Miri sign, Malaysia

Miri, Malaysia – Travel Guide

Miri is the second-largest city in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and a popular jumping-off point for a myriad of natural wonders, including Niah Caves and Gunung Mulu National Park.

Unless you have an interest in the petroleum industry, you probably won’t want to spend too much time in Miri itself. This once affluent city was hit hard by the pandemic and today Miri feels like a weird portal between the constraints of the past and the possibility of the future. 

After visiting Miri on two separate occasions, I came to know a thing or two about exploring this city. If you’re planning your trip, grab your journal and start taking notes – this Miri guide will tell you everything you need to know. 


Miri Map & Resources 

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Miri, Malaysian Borneo – Backpacking Guide 🇲🇾

Best Time to Visit Miri, Malaysia ☀️

December and January are the rainest months in Miri so it is best to avoid visiting at this time if possible. The best time to visit Miri is between March and August. While the weather is hot year-round, it is less humid during these months, making it ideal for outdoor activities.

Hiking national reserve, Miri, Malaysia
Visit Miri between March and August for the most comfortable weather.

Where to Stay in Miri, Malaysia 🛏️

Accommodation options are scattered all over Miri. One of the most convenient places to stay is close to the Bintang Plaza and Megamall. You’re within walking distance of a range of restaurants and centrally located for the city’s main attractions. 

Top Accommodation in Miri, Malaysia

Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. We always write our articles before checking if affiliate links are available.

For double rooms at reasonable prices, Chemara Boutique Hotel is a good pick. The rooms are comfortable, even if you may feel the word boutique has been applied somewhat liberally. This is a good choice for those travelling around Sarawak with their own transport as they provide ample parking. 

Walk Inn is a great choice for shoestring backpackers and couples on a budget. They offer a range of clean and comfortable private rooms within walking distance from a Bintang Megamall. The owner and staff can help travellers plan their trip around Miri. Drinking water refills are available for no charge. 

Walk Inn, Miri, Malaysia
Walk Inn is a great option for budget travellers.

Pullman Miri Waterfront is a more upmarket choice for those seeking a little more comfort. The hotel is situated overlooking the sea, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of Miri’s streets, and there is an infinity pool on floor seven. 

If you’re craving slightly more personality from your time in Miri, check out Mercure Miri City Centre. The contemporary design offers a breath of fresh air compared to the normal neutral (and often soulless) hotel rooms. The best thing? The complimentary gelato! 

Amigo Hotel is another good option for those seeking comfort at a low price point. While this place is functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, it delivers everything you need for a couple of nights. Light sleepers may want to use their earplugs here – some guests report that the nearby bar can get a little noisy. 

For a break from the city, head to the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort. Here you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the various nature walks and nearby waterfalls. An ideal choice for families due to the kid’s waterpark, it is worth noting that you’ll need your own transport to get here. Be warned, the WiFi rates as very poor, so budget some time away from your virtual desk if you’re planning to stay!


Things to Do in Miri, Malaysia 🗺️

1. Visit Niah Cave 🦇

Approximately two hours away from Miri lies Niah Cave, a fascinating archaeological site home to the oldest remains of early humans in Eastern Malaysia. 

The magnificent Niah Caves is a site of archaeological importance.

The wooden frames inside Trader’s Cave clearly show how humans once used it as a shelter, while The Great Cave – one of the largest in the world – displays the results of the first archaeological digs in 1957 (including a 40,000-year-old human skull, and log coffins from the Stone Age – yes, it was a burial site at one stage, too!).

Make sure to bring a light or head torch as the caves are pitch black. You’ll also need sturdy shoes and plenty of water. The walk to the furthest cave (The Painted Cave), takes around two hours. There is a small souvenir shop set before the cave entrance but this closes around 3 pm. Make sure you bring enough water!

The Painted Cave stops letting visitors in at 1 pm and entry to the other caves closes at 3 pm. The park officially closes at 5 pm. It is worth mentioning that although public buses depart from Miri every hour (final destination Bintulu), the buses don’t stop at the caves. 

You’ll need to get off at the junction with the rest stop. There is also a food court here. From this point, it takes approximately 15 minutes by car to get to the caves. People previously recommended using Grab to reach the caves but since the COVID-19 outbreak, this isn’t always reliable. 

Sometimes the food stall owners at the rest stop may offer to play taxi for around RM10 (approx. $2USD) (Grab charges around RM18, approx. $4USD). The park offers rides to the bus stop but charges RM40 (approx. $8USD). When it comes to catching the public bus back to Miri after visiting the caves, bear in mind that it will stop at the opposite side of the road in an alley. If you can’t find it, ask the locals at the food court.

2. Hike in Gunung Mulu National Park 🥾

Just a short plane ride from Miri and you’ll find yourself in Sarawak’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to Gunung Mulu Cave Network. Hire a guide to explore the various caverns and get up close to bats, swiftlets and a whole manner of creepy crawlies!

Mulu is a hiker’s paradise!

As well as caving, there is also a vast array of forest walks, waterfall visits and boat trips along the Melinau River. These waterside areas are home to several indigenous tribes – including the Penan community at Long Iman. 

If hiking is more your style, you won’t miss out in Mulu. There are several great multi-day treks you can do here, including the climb to the summit of Gunung Mulu, and the pinnacles.

Both treks are challenging: the pinnacles is almost vertical in some places, and the summit climb will take you around four days to complete! If these sound like a challenge too far but you still want to trek, you can always opt to hike to Camp Five for the night before returning back to Park HQ the following day. Camp Five is also a stop-off point on ‘The Headhunters Trail’ that finishes at Limbang, a pretty town on the river.

To get here you can either take the 10-hour boat along the Melinau River from Miri or take a short plane ride. Read more about Mulu National Park here.

“Hiking in Mulu National Park was amazing! I did the pinnicles hike and you can do Mt Mulu as well. Also, the caves in Mulu NP were amazing to explore, either by walking or scrambling with a guide. The guides are all local and some are even descendants of the headhunters tribe– they have many great stories to tell about their ancestors. Plus the whole park is full of wildlife and is very beautiful near the river and in the forest. Everything was very well organised and easy, you can book by e-mail directly with the park office and plan your activities before you arrive. I spent 10 days there and it was a real highlight of my trip.”

Helen, South East Asia Backpacker Community Member

3. Check Out Loagan Bunut National Park and Lambir National Park 👣

Known as the northern gateway to Sarawak, Miri is also the main gateway for Loagan Bunut National Park, where you can find Sarawak’s largest natural lake, and Lambir National Park, home to pristine rainforest and jungle trails.  

4. Spot Hornbills at the Piasau Nature Reserve 🏞️

Managed by the Sarawak Forestry Commission, this small nature reserve is a nice place to escape the city for a couple of hours. While definitely not as well maintained as it once was, there are a few nice walking trails that offer the chance to spot the reserve’s most famous residents: two oriental pied hornbills. Entrance is free and there is a small museum too – however, this feels less educational and more an attempt to bolster the international reputation of a few well-known oil giants… 

Hornbill sign, Miri, Malaysia
Will you get lucky and see a hornbill?!

5. Chill in the Parks 🌳

You’ve got several parks in Miri (in fact, 14 in total!) so there are plenty of places to relax in the sun. A special mention goes out to Miri City Fan Recreation Park, a 26-acre park in the heart of the city – London eat your heart out! Another popular choice is the theme park Taman Awam Miri.

6. Catch Sunrise at The Grand Old Lady, Canada Hill 🌅

The Grand Old Lady is a cornerstone of Miri’s history. Oil Well Number 1, drilled in 1910, was the very first oil well in the country and marks the beginning of Miri’s transformation into an oil city. 

Grand Old Lady, Miri, Malaysia
The Grand Old Lady is a famous landmark in Miri, Malaysia!

It has since been decommissioned but stands proud as a monument to the city’s rich oil heritage. In case you want to learn more about Miri’s evolution over the years, you can also visit the Petroleum Museum nearby. In all honesty, the museum feels like a bit of a propaganda machine and has definitely seen better days but hey – it’s free. 

If you do visit the Grand Old Lady, don’t miss the opportunity to get your photo snapped under the big Miri signage too. Who said Hollywood is the only place that can pull off a big sign?!

Petroleum Museum, Miri, Malaysia
Miri’s Petroleum Museum.

7. Relax at Luak Bay Esplanade 🏖️

There are some excellent coastal spots in Miri, with Luak Bay Esplanade one of the best. Around 11 km from the centre, this is a great place to grab some food and take in the sunset. There are some great beaches in the area including Peliau Beach, Sibuti Beach, and Bungai Beach. 

And if that still isn’t enough for you, head to Tanjong Lobang, a.k.a. Brighton Beach. To blend in with the locals, practice some Tai Chi as the sun goes down. 

Miri Crocodile Farm – AVOID 🐊

Animal lovers, stay away from this place! Home to not only crocodiles but also sun bears, monkeys and reptiles, the conditions here leave a lot to be desired. Think small cages, malnourished animals and disinterested staff. We skipped it and after hearing the first-hand accounts from other travellers, would encourage others to do the same. 

8. Go Urbexing at Coco Cabana 🏚️

This once thriving waterside complex has sadly fallen from grace since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it isn’t all bad news. The abandoned tourism hotspot has paved the way for a new kind of tourist – urbexers. Explore the neglected structures and marvel at how such grand buildings can be left to fall into disrepair. Coca Cabana is also home to the seahorse lighthouse, an iconic landmark in Miri. 

Urbexing 1, Miri, Malaysia
On an urbexing adventure!

9. Buy Some Souvenirs at the Miri Handicraft Center 📿

Learn more about the ethnic arts and crafts of Sarawak with a visit to the Miri Handicraft Centre. With everything from weaving to beadwork and pottery, this is the perfect place to buy gifts for your family and friends back home. Not to mention, a visit here also supports the local communities. 

10. Take in Sunset Views from Miri City Council 🌇

After 5 pm, visitors are allowed to enter the Miri City Council building to take in sunset views over the ocean. Head up to level ten and get your camera ready!

11. Take a Day Trip to Brunei 🇧🇳

Miri is super close to Brunei and in less than two hours, you can be in the country. While we 100% recommend visiting the country for longer than a day trip, this option suits those on limited time who want to get a taste of the city. Tour agencies run plenty of trips but be warned, it offers much value for money to make your way there independently. 

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
It is well worth making the trip from Miri to Brunei!

“I decided to pass up a day trip to Brunei and instead spent several days exploring the country. While I had been told by other travellers that there was nothing to do there, I couldn’t disagree more! Brunei is one of my favourite destinations and really underrated!”

Tim Ashdown, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker

12. Witness the Blue Tears Phenomenon ✨

Just a 40-minute drive away from Miri is Tusan Beach, home to the ‘Blue Tears’ phenomenon. Getting its name from the resident bioluminescent algae which cause the water to shimmer blue when disturbed, this natural marvel is an absolute must-see. 

While the Blue Tears phenomenon has long been a local secret, more and more international visitors are making their way to the beach, especially as car rental becomes easier. Head here between September and December to witness the spectacle in all its glory!  


Food and Drink in Miri, Malaysia 🍜

Traditional Sarawakian cuisine is an absolute must-try for those visiting Miri. Keep an eye out for local wild ferns including lemiding, midin and pakis. Linut (which you may already know as ambuyat if you have visited Brunei) is also a must-try, made from sago palm. You’ll either love it or hate it! Tapioca leaf fried rice is another popular dish worth looking out for. If you want to try some of the above, the Heritage Cultural Restaurant comes highly recommended. 

“If you get the opportunity, absolutely try the umai. It is a cured fish dish similar to Peruvian ceviche. Absolutely delicious!”

Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker 
Umai is a Sarawak speciality.

A hipster hangout popular with tourists and locals alike, the Romeo & Juliet Café serves a range of halal western-style dishes. It is more pricey than other local options but you pay for the ambience. 

Another favourite for local cuisine is Max Café & Bistro. It is worth noting that unlike many of the other restaurants in Miri, this place is not halal so skip it if that is a problem for you. There are countless fascinating menu options including the Pansuh Ayam (Bamboo Chicken) and sour plum juice. If you’re brave enough, don’t miss the tempoyak Ikan (fermented durian with fish)!

If you prefer to cook your own food, there are a handful of markets in Miri where you can purchase fresh produce. These include Emart Tudan, Tamu Khas Miri and Tamu Muhibah.

If cocktails are what you’re craving, definitely head to the Sky Garden Bar, located on floor 18 of the Meritz Hotel. The highest outdoor dining in Miri, a drink or two offers the chance to take in the cityscape at night.


Getting Around Miri, Malaysia 🚗

The best way to get around Miri, particularly if you are planning to visit some of the spots further afield, is to rent a car. The Niah Caves in particular are complicated to reach when you are relying solely on public transport. 

Copa Cabana, Miri, Malaysia
Most places in Miri offer adequate parking.

Like most other Malaysian cities, Grab is available at a good price point, however, once you travel to the outskirts of the city, you may struggle to get a return ride. 

Public transport is available to some places – check at your accommodation for the latest schedules, stops and prices. 


How to Get to Miri, Malaysia 🚌

If you are travelling to Miri from Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, it is possible to travel overland. No public transport is currently serving this route so you will need to arrange a private transfer or join a group departure with a local company. We recommend Find Me Logistics. 

Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have frequent connections to Miri but be warned, the journey time is long and the airconditioning is set to arctic. Flights are also available from all the main cities in Malaysian Borneo and are pretty good value for money when booked early, usually around $15-20USD or so. 


Where to Go Next: 

Bandar Seri Begawan: The capital of Brunei, BSB is only around a couple of hours from Miri. Spend a couple of days soaking up the culture – explore the world’s largest floating village, see endemic Bornean wildlife and marvel at the Sultan’s palace. 

Mulu: One of Borneo’s most breathtaking national parks, the only way to reach Gunung Mulu is by flight. Miri is the best jumping-off point for this. Spend a few days hiking among the pinnacles and exploring impressive caves. 

Kuching: A quick flight or overnight bus journey away, Kuching is Malaysia’s cat capital! Head here to see orangutans at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, marvel at the water light show over the river or learn more about the different tribes at the Borneo Cultures Museum. 


Contributors: 

South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Staff at Walk Inn
🙏 Tim Ashdown | Writer at South East Asia Backpacker 
🙏 Pauline | Find Me Logistics
🙏 Karen Farini | Contributor at South East Asia Backpacker  
🙏 Helen | Member of South East Asia Backpacker Community

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind Winging The World, a blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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