With its rolling hills, strawberry plantations and afternoon teas, you could mistake the Cameron Highlands for the English countryside, but this beautiful part of rural Malaysia is a little more wild.
Head up the steep winding road from Kuala Lumpur and you’ll reach the small town of Tanah Rata, the main base for exploring these highlands. Because of the altitude, the climate is much cooler here, which is a refreshing break from the oppressive heat of KL.
We hopped on a coach for 4.5 hours from KL up to Tanah Rata which cost RM30pp (£5) each way through Bus Ticket Online. You can purchase coach tickets in person from the main bus station Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) but it’s much easier to book online in advance. The journey is long and winding but the coaches are comfortable with large reclining seats and a huge amount of legroom. A word of warning though: Coming back down from the Highlands you drive on the cliff-edge side of the road so anyone with vertigo should sit on the other side of the coach!
Where to stay
We stayed at the Avillion Hotel (from £40 pn) and you can read our review of our stay here. The hotel is in Tanah Rata and easily walkable from the bus station or if you are driving (as we had planned to do!) it has free parking. There’s a children’s playground, good breakfast and a range of great places to eat nearby.
Top 5 things to do with kids
1. Strawberry picking at Raaju’s
Head to Raaju’s Hill Strawberry Farm for a morning of strawberry picking! It’s free to visit the farm or RM30 (£5) to pick half a kilo yourself. While that’s a bit expensive for strawberries, and you can pick strawberries in a lot of places, it is a really fun activity for the kids. Strawberry plants were introduced to the area in the 1950s by British officers stationed in the Highlands. Many officers stayed on to live in the Highlands, the crop was traded with other farmers and is now widely grown in the area.
The views from the farm are beautiful and there’s a cafe for strawberry themed treats including cream tea, strawberry milkshake, ice cream… but be sure to try the waffles! The cafe has a small playground too which kept Fin happy for a while.
There are a few strawberry plantations to choose from, most tours will go to the Big Red Strawberry field, but we loved that Raaju’s was a little quieter and smaller.
Cost: Free to visit or RM30 (£5) to pick half a kilo yourself.
2. Jungle Trekking & Waterfalls
There are many well-marked, numbered jungle trails around Tanah Rata that lead off into the jungle. Depending on the ages of your children’s, you can choose the length and gradient to suit you! We found the Strava app quite helpful for planning our hikes here. Long trousers and walking shoes are needed with the uneven ground, bugs and snakes that live here.
Fin managed to trek Trail 9 to the Robinson Waterfall which was about 3km from central Tanah Rata. Don’t expect great things from this waterfall, it’s dirty with industrial pipes and buildings around it – definitely not one for swimming!
There’s also the Thomson Waterfall halfway up the mountain from the highway to Tanah Rata that is visible from the road which is much more impressive and swimmable.
3. BOH tea plantation
No visit to the Cameron Highlands is complete without a visit to the iconic BOH tea plantation. Miles of rolling hills, as far as the eye can see, covered in neat rows of tea trees. There’s a modern cafe perched on the hillside for perfect views of the plantation (and a pretty good cake for the kids). Here you can tour the factory to see how tea is made which is a great learning opportunity for the kids.
The plantation was founded in the 1920s and has remained successful through many changes in Malaysia. BOH is one of the biggest tea producers in Malaysia and makes a really great cup of tea (and that’s high praise from a tea-obsessed Brit!). Cost: Free once you’re there
4. Watch the sunrise from Mount Batu Brinchang
If your children are early risers or suffering from jet lag, this is a great way to spend a morning! We headed out into the darkness at 6am to travel up the winding roads of Mount Batu Brinchang. We were almost at the top when our driver pulled over into a questionable lay-by (read: small bush) on the side of the mountain pass. As the sun came up over the tea plantations we were greeted with a misty sunrise. This one is weather dependent, you could get anything from a glorious colourful sunrise to thick fog!
Cost: Free, however our driver was RM90 for 3 hours hire.
5. Mossy Forest: One of the oldest forests in Malaysia, the mossy forest is quite different to others we have visited. The path is now a raised walkway so easily accessible with children, however it is often wet and slippy. If your little ones need help, a carrier would be better than a stroller! Arrive before 8am and this one is free! After that time it will cost RM30 pp (£5).
Other things to do / avoid
Taman Rama-Rama Butterfly Garden: As butterfly gardens go, this one is quite small, however there’s a lot of other things going on at the Taman Rama-Rama Butterfly Garden. There’s a range of pretty cool bugs and plant displays set in a large covered venue. This would be in our top five if it wasn’t for them also keeping small animals (rabbits, hedgehogs etc) in poor conditions. Cost: RM25
In Tanah Rata there are a huge number of places to eat from local Malaysian cuisine to Chinese restaurants to more Western options. Fin enjoyed the Jasmine Cafe, Amsterdam Cafe and Mossy Forest Cafe as they offered familiar foods such.
The Cameron Highlands in one of the most popular places to get steamboat dinners in Malaysia. Food is cooked at the table in a hotpot. This is available in a lot of the restaurants here so worth a try!