The Most Beautiful Islands to Visit in Asia

With stunning sights above and below the waves, pristine beaches and unforgettable wildlife, the islands of Asia really are paradise
With stunning sights above and below the waves, pristine beaches and unforgettable wildlife, the islands of Asia really are paradise | Courtesy of Baros Maldives
Sarine Arslanian

Great surf, white-sand beaches and incredible underwater life at some of the world’s best diving sites – Asia’s beautiful islands are paradise. If you’re seeking solitude and respite from the hustle and bustle of Asia’s big cities, visit these beautiful Asian islands, from Indonesia and the Philippines to South Korea and Japan.

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Similan Islands, Thailand

The Similan Islands, in the Andaman Sea, is an 11-island archipelago off Thailand’s west coast, which is protected by the Thai government. Under the crystal-clear waters of this marine nature reserve lies a paradise for divers and snorkellers. It is the perfect spot to see gorgeous corals, imposing boulders and beautiful tropical fish in a peaceful setting, plus you can anticipate warm weather all year round.

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands, off the east coast of Malaysia, are the most laid-back islands in the area. Kick off your shoes on arrival and remain barefoot during your stay, which should including nothing but relaxing on the beach and exploring the ocean. The islands have hidden coves, beautiful sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect if you’re looking for places to go diving and snorkelling in Malaysia.

Pom Pom Island, Malaysia

Pom Pom Island, in the Semporna Archipelago off Borneo’s eastern coast, is just a speck on the map with no settlements besides a few sleepy resorts. Circling the island are stunning coral reefs and a wide variety of species of fish. It’s also not uncommon to encounter giant green and hawksbill marine turtles here, since they often use the island as a nesting site.

Macleod Island, Myanmar

Macleod Island, in the Mergui Archipelago off Myanmar, is a mostly untouched island of simple beauty – with pristine beaches, incredible diving spots and unspoiled nature. There is only one resort on the island – the Myanmar Andaman Resort – which is a stripped back, rustic eco-lodge. A stay here is ideal for those seeking tranquillity in a natural paradise.

Cát Bà Island, Vietnam

Cát Bà National Park, in northern Vietnam, is home to the Unesco World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay. The town itself is rather touristy, with many karaoke bars attracting Vietnamese weekenders – but take a ride out of town and you’ll find many golden beaches with boat rides on offer, plus dense jungles and lush green mountains. Here, you can trek and enjoy incredible views of the park’s famous karst scenery.

Komodo, Indonesia

Don’t believe in dragons? Wait until you visit Komodo National Park, which is home to the Komodo dragon. Located between the islands of Flores and Sumbawa in eastern Indonesia, Komodo is a secluded and untamed Jurassic Park-like island. Besides being well known as the home of the giant lizard, Komodo is also considered a paradise for nature lovers, with numerous mountains to climb and diving sites all around the stunning coral reefs.

Palawan, The Philippines

Palawan, an island in the Philippines that’s home to lush green jungles and pristine beaches, attracts intrepid travellers. Head to Coron to explore the ocean bed and history under water – numerous Japanese warships were sunk here during World War II. Palawan is also known as having one of the prettiest seascapes in the world, including limestone karsts, crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches.

Cebu Island, The Philippines

Cebu, in the Visayas region of the Philippines, consists of a beautiful, long, narrow island with upland areas offering stunning views of mountains and seas and the 167 surrounding islets. There are high-end resorts in tourist areas like Malapascua, Badian and Camotes, but also more modest resorts in fishing villages such as Moalboal.

Havelock Island, India

Havelock Island is a low-key but beautiful island among the Andaman Islands in India. This charming spot offers travellers the chance to experience rustic island life in a peaceful environment. There are no big chain resorts here, and the transportation is basic. Havelock guarantees an authentic island experience filled with beautiful scenery and moments of relaxation.

Akajima, Japan

Akajima, often referred to as ‘Aka’, is part of Okinawa’s Kerama Islands in Japan. In the summer, it’s particularly popular with Japanese tourists, but even in peak season it retains its charm. Here, you’ll find spotless beaches and incredibly welcoming locals. Offshore, it’s possible to snorkel, dive and kayak in waters rich in tropical sea life.

Jeju Island, South Korea

Jeju Island, considered the Hawaii of South Korea, is a long-time favourite among South Korean travellers and honeymooners. Iho Tewoo Beach stands out; with its combination of grey and yellow sand, it’s a shallow beach, perfect for a good swim. Downtown Jeju is also a great spot for people watching and having a beer at one of the island’s many bars and restaurants.

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat, also known as Four Kings, is a range of stunning islands in West Papua, eastern Indonesia. These islands are a haven for underwater enthusiasts since they boast some of the world’s best diving spots. In fact, the islands are home to 75 percent of known coral species and almost 1,300 different species of fish. Experienced divers can also enjoy the thrills of drift diving and explore underwater vertical walls.

Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

The Mentawai Islands in Indonesia are a chain of approximately 70 islands and smaller islets. These islands, which are home to the Mentawai people – natives on the islands who live a semi-nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers – are most famous for their surf. Come here for the waves and embrace the local culture.

Baros Island, Maldives

Baros Island, part of the North Malé atoll, is a speedboat ride away from the international airport. The island is home to the luxury Baros Maldives Hotel. Thanks to facilities like the hotel’s dive centre, tourists can make the most of the clear, warm ocean that surrounds the island. Alternatively, guests can simply submit to pure relaxation through the variety of spa treatments, complimentary morning yoga classes and infinity pools offered by the resort.

Bohol, Philippines

Bop over to Bohol for some off-the-beaten-track adventure. This island, which is just over an hour from Manila by plane or two hours from Cebu by boat, is a slice of paradise with lush jungles, magical caves, white sand beaches and superb diving spots. It’s also home to a unique stretch of land known as the Chocolate Hills, which features more than 1,000 grass-covered hills; these turn brown during the dry season, hence the ‘chocolate’ moniker. Don’t miss the tiny, bug-eyed tarsiers (the world’s smallest primate) at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary.

Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

Getting to this island off Malaysia’s southeast coast isn’t easy – a flight and a ferry from Kuala Lumpur will do it – but it’s definitely worth the effort. This destination is a diver’s paradise, including beaches like Kampung Salang and Monkey Bay, where you’ll discover kaleidoscopic corals and sea creatures, plus sea turtles, barracuda, blacktip reef sharks and whale sharks. Channel Indiana Jones on land while jungle trekking with monkeys and monitor lizards – one of the most popular hikes runs for 4km (2.5mi), taking you from Kampung Tekek to Kampung Juara.

Nusa Lembongan, Bali

Play castaway on this tiny island, a boat transfer away from Bali, which is a haven for surfers and budget travellers. Million-dollar views cost peanuts at the traditionally styled beach huts and villas along the coast. For more breathtaking vistas pack sturdy shoes for a cliff hike from Dream Beach; you’ll see waves crashing into an underground cavern, known as the Devil’s Tear, and glistening pools of seawater, which you can dip in if the ocean isn’t too rough. You’ll end up at Mushroom Bay, where you can unwind with a well-earned drink from the beach bar.

Koh Rong, Cambodia

You can get to this island, a location for reality show Survivor, via a 45-minute ferry from Sihanoukville. Test some of your survival skills on one of the quiet stretches of sand, like Lonely Beach, Palm Beach and Long Set Beach, all of which offer peace and tranquility. Don’t worry about going hungry, though, because there are plenty of great, inexpensive dining options back in Koh Toch village. Come nightfall, Koh Rong comes alive with bars catering to backpacking party-goers; Police Beach is one of the prime spots for revellers, who dance and play music until the early hours.

Siquijor, Philippines

This photogenic isle, which is just south of Cebu and accessible via ferry from Dumaguete, is famed for its mysterious mountain-dwelling healers who rustle up natural medicines and practice Bulo Bulo, the art of healing by magic. Nowadays, cocktails on the beach serve as a more popular remedy, and the San Juan area is home to dozens of sun-drenched bars. Despite its small size, there’s also a wealth to explore in Siquijor, with highlights including the Century Old Balete Tree, Mt Bandilaan National Park and two stunning waterfalls.

Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting to this article.

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