When you think of clear blue waters and beautiful beaches, you immediately think of Maldives. But did you know that there are equally awesome islands and beaches right here in Southeast Asia? Here are 13 places in Malaysia and Indonesia that will make you feel like you’re in the Maldives. Trust us, you won’t even notice the difference 😉
1. Gemia Island
Always dreamt of owning your very own private island (or at least feel 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 sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a coral garden to explore, you definitely need to be there before the crowd finds out about this hidden gem!
Credit: @zenethan on Instagram
Credit: @nickcxh on Instagram
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 or 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, you might be able to catch turtles laying eggs between May to October if you’re lucky!
2. 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?
Credit: @lmaltesen on Instagram
If you’re a scuba diving addict, Lankayan would be hard to miss for its breathtaking marine life. Even leopard sharks are known to cruise by the island between the months of April and May.
Credit: @kate.k8kay_travels on Instagram
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!
3. Mataking Island
If luxurious living is your thing, Mataking island might just be the place for you to sink your toes into! Heaven for avid divers, this island is also the ultimate destination for honeymooners who are looking for quiet seclusion.
Credit: @yonsyakirah on Instagram
Credit: @irenebabyq on Instagram
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!
4. 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 the 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.
5. 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.
Credit: @gayatriarin on Instagram
Besides the usual seaside 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 possesses 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!
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!
6. 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.
Credit: @travelerslittletreasures on Instagram
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!
7. 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.
Credit: Phalinn Ooi on Facebook
We’re mesmerised by how blue the water looks and how blindingly white the sand is!
Credit: Phalinn Ooi on Flickr
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!
8. Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan
You will never find crystal blue water in Kuta Beach. Never ever. That’s why these 2 neighbouring islands which are located just off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali, are quickly becoming one of Bali’s most popular attraction. Also… you’re not coming to Bali for Kuta’s overcrowded beaches, are you?
Renowned for its snorkelling, diving and surfing spots, we can definitely imagine how beautiful the marine life is down there! If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you should try cliff-jumping at the Blue Lagoon, Nusa Ceningan.
Credit: @manon.meester on Instagram
There are a lot of accommodation options in Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan. Many of which offer magnificent sunset views (Eg. Nusa Lembongan Beach Club Hotel), or you can choose to stay in an adorable bungalow and enjoy breathtaking beach views from its mini infinity pool like the one in Le Pirate Beach Club in Nusa Ceningan.
Credit: @muchlik on Instagram
#HHWT tip: You can take a speedboat from Sanur Beach to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida for IDR 175.000 (One Way). To reach Nusa Ceningan, you only need to cross a yellow bridge from Nusa Lembongan.
9. Komodo National Park and Beyond
Breathtaking greenery and jagged mountains meet clear indigo blue ocean – no, this is not in New Zealand. It’s Komodo Island, an exotic and utterly beautiful place full of surprises, just a 40-minute plane ride away from Bali.
Credit: @achmadibnuu on Instagram
There is so much to do on the many islands around Komodo National Park and most of these islands are uninhabited with exotic beaches. Hiking at Gili Laba? Trekking in the forest to meet the Komodo Dragons? There’s everything for you!
#HHWT tip: You can fly from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo in around an hour and for Liveaboard experience, there are many guided tours with vessels option you can book online in advance.
10. Belitung Island
Belitung Island, which is located in East Sumatra, is very well-known for its rounded granite rock formations, pearly white sand beaches and calm waters. The island has become one of the most famous destinations in Indonesia after the release of the movie adaptation ‘Laskar Pelangi’ by Andrea Hirata in 2008.
Credit: @rieladevina on Instagram
There’s so much to see in Belitung, just like the movie set of Laskar Pelangi, such as Tanjung Tinggi beach and Museum Kata by Andrea Hirata. Alternatively, if you’re curious to see more, there are plenty of beautiful beaches like Pulau Lengkuas or you can check out Lake Kaolin with its beautiful white sandstone.
11. Maratua Island, Derawan Island, East Kalimantan
A piece of heaven exists in East Borneo, a part of Derawan Islands, where white sands stretch along the super clear sea water – Maratua Island. This is indeed paradise, especially for divers because of the amazing diversity of its marine life. But of course, you don’t need to be an expert diver to enjoy this hidden paradise.
Credit: @ardikresna_ on Instagram
12. Kei Islands, Maluku Province
Credit: @jepo__ on Instagram
Kei Islands, a group of islands in the south-eastern part of the Maluku Islands in Maluku Province, is very well-known for its white sandy beaches. One of the beaches worth visiting is Pasir Panjang (the long sandy beach). If you enjoy snorkelling, there are a number of sites around the islands which will be perfect for your snorkelling adventure!
13. Ora Beach, Seram Island, Maluku Province
Ora Beach is another hidden gem located in Maluku Province but in the north of Seram Island. The beach with its sugary white sand and crystal-clear waters is surrounded by lush tropical forest. The perfect destination for eco-travellers! Or just any traveller who seeks tranquillity while enjoying untouched natural beauty. You’ll love staying at Ora Beach Resort because who says no to floating bungalows over crystal-clear blue waters? 🤗
Credit: @ahmadrifann on Instagram
Credit: @radityowicaksono on Instagram
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 Malaysia and Indonesia!