Terengganu is home to some of Asia’s most underrated islands. Cerulean waters, palm-lined beaches, amazing dive spots and turtle-spotting await here — but which one should you visit next?
The beautiful and underrated islands off the state of Terengganu deliver on that postcard-perfect tropical escape you may be dreaming about: forested cliffs, pristine, white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters that are perfect for diving and, most importantly, refreshingly free of the crowds typical of other beach locales in Southeast Asia. While islands like Redang are now well-trodden vacation spots among locals, there are still plenty of hidden gems waiting to be explored. The secluded beaches of Lang Tengah, for one, are perfect for those seeking a remote escape, while the lush Perhentian Islands are widely regarded as among the most beautiful in the world.
Whether you’re vacationing with family, holidaying with your significant other, backpacking or seeking a luxury beach retreat, there’s something for every travel taste. Here’s a guide to the best islands in Terengganu.
1. Redang island
Best for: Families, travellers who prefer upscale to luxury lodgings
How to get there: Take a 45-minute boat ride from Merang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu
Arguably Terengganu’s most famous island, Redang is also the largest – and most commercialised – one on this list. The upside is that there are a variety of stays available, from wallet-friendly beach shacks to luxury seaside offerings that promise all the creature comforts. It’s located within a protected marine park, so there are plenty of excellent diving and snorkelling spots too. Redang is also a key site for sea turtle conservation in Malaysia – they are a common sight here, and you can visit the largest green turtle rookery in Peninsular Malaysia, to learn more about its initiatives.
2. Lang Tengah Island
Best for: Travellers who prefer a secluded island getaway
How to get there: Hop on a 30-minute boat ride from Merang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu
Located between Pulau Perhentian Besar and Redang, Lang Tengah remains under-the-radar. There are only four resorts islandwide, all of which come with their own private beaches, so it’s perfect for a quiet, crowd-free escape. Water sports enthusiasts will appreciate the slew of activities here – there are three snorkelling locations and eight scuba-diving spots – while outdoorsy types will enjoy its hiking trails and bioluminescent beach.
3. Gemia Island
Best for: Vacation-goers seeking a private island experience
How to get there: Take a 15-minute ferry ride from Merang Jetty in Kuala Terengganu
This tiny private island is owned by its sole resort – Gem Island Resort and Spa – which boasts over 40 seafront villas at different price points. There are three private beaches around the island, one of which houses a turtle hatchery; a spa; and activities like kayaking to the nearby islands. If you’re lucky, you can even watch green turtles and giant leatherbacks wandering ashore to lay their eggs.
4. Tenggol Island
Best for: Diving enthusiasts
How to get here: Take a 50-minute boat ride from Kuala Dungun Jetty
One of the most pristine islands off Malaysia’s east coast, Tenggol boasts stunning, rocky, forested cliffs, white-sand beaches and some of the best diving in Peninsular Malaysia. Diving enthusiasts will love the virgin coral formations, amazing marine life and excellent visibility. There are over 20 dive sites here that are better suited for seasoned divers due to the strong currents. Pay a visit between August and October for a chance to see the elusive whale shark. Not a certified diver? Fret not, the shallow dives here are also ideal for novice divers and snorkellers.
5. Kapas Island
Best for: Travellers on a shoestring budget
How to get here: Take a 20-minute boat ride from Marang Jetty (not to be confused with Merang Jetty)
Fun fact: Kapas translates to cotton, and it’s a name bestowed by the locals for the island’s cottony-soft, sandy beaches. It’s a well-trodden spot among backpackers, due to its cheap accommodation that range from hilltop chalets to run-off-the-mill budget hotels. Activities here include squid fishing, turtle spotting, snorkelling, scuba diving and trekking, which you can cover in a day’s trip.
6. Perhentian Island
Best for: Families, diving enthusiasts, backpackers
How to get here: Take an hour and a half speedboat ride from Kuala Besut Tourist Jetty
The Perhentian Islands are a cluster of stunning, coral-fringed beauties off Terengganu, located in the National Marine Park of Malaysia. There are two main islands – Pulau Perhentian Besar, and Pulau Perhentian Kecil – both famed for sapphire blue waters, beautiful beaches and rich marine life. Those travelling with kids will appreciate the family-friendly resorts on the former, while gap-year backpackers on a shoestring budget will love the nightlife scene and affordable stays on the latter. There is a smattering of dive centres around the island and an underwater excursion here will get you up close with sea turtles, various shark species and more. You can also hop on a boat and snorkel around the smaller, uninhabited islands of Rawa, Serenggeh and Susu Dara, just off the tip of Perhentian Kecil.