(Updated 27 July 2022)
Think of a holiday in Malaysia and you’ll definitely have an image of yourself soaking up the sun under the swaying leaves of a palm tree while sipping on some coconut juice (besides doing all the eating that you can imagine of course!).
Malaysia is definitely a paradise not only for its abundance of halal food, but also for its breathtaking natural beauty. Although there are definitely plenty of popular island destinations to choose from like Langkawi, Penang, Redang or Sipadan, why not go off the grid with these amazing island getaways that you probably didn’t even know are in Malaysia?
(In Bahasa Melayu, an island is called “pulau”)
1. Gemia Island
Always dreamt of owning your very own private island (or at least feeling like you’re in your own little world)? Look no further than Gemia Island, located just 800 metres away from its more well-known neighbour Pulau Kapas. With classic sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a coral garden to explore, you definitely need to be there before the crowd starts finding out about this hidden gem!
A wall of fishieess!
Those baby turtles are just SO CUTE!
Getting there: You can reach the island from the Marang Jetty by either taking a drive there through the scenic East Coast roads or by local carrier flights (Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, Firefly of Malindo Air) to Kuala Terengganu, which is located 30-40 minutes away from the jetty. A 15-minute boat ride will then take you to the private island.
#HHWT Tip: Since the island isn’t mobbed by tourists, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch turtles laying eggs between May to October.
2. Rawa Island
Feel like you’re a personal guest of the royal family as you frolic on the beaches of Rawa Island! Owned by family members of the Johorean Sultanate, with azure blue waters and a killer sea slide to boot (I mean seriously, we’d go just for the slide!), this is definitely a beach lover’s paradise!
Time to practice that royal wave and soak up the sun!
The view from the top of the slide is insane!!
Getting there: Rawa island is approximately half an hour away by speed boat or 1 hour by ferry from the Mersing jetty in Johor. Do take note that during low season (November to March), the ferries are less frequent. If you’re flying in, the nearest local airport is Senai International Airport.
3. Lankayan Island
This tiny jewel north of the Sabahan town of Sandakan might just be that little slice of heaven that you're looking for to get away from it all. Can you believe that this isn’t in the Maldives?
Discover Sabah Amazing Places
If you’re a scuba diving addict, Lankayan would be hard to miss for its breathtaking marine life. Even whale sharks are known to cruise by the island between the months of April and May.
This whale shark is huge!!
We’re definitely ready to pack our bags and dive into the deep blue sea!
Getting there: You can get to Sandakan via Kota Kinabalu or direct from Kuala Lumpur. Lankayan is a 75-minute speedboat ride away!
4. Mataking Island
If luxurious living is your thing, Mataking island might just be the place for you to sink your toes into! A heaven for avid divers, this island is also the ultimate destination for honeymooners who are looking for quiet seclusion.
Fool people into thinking that you’re in the Maldives with sights like these!
Yeap, this pristine beach is all yours!
Getting There: To get to your private honeymoon escape, take a flight to the coastal city of Tawau from Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur. From Tawau, you can either grab a taxi or a minivan to the village of Semporna. Your destination is a 45-minute speedboat ride away from Semporna harbour.
#HHWT Tip: You can experience AMAZING views on Bohey Dulang Island, which is accessible from Mataking Island. There’s no accommodation on Bohey Dulang, but to be able to witness a view like this is definitely an opportunity not to be missed!
This view from Bohey Dulang is just too good to be true!
5. Rebak Island
The legendary island of Langkawi is known all over the world – it’s a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, and we definitely understand why. But how about stepping off the beaten path and indulging in your private island fantasy at the exclusive Rebak Island instead?
Nestled in one of Langkawi’s 99 islands and located only a short boat ride away from the main island, you can get the best of both worlds at Rebak Island – it’s close enough to get to the touristy activities and sights of Langkawi, and you can take time to kick back and relax at the calm and peaceful Rebak Island.
Getting there: Rebak Island is a short boat ride away from the island of Langkawi. You can get to Langkawi International Airport via a number of flights into the main island.
6. Pulau Tiga
Who would have thought that THE island that made the hit reality TV show Survivor so popular, lies only 10km off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia? Because it’s located in a protected marine park, you can definitely expect excellent diving and snorkelling conditions (for the less adventurous bunch of us).
Again, THIS IS IN MALAYSIA GUYS!! We can’t believe it either.
Besides the usual sea side activities and incredible wildlife that’s there for you to explore on the island, Pulau Tiga (or fondly known as Survivor Island) is also famous for its therapeutic natural volcanic mud, as the island was formed by the eruption of mud volcanoes. Some say that the mud from these volcanoes possess properties which are good for the skin…but we won’t blame you if you just want to get dirty for the fun of it!
BOO!! Don’t be alarmed if you see one of these guys lurking around! They’re just enjoying a mud bath.
Getting there: You can get to Pulau Tiga via a 20-minute boat ride from Kuala Penyu town (2.5 hours away from Kota Kinabalu). The trip there might take a while but the island is definitely worth a visit when you feel like you’re on Survivor!
7. Pulau Sibu
Sunbathing, snorkelling, scuba diving, jungle trekking, mangrove swamp exploring or visiting the local village – There’s something for everyone on Sibu Island, a relatively untouched island, teeming with marine life in every hue imaginable.
Kampung Duku, the small fishing village of Pulau Sibu, overlooks this gorgeous view!
Sibu Island Resort
Getting There: Tanjung Leman is the closest mainland jetty to Pulau Sibu, which is only a 3-hour drive away from Singapore via Johor. A 20-minute boat ride from Tanjung Leman and you’re off on your beach escapade!
8. Pulau Tengah
Another treasure not to be missed is Pulau Tengah, a completely uninhabited island with the exception of one sole resort, guaranteed to make you feel like you’re a billionaire with a private island. We’re pretty sure that adults and kids alike will enjoy themselves on this beauty.
Looks like it’s perfect for a swim, even for the kids!
We’re mesmerised by how blue the water looks and how blindingly white the sand is!
Getting there: Pulau Tengah is accessible by Batu Batu resort’s private speedboat (the only resort on the island), a 20-minute ride from Mersing in Johor.
P.S.: It can get pretty wet on the East Coast of Malaysia, especially from the months of November to February. Some islands and resorts close during this period of the year, so do make sure that you check the weather forecast beforehand!
These islands sure give more popular islands like the Maldives and Boracay a run for their money! Come on, we know you NEED that island getaway you’ve been dreaming of for so long, so why not take it to these islands in Muslim-friendly Malaysia?