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Best Beaches in Malaysia

Malaysia Best Beaches

Malaysia is quite well known for beautiful beaches as there are many islands around the peninsular and also in Sabah and Sarawak.

This article of best beaches in Malaysia highlights some of the most unique beaches found all over the country, including Borneo Malaysia.

While there are contradicting articles who simply write for the sake of doing it without even visiting the beaches, I can assure you that I have personally visited all the beaches listed here.

The photographs are also all mine taken over the last couple of years too so they are quite updated, like the Mantanani Island beach photo above.

Best Beaches in Malaysia 

The best beaches in Malaysia are in no order and simply random, just that I have narrowed it down to a handful of places that are easily accessed.

Trust me, as I have been traveling all over Malaysia since 1990, I have had my fair share of visiting all these stunning beaches here in Malaysia.

Most of my travels were either for work, for scuba diving or simply to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life.

Here is a list of Malaysia's best beaches;

Kapalai Island Beach
Kapalai Island Beach
1. Kapalai Island Beach

Beautiful, romantic and impressive but the island is actually a sandbank island, and one of the most fascinating islands in Sabah Borneo.

The unique Kapalai Island stands above this huge sandbank which is about 1 hour by boat from Semporna in east coast Sabah. It is also a 10-minute boat ride from the well known Mabul Island.

What makes this beach at Kaalai special is that the resort is a stand-alone unit with no one else around it.

Your ultimate private island - known for romantic escapes, special honeymoon settings and simply awesome for a private wedding! I kid you not, just look at the photo above and imagine. 

Pantai Pulau Kapalai
Kapalai Island man made beach deck above the main beach
Usually when the tide is down, the sandbank becomes a nice beach, otherwise, they have an elevated man-made beach deck with special white sand where you can just chill out, suntan or whatever floats your boat here.

Recommended for romantic couples and divers. Also to avoid during peak times as it can get pretty crowded, with mainland Chinese tourists too.

One needs to book way ahead to secure rooms here (I hear it's 3 to 6 months in advance). Book your Kapalai Resort room.

The only way to get here is via booking through the Kapalai Resort or tour companies. No 'come-and-see' boat trips available here.

Sand Rating: 7/10

Sipadan Island Beach
Sipadan Island Beach
2. Sipadan Island Beach

The mother of all diving sites in Malaysia, Sipadan Island is renown and recognized as one of the Top 3 Dive Spots in the World with a pretty amazing beach too.

However, not everyone can simply pay a visit here. One needs to pay a premium price just to come here and dive at Sipadan Island.

There are no resorts or lodges here as it is a highly protected island with one army base on it. For divers, this is your mecca and I kid you not.

The undersea life is rich and filled with colorful corals and fishes. I have dived here more than 8 times in three years.

Pantai Pulau Sipadan
Beach at Sipadan Island 
In my many times of visiting Sipadan Island, I have seen people paying about RM500 to RM1000 just to come here and snorkel and also just hang out on the beach.

The white sand is untouched and the snorkeling is simply out of this world. If you have that extra money, then this is one recommended beach to visit.

All trips are half day trips and everyone has to register and leave the island before 5.00 pm. There are no 'I-want-to-see' Sipadan boat services available.

All visits must be through a licensed tour operator. The journey from Semporna to here takes about 45 minutes to an hour one way.

Sand Rating: 6/10

Pulau Perhentian Beach
Perhentian Kecil Beach
3. Perhentian Kecil Island Beach

The backpacker heaven of Malaysia, Perhentian Kecil has been lively since the '70s. Compared to Perhentian Besar, the smaller island showcases a better beach with finer sand.

On average, you will see more Caucasians in bikinis and speedos getting their sun tan while the locals would be busy doing water sport activities.

The main beach here is known as Long Beach Perhentian Island or Pantai Pasir Panjang and is very popular as it can get crowded on peak season (March to September).

Not really recommended for kids if you ask me but somehow, locals love to bring them here - all for the sake of being here.

Tanjung Tukas Beach Perhentian Besar
Tanjung Tukas Beach on Perhentian Besar, a remote part of the island here
During the monsoon, many of the resorts and restaurants close due to heavy rains and strong winds. So it is recommended you avoid coming here from mid-October till late February.

The optimum time to visit Perhentian is also when the season starts at the end of February, or better during the first week of March.

However, I have been here during the monsoon season, prices are really cheap but a risk you have to take for the boat service and weather pending too.

There are a couple of jetties from the coast of Terengganu that offers boat trips to Perhentian which are from Kuala Besut and Tok Bali.

You need to carefully do your homework before coming here too. No flights in here, only boats. It can be visited ad-hawk or recommended though booking a tour company or resort. 

Sand Rating: 8/10

Rawa Island Beach
Rawa Island Beach
4. Rawa Island Beach

To me, Rawa Island is hands down the ultimate best beach in Malaysia with real white powdery sand that just is a sight to behold. It's like the sand in an hourglass which is smooth and super fine.

Though the island is shared by one main luxury resort called the Rawa Safari Resort, and one backpacker lodge, there is an invisible border that separates them for the guests.

The resort is a 4-star eco-resort and is the only one there which is perfect for a romantic escape, honeymoon or even just to enjoy some solitary.

There is literally nothing else on the island except these two places, a trek up the hill and one main jetty with a sea slide.

There are no shops or anything else on this island, however, this island has been in the media limelight a few times due to some unforeseen issues.

Pantai Pulau Rawa
Pulau Rawa Beach
If you love ultimate privacy, this is your getaway place. Prices are on the affordable high side while it is recommended to avoid local public and school holidays.

Rawa Island is also very popular with the Singaporeans as it is quite near for them to get here. From my last visit here, there was no dive instructor available but there is a dive shop and snorkeling equipment available.

Other non-motorized sea activities are also available too. The beachfront villas are the best units as you get instant access the white sand and crystal clear waters here.

Rawa Island is located about 45 minutes by boat from Mersing town jetty in Johor and for those interested, one needs to book via the resort to get here.

There are no flights to this island, and the Tioman ferries do not stop here. What are you waiting for? 

Sand Rating: 9/10

Pulau Lang Tengah Beach
Lang Tengah Beach
5. Lang Tengah Island Beach

One of the less visited islands and beaches in the east coast of Malaysia, Lang Tengah Island boasts of just four resorts which are Summer Bay Resort, Lang Sari Resort, D'Coconut Resort, and Seri Pacifica Resort. The 5th, Blue Coral Resort has closed down.

All of which are 2 to 4 stars but don't get your hopes too high for excellent service. Based on trip advisor reviews, many of these resorts do not live up to the international standards, however, the island seems to attract more locals and divers.

There are also only two main beaches here - Pantai Pasir Air (Water Sand Beach) and Pantai Mat Hassan (Mat Hassan Beach).

Redang Lang Resort Beach
Pasir Air Beach near Redang Lang Resort
Pulau Lang Tengah also follows the monsoon season of Malaysia where some of the resorts close from November till the end of February.

Overall, the island works out fine for those wanting a less crowded beach atmosphere. Activities like scuba diving and snorkeling are big here.

Other than that, you should know the island only has these few resorts, no roads or shops. Once you book a resort, that's where you will stay. Read my Lang Tengah Resort review.

Lang Tengah is also halfway between Perhentian and Redang Island. No flights, only boat services here from the mainland too, but you need to book your resort first before coming here.

Sand Rating: 6/10

Pantai Pasir Panjang
Pantai Pasir Panjang or Long Beach Redang
6. Redang Island Beach

One of the most popular islands in Malaysia next to Perhentian, Pulau Redang seems to pull more locals, Singaporeans, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese tourists as the facilities here cater well to them.

Redang Island was once featured in a very popular Taiwanese movie many years ago which prompted the sudden surge of crowd till today.

With the beautiful turquoise waters and white sand beaches, Redang is one of the highly recommended islands with decent infrastructure.

A total of nine smaller other islands around the main island make up the protected marine park which is filled with life. Awesome for snorkelers and divers.

One of the more secluded accommodations here is also the Berjaya Pulau Redang Resort which is hidden away from the other places.

Pulau Redang Beach Malaysia
Pulau Redang Beach from one end
Getting to Pulau Redang is also convenient as they have a small airport that has flights a few times a week via a small propeller plane from Subang SkyPark Terminal under Berjaya Air. (Update 2019 Berjaya Air only does charter flights)

Otherwise, there are boat services from around the coast of Terengganu. There are three main beaches here which are all connected via walking.

The most popular being Pasir Panjang or Long Beach where most of the action is, in other words, the shops, restaurants, cafes and so on.

Self-drive, fly or taking a tour are the many ways to get here. Redang observes the monsoon off-peak season from November till February.

Also one of the less expensive places for a honeymoon or romantic escape.  You can also read my Mataking Island Resort review

Sand Rating: 7/10

Pantai Pulau Mataking
Mataking Island Beach
7. Mataking Island Beach

Another stand-alone resort with one of the best beaches in Malaysia, Mataking island is the furthest from Semporna in east coast Sabah where a boat trip takes about 1 hour one way.

This island has also been called the Maldives of Malaysia and after coming here, you will know why. As there is no other resort on the island, you sometimes have the entire beach to yourself.

Otherwise, just walk around the island to look for your own secluded spot. The Reef Resort only has about 30 to 40 units so it is minimal visitors here.

They offer diving, snorkeling and some non-motorized water sports here, which is a thumbs up for the environment protection.

One of the unique things for divers is that they have an underwater post office where you can actually post a letter or postcard! Very cool if you ask me because I managed to dive and do that. 

Pulau Mataking Beach
Mataking Kecil - You can walk there when the tide is low
For the romantics, this is the perfect getaway as the Reef Resort has a spa, private bungalows, an outdoor Jacuzzi by the sea and all the romantic walks by the beach you want.

Special arrangements can be made for honeymooners, weddings or private parties. Highly recommended for those who want a 'Maldives' experience but here in Malaysia.

The only way to get here is by booking a tour package from the resort. There are no day trips or visits here.

Sand Rating: 8/10

Pantai Pulau Sapi
Sapi Island Beach
8. Sapi Island Beach, Sabah

Part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Parks or TAR Parks, Sapi Island is just next to the well-known Manukan Island which is a super popular tourist destination.

However, fewer visitors seem to head to Sapi Island, making this another lovely island with a stunning beach. But then again, expect to see loads of PRC tourists during the peak season here.

It can get crowded on weekends and school holidays but I would recommend you come here first thing in the morning and be out just after lunch.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia and also Kota Kinabalu city in the distance.

Sapi Island Beach Photo
Sapi Island view looking at KK city
The Sapi Island beach is perfect for those wanting some sun tanning, beach picnics or simply to snorkel. Recommended for families as your kids can play freely around here.

There is an outdoor restaurant with kitchen towards the jungle where huge monitor lizards (3-5 feet long) seem to be an attraction here for the tourist, do not touch them.

Convenient shops and washroom amenities are available here, so you can get basic items. New scuba divers can also be seen doing their training here too so if you want to take that dive lesson, this is one of the nicer places.

There are many speed boat services from Jesselton Pier in Kota Kinabalu town for those wanting to go by themselves. However, many people tend to take the daily package here which includes transfer and lunch. 

Sand Rating: 5/10

Pantai Cenang Beach near Casa del Mar
Pantai Cenang Beach near Casa del Mar, Langkawi
9. Cenang Beach, Langkawi Island 

While development has picked up over the last few years, Langkawi has always been a popular destination for an island and also for beach lovers.

Not only is the island duty-free, but there are also some pretty nice beaches here too. Some secluded, some on other parts of the island but the main Pantai Cenang Beach is hands down the most popular beach on Langkawi.

The main areas of Pantai Cenang can get overcrowded at times therefore if you seek privacy, walk further up to where Casa del Mar Resort is located.

The beach here is much better, quiet and nicer, while you won't get pure white sand but an average sandy beach with a less powdery white feel.

Langkawi Pantai Cenang Beach
Langkawi's Pantai Cenang from the air, one of the most popular beaches on the island
While hordes of locals and foreigners come here for the island lifestyle, Pantai Cenang is constantly busy, especially during the local school or public holidays and try to avoid the super peak season from December to January.

Pantai Cenang is easily accessed as it runs along Jalan Pantai Cenang which is the main road along the beach. Rows of shops, restaurants, and resorts divide the main road from the beach too.

The bad thing about here is the allowance of motorized sports like jet skiing, banana boat, and parasailing, which makes it quite dangerous for toddlers.

Langkawi Island is accessible via ferries from Penang and Kuala Perlis, while you can also drive in via ferry.

They also have an international airport with many daily flights in from a number of countries too. If duty-free booze, chocolates, and shopping are in your itinerary, then this is your place!

Sand Rating: 5/10

Mantanani Island Beach
Mantanani Island Beach
10. Mantanani Island Beach, Sabah 

One of the less visited islands in Sabah and more of a local day trip from Kota Kinabalu (KK) city, Mantanani Island is located about 2.5 hours from KK and the main beach here called Mantanani Paradise Beach or The Point which stretches for 2500 meters long.

It is here where all day-trippers come to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand while there are about three other resorts located around the island. Powdery white sand awaits the beachgoer here but not there are no accommodations on the main beach. 

Activities here include snorkeling, diving and just chilling out by the beach. while for facilities there is are small service huts for the day trip guests.

The closest resort is Bembaran Resort which is a dive resort and a 15-minute walk from here. The boat trip from the Kuala Abai jetty on the mainland takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Not really recommended for toddlers and this place serves as a quick island and beach trip from Kota Kinabalu for those on a short stay.

On a side note, Mantanani Island was once very popular for sighting the sea cow or Dugong in shallow waters, but in the last couple of years, they have not been spotted.

Diving at Mantanani Island is also highly recommended as the visibility can go up to 40 meters. However, not much big fish to see but more macro life.

Sand Rating 8/10

Pulau Manukan Beach
Manukan Island Beach in Sabah, sadly, it did not make my list here but I'm showing it anyway

For those OTA writers who love to scrape content and rewrite them, please have the decency to credit the person or site you got your info from.

Overall, I have to say that all the beaches have their pros and cons and I have tried to narrow them down as much as I can.

I will assure you that there will be readers out there who may disagree about which are the best beaches in Malaysia, but again, I remind you that this list is done by me based on my own personal experiences visiting all these beaches around Malaysia.

While some of you may have been to the beaches mentioned here and some may even have been to others not listed here, therefore, please feel free to give me your comment and feedback here.

I am always open to seeing what readers think or feel about a nice beach. What are your criteria and so on therefore please do leave your comment below or even help share this on your Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this and also my photos for the best beaches in Malaysia, and again, do you know of any other beach that should be listed here?


Anonymous said...

I loved your article: Best Beaches in Malaysia.

I would love to hear about Batu Batu.

Thank you for sharing.

Malaysia Asia said...

Thanks but what do yo want to know about stones? :)