Known for its rainforests, orangutans, and vibrant cities, Malaysia is also home to some of the most stunning beaches in Asia. Whether you’re seeking a private corner on quiet shores or palm-fringed beaches with plenty to see and do, Malaysia won’t disappoint. Here are the top best beaches in Malaysia for visitors to take a vacation.
Best Beaches in Malaysia
1. Redang Island
One of the largest islands off mainland Malaysia, Redang Island is located in the seas off the northeastern state of Terrenganu, and is famous for its incredibly white sand and shimmering, crystal-clear water.
It is well known as a tropical island getaway thanks to this reputation for coastal beauty, which of course includes a fair few beaches – but none of these are quite as beautiful as Pasir Panjang.
This sloping stretch of soft sand that sweeps around a circular bay in a sharp curve is a popular place that sees many local and international tourists – on day trips or staying at one of the now numerous beachside hotels. There is a bonus here; part of the sand spills over a spit to form a smaller section of the beach away from the main bay area.
2. Pantai Cenang
Malaysia’s premier island destination, Langkawi has it all when it comes to the elements that make up the best beaches – facilities, nearby accommodation, restaurants. So it’s no wonder that its best beach is a composite of all these things.
Pantai Cenang, whilst popular with domestic and international tourists, will practically be yours as a private beach ‘out of season’ since, if you’re backpacking, there is no ‘out of season’!
Smaller islets jut out of the turquoise sea that laps the huge white-sand beach at Pantai Cenang, whilst there are plenty of options for food and drink literally steps away from the beach. The nearby amenities plus the relatively calm waters make it a very family-friendly beach, too.
3. Rawa Island
Set off the northeast coast of mainland Malaysia’s most southerly state of Johor, and easily reached from the coastal town of Mersing, the island of Rawa is truly a gem of a beach destination. Named for the white doves that populate the island in great numbers, this tiny little island is a haven for wildlife – both marine and land-dwelling.
Since there are no proper roads on the island, only footpaths can take you from one destination to the other. With tall, craggy cliffs on one side of the island, the other side is almost entirely comprised of white-sand beaches that meet the beautiful azure sea in perfect harmony with what paradise ought to look like.
4. Perhentian Islands
Once sparsely populated and mainly home to fishermen, the Perhentian Islands have become an important tourist destination in Malaysia—and while hotels and transportation are much better today than they were just a few decades ago, the islands are developing slowly, providing very natural and still unspoiled beauty.
Deep turquoise waters, palm-fringed shorelines, and coral reefs rich in marine life are found everywhere, and trails cut through the thick jungle, connecting the different stretches of beach around the island.
Of the seven Perhentian islands, only the two larger are permanently inhabited. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking tours leave from these, and you’ll also find organized jungle trekking and a number of accommodations to fit any budget.
The uninhabited islands offer some of the best snorkeling and softer sand and can only be reached via private boats and tours.
5. Kota Kinabalu
The capital of Sabah in the northern tip of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu is right on the water and surrounded by the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, itself home to five islands with stunning sandstone outcrops, virgin tropical forest, and white sandy beaches that gently slope into the sea.
Gaya Island and Manukan Island are surrounded by beautiful healthy coral reefs that are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Sapi, one of the smaller islands, is quite busy during the day, but those camping there overnight will basically have the remote beach all to themselves.
Hiking trails crisscross through the islands and allow access to caves and forested cliffs.
6. Batu Ferringhi
A beach resort just outside of popular George Town, Batu Ferringhi was originally better known as a water sports destination, but the seafront and its beautiful long stretch of white sand have become a popular destination for all sun lovers.
Because of its proximity to a major city, the area attracts many local residents looking for a weekend getaway—but it’s also a great destination for travelers who want to catch the waves but don’t have time to make it out to the islands.
The well-developed beach here offers plenty of eating options, a quiet nightlife that mostly consists of live music and laid-back cafés, and a lively night market that sells everything from inexpensive souvenirs to traditional batik textiles.