Big city lights might be Malaysia‘s forte in the tourism industry, but the magnetic charm of its islands play another huge role in its success.
Hence, we’re counting down the 10 best islands you HAVE to take a trip to at least once in your life. Let’s get started!
1. Perhentian Island, Terengganu
Arguably one of the most beautiful shores you’ll find on the East coast, Perhentian Island is a smash hit among tourists. With its pristine white beaches and mirror-like waters, it offers a sight that is quite unlike any other. So if you’re looking for a serene escape from reality, then do be sure to drop by!
If you’re coming from the city, catch the nearest flight to Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu. Then, you can take a cab ride to the Kuala Besut jetty which will typically cost around RM80. Or, you can ride a bus straight from KL to Kuala Besut that amounts to RM35 per trip. However, we’d suggest planning your route via flight or taking the earliest bus because the last ferry to Perhentian Island leaves by 4 PM.
2. Sipadan Island, Sabah
Crossing over to the other side, this Malaysian state is notorious for its captivating beauty that’s got everybody talking. Sabah‘s Sipadan Island is an award-winning beach where the masses of visitors speak for themselves.
Getting here is pretty straightforward. Just hop on any flight from KLIA2 to Tawau Airport. After that, you’ll have to travel to Semporna town (the 75-minute journey costs approximately RM90-RM120). Here is where you need to get yourself on a boat heading to Kapalai or Mabul before you can get to Sipadan Island via boat as well.
3. Tioman Island, Pahang
Blue-tiful is just one way to describe the enchanting appearance of the Tioman Islands in Pahang. Besides the main allure of its diving, snorkeling and kayaking options, jungle trekking is also another popular pick you shouldn’t miss out on!
To get there, your transport of choice would either be by bus or taxi to Mersing, Johor or Tanjung Gemok in Pahang. Both locations offer ferry rides to the island, and you can choose from a variety of beaches according to your preference.
For instance, ABC or Air Batang beach is the go-to spot if you’re hoping to stick to your budget and get amazing views, while Juara flaunts gorgeous sands and sea for a perfect way to cool off. Just be sure to let the boat driver know before the journey and you can get down at whatever stop you’ve selected.
4. Mataking Island, Sabah
Here’s another gem for all you Sabahan beach fans! Mataking Island might not be a familiar name to many, but we promise, it’ll soon be an unforgettable one once you set foot there.
Tucked away in the midst of an ocean paradise, this hidden sanctuary gives off Carribean vibes that’s oh-so Instagram-worthy! Not to mention, the island is also filled with diving sites aplenty, with over 30 diving holes like Frog Fish Farm, Sweet Lips Rock, Shipwreck Post and many more.
In terms of getting there, just fly from KL to Tawau Airport and then grab a taxi to the port in Semporna. The cab fare costs approximately RM100+. Once you’ve reached the harbour, strap in for a 45-minute speedboat ride as a blissful utopia awaits!
5. Langkawi Island, Kedah
You can’t say you’ve visited the islands of Malaysia unless you’ve been to Langkawi. So, what makes it so special? Whether you’re just looking for a calm getaway or indulging in the various entertaining attractions here, Langkawi Island makes sure that not one second of your vacation is ever boring.
Pacify the adventurer in you by adding island hopping to your to-do list and you can take in the best views of the sea over a relaxing sunset cruise. For all you cafe enthusiasts, there’s something for you as well since Langkawi is jam-packed with numerous aesthetic cafes that will satisfy any hungry traveler.
So you’re in Langkawi already, want to know the gist on moving about the smart way? Just rent a private car with a local guide to get the best experience out of your visit:
6. Pangkor Island, Perak
Apart from being a heritage treasure, another stellar quality of Perak lies in its beaches. Particularly, Pangkor Island is a prime example loved by locals and visitors alike.
A fishing village at heart, the colonial leftovers of the Dutch rule and natural green terrains have become a breeding ground for tourists. Additionally, there are loads of beach hopping you can do and water sports activities to top it all off!
Flying to Pangkor is what most people would opt for, but if you want to go easy on your budget, take the bus from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan to Lumut Jetty (it only costs RM25 for a one-way trip!). If you’re planning to drive, prepare for a three and a half hour ride.
Do note that cars are not permitted on the island, so you’ll have to park your car at the jetty (don’t worry, there’s a built-in 24/7 surveillance system) for RM10 per day. The boat ride will take around 40 minutes of your time and you’ll need to pay a RM10 fee for the return ticket.
7. Redang Island, Terengganu
The largest member of the Redang archipelago, this vast island hosts a variety of marine life, including turtles! Virtually, they’re well-known for their turtle protection initiatives where preservation efforts go into ensuring the survival of the species. Moreover, Redang Island is also a great snorkelling hotspot thanks to its unblemished corals and cerulean waves that make visitors keep coming back for more.
Escape from the pressures of urban life by either flying an hour from KL to Kuala Terengganu or going for the more economic option, that is by riding the bus (a bus ticket to Kuala Terengganu costs RM44). Next, get to the Shahbandar jetty where you’ll hitch a ferry ride to Redang Island (Adult RM55, Child RM25).
Reminder: Redang Island charges their visitors an entrance fee as it is a marine park (Malaysians: Adult RM5, Child RM2/Non-Malaysians: Adult RM30, Child RM15).
8. Pulau Tinggi, Johor
Johor is known for many things, but beaches? You bet! This underrated paradise will leave you breathless once you lay eyes on it.
A relatively new addition to the Malaysian beach club, the charm of Pulau Tinggi lies in its uncharted areas, whereby it’s easy for visitors to spot vibrant corals just by strolling near the seaside. So gear up for some island hopping and jungle trekking therapy that will make you instantly fall in love with nature’s blessings.
Klang-Valleyians can drive down to Tanjung Leman jetty for 5 hours and use the car park there before departing the docks for the island. If you’re from Mersing town, then the easiest way to the jetty would be via car or a bus ride lasting 45 minutes. The island is just an hour’s speedboat ride away from the harbour.
9. Sibuan Island, Sabah
By all means, try not to skip this destination whenever you happen to be in the state since it’s been rated top-notch among a bunch of islands located in the Celebes Sea. Go for their attractive snorkelling or diving packages to savour the most out of its phenomenal landscapes.
Similar to majority of its island companions, getting here would basically require you to get to the harbour in Semporna town and then proceed to the ferries there. It will take 40 minutes for you to reach your final destination as you journey over azure tides, so sit back and enjoy the ride!
10. Penang Island, Penang
And of course, our list would not be complete without the renowned Pearl of the Orient, Penang! It’s a certified culinary and cultural parade of Malaysia‘s finest, but you can’t possibly ignore the beauty of its shores.
Head down to their impressive selection of beaches like Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, and other lesser known but equally mesmerising retreats such as Pasir Panjang, Monkey Beach, Pulau Jerajak and many others.
Going to Penang is quite simple due to the vast options available be it by car, bus, train or flight. If you’re using land vehicles, a drive or bus ride from KL to Penang will usually get you on the road for 5-6 hours. Whereas, a flight to Penang takes about an hour tops.
Now that we’ve covered Malaysia‘s best beaches, here are more treats for you nature lovers out there: