10 Best Beaches in Malaysia
Malaysia consists of a peninsula in the west and part of the island of Borneo in the east. Practically surrounded by the sea, Malaysia naturally has some of the best beaches in the world. With sunny tropical weather all year round, Malaysia is the perfect place for holiday vacationers to visit and enjoy the sun, sand and sea.
I grew up on an island in north Malaysia called Penang where the sea is in sight most of the time. When growing up, going to the beach was a weekend activity to be enjoyed with family and friends. It was only when I moved to Kuala Lumpur that I realised that I do not have that convenience anymore.
Here, I have compiled 10 of the best beaches in Malaysia that you can visit. Each destination is located in different parts of the country and each has their own attractiveness.
Of course, I will be biased and list Penang as one of the beach destinations in Malaysia! Enjoy reading and I hope this helps you plan one of your upcoming beach holidays here in Malaysia.
1. Pangkor Island & Pangkor Laut
Pangkor Island is located in the state of Perak in Peninsula Malaysia. This beautiful island together with eight other islands makes up the archipelago. Only two islands are inhabited i.e. Pangkor and Pangkor Laut.
Pangkor Island is accessible by air from Kuala Lumpur or by boat from Lumut. The beaches on Pangkor Island are Teluk Nipah, Coral Bay, Teluk Belanga and Pasir Bogak. All are beautiful sandy beaches. The main activities at the beaches are jet skiing, banana boat rides and canoeing. You can also spend a day out sightseeing on the island. Places to visit are Dutch Fort with Tiger Rock, Foo Lin Kang Temple and the fishing villages. You can also buy local products like anchovies and other fish products.
Pangkor Laut is a privately owned island which has a luxury resort. It is just a 10-minute boat ride from Pangkor Island. The most famous beach there is Emerald Bay with its pristine emerald waters. You can just laze on sun loungers or have a dip in the sea. You can also venture out to sea in a charter boat and enjoy a day out.
2. Langkawi Island
Langkawi Island is easily accessible by air from domestic or international destinations. Alternatively, you can also get to Langkawi by ferry from Penang or Kuala Perlis.
Langkawi consists of over 100 islands which makes up the archipelago. It has been awarded the “World Geopark” status by UNESCO as it is rich with flora and fauna. The natural stone formations also make up the uniqueness of Langkawi.
Pantai Cenang in Langkawi is the most popular beach and is usually packed with visitors both local and foreign. The peak season to visit Langkawi is during December to January. The beach will be bustling with water sport activities like jet skiing, parasailing and banana boat rides. Should you want more quiet time to enjoy the natural beauty of Langkawi, you can charter a boat to go island hopping or sail around the geopark.
Langkawi is also a shopper’s haven as the whole island is duty free. All goods are exempted from tax. You can also visit the sky bridge or take a cable car to the peak of Langkawi where you will be able to catch a breathtaking view of its natural beauty.
There are many accommodation options available for all travellers, from 5-star resorts like The Four Seasons to beach chalets. Langkawi is a destination for families and adventurers alike.
3. Tioman Island
Tioman Island is off the coast of the eastern state of Pahang and is part of the Tioman marine park and nature reserve. The island enjoys duty free status and is thus a shopping paradise for visitors. Besides the shopping, Tioman is said to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Juara Beach is famous for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Salang Beach is the 2nd most popular.
Visitors can try various activities like snorkelling, diving and angling. August is the best month for visitors to dive as it will be rich in marine life due to the warm waters of the island. Alternatively, visitors can go for nature walks in the rainforest. There are many protected species of animals in the forest which you may encounter if you are lucky like the slow loris, mouse deer and porcupine.
If you are a golf enthusiast, you can play a round of golf in one of the two golf courses on the island.
The best time to visit Tioman Island is between May and July. The months to avoid are during the year end as it is monsoon season and the waves are high and dangerous.
4. Redang Island
Redang Island is the most famous of the nine islands in the Redang archipelago which forms the marine park in Terengganu. The island is about 45 kilometres from Kuala Terengganu. You will need to take a 40-minute boat ride from Merang Jetty to reach the largest beach named Pasir Panjang.
The top activity in Redang Island is snorkelling as the waters are calm and coral reefs are abundant. Many resorts provide snorkelling packages by boat to nearby islands. Another popular activity is scuba diving. You may spot green turtles or reef sharks while diving as the waters are crystal clear. No motorised sea activity is allowed so as to protect the reefs. You can go kayaking or play beach volleyball should you need a break from diving.
Avoid Redang Island during the monsoon season which runs from November to February. During this time, many resorts are closed and transport to the island is limited. There is no backpacker accommodation available on the island, only mid-sized and luxury resorts which are mostly located at Pasir Panjang.
5. Perhentian Island
Perhentian Island is located off the coast of Terengganu on the east coast of Malaysia. There are two main islands namely Perhentian Besar (Big island) and Perhentian Kecil (Small island). Both are an hour by boat from either Kuala Besut in Kelantan or Kuala Terengganu in Terengganu.
Perhentian Island is surrounded by white sandy beaches and the sea is filled with undamaged and protected reefs. Travellers go there mainly to snorkel or dive to experience the wondrous marine life among the reefs.
Perhentian Kecil is listed as one of the World’s 100 best beaches by CNN.
Accommodation-wise, the islands only have chalets and mid sized resorts. The best time to visit is from March to September. Most of the resorts will be closed from October to February due to the monsoon season.
6. Turtle Beach & Golden Beach in Similajau National Park, Sarawak
Similajau National Park is located in Bintulu in Sarawak, East Malaysia. It is 30 kilometres northeast of Bintulu and is a 30-minute taxi ride from Bintulu town. This national park was established in 1976. The most famous beaches there are Turtle Beach I & II and Golden Beach. Turtle Beach I & II are around 6 kilometres from the park office while Golden Beach is around 10 kilometres away.
The best way to get to the beach is to charter a fast boat from Bintulu Wharf. While you are there, you can sunbathe, swim in the sea or even snorkel. Turtle Beach is famous because turtles lay eggs at the beach from March to September every year. After enjoying the beach, you can then trek back to the park office where you can enjoy the flora and fauna in the park. Other activities include boat tours, jungle trekking and bird watching, all of which can be arranged at the park office.
There are chalets and hostels available for rent. Camping facilities such as BBQ pits are also available for those who are adventurous. All of this can be arranged at the park office. Book early to avoid disappointment.
7. Sipadan Island
Sipadan is the only island in Malaysia which lies in the ocean proper. It has been voted one of the best diving spots in the world as it attracts a vast variety of marine life. Located off the coast of Sabah nearest to the town of Semporna, a 30-minute speed boat ride will take you to Sipadan Island. To get to Semporna, fly into Tawau and take a 2-hour car ride.
Sipadan Island is a protected site, hence there is no accommodation on the island. Visitors can stay on nearby islands like Mabul or Kapalai which are 15 kilometres away or at Semporna town. Sipadan is open to day trippers from 8am to 3pm daily and is limited to 120 divers per day. When you book your diving tour with the operator, they will arrange your daily pass to Sipadan. There are no shops or restaurants at the island, therefore the operator will pack lunch and snacks for your trip.
The whole reason to go to Sipadan is to scuba dive and snorkel. Divers will experience rich marine life from corals to sea creatures. The highlight of diving in Sipadan is the Turtle Tomb, an underwater cave. You may see the remains of turtles which were trapped and drowned in the cave. You will need a dive master to take you into the cave.
If you are not a diver, then you can snorkel around the island where the waters are shallow and you will be able to see a wide variety of reefs, corals and fishes.
A word of caution: Sipadan has been the target of kidnappings in recent years, so please be careful and ensure your own safety. The waters are patrolled by the Malaysian Navy to ensure the safety of visitors.
8. Lang Tengah
Lang Tengah is an island off the coast of Terengganu located between Redang and Perhentian islands. A speedboat to the island from Tanjung Merang in Terengganu can be arranged with your resort. The trip will take about 40 minutes. Lang Tengah is quieter and less developed compared to Redang Island.
There are four resorts to choose from should you decide to go there for a holiday. The tropical waters surrounding Lang Tengah Island are turquoise and filled with marine life and corals. It is best to enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving there. Two of the beaches that are frequented by travellers are Pantai Mat Hassan and Pantai Pasir Air.
If you are visiting between April to October, you may be able to watch Green or Hawksbill turtles lay eggs at the beach. Please avoid the months from November to February as it is the monsoon season.
9. Rawa Island
If you want to enjoy private time with your loved ones or spend quality time with yourself, Rawa Island is the place to go. It is located in the state of Johor in Malaysia and is accessible by boat from Mersing. The boat ride will take you 45 minutes.
When on Rawa Island, you can either choose to stay in the luxury resort or in the backpacker lodge. These are the only two options available. Whichever option you choose, you will be able to enjoy the sun and the white powdery sand on the beach. The island is perfect for honeymooners or couples searching for a romantic getaway. There are no shops on the island which makes it totally private.
10. Aur Island
If you are looking for the ultimate in tranquility and quiet, Aur Island is the place to go. It lies 76 kilometres off the coast of Johor and you will need to take a 4-hour boat ride from Mersing Jetty or from Singapore. These boat rides can only be arranged with the resorts at the island, of which there are three.
Due to the long distance between the shore and the island, scuba diving is incredible in the clear waters. The surroundings are home to a vast variety of marine life including manta rays, barracudas, turtles and much more. Dive season is between April to October and dive packages can be booked at dive centres on the mainland.
Bonus: Batu Feringghi, Penang
Penang has always attracted many tourists to its beaches since the 1970s and was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage City in 2008. With this listing, there has been a surge in tourist arrivals to visit both the heritage enclave in the city as well as the beaches in Batu Feringghi. Penang is easily accessible by international and domestic flights. It is also connected by railroad from Thailand and Singapore and a network of highways that make interstate travelling easy.
Batu Feringghi is the most famous beach in Penang. The beach is lined with a range of resorts and mid sized hotels that will suit the budget of all types of travellers. The beach thrives with a range of water sport activities like parasailing, jet skiing and banana boat rides. Take a stroll in the evenings or simply lay on the sun lounger with a drink and enjoy the picturesque sunset.
When the sun goes down, the night market along the main road of Batu Feringghi comes to life. A myriad array of stalls selling souvenirs, clothes, local products and food will satisfy your shopping needs. Do not forget to savour famous Penang hawker food like Char Koay Teow and Laksa as it is these that make Penang one of the food destinations of the world.
A 30-minute bus or taxi ride will take you to the inner city of George Town where you can explore the heritage buildings and experience traditional trades like joss stick making.
You can visit Penang all year round.
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