Why holiday in Malaysia?
Malaysia is hot and humid all year. Good beaches are costly,
particularly the premium stretches which are often owned by exclusive
- and expensive - beach hotels. They are, however, superbly run and well
maintained, so if you can afford them you won't be disappointed.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is not especially interesting, though
safe and has great dining options. The beaches near the city are polluted, but superb resort islands are easily reachable by domestic flights such as Air Asia, a Malaysian low-cost airline, or ferries, so perhaps bypass KL and head straight to those paradise destinations for the best beach holiday in Malaysia.
There are direct international flights between foreign destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta (Indonesia) and some of the best beach resorts.
Tropical wildlife is often very nearby or even on the sand,
facilities are generally efficient and sophisticated, people are friendly and hospitable, it's fairly
crime-free and Malaysian food is delicious and varied.
the humidity is energy-sapping, costs can be wallet-sapping
and it's often very commercial.
some islands will require a lengthy and potentially
bouncy boat ride to get there.
• the mainland coasts and some resort islands are suffering from waste overload due to increased tourism and poor management which will lead to environmental problems sooner or later, unless strict measures are taken.
• hawkers can be a pain on the more accessible public areas.
Best Malaysia weather
April to September is the season for pleasant tropical conditions, with temperatures generally ranging from 20°C to 30°C.
Avoid beach holidays in the monsoon (rainy) season when some hotels are closed, boat rides are rough, sands are debris-strewn and shabby, waters choppy and unclear and sunshine in short supply.
from November to February on the east coast of the mainland as well as islands such as Tioman, Sabah and Sarawak.
- from September to December on the west coast.
n.b. Pantai means beach, palau means island in Malaysian language.
Pangkor Island (off central west coast, with airport)
Less well-known than the lavish island resorts of Langkawi and Tioman, Pangkor Island is more of a low-key holiday destination, located off the country's west
coast and home to unspoilt golden sand and great Malaysian cuisine.
One of the best strands is pretty Pasir Giam with the offshore islet of Giam which is walkable at low tide. Pasir Giam is 2km north of Teluk Nipah.
Head to Pasir Bogak, the island's largest stretch of sand, for marine activities or Nipah Bay, a fine length of clean golden sand with crystal-clear waters.
Pangkor Laut Island (off central west coast, private) Pantai
Belanga (Emerald Bay)
Emerald Bay, on a tiny, privately owned island near Pangkor Island is often listed among the top ten world's best beaches. The
bay is a perfect crescent,
with soft golden sand and calm emerald-green
Belanga is the property of the upmarket Pangkor Laut Resort and only
guests can enjoy its elegant facilities. In spite of its commercial success, much of the island remains
untouched, with plenty of wildness and natural beauty just outside
this sophisticated resort. Teluk
Belanga is a perfect honeymoon or romantic destination.
Langkawi (aka Langkaei) island.
(northwest coast), Datai Beach in Datai Bay.
The beaches on this well-developed
island are regarded as some of the world's most secluded and picturesque
by many travel specialists. Unfortunately most of the
best coves are private, occupied by luxury beach resorts such as the beautiful crescent
of Datai, home to the top-end resorts Datai Langkawi and The Andaman.
Most tourism lies along the south coast near the airport and the capital town of Kuah.
If you are looking for action, try the lively, fine-grain Pantai
Cenang, fringed by waterfront bars and restaurants that really buzz around sunset. The Underwater World aquarium nearby is a grand place to keep kids quiet for a while. Pantai
Cenang is at the south-western tip of the island near the airport.
Next to it is the more laid-back and family-friendly Pantai Tengah. Pantai Kok on the west coast is also pleasant with up-market resorts and Oriental Village, a popular shopping centre.
Head north to the long sandy stretch of Tanjung Rhu for natural beauty with mangroves, limestone caves, cliffs and a great view of the little islands nearby. It also hosts a couple of luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons beach resort.
Pasir Tengkorak (Skull Sand!), a small sheltered public strand backed by lush jungle, is Langkawi's hidden gem and a magical spot for a dip and a picnic.
Langkawi also offers a handful of sensational diving or snorkelling sites, especially Palau
Payar Marine Park for the best coral reefs, 45 minutes by boat from Kuah. Day trips and tours are available.
season for Langkawi is November-May, when the sky is clear and the humidity is low,
but rainfall here on the west coast is lower than in the east, so
most of the year is acceptable. The worst time to be here is September-November. Langkawi is situated 30 km off the mainland, an hour's flight from Kuala Lumpur or a bouncy boat ride.
(just off the south-east mainland)
Tioman, one of the most spectacular islands in Malaysia is relatively
unspoilt despite increasing development. Located 32 km off the country's east coast, Tioman is a great destination
for nature lovers, golfers and especially underwater enthusiasts
due to close offshore reefs and crystal clear waters. The underwater environment is protected as the Tioman Marine Park. Tioman has small
golden sandy beaches backed by tropical jungle but watch out for aggressive monitor lizards near the jungle and monkeys stealing golf balls.
One of the best palm-fringed beaches is Tioman,
property of the vast Berjaya Tioman Resort, though this de luxe hotel has mixed reviews.
For cheap hotels on Tioman try the seaside town of Kampung Tekek.
A popular 7 km, 2-3
hour jungle hike from Tekek gets the hardened trekkist to the total serenity of Juara, but if that's a bit too much like hard work rent a motorcycle, take a jeep taxi or boat taxi.
The northern end of the island is home to laid-back Salang, close to some of island's best dive sites and favoured by divers and backpackers. It is always crowded and cluttered in the high season, though somehow maintains its charm. Head south by water taxi (also walkable but punishing!) to sheltered Monkey Bay for more peaceful snorkelling and sloth.
Panuba, (a 40 minute walk from Tekek) south of Monkey Bay and ABC (Air Batang Chalets, a 70 minute walk), are both popular resorts and along the coastal trekking route. Best March-September.
Redang Island, Redang archipelago (northeast; most of the islands are uninhabited)
This is another perfect Malaysian island exploited in
the nicest way by posh resorts, a dozen at the last count; it possesses the
usual assets of powder white coral sand and warm turquoise seas.
What makes Redang a bit special is the superb underwater life in
the encircling Radang Island Marine Park, making this a prime target for
scuba and snorkel addicts. Water temperatures hover around 28C and the best
season is March-October. Redang is 50 mins by boat from the mainland.
The largest and most popular strand is Pasir Panjang (Long Sand. Photo at top) on the east side of the island where most of resorts lie.
Redang's finest and arguably the best Malaysia beach is Teluk Dalum (Deep Bay) on the north shore, with powder white sand and glassy waters; however it (sadly) belongs to a world-class hotel, Berjaya Beach Resort & Spa.
The Islands of Perhentian (meaning 'the place to stop'), have been a must-stop place for budget
travelers for many years, especially the smaller isle of Perhentian Kecil. All five islands are part of the Radang Island Marine Park and they encompass some of the world's most seductive beaches, along with
world class diving and plenty of budget Malaysia accommodation. However, due to tourism overload the islands' marine life is in danger, with coral shrinking and garbage growing, though a handful of pristine beaches are still irresistible.
If you are a party goer, head to the popular Pasir Panjang (Long Sand, not to be confused with Redang Island's Long Sand!) on the east coast of Perhentian Kecil for action.
try Teluk Aur (Coral
Bay) on the west coast of the biggest island, Perhentian Besar. This is a little more upper-class and family-friendly resort, with tranquil beaches such as long and secluded Teluk Dalam (Deep
Bay, also known as Flora Bay), or the superb swimming zone of Teluk Pauh, occupied by a couple of large resort hotels.
Finally, for peace and quiet boat out to the lovely sandy strip on tiny Palau Rawa (Rawa Island), 16 km off Mersing. It's only accessible by ferry from the mainland or a 30 minute trip from both Besar and Kecil Islands. Travelers can stay at one of Rawa's two resorts.
Sarawak, Similajau National Park, (Borneo Island,
a long way east of the mainland) Turtle
Beach and Golden Beach.
This park consists
of 30 kms of golden sand embraced by cliffs and jungle shrieking with wildlife. It
is well worth the hassle to get there for some of the finest beaches
in Malaysia, forest streams, waterfalls, 185 species of bird
and plenty of animals - including gibbons, macaques, turtles, wild
boars and crocs.
The park has chalets with an open-air café, hostels and a
camping site near some good beaches, but the best ones, Turtle where turtles lay eggs and Golden, both require a permit to enter and are
a long walk (7km - 10 km) from the park office. Or a hire a boat. No contest
The best time to go is April-September.
Turtle season is March - September. Temperatures range from
23C to 32C with high humidity.
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