Discover the best of Desaru in Johor, Malaysia with our comprehensive travel guide, featuring a handpicked selection of attractions and must-visit places. Located in the southeastern region of Malaysia, Desaru offers an excellent blend of beaches, tropical natural landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. Just a short drive away, travellers can find Sungai Rengit, a rustic fishing town renowned for its fresh seafood, especially lobsters. In this post, we highlight the top attractions and places that we explored during our recent trip. Plan your perfect Desaru getaway with our recommendations and insider tips.
Travel to Desaru
We did a straightforward road trip from Singapore to Desaru via the Senai-Desaru Highway. This relatively new highway offers a convenient route that takes you through a mix of scenic countryside, aquaculture plots and palm oil plantations. The trip took around one hour from Johor Bahru, depending on traffic conditions. A highlight of the road trip was the Jambatan Sungai Johor, also known as the Johor River Bridge. This is an impressive bridge that spans across the Johor River which stretches over a length of approximately 1.7 kilometers. For travellers from the Malaysia capital (Kuala Lumpur), there is the option of getting a private van transfer from Kuala Lumpur to Desaru via Klook.
We stayed at Four Points by Sheraton Desaru which was located in the heart of Desaru in Bandar Penawar. The hotel is relatively new and very clean – it is a good base for travellers looking to fully explore the region rather than staying in a beach resort. We booked a Premium Room (which was huge – 517 ft) for about USD 100 inclusive of breakfast. Overnight parking was available for RM 5 per night. The hotel is surrounded by shops and eateries within walkable distances. For travellers looking for more luxurious and beachfront resorts, the following hotels might be better options:
Attractions and Places to Visit
1. Sg Rengit
Sungai Rengit is a small fishing village located in the southeastern region of Malaysia. Situated about 27 km south from our hotel in Bandar Penawar, Desaru, it offers a glimpse into the local maritime culture and traditional way of life. The village is known for its fresh seafood, which can be found at the local markets and restaurants. While it may not offer extensive attractions or amenities, Sungai Rengit provides a simple and authentic experience for those interested in exploring a traditional fishing village and savoring local seafood. Be sure to visit the large lobster statue located in the town square. We also visited the instagrammable and popular café, Yard & Co, which is located on the southernmost point of Sungai Rengit – it offers panoramic views of the Johor coastline.
2. Desaru Mini Zoo
Desaru Mini Zoo is a small-scale zoo located in Desaru, right next to the oil refinery at Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex. The zoo offers visitors an opportunity to view a variety of animals up close in a modest setting with animal petting opportunities. The collection includes a range of species, such as birds, reptiles, small mammals and farm animals including alpacas and ostriches. Visitors can observe the animals in their enclosures and may have the chance to interact with some of the friendlier species under supervision. A single ticket costs RM 20 payable at the entrance.
3. Desaru Public Beach
Desaru Public Beach is a popular beach destination, open to both locals and tourists (free of charge). The beach provides ample space for visitors to relax, sunbathe and engage in various beach activities. These include swimming, picnicking, beach volleyball and building sandcastles. Our hotel provides free shuttle bus services to the public beach. Wildlife lovers could even engage a marine biologist and discover sea creatures at low tides here in Desaru.
4. SKS City Mall
SKS City Mall is a shopping center located next to our hotel in Desaru. It features a variety of stores, including fashion outlets, electronics shops, grocery stores and specialty stores. SKS City Mall provides a convenient and affordable shopping experience for residents and tourists in the Desaru area. While it may not be as large or extensive as major city malls in Johor Bahru, SKS City Mall serves as a local hub for shopping and dining needs in the Desaru region.
5. Seafood Restaurants
Sungai Rengit offers several seafood restaurants to cater to visitors. These restaurants specialize in serving a variety of fresh seafood dishes, sourced directly from the local fishing industry. The restaurants typically offer an array of seafood options including fish, prawns, crabs, shellfish and especially lobsters. The restaurants in Sungai Rengit vary in size and ambiance, ranging from casual open-air eateries to more formal indoor settings. We had seafood at an off-the-beaten-path seafood restaurant (Super Lobster Village – a few km from Sg Rengit town) which featured unique village decor (see map below).