I first came to Kuching in 2009 with my brother when I was pregnant with S. I found a charming city with a great river area, a lovely place to hang out with plenty of day trips to the Borneo jungle and all its attractions. When I returned over 6 years later, I found the same thing. Kuching is lovely! Perhaps one of the nicest cities in Asia.
Kuching means cat and the Sarawak capital has some fun cat attractions as well as being a great springboard to explore the rest of this part of Borneo. We had a fun 4 days exploring the Kuching attractions.
Below, you will find our list of what to do in Kuching, our thoughts on visiting Kuching with kids, best places to stay in Kuching as well as practical information so you can have a great trip too!
Top 15 things to do in Kuching
The below things to do in Kuching are all within the city or a short distance away.
It makes sense that if there was a cat museum anywhere it’d be in Kuching. So we couldn’t resists visiting and seeing just what a museum dedicated to cats would be like.
Calling it a museum is not quite accurate – it’s more of a cute and kitschy collection of sculptures, poems, images and everything else cat. It’s like someone’s cat collection that grew out of hand. It’s surprisingly enjoyable and I think the adults liked it more than the kids. In fact, I think it is one of the top places to visit in Kuching – it’s funny 🙂
While there’s a lot of individual items on display this museum won’t take a long time to get around, half an hour to an hour is enough. There’s a small display on the history of Kuching and good views over the city from the same building, too.
Entry was free, except for our camera, which was RM4. A taxi from our hotel in central Kuching to the musuem was RM60 return including waiting time.
Kuching is beautifully located on the banks of the Sarawak River. In the city centre there are riverside walks along both sides. Walking along this area is just lovely and is my pick for the best place in Kuching.
If you are wondering what to do in Kuching at night – come here! Early evening and night time are the best times to explore as the heat of the day passes and the humidity is lower. At this time of day, the riverside stalls and small restaurants open up, the lights come on and the locals are out and about giving the riverfront a bit of a buzz.
Boat Across the River
While you are walking along the river there is another of the worthwhile Kuching things to do – cross the river in one of the small boats.
Small passenger boats cross the river between small wharves up and down the river. It is an easy and quick way to get from one side to another. Crossing take a couple of minutes and cost just RM1 per person per trip if going directly to the other side. Some boats will also go up or down the river as well as across.
On the other side, there is another walkway as well as a cheap and tasty hawker centre.
There are some random, fun cat statues across the city and finding and posing with them is part of the fun! You can’t come here without visiting one of the cat attractions in Kuching.
Sarawak Chinese Museum
Since the earliest days of the White Raj, when James Brook was granted control over Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei, Kuching has been a town of trading and industry. As a result Kuching has been a magnet for immigration – in particular Chinese immigration.
In a small building by the river that used to serve as the Chinese Court for Kuching is the Chinese Museum. It is a small but interesting museum documenting the different groups of Chinese who came to Kuching as miners, traders or labourers and built communities. There’s a lot of information and I spent awhile here, at least half an hour.
It’s a small museum but well done and one of the more interesting things to do in Kuching City. However the size and text heavy displays meant it’s not a good fit for young kids.
Entry is free.
Sarawak Islam Museum
The Islamic Museum covers not just the history of Islam in Sarawak but Islamic tradition and history everywhere. It does so over eight galleries, some wonderfully air conditioned. There’s a lot to see and even more to read and, given the space and the lack of other visitors (we were alone), this is one of the Kuching places of interest that is fine with little kids.
Although this has some interesting displays, I wish it had focused more on Islamic Sarawak rather than the entire world. The weapons display was interesting.
Entry is free.
Sarawak Museum, Natural History Museum and Art Museum
These three museums are clustered together. The largest at the top of the hill is the Sarawak Museum. Shortly after the establishment of the Brooke Raj in Sarawak, the first white Raja, James Brooke, established a historical collection and the Sarawak Museum was built in 1891 to house it.
Over two large floors is a mixture of displays. The top floor, focusing on the longhouses of Sarawak, is quite interesting for both kids and adults alike. Small kids shouldn’t be a problem, either. There’s half an hour or so of exploring to be done and this is a worthwhile Kuching attraction.
Behind the main museum is a large grassy area with gardens that are good for a relax, walk or run around in.
The Natural History Museum and the Art Museum are both smaller. Sadly they were mainly closed for renovations at the time of our visit.
Entry is free to all museums.
Sarawak Textiles Museum
Next to the Merdeka Plaza shopping mall is a three story Textile Museum. It covers the different types of textiles produced by the different ethnic groups and tribes of the region, with fabrics, sample tools and displays on how they were made. Having learnt about the different cultural groups the day before it was interesting although it won’t be the best thing to do in Kuching for everyone.
It helps a lot if you visit the Sarawak Museum or take a trip to the Sarawak Cultural Village first as everything makes more sense.
With such a large Chinese influence it’s unsurprising that there is a Chinatown in Kuching. Along Jalan Carpenter is the old Chinatown. There’s a new Chinatown further east but this place is – in our opinion – better. There’s a lot of bustle and shops lining the street and at the western end of Jalan Carpenter a large Chinese arch – the Harmony Arch.
If you’re after some cheap places to eat in Kuching, especially Chinese food, this is the place to go.
Hiang Thian Siang Temple
On Jalan Carpenter, not far from the Harmony Arch, is the Hiang Thian Siang Temple. The temple was first built in the mid 19th century and rebuilt and renovated several times since. Being in the middle of the old Chinatown, it is a busy, well frequented, temple with locals burning incense and offering prayers. The inside is heavily decorated in traditional Chinese style. If you’re visiting Chinatown, it’s worth going to this place to visit in Kuching.
Across the road is a small but good hawker centre, open for lunch and dinner.
Hong San Si Temple
At the eastern end of Lebuh Wayang is this attraction in Kuching, the Hong San Si Temple. Another brightly and richly decorated Chinese temple, the Hong San Si is quieter and will let you have a bit more of a linger and explore without feeling like you’re intruding.
Eat kek lapis
A speciality in Kuching is kek lapis – basically layer cake. We made it our mission to try some especially after we saw how awesome it looked. It tasted just as good too! We bought this tasty cake from one of the stalls that line the riverfront in the evening.
Sarawak Cultural Village
About a 40 minute drive from the Kuching riverfront is the Sarawak Cultural Village. It advertises itself as “explore Sarawak in half a day” and basically this “village” is set up so you can see traditional houses and learn about many of the cultural groups that make up Sarawak. It’s at the top of the interesting places in Kuching to visit list.
We were able to explore longhouses, a Chinese farm house and a Malay house. It’s a nice introduction to Sarawak and its different ethnicities and we enjoyed it a lot. The houses generally displayed some type of activity that belonged to that cultural group, like making a traditional food, preparing sapo or making and playing a traditional instrument. The buildings all had people that spoke good English to describe it as well.
There are also two 45 minute cultural shows a day which mostly consist of dancing. It was quite entertaining. The kids particularly enjoyed this especially when they were able to get up on stage and dance with the performers. The show displayed one of the things I love most about Malaysia – the mix of different cultures.
My favourite part of the cultural village was actually the setting – in the Borneo jungle. It’s a pretty place to walk around with plenty of trees to keep things cool and a lake in the middle.
Entry is RM60 per adult, free for under 6’s. We hired a taxi to take us here and wait for RM150. You can find more information here.
Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
Many people come to Borneo wanting to see orangutans and if that’s you, then this wildlife centre should be your top thing to do in Kuching.
Located an easy commute from Kuching, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is rightly popular and offers the chance to see orangutans in their natural environment. We couldn’t wait to go! However, once we arrived in Kuching, we found out that we were there at a low season, the chance of seeing any orangutans were low and we would most probably need to stand around for an hour or so quietly in the hope they would appear.
Since we were in Kuching with 3 and 5 year olds, that last part was just not going to happen. I also did not want to deal with two upset kids if we did not see them at all so unfortunately we had to skip this Kuching attraction.
Hopefully, you will be in Kuching at a more favourable time of year. In which case, head out here!
You can also read about my experiences visiting orangutans in Sepilok on the opposite side of Malaysian Borneo in Sabah.
You can find more information here. There are feeding times around 9am and 3pm which is when you should visit. We were going to combine it with a trip to Sarawak Cultural Village and had arranged a taxi driver for a day to take us to both.
Annah Rias Longhouse
Borneo is known for its indigenous people and the traditional longhouses they live in. If you have the time and inclination, you are able to travel a couple of days into the jungle to visit indigenous communities that live in long houses in more traditional ways.
If time isn’t on your side and you want to visit a longhouse where people still live (compared to Sarawak Cultural Village where you can view how they were), then Annah Rais Longhouse is a Kuching attraction to consider. It is just over an hour from Kuching which makes it easy to visit. The downside is that it is not really that traditional.
I visited with my 15 year old brother on my first trip to Kuching. We did a half day tour here which turned out to just be us and a guide. The guide showed us around. There were many locals around but they did not seem at all bothered by our presence.
What makes the longhouse impressive is how long they are. I expected one to look like one long structure with lots of rooms (which is how they looked when I went to one in Brunei). Instead it was more like a set of conjoined houses on top of a common bamboo raised platform. There was a lot of tin used as well which made it quite hot compared the traditional houses we saw at Sarawak Cultural Village.
We were told a lot of information about how it used to be at the longhouses and how they used to live. We tried using blow pipes and checked out some of the traditional dresses as well.
Despite enjoying the visit, I’m not sure how worthwhile it was. We could have read the information in a book and being there didn’t help add to it as it wasn’t traditional at all. Even a room they had set up to be more traditional had electric lights and a sink.
If you are choosing between this and Sarawak Cultural Village, I would definitely pick the cultural village.
Map of Kuching attractions
Kuching with kids
Kuching is a fabulous place to visit with kids. Many of the attractions listed above make great things to do in Kuching with kids, especially the Sarawak Cultural Village and Cat Museum. We visited Kuching with our three and five year olds (and one in the belly!) and we were not disappointed.
It’s also a very easy place to be with kids. There’s plenty of eating options and the river bank is perfect for letting kids run around a bit.
If you are looking for must visit places in Kuching with kids, they might enjoy the kids play area and rides at CityOne Mall. Here on the 2nd floor, you will find a kids play area with bouncy castle, small cars, cubby houses and lots of other toys. On weekends, it costs RM6 for the first half hour, RM2 for each 10 minutes thereafter It’s less during the week.
Best place to stay in Kuching
One of the things that attracted me to revisit this city was the great value Kuching accommodation. It was easy to find some great hotel deals!
I’d recommend accommodation in Kuching close to the riverfront. This puts you in walking distance to many of the Kuching attractions above and also means that you can enjoy the gorgeous riverfront as much as possible.
Below is our list of the best hotels in Kuching.
Our pick for the best hotel in Kuching is the fabulous Hilton Kuching – we had a great stay here!
This big hotel is right on Kuching’s riverfront in a great spot. I’m sure we would have liked it anyway, but we had a free upgrade to a King Deluxe Plus which made it even better – we were in a huge room with a living room area and a separate study.
The views over the river are awesome and its worth paying the little big more money for a Guestroom Plus which has a river view.
The hotel also has a pool, gym and many restaurants. We ordered room service breakfast every day while we were here and it was huge – one serving was enough for four of us and we are not small eaters.
The best part was that it was incredibly good value. We only paid just over AUD$100 a night which is a bargain and there were cheaper room types.
Harbour View Hotel
This is a great option for accommodation in Kuching if the Hilton is out of your price range and it’s where I stayed on my first visit. It’s in a similar position, just back from the river and offers a restaurant, wifi and other facilities you would expect from a business class hotel. I definitely recommend a room with a view.
Other accommodation in Kuching
- Pullman Kuching – a great 5 star option not far from the river front with many facilities and services including a pool and babysitting. Click here for the latest prices.
- Damai Beach Resort – this option is removed from Kuching but it’s only a short drive away. The benefit is that you are in a nice resort by the beach and Sarawak Cultural Centre. There are the usual facilities you would expect at a resort. Click here for the latest prices.
- Jinhold Service Apartment – a taxi ride from the centre, this is the perfect option for people (and families) looking for serviced apartments with more space and the option of self catering. Click here for the latest prices.
We found getting around Kuching annoying as the taxis were very overpriced. We always had to negotiate a price and they were more than what seemed fair. They all seemed to have the same set rates too so we struggled to be able to do anything. The best deal was actually a taxi from the airport which is coupon based and RM26.
We had a fabulous stay in Kuching. It’s a nice, easy place to be which is both lovely and charming.
There is enough to do in Kuching itself to keep you busy for a couple of days and there are plenty of day trips around Kuching to explore Borneo. Kuching is an excellent base from which to explore further. We found four days a great amount of time to see Kuching and see some of the surrounding Sarawak attractions. You could easily spend longer and venture out to more.
It’s very cheap and easy to fly to Kuching, thanks to Air Asia, and it only took about an hour and a half from Johor Bahru and a bit longer back to Kuala Lumpur. For this reason, it is very possible to add Kuching to a holiday to Malaysia, even though it can look far away from peninsular Malaysia on a map.
Would we recommend it? Most definitely! Get yourself to Kuching and Borneo – you know you want to!
Have you been to Kuching? What’s your top things to do in Kuching?
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Tags: Malaysia Travel Blog