If your dream vacation has always involved soaking in the sun, sea, sand and surf in some exotic tropical location, then consider island-hopping in Malaysia, a beautiful tropical country dotted with numerous islands located right on the Equator.
Here you will find a gamut of world-class beaches to suit your every whims and fancies; from crazy full moon party spots (think the Malaysian version of Thailand’s famed Koh Phangan) to tranquil family retreats, and cosy, affordable chalets to luxury private resorts…
Arguably one of Malaysia’s most renowned islands, Redang takes size seriously. As one of the larger islands on Malaysia’s east coast (45km off Kuala Terengganu, to be exact), it works hard at offering things bigger and better – including its world-renowned beauty – crystal clear waters fringed by luminous sand, set against a backdrop of emerald green jungle-capped hills.
Home to two gorgeous beaches, i.e. Long Beach (Pasir Panjang to the locals) on the east and Teluk Dalam Kecil, a sheltered cove on the northeast, the island also has an abundance of marine life, making it a favourite snorkelling and scuba-diving spot. It also has quite the party hardy reputation, thanks to its great nightlife and legendary beach parties.
The Perhentian Islands (or “Stopover Islands”) comprise two islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar (big stopover island) and Perhentian Kecil (small stopover island). The bigger island is the more commercialised of the two and offers a wider variety of accommodations; while its “little sister,” home to local fishermen, is more laid back and popular among backpackers.
The proliferation of marine life aside, nature enthusiasts will also appreciate the wildlife found on the islands, from turtles to monkeys, flying squirrels and monitor lizards. Other “above the surface” activities that are popular there include kayaking, hiking and beach volleyball. The islands’ proximity to Redang, located just 20km south, also allows for easily accessible island-hopping opportunities!
Do not be put off by the rocky terrain of Rawa Island. That only hides the pristine beaches, perfectly landscaped into the ultimate romantic getaway. Situated off the coast of Mersing, Johor at the South of Peninsular Malaysia, this private island (owned by the family of the Johor Sultanate) is about as exclusive as you can get, and requires prior reservations.
The island touts an idyllic lifestyle where taking it easy is a priority. You’ll find most vacationers indulging in leisurely pursuits such as sunbathing, lazing in hammocks and soaking in the cool azure waters of the sea while enjoying the picturesque surroundings. No wonder then that Rawa also offers a great backdrop if you’re planning an island wedding or honeymoon.
Located along Peninsular Malaysia’s West Coast, Pangkor is predominantly a fisherman’s village and famous for its seafood delicacies including dry cuttlefish and satay fish. This is also a great place to view the charming Malay kampong stilt houses up close. If you’re lucky, you may also encounter some playful deer and monkeys from the nearby jungles. Adding to its quaint appeal is the stretch of beautiful beaches that can be found there, particularly along its west coastline. If you’re looking to experience the ultimate in tropical splendour, the privately owned Pulau Pangkor Laut, a smaller island just a stone’s throw away, is home to the world-class Pangkor Laut Resort. As a bonus, the resort is located at Emerald Bay, widely touted to be one of the best beaches in the world!
No list of Malaysian islands would be complete without mention of Sipadan, the only deep-water oceanic island in the country. But more famous than its rustic beaches, complete with swaying coconut trees, is the paradise that lies beneath its waters. One of the Top 5 diving spots in the world, it was famously declared an “untouched piece of art” by renowned French explorer Jacques Cousteau, and with reason!
This Shangri-La of diving hosts an unspoilt coral ecosystem that is unrivalled anywhere else in Malaysian waters, and home to a treasure trove of marine life including colourful reef fish of every shape and size, thousands of barracudas and sharks as well as the Green and Hawksbill turtles.