dresses, and shirts are items you simply must take home with you. You can also buy goods such as beads, fine pewter work, paintings, and a vast variety of delicious snacks.
During the wet season, you can stay dry by shopping in covered locations such as the expansive Central Market located in Kuala Lumpur.
Connected by covered walkways and easily accessible, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Suria KLCC, and Starhill Gallery are luxury malls with a variety of high street and luxury stores.
See Orangutans in the Wild
At Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, in Sabah, visitors can watch these amazing creatures as they eat and go about their daily lives.
This renowned rehabilitation center helps orangutans that have been displaced due to logging, kept as pets, or impacted by illegal hunting activities.
During the morning and afternoon feedings, visitors can watch the orangutans from an elevated platform.
The 1-kilometer walk to the viewing area is also beautiful, providing views of the jungle and old-growth trees.
Explore the Underwater World
Thanks to its clear, warm waters and vibrant coral reefs, Malaysia is an excellent destination for snorkeling and diving.
For scuba divers with an Advanced Open Water certification, Sipadan Island is a dreamy destination and considered one of the most beautiful dive spots in the world.
Pure white sand beaches, palm trees, swimming with sea turtles, and the chance to experience the beauty of tropical seas at their most wild – these experiences await you at Sipadan Island.
For those more interested in snorkeling, Redang Island, Langkawi Island, and, of course, the beautiful Perhentian Islands are great choices.
Drink Tea in the Cameron Highlands
Take in the cool weather, soak in the view of fog-covered mountains, and get warm with a hot cup of tea in the Cameron Highlands.
You can feel the colonial influence on this area not only through the tea you drink but also through the architecture. We recommend visiting Bharat Tea Plantations Sdn. Bhd. just before sunset to experience the golden light that illuminates the entire valley.
Although you can take a golf cart to explore the tea estate, walking is the best way to fully experience the beauty of this place.
Climb the Rainbow Stairs up to the Batu Caves
Located about an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves are a great day trip during your city honeymoon.
Although the climb will make you sweat, it is worth it to see the sacred Hindu temple located within the limestone caves and the view from above.
Keep in mind that the monkeys at the entrance to the temple will get into your things so make sure to leave food in the car.
What Are the Best Things To Do in Thailand?
Watch a Muay Thai Fight
Whether you are watching seasoned professionals or ambitious amateurs, experiencing a Muay Thai fight is a must in Thailand.
Undoubtedly, Bangkok is the best place to watch a fight, but Pattaya, Phuket, and Chiang Mai also have stadiums. Although the weekends are the best time to watch a match, you should check with the stadium and buy your tickets in advance.
You can also take a Muay Thai class with an experienced kru (coach/teacher) and break a serious sweat.
Explore Majestic Buddhist Temples
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country and merit-making at wats (temples) plays a huge part in Thai life.
Imagine strolling beneath colorfully tiled arches as you admire the intricate Naga statues guarding the entrance of each temple.
The White Temple (Chiang Rai), Wat Chedi Luang (Chiang Mai), Wat Arun (Bangkok), Wat Phra Thart Pha Sorn Kaew (Khao Kor), Wat and Wat Tham Suea (Krabi) are some of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.
Shop ‘Til You Drop at the Markets
Whether you visit a night market or a local farmers’ market, you will be amazed by the market culture in Thailand. From local textiles to handicrafts to vintage jackets, you can find a range of intriguing products.
Specific items you can purchase include hand-embroidered shirts and dresses, hill tribe jewelry and purses, ceramics, vintage athletic jerseys from Japan, paintings, carved elephants, and natural skincare products.
Don’t forget to check out The Sunday Walking Street (Chiang Mai), Cham Cha Market (Chiang Mai), Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok), Asiatique The Riverfront (Bangkok), Kuang Mueng Nan Walking Street (Nan), Krabi Town Night Market (Krabi) and The Walking Street Chiang Rai (Chiang rai).
Visit a Floating Market
I know, I know, we just talked about markets, but the charming floating markets are in a league of their own.
Ranging from authentic to touristy, the floating markets outside of Bangkok are famous for the traditional boats that navigate the canals bearing goods and delicious foods.
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is easy to reach from Bangkok and offers a variety of local dishes, while the more famous Amphawa Floating Market Bangkok is great for local seafood, including grilled prawns, squid, and crab.
Head to the Beach
If you want to spend time on a gorgeous beach without working too hard to get there, Thailand is a better choice than Malaysia.
Featuring expansive white sand beaches, turquoise waters, cool breezes, rows of beach chairs, jet skis, snorkeling, kayaking, endless sunsets, and miles to simply walk, there is something for every honeymooner in Thailand.
Pro tip: avoid staying at the backpacker, party beaches such as Patong Beach (Phuket), Haad Rin (Koh Phangan), and Pattaya Beach (Pattaya) if you are looking for quiet.
Instead, opt for a far more romantic beach such as Khao Lak Beach (Phang Nga), Lamai Beach (Koh Samui), Kantiang Bay (Ko Lanta), Freedom Beach (Phuket), Railay Beach (Krabi) and Phra Nang Cave Beach (Krabi).
Feed Rescue Elephants
While many businesses in Thailand offer elephant encounters, it is important to pick an ethical and humane establishment.
We recommend booking a full-day experience at Elephant Nature Park, in Chiang Mai. Nestled in the lush highlands of Northern Thailand, you will spend the day walking with elephants and learning about these beautiful creatures.
You can also book an overnight (2 days and 1 night) visit and experience the tranquility of rural living while meeting the sanctuary’s herd of elephants.
Pro tip: do not book a tour with a business that offers elephant rides because the elephant’s spine cannot support a person’s weight day after day.
Glamp Under the Stars
For couples honeymooning in the cooler months between the dry season and rainy season, booking a luxury tent, dome or bubble is an unbeatable experience.
You can pre-order a barbeque set dinner and cook your own meal while watching the stars. Keep in mind that December and January can be quite cool in the northern provinces so you should pack a fleece jacket and sweatpants.
Although you can find glamping accommodations throughout Thailand, the best ones are on beachy Koh Yao Noi, outside of Chiang Mai, and in other destinations in the north of Thailand.
Book your dream glamping getaway at Baan Phu Mork (an hour outside of Chiang Mai), BlueSky Glamping Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao Camping (1.5 hours from Chiang Mai), 9 Hornbills Tented Glamping (Koh Yao Noi) or La Na Wild (an hour outside of Chiang Mai).
Visit Trendy Bars and Themed Cafes in Bangkok
You could visit Bangkok 100 times and still not make it to every café and bar on your must-visit list. From rooftop bars with breathtaking views (and low railings) to an entirely pink unicorn café, you will never get bored.
These are our favorite themed cafes: Featherstone Café (an apothecary-inspired café with Harry Potter vibes), Truelove @ Neverland (a Siberian husky café), and Hajime Robot Restaurant (a robot serves you Japanese dishes).
These are our favorite trendy bars: Havana Social (a sophisticated Cuban bar with a secret entrance), Honest Mistake (a speakeasy inspired by 1930s Chinese establishments), and Above Eleven (a chic rooftop bar with Peruvian-Japanese fusion cocktails).
Top Honeymoon Destinations in Thailand
Often referred to as “the Cultural Capital of the North”, Chiang Mai is a picturesque destination with a historic, walled Old City that dates back to the 1200s.
Things to do in Chiang Mai: try khao soi (a northern, yellow curry with egg noodles), hike up the Monk’s Trail and explore a hidden temple, take a cooking class, visit the elephants, explore the temples and art galleries, stroll through the night markets and watch the sunset from the mountains.
With the famous Phi Phi islands (and Maya Bay) located just 42 kilometers offshore, it is no wonder Krabi is a top honeymoon destination.
This dreamy province is also home to hot springs, winding mangroves, crystal-clear, freshwater canals, misty sunrises, mountain temples, and sandy beaches.
You can enjoy activities such as rock climbing, snorkeling, island hopping, hiking, lounging, and sampling seafood.
While Ao Nang is a busy tourist hotspot with all the amenities, the Tub Kaek Beach area is a great choice for couples seeking luxury and quiet.
Although Ko Lanta is a tropical island within Krabi province, it deserves a separate listing.
Ko Lanta is a favorite among couples due to its relaxed atmosphere, nice beach resorts, comparatively low prices, swimmable public beaches, and friendly locals.
It’s also a great jumping-off point to take a scuba diving trip and, from November to April, you might just spot an elusive whale shark.
Koh Yao Yai
Located in the Andaman Sea, between Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai has untouched natural beauty, empty beaches, a thriving local community, and a few world-class resorts.
This is a great choice for couples who want to get off the beaten path, but also want an opulent room with an ocean view and a private pool.
We recommend booking your honeymoon stay at Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort & Spa, which offers 39 teakwood pool villas, massages on the beach, stunning pools, and beachside dining.
One of the most popular beach destinations in Thailand, Phuket is the nation’s largest island and home to a charming old town.
If you love fine dining, stunning beach resorts, and a high level of service and don’t mind a slightly busier beach experience, Phuket is a fabulous choice.
It’s a great place to enjoy beach activities such as jet skiing, swimming, lounging, and kayaking. However, it is not the best place for snorkeling or diving. If these activities are important to you, check out Ko Tao.
The nation’s capital city is a lively destination with vivid markets, a historic old town, incredible historic sites, towering skyscrapers, excellent nightlife, spectacular temples along the Chao Phraya River, easy access to food vendors, rooftop bars, high-end shopping, river cruises and a variety of exciting day trip options.
However, like every major city, it is crowded and it can be difficult to navigate from one part of the city to another in a timely manner.
We recommend booking a hotel along the Chao Phraya River or in the trendy Sukhumvit area.
Although a lot has changed since visitors enjoyed the deserted beaches of the 1970s, Koh Samui is still one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand.
During the winter, the busiest season, it can get crowded, but you can still enjoy white sand beaches, explore waterfalls, sample delicious Thai food, and relax in a private pool villa.
You can also easily visit Ko Tao for snorkeling and Ko Phangan for a wild night at a full moon party.
Top Honeymoon Destinations in Malaysia
Famous among local and foreign tourists for its white sand beaches and stunning natural beauty, Langkawi Island is actually an archipelago of islands located in the Andaman Sea.
The main island is mountainous with lush jungles and inviting beaches, but you can explore other islands by renting a private boat with a driver.
This is a great honeymoon destination for couples who like being comfortable, enjoy hiking, kayaking in mangroves, swimming in waterfalls, and watching the sunset after a day of adventure.
Filled with tea plantations and wrapped in mist, the Cameron Highlands will make you feel far from the bustling cities and warm beaches.
Located in Pahang, this mountainous region is one of the most luxurious and romantic honeymoon destinations for couples seeking cool weather and luxurious, colonial-style accommodations.
Some things you can do include exploring a strawberry farm, picking lavender at a flower farm, touring a tea plantation, admiring the local Hindu temples, and warming up with a hotpot-style dinner.
Located in the South China Sea, in Terengganu, the Perhentian Islands are the perfect choice for couples who want to relax, take in views of the blue-green waters and enjoy each other’s company.
Other activities include snorkeling, diving, volunteering at the Perhentian Turtle Project and spotting sea turtles in the wild, hiking to the highest point on the biggest island, and drinking coconuts from a tiny beach hut.
Overall, the accommodations are not as luxurious as what’s on offer on Langkawi Island, but Alunan Resort is a slightly more upscale option.
Keep in mind that the best time to visit is between March and September due to the monsoon season in other months.
The nation’s capital city is quickly becoming one of the most popular urban destinations in Asia with a stunning skyline.
A visit to this dynamic city is incomplete without witnessing its iconic buildings, including the soaring Petronas Twin Towers and the Menara Kuala Lumpur, a famous telecommunication tower that stands out against the other high-rises.
This amazing city is surprisingly walkable; however, it is important to plan for the afternoon downpours of the rainy season and the midday heat that comes with the dry season.
Don’t forget to visit KLCC, a sprawling park that serves as a lush oasis in the middle of this bustling city.
If you love adventure and getting off the beaten path, Tioman island is the honeymoon destination for you.
Located in one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful marine preserves, Tioman Island’s untouched natural beauty will take your breath away.
Although most of the hotels are budget accommodations, sacrificing a little comfort is worth it to experience this incredible place.
Visitors can see an incredible variety of marine life, surf huge waves during monsoon season, relax on the sand and simply enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
For the adventurous at heart who love the ocean and a little bit of luxury, Mabul Island is an ideal choice.
You can stay in an overwater bungalow, swim in the warm water, snorkel directly from your balcony, go sea kayaking in a clear plastic kayak (it feels like there’s nothing between you and the ocean), stargaze without a trace of light pollution and go diving around neighboring Sipadan Island.
The best honeymoon accommodation in the area is Mabul Water Bungalows and we recommend booking well in advance.
How Is the Food in Malaysia?
Malaysia is home to one of the most flavorful and diverse cuisines in the world. With influences from various parts of China, India, Indonesia, Europe, and more, the food will make you want to eat 10 meals a day!
Malaysia has a bustling street food scene and, in the larger cities, you can eat at all hours of the day and night.
Here are a few must-try dishes in Malaysia: rendang daging (tender, caramelized beef cooked in a dry curry), laksa (spicy noodle soup with a rich, coconut broth), satay (grilled meat on a stick served with a variety of flavorful sauces), gulai ayam kampung (chicken curry cooked with kaffir lime leaves and turmeric), ikan bakar (grilled fish) and char kuey teow (stir-fried rice noodles in a dark soy sauce).
Fun fact: you can find many of the same dishes in Malaysia and Indonesia so you can experience the culinary delights of two countries in one visit.
How Is the Food in Thailand?
Both Thai and Malaysian cuisine uses rice as a base, are undeniably flavorful, and can be quite spicy.
However, they certainly are not the same. Generally speaking, Thai food incorporates more sweet, sour, and spicy notes, while Malaysian food utilizes a wide variety of fragrant spices.
Here are a few must-try dishes in Thailand: pad thai, pad grapao mu (a stir-fry dish with basil and pork served over rice), pad met mamuang gai (stir-fried cashew nuts with chicken), gaeng keaw wan (a flavorful green curry prepared with beef or chicken), tom yum goong (a spicy, sour soup with a clear or creamy broth and shrimp), som tam (young papaya salad topped with peanuts, shredded carrots and dried shrimp) and cha nom yen (iced Thai milk tea).
Like Malaysia, Thailand is also an amazing place to eat street food, and taking a street food tour is an absolute must.
Pro tip: if you cannot eat spicy food, make sure to tell the waiter “mai pet luey” (absolutely not spicy).