10 of the Best Beaches in Southeast Asia

Posted on February 27, 2009 by

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.

Flickr photo by GreyPolarBear


2.   Sipadan

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.

Photo by Felix Esteban


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.  

Flickr photo by Tuomas Lehtinen




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.

Flickr photo by Noel back in Zurich


5. Manado

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?

Flickr photo by Billy Wirawan


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?

Flickr photo by butterbeeee



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.

Photo source: Wikipedia



8. Krabi

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.

Flickr photo by Mike Behnken


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.  

Flickr photo by Per Salomonsson


There, all the best-kept secrets! Any other suggestions? Please feel free to share.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

40 Responses to “10 of the Best Beaches in Southeast Asia”

  1. Liane February 27, 2009 5:33 pm

    love the suggestions! :) i wanna try nikoi and gili one day :)

  2. Jonene February 28, 2009 2:33 am

    coool! im wanting to try all now! :p

  3. Carrie March 3, 2009 5:23 am


    This is just in time for our upcoming vacation. Perfect! My husband has been leaning towards Korea and I'm begging him for Singapore. Now I've got something concrete to show him. BTW, I gave you a stumble for this article. I hope you get lots of traffic. I really enjoy reading your site!

  4. Nellie March 3, 2009 12:11 pm

    guys thanks for the comments! Carrie, yes I hope this convinces your husband! We´re REALLY near to some of the most beautiful beaches in SEAsia. Oh thanks for stumbling my article ;)

  5. Lifecruiser March 3, 2009 8:34 pm

    That looks absolutely gorgeous…. All of them! *dreaming*

    Thailand is a very popular destination for us Swedes and have been for many years, but me and hubby have always been more interested in going to Malaysia.

    In fact, we were on our way there in 2005, but then the Tsunami did hit the coast where we would stay – plus we got pneumonia both of us (what’s the odds of that happening???) and had to cancel. We were supposed to have gone to Malaysia and Philippines for a total of over 2 months. Lovely plans!

    It took us half a year to recover and then we went to South America in the fall instead. Not bad that either, but we still wanna go to South East Asia some day!

    Great tips! Stumbled!

  6. James Love March 15, 2009 12:29 am

    Singapore has great beaches and a good nightlife. – James Love

  7. Justin March 18, 2009 8:34 am

    You've got to try Pulau Kapas if you're looking for a quiet beach island that's easy to get to. Only a handful of hotels, one bar, good snorkeling and a campsite on the end of the island. It was really peaceful when we were there!

    • Wanderlei November 23, 2012 3:58 am

      Actullay there’s more on the motor racing ceneldar in the 1960s ..Shenton Way between Lau Pa Sat Market and the Conference Hall was the Go-kart Circuit during the PESTA SUKAN Sports Festival in 1964. Even the air strip at Sembawang Air Base and the land behind Dieppe Barracks was used as a small race circuit for normal street cars .Last if my memory serves me right, the land behind around the Clementi MRT Station was jungle land. There used to be a British Army camp there (which was subsequently used by the SAF as its Staff and Command College in 1968) called Colombo Camp . Next to the camp cross-country races were held for moto-cycles.If you search PICAS you can find more photos of Shenton Way in the 1960s and the go-kart races. DBS Bdlg, SGX Center, Shenton House and UIC Building never existed in that era.

  8. Jooo March 19, 2009 1:16 pm

    Gili Trawangan…oh heaven!!!!
    this my list of where i want to go (basically lots of islands to die for)

  9. Reelz May 31, 2009 11:50 am

    Gosh! As a beach-lover, these places are TO DIE FOR (not literally, of course, heh!)…I'm always on the lookout for new places to explore so I can brag abt it to envious friends..hahaha….I've been to Krabi (2005) & Pulau Perhentian (2008) & the beautiful memories still lingered loooong after the fun had ended… Thanks a million for the suggestions Nellie! I can't wait to try them all!

  10. Jenin March 10, 2010 9:28 am

    OMG! these suggestions are super awesome! thanks for sharing them! i will TRY THEM ALL one day! thanks again!

  11. flip March 30, 2010 12:10 pm

    visit the philippines too, there are a lot of islands where you could frolic in peace. some places though are crowded with tourist. check out caramoan, palawan and calaguas islands. boracay for those who love to party.


    • admin March 31, 2010 6:11 am

      Oh definitely, I loved Boracay when I was there, really wanted to visit Bohol, swim with the butandings in Donsol and go sea-kayaking in Palawan – just gotta find some time to head back to Asia! Sorry I missed out these great places on my list. Unfortunately the Phils is still quite expensive to fly to from Singapore, but I’m sure the budget airlines will get there pretty soon.

  12. Rachael April 22, 2010 5:22 pm

    The pictures are beautiful. I want to go there!

  13. brig July 5, 2010 8:04 am

    had a family 1 week holiday in perhentian, stayed at MAMA's place. that's the best ! rustic chalets. they had the best,freshest and cheapest food. most of all the brothers who run the place provide great service. that was the best holiday ever – saw clear waters, turtles, sharks and even jumped off the jetty ! sadly corals there hv gone white. but still the crystal clear waters ….sigh…still miss it !

    • admin July 5, 2010 11:48 pm

      Thanks for sharing, would definitely check out Mama’s place when I’m there next. These islands are some of the best in the world, let’s hope they stay that way.

  14. hamid July 6, 2010 7:45 pm

    there is soo many to choose from!..can you tell me the cheapest place to visit from singapore?!

    • admin July 7, 2010 6:27 pm

      Thanks for dropping by Hamid! The cheapest place on this list to go from Singapore would be Pulau Perhentian, especially if you go by bus from Singapore. Accommodation and transport are both cheaper there than the other destinations mentioned. Pulau Rawa is nearer to Singapore, but accommodation prices there are not as cheap. Port Dickson is also relatively near, but the resort I’d mentioned above is rather pricey. Hope all these helps!

  15. Xiu July 7, 2010 3:09 am

    Thanks for this invaluable information! Ive just booked Anantara and im keeping my fingers crossed!

  16. jiawen October 13, 2010 11:38 pm

    Looks good! A question tho – do you know if these islands’ waters are suitable for surfing? a 2ft-5ft wave would be more than enough!

    • Nellie October 14, 2010 1:00 am

      hey Jiawen, thanks for dropping by. From the list above, I don\’t think any of the islands have got waves suitable for surfing. But I can suggest some: Bulabog Lagoon on Boracay Island in the Philippines have got excellent surfing conditions. Kuta Beach in Bali is one of the most popular spots. Hope these help!

      • jiawen October 14, 2010 1:10 am

        Thanks so much for the information! great write up by the way!

  17. Lori October 28, 2010 8:43 pm

    As usual, Nellie, you surprise with great photos and suggestions:)!

  18. shivya December 14, 2010 11:22 pm

    Great post! I've done 4 of those destinations, heading to Nikoi very soon! Hope to do all 10 before I leave Southeast Asia :) Thanks for sharing!

  19. Mimie May 9, 2011 12:43 pm

    el nido and amanpulo in the philippines. pristine turquoise water. great people. great food. enough said.

  20. Weekend Getaway September 13, 2012 1:45 am

    Wow. Amazing pictures. I really love to travel in South East Asia and discover such nice and beautiful places. Even I just discovered a weekend boat party that offers weekend trip to the amazing beaches of Cebu, Philippines. It is Cebu Party boat. They offer ticket from Singapore to Cebu and party all the weekend on the boat and in the best clubs in Cebu as well. The accommodation is in the 5 stars resorts near the beach. The other activities include sailing, swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling. And the most important many many WHITE SAND beaches. It sounds like a perfect weekend getaway. I will write later my feedback.

  21. Joanne January 20, 2014 9:41 pm

    Should check it out Koh Lipe at Thailand and Boracay at Philipines. Is a nice place too. worth to travel. Nice beach and beautiful island.

    • Nellie January 25, 2014 8:53 pm

      Yes we\’ve been to Boracay but never been to Koh Lipe, heard so much great stuff about Lipe. Thanks for sharing!


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