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The 7 Best Islands To Visit In Southeast Asia (2023)

Southeast Asia is one of the most beautiful regions in the world and is home to many stunning islands. Deciding which of these to visit can feel like an impossible task.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful SE islands, this is the post for you! Here you can find a curated list of the best islands to visit in Southeast Asia.

The best islands to visit in Southeast Asia

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Bali 2 week itinerary including Nusa Penida

Southeast Asia best islands to visit

  1. Bali, Indonesia
  2. Langkawi, Malaysia
  3. The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
  4. Tioman, Malaysia
  5. Bohol, the Philippines
  6. Palawan, the Philippines
  7. Phu Quoc, Vietnam

I've visited each of these islands and can recommend them wholeheartedly. Choose any of these tropical islands in Asia and you will have an amazing holiday!

In the map below you can check where these amazing Southeast Asia islands are located.

Click here for the interactive map.

Why islands are awesome

Reasons to Visit Nusa Penida Bali - scooter road trip itinerary

I love visiting islands, to me, islands always feel like tiny countries with their own culture, dialect, or even language and often unique nature you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Another great feature of islands is the fact they are surrounded by ocean (yes, I know this is stating the obvious but bear with me;-).

And in the oceans, you can go snorkeling and scuba diving. Which happens to be one of my favorite things to do.

Nudibranch Perhentian Islands scuba diving

Plus, when there is an ocean, there are usually beaches. And I like beaches, particularly when they look like this.

One of the perfect beaches on Panglao, Bohol in the Philippines
One of the perfect white-sand beaches on Panglao, Bohol in the Philippines

Moreover, islands are usually the perfect size to explore in a couple of days. And it so happens that island exploring on a scooter is also one of my favorite things to do:-).

Altogether, I'm a pretty big fan of islands! Read along to see which are my favorite islands in Southeast Asia.

The best islands in Southeast Asia

Bali, Indonesia

Sunset on Nusa Lembongan Bali Indonesia

Things to know about Bali

  • Bali is an Indonesian island, one of the 18,307 islands belonging to the Indonesian archipelago.
  • The currency used in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (Rp). Check the current exchange rate at XE.com.
  • Ngurah Rai International Airport is located 13 kilometers south of Denpasar. It's a modern and busy airport, served by many airlines, making it easy to find a (cheap) flight to Bali.
  • Over 80% of the population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, which results in a multitude of temples, colorful offerings on every street, and a very friendly atmosphere.
  • Only drink bottled water in Bali, tap water isn't safe.

Why visit Bali

Bali is also called the Island of the Gods and not without reason. The island has impressive mountains and volcanoes, tropical beaches, a stunning blue ocean, a dense jungle, and pretty rice paddies, you name it.

While Bali is a popular destination and far from undiscovered, it's still a perfect island getaway! During our 2 week trip to Bali, we visited 5 very different places on Bali:

  • Sanur
  • Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida
  • Sebatu and Ubud
  • Canggu
  • Jimbaran

Each of those places had its own character and charm.

If you'd like to explore Bali as well as some of Indonesia's best-hidden gems, a great way to do so is hopping on an Indonesia cruise that will take you to the most remote parts of this amazing archipelago. 

Read more about our Bali itinerary here.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi Cable Car
The Sky Bridge on Pulau Langkawi

Things to know about Langkawi

  • Langkawi is a beautiful island in the Andaman Sea about 30km from the northwestern coast of Malaysia.
  • Another name for Pulau Langkawi is Langkawi Permata Kedah (in Malay) which translates to the Jewel of Kedah.
  • The currency used in Langkawi is the Malaysian Ringgit. Check the current exchange rate at XE.com.
  • Langkawi has an international airport which is located on the West side of the island.
  • You can also reach Langkawi by ferry from Penang or from Kuala Perlis on the mainland.

Why visit Langkawi:

There are several reasons that make Langkawi a very attractive island to visit, such as its accessibility, the fact that you can visit year-round, and the beautiful white sand beaches.

Fun activities include the Langkawi Cable Car, the vertigo-inducing SkyBridge, duty-free shopping in Kuah, or relaxing on one of the pristine beaches.

Check out my Langkawi island guide and itinerary here.

The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Guide To The Perhentian Islands Diving, Snorkeling And Relaxing

Things to know about the Perhentian Islands

  • The Perhentian Islands (Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil) are located just off Malaysia‘s Northeast Coast, in the South China Sea.
  • On the Perhentians, you can also pay with the Malaysian Ringgit. Keep in mind however that there are no ATMs on the Perhentian Islands, so make sure to get enough cash before leaving the mainland!
  • You can get to the islands from Kuala Besut by the jetty, usually, these leave every hour between 8 am and 5 pm. Tickets cost 35RM one way.

Why visit the Perhentian Islands:

The main reason to visit the Perhentian Islands is because of the beautiful underwater world surrounding the islands.

As a protected marine park, it's one of the best places to go scuba diving in Malaysia (along with Tioman Island, read more below).

BuBu Resort Perhentian Kecil free cocktail hour

Besides scuba diving, you can also do several hikes, rent a kayak or relax on a comfy beach chair in Coral Bay or Long Beach with a fresh fruit smoothie in your hand.

Check out my Perhentian island guide here.

Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

Sunset on Tioman Island

Things to know about Tioman island

  • Tioman is another amazing tropical island in Malaysia! It's located about 32 km off the Southeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
  • Once again you can pay with the Malaysian Ringgit and once again it's smart to get cash on the mainland (Mersing) before hopping on the ferry.
  • You can get to this small island from Mersing by the jetty, usually, there are several boats a day. Departure times are dependent on the tide and there are usually 5 stops: Genting, Paya, Tekek, Air Batang (also known as ABC), and Salang.
Coral at Tioman

Why visit Tioman Island

Tioman is considered one of the most beautiful and diverse destinations in the whole of Southeast Asia.

The crystal clear waters around Tioman are full of marine life, and you can even see amazing coral reefs from the jetty pier!

It's the perfect place to visit if you're a scuba diver like me. I saw hawksbill turtles, sharks, and a huge moray eel in one dive!

Read more about Tioman island and traveling in Malaysia in my Malaysia travel budget post and 2-week trip itinerary.

5. Bohol, the Philippines

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, the Philippines

Things to know about Bohol

  • Bohol is one of the more than 7000 islands of the Philippines and the 10th largest one.
  • Tagbilaran is the capital of the island, there are several direct flights from Manila (which take around 1 hour and a half).
  • You can also reach Bohol by boat, from the neighboring island of Cebu. There are 10+ daily ferries which take around 2 hours. Keep in mind the waters can be choppy so you may get a little seasick…

Why visit Bohol

While Bohol isn't far off the beaten track, it's not as well known as other Southeast Asian islands in this list. On this beautiful island, you can find Tarsier, the smallest and shyest monkey in the world.

Another highlight is the famous Chocolate Hills, which can easily be reached by scooter. And if you are looking for the best place to relax, Panglao (connected to Bohol island by bridges) is a great place to be.

Pictured below is Alona beach, where we spent several lazy days…

Alona beach Bohol

Read more about Bohol and traveling in the Philippines in my Philippines travel budget post and my 3-week Philippines itinerary).

El Nido on the island Palawan, the Philippines

Watch a beautiful sunset in El Nido

Things to know about El Nido and the island of Palawan

  • El Nido is a village on the northern side of Palawan island in the Philippines.
  • Palawan is the 5th largest island of the Philippines. The capital of Palawan is Puerto Princesa.
  • The turquoise waters around El Nido have been established as a turtle sanctuary since 1984 (we did see lots of turtles during our dives here!).

Why visit El Nido, Palawan

El Nido Big Lagoon

The sandy beaches are splendid, the underwater world is breathtaking (sorry, couldn’t resist this pun;-) and the limestone cliffs that rise from the crystal clear ocean are magnificent.

Even after visiting 40+ countries El Nido still ranks as one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!

El Nido is a great spot to unwind and relax, or to get your PADI! Besides diving and snorkeling, there are many other fun activities to do in El Nido.

You can rent a kayak, take a boat trip, go hiking, rent a scooter to explore some of the beautiful beaches in the area, or drink a smoothie (or cocktail) while watching the sunset.

Read more about El Nido in my El Nido travel guide.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Sao Beach on Phu Quoc Island

Things to know about Phu Quoc

  • The island Phu Quoc lies 3km off the Cambodian coast, however, it doesn't belong to Cambodia but to Vietnam.
  • The largest town is Duong Dong, which has a great night market!
  • You can get to Phu Quoc by plane or by ferry.
  • Phu Quoc is a very green island as Phu Quoc National Park covers more than 50% of the island.
Driving over dirt roads and hiking in the jungle, very much fun!

Why visit Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is another beautiful island and the last one on this list. We spent 3 days exploring the island on a scooter and loved our time there.

Places to visit are the Ho Quoc Pagoda, Sao beach, Dinh Cau Rock, and more.

Note: Phu Quoc was a quiet place when I visited in 2015, however, things have changed. When I visited the island the East Coast was completely undeveloped and the only road was a dirt track named ‘the adventure road' on all Phu Quoc maps.

In 2015 a new international airport was finished, as well as a brand new road from the north to the south of the island.

Construction has been ongoing ever since, however, it's still a beautiful island to visit during your Vietnam trip.

Read more about Phu Quoc and traveling in Vietnam in my Vietnam travel budget and my Vietnam itinerary.

Southeast Asia's beautiful islands: in conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this list and I've given you some inspiration on which paradise islands to visit in Southeast Asia! Happy travels…

This post was updated in January 2023.

Jempi

Friday 1st of January 2016

Islands, my favourite travel destination too! Your list of favourites is great, would love to visit Malaysia and the Philippines. My favourite is in fact a group of islands, the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. We have visited a bunch of them a couple of years ago while we were cruising with the Starclipper. The weather is great, the nature is fantastic, very friendly and happy people, delicious food and of course endless water sports possibilities...my piece of cake ;) Cheers and happy 2016!

Lotte

Friday 1st of January 2016

Islands are the best:-) I googled the Leeward Islands, it look beautiful, sailing around on a Starclipper must be amazing! Happy 2016!

Antonette

Tuesday 29th of December 2015

Good question ... one of my favorite islands is Vancouver Island. I also love our very own Texel and Iceland, although you cannot really call that an island. I think my new favorite one will be Tasmania after March :-) I wasn't a fan of Koh Chang but that's also because of the poor weather we had ... I need to go back to Thailand someday soon to really experience island life there!

Lotte

Tuesday 29th of December 2015

Great island Anto! I also really love our own islands, particularly Vlieland and Terschelling, used to go there a lot when my parents still had their sailing boat. I am very curious about Tasmania, looking forward to reading your post and seeing the pictures, it's supposed to be even prettier than New Zealand (but that cannot be true;-)!

Carolien

Sunday 27th of December 2015

Mijn favoriete eiland? Haha, Australië! Een heel groot eiland dat wel ;) Maar ook voor de kust van Australië liggen mooie eilanden, zoals Fraser Island, Magnetic Island en Stradbroke Island. Ik hou ook van eilanden. Op eilanden lijkt altijd nog meer een laidback sfeer te hangen. Tioman ben ik trouwens ook geweest :D

Lotte

Sunday 27th of December 2015

Haha dat is zeker een groot eiland;-) En absoluut 1 waar ik graag nog een keer naartoe wil! Tioman vond ik echt geweldig, zo mooi?

Phap

Wednesday 4th of November 2015

Great selection, but you missed Con Dao in Vietnam and the Palawan Islands!

Lotte

Wednesday 4th of November 2015

Thanks! Yes I definitely will have to visit the Con Dao islands next time I am in Vietnam:-) I have been to Palawan in the Philippines though and wrote a separate post about this tropical paradise which you can find on the blog.