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The most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. Can you guess where this is?  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Features

Southeast Asia's 8 Best Beaches

  
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What makes a perfect beach?

A wide stretch of white, soft and dry sand with enough space for your towel, palm trees, blue and clear water with a sandy bottom (no rocks or stones), and a relaxed atmosphere without too many hotels or other high-rise buildings around.

That's a long wish-list, yet Southeast Asia has hundreds of beaches that qualify. So, which are the best beaches to choose? The following are the crème de la crème.

Has your towel been lying on all of them?

Top 8: Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)

Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil is the best beach on the Perhentians.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

At the northeastern tip of Peninsular Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands have earned a reputation as a “secret” backpacker hangout and great weekend getaway for expats from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Long Beach on Perhential Kecil is where to go, and offers the nicest beach, most accommodation options, and a little bit of nightlife. The water is clear, and albeit being on the traveler’s map for more than a decade, it is far less crowded than anything similar in Thailand. Diving courses are as cheap as they can get, and there are plenty of choices even for experienced divers.

The Perhentians are a good beach option if you want a bit of everything.

Our GuideGecko Rating for the Perhentian Islands:

Beach: *** (3 of 5 stars: We are just spoilt by Redang)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Doesn’t get much cleaner than this)

Diving & Snorkeling: *** (3 of 5 stars: Not world class, but sharks and turtles guaranteed, even for snorkelers!)

Landscapes: - (nada: Does the 5 minutes cross-island walk count? Not really)

Mood: Backpackers

Top 7: Pulau Rawa (Malaysia)

Great photo opportunities on Rawa Island.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

If you are looking for that perfect beach, then Pulau Rawa must be high on your list.

This tiny island has only two resorts, and you can circle the whole island in a canoe in just about an hour. When you are done with that, there is not much to do except for lying on the beach, snorkeling once in a while, and reading Robinson Crusoe. Unless you come on a weekend and end up partying with expats from Singapore, Pulau Rawa is very quiet.

Both resorts on Rawa are overpriced for Malaysian standards. Expats from nearby Singapore are willing to pay the price, since Rawa is located just 3 hours away by car and boat. But don’t worry, a few days on Rawa are still affordable on a traveler’s budget. Just hide your BYO-alcohol and don’t tell we told you so!

Our GuideGecko Rating for Pulau Rawa:

Beach: **** (4 of 5 stars: Just one, but so nice!)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: ** (2 of 5 stars: Decent snorkeling, but no dive masters around)

Landscapes: - (nada: Really, it is just a tiny island)

Mood: Expats

Top 6: Pulau Redang (Malaysia)

Redang arguably has the nicest beach in Malaysia.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Just a few kilometers from Perhentian, you might wonder why we include Redang in this list? Simple: Redang offers a nicer beach: What makes its beach special is a small headland that divides the beach into two parts. There are great photo opportunities from and to the headland, with water flowing almost all around it.

Redang also offers somewhat better diving than Perhentian (but snorkeling is better on Perhentian). The main difference is that Redang caters to package tourists from Malaysia and Singapore. Expect to see dozens of “locals” in swim wests, and a trainer explaining how to wear goggles.

You must choose: Want backpackers and some party? Then head to Perhentian. Malaysia’ nicest beach? Then go to Redang.

Our GuideGecko Rating for Pulau Redang:

Beach: ***** (5 of 5 stars: This is Malaysia’s nicest beach, forget Thailand!)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: *** (3 of 5 stars: Good diving, decent snorkeling)

Landscapes: * (1 of 5 stars: It’s just a beach, but it’s one of the most photogenic in the world)

Mood: Asian package tourists

Top 5: Koh Phi Phi (Thailand)

Meditating on Koh Phi Phi Leh - after the day-tripping crowds have gone :-).  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Koh Phi Phi really has it all: Great beaches and stunning landscapes. Mixed with clear water and top diving spots, it is no wonder that tourists began flocking in. That means Koh Phi Phi also has good nightlife (almost as much as Phuket) and a wide choice of accommodation options and restaurants.

There are fantastic day trips to Koh Phi Phi Leh (featured in “The Beach” with Leonardo di Caprio), Khao Phing Kan (featured in James Bond “The Man with the Golden Gun”), and many more lime-stone cliffs and islands all over the Krabi region.

Unfortunately, the only thing lacking on Koh Phi Phi is space. Expect your fellow Farang’s towel just a few centimetres next to yours, and be careful not to run into a flying Frisbee. Having said that, Hat Yao Beach is far less crowded, and a short walk from there, Ao Lo Mu Di Beach is almost unspoilt. Without these two beaches, we would have listed Koh Phi Phi under “Islands that didn’t make the list – far too crowded”. But that would be unfair, given its beauty.

Our GuideGecko Rating for Koh Phi Phi:

Beach: **** (4 of 5 stars: Remember to get off the beaten track)

Water: **** (4 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: **** (4 of 5 stars: Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are two world famous dive spots)

Landscapes: ***** (5 of 5 stars: For a beach island, we have yet to see a better backdrop)

Mood: Partying tourists

Top 4: Koh Lipe (Thailand)

You'll find Koh Lipe's nicest beach on its northern shore.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Just a bit further south, Koh Lipe is today what Koh Phi Phi was a few decades ago: Up and coming. That means you should go now, before everyone else does. Having said that, Koh Lipe is already on the tourism radar and you need to escape to Malaysia if you want the beach for yourself.

Koh Lipe’s best beach is on the northern shore, away from the village. Accommodation is a bit more basic than on Koh Phi Phi.

Adding to the adventure feeling is that Koh Lipe is the “last” island before Malaysia, with regular ferries to Langkawi. Immigration from Malaysia happens right on the beach – quite nice! Visa-on-arrival (required for some Eastern European countries) is not available on Koh Lipe. Do check if you need it!

Our GuideGecko Rating for Koh Lipe:

Beach: **** (4 of 5 stars: Go now, while you still have space)

Water: **** (4 of 5 stars: Same same, very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: ** (2 of 5 stars: you come here for the beach, not for diving)

Landscapes: *** (3 of 5 stars: The northern beach offers a nice viewpoint)

Mood: Last minute adventurers, already mixed with the party crowd from other islands in Thailand.

Top 3: Malapascua (Philippines)

Malapascua is most famous for diving - but its beach alone is worth the trip.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Malapascua is to Boracay what Koh Lipe is to Koh Phi Phi: The younger sister, getting ready for the big time. We highly recommend you go as soon as possible.

Malapascua is a small beach island north of Cebu. It has some of the whitest sand on the planet, and two rows of palm trees make great photo opportunities with colorful boats in the background. You can walk around the whole island in half a day, a highly recommended walk.

There is outstanding diving, too, with frequent sightings of hammerheads, thresher sharks and manta rays.

Our GuideGecko Rating for Malapascua:

Beach: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Far less crowded than Thailand, and maybe even nicer)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: ***** (5 of 5 stars: For diving, that is)

Landscapes: * (1 of 5 stars: The northern beach offers some good views)

Mood: Divers and in-the-know travelers

Top 2: Kei Islands (Indonesia)

You'll have 3 kilometers of white sand for yourself - on the Kei Islands  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Still have 500+ pages to read in your book? Beware, you might still get bored on the Kei Islands.

Pasir Panjang beach on the Kei Islands is different to the other beaches on this list: White sand, palm trees and blue water as long as your eyes can see - and so far away from mainstream tourism, you will have it all for yourself! Just bask in the sun, go for a walk, or jump into the shallow water. There is not much more you can do here, anyway.

The three rooms at Coaster Cottages represent all accommodation options in the vicinity. All come with full-board meals – there is no other place around for food.

To get here, you need to fly into Ambon and then catch an onward flight to Langgur Airport on Pulau Kei Kecil. That’s really far away from everything.

Our GuideGecko Rating for the Kei Islands:

Beach: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Southeast Asia’s best beach if you are looking for solitude)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: * (1 of 5 stars: No snorkeling right on the beach, but you can hire a boat for a daytrip. Don’t expect dive equipment this far away from civilization)

Landscapes: - (nada: The Key Islands are rather flat)

Mood: You, your book, and three meals a day.

And the winner is...: Boracay (Philippines)

Boracay: Southeast Asia's best beach. We're sure.  <span style='white-space:nowrap;'><img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click to enlarge</span>

Offering the whitest and finest sand we know of, Boracay is your must-see beach in Southeast Asia. Forget Bali, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Pha-Ngan - Boracay tops them all. While this is no secret in the Philippines, Boracay is far less crowded than Thailand. The majority of holidaymakers are locals and in some areas, you can still have large stretches of sand for yourself.

Boracay’s main beach is located on its western shore, about 3 km long, and divided by 3 boat stations. Station 2 is the busiest area and has most of the bars, shops and restaurants. We recommend staying south of Station 3, where you will find the best value-for-money accommodation, and lots of empty space on the beach. Station 2 is only a short walk away for dinner and drinks in the evening.

Should you ever feel like getting bored, hire a motorbike trishaw and make a day trip to the northern beach.

Our GuideGecko Rating for Boroacay:

Beach: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Think powder-white sand lined with palm trees)

Water: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Very clean)

Diving & Snorkeling: * (1 of 5 stars: Some dive spots, interesting only for beginners)

Landscapes: * (1 of 5 stars: Viewing platforms in the hinterland offer good photo opportunities)

Mood: Relaxed westerners and Filipinos enjoying the sea and sun.

Beaches that didn’t make the list:

Phuket, Thailand: Unless you need your dose of sleazy nightlife, there are much better options.

Nha Trang, Vietnam: Sure, it is the best beach in Vietnam. But does that mean it is really good?

Sihanoukville, Cambodia: We have been really disappointed by Sihanoukville. Looks like Lonely Planet needs to hype a beach in every country.

Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia: Quite nice, but you can’t see your feet through the milky water.

Pulau Tioman, Malaysia: Nice, but Rawa and Redang are nicer!

Pulau Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia: Diving is great, but where is the beach?

Koh Tao, Thailand: Same same as Bunaken.

 

Want more highlights? 

Spent enough tome on the beach? Southeast Asia has so much more to offer:

 

Agree with our best beaches? Know a better beach? Let's discuss!

Type: Feature
Location: Asia







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