Destination Malaysia

10 magical Malaysian rainforest retreats

David Hogan Jr., for CNNUpdated 1st May 2018
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Malaysia (CNN) — The amazing islands, cool highlands and stunning coastlines of Malaysia are blessed with beautiful rainforests. Hiding within them are some of the world's best tropical retreats.
From a private mansion to a VIP apartment inside a restricted research center, here are 10 of the best places to stay:

1. Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL), Danum Valley, Sabah

Best feature: Danum Valley canopy walk
Affectionately known as BRL, Borneo Rainforest Lodge is probably one of the most exclusive, luxurious and private resorts in Malaysia. Located deep in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the nearest civilization is a cool four to five hours away.
The entire place is built on wooden stilts with walkways above ground to preserve the rainforest floors. Its 30 chalet units are spaced perfectly for privacy while everything is back to basics. This means no air conditioning as BRL's cottages are cooled using an impressive, traditional method.
Wildlife sightings at the awards-winning resort are common, even at the resort grounds. Service is top notch with professional and knowledgeable staff and nature guides.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley Conservation Area 88100 Malaysia; +60 88 267637

2. Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, Mulu National Park, Sarawak

Best feature: The Mulu Caves tours
Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa (previously known as the Royal Mulu Resort) is just a five-minute walk from Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sarawak Borneo.
It's the only five-star luxury resort in the entire Mulu region. The resort offers everything from a banquet hall, Balinese spa and cooking classes to cultural demonstrations. Activities include rainforest hikes and the awe-inspiring Mulu caves tours.
This resort and its walkways are also built on wooden stilts.
Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa, Sungai Melinau PO Box 1145, Mulu, Gunung Mulu National Park 98008 Malaysia; +60 85-792 388

3. Belum Rainforest Resort, Pulau Banding, Perak

Malaysia rainforest resorts, Belum Rainforest Resort
There are about 55 species of hornbills in the world and 10 of them have been spotted here.
courtesy Belum Rainforest Resort
Best features: The houseboat, 10 species of hornbills (there are about 55 in total in the world) and the world's largest flower
Belum Rainforest Resort is the main gateway to the 130-million-year-old Belum-Temengor Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests in the world.
In addition to hotel rooms and traditional Malay chalets, guests can also stay in a houseboat or a luxurious standalone Villa Tanjung Wan.
This five-star resort offers some of the best nature experiences in Peninsular Malaysia -- the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia can be spotted all year round. Birds are abundant. Elusive Malayan tigers, tapirs or even Asian elephants can sometimes be sighted.
Belum Rainforest Resort, Pulau Banding, Gerik 33200 Malaysia; +60 5-791 6800

4. Tabin Wildlife Resort, Lahad Datu, Sabah

Best features: Pygmy elephants and lots of birds
As an exclusive resort inside the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Tabin Wildlife Resort focuses heavily on conservation and environmental practices.
The beauty of the 30-year-old rainforest resort lies with the large number of highly endangered animals living in the reserve, making it one of the premier destinations to see Borneo wildlife in its natural habitat.
Bird watchers will particularly find this place incredible as to date more than 260 species of birds have been spotted around the reserve. Activities include jungle treks, night safaris, wildlife excursions and rainforest education.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Jalan Damai, Kota Kinabalu 88300 Malaysia; +60 88 267266

5. Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Sabah

Best features: Maliau sky walk, canopy walk and the treks.
Known also as Sabah's Lost World, the Maliau Basin Conservation Area totals at 58,840 hectares (588.4 square kilometers). It's declared a Protection Forest by the government and is one of the few relatively untouched wilderness areas in the world.
The site is mainly a research center, but it does have a luxurious villa on site -- with three rooms including a master bedroom that has a jacuzzi with a rainforest view. The villa is at the main study center where standard air conditioned twin bedrooms and dorm units are available too.
Most of the sites are open to visitors, but they're required to get permission in advance from Yayasan Sabah or a tour company that provides the Maliau Basin tour packages to enter Maliau Basin.
Guests should also take note that Maliau Basin is an atavistic and isolated area with limited access, communications and safety facilities. Perfect for any hardcore nature and outdoor lover.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Tawau, Malaysia; +60 89 759214

6. The Datai Langkawi

The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia rainforest resorts
Far pavilions: The Datai Langkawi.
courtesy The Datai Langkawi
Best feature: The isolated, peaceful and beautiful -- we can go on -- nature walks.
If venerable British wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough owned a luxury villa, it might resemble the prestigious Datai Langkawai.
Sitting in the thick rainforest at an isolated area on Langkawi island, the Datai's 125 rooms and villas offer incredible views of the forest as well as the Andaman Sea.
Having been around for many years, the multiple award winning Datai is no longer a "best-kept-secret" but remains one of Malaysia's top rainforest resorts, offering world-class service and facilities.
The Datai's attention to detail is incomparable. Guests won't regret splurging on a Villa Hutan Datai, a 550-square-meter complex away from the main resort ground with individual pavilions for each of the three rooms as well as dining and living areas.
The Datai Langkawi, Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi 07000 Malaysia; +60 4-950 0500

7. Permai Rainforest Resort, Santubong, Sarawak

Best feature: The tree houses. Enough said.
Eco-resort Permai Rainforest Resort sits inside a pristine forest at the foot of the mystical Mount Santubong. Carefully designed to minimize its footprint on the natural environment, it's been offering visitors a special experience since the 1990s.
Accommodation comes in the form of cabins, single and double story units and the amazing tree house villas.
Permai Rainforest Resort described itself as "undisturbed natural beauty and wonderfully rich biodiversity," which won't disappoint nature seekers. As for nature activities, there's hiking, flying fox and bird watching. The list goes on.
Permai Rainforest Resort, Teluk Penyu, Kuching 93050 Malaysia; +60 82-846 490

8. Mutiara Taman Negara, Pahang

Mutiara Taman Negara, Pahang
Mutiara Taman Negara is located in one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests.
courtesy Mutiara Taman Negara
Best features: Countless wildlife and river cruises using longboats
Also one of the world's oldest tropical rainforest and the largest national park in Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara boasts endless nature and ecotourism experiences for anyone who loves green and the outdoors. There are more than 10,000 species of plants, 25,000 invertebrates and 200 mammals found around the national park.
And Mutiara Taman Negara Resort is well hidden at among ancient forest. The eco-resort houses 108 rooms, Malay timber chalets, bungalows and guest houses.
Also available are dormitories, hostels and a 2.5-acre camping ground for those who prefer to sleep under the moonlight. Tents and sleeping bags are available for rent.
Mutiara Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan, Kuala Tahan 27000 Malaysia; +60 9-266 2200

9. Borneo Highlands Resort, Sarawak

Best features: Cool (both temperature and vibe) highland rainforest
An hour's drive from Sarawak's capital city Kuching, Borneo Highlands Resort hides in the mountainous highland rainforest, 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level. It's well known among golfers with its 18-hole Hornbill Golf Course. But there are plenty of other activities for just about any visitor.
It's possible to trek in the cool highland where temperature ranges from 18-25 C all year round to the Kalimantan View Point -- with a sight of Indonesia -- or simply explore the area to spot montane birds, insects and plants.
The spa is also one-of-a-kind -- the only traditional Bidayuh Spa in the world (named for the region's indigenous tribes).
Borneo Highlands Resort, Jalan Borneo Heights Padawan, Kuching 94200 Malaysia; +60 19-8280790

10. Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort, Sarawak

Best features: Two national parks and one water park
Bordering Brunei, the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort is conveniently located. It's just a 40-minute drive from Miri City, Sarawak's second biggest city, and is close to two national parks: Niah (where the Niah Caves archeological sites are found) and Lambir Hills .
With facilities like its own water park and rope bridge, this resort is perfect for groups and families and suitable for team building activities.
Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort, 38 KM Miri- Bintulu Road Lot 15, Block 2, Sibuti Land District, Miri 98000 Malaysia; +60 85-613 888