By Nomadic Matt
With thousands of potential candidates, it’s hard to decide which islands to visit when you travel around Southeast Asia. Tales of exotic and deserted islands will pull you in all sorts of directions. I love the beach, the sun, and the waves and during my 6 years, traveling the region, have been on a continuous quest to find the best tropical islands in the region. If, like me, you want to relax on a white sand beach, lapped by warm blue away, check out these islands on your next visit:
Ko Chang (Thailand)
Located in eastern Thailand, this island has seen a lot of development in recent years but it is still relatively deserted. Blue water and white sand beaches ring the island and as a bonus it has a milder monsoon season than other places in the country. I like the island because it’s easy to escape the “resorty” area, there are less wild and crazy parties on the island, it’s cheap, and there is good diving nearby.
Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)
Located off the eastern coast of Malaysia, this pair of islands is idyllic. White sand beaches, clear skies, and crystal blue water – to me it’s heaven. There are very little modern conveniences here. You go here to escape, relax, snorkel, and work on your tan. It’s the perfect place to set up a hammock and wonder if you entered a postcard.
Bali is the major tourist destination in Indonesia for people coming to soak up the sun, relax on a beach, visit temples, and surf. While the island may be popular, it’s popular for good reasons and I absolutely loved my time on it. It’s so large that once you get out of the popular southeast, you can escape all the tourists and have miles of beach and jungle to yourself. And if you want people, the tourist areas have some of the best international food and nightlife in the region. It’s the best of both worlds.
Gili islands (Indonesia)
Located near Bali, people flock to these three tiny islands because they don’t have much to do on them. If you want to escape the madness of Bali, come here. You’ll have perfect white sand beaches, delicious seafood, beautiful diving, and quite nights.
Phuket is the top tourist destination in Thailand. This island has amazing beaches, is located near some great diving spots, and has three national parks on it. It’s no wonder why it’s the number one destination in Asia. The island contains some of the best spas and golf courses in the region. For those looking for luxury, Phuket offers it.
Panglao is famous for its world class diving and numerous resorts. Located in the Philippines, this island is also home to the pristine Alona Beach. It’s a good alternative to the more popular Boracay (see below) or Cebu. This is a good island if you are a diver.
Boracay is another tropical island located in the Philippines and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Boracay is the site of a world-class 18-hole golf course, has 350 beach resorts, water sports, phenomenal restaurants, great night life, and lots of bars. This islands isn’t a great “out of the way” destination but the crowds are bearable if you want some luxury on your trip, this is the place to go.
Ko Lipe (Thailand)
Located in southern Thailand, this island is well of the tourist trail (though every year seems to bring it a little closer). White sand beaches, abundant fish, and friendly locals make this heaven. My three day visit turned into three weeks. I just couldn’t pull myself away. It’s also located in a national park giving you a chance to explore hundreds of nearby deserted islands. My time there was some of the best in my life.
Bamboo Island (Cambodia)
Located off the coast nearby the town of Sihanoukville, this island is an hour motorboat ride from the coast. There’s nothing here except a restaurant, a few huts, and the beach. It’s rustic here – electricity works only in the evening, there is no hot water, air conditioning, or any other modern conveniences. People come here to get away from it all and relax.
Rabbit Island (Cambodia)
Another deserted island off the coast of Cambodia, there is even less here than on Bamboo Island! I like this island for a great day trip from the coastal town of Kep. It’s too quite for me. But if you ever wanted to pretend to be Robinson Crusoe, this is the island to do it at.
Southeast Asia has thousands of islands – each meeting the needs of travelers. From empty islands to party islands to upscale resort islands, there is something for everyone. Let these ten be your guide for sand, surf, and sun in one of the most fascinating areas of the world.