This post was first published in 2015, but I’ve been to a lot more Southeast Asia beaches since then so it needed an update!
Are you planning a trip to Southeast Asia? There’s so much to see – from ancient history, pulsating cities and stunning natural wonders, but perhaps the biggest draw in the region is the hundreds of beautiful beaches. Keep reading for (what I think) are the 10 best beaches in Southeast Asia – let me know if you agree!
Sugar Beach, Negros, the Philippines
Good for: Solitude
Sugar Beach isn’t easy to get to. First you need to find your way to Negros (not a particularly popular destination in the Philippines), then you need to take a bus and then a boat. I arrived by boat as the moonlight was shining over this stunning stretch of sand – it’s hard to remember a more idyllic introduction to a beach in Southeast Asia. There are only a few small bungalow resorts on Sugar Beach – and at most times of the day the beach is completely deserted.
Long Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand
Good for: A relaxing week or two
Koh Lanta’s Long Beach is one of the best all round beaches in Southeast Asia. Accommodation is comfortable and reasonably cheap, wifi is everywhere and it’s home to some of the best value food in Thailand (50 Baht for a big plate of green curry and rice!). When staying at a beach for a week or 2, you want to have some home comforts, and Long Beach is a perfect example of a beach that isn’t too crowded, but has everything you need to relax.
This beach in the 17 Island Marine Park, Flores, Indonesia
Good for: Swimming and going somewhere not many other people have been
I don’t even know what this beach/island is called, but it’s definitely one of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. You can climb a hill to get an amazing view of the beach and surrounding islands, but the best thing to do is swim in the clear, warm water. I went on a boat trip with 4 other people and we were the only ones swimming there – it’s not often you get a beach this good that is almost completely empty. No one lives on this island, but you could probably try and camp overnight there, it’d be awesome!
FURTHER READING: Exploring the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Good for: One of the world’s best coastal views
Nusa Penida, a small island close to Bali, is home to one of the most spectacular views you could ever hope to see. The view above Kelingking Beach is worth the trip, but if you’re brave (and fit) enough you can walk down the treacherous path where you’ll have this white sand beach mostly to yourself.
Long Beach, Koh Rong, Cambodia
Good for: White sand and clear blue water
I went to Koh Rong about two years ago now, and I’ve heard it’s already started to change. Long Beach is a short walk from the main beach on Koh Rong (there was 1 guesthouse on Long Beach when I was there). Once you scramble down the rocky hill a stunning (and very long) stretch of beach unfolds before you. The water is that perfect blue colour and the crowds were tiny; let’s hope it doesn’t change too much. Koh Rong was Southeast Asia’s best kept secret for a long time, but word is getting out!
FURTHER READING: Koh Rong: One of the Best Places to Relax in Southeast Asia
Nembrala, Pulau Rote, Indonesia
Good for: Surfing and sunsets
I’m not a surfer, but almost everyone you’ll meet in Nembrala is, and they rave about the waves. The beach isn’t bad either, and I had a great time swimming, talking to the locals and getting to know a bit about the surfing culture in Indonesia (which mostly involves Australians). Not many people make it this far east in Indonesia, but I’d recommend it as a great alternative to Bali and the Gili Islands.
FURTHER READING: Rote Island, Indonesia: A Gem Hidden far from the Tourist Trail
Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
Good for: Movie lovers and people who don’t mind crowds
It may be completely overrun with tourists, but Maya Bay is still one of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. The sand is blindingly white (in the parts where you can see it, you’ll often just see blindgingly white tourists instead), the water is surprisingly clear considering how many boats pull up there and the scenery is stunning – there’s a reason they decided to film the movie The Beach there, it’s just a shame it gets so crowded.
FURTHER READING: Should You Go to Koh Phi Phi, Thailand?
Mui Ne Beach, Vietnam
Good for: A budget beach holiday
Vietnam isn’t the first country that comes to mind when thinking of planning a beach holiday, but there are some decent options on offer. Mui Ne is the best of the mainland beaches. It’s around 10 km long and there are heaps of restaurants and hotels to choose from. It’s also very cheap — you can get nice rooms for $10 and there is so much great and affordable food to try. If you want a few days by the beach and food is important to you, definitely consider Mui Ne.
FURTHER READING: Check out my post about Mui Ne!
Pink Beach, Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Good for: People who like pink
This one is for the ladies! In truth, the beach isn’t that pink, only the sand right next to the water is pink, but it still looks cool, especially from above. The snorkelling is also great. The boat you’re travelling through Komodo National Park on will stop a little way away from the beach, and you can snorkel around the lively coral and rainbow coloured fish until you get tired, then swim on over to the beach for a rest.
FURTHER READING: Komodo National Park: More than just Dragons!
Nacpan Beach, Palawan, the Philippines
An almost deserted beach close to a tourist hotspot
Nacpan Beach, only around 30 minutes from bustling El Nido town by tricycle, feels like another world. There were no guesthouses on it at all, but I’m sure that’s about to change. We actually looked at buying a piece of land there but it was already too expensive. It’s the best beach we went to in Palawan – get there before it gets too developed!
FURTHER READING: The Beaches of El Nido, Palawan
Salang Beach, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia
Good for: Fish (that you can see without snorkelling)
It took me about 28 years to gather the courage to try snorkelling for the first time (I’m not really a water person), and until then, the best “swimming with fish” experience I had was at Salang beach on Tioman Island. You can walk out to about waste deep (obviously not accurate if you’re a midget, or really tall) and be surrounded by curious fish. The beach is great too, way better than any I saw on the overrated Malaysian islands of Langkawi and the Perhentian Islands.
The Gili Islands, Indonesia
Good for: Parties, honeymoons, snorkeling
The Gili islands are home to several stunning beaches, and it’s hard to rate one above the other. There are three main islands (Meno, Trawangan and Air) and each one caters to a different crowd. Gili Trawangan is the “party island” (although it also attracts a lot of upmarket tourists), Meno is the quiet honeymoon style island and Air is a bit of mix.
FURTHER READING: Where Are the Best Beaches on Gili Trawangan?
Naiharn Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Good for: A weekend island getaway
If you’re working in Southeast Asia like I was (in Singapore), you’ll want to head off for a couple of days on a beach from time to time. Phuket is one of the most convenient places to do it, and although Phuket gets some bad press, Naiharn Beach was the perfect place to relax. The sand and water were way better than I was expecting, and it wasn’t as crowded as some of the more popular beaches in Phuket.
FURTHER READING: Should You Travel to Phuket?
Bang Bao Bay, Koh Kood, Thailand
Good for: A pristine beach getaway relatively close to Bangkok
I recently went to Koh Kood, an amazing island in Thailand. It’s home to several of the best beaches in Southeast Asia and I couldn’t leave it off this list! If you’re looking for a perfect Thai island then check out the post before and start planning your trip there. Bang Bao Bay is my personal favourite beach on Koh Kood but there are several other world-class beaches nearby — it’s a great island for exploring!
FURTHER READING: Koh Kood: The Most Beautiful Island in Thailand?
What do you think are the best beaches in Southeast Asia? Which one of these would you most like to visit? Let me know!
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