Miri is a very different Malaysian city compared to other coastal tourist destinations such as Langkawi, Penang, and Kota Kinabalu. However, this small city near the southern border of Brunei has something to offer to visitors that is quite distinctive, and while most come here on their way through to the stunning Mulu National Park, it’s worth sticking around for a day or two, to explore. What’s unusual about Miri is that the local economy has the oil industry as the main contributor, not something you’d associate with tourism! However, a series of National Parks and some interesting natural phenomena provide several options that make this worth a trip. Here are the best things to do in Miri.
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Miri was originally a small fishing village. The British took over the city in 1883. Although there is documentation of early oil farming using hand-dug wells during the 11th century, it wasn’t until 1891 that the British showed interest in pursuing the oil industry. The Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company (which became part of Royal Dutch Shell Company in 1907), was established. Miri Hill or “Canada Hill” was the chosen spot for oil drilling.
There are other unique things here, too, a beach where bioluminescence plankton exists, a very unique attraction in Malaysia. And there’s also a great location for visiting that has no mosquitoes. Yep, you read that right.
If you’re heading to Brunei, then coming to Miri is easy, as the border is only a few hours’ drive. You can easily get on a direct bus and go to Bandar Seri Begawan. Later in the article, there is more information about traveling between Miri and Brunei.
The Best Things Things to do in Miri, Malaysia
Spending time in Miri and the area surrounding the city means you’ll get to explore caves, hike trails, relax on the beach, and walk around the city center of Miri to learn about its petroleum industry and culture. We’ll also cover what National Parks to visit around Miri.
Get a View of Miri from Canada Hill aka Miri Hill
Canada Hill was originally called Miri Hill and it’s found on the northeast side of downtown Miri. You can reach it on foot in about 2 hours of walking or by taking a 10-minute taxi ride. The top of Canada Hill is one of the best spots for a scenic view of Miri and the ocean.
There are also a handful of places to see on Canada Hill, so you should plan to spend a half day or an entire day if you walk here. The view is very different during the day to at night, so it’s an idea to come up in the afternoon and wait for the sunset to enjoy both views. Today, the names Miri Hill and Canada Hill are used interchangeably.
- Address of Canada Hil: 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Visit the Grand Old Lady on Canada Hill
The Grand Old Lady is a significant location in Miri located on Canada Hill, this was Malaysia’s first drilled oil well. It’s located close to the Petroleum Museum, and you’ll either need to drive or hike here as there are no bus services here. Most people visiting combine seeing the Grand Old Lady with a hike, as there’s a summit ridge here that affords great views of the city, ocean, and green valleys. Miri’s Grand Old Lady isn’t used in oil production anymore and is now a protected historical site. There’s an observatory platform for even better views.
Go to the Petroleum Museum on Canada Hill
The Petroleum Museum is right next to the Grand Old Lady and features the history of oil and petroleum in Malaysia. It also has replicas and interactive exhibits that help children to understand the process of oil and how Miri became a petroleum-focused city. It’s a really interesting way of learning about oil and Malaysia and the economics of it all, as well as being one of the best things to do in Miri.
- Address of Petroleum Museum: Jabatan Muzium Sarawak, Canada Hill, Jln Oil Well No. 1, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Petroleum Museum: 9 AM to 4:45 PM on Thursday to Thursday, 9 AM-11:45 AM, then 2:15-4:45 on Friday, 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday, it’s closed on Monday
- Entry Fees for Petroleum Museum: Free
Find Sarawak’s “Blue Tears”
The famous Sarawak’s Blue Tears are caused by glowing planktons. Bioluminescent dinoflagellates are a type of plankton that glow in the dark when the water is disturbed. Tusan Beach is the best place to see and experience the “Blue Tears”. It is about 40 km (25 miles) from Miri City. You’ll need to drive here, it’s a bit difficult to get a bus. Alternatively, you can take a tour to see the Blue Tears of Sarawak, and this one is a great option.
Take a walk in Miri City Fan Recreation Park
This recreational center is located in the northern part of the city only a 7-minute drive from Miri Central Park. It’s a nice place to chill out and has a swimming pool, amphitheater, a library, jogging trails, and a pond with fish. There are also a lot of different plants, trees, and flowers. If you are looking for a place to have a picnic, this is an ideal location.
- Address of Fan Recreation Park: Jalan Kipas, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Beaches in Miri
One of the best things to do in Miri is to go to the beach and wait for the sunset. Since it faces the vast ocean towards the west, Miri is a great place for catching sunsets. There are a few public beaches here some get very busy while others are nice places to relax and enjoy the wind and sea.
Head to Brighton Beach in Miri aka Pantai Tanjung Lobang
Tanjung Lobang is the most popular beach in Miri. It is an amazing spot to watch the sunset and there are also several restaurants to choose from for dinner. Brighton Beach gets quite busy at the weekends and public holidays. Tanjung Lobang Beach is only half an hour’s walk from Miri Central Park.
- Address of Pantai Tanjung Lobang: Taman Selera Tanjung Lobang, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Head to Tusan Beach, Miri
Tusan Beach, also called Pantai Tusan Bekenu in Malay is located south of Miri, about a half an hour ride. Although it’s quite a drive, Pantai Tusan Bekenu is a nice location, as it’s a lot more peaceful than Brighton Beach and there is usually a smaller crowd. The magnificent cliff is one of the reasons people come to Tusan Beach. Matched with dramatic sunset, it’s great for photos.
Tusan Beach is also admired for the “Blue Tears”, which is an amazing plankton glow. If you’re not self-driving, then you can book a half-day Tusan Beach sunset tour that includes a pickup from your accommodation, transportation, and a guide and get to see the famous Sarawak Blue Tears.
- Address of Tusan Beach: Exit Jalan Bekenu – Miri Coastal, 98150 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Temples to Visit in Miri
Temple exploration is another interesting thing to do in Miri, it’ll help you explore the diversity of cultures here.
San Ching Tien Temple, Miri
San Ching Tien is also known as Lian Hua San Ching Tien Temple to locals. It’s situated a little outside downtown in a more business and residential area of Miri. The main temple is a massive building painted in red and gold surrounded by colorful lanterns. The complex where the temple is located is a 1.5-acre site and is considered the largest Taoist Temple in Southeast Asia. The place is very spacious which is rare for a temple near a city.
- Address of San Ching Tien: Jln Chong Poh, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Tua Pek Kong Temple, Miri
Tua Pek Kong Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Miri and is located in the busiest area of the city – Jalan Bendahara. The main temple has fascinating dragons, and colorful lanterns, and is guarded by deities. If you want to offer a prayer, you can buy incense and other materials just before the main entrance of the temple.
- Address of Tua Pek Kong Temple: Jalan Bendahara, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Tua Pek Kong Temple: 7 AM to 4 PM, except Wednesday
Explore the Markets in Miri
You definitely don’t want to miss visiting markets in Miri. They’re great locations to observe daily life in Miri, and the food options here are fabulous too, this was the first place we headed to when we arrived in Miri!
Saberkas Weekend Market, Miri
The Saberkas Weekend Market also called Pasar Malam Saberkas and is a fantastic place where you can find different local delicacies such as nasi goreng, kuih muih, apam balik, noodles, and even sushi rolls. The Pasar Malam Saberkas is located in the northern part of the city, near the popular Boulevard Shopping Mall.
- Address of Saberkas Weekend Market: Pasar malam seberkas, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Saberkas Weekend Market: 4:00 PM – 9:30 PM, Thursday to Sunday, closed on Monday to Wednesday
Miri Handicraft Centre
The Handicraft Market is a great place to find more authentic souvenirs in case you don’t want to bring dried fruit back with you, a T-shirt, or another fridge magnet. The crafts you’ll find here in the Handicraft Center in Miri are mostly produced by the indigenous people of Malaysia. The Handicraft Centre offers very unique products such as handwoven bags, traditional hats, and Malaysian clothing just to name a few. It is situated right in the heart of Miri, about 12-minute on foot from the waterfront.
- Address of Miri Handicraft Centre: Jalan Brooke, Miri Handicraft Centre, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Miri Handicraft Centre: 8 AM to 6 PM
The Tamu Muhibbah Market, Miri
Tamu Muhibbah is a farmer’s market renowned for fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. Apart from these fresh staples, you can also find cooked and tasty dishes all around the market. The highest recommended dish here is Mi Kolok Daging, a tasty breakfast dish. Prepare for a fresh durian smell during your visit. Tamu Muhibbah is only a block away from Centre Point Sunday Market.
- Address of Tamu Muhibbah Market: 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Tamu Muhibbah Market: 24 hours
National Parks to Visit from Miri
Visiting one of Malaysia’s National Parks is one of the best things to do in Miri as there are some great parks around here. The parks around here have opportunities for hiking, cave exploration, and boat trips. You can even go camping in the middle of one of these national parks. Here are the National Parks to explore around Miri.
Visit Mulu National Park from Miri
Mulu National Park also called Gunung Mulu in Malay is a protected area in the northeast of Borneo island right on the border between Malaysia and Brunei. It’s a mountainous area sheltered by limestone caves and rock pinnacles making it an incredible and majestic place. It’s also a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. And visiting Mulu is why most people (including us) come to Miri.
Mulu National Park is visited for its caves with clearwater pools, bat ecosystem, and massive rainforest. You can also hike the summit of Mount Mulu which is printed on 100 Malaysian Ringgit bills. There are only two ways to get to Mulu National Park, by taking a direct flight to Mulu Airport, or by taking the old headhunters trail. I wrote about Mulu, which is an incredible National Park to visit in Malaysia, here.
Mulu has accommodation near and around the airport, by the entrance to the national park, and it’s also possible to stay at accommodation inside the National Park, but you need to book well in advance. While you can hike many of the trails yourself, night hikes are best undertaken with a guide, and you’ll also need a guide for the canopies and visiting the cave complexes here.
Activities in Mulu National Park include boat trips, cave adventures, trekking, camping, and also rock climbing. Most of the various tours last from half to an entire day, planning to spend 2-3 nights in Mulu is ideal and allows you to see the best of the park
Visit Niah National Park from Miri
Niah National Park also known as Taman Negara Niah to locals is a prehistoric limestone cave with rock paintings and preserved remains of stone age people 40,000 years ago. This added Niah National Park to the tentative list of archeological heritage sites of UNESCO.
You can explore Taman Negara Niah on your own since there are plenty of signs to follow and the entire place is well-maintained. However, booking cave excursions with a guide can help you understand and learn more about the caves and the life that exists there.
Niah National Park is only 2 hours away from Miri, which means that you can conveniently do this as a day trip from Miri. Remember to bring a flashlight, bug repellent, and a stomach that can tolerate the strong ammonia aroma from the bats. This tour from Miri to Niah is a great option that also gets to see the Blue Tears at sunset on Tusan beach.
Explore Lambir Hills National Park from Miri
Lambir Hills National Park is Taman Negara Bukit Lambir in Malay. It’s located not too far from Miri City, about 45 minutes drive to the south. Taman Negara Bukit Lambir is a rich and thick jungle with lots of hiking trails, waterfalls, and bird watching.
The waterfalls in Lambir Hills are a perfect place to go for wild swimming to cool down after a long hike. Since it’s not that too far from Miri, you can book a full-day tour which is about 5-7 hours. It comes with comfortable transport and a guide. There is no direct bus from Miri to Lambir Hills National Park, you’ll either need to drive or use a tour service to get there. This tour to Lambir Hills from Miri is a great option to see the best of the park.
Eat your way around Miri
Miri, just like many cities in Malaysia can be explored through its delicacies and street food. There are various cuisines that you can dine at Miri, both local and international. But the best way to explore this city and the Malaysian culture through food is by checking out hawker food stalls as they have in Penang. Your money will go a lot further, and let you try heaps of different dishes.
Miri has a diverse culture with locals that trace their heritage to many places in the world such as China, India, and Europe. This leads to an abundance of choices when it comes to food. The top street dishes to look in Miri for are char kway teow, different kinds of mee, seafood, curries, satay, and lots of barbeque dishes.
Map of Things to do in Miri
You can see the full map of things to do in Miri here.
Where to Stay in Miri, Malaysia
There are some great places to stay in Miri– here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Miri, mid-range places to stay in Miri, and budget accommodation in Miri.
Pullman Miri Waterfront, Miri: The Pullman Miri Waterfront is ideally located right in the center of Miri, conveniently surrounded by the main attractions of the city. Each sleek room at this luxury Miri hotel is equipped with a flat-screen TV, high-speed internet connection, a mini-bar, a mini-fridge, a private bathroom, a desk, a seating area, and a view of the bustling city. The Pullman Miri Waterfront is a luxury Miri hotel in Miri City. You can check room rates and availability here.
MCity Inn, Miri: The MCity Inn is situated in central Miri. Rooms at the MCity Inn have a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with a shower and hairdryer, a view of the city, air-conditioning, and access to a WiFi connection. The mid-range Miri hotel has a coffee shop and room service. MCity Inn is a great place to stay when visiting Miri. Read more reviews and check rates and dates at this great Miri mid-range hotel option here.
Ajang Hotel, Miri: The Ajang Hotel is located in the Commercial Center in Miri. Each room at this budget hotel in Miri features air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a fridge, a private bathroom, an iron and ironing board, complimentary water, an in-room safe, a coffee/tea maker, and a complimentary WiFi connection. The budget Miri hotel has a coffee shop and room service. The Ajang Hotel is a popular place to stay in Miri. You can find out more about this in-demand accommodation in Miri and also check dates and rates here.
How to Get to Miri
Getting to Miri is easiest through the international airport here. There are direct flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Kota Bharu, and even Singapore. If you’re going to Mulu National Park, then most of the flights to Mulu go from Miri. You can also take a flight to Mulu Airport near Mulu National Park directly from Kota Kinabalu. Coming from Kuala Lumpur, you have to connect at Miri International Airport. From Penang or Langkawi, you have to make a connection in Kuala Lumpur.
If you want to cross the land border between Malaysia and Brunei, there are a few ways to get to Miri from Bandar Seri Begawan. The easiest way is to take the direct bus which takes less than 3 hours and only goes twice a day. The bus schedules are 7 AM and 1 PM from the waterfront in Badar Seri Begawan with PHLS Express. I wrote about it here. The ticket costs about B$20 (RM64) which you can purchase right onboard or online.
How to Get Around Miri
You can easily get around Miri on foot while exploring downtown. Booking a ride through the Grab app is also possible and both traditional taxis and city buses are in operation in Miri.
When is the best time to travel to Miri, Malaysia
The normal temperature and climate in Miri are consistent throughout the year which is hot and humid. December to February is the best time to visit Miri when the temperature is still hot but the humidity is a little less.
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Final Words on The Best Things to Do on Miri
Miri is a smaller coastal city in Malaysia that isn’t your typical Malaysian city. It’s the location of the first oil well in Malaysia (and there are monuments to that now, as well as a free museum to visit). There are some spectacular National Parks near Miri, which provided our main reasons for visiting and there are also some great food options here too!
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