Malaysia is a tropical country spread over a large area, and although the temperatures are fairly consistent year-round and between different places, the rainfall isn't. When one part of the country is dry, another part may be drenched. In general, Malaysia experiences two main seasons: the wet and the dry. However, these seasons don't arrive simultaneously throughout the country. Temperatures don't deviate very much and sit between 71°F (22°C) and 91°F (33°C) throughout the year. Places at higher altitudes are usually cooler.
February is often said to be a dry month in Malaysia, sometimes referred to as winter, but this isn't entirely accurate for a tropical country as noted above. Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, and Langkawi—popular destinations and on the western side of Peninsula Malaysia—are relatively dry in February, although visitors might encounter some rain. On the other hand, the northeastern coast of the peninsula, the eastern islands (including the popular Perhentian Islands), and the western coast of Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) are all wet in February, drenched by the northeast monsoon.
Crowds & Costs
February is the peak season for travel to western parts of Malaysia, particularly Langkawi, a popular beach destination. Some significant festivals periodically fall in February—including Lunar New Year and Thaipusam—bringing crowds to many places, particularly Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Hotel prices in these popular western regions will be higher in February than during the wet season. On the other hand, you won't pay peak-season prices for accommodation in Borneo, but the heavy rainfall makes this month a less appealing time to visit.
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Where to Go
The generally clear weather in western Malaysia in February means it's best to stick to these western parts of Peninsular Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, and Langkawi. These are all popular, bustling, fascinating destinations, as there's plenty to see and do.
The island of Penang, in the northwest, is a locale where beach lovers, culture and history buffs, and keen hikers will all find something to satisfy them. February is ideal for visiting because beach activities around Batu Ferringhi, city sightseeing in George Town, and hiking in the Penang National Park are all more comfortable when the weather's dry. Take a food or street-art-focused walking tour of George Town, exploring the colonial-era architecture, murals, clan houses, and markets, then take a break at a resort in or around Batu Ferringhi, a strip of beaches on the north coast.
Active travelers may also like to hike through the national park, which offers shorter and longer trails leading to look-out spots and beaches.
Further northwest still is Langkawi, which is both the name of an archipelago and of the main island in that archipelago. If beaches are your priority, don't miss Langkawi in February. The sands are white, the sea is clear turquoise, and there's a good range of accommodation. Pantai Cenang and Tanjung Rhu are good beach options, and you can enjoy boat rides from the beaches.
What to Do
Travelers to Penang shouldn't miss a tour of the Tropical Spice Garden, followed by a Peranakan/Nyonya cooking class. These lush grounds are on the northern coast of the island, between Batu Ferringhi and the national park. Learn all about the history of the spice trade and Penang's place in it, and then retreat to the well-equipped kitchen to learn to make local dishes using some of these spices. Penang is renowned for its Peranakan culture, derived from early Chinese migrants who intermarried with local Malays, producing a hybrid culture and cuisine. You can sample Peranakan food at restaurants around George Town, but this is your chance to learn to make it yourself.
While many travelers like to spend time on Langkawi's beaches, to take a break from the beach and perhaps burn off a few cocktails and ice creams, hike up one (or both) of the island's two mountains: Gunung Raya and Gunung Matcincang. There are cable cars, walkways, viewing platforms at both, and trails that take you away from the crowds. A round-trip hike to the top of either mountain will take around 4-5 hours, but Gunung Raya is the easier climb.
Events in February
Federal Territory Day, nationwide. This holiday on February 1 (or the Monday following if February 1 is on a weekend) is a public holiday so expect some business closures.
Thaipusam, nationwide (in Tamil Hindu communities). This Tamil Hindu festival is held in late January or early February in honor of the Tamil Lord Murugan (Subramaniam). Penants sometimes enact surprising acts of self-flagellation.
Lunar New Year, nationwide (especially in Chinese communities). The lunar new year is celebrated among Malaysia's Chinese communities, although Malaysians from various communities may join in the celebrations. Expect to find parades with floats, dragon and lion dancers, and stilt walkers in the western cities of Peninsular Malaysia. Expect to see and hear firecrackers on the fifteenth and final day of the festival (Chap Goh Mei). The festival can fall between late January and mid-late February.