14 Best Islands in Malaysia to Visit for the Perfect Beach Getaway

14 Top Islands in Malaysia for the Perfect Beach Getaway

Next stop: Sun-soaked beaches and therapeutic waves!

Apart from being a foodie’s paradise, Malaysia is blessed with incredible islands and beaches. Perfect for family vacations or simply to break away from the daily hustle and bustle of living in the city, these tropical paradise islands can truly rejuvenate your weary soul! 

If you’re wondering which coastal destination suits you most, look no further! I’ve compiled a list of the top islands in Malaysia to visit soon, so you can start planning your beach getaway today! 

Also read: Hiking in Malaysia: 10 Trails with the Most Picturesque Views

The usual suspects

1. Tioman

Tioman islands in Malaysia

Image credit: _paVan_

The pristine island of Tioman lies in the state of Pahang on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Bordering the South China Sea, this gem of an island is famous for its turquoise waters, lovely natural surroundings, and secluded beaches. It is one of the top islands in Malaysia, popular among both locals and tourists alike.

There, not only will you be able to experience the full spectrum of Malaysia’s whimsical flora and fauna, you’ll also be able to unwind with a relaxing round of golf, or simply soak up the sun on the palm tree-fringed beaches as you embrace the gentle sea breeze. What’s more, Tioman Island is also a designated duty-free zone! 

Top activity: Snorkelling at Renggis Island, a small island off Tekek Village famous for coral reefs and the rare black-tip reef shark,

2. Langkawi

Langkawi island

Image credit: Dylan Walters

Another island destination that beach bums will adore is Langkawi Island in Kedah. For the avid traveller, this coastal paradise needs no introduction. Surrounded by a large cluster of islets, Langkawi is one of the most frequented islands in Malaysia and one of the country’s most beloved travel destinations overall. 

Filled with stunning beaches (Cenang Beach being the most popular), verdant mangrove forests, rolling hills, and an ambient town (Kuah) known for its delicious food and duty-free shopping, Langkawi is a getaway option that has something for everyone! 

Top activity: One of the must-try experiences on Langkawi is to visit the Langkawi Sky Bridge. It is a (partially) glass-bottom cable-stayed bridge that snakes around the lovely peak of Mat Chinchang mountain. The views, as you might expect, are truly incredible! 

3. Pangkor

pangkor islands in malaysia

Image credit: Nguyễn Thành Lam

Compared to Tioman and Langkawi, Pangkor Island is a little less crowded most of the time. That being said, it is still easily one of the top five islands in Malaysia for the perfect beach getaway. Located in the district of Manjung in Perak, Pangkor borders the Straits of Malacca and offers visitors a serene break from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Pangkor Island is filled with lofty green mountains, so the main roads usually go around the island rather than through it. Most of the top attractions such as Coral Beach, and Teluk Nipah are also located close to the shore. Like other islands in Malaysia, Pangkor Island is home to a diverse plethora of wildlife and crystal blue waters. 

Top activity: Apart from the sun-soaked beaches and water sports, Pangkor Island is also a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts! In fact, there are even fishing chalets that cater specifically to those who want to go on fishing tours! 

4. Redang

redang island

Image credit: Honey Tee

Among the “big five” Malaysian islands and beaches, Redang is arguably one of my favourites. It is located in the state of Terengganu on the east coast and is most famous for its spectacular white sandy beaches and for its crystal clear water. Make no mistake about it: Redang Island is one of the top snorkelling spots in the country by far. 

Apart from frolicing in the water, there are also plenty of entertaining attractions, scenic hiking trails, and even a vibrant nightlife scene. Regardless of what your idea of the perfect island vacation may be, you’re almost certainly guaranteed a good time. 

Top activity: Lying on the east coast, Redang Island is one of the best places in Malaysia to catch the magnificent sunrise. Just make sure you wake up in time! 

5. Port Dickson

port dickson

Image credit: Nazir Amin

Port Dickson is arguably one of the best beaches in Malaysia to visit from Kuala Lumpur. After all, this popular, touristy coastal town is only about an hour or so away from the capital. If I were to describe Port Dickson with personal analogy, I would say that it is Malaysia’s mini-Maldives. 

A popular getaway/staycation spot for families and couples, Port Dickson features luxurious island resorts, fresh seafood (pepper crabs are amazing here), various beachside activities, and plenty of spas to relax and unwind at. The only potential downside is that it can get REALLY crowded during peak holiday seasons (June and December). 

Top activity: Stay at an overwater villa. Most of these come with an incredible view of the ocean and some even have a private jacuzzi/pool! It is the ultimate pampering experience. 

Paradise for divers

6. Sipadan

sipadan islands in malaysia

Image credit: Katja Hasselkus

If you live for underwater exploration, Sipadan in Sabah NEEDS to be number one on your bucket list of islands in Malaysia! Located in the middle of the Celebes Sea, Sipadan is the only oceanic island in the country and its history will stun and amaze you. 

You see, as recent as a few thousands of years ago, Sipadan didn’t even exist! It is an island formed by living corals that grew on top of an extinct volcano! That alone should already hint to you the incredible underwater views you can expect! The marine life here is truly incredible and impossible to put into words. You simply have to experience it yourself! 

In addition, Mabul Island, lying just off the coast of Sipadan, is another pristine underwater paradise. I advise you to plan your trip around including both these destinations for the best experience! 

Top activity: Diving. Duh! 

7. Mataking


Image credit: Christian Holland

Another island located in the Celebes Sea is the under-the-radar paradise known as Mataking Island. It is actually made up of two different islands: a bigger island (Mataking Besar) and a smaller one (Mataking Kecil) that are connected by a sandbar, which appears only during the low tide. 

Like Sipadan, Mataking is one of the best diving spots in Malaysia. Beneath the surface of the turquoise waters lies a world that is beautiful beyond belief, filled with colourful reefs and marine life, and even Malaysia’s only “Underwater Post Office.” And yes, apparently, you CAN post your mail there! Although I’ve yet to try that myself! You can also choose to go canoeing or jungle trekking if you prefer not to stay dry. 

Top activity: Walking on water. Well, technically anyway. If you’re in luck and you’re visiting during the low tide, you’ll have the chance to walk from Mataking Besar to Mataking Kecil via the sandbar. It’s truly a unique experience. 

8. Perhentian

The Perhentian Islands in Terengganu are some of the most pristine islands in Malaysia. That’s because every island in this area belongs to a designated marine park. Everything here is under protection by law to prevent fishing and to conserve the islands’ most treasured attraction: the beautiful coral reefs. 

Like Mataking, Perhentian is made of two islands. But here, you’ll want to spend most of your time underwater. Snorkelling and diving are absolute must-try experiences here on these islands. However, during the time when you’re on land, I suggest visiting the turtle conservation centre to find out more about some of Malaysia’s most endangered marine animals.

Top activity: Scuba diving and exploring the coral colonies. Absolutely NO touching or collecting allowed! 

9. Layang-Layang

Layang-Layang Island is an often forgotten underwater paradise that lies about 300km away from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. It is extremely secluded, frequented mostly only by expert divers, and for good reason! 

The island is where you’ll find the “Wall Diving Mecca” of the region. As you drop nearly 2,000 metres below the ocean, you’ll encounter colourful reef colonies, large aquatic animals, and even schools of Hammerhead Sharks! Layang-Layang Island is also famous for birdwatching as it is home to thousands of migratory birds at the end of the year. 

Top activity: Wall diving. However, I would suggest staying away if you’re not that confident in your diving abilities. 

Underrated gems

10. Rawa

rawa islands in malaysia

Image credit: Bas Leenders

Located in the southern state of Johor, Pulau Rawa is a hidden gem that is slowly gaining attention. It is filled with rich biodiversity, incredible views, and an iconic water slide that launches visitors into the turquoise ocean at exciting speed! 

Add to that some of the finest sandy beaches in Malaysia, verdant cliffs, and hiking trails, and you have one of the most incredible underrated gems in the country. And, as a secret, you can also rent a canoe and explore the hidden caves surrounding the island! And you thought Johor only had Legoland! Pfft! 

Top activity: Hop on the waterslide and unleash the kid in you as you zoom through the air into the water. 

11. Kapas

pulau kapas

Image credit: fairuz othman

“Kapas” is Malay for cotton. And, true to its name, Kapas Island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Malaysia, characterised by soft sand that feels almost like cotton beneath your feet. As you laze your days away on a hammock, you’ll be thoroughly charmed by its rustic, laid-back atmosphere. 

Apart from just chilling, you can also go diving, snorkelling, and kayaking at this absolute gem of an island in Terengganu. You can also explore the lush tropical jungles too. Heck, if you’re REALLY lucky, you might even be able to spot a few turtles! Just promise me not to harm them or steal their eggs. Long story, but it happens. 

Top activity: Kapas Island is most famous for its cotton-like beaches. So simply chill out on the beach and relax. 

12. Gemia

The fact that Gemia Island (also in Terengganu) is such an underrated destination is a sin in my book. This privately-owned island features incredibly beautiful beaches and clear sapphire-blue waters teeming with marine life. Located just 800 metres away from Kapas, you can include Gemia Island as a 2-for-1 itinerary. 

I would suggest visiting Gemia closer to the evening. For one, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful sunset atmosphere (spotting an actual sunset might be hard seeing as you’re on the east coast). But more importantly, Gemia Island is one of the islands in Malaysia where you can go stargazing at night! Yes, if the skies are clear, you’ll be able to admire artistry beyond your wildest dreams in the night sky! 

Top activity: Stargazing at night. Don’t forget your camera!  

13. Kerachut

Penang Island in itself is a top destination in Malaysia. However, within this famous foodie paradise you’ll find famous beaches (Batu Ferringhi for one) and smaller islands too. One such island is Pantai Kerachut. It lies about 3km away from Penang National Park and is actually more famous for its lush greenery even though it also has a beautiful beach. 

More importantly, Pantai Kerachut is home to the Penang Turtle Sanctuary where you can learn more about Malaysia’s green turtles. You’ll also find a rare meromictic lake that’s perfect for those who wish to enjoy some peace and quiet. You can even camp overnight at this spot under the stars. How romantic! 

Top activity: Camp overnight at the lake. It’s another spot in Malaysia where you can go stargazing! Alternatively, Pulau Jerejak offers a more Insta-worthy island experience for photography enthusiasts! 

14. Aur

aur islands in Malaysia

Image credit: Nicolas Lannuzel

Finally, if you simply want to find an island to shut out the rest of the world, try Aur Island. Located four hours away from Mersing (Johor), this extremely remote island is home to crystal clear water, and beaches that put the Maldives to shame. 

It is a gazetted national marine park and a haven for divers. I personally have not been able to visit but from what I’ve been told, this enigmatic island is home to colourful wildlife and lovely dive spots. The only real issue here is the four-hour long boat ride from the jetty! 

Top activity: Just being on the island is a unique experience in this case! 

Also read: Snacks in Malaysia: 10 Delicious Grubs That You Can Buy Online!

To sunshine, beaches, and an unforgettable time!

And there you have it: 14 top islands and beaches in Malaysia to add to your bucket list! Personally, if you planned a month-long vacation around visiting only these destinations on the list, I wouldn’t judge you at all! After all, what’s life without a little time on sun-soaked beaches, enjoying the fresh sea breeze?

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.