Malaysia’s sun-kissed tropical climate makes it a top destination for travellers around the world to hit the islands for a dose of vitamin sea. While places like Langkawi and Redang are on well-trodden paths, there are other lesser-known islands in Malaysia each with their own character and charm worth exploring and rediscovering. Here are eight of my favourites:

1. Kapas Island: Cliff Diving on the Island’s Ragged North

Kapas Island, off the coast of Kuala Terengganu, is one of those islands I’d love to laze the day away. It’s hard not to do anything when the white sandy beaches surrounded by azure waters are at your doorstep. You will want to lie down on the sand while basking in the sun, jump into the water, or simply run around with your friends for a game.

The untamed northern part of Kapas Island is for thrill seekers in the form of ragged rocks and breathtaking cliffs facing the sea. Take a quick one hour hike to the top of Bukit Singa for sweeping views of the South China Sea before cooling off by cliff diving at the many lagoons that dot the shores of this magical island.

Kapas IslandPhoto Credit: @khairildeqwan

Kapas IslandPhoto Credit: @zizan_adnan

Check out Flights to Kapas Island


2. Pulau Ketam: A Charming Chinese Fishing Village

Who knew a 45-minute boat ride from Port Klang would bring you to a charming Chinese fishing village wholly built on stilts? Pulau Ketam is my go-to place to escape the bustle of the city where time does seem to slow down.

The island is connected by a network of pathways fit for two-wheelers so I would rent a bicycle and ride around, soaking in the slow island life. Pulau Ketam’s “town centre” is a row of shophouses along the main street and that’s where I had the most delicious Teochew-style seafood which I still remember how tasty it was even to this day.

Pulau Ketam Photo Credit: @keithjie

Pulau KetamPhoto Credit: @getdaowen


3. Carey Island: Be Mesmerized By The Maskmen of Mah Meri

Carey Island is home to the indigenous Mah Meri, a tribe of about 2,000-odd people who have developed a unique set of customs and belief. The womenfolk weave geometrically-shaped crafts like baskets and ornaments while the men are master woodcarvers, creating many forms of masks and sculptures of their spirits.

I had the chance to visit the Mah Meri on “Hari Muyang,” a day to celebrate their ancestors. Each member of the community received blessings from a shaman and followed by a dance called “Mayin Jo-oh” involving dancers in intricately-carved masks prancing around in a circle.

Carey Island

Carey Island

4. Labuan Island: A Unique Past and an Exciting Future

Labuan is a microcosm of Malaysia in one island. This island has traces of its colonial past like the mysterious Chimney and World War II Cemetery, traditional floating villages of the native Kadayan people, a regional oil and gas hub and not forgetting an abundance of seafood.

I had a great time driving around Labuan as five minutes is all it takes for the cityscape to be replaced with quaint villages and nearly-deserted beaches offering spellbinding sunsets every evening. After gobbling down baked slipper lobsters for dinner, I retreat to the impeccable Dorsett Grand Labuan for a good night’s sleep.

Labuan Island

Labuan Island

5. Perhentian Island: The Secret Beach at Windmill Hill

Perhentian Island is not only about its famed Long Beach and Coral Bay. Go on an adventure and get away from the crowd by taking a short hike up from Long Beach to Windmill Hill, a wind-swept hill with towering windmills that offers a glorious view of an untouched part of the island.

Walk down the steps from the observation point, and you will find an abandoned pier and a hidden cove neatly adjacent to it. Wade through the crystal clear waters and snooze on the pristine beach before winding down your day at BuBu Long Beach Resort for comfort and space.

Perhentian IslandPhoto Credit: @dansontheroad

Perhentian IslandPhoto Credit: @dansontheroad


6. Rebak Island: Luxurious Langkawi at this Yacht-filled Islet

Langkawi is a cluster of 99 islands and only one of them caters to the high life. Rebak Island, just off the coast of Cenang Beach is home to Vivanta by Taj, a luxurious international hotel chain with the only fully-equipped marina in the country.

This secluded islet is all about exclusivity, so it makes for a wonderful romantic escape. Nothing says alluring than a sunset cruise on a yacht around Langkawi’s jewel of the seas and heading back to a private dinner right by the beach.

Rebak IslandPhoto Credit: Diviya Mehra for timetravelstories

Rebak IslandPhoto Credit: @noodle4001

7. Talang-Satang National Park: Home of the Sea Turtles

Talang-Satang National Park, off the coast of Kuching, is Sarawak’s first marine national park consisting of four major islands designated as breeding grounds for sea turtles. Due to its sensitive nature, only Satang Besar Island is open to visitors.

Satang Besar is hosts a turtle hatchery where guests can learn more about the on-going conservation program. The island is also ideal for snorkelling due to its relatively unspoilt corals, and lucky ones might even get up close to a Green Turtle!

Talang-Satang National Park CC BY-ND 2.0 / Travolution360

Talang-Satang National Park