During these difficult times, we’re all dreaming of some much-deserved R&R in the sun. Whilst you might not be able to escape just yet, here are some of the best beaches in Asia to visit once we can travel again.
Where are the best beaches in Asia?
1. Miyako Island, Okinawa –Japan
It may come as a bit of a surprise, but Japan offers some of the best beaches in Asia. Miyako Island in Okinawa is home to beautiful beaches and offshore snorkelling adventures. This calm island is ringed by beaches, including the popular Maehama beach, a perfect swimming beach for the whole family and famed for its sunsets, and Yoshino beach, which is great for snorkelling, with a reef mere metres from the shore. Don’t forget to try Okinawan delicacies here, including soba noodles and goya chanpuru, which is stir-fried bitter melon.
2. Parai Tenggiri, Pulau Bangka – Indonesia
Parai Tenggiri is located on Pulau Bangka, a little-known island halfway between Singapore and Jakarta. It’s blessed with some of the best beaches near Singapore. The most spectacular beach is Parai Tenggiri with turquoise waters, pristine sand and gigantic limestone boulders, which further add to the drama. Tourists are few and far between, so chances are, you’ll have the sea to yourself.
3. Mirissa – Sri Lanka
When life gets too busy and the simple pleasures of a hammock, a freshly opened coconut and the soundtrack of crashing waves beckon, head to the gorgeous crescent beach of Mirissa and chill to the max. The beach is lined with great value accommodation and restaurants serving generous portions of scrumptious Sri Lankan curries. Nearby attractions include historic Galle. Join whale watching trips from the beautiful beach of Unawatuna to ensure you have a memorable beach vacation in Sri Lanka.
4. Padang Padang, Bali – Indonesia
Looking for a beach holiday near Singapore? Bali should automatically come to mind. If you want a change from the beach scene in Kuta and Seminyak, then head to the dramatic beach of Padang Padang. With funky guesthouses, surf shops and shacks serving up superior grilled seafood, you could well be in beach heaven. Come here on a Saturday night or a full moon and you’ll find yourself raving until dawn at one of the numerous beach parties in Bali.
5. Cottesloe Beach, Perth – Australia
Family-friendly Cottesloe Beach is over 1000m long and is perfect for a family beach day. The beach is informally divided into three parts, so choose the part which most suits your vibe; surfers and kite surfers head to rocky South Cottesloe, whilst snorkellers hang out at Peter’s Pool. The area is packed with activities from cycling and surfing, and free music is available at the Cottesloe Esplanade – perfect as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean.
6. Palawan – Philippines
Get away from it all at the Bacuit Archipelago in Palawan, home to some of the best beaches near Singapore. A short distance away from El Nido in Palawan, its 45 enchanting islands are riddled with karst cliffs, limestone formations and gorgeous lagoons. This is beachcomber paradise; charter a boat and go island-hopping! Start your trip planning now!
7. Phi Phi Islands – Thailand
Featured in the movie “The Beach”, the Phi Phi islands are the jewel in Thailand’s island crown and perfect for a quick beach holiday near Singapore. Even with all the hype, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be impressed with the glittering turquoise waters and sheer cliffs. Phi Phi Don, the largest and only inhabited island, doesn’t even have roads! To get to the Phi Phi islands, you can fly to Phuket and get a ferry from there onwards to the islands.
8. Goa – India
Where to begin with Goa’s spectacularly scenic beaches? Goa has everything from adrenaline to adventure, solitude to sunbathing. Our picks are Mandrem Beach for honeymooners, Agonda Beach for relaxing, Baga Beach for parties and seafood, and of course, the former hippie enclave of Anjuna Beach for trance music and colourful flea markets.
9. Soneva Gili – Maldives
It wouldn’t be a list of the best beaches in Asia if we didn’t include the paradise islands of the Maldives. As expensive as it is gorgeous, Soneva Gili in the Maldives is the ultimate in luxury retreats. Rustic-chic rules at this tiny coral atoll set in a sparkling lagoon, complete with spacious villas, fine dining and private butlers.
10. White Beach – Boracay, Philippines
There’s a good reason why Boracay, developed as it is, still makes it on this list. It boasts some of the best beaches near Singapore that we would happily return to over and over again. Boracay’s White Beach is simply stunning, with extraordinarily pure powder sands that extend forever into azure blue waters. From water sports and diving to spas and shopping, there’s something for everybody.
11. Whitehaven Beach – Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Often voted Australia’s best beach, Queensland’s iconic Whitehaven Beach is a 7km stretch of crystal clear waters and pristine sands. Explore the colourful cove of Hill Inlet, or hike up to the lookout at Tongue Point for a stunning, much-photographed view.
12. Sipadan – Malaysia
Possibly one of the best dive sites in the world, Sipadan’s lush and healthy coral reefs support thriving populations of sea turtles and reef sharks. However, conservation regulations mean that only 120 diving permits are allowed every day, so book your dives early. You can get to Sipadan by domestic transfer to Tawau Airport.
13. Koh Rong – Cambodia
Idyllic and picturesque, this island off the coast of Sihanoukville is an unspoiled tropical paradise. With over 40km of white sand beaches and turquoise-green waters, Koh Rong offers the simple pleasures of relaxing with a cold beer and freshly-caught seafood. Get to Koh Rong by ferry after flying into Phnom Penh.
Back to basics
The photos of deserted white beaches, lapping turquoise waters and gently swaying palm trees are enough to appeal to most travelers. However, it is well worth noting that, although development has vastly picked up pace on the island, amenities are pretty basic, so don’t expect any five-star luxury to be waiting.
Dreaded sand flies plague Koh Rong, and while it seems they don’t enjoy feasting on some people, those they do will suffer, thanks to the little blighters peeing and releasing toxins into your body while sucking your blood. Unlike mosquitoes, they are hard to spot and often go undetected until the itching strikes. A debate is raging over how to deter them, with some claiming super-strong DEET does the trick, while others recommend slapping coconut oil all over your body.
The majority of places on the bustling stretch of beach at Koh Touch offer 24-hour electricity, but it’s best to prepare for rationing just in case. Bringing a fully-charged power bank, and making use of electricity when it’s on to top up your electronics is advisable.
Stock up on cash
There is no ATM on Koh Rong, so make sure you stop off at the cash point in Sihanoukville before catching the boat across. There are a couple of places at Koh Touch that offer foreign currency exchange or money lending in lieu of your passport—which is later shipped to the mainland—but it comes with hefty interest fees.
Koh Rong boasts 27 miles (43km) of beach, seven bays, and 30 square miles (78km²) of inland—mainly dense forest—making it a large island to explore. However, with no roads, getting around can be tricky. There are a few tracks that snake across the island, so make sure you pack shoes that cover your toes. Otherwise, water taxis are the best way to navigate.
Social media detox
The wifi on Koh Rong is limited, and when it can be found it is often painfully slow. Bearing this in mind, download any movies and music before you leave and use it as a chance to take a break from Facebook. If you can’t tear yourself away, then it is worth buying a SIM card with 3G access.
From October 1, the Cambodian government is introducing an environment tax to all visitors to the islands. This is $2 and is not included in the cost of the boat ticket to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong, so make sure you have some spare dollars on you when you board the boat.Be prepared to pay the environment tax © Nopkamon Tanayakorn / Shutterstock.com
Whether it be Western or Asian food you fancy, fear not because Koh Rong has it all, and most of what can be found on the mainland can be found on the island. And the great thing is, it’s not extortionately expensive. Do, however, expect to pay a little extra to take into account the shipping costs.
Keep it clean
In case you haven’t realized that development is gathering pace on the island, then here it is again. This rapid change comes coupled with environmental concerns about waste management, plastic in the ocean and lining the beach and the effects on marine life. Visitors to Koh Rong should go with a conscience and try to minimize the part they play in potentially destroying the area’s natural beauty.
It’s not as deserted as you think
Tourism to Koh Rong may be a long way off hitting the heights of Thailand’s Phuket or Koh Samui. However, rapid development during the last five years has wiped away some of Koh Kong’s idyllic charm. The popular stretch of beach at Koh Touch is pretty much lined with bars, guesthouses, shacks and eateries, with the party often going 24/7. For a quieter experience, get a boat to Sok San and enjoy the four miles (7km) of beach.Vibrant Koh Touch © Michel Piccaya / Shutterstock.com
14. Haad Rin Beach – Koh Phangan, Thailand
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, few places can beat the hedonism of Koh Phangan’s infamous Full Moon parties. If while there you need to recover from a hangover, there are quieter beaches perfect for taking it easy. Get to Koh Phangan by ferry after flights to Koh Samui, or consider alternative airports in Chumphon or Surat Thani.
Dance till You Drop at the Moon Parties
The moon phase parties are the main claim to fame of Koh Phangan. Full Moon Party, Half Moon Party, and now Black Moon Party set the beat on the island every month. Held on the east side of Haad Rin Beach, the southernmost beach in Koh Phangan, the Full Moon Party is one of the best parties in Thailand, with visitors raving it up from dusk till down with your toes in the sand. Half and Black Moon parties are of a slightly lower importance, yet they attract more and more bass heads. Both of them are held are around Baan Tai Beach, just north of Haad Rin.2
Explore the island from One Beach to the Other
Beach-hopping is a must do if you stay in Koh Phangan. With a perimeter of about 40km, the island is not that big, yet has about 30 beaches of various sizes and shapes. It’s fairly cheap to rent a motorbike – about 200-300 baht per day, then go explore all these beaches. Some of the tiniest ones cannot be reached by road easily; Haad Nam Tok (Waterfall Beach) for instance. In this case, you may want to hire a long-tail boat for the day, and cruise along the beautiful Koh Phangan shore to get there.3
Enjoy the Activities at Hand in Haad Rin
Even though Haad Rin is not the capital town of Koh Phangan, it certainly is the busiest destination on the island, thanks to the Full Moon Parties which attract plenty of young people and backpackers every month. To keep those crowds entertained in between two binge drinking sessions, Haad Rin offers a good choice of activities such as beach football, beach volleyball, and bikini contests, as well as a good list of water sports including jet skiing, sea kayaking, and more.
- Location: Baan Tai, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand
Snorkel and Dive around Koh Phangan
The waters around Koh Phangan offer great snorkelling and scuba diving sites. Less reputed than Koh Tao, the Mecca of submarine activities in the Gulf of Thailand located some 35 km north, Koh Phangan however features all that’s necessary to explore the underwater world. Snorkelling can be enjoyed at almost any beach along the west and north coasts. The best spots use to be toward the beach ends. Beach diving can also be organised, but the dive centres based on Koh Phangan usually go further at sea, in the direction of Koh Tao. Sail Rock is one of the most beautiful dive sites in the vicinity (15 km north) of Koh Phangan.
- Opening Hours: Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand
Hike to the Waterfalls
There are several waterfalls to discover in Koh Phangan. The most notable ones are Than Sadet Waterfall (off the road to Thong Nai Pan beaches); Paradise Waterfall, located off the road to Chaloklum Bay; Than Prawet Waterfall, also near Thong Nai Pan beaches; and last but not least, Than Praphet, which leads directly in the sea at Waterfall Beach on the southeast coast of the island. If you are ready for challenging hikes, a visit to any of these waterfalls will surely please you. Just note that it’s often best to see them right after high season, when the weather starts to get better.6
Challenge Yourself at The Challenge Phangan Park
The Challenge Phangan is a water park located at Sweet Water Lake, between Sri Thanu and Chao Phao bays on the west coast of the island. It offers a fun and exhilarating water obstacle course that you need to make in the shortest time as possible. This challenging course features rolling barrels, monkey bars, rope swing, stepping stones, climbing mountain, balance beams, swinging shapes, and much more. In between two races, you can restore yourself at the bar/restaurant. Safety first, all participants under 18 must wear a life-jacket, and children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult at all time in the water.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 6pm
- Location: 90/22 Baan Tai, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand
- Tel: +66 (0)63 101 2390
Discover Koh Phangan Viewpoints
The mountainous landscapes of Koh Phangan offer visitors a good choice of stunning viewpoints. The highest spot of the island is Khao Ra, a 627 m tall mountain situated in the north central part of the island. The best way to get to the summit is to hire a guide at the base of the trail. It costs 500 baht, and you are sure to not get lost in the jungle or endanger your life unnecessary as the trek is arduous. Besides Khao Ra, there are good viewpoints all around the island in Haad Yao, Haad Rin, between Haad Maehaad and Chaloklum Bay, and more. Some of them are simply on the roadside, some other require a bit of an effort to get reached.9
Go Shopping at Thong Sala Night Market
Locally called Panthip Market, Thong Sala Night Market is an experience you shouldn’t miss if you’re gourmand. Hosted on a parking lot in front of a 7-Eleven in the centre of Thong Sala, Koh Phangan’s capital town and main shopping hub, you’ll find a vast assortment of street food sold at rock-bottom prices. From grilled fish and meat to crusty pizza, and from sushi to pad Thai, it’s the perfect place to discover the richness of street food culture in Thailand. Panthip Market is open every day from 16:00 till late.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 12pm to 10pm
- Location: Moo 1, Thong Sala, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand
Learn Thai Cooking
Thai cuisine is renowned all around the world, and one of the best ‘souvenirs’ you could bring back home after a holiday in Thailand, is the ability to cook delicious Thai dishes to impress your friends and family. Koh Phangan features a good choice of cooking schools at which you can learn the basics of Thai cuisine, and the ingredients necessary to successfully prepare some of the favourite dishes such as pad Thai, tom kha kai, and more. Schools such as C&M Culture Centre in Sri Thanu, The Phangan Cooking Class in Thong Sala, and My Wok and Me also in Thong Sala, just to name a few, will give you all the tips and tricks to become a Thai chef.
15. Mui Ne Beach – Vietnam
For those who love the heady contrast of excitement and relaxation, Mui Ne Beach is right up your alley. With strong winds, big waves and clear skies, Mui Ne is ideal for wind-surfing, kite-surfing and all sorts of physical activities. Mui Ne also has some dramatic scenery: giant sand dunes, perfect for dune-trekking. Find flights from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City, then grab a train, taxi or bus to Mui Ne beach.
16. Hot Water Beach – Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Not far from Auckland is the truly unique Hot Water Beach. The presence of hot springs along the coast means that hot water bubbles up through the sands, allowing visitors to dig their own personal, steaming spa pool to relax in… at least until the tide comes in.
17. La Digue – Seychelles
OK, this beach isn’t really in Asia, but we couldn’t resist adding this gem to the list. The exotic islands of the Seychelles are on many travellers’ bucket lists, attracting famous honeymooners like Prince William and Duchess Kate. Their pick? The exclusive and exquisite island of La Digue, home to L’Anse Source D’Argent, one of the world’s top beaches.
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