It’s no secret that Southeast Asia is home to some of the most beautiful islands on the planet. But with thousands upon thousands of islands to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which ones to prioritise. Lucky for you, we know a thing or two about how to island hop in Southeast Asia. From Thailand and Indonesia to Malaysia and the Philippines, we’ve rounded up a list of the absolute best islands in Southeast Asia. Quite simply, these water walled islands are paradise found. All you have to do is get there!
Warning: This list will make you want to drop everything, grab your passport and book a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia.
1. Palawan – The Philippines
Ahh, Palawan. When it comes to natural beauty, nothing quite compares to the mesmerising seascapes of this slither of a Filipino island. You’ll need to fly into Puerto Princesa, but most travellers don’t stay long. Enchanting El Nido beckons from the north, which serves as a gateway to some of the most sublime island experiences Southeast Asian has to offer. The town is rustic, to say the least, but this only amplifies the staggering beauty of the gorgeous Bacuit Archipelago.
Palawan, the most beautiful island in Southeast Asia
2. The Maldives
It may have a reputation for unrivalled luxury, but seasoned travellers will confirm that it is possible to experience the breath-taking beauty of The Maldives, on a budget. Made up of more than 1200 islands, the Indian Ocean paradise is home to some of the most gorgeous (and untouched) beaches on the planet.
Picture-perfect beaches are guaranteed at the Maldives
3. Raja Ampat Islands - Indonesia
Forget Bali. If you’re fantasising about slipping into island time that you’ll never want to come out of, Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands are one of Southeast Asian’s most beautiful chains. SCUBA enthusiasts covet the 1000 island archipelago as having some of the best diving on the planet, with pristine coral reef systems, crystal clear waters and marine life that would make David Attenborough swoon.
The beautiful islands of Raja Ampat
4. Lakshadweep – India
A tropical archipelago suspended in the Laccadive Sea, Lakshadweep is home to kaleidoscopic marine life and coral reefs that are just as colourful as India itself. The islands are 300-kilometres off the coast of Kerala, with ancient mosques, leather-skinned fishermen, swaying palm trees and sugary sand creating a scene that’s authentic and awe-inspiring at the same time.
5. Koh Phi Phi
Insanely beautiful, not even the wild influx of tourism can take away from Koh Phi Phi’s splendour. Getting out of the town itself is the secret to really appreciating the island’s magnificence, and on a sunny day, there’s nothing better than hiring a longtail and cruising around the rock formations that tower out the ocean.
The islands of Koh Phi Phi are stunning
6. Sipidan - Borneo
Whispered with reverence diehard divers across the globe, Sipidan is a mecca for those in search of underwater ecosystems that make you feel as though you’ve been immersed in a tropical aquarium. Just a few metres from the shoreline a steep 600-metre wall plunges to the ocean floor, which serves as a colourful habitat for more than 3000 species of fish. But the real drawcard is the strong currents that flow around the island, which attract oceanic giants. From white-tip reef sharks, eagle rays and giant manta rays to vortexes of barracuda and even whale sharks, just thinking about Sipidan is enough to trigger a dive-gasm. While Sipidan steals the diving spotlight, no one is actually allowed to stay on the island for conservation reasons. Semporna (on the mainland) is a dump, but neighbouring islands like Pulau Bohey Dulang, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Kapalai and Pulau Pom Pom are stunning places to stay.
Sipidan Island in Indonesia
7. Boracay - The Philippines
A Filippino fantasy, Boracay is a tiny island with bigtime sex appeal. Dreamy White Beach steals the spotlight, with a 4-kilometre long stretch of sand that’s lined with hotels, bars, restaurants and dive shops. Spend your days exploring Boracay’s psychedelic underwater ecosystem, then catch a perfect sunset from the beach. After dark, sink into a waterfront beanbag chair, and lose yourself in fire dancers, cheap cocktails and pure Boracay bliss.
Boracay Island in the Philippines
With its steep hillsides, pink sands and glittering ocean, Komodo’s beauty is almost as fierce as the world famous ‘dragons’ that roam the island. It’s a world-class place to dive, and with its tiny population of just 2000 locals, the atmosphere is authentic and laid-back.
Komodo Island with pink beaches and steep hilltops
9. The Perhentian Islands - Malaysia
With its aquamarine waters, lush jungles and blindingly white beach sand, the Perhentian Islands are a tropical dream come true. Perched off the coast of West Malaysia, the Perhentians serve up a laid back vibe, that feels worlds away from the party atmospheres found on Thailand’s southern islands. Backpackers should make a move on Kecil, which is ultra-chill and less developed. Besar is slightly more upmarket, with higher accommodation standards.
The Perhentian Islands
10. Koh Lipe - Thailand
A resplendent gem in the South Andaman Sea, Koh Lipe enchants sun-seekers with its white sandy beaches, aquamarine waters and lush jungled hillsides. The island serves up sensational dive sites, ultra-chill reggae bars and an amazingly friendly sea gipsy vibe that continues to live on, despite its popularity as a backpacker destination. Apologies in advance to your boss, because we’re pretty sure that we’ve already got you searching for flights to the island-strewn utopia that is Southeast Asia.
The beautiful Koh Lipe
There you have it, our top ten most beautiful islands in Southeast Asia. Hopefully, you get enough inspiration for your next trip to Southeast Asia.
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