Malaysia is a country blessed with so many things — rich culture, great food, diverse jungle and marine life, progressive cities, and beautiful beaches are just some of them. It’s not hard to see why so many tourists choose this as their top destination in Asia, and it’s certainly one of the best ones for me as well.
I’ve been to Malaysia multiple times, and aside from the food, what kept me coming back are its beaches and dive sites. Diving in Malaysia is relatively cheaper compared to other countries, and its underwater scene is world class, and to top it all off, most diving and snorkeling sites are very near to the coast, which also has some of the best beaches and forests.
In this post, I’m sharing my five favorite beaches (more like islands, actually) to visit in Malaysia, along with some tips on how to get there and what to do. Please note that I made this selection based on the activities that I like doing most (I’m a big nature junkie, and it’ll be obvious in this post!).
Read On And Enjoy!
Located in: Terengganu
Best for: Snorkeling, scuba diving, jungle trekking
ISLAND LIFE. White sand beaches and lush sceneries make Redang a great place for chilling by the beach.
Redang is all about the island life, so don’t expect a lot of commercial establishments there. Accommodation is a bit on the upscale side, and there are only a few budget options, so going during the low season is recommended if you’re planning to travel on a shoestring.
The island has some jungle trails that you can explore, and curious monkeys, squirrels, and monitor lizards are common sights. It also has some spectacular coral reefs, and some of them are just about 50 feet from the beach. Most of the resorts offer snorkeling trips to nearby islands, too.
How to get there: From Kuala Lumpur, take a plane to Terengganu, and then take a boat or ferry to Redang.
- Redang is best visited between April and October because the northeast monsoon affects the island from November to March, and most resorts are closed during this period.
- There are no automated teller machines on the island, so make sure you bring enough cash and/or a credit card for the duration of your stay.
THE PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
Located in: Terengganu
Best for: Windsurfing, diving, snorkeling, budget traveling
RELAXATION ON A SHOESTRING. The Perhentian islands have the best beaches in Malaysia for backpackers and those looking for a beach getaway without breaking the bank.
The Perhentian islands are located in Northeastern Malaysia and are widely popular among tourists because of the affordable accommodation options found there. The two most well known islands are Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil; the latter is the cheaper, and more popular among young backpackers, while the former is more in the moderate price range.
Aside from the beautiful beaches and lush hills, travelers can also enjoy snorkeling just little ways from these islands. Jungle trekking is also possible, and there are trails on the island which you can take if you want to see some monitor lizards.
How to get there: From Kuala Lumpur, take a bus to Kuala Besut; from there, you can find ferries going to the Perhentian islands.
- The best time of the year to visit the Perhentians is during the months of August and September when the weather is just right. Just as in the case of Rendang, visiting from November to March is best avoided because of the monsoons.
- Kecil is more popular among younger crowds, and this means that it can get noisy or even rowdy on the island, so if you want a more peaceful ambiance, head for Besar instead, or visit Kecil during off-peak months.
- It is best to exchange your money and bring cash to the islands, as the exchange rate there is lower, and some places add surcharges when you use credit cards.
Located in: Pahang
Best for: Scuba diving, chilling by the beach, rock climbing
BEYOND BEACHES. While Tioman is known to have some of the top beaches in Malaysia, rock climbing is also a popular activity on the island.
Just like in other islands on this list, diving and snorkeling are very popular activities on this island, and the great thing is, it’s relatively cheaper here. You can even get your PADI certification (4-day course) in Tioman for less than $250!
Jungle trekking is also a well known pastime and can be done even without guides, as trekking paths are neatly laid out, and makes for an easy walk to connecting villages. You can also use these paths to explore waterfalls on this island.
How to get there: You can take a direct flight to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, or ride a bus to Mersing from the capital, and take a ferry going to Tioman.
- The best time to visit Tioman is between March and October.
- Try to buy what you need from the mainland before heading for Tioman, as goods on the island are generally more expensive (except for liquors, cigarettes and other imported items).
- There are resorts in the area with house reefs — which means that you just have to swim a little from where you’re staying to see some beautiful corals and a variety of fishes! Remember to ask about this from your resort.
- Clouds of jellyfish can be encountered while snorkeling from May to September, so take extra precaution when swimming/snorkeling, or wear long-sleeved rash guards to avoid getting stung.
Located in: Kedah
Best for: Trekking, swimming, sight-seeing, shopping
FINE SAND, CERULEAN SEA, AND DUTY-FREE. Langkawi is a well-known destination for both locals and tourists because of its beauty and its cheap commodities.
Conveniently located and very accessible both locally and internationally, Pulau Langkawi is very popular among tourists because of its beautiful beaches and numerous activities. There are a number of beaches on the island that cater to every budget, and tours can easily be organized by the resorts for you.
If you ever get tired of the water, Langkawi has other things to offer on land — jungle trekking, bird watching, cable car rides and helicopter joyrides are just a few of them!
How to get there: Langkawi has an international airport, and there are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and even Phuket.
- There is a mild monsoon period between June and September, so try to avoid those months. Otherwise, the weather is great most times of the year.
- There are several duty-free shopping malls in the island where chocolates and other imported goods are a lot cheaper, so it’s advised to head there for shopping instead of buying stuff at the airport.
- The best time for bird watching is either during early mornings or early evenings, so schedule your birdwatching tours around those times.
Located in: Sabah
Best for: Scuba diving
TREASURES UNDERNEATH. While Sipadan has some of the top beaches in Malaysia, its real beauty can be found underwater — it has some of the best dive sites in the world!
Sipadan boasts some of the best underwater sights in Malaysia, and it even claims to be the world’s best dive site. It’s not an empty claim, though. Beneath its water surface lies a very rich marine life, and schools of big fishes such as barracuda and jackfish are common sights.
Since 2013, only Advanced Open Water Divers or those who have already logged more than 20 dives are permitted to dive in Sipadan due to its strong currents, If you’re a diving novice, you need not worry, because you can still opt for a snorkelling trip, and some of these big fishes can be seen without leavingthe surface in high visibility circumstances.
How to get there: Take a flight to Tawau from Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu, then ride a taxi to Semporna, where you can find ferries that will take you to Sipadan.
- It’s okay to visit the island any time of the year, but for diving enthusiasts, it’s best to go from April to June, when underwater visibility is up to 50 meters.
- Sea turtles often lay their eggs on the beaches of the island between May and August, and that’s also a great opportunity to catch if you’re in the area during that time.
- Try to make prior arrangements for diving, because the local government only permits 120 people to dive in Sipadan per day in order to protect its marine habitat.
If you’re a nature lover like me, I’m sure you will also enjoy the beaches on my list, and Malaysia in general. If you’re not into diving or trekking, and you’d rather chill on the beach and enjoy the sun, these options won’t disappoint you as well. In fact, you won’t run out of options for a good island getaway in Malaysia; you just have to be informed enough so that you’ll get the most out of your experience.
Got anything to add to our list of the top beaches in Malaysia? Let us know in the comments!!!