Pulau Sapi, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
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The best Malaysia beach holidays

Visiting Malaysia is a unique journey packed with culture, history and natural beauty. There are so many places to visit in Malaysia: within the country’s 13 states are age-old forests, beautiful coastlines, misty hills and majestic mountains. When it comes to unwinding on Malaysia’s incredible beaches, there are plenty to choose from so let me outline for you the best Malaysia beach holidays.

Langkawi: Malaysia’s favourite holiday island

Langkawi is an alluring cluster of islets in the tropical Andaman Sea, where breathtaking views and amazing adventures are all on your doorstep. The jungle-covered slopes of Mount Machinchang tower over the landscape – a perfect backdrop to ivory sands and azure waters.

Boats in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Malaysia

This archipelago off the west coast of Malaysia is sometimes described as the Jewel of Kedah, and is made up of 99 islands at high tide and 104 at low tide. The main island of Langkawi is where most of the holiday development is to be found and the smaller islands are wonderful to explore. You can be as tranquil or as active as you want to be on Langkawi holidays, relaxing with silky soft sand between your toes or enjoying a wealth of watersports.

The beaches of Langkawi are simply glorious, with the white sands of Pantai Cenang a particular favourite. To get off the beaten path, spend an afternoon at the enigmatically-named Skull Beach, a secluded cove reached via a jungle path, where you can enjoy the quiet shore and delightful Langkawi weather from the shade of the palm trees. Towards evening, Tanjung Rhu Beach is the place to gather – pull up a beanbag on the sand and sip a delicious cocktail as you watch the sumptuous sunset. 

Highlights of Langkawi

  • Ride the cable car to the Sky Bridge at the top of Mount Machinchang for unforgettable vistas 708 metres above sea level.
  • Take a boat ride through the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, a 100m2 nature reserve with lush mangroves and limestone crags.
  • Hire a private boat and explore some of Langkawi’s gorgeous uninhabited islands. 
  • Discover the myriad snorkeling and diving options of the pristine Pulau Payar Marine Park.

Paradise found in the Perhentian Islands

I’m not so much of a beach holiday person but the best ‘paradise islands’ I’ve visited in the sense of perfect white sand, water like pale green glass, lush jungle and a laid-back beach scene was on the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Malaysia.

Fishing boats, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands are quite out of the way and you have to catch a ferry from the coastal city of Kota Bharu to get there. There are two main Perhentian Islands and five small uninhabited islets in the group. Perhentian Besar (Greater Perhentian) is more focused on luxury tourism, with beautiful resorts, while Perhentian Kecil (Lesser Perhentian) is known for its relaxed and affordable backpacker vibe. Both have access to fantastic diving and good dive facilities.

Snorkeling Tunku-Abdul-Rahman-Park-Malaysia

Utterly unspoilt Tioman Island

A mountainous tropical island or a sleeping dragon princess, Pulau Tioman is palm-fringed beaches and luxuriant jungle in a turquoise sea. A splash of scarlet hibiscus completes this picture of paradise on Tioman Island holidays. 

Far from the crowds and safe from over-development, Tioman Island lies in the warm, limpid waters of the South China Sea about 20 miles off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. 

Malaysia beach holidays

Virgin rainforest covers over 12,000 hectares of the island, the majority of which is part of the protected Pulau Tioman Wildlife Reserve. Hiking the trails of this important ecosystem, you can spot a variety of wildlife, from long-tailed macaques and mouse deer to the mighty frigatebird, as well as unique species such as the Tioman walking catfish. 

The rich sea life around Tioman and eight nearby islands is also protected by a marine park and outstanding snorkeling and diving draws travellers to the colourful coral reefs and adventurous shipwreck dive sites.

Pulau Sapi, Malaysia's Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

To get to Tioman Island from Kuala Lumpur you can either fly or take the five hour overland drive to the fishing village of Mersing, and then a ferry to the island.

Highlights of Tioman

  • For a relaxing way to see the island, take the Round Island boat tour. 
  • The spectacular crags and cliffs of volcanic Tioman have been developed for rock climbing, both for experienced climbers and beginners.
  • Visit the Juara Turtle Project on the east coast of Tioman, a hatchery that protects and studies sea turtles.

Borneo Malaysia beach holidays

Finally, leaving peninsula Malaysia behind, there are quite a few options for beach R&R on the coast of Malaysian Borneo. The vibrant city of Kota Kinabalu is the jumping off point for discovering the five unspoilt isles of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Pulau Manukan, Sabah, Malaysia

You can go hiking through mangrove swamps on Gaya, snorkel with rainbow-hued fish on Mamutik, sunbathe on Sapi’s ivory sands, relax on developed Manukan, or escape to rocky Sulug for secluded peace and quiet.

On the coast itself, head for Pantai Dalit Beach in Sabah (only a 20-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu). This soft sand beach fringes 400 acres of tropical jungle and we had a very special experience at the Rasa Ria Orangutan Sanctuary here.

Orang-utans in Borneo at the Rasia Ria Nature Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia

There you have it – my top tips for where to spend your beach holidays in Malaysia. Do you have any other recommendations?

Best beach holidays in Malaysia

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