Top 10 Islands in Malaysia You Must Visit

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia known for its beautiful islands. These islands have amazing beaches, lush rainforests, and a mix of different cultures. They are perfect for vacations, offering activities like diving, snorkeling, and exploring nature. In this article, we’ll look at the top 10 islands in Malaysia that you should visit.

Key Takeaways

  • Malaysia has many beautiful islands perfect for vacations.
  • These islands offer activities like diving, snorkeling, and exploring nature.
  • You can experience different cultures on these islands.
  • The islands have stunning beaches and lush rainforests.
  • Each island has its own unique charm and attractions.

1. Tioman Island

Tioman Island is a gem located off the southeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This island is a protected nature reserve, which helps it keep its wild and natural charm. Although it belongs to the state of Pahang, you can reach it from the Johor town of Mersing or take a direct ferry from Singapore.

Things to Do

  • Snorkeling and Diving: The aquatic life around Tioman is stunning. You can see colorful fish and beautiful coral reefs.
  • Trekking: Explore the island’s jungles and discover its hidden waterfalls.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for giant monitor lizards roaming around the villages.

Interesting Facts

  • Tioman was named one of the most beautiful islands in the world by Time Magazine in 1970.
  • The island served as a scenic backdrop in the 1958 movie, “South Pacific.”
  • Tioman is a duty-free island, making shopping a bit more fun.

Tioman Island is home to beautiful beaches and stunning views. Take a look at this guide that’ll help you explore everything like the top places & hotels.

2. Mabul Island

Mabul Island is a small gem off the southeastern coast of Sabah. You can easily walk around the entire island in about an hour. While the beaches might not be the best in Malaysia, Mabul Island is a paradise for underwater enthusiasts. The island is renowned for its high concentration of marine life, making it a top destination for muck diving.

To get to Mabul Island, you can take a boat from Semporna in Sabah. The island’s waters are home to a variety of small marine species, including frogfish, scorpionfish, cuttlefish, squids, and gobies. This makes it a favorite spot for macro photographers.

Mabul Island is also the starting point for diving trips to Sipadan Island, one of the world’s best dive sites. While on Mabul, don’t miss the chance to visit the unique "sea gypsy" village, where the community lives on stilts above the water.

3. Penang Island

Penang Island, often called the Pearl of the Orient, is a vibrant destination shaped by its rich culture, heritage, and world-famous cuisine. Traveling to Malaysia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this island. A must-do here is a stroll or rickshaw ride around the historic George Town to see its colonial buildings, stately mansions, lovely temples, and impressive hotels.

Things to Do

  • Explore George Town: Walk or take a rickshaw ride to see colonial buildings, temples, and mansions.
  • Visit Fort Cornwallis: Check out the cannons at this star-shaped stronghold.
  • Discover Kek Lok Si Temple: This sprawling temple features a unique gold-topped pagoda.
  • Enjoy Local Food: Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia. Don’t miss Macalister Road and Gurney Drive for the best eats.
  • Relax on the Beaches: Sunbathe or snorkel on the island’s beautiful beaches.
  • Visit Penang National Park: Explore the biodiversity of this natural haven.

Penang Island offers more than just beaches; it’s a foodie’s guide to cultural and historical exploration. Whether you’re into heritage or just want to relax, Penang has something for everyone.

4. Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands, part of Terengganu state, lie off the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The two main islands, Perhentian Besar ("Big Perhentian") and Perhentian Kecil ("Small Perhentian"), attract beach lovers, divers, and snorkelers. They have some of Malaysia’s most beautiful beaches and great diving spots.

Visitors can explore the tropical jungle that covers much of the islands’ terrain. You can travel from one beach to another by hiking along the jungle trails or by taking a water taxi. The islands are known for having one of the best backpacker trails, making them a must-visit for budget travelers.

  • **Main Attractions: **
    • Beautiful beaches
    • Great diving and snorkeling
    • Tropical jungle trails

The Perhentians have become rather popular with Malaysian locals and backpackers alike, so be sure to book accommodation in advance if you’re thinking of going there during peak season (June – August).

To get to the Perhentians, take a boat from the jetty at Kuala Besut. Water taxis provide transfers and trips between the islands.

5. Pangkor Island

Pangkor Island, meaning "beautiful island," is a serene escape from the busy world. This small island, located near Perak’s coast, is known for its gorgeous beaches and peaceful atmosphere. Some of the must-visit beaches include Niphah Bay, Teluk Belanda, Pasir Bogak, and Coral Bay. The island is a mix of fishing villages, resorts, and dense jungle, making it a compelling destination.

The best way to explore Pangkor is by motorcycle, allowing you to stop and admire the view or take a dip in the pristine waters. Visitors can also enjoy sightseeing attractions such as the Chinese Fu Lin Kong Temple, the Kali Amman Temple, and the remnants of a Dutch fort that shelters a historic rock called Tiger Rock.

  • Beaches to Visit: Niphah Bay, Teluk Belanda, Pasir Bogak, Coral Bay
  • Attractions: Fu Lin Kong Temple, Kali Amman Temple, Dutch Fort, Tiger Rock

Pangkor Island is a laid-back paradise that you’ll appreciate if relaxation is what you’re seeking. Unlike some other beaches, Pangkor remains largely under the radar of tourists, offering a rustic and laid-back experience.

The island is also famous among Malaysian locals who want to escape the city and enjoy the beach. You can go bird watching and feed the hornbills at Sunset View Chalet, visit the Dutch colonial fort, and savor the local cuisine. The friendly locals and untouched nature make Pangkor a beautiful place to visit.

6. Langkawi

Langkawi island

Langkawi, located near the border with Thailand, is one of the most famous islands in Malaysia. Surrounded by about 100 smaller islets, it offers a mix of luxury and natural beauty. The island is home to mangrove wetlands, tropical forests, beaches, and mountains.


There are plenty of activities on the island ranging from bathing in waterfall pools, jungle trekking, and cable car rides to exploring beautiful rice fields and gardens. Of course, there are also lots of beaches with water-based activities.

How to Get There

Langkawi has its own international airport, making it easily accessible. You can also get there by ferry from several other destinations in Malaysia.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Langkawi is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities.

Must-Try Dishes

While in Langkawi, don’t miss out on trying local dishes like Nasi Campur, Laksa, and fresh seafood.

Langkawi is one of the best places in Malaysia for a luxurious yet nature-filled getaway.

7. Kapas Island

Kapas Island, also known as Pulau Kapas, is a hidden gem off the coast of Terengganu State. The name means Cotton Island in Malay, a fitting title given its soft white beaches. This island is perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Accessible via ferry from Marang Jetty, Kapas Island offers a serene environment with pristine, sparkling white-sand beaches. The island is not overrun by tourists, making it an ideal spot for a peaceful retreat. The few resorts and guesthouses cater mostly to backpackers, and it’s even possible to camp or sleep in a dorm.

For those who love the ocean, the calm waters around Kapas are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. The marine life here is diverse and beautiful, making every underwater adventure a memorable one.

If you’re seeking a slow-paced trip where you can lay in the sand, swim in the ocean, and read a good book, Kapas Island is the place to be.

For the more adventurous, jungle trekking is a popular activity. You can trek through dense jungle to reach the other side of the island, but most visitors prefer to stay on the resort side, where the beaches are better.

Kapas Island is truly a paradise that remains largely undiscovered by mass tourism. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the underwater world, this island has something for everyone.

8. Redang Island

Redang Island beach

Redang Island is one of the largest islands off the east coast of Malaysia. It is famous for its powdery white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. The island is surrounded by coral reefs that are home to a variety of marine life, including clownfish, baby sharks, and jellyfish. This makes Redang a popular spot for diving and snorkeling.

Redang Island is perfect for those who love a good resort vacation. It offers a great mix of a laid-back beach vibe and modern luxury amenities. You can start your day with a coffee by the pool, enjoy an afternoon massage, and end it with a sunset swim in the turquoise waters.

If you are traveling on a budget, Redang might not be the best choice. The island is known for its luxurious resorts and even has its own airport with flights from Berjaya Air. The tourism industry here got a boost after Redang was featured in the Hong Kong movie ‘Summer Holiday’ in 2000.

The Redang archipelago consists of nine islands and is part of the Redang Island Marine Park. While it is geographically close to the backpacker-friendly Perhentian Islands, Redang attracts upscale tourists who are willing to spend more for a luxurious experience. Expect to find Malaysia’s best resorts, pristine beaches, and a vibrant diving scene.

9. Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island Malaysia

Sipadan Island, located off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo, is a legend among expert divers. This island is home to a variety of exotic species, including a rainbow of reef fish, sea turtles, and hammerhead sharks. In 2002, Sipadan gained protected status, and all the resorts on the island were closed to preserve its delicate ecology.

To reach Sipadan, you’ll need to take a plane, a car, and then a boat from the Semporna jetty. The journey might be bumpy, but it’s absolutely worth it. The island is renowned as one of the best diving spots in the world.

If you love the water, Sipadan Island is your dream destination. The island’s varied marine life and fragile ecosystem make it a unique place to explore.


  • Protected status since 2002
  • Home to reef fish, sea turtles, and hammerhead sharks
  • No resorts to preserve ecology
  • Requires plane, car, and boat to reach

10. Tenggol Island

Tenggol Island Malaysia

Tenggol Island offers visitors the feeling of being on their own private tropical island. The island was traditionally uninhabited, but now contains several hotels. Tenggol Island’s brilliantly white beaches are framed by the emerald tropical forests of the island’s interior. The small island is a treasured location by both fishermen and scuba divers.

Tenggol Island is one of the best islands in Malaysia for a tropical beach vacation. Loved by both locals and tourists, Tenggol Island is like a home away from home. It not only lets you enjoy privacy, but also comfort, making your holiday a beautiful memory you would cherish for a long time. If you are seeking tranquility then this is one of the best Malaysian islands.

The number of daily divers to the island is capped and you are only permitted to stay on land during a certain time frame, so it is really important to plan your dive trip carefully.

Pulau Tenggol is another pristine top diving destination with about 20 dive sites all around it. The snorkeling here is superb and the white sand beaches, beautiful.

In Conclusion

Malaysia’s islands offer a perfect mix of adventure, relaxation, and cultural experiences. From the vibrant underwater life of Sipadan Island to the serene beaches of Langkawi, each island has its own unique charm. Whether you’re a foodie eager to try local dishes, a nature lover wanting to explore lush rainforests, or someone looking to unwind by the sea, there’s an island in Malaysia for you. So pack your bags and get ready to discover the hidden gems of this tropical paradise. Your dream island getaway awaits!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Malaysian islands?

The best time to visit Malaysian islands is during the dry season, which typically runs from March to October. During this period, you can expect sunny days and calm seas, perfect for beach activities and exploring nature.

Do I need a visa to visit Malaysia?

Visitors from many countries, including the United States, do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However, it’s always best to check the latest visa requirements before you travel.

What is the local currency in Malaysia?

The local currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). It’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand for small purchases, although credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist areas.

Is it safe to travel to Malaysian islands?

Yes, Malaysian islands are generally safe for tourists. However, it’s always wise to take standard travel precautions, like keeping an eye on your belongings and being aware of your surroundings.

What kind of food can I expect in Malaysia?

Malaysia offers a diverse culinary experience, with influences from Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. You can enjoy dishes like nasi lemak, satay, and roti canai, as well as fresh seafood on the islands.

Are there any cultural customs I should be aware of?

While visiting Malaysia, it’s important to respect local customs. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites, and always ask for permission before taking photos of people.

Can I go snorkeling or diving on Malaysian islands?

Absolutely! Many Malaysian islands, such as Sipadan and Redang, are famous for their excellent snorkeling and diving spots, with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.

How do I get around the islands?

Getting around the islands is usually done by boat, taxi, or renting a scooter. Some islands are small enough to explore on foot or by bicycle.

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