Already craving for your next weekend getaway? If you’ve visited popular destinations like Bali and Phuket one too many times then it’s time to head somewhere different like one of these nearby Malaysian islands you probably didn’t know about — but should!
These Malaysian islands may not be as well-known as Langkawi or Tioman, but they are fantastic destinations that have much to offer! With less tourists and visitors, their stunning beaches, corals and greenery are also relatively unspoiled.
Tiga Island (Pulau Tiga)
Tiga Island is also known as ‘Survivor Island’ as it appeared in the first Survivor TV series. This Malaysian island near Sabah is one of the few that has lush forests as well as beautiful beaches! Another unique feature are the 3 mud volcanoes on the island. Visitors can enjoy a mud volcano bath, which is rich in minerals that is said to have beneficial properties for the skin!
How to go: Take a 2.5 hour flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu (AirAsia). From there, you can take a 2 hour boat ride to Tiga Island. Take note that the boat ride passes an open sea and waters may be choppy. A recommended alternative is to do a 2.5 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Penyu town, then take a 20 minute boat ride to Tiga Island.
When to go: The west coast of Sabah is less affected by the monsoon season, so it is good to go throughout the year.
Rawa Island (Pulau Rawa)
With sandy white beaches surrounded by turquoise water, Rawa Island is an amazing tropical paradise! There are only 2 resorts on this Malaysian island – the vibrant Alang’s Rawa and the more family-friendly Rawa Island Resort. P.S.: Book the beautiful seaside A-Frames at Alang Rawa in advance for a unique vacation stay!
How to go: From Singapore, you can drive or take a bus/private car to Mersing Jetty, which takes about 2.5 hours. From Mersing Jetty, take a 1 hour ferry ride to Rawa Island. The ferry departs every 1-2 hours from 9.30am-5.30pm.
When to go: The best time to go is during March to September. Avoid the monsoon season from October to February.
Tenggol Island (Pulau Tenggol)
If you enjoy diving, Tenggol Island is the place for you! With 20 diving sites, this Malaysian island is rich with marine life and corals. You may even get to see a whale shark as Tenggol Island is located along the whale shark migratory route. There are diving sites for every skill level and some say that these are the best in the world. But if you are not a fan, you can also do some snorkelling or relax at the Tenggol Island Beach Resort.
How to go: Take a 3.5 hour flight to Kuala Terengganu from Singapore (AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines). Alternatively, you can take an overnight bus from Singapore to Kuala Terengganu (9 hour ride). Then, take a taxi or private car to Dungan (1 hour ride). From the A’King Jetty in Dungan, board a 30-minute speedboat ride to Tenggol Island. Speedboat services start as early as 8am. Check with the resort if they have any speedboat packages on offer!
When to go: The best time to go is during March to September. Avoid the monsoon season from October to February as Tenggol Island will be closed during that period.
Note: There are no ATMs on Tenggol Island, so remember to bring sufficient cash!
Tengah Island (Pulau Tengah) – Batu Batu
Fancy staying in a private island? Batu Batu resort is the only resort located in the uninhabited Tengah Island. The Malaysian island has 8 white sandy beaches and translucent waters for you to chill at. Stay at one of the luxurious private villas and enjoy their range of facilities, like the open-pavilion restaurant and bar.
How to go: From Singapore, you take a 2.5 hours drive or bus ride to Mersing Jetty. Batu Batu can arrange for a private boat to bring you to the island resort from Mersing Jetty.
When to go: The best time to go will be from March to November, during the island’s drier season. The monsoon season from December to February is unsuitable for diving.
Redang Island (Pulau Redang)
Redang Island is famous for its crystal clear waters and fabulous beaches. One of the largest Malaysian islands in the eastern peninsula, Redang Island has so many things to do! You can enjoy reading a book at one of the 9 beaches on the island, or go snorkelling or diving in the clear waters. You might even catch a glimpse of sea turtles as this island is an important conservation site!
How to go: Take an overnight bus from Singapore to Shahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu (Transnasional has some bus routes). Proceed to Shahbandar Jetty to book a 2-hour ferry ride to Redang Island. First ferry departs at 9am.
When to go: The best time to go is between April to October. Avoid the monsoon season from November to February, as some resorts will be closed during that period.
Kapas Island (Pulau Kapas)
Disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life at Kapas Island, which takes a short 20-minute boat ride to arrive here from the mainland. Life here is more laidback, where you can relax at the quiet beaches and watch the breathtaking sunsets. Or explore the beautiful seaside by following the beach-walk on the golden staircases.
How to go: Take an overnight bus from Singapore to Marang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu (Transnasional has some bus routes). From Marang Jetty, take a 20-minute boat ride to Kapas Island
When to go: The best time to go from March. Avoid the monsoon season from November to February, as some resorts will be closed during that period.
Pangkor Laut Island (Pulau Pangkor Laut)
Live in luxury in a private bungalow on stilts at the Pangkor Laut Resort! Located at a small and quiet Malaysian island just southwest of the larger Pangkor Island, Pangkor Laut Resort has many things for you to enjoy. You can soak up the sun on its pristine beaches, or discover amazing wildlife on one of the hiking trails. If you are up for something more exciting, you can try out watersport activities like kayaking and jet-skiing!
How to go: The best way to get here is to arrange for transport with the staff at Pangkor Laut Resort. You will have to take a direct flight to Sultan Azlan Shah Airport from Singapore, followed by a drive to Marina Island Pangkor. This is followed by a speedboat ride to Pangkor Laut Island.
When to go: Pangkor Laut Resort is open all year round. The island and its surrounding waters are less affected by the monsoon season.
The Perhentian Islands consists of two main Malaysian islands surrounded by beautiful corals. The Perhentian Kecil island is smaller and more catered to backpackers, with budget accommodations and some nightlife. On the other hand, Perhentian Besar appeals more to families and honeymooners. You can go diving here for very affordable rates, or lay back and relax on its lovely beaches.
How to go: Take an overnight bus from Singapore to Marang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu (Transnasional has some bus routes). Take a taxi ride or drive 2 hours to Kuala Besut Jetty. From there, take a 45 minute boat ride to the Perhentian Island.
When to go: The best time to go is between March to November. Avoid the monsoon season from December to February, as many business will be closed then.
Mataking Island (Pulau Mataking)
Surrounded by gorgeous house reefs, Mataking Island is an ideal destination for a honeymoon. The luxurious Reef Dive Resort is the only resort on this Malaysian island and it offers lavish villas as well as chalets to stay in. Make sure you try diving or snorkeling here to see the diverse marine life on the coral reefs!
This Malaysian island is also home to the Malaysia’s first underwater post office. You can post your mail here and divers will clear the mailbox twice a week!
How to go: It’s best to arrange for transfers with the staff at the Reef Dive Resort. You will need to take a 4.5 hour flight to Tawau from Singapore. From there, the staff will be able to help you arrange transport to Mataking Island.
When to go: Mataking Island is less affected by the monsoon season, so it should be good for travel all year round. However, take note that there may be heavier rainfall during the December to January period.
Before heading off to these Malaysian islands for your next vacation, make sure you have enough internet data with our guide to the best overseas SIM cards. Don’t forget about these free travel apps as well!