Many friends have been scratching their heads for ideas on short weekend getaways from Singapore. We are after all very fortunate to be next-door neighbors with the lush tropical beaches of Malaysia and Indonesia. But thanks to over-developed tourism, most of these ‘ex-paradises’ are now crowded and touristy. Forget Bali, Phuket and Bintan, let’s find somewhere new and refreshing. Here are some alternative spots in our vicinity,perfect for a short weekend escapade!
1. Pulau Rawa
This secluded island is just a short boat-ride away from Mersing, the port where many embark on boats to nearby islands. Unlike neighboring touristy Tioman, many are surprised to find the clear, turquoise waters and rare tranquility on this stunning island. There are plenty of opportunities to dive and snorkel, but sitting on the beach or going for a boat ride are also common daytime activities.
Divers alert! This amazing world heritage site situated in the Malaysian part of Borneo is packed full of outrageous dive sites and marine life. With tornadoes of barracudas, hammerhead sharks and hawksbill turtles, there is nowhere closer to haven then in Borneo. Diving is a little more expensive especially at Sipadan, but nearby islands like Mabul and Kapalai also have vibrant marine life and don’t have quite the sticker shock.
3. Pulau Perhentian
Next door neighbour to the renown Pulau Redang, this island is still surprisingly rustic and quiet, away from the public’s attention. With some of the most beautiful beaches and marine life in Asia, it is perfect for dive enthusiasts. The area is home to many underwater species — even the snorkeling areas enable adventurous visitors to see baby sharks and turtles. Try out small-scale cheap huts for accommodation – the locals will assure you have the best time during your stay.
4. Gili Trawangan
A tiny island off Lombok (a great alternative to touristy Bali), the Gili islands are a god-send. Sparkling clean waters and a very laid-back atmosphere instantly put visitors to the Gili Trawangan at ease, and with the island’s natural beauty and lovely beaches, it’s the perfect place to kick back and relax for days on end. Melt your stresses away by sitting on Gili Trawangan’s beaches for a few days and staring off into beautiful sunsets like this.
Now that budget airline AirAsia has new routes to Manado, divers and beachcombers have a new playground to frolic in. A hideaway that is only known amongst water sports aficionados, Manado has one of the 10 top dive sites in the world. What’s best, its geographical location at the Northern end of Sulawesi blesses it with Mount Mahawu. Manado is a photogenic area with so much to see, both above and below the water. And now that it’s much easier to access by flying, why not take a chance to see Manado’s natural beauty for yourself?
6. Nikoi Island
Just 2.5 hours away from Singapore, a stone throw from Bintan, Nikoi is almost unheard of amongst Singaporeans. A tiny island dominated by only 1 single rustic and luxurious resort, it is secluded and private — perfect for a lovers’ hideaway. It comes with a price of course, at S$300 a night for a 1-bedroom bungalow(min. 2 night’s stay), but wouldn’t you enjoy having your own private retreat, away from the chaos of civilization?
7. Koh Rong
Located off the coast of Sihanoukville, Koh Rong is an island getaway that is home to crystal-clear, sparkling blue waters and white sand beaches. Though the island has become more heavily populated in recent years, mainly by waves of backpackers making their way through Southeast Asia, it is a beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Cambodia’s mainland. There’s plenty to do here, including numerous diving opportunities and various other adventure activities.
Most nature-lovers escape to Krabi, as a quieter option to Phuket. With waterfalls and hiking trails, it has more to offer than Phuket’s pumping music and party crowd. West Railay Beach is a particularly beautiful area accessible from Krabi’s mainland, filled with stark limestone crags adorned with rock climbing aficionados bordering the sparkling blue ocean. Rent a jeep to drive inland, and kayak through the limestone caves. Check out the exclusive Amari Vogue Krabi, which has a zen decor and tranquil surroundings, putting your mind at ease.
9. Koh Lanta
Its close proximity to Phuket and Krabi (around 3 to 4 hours by bus or ferry) also means that you can easily get here from Singapore for the weekend. Koh Lanta is a relatively quiet island that allows you to step away from the tourist trail and find some peace and tranquility on empty beaches and wild jungles. The tourists here are much calmer than on other islands, and it’s a great place to get some rest and relaxation from the buzz of other areas in Thailand. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet for your honeymoon or vacation, then Koh Lanta is the perfect island for you. Just be sure to choose the right time of year to visit, or you’ll run into bad weather!
10. Koh Tao
As most of the Thai beaches have been commercialised and dominated by resorts and tourists, Koh Tao is an island that acts as a giant playground for adventure junkies, hosting activities such as rock climbing, diving, snorkeling, and hiking. Located near the party islands of Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Samui, Koh Tao is a quieter island filled with backpackers getting their first scuba diving certifications and island hoppers making their way around Southern Thailand. It is fairly easy to reach – just hop on a ferry from Chumphon and it’s the first stop. This island has excellent dive sites as well as marked hiking trails that lead up to the hilltops away from the beaches.
There, all the best-kept secrets! Any other suggestions? Please feel free to share.