[Updated 23 July 2020]
Sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and swaying palm trees - who doesn’t love exploring the beautiful islands in Malaysia? ? Lucky for us, there are many Malaysian islands to laze under the sun and enjoy the ocean breeze. If you're planning to take a break from city life, scroll down our list for the best islands in Malaysia (besides the popular Langkawi or Redang!) ?
1. Pulau Kapas, Terengganu
Unlike many other beautiful islands in Malaysia, Pulau Kapas is fairly underdeveloped and still retains its old-school island charm with small chalets and easy-going pace. If you’re looking to unwind and take a break from the bustle of city life, this is the perfect destination for you.
Besides immersing in the island's serene vibes, there are plenty of things to do in Pulau Kapas. As one of the prime spots for snorkelling, just take a few steps into the water and you’ll find yourself swimming with the fishes ? Since Gemia Island (or Pulau Gemia) is just a short boat ride away, take the opportunity to explore this exotic island as well!
Best time to visit Pulau Kapas: From April to August
How to get to Pulau Kapas: Take a 10-minute boat ride from Marang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu to Kapas Island.
2. Pulau Tenggol, Terengganu
Known as Terengganu’s diving haven thanks to the diverse marine life, Pulau Tenggol should definitely be on everyone's bucket list. It is also regarded as one of the best diving spots in Peninsular Malaysia!
The waters surrounding Pulau Tenggol remain vastly untouched. With its amazing marine diversity, you'll be able to swim through schools of colourful fish, see plenty of turtles swimming past you and spot colourful nudibranchs on corals. Not just limited to scuba divers, resort operators have plenty of trips around the island for snorkelers too. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably see just as much as a diver even from a top view perspective!
Best time to visit Pulau Tenggol: From late March to September (during the monsoon season, between October and February, Tenggol Island is closed to visitors)
How to get to Pulau Tenggol: To reach the island, contact one of the resorts on the island to arrange for a day trip or a packaged stay beforehand. Then, take a 35-minute boat ride from Dungun to Tenggol Island.
3. Pulau Lang Tengah, Terengganu
Dubbed the ‘Maldives of Malaysia’, Pulau Lang Tengah is situated between Perhentian Island and Redang Island. While the island has plenty to offer, from pristine beaches to fun island activities, it is known for being a popular place for turtle sightings and nesting.
Home to one of Malaysia’s top conservation programs, Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, the organization has plenty of volunteers who come from all around the world and stay at the island for a minimum of one week to help out with programs such as guarding turtle nests and turtle survey work.
With plenty of snorkelling spots that are decorated with beautiful corals and fishes, you can also expect to find juvenile blacktip sharks! If you do happen to see them in the water, don’t be afraid! Chances are they are more afraid of you than you are of them.
Best time to visit Pulau Lang Tengah: From March to October
How to get to Pulau Lang Tengah: Take a 45-minute boat ride from Marang Jetty, Terengganu
4. Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu
The main islands of Perhentian include Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. Known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, most travellers would stay the night on these serene islands.
The abundance of coral reefs surrounding the island will surely amaze you! Many marine animals come out for a bit of sunshine too. If you enjoy swimming among the fishes and the hatchback turtles, you can look forward to having a good time here at the Perhentian Islands.
Best time to visit Pulau Perhentian: From March to November
How to get to Pulau Perhentian: Opt for a 40-minute speedboat or a 1.5 hours slow boat from Kuala Besut to Pulau Perhentian.
5. Pulau Rawa, Johor
Pulau Rawa may be a familiar destination for Johoreans and Singaporeans, but many Malaysians have yet to visit this beautiful island that's as picturesque as they come.
Offering stunning views and warm sunshine, Rawa Island is a seaside hotspot where water activities like snorkelling, windsurfing and kayaking are sure to fill your days. You can also hike around the island or follow the Island Walk Trail for an amazing sunset stroll.
One of Rawa Island's highlight is the massive waterslide that is open to everyone! Take a few flights of stairs up and slide all the way down into Rawa Island's crystal clear waters.
Best time to visit Pulau Rawa: From March to September
How to get to Pulau Rawa: Take a boat or ferry ride from Mersing to Rawa Island.
6. Pulau Sibu, Johor
Sunbathing, snorkelling, scuba diving, jungle trekking, mangrove swamp exploring or visiting the local village - there’s something for everyone on Sibu Island. This relatively untouched island is teeming with marine life in every hue imaginable which makes it a perfect island retreat.
With only one village on Pulau Sibu, Kampung Duku is located on the southwest corner of the island. Home to about 200 people, this is also where you'll find its popular photo spot - the big 'Pulau Sibu' sign. So, make sure to whip out your camera and snap a memorable photo to capture your time on the island. Continue your adventure by going on jungle treks, exploring coconut plantations and admiring mangrove swamps.
Best time to visit Pulau Sibu: From April to September
How to get to Pulau Sibu: Take a 30-minute boat ride from Tanjung Leman to Pulau Sibu. Since there's no public ferry service available, you'll have to arrange for a boat ride with the resort you're staying at.
7. Pulau Pangkor, Perak
Situated off the coast of Lumut in Perak is the evergreen Pangkor Island. Offering a calm paradise with low-key village vibes far from concrete jungles is a perfect weekend getaway.
Stroll along Nipah Beach and Coral Beach, take in the sea breeze and sip on some coconut water and indulge in freshly grilled seafood. While you're enjoying your downtime, spot chattering monkeys, monitor lizards and wild Oriental Pied hornbills around the island!
For snorkelling, head to the nearby Giam and Mentagor islets. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, don't miss out on water sports like jet skiing, parasailing, wakeboarding or getting pulled behind a speedboat on an inflatable banana.
Best time to visit Pulau Pangkor: From January to February and June to September.
How to get to Pulau Pangkor: Take a 35-minute ferry ride from Lumut to Pangkor Island.
8. Pulau Tioman, Pahang
Resting about 56km off the Pahang coast lies Tioman Island, which used to be a monsoon shelter for fishermen, pirates, merchant ships and naval ships. Today, this idyllic nature reserve is a stunning attraction to just about anyone who likes a quiet environment, surrounded by misty mountains and facing clear waters ?
Spark the adventurer in you by going on the island’s many breathtaking trekking trails. With varying levels of difficulty, choose whichever course that suits you best or approach the trekking agency provided by your hotel to get more insights.
Don’t forget to bring your swimwear too as there are trails that lead you to the grand finale of chilly waterfalls. A popular trail among visitors is the hike to Asah Waterfalls or a day-long trek from Tekek to Juara.
Best time to visit Tioman Island: From March to October
How to get to Tioman Island: Take a 2-hour ferry ride from Mersing Jetty or Tanjung Gemok.
9. Pulau Mabul, Sabah
If you want to explore the islands in East Malaysia, this is it! The moment you step into Mabul Island, you'll be welcomed by coconut trees and clear, calm waves. Known as one of the best diving sites in Sabah, most visitors would put on their gears to get up close to the colourful coral reefs and fishes.
Since the island welcomes a stream of tourists every year, you can spend the night at one of its few island resorts. When you do, prepare to draw the curtains and see the vast sea outside your window. It's definitely a paradise you shouldn't miss.
Best time to visit Mabul Island: From March to October
How to get to Mabul Island: Fly to Tawau to Kuala Lumpur and arrange a transfer with your resort to Semporna. From there, take a 45-minute speedboat ride from Semporna to Mabul Island.
10. Pulau Layang Layang, Sabah
An oceanic atoll of the coast of Sabah, don’t expect any white sandy beaches or luxurious beaches at Pulau Layang Layang as it is part navy base, part diving ‘resort’. Marked as a world-renowned spot for its amazing biodiversity of marine life, especially hammerhead shark migration, this is a true gem for anyone who considers themselves hardcore scuba divers.
Other rare sightings include whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays and thresher sharks! If you’re looking for that one-of-a-kind island holiday, it’s time to plan your trip to this unique Sabah island.
Best time to visit Pulau Layang Layang: From March to August
How to get to Pulau Layang Layang: Make your way to Kota Kinabalu where you’ll fly into Layang Layang Island from the city’s airport.
11. Bohey Dulang Island, Sabah
As part of an extinct volcanic crater, Bohey Dulang is a mountainous island known for its breathtaking views and crystal clear water. It is also known as Pearl Island since it used to be a pearl cultivation centre!
The view of the whole island from its 353-meter peak is something you should really look out for ? While exploring the turquoise waters off the island, you are likely to encounter the Bajau Laut, or sea gypsies that live in stilted wooden houseboats atop the coral gardens. The nomadic seafarers are legendary for being exceptional ‘masters of the sea’ as well as extremely skilled divers and boatmakers.
The best thing to do in Bohey Dulang Island is to admire the clear waters in different shades of blue! Apart from that, it is the sea’s rich marine biodiversity located off this island that makes it an attractive diving site. So, gear up for the dive of your lives ?
Best time to visit Bohey Dulang Island: From February to April
How to get to Bohey Dulang Island: Fly to Tawau Airport and enjoy a 1-hour drive to Semporna. From Semporna, take a 30-minute boat ride to the island.
12. Pulau Lankayan, Sabah
Situated in the northeastern coast of Sabah, you'll find Lankayan Island, a jewel-shaped island surrounded by crystal clear waters. This island has 14 diving sites where you can see coral reefs and diverse marine life - giant groupers, tiny ribbon eels and more! If you're lucky, you can spot whale sharks between the month of March and May too.
If you're planning to spend a night in this stunning island, there's only one resort you can go, and that is Lankayan Island Dive Resort. A luxury resort that sits above the waters, it has 16 beachfront chalets and 9 over-the-water chalets complete with the most amazing view of the island.
Besides scuba diving and snorkelling, there are many things to do in Lankayan Island including swimming, kayaking and enjoying a relaxing moment by the beach.
Best time to visit Pulau Lankayan: From March to October
How to get to Pulau Lankayan: Take a flight to Sandakan and get a taxi ride to Sandakan Yacht Club (Sandakan Jetty). From there, enjoy a 1.5-hour boat ride to Pulau Lankayan
If you’re on a hunt for the best islands in Malaysia besides the popular Langkawi or Redang, you now have a list of options to get started! Whether you choose to lounge on sandy beaches or go snorkelling in amazingly clear waters, you’ll definitely be able to fulfil your dreams of having a fun island getaway in Malaysia ?
- 6 Awesome Beach Resorts In Perhentian Island To Soak Up The Sun
- 7 Beach Resorts In Pangkor Island For Your Next Getaway (From RM85!)
- 6 Amazing Family Beach Resorts In Redang Island (From RM280!)