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Desaru Coast Malaysia
Photograph: Desaru Coast Malaysia

Best kid-friendly weekend getaways for families on a budget

Enjoy a change of scenery without jetting off to somewhere far

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid

Feeling the itch to break free from the city grind without venturing far? With just a hop, skip, and jump away from Singapore, these nearby destinations take no more than three hours to get to. Cross the Causeway to Malaysia, hop on a ferry to a private island in Indonesia, or fly to a tropical paradise in Thailand, all without taking up most of your day. This leaves you ample time to indulge in everything from serene nature retreats to action-packed activities – and everything in between – that will have both parents and kids grinning from ear to ear. 

Whether you're looking for a mini city break or a sun-kissed adventure for a refreshing getaway, we’ve got something for every age, taste and budget.

RECOMMENDED: The best family-friendly holiday destinations in Asia and the best offshore islands in Singapore to escape to

6 family-friendly weekend getaways from Singapore

  • Attractions
  • Beaches

Time to get there: About three hours by car and ferry

Dreaming of a seaside retreat? Swap the Maldives for something closer to home: Rawa Island. The coral island gets its name from the local term for white doves, its resident birdies. And speaking of white, this natural beauty also has a white sandy beach, and clear azure-blue waters where you can spot fishes swimming in it.

DO Besides sinking your toes in the sand, let your young thrill-seekers whoosh down the two water slides, while older kids take on water activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. If you’re ready to dive deeper, earn your PADI certificate in just a couple days with OrcaNation Dive Centre. For land activities, gather the fam for a hike up Hilltop Walk where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island.

STAY There are only two resorts on the island: Rawa Island Resort and Alang’s Rawa. As the latter has an adults-only policy on weekends, book your weekend stay at Rawa Island Resort which offers full board packages for four of its room categories. The Hillside Deluxe package starts from $776, and includes two nights, three daily meals, two-way boat transfer from Mersing, and a welcome drink. For a larger and quieter alternative, check into the Frangipani Villa which starts from $1042. It’s free for children under three, and additional $137 for children between four and 12.

  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Johor Bahru

Getting there: Under an hour by car

Sometimes the best family fun is just a Causeway away. Johor Bahru has everything for kids and adults, from Legoland Malaysia for Lego fans to lush greenery and scenic landscapes for nature lovers. The city break also makes a great opportunity for families to delve into its history, traditions, and of course, its tantalising array of culinary delights.

DO Whether you’re planning to stay or just do the rounds at the theme park, Legoland is a dream come true for every kid. It ticks the boxes for family fun, from over 80 shows, rides and attractions to unique overnight experiences. For something less gaudy but equally fun, Danga Bay has an indoor playground, carnival rides and plenty of food spots to satisfy your cravings. 

STAY Besides the super playful Legoland Hotel, there’s also Somerset Medini Iskandar Puteri just two minutes away. A spacious studio here starts from $123, and comes with a kitchenette for all those home-cooked meals. There’s also an ocean-themed Children’s Room complete with a mini playground, colourful murals, and educational toys ready to brighten up your kiddo’s stay. Read our guide to Johor Bahru.

  • Things to do

Time to get there: About two hours by car or bus

A stone’s throw away from the Causeway, Desaru Coast spans over 3,900 acres along a pristine 17-km stretch of beachfront paradise. Whether you’re a family of beach bums or bird-loving adventurers, this place will leave you spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoorsy things to do.

DO If you’re looking to make a splash beyond Desaru Beach, head over to Adventure Waterpark which is home to the first-ever water coaster in the region and one of the world’s biggest wave pools. Go even bigger by checking out Desaru Ostrich Farm. It’s Malaysia’s largest one with over 200 of these big, flightless birds roaming around its grounds.

STAY For a stress-free vacay, trust Desaru Coast Destination Resort to plan your itinerary with its resort packages. Book a stay at one of its properties including Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas. Starting from $263 per night, it offers sea-facing rooms for a stunning sunrise view. Splurge a little more for a villa with a private plunge pool or a residence with an infinity pool and beach access. There’s also a kids’ club complete with a climbing wall and soft play, as well as a dedicated area for teens to get their game on.

Read our guide to Desaru Coast.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches

Time to get there: Under an hour by ferry

Less than an hour ferry ride away, this Indonesian island's white sandy beaches and gorgeous resorts make it the perfect beach vacay without the crowds of Bali. Even if you're not one to catch a tan or relax at a spa, the island is loaded with a range of heart-pumping land and water activities as well as idyllic nature trails.

DO Slip into your wetsuit for the first and largest man-made saltwater lagoon in Southeast Asia: Crystal Lagoon. Try water activities such as the bumper boat, water stand-up paddle, inflatable kayak, water ZOVB, cable ski, and more. The Safari Lagoi on the other hand is great for animal-loving kiddos where they can say hello to many rescued and endangered animals including orangutans, Komodo dragons, sun bears, Asian elephants, and more.

STAY There are plenty of luxurious resorts dotted around the island. But if you’re looking for something different to spice up your family vacay, why not try a glamping experience? Stay at the spacious, safari-themed tents at Natra Bintan (formerly known as The Canopi) which is equipped with four-poster beds, outdoor jacuzzis, and a private garden for a barbecue. Prices vary.

Read our guide to Bintan.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches

Time to get there: About two hours and a half by ferry and car

Who says you have to be a billionaire to jet off to a private island? Nestled off the coast of Bintan, Nikoi Island makes a great escape away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. A kid-friendly alternative to the adult-only Cempedak Island, this villa-only resort offers a return to simplicity, fostering unforgettable moments amid natural beauty and tranquility. 

DO Choose to do as much or as little as you like, from enjoying a spa session to making the most with water activities. Keep the kiddos busy at the kids club which is decked with wooden play equipment, a pirate ship, and climbing frames. But with Tarzan ropes to swing on, natural rock slides, and treehouses to hide, we’re sure Nikoi will be able to capture the young ones’ imagination.

STAY There are only 18 sea-facing rustic villas for you to choose from, with a one-bedroom villa complete with a king-sized bed, two bathrooms and daybeds on the open-air decks starting from $390 per night. The private pool villas are ideal for families with older kids.

  • Things to do

Time to get there: Under an hour by plane

With sun-kissed beaches and vibrant culture, a vacay at the gloriously green Phuket is like stepping into a postcard of tropical bliss. The ultimate family getaway spot, it has something for every member of the clan to enjoy, from action-packed activities for older kids to the island's only ethical elephant sanctuary which will leave the younger ones in awe. 

DO Too many to list! The place is great for various water sports including kayaking through mangroves and exploring hidden coves and soft corals. There's no shortage of land fun either. Try your hand in Muay Thai boxing, visit the trunked darlings at Phang Nga Elephant Park, and tour the Old Town's colourful streets.

STAY Designed with families in mind, Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites is decked with a colourful kids' club, outdoor playground, pool and rock climbing wall. It also has a daily line-up of activities to keep the young ones busy. Babysitting is also available if mummy and daddy are looking for some kid-free time. A designer villa for three adults and one child, complete with a private pool as well as indoor and outdoor living spaces starts from $493.

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