There’s no need to fly out of the country in search of a relaxing beach retreat, as Malaysia is blessed with beautiful coastlines, lush islands and tropical weather year-round. Here are some of the best Malaysian islands for kicking back and donning those straw hats, passports not required.
Once declared by Time magazine as one of the best islands in the world, Pulau Tioman hasn’t lost its charm. This secluded tear-shaped island beyond the state of Pahang has had to bear the brunt of controversy surrounding development on the island, but if you park yourself on the less-trodden parts, the results are stunning.
Kampung Juara Waterfall
Juara beach on Tioman Island
The village of Juara is a haven for surfers during the wet season (November to March), and Nipah is an undisturbed beachfront fringed by thick rainforest. You can take a dive course on the north of the island, where you’ll be treated to a pretty array of corals and reefs.
Pulau Tioman is accessible by boat from Mersing or Pahang or by plane into the village of Tekek.
Where to Stay on Pulau Tioman
Perched above the jungle canopy, Japamala Resort is worth the splurge if only for its private sand beach. The Balinese-inspired boutique resort is perfect for a honeymoon retreat or simply to while away the hours in the luxurious full-service spa.
The largest of nine islands protected by the Pulau Redang Marine Park, Pulau Redang is a great option for those who like their beach resorts just as much as they like the beach. The Pasir Panjang beach is dotted with up-market accommodation overlooking the turquoise waters.
You won’t find much in the way of high-octane activities, but most visitors snorkel and scuba dive for a glimpse of the beautiful corals and marine life. And sometimes it’s best to simply laze on the sand and do absolutely nothing.
Where to Stay on Pulau Redang
The Taaras boasts a private beach and oceanfront views. A full-service spa and in-house restaurants mean you can lounge in the hotel without ever needing to leave the premises. Meanwhile, for those on tighter budgets, the neighbouring Pulau Kapas offers cheaper accommodation.
Next on our list of Malaysian islands is an island very close to Tioman. Pulau Rawa is a tiny, barely touched island off the coast of Mersing. In fact, it’s so small, you can cover the entire western shore on foot within 15 minutes. Activities on the island are scarce due to its size and largely undeveloped state, but it’s great for an exclusive weekend getaway with your mates or for a spot of colourful snorkelling, canoeing or beach volleyball.
Note that restaurants on Pulau Rawa are limited and pricey, so bring your own snacks and drinking water to avoid spending too much.
Where to Stay on Pulau Rawa
The island is home to only two resorts: Alang’s Rawa and Rawa Island Resort. Your hotel of choice will provide everything you’ll need during your stay, including meals, snorkelling gear and boat rides to nearby islands.
Sabah is home to some of the country’s most stunning islands, most of which are not overly commercial. Within the cluster of islands that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Pulau Manukan is one of the most popular, and rightfully so.
The elongated shape of the island allows for boundless frolicking on the powdery white sand, and if you avoid the Malaysian school-holiday seasons, you’re unlikely to bump into too many tourists.
Here, the best way to treat yourself is to hire a boat operator to ferry you to surrounding islands, namely Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi and Pulau Sulug, where the blue-green waters are so clear can see the reflection of your boat on the seabed. Bring along a book, a straw hat and plenty of sunscreen for the ultimate relaxing day out.
Where to Stay on Pulau Manukan
Manukan Island Resort is your best bet for a comfortable stay on the island. The resort comprises charming beach villas overlooking the water and features Perahu Restaurant, which serves up local dishes and seafood.
And to complete our list of Malaysian islands, we head to Langkawi. Langkawi’s shorelines are widely known to be the best on the western coast of the peninsula, but vigorous marketing has resulted in some of Langkawi’s main islands being overrun with visitors. Avoid the raucousness of Pantai Cenang and drive past a thick clump of forest to access Tanjung Rhu, a high-end beach haven.
The waters here are startlingly clear, and the sands as white as pearl. It’s an ideal honeymoon destination for the couple that likes to bask in luxury. Note that the resorts on this stretch of the island are largely up-market, so be prepared to bust the bank.
Where to Stay on Tanjung Rhu
Tanjung Rhu Resort is the clear choice for an exclusive, personalised experience on Langkawi. Shaded by casuarina trees and cradled by the stunningly blue waters of the Andaman Sea, the hotel offers outdoor massages amid the gentle sounds of the beach. Staff can also arrange for mangrove tours, during which you venture into a mangrove forest to spot unique wildlife.
What’s your favourite island in Malaysia?
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