Written by Aura Farrando
Perhentian Islands, Tioman Island, Langkawi and Penang are popular destinations for a reason. They offer everything a beach lover wants. But for those who are after a bit more adventure, something off the beaten track or just an escape from resort beach lifestyle, we’ve compiled a list of the best hidden treasures of Malaysia.
Pulau Mabul or Mabul Island is a small island off the southeast coast of Sabah – just 15km away from Sipadan. There’s a fishing village, no cars, no roads and perhaps some of the best muck diving in the world. You can even circumnavigate it on foot! The beaches here are pristine and a perfect place to unwind after a long day snorkeling or diving. If you are lucky you will even catch some turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
Getting there: Take a boat from Semporna to Pulau Mabul. Speedboats are around 30 minutes, while ferries take about one and a half hours.
Pulau Tiga is so wild that it was once used as the setting for reality show Survivor. It is a relatively young island; in 1897, an earthquake in the Philippines caused a volcanic eruption in Borneo to form new land. It’s no surprise then that Pulau Tiga is famous for its volcanic mud baths. On top of that, there’s kilometres of white sandy beach to enjoy. A hike around the island is a great way to see its native flora and fauna.
Getting there: Catch a 30-minute boat from Kuala Penyu, Kota Kinabalu or Labuan.
Can’t decide between the mountain and the beach? Get a taste of both at this tiny cove off Terengganu, close to the Kuala Besut jetty where you’ll see droves of people lining up to head to the Perhentian Islands. Bukit Keluang is a perfect match of pristine white sand, beautiful sea breeze and breathtaking mountains where you can explore beach caves, go windsurfing, kayaking or simply relax with your family at the resort. Be sure to head up the escarpment each morning to catch the amazing sunrise. What a view!
Getting there: Accessible by car from Kota Bharu, Kuala Besut, Kuala Terengganu and Kampung Teras.
Known as Cotton Island due its white, soft sand and crystal, clear blue water, Pulau Kapas is like a scene out of a movie — but 100 times better. With a designated marine park protecting its waters, Pulau Kapas is the perfect place for snorkeling or dive deep to enjoy the coral reef that surrounds the island. If that’s not for you, then just sit back and relax in style under a palm tree.
Getting there: Take a ferry from Marang, located 45 minutes from Terengganu.
If Pulau Tioman seems too mainstream for you, visit Pulau Tinggi off the Johor coast. It only has 500 inhabitants and is quite laid back. It is ideal for relaxing holidays and family vacations or can double up an adventure haven, perfect for snorkeling, trekking and canoeing. The beaches are less manicured, but more natural and idyllic.
Getting there: Just a 45-minute boat from Mersing in the state of Johor.
Here you’ll find not one, but four charming islands: Pulau Sibu Besar, Pulau Sibu Tengah, Pulau Kukus and Pulau Sibu Hujung. The main isle is just 6km long and 1km wide, with thick vegetation and secluded beaches dominating the landscape. It’s not the easiest to access, but that’s the price you pay for heaven on earth. You’ll also most likely have the whole place to yourself.
Getting there: Arrange a boat transfer from the small town of Tanjung Leman, 130km from Johor Bahru. There’s no direct bus from Johor to Tanjung Leman, so we highly recommend you to get the hotel in Johor Bahru or Singapore to arrange a shuttle bus or minivan for you.