Islands of Malaysia
Malaysia has hundreds of islands. Some of them are habitable and passable; others are yet not explored and not habited. Malaysians refer to their islands as 'Pulau'. Most of the well known islands that can be found at Peninsular Malaysia are: Pulau Penang, Pulau Langkawi en Pulau Pangkor on the west side, and Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang and Pulau Tioman on the east side. The islands on the west side aren't well known for their underwater world, i.e. you can't snorkel in many places. These islands do have a lot of character in general and therefore are more crowded than the islands on the east side of the peninsula. Islands on the east site are known for their great scuba diving and snorkeling possibilities. There are also many beautiful islands around Borneo, some of them are of the sort that you usually see in commercials on tv. Most of the islands are easily accessible for tourists; they can often be visited by plane (max. €20,- single ticket per person with AirAsia). On the west side of the peninsula there's not really a monsoon but a rainy season. This concludes the months July and August. This means a considerable shower per day, usually at the end of the afternoon.
On this page:
- Map of all islands
- All islands of Malaysia
- Islands western peninsula
- Islands eastern peninsula
- Islands around Borneo
Map of all islands in Malaysia
All islands of Malaysia
- Lang Tengah
- Layang Layang
- Pulau Payar
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Islands
- Turtle Island (Selingan)
Islands on the west side of Peninsular Malaysia
The most popular islands of Malaysia can be found on the western part of the Peninsular Malaysia. As there is no real monsoon season on this side of the peninsula; you can visit these islands throughout the year. The islands are also easy to travel to; as there are daily flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (or LCCT budget airport). Accommodation varies from basic lodges to high class 5 star resorts.
Langkawi is nature-wise one of the most beautiful islands on the west side of the peninsula. The island is easily accessible, which makes it an ideal destination for the people who are looking for peace and quiet and the nature lovers. The best way to explore the island is by renting a car or motorcycle. There are numerous great attractions on the island; enough to keep you busy for many days. There are many great resorts, usually located right next to an amazing beach.
For more information, check our page on Langkawi for more to see and do at this island.
Penang, also known as Pearl of the Orient, is located at the northwestern side of Malaysia. This brimming island characterizes itself especially by the mixture of many cultures. It’s the most touristic island of Malaysia, compared to other Malaysian islands. However; this doesn’t mean that it is not very pleasant to visit the island during your trip through Malaysia. The atmosphere is actually very good on the island and the food is simply divine. The capital city of Georgetown has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO some years ago because of the many historic buildings in the city center. Best way to explore the island is by renting a car or motorcycle.
For more information, check our page on Penang for more to see and do at this island.
Pulau Payar is a small inhabited island between Langkawi and Penang. Pulau Payar Marine Park is actually a group of small islands; Payar, Kaca, Lembu and Segantang. As diving and snorkeling directly around Langkawi and Penang is not possible, this is the nearest place where you can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling. From both Langkawi and Penang tourists can arrange tour packages to Payar Island. One of the highlights of a trip to the island is feeding baby sharks under close supervision.
For more information, check our page on Pulau Payar for more to see and do at this island.
Pangkor is a mountainous island; the highest point is at 1216 meters (Pangkor Hill). Since the main island consists of just mountains, the roads are lying in a circle around the island. The island is accessible by ferry from Lumut, a boat ride of approximately 30 minutes. The island itself is in the state of Perak, about 85 kilometers from Ipoh (the 2nd biggest city of Malaysia), and about a 3-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. There are numerous great resorts on the island, making it the ideal place for tourists to enjoy nature and the many beautiful beaches. Just like on Penang and Langkawi, the est way to explore Pangkor Island is by renting a car or motorcycle.
For more information, check our page on Pangkor for more to see and do at this island.
The island of Ketam is, like almost all islands in this area, well known for fishery. The catch of crabs is what the small island is renowned for; the name Ketam does mean crab after all. If you love fresh seafood, then this island is the place to visit. Ketam is only an hour by train from Kuala Lumpur. Right in front of the final LRT (Light Rail Transport) station you can take the 20 minute ferry to Ketam. Most visitors only drop by during the day, but staying overnight just makes a visit so much more special.
For more information, check our page on Ketam for more to see and do at this island.
Sembilan consists of nine islands together. All of them are inhabited. A boat will take you to the islands in an hour. The island group is especially well known for its great fishing possibilities, but the islands themselves are also very beautiful. So if you love fishing, this is the place to go.
The island Angsa lies in Selangor, about 100 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur. The island is not habited, although a lighthouse was built in 1887 called the Pulau Angsa Lighthouse. Thus it is an important island for the ships that go to Port Klang, the harbor of Kuala Lumpur.
Pulau Pisang is a small island in the state of Johor. It is about 80 kilometers of Johor Bahru on one hand, and Singapore on the other hand. Pisang is not an attractive island for tourists, however it is an island much talked about between Malaysia and Singapore. In a nutshell this means that the island is part of Malaysia but that Singapore leases the island since 1900 on behalf of the shipping industry. There is one important lighthouse mainly for the guidance of ships from and to the harbor of Singapore (one of the biggest, if not the biggest harbor in the Southeast Asia).
Islands on the east side of the Peninsular Malaysia
The east side has the best known islands: Pulau Tioman, Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian. These islands are in general easy to reach and have the characterization of a beautiful place for peace. Here you will experience the ultimate 'tropical vibe'. Normally you will fly from Kuala Lumpur to one of the cities on the east coast, from here on you take the boat to one of the islands. The boat ride doesn’t take up more than 25 minutes. Some of the islands are real 'scuba diving heavens', for non-divers snorkeling is always an option.
There are also many other habitable islands, although these are more or less inaccessible to tourists. The monsoon blows on the east side in the period of October up until February. This monsoon is quite rough every so now and then. Most resorts are closed during the monsoon period; only the international resort The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort on Pulau Redang is open all year.
Pulau Redang is an island group in the South Chinese Sea, on the east side of the Peninsular Malaysia. Redang lies within protected marine waters, also known as a marine park. It lies about 45 kilometers from the coast of the federal state of Kuala Terengganu. Redang is known for its luxurious resorts; many of them of international standards. The island mainly attracts scuba diving and sun bathing enthusiasts. Though you can also enjoy snorkeling around the island, neighboring island of Perhentian is probably more suitable for that.
For more information, check our page on Redang for more to see and do at this island.
On the southeastern side of the Peninsular Malaysia there is a group of 64 islands, of which the Tioman Island (duty-free) is the biggest one (+/- 350 km2). Other known islands in this region are: Seri Bulat, Sembilang, Tulai, Chebeh, Labas, Sibu and Renggis. Tioman lies about 60 kilometers of the coast in the federal state of Pahang. It is famous for its great diving and snorkeling, but also for the great food. To reach the island you need to catch the boat from the small town of Mersing.
For more information, check our page on Tioman for more to see and do at this island.
Perhentian is a true diving and snorkeling paradise. There are no (internationally known) hotels, but there are a few small resorts. The Perhentians consists of two islands, Kecil en Besar. The first island is mostly loved by backpackers, the second one for the nature lovers and people looking for peace and quiet. Starting point to get to the Perhentians is the small town of Kuala Besut; about one hour drive from Kota Bharu. Perhentian is probably the best island to get your scuba diving license (PADI). The island is also the best island for people who only want to do some snorkeling; as you can usually snorkel right in front of your resort without the need of an organized tour.
For more information, check our page on Perhentian for more to see and do at this island.
The island Tenggol is an island not many people go to. It’s a small island and diving is important. The starting-place to the island is the little town of Kuala Dungun which lies between Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu. The boat will take you to the island in 45 minutes. The island is small, and the main reasons for a visit are the great diving possibilities. The only resort on the island is the Tenggol Aqua resort, a resort specially focused on diving. The monsoon is active as well here between October and March.
For more information, check our page on Tenggol for more to see and do at this island.
The island Kapas lies about 30 kilometers under Kuala Terengganu and about 20 kilometers and a 15-minute boat ride from the coast. The starting-place to the island is the village of Marang, a half-hour drive from Kuala Terengganu. The island is only 2 kilometers long and 1 kilometer big. However, what it’s really all about is the sightseeing underwater. The beautiful corals make the place very special to dive and snorkel. There are a few small resorts on the island where you can spend the nights for prices such as RM30 to RM250. Not really expensive, but it is pretty much basic. And once again, you go there to dive and snorkel, next to that it’s an uninhabited island as good as well. During the monsoon period all accommodation on the island is closed and you cannot go there in this period.
For more information, check our page on Kapas for more to see and do at this island.
Between Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang lays the small island Pulau Lang Tengah. This island is unknown just like many other islands of Malaysia. Not many tourists know where to find the island. There are 2 resorts on the island. To get there you need to go to Merang from Kota Bharu or Kuala Terengganu, the fisherman’s village where the boats leave from. The diving sports are also crucial over here.
For more information, check our page on Lang Tengah for more to see and do at this island.
Islands along the coasts of Borneo
Borneo does know a big number of beautiful idyllic islands as well. Most of these islands are in the protected (nature) environments. A good example is Pulau Sipadan where no tourists are allowed to stay on the island since 1-1-2005. It is still possible to dive and snorkel around the island. The surrounding islands (i.e. Mabul) have a few small resorts. The prices vary from 100 euro's per house per night to even 1000 euro's per night. The locations are the best in the world though and a unique diving area. The islands aren't always easy to book beforehand. A few local Malaysian travel agencies do offer arrangements to these islands.
Sipadan is extremely popular among dive enthusiasts as it is one of the best places to dive in the world. There is no accommodation available at the island, and visitors will stay overnight at one of the neighboring islands like Mabul or Kapalai. Sipadan is located in Sabah, Borneo. To get there you need to take a direct flight to the city of Tawau in eastern Sabah. From there you travel over land to the small town of Semporna. Here boats to Sipadan Island depart.
For more information, check our page on Sipadan for more to see and do at this island.
Mabul is also very popular among divers; especially if you like muck diving. Mabul is well known for its macro marine life. Mabul is located nearby Sipadan; one of the best dive spots in the world. Mabul has accommodation for every type of traveler; ranging from basic lodging to exclusive resorts. Getting to Mabul is similar to getting to Sipadan. Take a direct flight to Tawau; then a two hour drive to Semporna, followed by a 45 minute speed boat ride.
For more information, check our page on Mabul for more to see and do at this island.
The island of Kapalai, just 15 minutes from Sipadan, used to be a beautiful island two hundred years ago, but now it is only a sand bar because of the erosion. There is a water village that built on stilts sits on the edge of the extensive Ligitan Reefs. The resort on the island is very exclusive, but it is worth the price. You will have breathtaking view of the Celebes Sea. Kapalai Island Resort has 40 chalets in total; make sure you make your reservations beforehand as it is a popular place among divers.
For more information, check our page on Kapalai for more to see and do at this island.
Mataking Island is a beautiful tropical island within the Celebes Sea (along the Alice Channel). The island actually consists of two islands. You can actually walk from one to the other island through the shallow sand bar. Mataking Resort & Spa is a luxury private island resort; the ultimate honeymoon destination. Scuba divers can dive around the island, but also at the nearby island of Sipadan. Just like the islands of Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai; Mataking can only be reached by boat from the coastal town of Semporna (45 minute boat ride). The nearest airport can be found in Tawau.
For more information, check our page on Mataking for more to see and do at this island.
Turtle Island (Selingan)
Selingan, also known as Turtle Island, is especially known of its turtle population that always finds its way back to the island to lay eggs. Visitors can stay overnight at the island to witness turtles coming ashore and lay their eggs. Another highlight is releasing young hatchlings into the open sea. As Selingan Island can only welcome a limited amount of overnight guests daily; it is important to make the necessary arrangements beforehand. Many organizations offer tour packages to Selingan Turtle Island. The island is located nearby the city of Sandakan; Sabah's second biggest city. There are daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. From there you take a boat to the island.
For more information, check our page on Turtle Island (Selingan) for more to see and do at this island.
Lankayan is a beautiful island north of the city of Sandakan within the Sulu Sea. The island has one luxurious resort, Lankayan Island Dive Resort, diving is the main reason people visit the island, though it is also a great place to just relax or snorkel around the resort. The island is especially known for its whale shark sightings. The boat to Lankayan Island takes about 1,5 hours. Sandakan receives daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. It is best to make your reservations beforehand directly at the resort; though some tour agencies offer great tour packages where you combine a visit to Lankayan with a visit one or more of the other great attractions in eastern Sabah.
For more information, check our page on Lankayan for more to see and do at this island.
Layang Layang is an atoll made into an island. It is located 300km north of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah; corals are in pristine condition as fishing boats will not venture out that far. There is one dive resort, Layang Layang Island Resort, and besides that an off-limit Malaysian Naval base. This island is less of a tropical gem compared to other islands around Sabah. Layang Layang however is one of the best dive spots in Malaysia; tourists only travel to this island to enjoy the fantastic underwater world. It is especially famous for sightings of whale sharks and groups of hammerhead sharks.
For more information, check our page on Layang Layang for more to see and do at this island.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park comprises of 5 islands located opposite the city of Kota Kinabalu. From Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal there are numerous daily boats that bring visitors to the islands. Pulau Gaya is the biggest island of the marine park and has two luxurious resorts; Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort. The island has a couple of fabulous beaches. Most tourists visit the island as part of a day trip. Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan are probably the best islands to visit if you want to do some snorkeling and diving. Other islands are Mamutik and Sulug; both almost deserted.
For more information, check our page on Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park for more to see and do at this island.
Labuan is a beautiful duty-free island southwest of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. About 120.000 people live on the island. Contrary to other islands in Sabah Labuan is not a tropical gem that tourists visit for its many attractions. Actually Labuan doesn't have that much to offer besides a couple of big hotels. Main reasons for tourists to visit the island are to (wreck) dive and to fish. Labuan is an International Offshore Financial Centre offering international financial and business services.
For more information, check our page on Labuan for more to see and do at this island.