Best Beaches in Malaysia – Thailand’s beaches completely blew up in the tropical paradise scene after many Hollywood blockbusters borrowed their splendor and mysterious locations to shoot some very memorably scenes (‘The Beach’, with Leonardo DiCaprio, anyone?). However, it’s very easy to discount the other beauties in South-East Asia without knowing what they offer or where they’re located. This is a blessing in disguise, as these days, Thailand is known to be trawling with tourists who flock to their stunning beaches to get a glimpse of the now very famous beaches.
Off the Gulf of Thailand is Malaysia, a mere 2-hour flight away, and the ultimate destination for beach-goers, water activity enthusiasts, and those who are seeking a tropical paradise complete with azure blue waters, soft white sand, and no crowds. Just because it isn’t splashed all over the news and internet does not mean it doesn’t match the same level of beauty – people have just been slower in discovering Malaysia’s best kept secrets, and it should remain like that, because the moment you make the decision to land yourself onto one of the top ten beaches that we’ve listed below, we can guarantee you’ll be making plans to return even before you’ve checked into your accommodation.
Whilst some of the beaches may require a little more navigational effort than simply flying to an airport and taking a taxi to the beach resort, trust us, they’re definitely worth the hype.
Best Beaches in Malaysia #1 – Tanjung Rhu Beach, Langkawi
What would a ‘top beaches in Malaysia’ list be if it didn’t have a beach from Langkawi? Untrustworthy if anything! The stunning island just off the northwestern coast of Malaysia is probably one of the most popular island destinations in Malaysia, although you wouldn’t believe it at face value, given its mild crowd numbers. It’s got a plethora of activities for couples, families, and friends, and some of the most popular ones are situated right on Tanjung Rhu Beach, the most famous and easily accessible public beach on the island.
The water is a stunning shade of blue, and is calm enough for you splash around in before drying off on the beach. The wide stretch of sand means that you can always find a bit of privacy when you head there, and the usually uninterrupted views means you won’t have to deal with people flicking sand on you as they walk past. The crowds are usually small, regardless of the day.
After a bit of adventure? Tanjung Rhu Beach offers plenty of activities for those who want to experience a different side of the waters. You can participate in sea-kayaking, banana-boating, jet-skiing, parasailing – almost every water sport imaginable! Whilst the more strenuous activities such as jet-skiing and parasailing may require you to book ahead online (check out our Langkawi article here and find out more details on how you can do that), but others such as banana-boating only require you to turn up and book with the operators on the day. Super easy!
Our Recommended Resort – Four Seasons Resort Langkawi
Imagine gaining access to a mile-long private beach, unlimited time to swim in a multi-tiered outdoor pool, luscious well-maintained gardens and forests to leisurely walk through – all available to you should you choose to leave your massive luxurious Malay and Moorish inspired villas complete with beach or garden views, private bathrooms, and comfortable beds. Dine out at the three world-class restaurants on-site offering Mediterranean, European and local cuisine, or dine in the comfort of your own room. That’s what the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi is all about. Situated a short walk away from Tanjung Rhu Beach, it’s the ultimate luxury accommodation for the ultimate tropical paradise.
Book It Here: Four Seasons Resort Langkawi
Best Beaches in Malaysia #2 – Juara Beach, Tioman Island
The eastern coast of Malaysia has some of the best beaches in the world (yes, we went there!), and if you were to ever go there to experience it yourself, you’ll understand why. It’s like a tropical dream come to life: palm trees, coconuts, secret white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise blue waters, luscious jungles that hide away some of the best sand bays, but once you push through, you’ll be rewarded with a view so exquisite it’ll be hard to describe to people back home just how entranced you really were.
The above is the perfect description for Juara Beach on Tioman Island. Although most of you would have never heard of the beach, it’s the absolute go-to for when you’re visiting Tioman Island. On any given day, you’ll most likely only see a handful of people, and even that’s a stretch. There’s a leisurely hike nearby for those who want to work up a bit of a sweat before cooling off in the waters, a lagoon on the south end of the beach which is calm enough for anyone to enjoy, plenty of restaurants around for when you work up an appetite, and of course, the colourful, untouched reefs means that anyone who’s interested in snorkeling can hire gear right on the beach and before they know it, they’ll be out discovering the beautiful underwater marine life.
Access: You will need to catch a bus to Mersing, a coastal town in the eastern side of Malaysia. From there, head to the port and catch a ferry over to Tioman Island (approx. RM35). After alighting at the port on Tioman Island, you can hail a taxi to take you to the beach (approx. RM60).
Our Recommended Resort – Juara Beach Resort
What better way to enjoy a (sort of) off the grid beach than to reside at a nearby accommodation that boasts a private access area to the beach? There’s no other way, it’s simple! Book accommodation at the Juara Beach Resort and you’ll find that you can wake up to the therapeutic sounds of the ocean, scoff down the quick breakfast provided and before you know it, be on the beach, digging your feet into the soft sand, wondering how on earth a place so stunning could exist. Every day. Comfortable amenities include a relaxing lounge area, with some rooms offering sea views, but all rooms offering a private bathroom.
Book It Here: Juara Beach Resort
By the way, if you want to discover more islands in Malaysia, make sure you check out this blog post: Malaysia Islands.
Beach #3 – Tip of Borneo Beach
Of course, even with Malaysia’s underrated beaches being revealed, most of the best ones are located on the mainland and on islands surrounding the mainland, but this particular one is special. The Tip of Borneo Beach is, of course, located on the northernmost tip of Borneo, and it can be easily accessed if you’re staying in Kota Kinabalu. Whilst the abundant rainforests, safari trekking and mountains are usually what draws the crowd to Kota Kinabalu, the beach at the Tip of Borneo is right amongst them as being equally awe-inspiring, memorable, and deserving of a visit. It’s a hidden gem that’s just waiting to be discovered.
The beach itself has rocky areas where little pools have formed which you can dip your feet in, some waves in certain areas where you can hire a surfboard and catch some waves, or simply just bask on the sand under the glorious sun. If you want to go for a swim, the water is known to be warmer than the piercing cold of most beaches. Its glorious blue shade, however, will draw even the most skeptical of beach swimmers.
Despite its lack of coverage online, the beach is quite invested in catering for visitors, with public transport to get to and from there, accommodation located nearby, and a surprising number of restaurants along the stretch of the beach. If you visit this beach, you can officially cross being on the northernmost tip of a country off your list!
Access: From Kota Kinabalu, catch a bus to Kudat (this will take roughly 3-3.5 hours, RM20). From Kudat, hail a taxi to drive you to the Tip of Borneo beach. They’ll usually negotiate a round-trip fee of approximately RM80. You will then need to catch a bus back to Kota Kinabalu from Kudat.
Our Recommended Resort – North Borneo Biostation Resort
Whilst there is accommodation closer to the Tip of Borneo beach, we recommend staying in Kudat as there is superior number of activities in Kudat, and to get from Kudat to the Tip of Borneo is approximately 45-minutes.
The North Borneo Biostation Resort is a simple yet well-rounded resort which offers everything that you need for a comfortable stay. A bonus beach-front location means that you can enjoy the beach all day, everyday, and you can participate in activities such as kayaking, fishing, diving, and snorkeling (you can arrange this directly with the hotel). The unique rooms are built in bungalow-style, and are fitted with a terrace and an outdoor seating area for ample resting space.
Book It Here: North Borneo Biostation Resort
Best Beaches in Malaysia #4 – Kapalai Island Beach, Kapalai
Its more popular neighbor, Sipadan Island, may get all the rapt for being a gorgeous island that harbours the best conditions for divers, but Kapalai Beach (or Kapalai Sandbar, as many people would better know it as), located just 15km from the Sipadan Island, is known as one of the best scuba destinations across Malaysia. It’s much, much more secluded than most of the beaches on this list, with only one resort being located on the island itself. It’s predominantly made of sand bars that stretch for miles, and during low tide, you can take romantic walks along the sand, basking in the glow of the sunset whilst the tides gently ebb in and out of the ocean. Those pictures that you see online where the overhead shots depict an enormous blue ocean with a singular sand bar strip in the middle of nowhere? That’s what this idyllic beach is.
Kapalai Island itself has fantastic spots for scuba diving, including areas in the Mid Reef and The Jetty. It’s located only a 15-minute boat ride away from Sipadan Island as well, so you can get the best of both worlds. Patrons can access dive sites directly from the resort itself, so there’s minimal effort to gain maximum fun.
Access: Take a flight to Tawau (you can fly directly from KL, Singapore, or Kota Kinabalu with Malaysia Air or AirAsia). From there, grab a taxi and head to Semporna, a coastal village. At the jetty, book a speedboat to take you across to the island. However, if you book accommodation with the resort, then your package includes an airport transfer from Tawau Airport to the island itself.
Our Recommended Resort – Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort
This island accommodation is the epitome of tropical luxury. A small village built on stilts over the sandbanks of the Ligitan reefs, all the individual wooden chalets offer magnificent ocean views from its balcony with complete privacy for basking under the sun. The waters are crystal clear, the corals are colourful, and the marine life is thriving. You can rent equipment to snorkel, dive, or kayak directly from the resort itself, it’s so easy. Hop on a boat and island-hop to your hearts content, as they’re only a few minutes away. This resort is quite exclusive, and limited in number of rooms, so you will need to book in advance. However, within the price you pay for the accommodation, it should include transfer to and from the resort from the mainland.
Book It Here: Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort
Best Beaches in Malaysia #5 – The One Beach, Rawa Island
Unspoilt, idyllic, and well-preserved. Rawa Island is heaven on earth for those who are after an authentic tropical paradise destination that people only dream about. Located off the east coast of Malaysia (where all the great islands and beaches seem to be), Rawa Islands offers a sanctuary from the mainland that is often thought to be a long journey to get to, given its seclusion and unscathed beauty. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, if you’re staying anywhere near Mersing on the east coast, and want to escape the crowds on a day trip to an island where the time will slow and you can take your time doing anything and everything, that’s completely possible with Rawa Island. The ferry from the Mersing port takes less than an hour!
The One Beach, located on Rawa Island, is like something out of a movie. The white sand beach is pristine, highlighted even more-so against the bright blue hue of the ocean. Words can’t describe just how postcard perfect this beach is. This is one for the sunbakers and the beach-nappers. There’s not much else to do at this beach other than appreciate its otherworldly beauty and enjoy the sunset, but given its scale of magnificence, no one has ever complained.
Access: Catch a bus from Malacca, KL, Johot Bahru, or even Singapore to Mersing. From Mersing, you can catch a ferry across to Rawa Island, which takes approximately 45-minutes. They operate daily. The recommended time to go is between April and October.
Our Recommended Resort – Rawa Island Resort
The Island of Rawa is so small, it only requires one resort to service the entire area. However, even though competition is low, expect to experience a premium stay at the Rawa Island Resort. Nestled right on the beach and waters of the island, the resort takes all your ideas of what a single beachfront island resort would look like and brings them to life. Boardwalks that stretch along the side of the island for those leisurely strolls, wooden platforms on the beaches to wine and dine in front of the beaches, premium room amenities such as en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, natural forest and ocean views, and private balconies – this place has it all, and so much more.
Book It Here: Rawa Island Resort
Beach #6 – Pasir Bogak, Pangkor
Located on Pangkor Island, which is an easy trek from KL, Pasir Bogak Beach proves that you don’t have to go off the grid to find great beaches for a bit of water and sunshine fun. The island on which its situated is not very large, so you can plan to discover it in a one-day trip. Whilst there are a few beaches on the island, Pasir Bogak is the most popular one, given its location and attractions.
There are numerous water activities available on Pasir Bogak, including kayaking across the calm waters, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and riding a banana boat – whether you’re with your partner, family with young kids, or a group of friends, booking in time to do any of the above fun activities on a beautiful beach is the perfect way to spend the day. The sunset at Pasir Bogak is said to be legendary.
Nearby to the beach, there are many accommodation choices which are only a few minutes walk away. There are also picnic stands set up along the beach where you can bring along packed food, settle in and enjoy the sea breeze. Various stalls along the beach will sell fresh coconuts for you to quench your thirst, and you can sometimes see the local fisherman work their magic. It’s a thriving beach with uninterrupted views, and one you definitely won’t get bored at.
Access: You will need to get yourself to the town of Lumut, after which you will need to catch a ferry across to the island. Firstly, to get to Lumut from KL, you can either catch a train to Batu Gajah, and then hop into a taxi for another 40-minute ride to Lumut, or you can simply catch a bus directly to Lumut, which takes approximately three to four hours all up (approx. RM 25). Catching the ferry from Lumut to Pangkor Island will take approximately 45-minutes and cost RM 10 for a round-trip. To get around the island, simply hire a motorbike for RM 25-RM 40 a day, and you’ll be able to cruise anywhere!
Our Recommended Resort – Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort
Located just minutes away from Pasir Bogal, this resort is convenience, comfort, and affordability all wrapped up in one gorgeous beachfront accommodation. Featuring a massive outdoor pool, flat-screens in all rooms, free Wi-Fi throughout, air-conditioning, and barbeque facilities on-site, you will be spoilt for choice – spend the day lounging at the stunning beach a few feet away? Or cook up a storm and then relax by the pool at the resort? Why not stay over a few days and do both? You can even arrange a romantic candlelit dinner at the hotel or on the beach if you wanted to!
Book It Here: Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort
Best Beaches in Malaysia #7 – Coral Beach, Pangkor
Another wonder for Pangkor, Coral Beach is said to have one of the greatest sunsets in all of Malaysia. With waters as emerald as can be (some have claimed that it has some of the cleanest waters in all of Malaysia!), and a white sand bay that stretches for miles, Coral Beach really takes the quality of west-coast beaches up a notch. It is recommended that newly-weds and couples who want some privacy head here, as the views are absolutely stunning from the land, and it’s almost always (surprisingly) empty.
Whilst it’s a great beach to unwind and think about absolutely nothing as you lay under the sun, gazing out at the picture perfect waters, water sports are still accessible if you want a mix of both activities. From hiring kayaks for a bit of leisurely rowing to hiring jet-skis for adrenalin-pumping fun, it’s all available at this beach. Hike through the forest if you’re after some leg-pumping activities, and bird-lovers can rejoice, for you can also spot the hornbill (Burung Enggang) here if you’re lucky! This beach is also close to Nipah Beach, so you can visit both on a day-trip if you’re keen.
Access: See above in ‘Access’ section for Pasir Bogak for details on how to get to and around Pangkor Island.
Our Recommended Resort – Coral Bay Resort
Set in an area that allows you to explore the entire island easily (it’s only 10-minutes from Pangkor Town!), this place is also located only 2-minutes from Coral Beach, so you get the best of both worlds. A simple resort that does the job of allowing you to enjoy the simple pleasures of a well-maintained, 3-star accommodation, Coral Bay Resort offers patrons access to a wide outdoor swimming pool, the opportunity to book in a relaxing massage session at the spa, or head to the Moonlight Serenade restaurant to enjoy a delicious Thai meal. All rooms here are fitted with comfortable beds, air-conditioners, and private bathrooms.
Book It Here: Coral Bay Resort
Best Beaches in Malaysia #8 – Mataking Island Beach, Sabah
One might know about the world having an “underwater post office”, but what they might not know is that the first on originated in Mataking Island Beach. This feat, however, is not the most attractive factor about this beach. Mataking Island Beach is known by the Malaysians, and increasingly by neighbouring South-East Asian tourists, as the perfect beach with pristine turquoise waters hosting a thriving marine life.
The Mataking Island Beach is comparable to the Maldives – the first time you see the beach, it will take you breath away. Those who visit the Mataking Island pass their days by leisurely snorkeling, scuba diving, sunbaking and exploring the unique vegetation on the island. It’s definitely one of the lesser-known, hardly explored islands in Malaysia, although its beauty is truly top tier.
For those who are after a truly unique experience, you can purchase a postcard at the resort’s gift shop, place them into a specially designed envelope, and dive down into the underwater post office to deposit them into the mailbox. Twice a week, they’ll be collected and delivered all around the word. A unique stamp will reveal the origin of the postcard to the receiver. How interesting is that!
Access: Catch a flight to Tawau from KL (Malaysia Airlines or AirAsia). From there, you flag grab a taxi or hop on a bus and head to Semporna. Once you alight at Semporna, head to the jetty and take a ferry transfer from Semporna to Mataking Island, this should take just under an hour.
Our Recommended Resort – Pom Pom Island Resort
Whilst not directly located on the Mataking Island itself, the Pom Pom Island Resort is located a short distance away and offers plenty of ways to easily access the Mataking Island on a daily basis.
The traditional wooden villas of the Pom Pom Island Resort are an absolute dream. With some villas set right on the white sand bay of the Mataking Island beach, and some villas set right over the gorgeous turquoise waters, there’s a view suitable for everyone. The resort has thought of everything. Wide wooden decks are built all the way out into the waters, so you can go for a leisurely walk far into the ocean – this is especially useful for those gorgeous sunrises and sunsets that you will never forget. Hammocks are set amongst the trees around the beach, and if you want to participate in any water activities, the hotels will gladly help you organize your snorkeling, diving, or any outdoor trips that may be available at that time.
Book It Here: Pom Pom Island Resort
Beach #9 – Emerald Bay, Pangkor
Another entrance from the west-coast island of Pangkor is the stunning Emerald Bay, famed for its tropical palm trees, rocky headlands, white sand, and, of course, sparkling emerald waters. It’s incredibly famous, and when you arrive at the destination, the lack of crowds will make the moment much more magical. It’s a great place for couples to spend time romantic time together as the water is calm, time is slow, and sunsets are enchanting.
The beach is set on the other side of the island, away from the main area and the port, so most people take a shuttle there. Due to its rather secretive location, Emerald Bay looks rather like a sheltered cove surrounded by beautiful vegetation. On days where there are only a handful of people there, you’ll feel like you’re lost in paradise somewhere far, far away. There are a number of restaurants for you to pick and choose from, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Emerald Beach has earned its fair share of entrances on lists regarding “Top Beaches in the World” and “Beautiful Beaches in Asia”, so you’ll need to set your expectations high for this one.
Access: See above in ‘Access’ section for Pasir Bogak for details on how to get to and around Pangkor Island.
Our Recommended Resort – Pangkor Laut Resort
This luxury 5-star resort goes hand-in-hand with visiting one of the most gorgeous beaches in Malaysia. Both complement each other in ways that just work – wake up to the sounds of nature in your stunningly decorated room, head to the balcony to take in the breathtaking view of the sea or tropical garden, head to the dining area for a superb breakfast, and then walk a few minutes to the secret cove where Emerald Bay is located with a book, sunscreen, a towel (provided by the resort), and you’re set for the day. Other facilities on-site that you can take advantage of include the well-equipped fitness centre, squash and tennis courts, tour arrangement desk and even gift shopping at the Kazbah Gift Shop. Feeling a little tired and sore from diving and swimming all day? Book in a relaxing massage and/or spa session at the in-house spa. The food at Uncle Lim’s Kitchen, one of the kitchen’s onsite, is said to best even the top rated ones from the mainland. This resort has absolutely everything you need.
Book It Here: Pangkor Laut Resort
Best Beaches in Malaysia #10 – Cenang Beach, Langkawi
Another entrance on the list from Langkawi – the island just can’t disappoint, even if it tried. Cenang Beach is up there as one of the most well-known beaches on Langkawi Island alongside Tanjung Rhu. Whilst it’s infinitely more popular (and thus more populated) than many of the above listed beaches, this shouldn’t deter you from its stunning beauty or entertainment value. It’s popular for a reason.
Think turquoise blue waters with splashing waves, white sandy beaches that are super clean, restaurants located nearby, water activities always within range, and food stalls offering delicious Malaysian delicacies all along the bay. For those who are after just a simple, fun day at the beach, no strings attached, have no expectations of quiet serenity and gentle rolling waves, and couldn’t care less that you’re sharing a wonderful beach with a bunch of other beach-lovers, then this place is for you. A big bonus for you if you plan on traveling here as it’s literally one of the most accessible beaches on the island.
Access: On Langkawi Island, there are no public buses so you will need to catch a taxi from your accommodation to Cenang Beach. You can also rent a scooter or a car if you would like to self-drive. If you’re heading straight to Cenang Beach from Kuah Ferry Port, a ride should cost you approximately RM 30.
Our Recommended Resort – Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort And Spa, Langkawi
One of the top picks in near Cenang Beach, this 5-star luxury accommodation is the perfect way to escape the urban life and indulge in a comfortable, relaxing, luxury resort. It’s literally a stone throw away from the beach – you can walk there in 2-minutes. The spacious wooden chalets that you’ll be staying in are pure class – private balconies, modern fittings, flat-screen satellite TV, it’s all there. Resort facilities that you can take advantage of include the on-site spa, gym, and watersports activities. There’s even a kids’ club and babysitting service upon request! Quite the foodie? Don’t worry, you’re in good hands; the rustic Spice Market serves authentic Asian flavours that’s world-class.
Book It Here: Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort And Spa
With a list like this of stunning beach destinations in Malaysia, however will you choose? Many of the beaches are located on the eastern coast, so it might be worth it to lump your visits to them over a few days, whilst others located on the western coast and in Sabah and Borneo may require a bit more planning. Even so, don’t say we didn’t warn you when we said you’re going to want (or demand) to extend your stay once you set your eyes on any of these spectacular beaches.