One of the things that I most love about Malaysia is that the country offers so much variety. From the high-tech Petronas Towers to the enormous caves of Mulu National Park to the historic Straits towns of George Town and Malacca. Not to mention a delicious combination of Malay, Indian and Chinese food. And of course, Malaysia is also home to some beautiful beaches, scattered throughout the country. For your next relaxing vacation, consider hitting up one of these.
1. Langkawi Island
Langkawi is an island off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, not far south of the Thai border. It’s deservedly one of the top beach destinations in Malaysia, thanks to its beautiful white beaches and many high-end resorts. Unfortunately, when I visited Langkawi it was badly affected by smoke haze from forest fires in Indonesia, but it was still wonderful lazing by the pool and indulging in cocktails. Make sure you don’t miss out on taking the Langkawi Cable Car up to the island’s peak, where you can take in a beautiful panorama and walk on the Sky Bridge.
2. Desaru Beach
Close to the southeastern tip of Peninsular Malaysia, including the cities of Johor and Singapore, Desaru has an amazing 22km of beaches to choose from. The water is shallow and clear, and if the wind conditions are right, there’s even to chance to try out surfing. There’s a wide variety of Desaru hotels to choose from, including many large resorts with their own restaurants and private beach access. For a family vacation, check out the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort, complete with its own swimming pool, spa and waterslides.
3. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Just off the city of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah on the island of Borneo, lies the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It’s easy to visit these islands as a day trip from Kota Kinabalu, with many ferry operators transporting tourists to the islands. There’re also some resorts if you want to stay overnight. The islands are home to some great beaches for swimming, and some even offer the opportunity to snorkel. During busy periods the closer islands can get busy (when I visited it was a big Chinese national holiday, and many were visiting Kota Kinabalu), so it’s often best to head as far off-shore as possible.
4. Penang Island
While most visitors to Penang make a beeline for George Town with its street art and historic houses and jetties, if you head to the northwestern coast near Batu Ferringhi, you’ll reach some wonderful beaches. If you’re staying in George Town, you can access the beaches on local buses or via taxi. Otherwise stay for a few nights in one of the many resorts, ranging from affordable to luxury. The beaches are more pristine the further west you head. And naturally there’s a popular night market at which to feast on the local cuisine.
5. Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands are a group of small, coral-fringed islands off the northeastern coast of Malaysia. The islands aren’t that easy to get to, so I still haven’t visited them, but would love to on a future trip. They’re best accessed by flying to Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, then taking two buses, then finally a ferry out to the islands. Choose between the larger Besar Island or the smaller Kecil Island. Kecil offers more inexpensive, albeit fairly rustic, accommodation, while Besar is more expensive and better for families. On the islands there’s not much to do other than swim, snorkel and go out on diving trips.
6. Damai Beach
While the state of Sarawak on Borneo may not offer as many beaches as Sabah to the north, there is still a good option if you’re staying in Kuching and want to relax on the sand for a few days. Not far away is Damai Beach. Regular shuttle buses leave from the major hotels in Kuching, and don’t cost much. The best stretches of beach are accessed from the few resorts in the area, so consider staying for a few nights. Alternatively, combine a day trip to Damai Beach with a visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village.