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5 best Malaysian island getaways

Between everything going on in Malaysia's mainland all the way to Borneo, it can be easy to forget just how many island paradises this country holds. While everyone might have heard of Tioman and Perhentian, you can also escape to more secluded (and forgotten) locations that boast equally exciting adventures and calming sands. Here are Skyscanner's five islands to revisit:

1. Rawa

Beautiful, clean beaches at Rawa Island. Photo credit: Mohd Fazline Mohd Effendy Ooi / Flickr

This coral island in Johor is near the diving paradise of Tioman. Its unspoiled beaches run along one side of the island, while the opposite coast consists of a rocky cliff. Swimming, sunbathing and wildlife/fish spotting are the only interruption to lounging in the sun until you risk medically significant relaxation overdose. Expect to see squids, jellyfish, monkeys, octopi, sea eagles, reef sharks, snakes and monitor lizards too.

Two resorts handle lodging on Rawa: Rawa Safaris and Alang’s Rawa.

Getting there: Access to the island is via a 30-minute boat ride from Mersing in northeast Johor.

Cheap flights to Johor Bahru

2. Tenggol

Unspoiled waves on Tenggol Island. Photo credit Thinkstock Photos
Tenggol island, off the beaten path but at the center of paradise. Photo credit: Thinkstock Photos

Off the coast of Southern Terengganu, Tenggol is just large enough to offer excellent jungle trekking in addition to the astonishing diving and beach bumming opportunities. It is one of the best locations in the region for viewing majestic whale sharks. Tenggol Coral Beach Resort offers lodging and tour packages, but do take note that there is a strict no-pork policy on the island.

Getting there: Arrive at Pulau Tenggol via a ferry from Kuala Dungun.

Cheap flights to Kuala Terengganu

3. Pangkor

Photo credit: Mohd Fazline Mohd Effendy Ooi / Flickr

For an island adventure with a little more variety than the typical remote island paradise, Pangkor was popular in the late 20th century but offers a more secluded adventure today. The island is home to mostly fishermen, and it covers 8 square kilometres of beaches, mountain, jungle and small villages. Between the variety of options and the lower price points, it makes for a great family vacation option too.

Because of its size, Pangkor has more lodging options than most Malaysian island destinations. Check out Pangkor Island Beach Resort and Teluk Dalam Resort.

Getting there: You can get to Pangkor in under an hour by ferry from Lumut.

4. Kapas

Photo credit: Tim Parkinson / Flickr

“Kapas” means “Cotton,” and this island got its name from its beaches so white that it reminded the namers of pure cotton. It’s tempting to describe it as an island paradise in the waters off the coast of Terengganu, but that doesn’t do it justice. Most of the resorts and beaches are along its western coast, meaning your evenings of lounging in the gentle breeze after a day of trekking and swimming include a view of the lights on the mainland. Since it’s just 5 km from the mainland, it offers easier access and slightly more variety of accommodation than many other island options.

Lodging options for Kapas are typically beach-facing chalets, such as those at The Lighthouse Resort and Kapas Coral Beach.

Getting there: Reach Kapas by ferry or speedboat from Marang.

Cheap flights to Kuala Terengganu

5. Labuan

Despite its remote location in northwest Borneo, Labuan has a population of 100,000 people and is mostly known as an offshore financial centre. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, it has almost been forgotten as an island tourisim destination. That’s too bad, since the island offers both urban pleasures with the likes of fine dining options and island delights from trekking to diving, and local water village visits. Day trips to some of the dozens of nearby islands are highly recommended. The island is duty-free too, so bring some extra cash.

Unlike other island stays, Labuan is short on resorts but long on hotels, such as Tiara Labuan on the southeast shore and the Dorsett Grand Labuan right downtown.

Getting there: You can fly into Labuan or take any of the numerous ferries.

Cheap flights to Labuan

While island hopping can get pretty complex at times, and you need to get to a specific island destination, your journey nonetheless starts by booking your flight, hotel and car hire with Skyscanner. Download our free mobile app for easy browsing on the go.

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Originally published on 16 July 2015 and updated in March 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.