Malaysia is not a typical go-to beach destination because its beaches aren’t particularly well-known and frequently get overlooked in favor of the stunning beaches in Thailand and Indonesia, which are close by. There are a lot of things to know before traveling to Malaysia. However, Malaysia has coastlines that are easily comparable to those of its neighbors because it shares the same stunning seas with Thailand on both its east and west coasts.
This Southeast Asian nation sure packs a punch when it comes to the meeting of sand and sea, offering stunning tropical islands with coral and white sands, long, leisurely beaches on the mainland, as well as incredible locations in far-flung Malaysian Borneo.
Beaches in Malaysia
1. Sipadan Island
Sipadan Island is a stunning, turquoise jewel in the deep Celebes Sea off of eastern Sabah on Malaysian Borneo. It is a stunning location both above and below the water. The island is a popular diving location with a breathtaking tropical reef lagoon that draws tourists because of the abundant marine life there. Scuba Diving Magazine’s Gold List named it the “Top Dive Destination In The World,” and for good reason—loggerhead turtles, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks frequently stop by this almost legendary location.
2. Coral Beach, Pangkor
The stunning Pangkor Island is one of the highlights of Perak, a state on Malaysia’s west coast. It’s a popular tourist destination in the region, dotted with historical sites that range from a centuries-old Dutch fort to evidence of former Chinese settlers in the Fu Lin Kong Taoist temple. Visitors to this historic island, which witnessed one of the first treaties that resulted in British rule over Malaysia, are drawn there for more reasons than just its rich cultural heritage. Pangkor is well-known for its stunning beaches, with Coral Beach topping the list.
3. Mataking Island, Sabah
Mataking Island, another wonderful tropical island, is a bonus when it comes to a beach destination and is situated just off the east coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. The majority of this lovely island is made up of a collection of beaches, beaches, and more beaches because it is connected to another, a much smaller island called Pulau Mataking Kecil by a sandbar. There will always be space for you because the entire island is surrounded by white sand. There are so many places to simply take a while to gaze out at the flawless coral sea that surrounds Mataking that you probably won’t know where to sit.
4. Long Beach, Perhentian Kecil
The Perhentian Islands, which are located off the coast of northeastern Malaysia, are already well-known for their beauty and are most likely the most well-known tropical island getaway location in the nation. While Perhentian Besar, the larger of the two main islands, is home to many upscale resorts, Perhentian Kecil, the smaller of the two, caters more to backpackers. There are many lovely beaches in Perhentian Kecil, but none are quite as good as the enormous and appropriately named Long Beach. Long Beach’s fine, white sand and the fact that the tide stays out here for a considerable amount of time make for ideal swimming conditions in the warm waters. At this beach, spending the day snorkeling, swimming, and soaking up some sun is the norm.
5. Juara Beach, Tioman
Off the east coast of the Malaysian state of Pahang is this sizeable tropical island. Juara Beach stands out among the other beautiful beaches on this densely forested, sparsely populated island, which helped it win the title of one of the most beautiful islands in the world according to TIME Magazine in the 1970s. Yes, Juara Beach is truly one of Malaysia’s best beaches. This is made possible by the beach’s relatively remote location; no ferries dock there, and the only way to get there is by 4WD on a paved road that winds through Tioman’s central mountain range. Although the beach is surreal, it is also renowned for sea turtle conservation thanks to the Juara Turtle Project for managing a hatchery.
6. Manukan Island, Sabah
Manukan Island, yet another Sabah island, is a favorite destination for locals from Kota Kinabalu, the state’s capital, which is just a short drive away. It is located inside Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, which was established in 1974 and was Malaysia’s first marine national park. Due to the incredible scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities right off its coast, the tiny island is well-known for them. Of course, it is also well known for its beautiful beaches, where the clear, blue sea meets the fine, white sand in a little piece of coral paradise. However, there are numerous opportunities to explore the island’s dense vegetation away from the coastline thanks to the numerous hiking trails that crisscross through it.
7. Kapas Island, Terengganu
Another picture-perfect paradise island in Malaysia is Kapas Island, which has beaches that are identical to those on vintage postcards. Nowadays, it more closely resembles the beaches you see on Instagram, with palms swaying over fine, white sand and clear waters lapped by them that extend into stunning turquoise-blue vistas. One of Malaysia’s most stunning islands, Kapas is located not far from the Terengganu town of Marang. A wide variety of marine life can be found here, and the coral is bright and vivid, making it a paradise for snorkeling and diving.
8. Rawa Island, Mersing
The island of Rawa is a true gem of a beach destination. It is located off the northeast coast of the most southern state of mainland Malaysia, Johor, and is easily accessible from the coastal town of Mersing. This tiny island, named for the large populations of white doves (known locally as Rawa), is a haven for both marine and land-based wildlife. Only footpaths can get you from place to place on the island because there are no real roads. One side of the island is made up of high, rocky cliffs, while the other is almost entirely made up of white-sand beaches that meet the stunning azure sea in a perfect harmony of what paradise should look like.
9. Pantai Cenang, Langkawi
Langkawi, the most popular island in Malaysia, has every feature that makes for the best beaches, including amenities, nearby lodging, and dining options. It follows that it is not surprising that its best beach is a combination of all of these. Despite being well-liked by both domestic and foreign visitors, Pantai Cenang will essentially be yours as a private beach “out of season” since, if you’re backpacking, there is no such thing as an “out of season.” Smaller islets protrude from the turquoise water that laps Pantai Cenang’s expansive white-sand beach, and there are many places to eat and drink just steps from the shore. It is a very family-friendly beach as well because of the amenities nearby and the relatively calm waters.
10. Pasir Panjang, Redang
Redang Island, one of the biggest islands off the coast of Malaysia, is distinguished by its dazzlingly white sand and crystal-clear water. It is situated in the waters of the northeastern state of Terengganu. Due to its reputation for coastal beauty, which of course includes a good number of beaches, it is well known as a tropical island getaway. However, none of these beaches can compare to Pasir Panjang in terms of beauty. Just observe travel safety tips when visiting Malaysia. Many local and foreign tourists visit this sloping stretch of soft sand that sweeps around a circular bay in a sharp curve on day trips or while staying at one of the now numerous beachside hotels. An added benefit is that some of the sand spills over a spit to create a smaller beach area away from the main bay area.