Spending a long weekend in JB — IG-worthy villages, jet ski rides and KTV hotpot anyone?
Honestly, I never thought I would spend more than a day in Johor Bahru. I mean a day trip is usually enough for some cafe-hopping and shopping, right?
But after doing some research, I realised there are actually new places to explore and plenty of things to do (other than eating and shopping)! Hint: IG-worthy villages, jet ski rides and KTV hotpot anyone?
So in this 3D2N itinerary, we’ll show you why it’s worth spending a little more time in JB!
Connectivity: eSIM (3-day plan with a daily 2GB limit) ~S$6.50. Just scan the QR code and activate your eSIM once you’ve arrived in Malaysia!
Insurance: Essential plan via Klook — covers overseas medical expenses, travel cancellation, travel delay, and more.
Transport: Grab is easily available around the JB Sentral and Mount Austin areas. But we’d recommend booking a car charter to explore further towns like Kulai as it may be harder to get a Grab in more remote places (like the Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest and the Rainforest Tree House).
Day 1: Day trip to Kulai
Did you know you could rent a car with a driver, get picked up from anywhere in Singapore and explore JB over a 10 hour period?
Granted it was a little pricey at ~S$412 for a Standard MPV which sits up to six. But if you share with a group of friends, it’s S$68 for the day, and we didn’t have to get out of the vehicle to queue at customs!
Our driver TY also knew how to weave through the lanes so we took about 1.5 hours to reach JB (including clearing both customs in 30 minutes)!
Since we had a car, we could explore further areas like Kulai. It’s a quaint town known for beautiful scenic spots and authentic Hakka food. Plus, it’s just a 45-minute drive away from the Johor Bahru checkpoint!
Brunch at Kedai Makanan Hakka Sawit
After arriving in Kulai, we stopped for brunch at Kedai Makanan Hakka Sawit and got a bowl of Lei Cha or Thunder Tea Rice (RM7.50) — containing rice, fresh vegetables, tofu and nuts. Pour green tea soup over the rice and itadakimasu.
For someone who hates veggies, Celeste said she enjoyed it. We also got braised pork rice (RM7.50), fried pork (RM6.50), and stuffed tofu (RM2) to share.
After filling our tummies, we walked around the area and came across the Kelapa Sawit Wall Art. Snap photos with familiar characters from iconic movies and anime like Totoro, Cardcaptor Sakura, and even Son Goku from Dragon Ball Z!
Apparently, the mural artworks were drawn by locals to revitalise the area and attract tourists to visit. Well, we were definitely SOLD.
Kedai Makanan Hakka Sawit
Opening hours: 8AM – 2:30PM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 45min drive from Johor Bahru checkpoint (Google Maps)
Kelapa Sawit Wall Art
Opening hours: 24hrs
How to get there: 1min walk from Kedai Makanan Hakka Sawit (Google Maps)
Fun fact: Bodhi Sanctuary houses the largest indoor statue of Zhunti Bodhisattva in Southeast Asia!
On the other hand, Purple Bamboo Valley is more of a scenic spot. Highlights here include a huge swing, rainbow road, giant inflatable pandas, a hand reaching out to the sky, and doors that reminded us of Monsters, Inc. 😲
We recommend giving at least an hour to explore because there are just so many photo-ops! Oh and don’t forget to apply some mosquito repellent too, the insects here are brutal.
Entrance fee: RM5 (Malaysians), RM10 (Foreigners)
Opening hours: 9AM – 6PM
How to get there: 21min drive from Kedai Makanan Hakka Sawit (Google Maps)
While scrolling through TikTok for things to do in Kulai, we found this old-school gem — Cafe Jufei! You know it’s old when you see items featuring Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung and Taiwanese boy band Xiao Hu Dui (Little Tigers).
The cafe serves drinks like hand-drip V60 (RM18), chocolate (RM11), floral tea (RM10), and desserts like cheesecake (RM10). It was the perfect place to chill and relax while reminiscing about the old days. Or for us, taking loads of nice photos.
Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 13min drive from Putuo Village (Google Maps)
Johor Premium Outlets
Of course, we had to do some last-minute shopping before leaving Kulai! There are more than 100 stores at Johor Premium Outlets, with atas brands like Gucci, Coach, and Burberry having various discounts.
But if you’re like me and aren’t into the branded stuff, there are other affordable stores too like Cotton On and Common Sense. We snagged two Disney-themed shirts at the latter shop, with the second one at 50% off — the total was RM88.50 instead of RM118. So we managed to save RM29.50 or S$8.50! #girlmath 😍
If you have more time in Kulai
Photo credit: @nana_aaron17 via Instagram
Another popular attraction in Kulai is hiking up the 654m-tall Gunung Pulai! There are two routes you can take, one goes up the mountain peak (around ~2 hours one-way) or you can take a left at the fork road near the main gate and it’ll lead you down to a small waterfall (~20 minutes).
At the end of the hike, drop by the Rainforest Tree House near the main gate for some R & R. There’s a minimum spend of at least one drink or food purchase, with menu items like toast and spaghetti. The mains cost around ~S$6 to 8 and while you’re eating, there’s even an adorable in-cafe cat to play with 😺
How to get there: 42min drive from Johor Premium Outlets (Google Maps)
Rainforest Tree House
Opening hours: 9AM – 3:30PM (Tue – Fri), 8AM – 4:30PM (Sat – Sun), 6PM – 9PM (Fri – Sat), closed on Mon
How to get there: 5min walk from Gunung Pulai main gate (Google Maps)
Dinner at Restoran Mana Lagi
On the way back to our accommodation near JB Sentral, our driver TY suggested Restoran Mana Lagi for dinner. The restaurant has been around for 20 to 30 years and he has been eating the nasi lemak here since he was a kid!
How it works is similar to a cai fan stall, where you’re given a plate of rice and you can choose ingredients ranging from fish and chicken wing to quail egg and even squid.
It’s affordable too, we had two plates of nasi lemak with chicken wings, egg, quail eggs, and begedil (fried potato patties) for just RM38 (including drinks). The chicken was a little dry for me but it was meaty. And while I’m not a fan of spicy food, Hendric was impressed with the chilli for having a strong kick!
Opening hours: 5PM – 11PM, closed on Fri
How to get there: 30min drive from Johor Premium Outlets (Google Maps)
Bonus: Bar-hopping at Deep Bistro or Merah Kitchen & Bar
Since we still had time before our car charter timing was up, we went bar-hopping to end the day. Here are some pretty interesting ones!
First is Merah Kitchen & Bar — funny story, we actually got lost while trying to find the entrance and walked right into an actual kitchen… Just a heads up, the entrance is a little obscure but we won’t spoil the fun 😉
Once we were in, it was back to the
future past with vintage-themed decor like retro neon signs and even old arcade machines. The food was decent but the main highlight here is the Soju cocktail (RM39)!
For something cooler, experience a winter wonderland without the freezing temperatures at Deep Bistro❄️ The bar serves mains, appetisers, and drinks like beers, cocktails, and mocktails.
The Irish Cream on the rocks (RM25.90) tasted sweet, kinda like a milky Baileys drink (which I loved). Service was great too — it was one of our friends’ birthday month and they gave us free french fries!
Merah Kitchen & Bar
Opening hours: 10AM – 1AM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 16min drive from Restoran Mana Lagi (Google Maps)
Opening hours: 4PM – 1AM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 24min drive from Restoran Mana Lagi (Google Maps)
Day 2: Mount Austin
Jet Ski Along the Johor Strait
Before heading to Mount Austin, we dropped by Senibong Cove Marina for a 1-hour jet ski activity 💦 FYI, there are also 20-minute and 4 to 5-hour packages depending on what suits your JB itinerary.
I’ve never tried jet skiing before so I was quite nervous but our guides Zul and Arab were friendly and made sure we had a good time! It’s surprisingly easy to navigate with the jet ski. TL;DR: use the left handle to stop and the right to accelerate.
The jet skis could go up to 85km/h but I went up to around 30km/h and it felt fast enough 😂 We were also the only ones in the 10AM slot, so it felt like we had a private session — our guides even gave us a 30-minute extension since the next slot was only in the afternoon!
*Pro-tip: Wear slippers or sandals as your feet might get wet. For sunset, catch the 5:30PM slot!
FYI, bring a towel and a set of dry clothes in case you get really wet (our captain was cheeky and gave us a few splashes along the way). After changing your clothes at the nearby toilets, you can then continue the rest of your day from here!
*Note: Contact Seadoo Safari Johor Bahru in advance to confirm your slot.
Good Times DIY Tufting at Toppen Shopping Centre
After an eventful morning, we wanted to do something chill, so we thought why not try tufting? Boy, how wrong were we.
What was supposed to be a 1 to 2-hour tufting session ended up being 3 hours (I never knew tufting required so much time and effort) 🤯 But seeing our final product made it all worth it.
To this! WOW we made floor mats.
The instructions were easy to follow, and the staff at Good Times DIY Tufting were friendly and offered help whenever we needed! A word of advice though, for first-timers, choose a simple design with a rectangle-shaped background. I struggled trying to tuft finer details like my corgi paws and bum.
For reference, we chose the 40cm x 40cm size but the final product ended up a little smaller. While ours took around 3 hours to complete, you might need more time for larger sizes based on your tufting speed. So remember to factor in enough time in your JB itinerary!
*Note: Contact the operator via WhatsApp (+60 11-2660 6208) with your booking ID to confirm your reservation. You’ll also need to send in your 2D image so they can draw the outline before you arrive.
Cost: From ~S$39/pax
Time slots: 10AM, 2PM, 5PM
Opening hours: 11AM – 7PM (Tue – Fri), 9:15AM – 9:30PM (Sat – Sun), closed on Mon
How to get there: 16min taxi ride from Senibong Cove Marina, then head to level 2 of Toppen Shopping Centre (Google Maps)
Cafe-hop in Mount Austin
It’s no secret that Mount Austin is a haven for cafe-hoppers — and here are some of our top picks!
Chill ‘N Chow Cafe by Ng Kitchen
Urgh, they’re so FLUFFY!! From left to right: Waffles, Donut, Pudding, Mochi.
Chill ‘N Chow Cafe by Ng Kitchen is home to four adorable doggos, who are all less than a year old! They belong to the owner of the cafe, Angie, who loved Chows Chows so much, she opened this new cafe in July 2023. You’ll have to pay an entrance fee for an hour’s playtime with these cuties, which also includes a free cup of coconut ice cream!
*Note: The cafe is on a walk-in basis only.
Entrance fee: RM15 (Tue – Thu), RM20 (Fri – Sun)
Opening hours: 11AM – 7PM, closed on Mon
How to get there: 13min drive from Toppen Shopping Centre (Google Maps)
Cheotnun Mount Austin Korean Dessert Cafe
When it comes to Korean desserts, bingsu is a must and Cheotnun Mount Austin Korean Dessert Cafe has various flavours from coffee and milk tea to even coconut oreo! We wanted something fruity so we had mango bingsu (RM30.80) — it was huge, good for sharing with friends, and not too sweet either.
The cafe also serves up savoury food like honey butter toast (RM12.80) and potato-topped corn dogs (RM15)! FYI, there’s free WiFi and plenty of seating with power plugs if you’re thinking of a workcation here.
Opening hours: 12PM – 12AM
How to get there: 12min drive from Toppen Shopping Centre (Google Maps)
The FOUNDERS Cafe
What’s really cool about The Founders Cafe is its aesthetics — check out this concrete wall arch and shower curtain that looks like an indoor waterfall! Menu items include pizza, spaghetti, and beef bagels. We thought that the portions were generous and the meat was juicy.
*Pro-tip: Klook has various dining vouchers which you can purchase at a discounted price and score freebies too! For instance, you can get an RM60 dining voucher for only ~S$14.30 (16% off) and get a cup of coffee for free ☕
Outline Cafe is where you can show your friends you went glamping (without the exorbitant prices) 😂 The place is decked in outdoor decor like gravel roads, tents, and even a moon backdrop! Food-wise is the usual Western cuisine like pasta and fries.
Opening hours: 11:30AM – 10PM, closed on Wed
How to get there: 15min drive from Toppen Shopping Centre (Google Maps)
“Give Birth” at BangHistory
For those not interested in cafe-hopping, here’s something new you can try — giving birth. No, I’m not kidding.
While we were happily visiting cafes, Hendric went for a childbirth experience at BangHistory. I mean, it’s not as bad as it sounds… He (yes, guys can do it too!) mentioned that there are nine levels of pain — four is how usual period cramps feel and nine is for childbirth.
Hendric lasted till around level six before tapping out. But let’s just say, he has a newfound appreciation for mothers 🥲 Let us know in the comments how you fared!
*Pro-tip: BangHistory also offers other fun experiences like escape rooms and a rage room. For those who’re interested in the rage room, there’s a package with the childbirth experience for only RM40!
Dinner at The Rhythm
Hotpot and KTV are the two greatest loves in my life. So, when I heard about The Rhythm, it was like a dream come true 😭
Basically, you just need to spend a certain amount for the hotpot set to get 3 hours of karaoke free! For instance, a set for two to three people starts from RM138, inclusive of veggies, meat and seafood. You can also choose from four different soup bases: tomato, tom yum, mala and herbal soup.
Some of us ate while some of us sang, or play it smart like me and just multi-task! Who says you can’t sing and eat at the same time?
Opening hours: 12PM – 12AM (Sun – Thu), 12PM – 2AM (Fri – Sat)
How to get there: 2min walk from Chill ‘N Chow Cafe By Ng Kitchen (Google Maps)
Day 3: JB Sentral
Breakfast at D.S.S Dim Sum
On our last day, we found this quaint breakfast spot just a 3-minute walk from our hotel. D.S.S Dim Sum is located in the Asia Food Court, which has various stalls selling Thai, Chinese and even Vietnamese food!
We got the usual dim sum like xiao long bao (soup dumplings), fried beancurd skin rolls and salted egg yolk custard bun. My personal favourite was the custard bun because of how the lava filling overflowed as I bit into it, plus it was really creamy 😋
Oh and apparently the stall runs a promotion every Friday of each month, where you’ll get free food if you’re the X customer corresponding to the month number. And lucky us, we happened to be the 11th customer in the month of November!
Opening hours: 7AM – 2:30PM, closed on Tue
How to get there: 3min walk from Fives Hotel DNP (Google Maps)
Laser Battle at City Square
Now this is the true game that breaks friendships. JK.
Fun fact: Laser Battle is the largest franchise of laser tag centres in Asia with branches from Malaysia to Thailand!
At the Johor Bahru City Square outlet, there are over 55 different types of game plays from a standard team battle to a friend vs foe (where everyone’s vest will show the same colour and you won’t be able to tell who your teammates are) 🙊
Each game or mission lasts 10 minutes, and I swear it felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life. The arena is pretty huge so there are many hiding spots and space to run about. All in all, it was quite fun and a good exercise too!
*Note: After booking your tickets, make a reservation directly at the local operator (+60-168686279 or +60-122659249) to confirm your preferred time slot.
Lunch at Kam Long Ah Zai Curry Fish Head
We’ve long heard of how famous Kam Long Ah Zai Curry Fish Head is and after trying it, we can see why.
We ordered a medium-sized fish head (RM44) and fish tail (RM52), with add-ons like rice, veggies and tau kee (beancurd skin) to share among nine people. The meat was fresh, while the curry was rich and not spicy at all — take it from someone who can’t handle any type of spice!
Massage at Spa Manja
After sweating it out at the laser battle earlier, obviously, we had to go for a massage. Fish ponds, wooden bridges, and lots of greenery — Spa Manja was giving major Bali vibes even before we walked in!
The spa offers the usual body and foot massages but I went for the 2-hour Recharger package. It includes a foot soak, cucumber salt glow scrub, steam – jacuzzi, aroma eye pillow and a 1-hour royal Javanese massage.
Photo credit: Spa Manja
For RM188, it was super worth it! The jacuzzi was a pleasant surprise and I had it all to myself 😊 But if you prefer just the massage, you can try the Aromatherapy Massage, with a choice of Javanese or Swedish-style techniques paired with fragrant essential oils (RM118 for 1 hour).
*Pro-tip: Make reservations beforehand via WhatsApp (+60 11–3311 1080) to secure your slots.
Back to Singapore
From Spa Manja, it was only a 3-minute taxi ride away to our hotel. So we got back, grabbed our luggage, and hopped into a one-way car charter back to Singapore (~S$72 for a Toyota Innova, sits up to 6 pax)!
The driver was really nice and waited for us even though we were slightly late. Just like how we entered JB, we got through both Singapore and Malaysia customs pretty quickly as well (less than 30 minutes).
Accommodation in JB — Fives Hotel DNP
For our two nights in JB, we stayed at Fives Hotel DNP — it’s quite new, just opened in November 2022! It’s near KSL City Mall and located between JB Sentral and Mount Austin, so it was a good base for us to head out to different places.
The room was more spacious than we thought and even had a small desk to work from. What we were thankful for though, is the 24-hour Thai convenience store just next door. It sold everything from instant noodles to makeup products and even clothes!
*Note: The hotel requires an RM50 deposit (cash only) for each guest during check-in, which will be returned upon check-out. There’s also a tourism tax of RM10 per night per room!
Other accommodations in JB
JB Sentral: Fives Meldrum (from ~S$46/night), Z Hotel Johor Bahru (from ~S$59/night)
Mount Austin: MIICO Hotel @ Mount Austin (from ~S$23/night), Austin Park Hotel (from ~S$62/night)
*Pro-tip: Look out for 10% off weekly JB hotel deals on Klook — with a code dropping every Wednesday!
Budget breakdown and tips for your JB Itinerary
I’m glad we decided to explore new places and experiences (like jet skiing and tufting) on our recent JB trip! It beats just going to the usual malls and cafes near the checkpoint. And booking a car charter to Kulai via Klook was a definite plus — it was less touristy and uncrowded so it felt like we had the whole area to ourselves!
Sometimes, you just gotta look a little deeper and who knows what hidden gems you might find on your next trip to JB 😉
To help you plan your future JB itinerary, here’s our budget breakdown and tips:
2N Accommodation: S$46
Food & Misc: S$53.90
1) Compare the best rates for money changers on online platforms like cashchanger.co
2) Book activities and accommodations via Klook before your trip for ease of mind and discounted prices! Klook also has food and dining vouchers with skip-the-queue privileges for some places like Kam Long Ah Zai Curry Fish Head! Check out Klook’s Great JB Getaway page for more deals and info 🥳
3) Consider getting a car charter for convenience if you’re travelling in a big group. We got through customs quickly via car and found it easier to explore further places like Kulai (where Grab isn’t as accessible in certain areas)!
4) Bring enough cash as some cafes like Cafe Jufei and Cheotnun Mount Austin Korean Dessert Cafe only accept cash or the local e-payment Touch ‘N Go.
5) Check out our JB guides and itineraries for other inspo:
– 12 Cosy JB Accommodations near Popular Malls from S$18/night — City Square, KSL, Paradigm
– Here’s Everything to Know About Using E-gates at JB Customs
– JB Day Trip Itinerary — Where to Eat, Play and Shop Under S$65
– JB Cafe-hopping — 9 New Cafes to Check Out in Johor Bahru
What else should we add to our JB itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!
This post is brought to you by Klook.