Kuching is quite different from any other Malaysian city in Borneo. Although it was captured by the Japanese in World War II, the city itself survived and many of the infrastructure and buildings remained intact. Because of this, Kuching has a lot of architecture dated all the way back from the Bruneian Empire up to the occupation of the British Empire. In visiting the city and this region, you’ll be able to explore its biodiversity and uniqueness. Kuching has plenty of national parks, museums, and historical sites to explore. In this article, I’ll take you on an adventure to discover the top things to do in Kuching.
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The Top Things to do in Kuching
When you plan a trip to Kuching, you can fill your itinerary with a variety of different activities, including discovering the forest and wildlife that Borneo is known for. This is also a great place to learn about Sarawak’s history and culture, try delicious Malaysian dishes, and of course, soak up the sun on its relaxing beaches.
Let’s start with something that you need to know before you go to Kuching. The name of this city, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, is that it means “Cat” in Bahasa Malay. And that will explain a lot as you explore the city. And it’s why the first thing you should do when you come to Kuching is…
Visit the Cat Museum in Kuching
The museum of cats is one of the top attractions in Kuching. The Cat Museum is located next to the Kuching North City Hall, about a 12-minute drive from Kuching Waterfront. A visit to this cat museum means that you will learn more about cats and also Kuching City, probably an unexpected place to get some facts about the city but it’s here and with more than 4,000 exhibits there’s bound to be something that you didn’t know before you got here!
- Address of Cat Museum: Bangunan DBKU, Jalan Semariang, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Cat Museum: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
- Entry Fees for Cat Museum: RM3 ($0.68) for adults and RM2 ($0.45) for children below 12 years old
Like Cats? Cali in Colombia is another city that is famous for cat statues and monuments, check it out here.
Take a photo of the Astana in Kuching
The Astana Negeri is the official home of Sarawak’s Governor. The colonial-era palace was built in 1870, and Charles Brooke, of the British Brooke Family, aka the White Rajah’s lived here until the area was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. Unfortunately, as a member of the public you’re not allowed to visit inside, only those who are invited by the State are allowed to enter. Everyone is allowed to take photos from the outside, at night the building itself is lit with magnificent colors.
- Address of Astana: The Astana, Pejabat Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Walk along the waterfront in Kuching
The Waterfront of Kuching is one of the main attractions that’s popular both with locals and foreign visitors. This waterfront showcases a water fountain light show performance every evening. There are also river cruises that take around an hour that will give you a different perspective of Kuching’s Waterfront.
On dry land, walk along the walkway and browse stalls that sell food, handicrafts, and other products. It’s a pretty cool spot to buy souvenirs and mix with the locals.
- Address of Name of Attraction: Waterfront, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Visit the Kuching City Mosque
The City Mosque in Kuching is a stunning and peaceful attraction in the city. Kuching City Mosque is located right next to the Sarawak River and it’s more beautiful when the sunset shines on the building and reflects stunning colors. The first mosque built here would have dated back to 1847, although today’s iteration is from 1965. It’s pink and white with a large gold dome, particularly stunning at sunset.
- Address of Kuching City Mosque: 332, Jalan Datuk Ajibah Abol, Kampung No3, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Kuching City Mosque: 5 AM to 10 PM, every day
The Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple
For those who love visiting temples, pay a visit to the Temple of Hiang Thian Siang Ti. This small Cantonese Taoist temple was built in 1889, by Chinese settlers from Guangdong Province. It’s just a 3-minute walk southeast of the Kuching Waterfront. There’s a board outside the temple with pertinent information, and it’s particularly ornate. If you go inside, remember to remove your shoes before entering and wear appropriate clothing.
- Address of Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple: 22, Carpenter St, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple: every day from 6 AM to 6 PM
Visit Tua Pek Kong Chinese Temple
The temple of Tua Pek Kong is the oldest Taoist temple in the region (it dates from 1770), which means many Chinese tourists go the extra mile to see the temple to pray and pay respects to their ancestors. It’s covered with colorful designs. The Tua Pek Kong Temple is also situated right next to the Sarawak River, 5-minute on foot east of Hiang Thian Siang Ti Temple.
- Address of Tua Pek Kong Chinese Temple: Jalan Penaga, Kampung Paya, 13110 Penaga, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Visit the Old Courthouse in Kuching
The Kuching Old Courthouse now serves as a historical landmark, a museum, and the official headquarters of the Sarawak Tourism Complex. It was built in 1871 with wooden materials featuring colonial architecture. The Round Tower here was built in 1886, most likely as a fort, it was also used as a dispensary and is a memorial to Charles Brooke. Today, the Old Courthouse of Kuching is well-maintained, and it is a great spot to learn about Kuching and Charles Brooke, the famous head of state of Raj or Sarawak from 1868 to 1917. There are places to eat, have some tea, cake, and even a cocktail at night.
- Address of Old Courthouse: 7, Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Old Courthouse: 9 AM to 12 AM, daily
Explore the Sarawak State Museum and Natural History Museum
A visit to Sarawak State Museum, the oldest in the state of Sarawak, will teach you about the region’s cultural and natural history. If you are traveling with young children, this place has 5 interactive galleries featuring handicrafts and traditional houses, a great way to learn and experience Kuching. This is another building from the second White Rajah, Charles Brooke and it contains many of the collections from his time. When we visited it was “straight out of the 70s” – with lots of badly stuffed decaying animals, but there has been a massive restoration project ongoing since 2017.
- Address of Sarawak State Museum And Natural History Museum: Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, Taman Budaya, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Sarawak State Museum And Natural History Museum: weekdays 9 AM to 4:45 PM, for the weekends, it’s open from 10 AM to 4 PM
- Entry Fees for Sarawak State Museum And Natural History Museum: free
Visit Fort Margherita and the Brooke Gallery
Fort Margherita is situated across the Sarawak River from downtown. This means that you have to get on a boat to reach the fort. (It cost us 50 MYR) The Fort was built in 1879 to protect the city from pirates, by, yes, you’ve guessed it, Charles Brooke, again and it’s named after his wife, Margaret. Margaret became the much-loved Ranee Margaret. Today, Fort Margherita houses the Police Museum, which showcases weaponry; including guns, cannons, swords, and even cannon balls.
In the heart of Fort Margherita is The Brooke Gallery. It shows the history of Sarawak’s “White Rajahs”. As a reward for helping the Sultan of Brunei fight piracy, an Englishman – James Brooke – had been granted Sarawak in 1841 and received independent kingdom status. He and his dynasty became known as the White Rajahs. The rights were ceded to the United Kingdom in 1946.
Charles Brooke is the most well-known White Rajah of Sarawak for the work he did for Malaysians during his rule, and you’ll get to know him better in the gallery. The Brooke Gallery doesn’t just cover the history of Kuching but the entire region of Sarawak.
- Address of Fort Margherita: Petra Jaya, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Fort Margherita: 9 AM to 4 PM
- Entry Fees for Fort Margherita: RM10 ($2.27) for local adults and RM5 ($1.13) for children 7-12 years old, RM20 ($4.50) for foreigners, and RM10 ($2.27) for children 7-12 years old
See Sarawak’s State Flower At the Orchid Garden
In 1983, Sarawak declared its State Flower to be Normah Orchid, which was named after the wife of Sarawak’s 4th Supreme Head of the Federation. The scientific name of the Normah Orchid is “Phalaenopsis Bellina”. The best place to see the State Flower of Sarawak is to go to the Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara Orchid Garden. It’s a 13-minute walk north of Kuching Waterfront and through Darul Hana Bridge. During your visit, you will find many varieties of orchids (up to 75 of them) but keep in mind that there is a flowering season, which is from March through summer. You’ll also be able to see native Bornean orchids here, from the stinky rotten meat orchids and rare orchids that were once thought to be extinct.
- Address of The Orchid Garden: Kampung Istana, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of The Orchid Garden: 9:30 AM to 6 PM, it’s closed on Mondays
- Entry Fees for The Orchid Garden: free
See the Famous Rafflesia Flower At Gunung Gading National Park
Rafflesia Flowers, also known as Rafflesia arnoldii is native to Borneo and Sumatra rainforests, but can also be found in other parts of Southeast Asia such as Thailand and The Philippines. Although it does look stunning, it is a parasitic flower, produces a foul smell, and the seeds and glossy leaves are poisonous – so be mindful when you see one! These are the world’s largest flowers – and you can also see them near Kuching – but their blooming period is very very short!
You will find Rafflesia at Gunung Gading National Park. There are recommended trails for you to take, which will give you plenty of chances to see Rafflesia. It’s best to plan to visit Gunung Gading National Park for the entire day.
The park is quite a distance from Kuching city center. To get to the National Park of Gunung Gading, you can either drive for nearly 2-hours or take a bus from Kuching city to Lundu and get on another bus from Lundu to the park. If you don’t want to go there on your own, you can always book a tour that includes transportation, entrance fee, lunch, and a professional local guide.
- Address of Gunung Gading National Park: 94500 Lundu, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Gunung Gading National Park: daily from 8 AM to 5 PM
- Entry Fees for Gunung Gading National Park: RM20 ($4.50) for foreign adults, RM7 ($1.59) for 6-17 years old, while locals must pay RM10 ($2.27) for adults, and RM5 ($1.13) for 6-17 years old
Explore The Chinese History Museum in Kuching
Malaysia, in general, has a massive population of Malay-Chinese locals and Mandarin is well-used as an everyday language. You can learn more about how Chinese from the mainland have come to arrive and settle in Malaysia and Sarawak by visiting the Chinese History Museum.
The museum is small, but it’s filled with information, exhibitions, and prominent Chinese figures relating to the immigration of Chinese to Sarawak. The Chinese History Museum is only a few steps away from Kuching Waterfront.
- Address of Chinese History Museum: Chinese History Museum, Jalan Bazar, Sarawak, 93100 Kuching, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Chinese History Museum: Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4:45 PM, Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM
- Entry Fees for Chinese History Museum: Free
Visit the Sarawak Islamic Museum
Did you know that Islam was established in Malaysia in the 15th century? You can learn more about Islam’s history in Malaysia by visiting the Islamic Museum of Sarawak, which is situated on a busy street of Jalan P. Ramlee. The museum itself is pretty peaceful once you are passed the main entrance.
At the Sarawak Islamic Museum, there’s also lots of info on how the religion developed and was embraced by the locals. I found it truly fascinating! It also displays Islamic artifacts and documents that are related to the arrival of Islam in the region. The Islamic Museum of Sarawak is a 20-minute walk from the Waterfront or a 6-minute drive.
- Address of Sarawak Islamic Museum: Jalan P. Ramlee, 93400 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Sarawak Islamic Museum: Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4:45 PM, Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM
- Entry Fees for Sarawak Islamic Museum: Free
Take A Traditional Wooden Boat Ride At The Sarawak River
Don’t confuse a Traditional Wooden Boat Ride with a Waterfront Cruise. To experience the traditional wooden boat, it’s best to talk to local tour agencies and see which ones offer the best price. You can choose between a quick 10-minute ride up to a much longer journey, an hour or so. The boat ride can also take to you to the outskirts of the city and explore areas less visited by other tourists.
Find the Cat Statues of Kuching
You’re in the city of cats, and so you’re going to see a lot of cats. Since you already visited the Cat Museum, to complete this list of things to do in Kuching, you have to spend a few hours and find the Cat Statues of Kuching. The cat statues are pretty easy to find since they are massive and colorful. The most famous of the cat statues are in the middle of a roundabout and it’s known as the Family Cat statues.
The statues of cats are a famous landmark in Kuching, it gets busy during the afternoon. If you plan to take a photo, it’s best to come at noon, or in the evening when it’s floodlit. It will take you about an 11-minute walk west of the Waterfront.
- Address of Cat Statues of Kuching: Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Visit India Street in Kuching
Go to India Street if you are looking to buy souvenirs and try local dishes. India Street is famous for affordable clothing, footwear, and random products, but remember that many of the known brands you will find here are knockoffs. Walk around the street, since food and clothing are usually not sold side by side if you can’t find what you are looking for.
The Upside Down House
Bring your silly side and go to the Upside Down House in Kuching. This attraction is famous for being such a fun place where you can invent poses that will make your photos hilarious and at the same time – mind-bending.
For solo visitors, the staff will help you take photos and give tips on how to pose creatively. Go to Upside Down House over lunchtime when it’s not too crowded. The house is only an 11-minute walk from the Waterfront, very near the Cat Statues.
- Address of Upside Down House: Ground Floor, No.281-1-1, Lot 281, Section 48, KTLD, Block H, Taman Sri Sarawak Jalan Tun Abdul Rahman, Off, Jalan Borneo, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Upside Down House: every day from9:30 AM to 6 PM
- Entry Fees for Upside Down House: RM15 ($3.40) for adults and RM8 ($1.82)
Food and Drink in Kuching
As you can expect, the food and drinks in Kuching are very diverse just like its culture and traditions. When making your list of fun things to do in Kuching, make sure to add food and drinks to try during your time here.
Don’t miss a Malay breakfast of Sarawak Laksa at the famous Chong Choon, this bright and warming soup is full of flavor and is flavored with ginger, tamarind, and coconut milk.
Eat at Kubah Ria Complex
Kubah Ria is a commercial complex filled with a variety of stores. But as a visitor, this is where you want to go to get a taste of the local fruits and dishes of Sarawak. This includes bananas, fried noodles, and fried rice.
Eat at the open-air market
The open-air market, also known as Hawker Market is near the Kuching Old Courthouse, which is a good stop to take a break and eat some local desserts. Make sure to try pandan ice cream and ABC, short for Ais Kacang, a bean ice cream.
Eat at the night market
The night market, also called Uptown Kuching transforms from a nice little performance area during the day to a very busy night market. Uptown Kuching at night sells various local food and products. Instead of trying only one dish, have multiple and order rice dishes, noodles, and desserts. Don’t miss the dumplings and wan tan mee
Eat Kolo Mee in Kuching
Kolo Mee is a Malaysian dry noodle. The ingredient includes pork char siu, minced meat, shallots, and fried onions. Kole Mee also has some wonton or dumplings, fish balls, and vegetables. It’s a local and popular dish, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a restaurant that serves it.
Sarawak Layer Cake – Kek Lapis.
This mint and chocolate layer cake is wonderful, it feels, somehow very British! It’s layer upon layer of mint and chocolate sponge baked together.
Have a Beer in Kuching
Enjoy a sip of beer or two after a long walk exploring Kuching. You can enjoy a cold beer and also support businesses donating profits to save the orangutans. Go to the Bear Garden or Monkee Bar Bistro, for every beer and dish you order, a portion of the profits are donated to wildlife rehabilitation centers. Both places serve great local and international dishes.
Map of the Best Things to do in Kuching, Sarawak
You can also see the Kuching things to do map here.
Day Trips from Kuching
The best day trips from Kuching are focused on exploring the natural environment, diverse wildlife, and the rehabilitation of wild animals that are native to the region. This includes hiking trails at national parks to see orangutans, diving into the magnificent waters of Borneo to find sea turtles and dolphins, and a visit to a cultural village.
Visit Semenggoh Orangutan Centre
Missing a chance to see orangutans during your holiday in Kuching will be a massive mistake. Huge. The Semenggoh Orangutan rehab Centre continues to work hard toward saving and nurturing Borneo’s wild apes which are being left without safe homes due to deforestation and illegal hunting. Our guide to visiting Semenggoh is here.
The Orangutan Centre of Semenggoh is an hour away from the city of Kuching. You can take a public bus, but you are still required to do a 20-minute uphill hike. I’ve written about how to visit Semenggoh here, but the easiest way to see Orangutans in Semenggoh is to take a tour that includes transportation and a professional local guide.
If you’ve been to Sandakan and seen the Orangutan rehab center there, then you should also come here, its a VERY different experience.
Visit Bako National Park from Kuching
You can get away from the busy city and get to explore Sarawak’s coasts by going to Bako National Park. Bako is stunning, and you’ll need to take a combo of buses and boats to get there, but it’s well worth it. I’ve written about how to get there here, and this trip includes hiking some trails to reach the beach. On the trails, you’ll get the chance to see wild boars, macaques monkeys, and even vipers!
Although it is completely doable on your own, it makes for a long day, and visiting on a tour gives you more time to explore the National Park of Bako. If you book a tour, you can stay for at least a night and sign up for a night safari walk and see animals that are more active once the sun has set. The beach itself features unique rock formations, cliffs, and mangroves.
Satang Turtle Island National Park
It’s time to dive into the water of Sarawak by visiting Satang Turtle Island for a truly incredible experience. Every year, turtles return to the Island of Satang to lay their eggs, and during hatching season, you’ll be able to witness sea turtles breaking out of their eggs and racing to get to the water to start their new life.
The hatchery on Satang Island also rescues sea turtles that are injured and need proper care before setting them off to the water again. When you visit Satang Island, book a boat tour where you can snorkel at various locations and see marine animals unique to the Sarawak region. Most tours also include other activities such as looking for dolphins.
See Dolphins from Kuching
The Santubong waters are the area where the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and humpback dolphins live. It is only half an hour from downtown, so this is an awesome day trip to do from Kuching. The area of Santubong also has a mangrove which is home to wild reptiles such as crocodiles and the famous proboscis monkeys. When you book a tour, it includes transportation, a boat tour, a local guide, and a lunch.
Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village from Kuching
The Sarawak’s Cultural Village is a 30-minute drive north of Kuching. A visit here from the city will help you understand the different indigenous groups that are native to this part of Malaysia. And it’s not just looking, visits here are very interactive. The locals will show you how to weave and traditionally carve bamboo. The Village also shows you different types of ancient houses such as Chinese Farmhouse, Longhouses, and Malanau Tall Houses.
Experience The Annah Rais Longhouse on a trip from Kuching
The Annah Rais Longhouses is south of Kuching, around a 2-hour drive through nature reserves and forests. The Longhouses of Annah Rais are is known as home to about 500 residents who live in traditional Bidayuh Longhouses. You’ll need to come here for slightly longer than a day, but it’s well worth it. You’ll not only learn that there are three different longhouses; Kupo Terekan, Kupo Saba, and Kupo Sijo, but a visit to the Longhouses of Annah Rais will also teach you about the history and traditions of these ancient infrastructures. What’s great about visiting the Annah Rais Longhouses, is that you’ll also get to visit Semenggoh and Serian Town.
How to Get Around Kuching
Surprisingly, scooters are a popular mode of transportation for locals of Kuching. As a tourist, you can rent a scooter for as low as RM40 ($9) a day and have the freedom and convenience to get anywhere in Kuching and explore the outskirts of the city.
You will also not have a problem walking around Kuching since many attractions are near each other. However, during summer and typhoon season, this could be difficult.
Riding a bicycle is also an option to get around the city. If you have been to Melaka, (our guide of things to do in Melaka is here) Kuching has a similar bicycle culture. You can rent one from your hotel or bike rental shops designed for tourists.
Renting a car in Kuching is also possible. But this is only recommended if you plan to visit places outside the city. You can of course hail local taxis and use ride-hailing apps such as Grab.
Where is Kuching
Kuching is in the west of Borneo, south of Sabah, near the border with Indonesia. It’s about 528 miles (850 km) southwest of Brunei or 435 miles (700 km) directly east of Singapore.
How to get to Kuching
Kuching has an international airport, making it easy to get there wherever you may be coming from. The airport is only a 20-minute drive to downtown Kuching.
From Kuala Lumpur, there are multiple daily flights which are about 2 hours non-stop. It usually costs around RM110 ($25).
Miri is only an hour’s flight to Kuching, the ticket cost is around RM90 ($20) for one way. From Kota Kinabalu, you can take a 1.5-hour direct flight that costs RM90 ($20). If you’re spending time in Miri, then our guide to Miri is here.
You can get to Kuching from Sandakan by taking a 3 to 7-hour plane ride. There are no direct flights though, the connection is often through Kota Kinabalu. The flight cost is RM260 ($60).
Where to stay in Kuching
Fortunately, Kuching is an affordable place to explore but has plenty of resorts for those who aim for luxury and comfort. Budget travelers can find hostels in Kuching, there is also no shortage of mid-range Kuching hotels, while luxury resorts in Kuching are also available.
If you are looking for accommodation in Kuching, here are our recommendations for Kuching hotels:
The Waterfront Hotel is an incredible place to stay in Kuching, it offers a great view of the Sarawak River. It’s also conveniently located near all must-see attractions in Kuching. The Waterfront hotel has a fitness center, an infinity pool with a view, and a sauna. You can check rates and availability of Kuching’s Waterfront Hotel here.
The Kuching Hotel is a great choice for accommodation due to its value for money. The Waterfront is only a 5-minute walk from the hotel. Although the Kuching Hotel doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, outside its doors are various places to eat from a quick bite to fancy dining. There are more reviews on the Kuching Hotel here.
The Meritin Hotel is conveniently located near a busy area offering various tourist activities. Even though the rooms are small, the beds are comfortable and the AC works great. There is basic furniture, the rooms are very clean, and the staff are super helpful. The hotel has its own restaurant which also offers a buffet. This is a great location check it out here.
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Final Words on The Best Things to do in Kuching
Kuching might be a less popular destination in Malaysia, but it has a lot to offer. From seeing wild orangutans, visiting historical sites, to exploring the pristine beaches up north. Visiting Semenggoh Orangutan Centre, Turtle Sanctuary at Satang Island, and Cultural Village of Sarawak are all awesome places to add to the list for first-time visitors to the Malaysian side of Borneo.
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