islands in Malaysia

One of the best ways to visit Malaysia is through its islands. Being a country that is surrounded by seas and that is known for its exotic islands, beautiful beaches, and tropical rainforest, Malaysia is one of the best countries to visit when it comes to beaches and islands.

You may have heard about some of the world’s famous diving and snorkeling sites in Malaysia like Sipadan and Pulau Tioman, but the islands in Malaysia are not just about beaches and diving.

There are so much more you can discover about the islands in Malaysia.

Some islands have great seafood, some offer a serene and exclusive getaway, some are duty-free zone, and some are the heaven destination for divers.

Before we begin, the word “Pulau” means island in Malay.

There are many more islands that you know in Malaysia. But here are some of the best that you must know:

1. Pulau Kapas

Pulau Kapas

Pulau Kapas is one of the most underrated islands in Malaysia that you’ll ever visit. Located just a few kilometers off the mainland from Terengganu, away from the Marang Jetty.

There are no big resorts or 5-star hotels here. It is a very beautiful, peaceful and serene small island that is just about 20 minutes boat ride off the jetty.

In Malay, Pulau Kapas means “Cotton Island”. It gets the name from the locals there due to its soft and white beaches. This island is a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Not to mention that if you are looking for a short getaway like 3 to 4 days, Pulau Kapas may just be the best island destination that you are looking for.

For more info and detail about Pulau Kapas, visit this website here.

2. Pulau Pangkor

Pulau Pangkor

Pulau Pangkor is located on the west of Peninsular Malaysia, in the state of Perak. Comparing the size of Pulau Pangkor to other islands such as Redang and Kapas, Pulau Pangkor is relatively bigger.

There are a lot of options for resorts, hotels, foods, and also attractions than other islands. The locals love beaches in Pangkor like the Teluk Nipah, Teluk Belanda, Coral Bay, and also Pasir Bogak.

The island is famous for its local dried fish products and if you ever visit the Pangkor Island, make sure you drop by to the factory that product dried anchovies related products.

Other attractions in the island include the Dutch Fort with Tiger Rock, the Foo-Lin Kong Temple, fishing village, shops, and more.

And because it is a more developed island, there are proper roads that you can taxi, bike, or bicycle around.

And next to Pangkor Island is a small private luxury island called the Pangkor Laut. Owned by one of the richest men in Malaysia, Pangkor Laut is the home to one of the most luxuries resorts in Malaysia.

For more information and detail about Pulau Pangkor, go here.

3. Pulau Mabul

Pulau Mabul

When it comes to diving, Pulau Mabul is one of the tops in the world. It is a small island located off the south-eastern coast of Sabah. The beach is beautiful, soft, and white. It is famous for being one of the world’s most concentrated reserves of marine life.

Pulau Mabul is in the vicinity of Sipadan, a protected dive site. And it is also one of the only places on earth where you can stay on an oil rig. Sounds unbelievable?

Although it is a small island, Pulau Mabul’s accommodation is suitable for all. From a luxury floating resort above water, oil rig converted resort, to smaller chalets and comfortable guesthouses, you can find almost any kind of accommodation here.

Besides snorkeling and diving, you can also tour the island by helicopter.

For more info and detail about Pulau Mabul, visit this website here.

4. Pulau Tioman

Pulau Tioman

Here’s another beautiful island in Pahang, the biggest state in Peninsular Malaysia. Getting to Pulau Tioman is quite easy from the town of Mersing, Johor. If you’re from Singapore, you can also take a direct ferry to get there.

Time magazine once named Pulau Tioman as one of the world’s most beautiful islands in the 1970s.

The island is famous for its rich flora and fauna. There are 8 small villages on the island and in the middle of the island house the highest peak, Gunung Kajang, about 1,038 meters above sea level.

One of the main differences of Pulau Pangkor and other islands in Malaysia is that you can find giant monitor lizards roam among the villages. But do not worry because they avoid humans. And it is a normal sight to see them searching for foods.

To learn more about Pulau Tioman, go here.

5. Pulau Labuan

Pulau Labuan

Pulau Labuan is not the typical island that you may know. It is located between Sarawak and Sabah, known as one of the 3 Federal Territories of Malaysia, and it is an isle of bankers.

Yes, Pulau Labuan is known as the international offshore financial center, a free trade zone that housed over 6,500 offshore companies, and the island is famous for its delicious seafood.

The Malaysian government aims to make Labuan Island one of the world’s offshore business centers, like Dubai or Bahrain.

Besides financial services, you can visit Labuan for wreck diving. There are sunken ships off the shallow water, making it perfect for diving. These spots are simply known as the Australian, American, Cement, and Blue Water Wreck.

You get get more information and detail about Pulau Labuan here.

6. Pulau Layang-Layang

Pulau Layang-Layang

Known as the “The Jewel of the Borneo Banks”, Pulau Layang-Layang is about 300km northwest to Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah. It is a gem within the deep blue sea.

To the divers, this island can be heaven because it is a remote and exotic island in the wide South China Sea that offers undisturbed diving experience.

Surrounded by its crystal clear waters that drop to 2,000 meters, Layang-Layang has often ranked as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. It has diverse marine life and there is also a small island nearby that used as the bird sanctuary.

Famous dive sites include the Crack Reef, Dogtooth Lair, Navigator Lane, Shark’s Cave, D’Wall, The Tunnel, etc.

You can also see the schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks that can sometimes number in the hundreds in the water off the island.

Visit this website here for more information about Pulau Layang-Layang.

7. Pulau Redang

Pulau Redang

Pulau Redang is famous among the locals. The Redang archipelago consists of 9 islands, and together, they form a marine park 45km off the east of Peninsular Malaysia.

The Perhentian Island is just located right to the north of Pulau Redang. It is a relatively small island, but because it has been commercialized, you can find a lot of resorts to offer.

Redang Island has its own small airport managed by Berjaya Air. You can fly from Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport and also Singapore’s Changi Airport.

The main attractions of Pulau Redang are its crystal clear water and beautiful beaches. In the year 2000, a Hong Kong movie named “Summer Holiday” was filmed there and that has made Pulau Redang famous.

To learn more about Pulau Redang, check out this website here.

8. Pulau Rawa

Pulau Rawa

Pulau Rawa is a Sultan’s private island located off the coast of Johor. The island is owned by the family of the Johor Sultanate, just about 16km away from the mainland.

There are only 2 resorts in this beautiful island, the Rawa Island Resort, and Alang’s Rawa. Like going to Pulau Tioman, you can depart and take your boat ride from Mersing Jetty.

And due to its exclusivity, Rawa Island offers a more secluded vacation for tourists who want a short serene getaway from town.

Due to its location that is near to Singapore, Pulau Rawa is a famous destination for Singaporeans. And since the accommodation is limited, you may want to book early.

9. Sipadan

Pulau Sipadan

The list is not complete without Sipadan. Located off the southern coast of Semporna, Sabah, Sipadan is one of the most famous and well-known dive sites in the world.

Sipadan is a highly-rated dive site because it is located in the center of the planet’s most bio-diverse marine habitat.

In 2004, the local government has ordered all the dive resorts in Sipadan to ban night dives and set a limit of only 120 divers per day. This is to protect the fragile ecosystem of the area.

The Sipadan dive site is made up of 4 islands, Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Mataking, and Pulau Kapalai. It is a dream destination for divers from around the world.

There are plenty of dive sites in Sipadan such as the Barracuda Point, Coral Gardens, South Points, and more.

Learn more from the official website of Sipadan here.

10. Pulau Langkawi

Pulau Langkawi

Tired of diving and snorkeling? Well, Pulau Langkawi is another option that is suitable for a more relaxed, luxury and family vacation.

Located by the border of Thailand, Langkawi is a huge island in the state of Kedah. It is a duty-free island with luxury hotels and resorts. The luxury Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis resorts are all there.

One of the best attractions in Langkawi is none other than the 2,200-meter long cable car rises to 700m above sea level. It is one of the steepest cable cars in South East Asia and when you get to the top, you can see the beautiful view of the whole island. And make sure you visit the Sky Bridge too.

Other popular attractions such as the Underwater World, Wildlife Park & Bird Paradise, Pulau Payar Marine Park, island hopping, Kilim Geopark and more.

The Langkawi Island is a much bigger island and a developed town of its own. If you plan your visit there, make sure you spend a few days to check out the entire island.

Get more information traveling to Langkawi here.

Written by 

Shawn Lim is the founder of He loves to travel and likes to share his experience and talks about his trips.

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