Fewer part of the world have as many attractive tropical island destinations as Southeast Asia. The islands of this region are known for their idyllic beaches, lush landscapes and exotic culture. These picture-perfect places have been celebrated in guidebooks and even in movies and works of fiction. The most popular islands have great tourism infrastructure and a full array of accommodation and activity choices. There are also hundreds of less visited (but equally attractive) options.
Heading to Southeast Asia in search of a beach paradise? Here are the headlining destinations where you can find exactly the type of seaside landscapes that you are seeking.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, and also its most visited. Two of the most popular beaches, Karon and Kata, are filled with resorts and tourists. Patong Beach, the island’s unofficial headliner, is as popular for its wild nightlife scene as it is for its pristine but often-crowded sands. The great thing about Phuket is that visitors can easily find secluded beaches by simply following the road that circles the island and stopping off when they pass an uncrowded (often deserted) stretch of seaside.
Koh Chang (sometimes romanized as Ko Chang) is an island in the Tha Province of Trat (only a few hours from Bangkok). It features postcard-worthy white sand beaches, which are fringed with palm trees. The landscapes here are the stuff of postcards and tropical island travel brochures. Just sitting on the beach is very tempting, but Koh Chang has a full range of attractions, from national parks that can be explored on elephant-back to waterfalls and world class dive sites.
Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island sits to the south of the country’s mainland. This is a large island with a great national park and miles and miles of uncrowded beaches. Scuba diving and snorkeling are quite popular, with numerous dive shops located in the main tourist areas. The best aspect of Phu Quoc is its culture. Tourists can experience the ideal tropical seaside setting while also enjoying the cuisine, night markets, and temples that Vietnam is famous for.
Boracay is a super-popular beach destination in the Philippines. It is only about an hour away from Manila by air. With its white sand beaches, water-sports, and nightlife, this is an attractive place to vacation. These beaches are perfect, but sometimes crowded. However, Boracay is large enough that those who want to find some quieter stretches of sand won’t have to look too hard. One such semi-secluded beach, Puka Beach, features the same white sand and warm waters that make the more-centrally located beaches of Boracay so popular.
This archipelago actually features almost 100 tiny islands, all of which sit off the north coast of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea. A variety of beaches, from palm fringed white sand beaches to unique black sand beaches, are found in Langkawi. Aside from the stunning seaside, there are a variety of other tourist-friendly options, including diving, shopping centers, tourist villages, and museums. This is the perfect place for beach-seeking travelers who also want to spend some time away from the sand.
Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s larger islands. It has a diverse set of landscapes and literally hundreds of uncrowded beaches. Lounging on the sands is not the only thing on the menu. This is a SCUBA divers’ paradise, with areas like the Bunaken Marine Park ranked among the best places in the entire world to strap on an air tank and explore under water. Surfing and wind surfing are also quite popular. Sulawesi’s rugged interior provides options for people who do not want to spend their entire vacation lounging on the beach.
Bali is arguably one of the world’s most famous beach and island destinations. It certainly ranks up there with Tahiti, Mallorca and the Bahamas as one of the world’s most popular tourist islands. Kuta Beach is action central on Bali. If you can deal with the crowds, this is not an unattractive place. For those seeking a social beach scene, it is paradise. With a number of surf schools and dive shops, it is a great place for water-sports. But Bali’s magic lies outside of the main tourist areas. The inland mountain city of Ubud is a center for crafts and art, while the far-fling coastal areas feature stunning deserted beaches and scenic coastal cliffs.