Terengganu is home to some of Asia’s most idyllic and unsung islands. Cerulean waters, palm-lined beaches, amazing dive spots and sea turtle spotting await here — but which one should you visit next?
The beautiful and thoroughly underrated islands of Terengganu deliver on that postcard-perfect tropical escape we all dream about. Think: forested cliffs, pristine, white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters that are prime for diving, and yet refreshingly free of the crowds typical of other popular beach locales in Southeast Asia. While islands like Redang are now a well-trodden vacation spot especially among local vacation-goers, there are still plenty of hidden gems and secret islands waiting to be explored. The secluded and private beaches of Lang Tengah, for one, is perfect for those seeking a remote escape, while the lush Perhentian Islands is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Whether you’re vacationing with family, holidaying with your significant other, backpacking or seeking a luxury beach retreat, there’s something that’ll appeal to every travel taste. Here’s a guide to the best islands in Terengganu.
1. Redang Island
Who’s it for: Families, travellers who prefer mid-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 Island is also the largest – and most commercialised – island on this list. The upside is that there are a variety of stays to opt for, from wallet-friendly beach shacks to luxury seaside offerings that promise all the creature comforts. Located within a protected marine park, there are plenty of excellent dive sites and snorkelling spots too. Redang is also a key site for sea turtle conservation in Malaysia – turtles are a common sight here, and you can visit organisations like Redang-based SEATRU, the largest green turtle rookery in Peninsular Malaysia, to learn more about its turtle conservation efforts.
2. Lang Tengah Island
Who’s it 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 and Redang, Lang Tengah remains an under-the-radar island of the bunch. There are only four resorts island-wide, all of which come with their own private beaches, so it’s perfect for anyone looking 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 outdoor lovers will enjoy its hiking treks, even a bioluminescent beach.
3. Gemia Island
Who’s it 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 other islands nearby. If you’re lucky, you can even catch turtles like the green turtle and giant leatherback wandering ashore to lay their eggs.
4. Tenggol Island
Who’s it 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 Island boasts stunning rocky forested cliffs, white sand beaches and one of the best dive sites in Peninsular Malaysia. Diving enthusiasts will love the virgin coral formations, amazing marine life and underwater visibility. There are over 20 dive sites here that’s better suited for seasoned divers due to the strong currents. Pay a visit between August and October for a chance to spy 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
Who’s it 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 Island translates to Cotton Island, a name bestowed by the locals for its cottony-soft, sandy beaches. It’s a well-trodden spot among backpackers, due to its fairly cheap accommodation that range from hilltop chalets to your run-off-the-mill budget hotel. Activities here include squid fishing, turtle spotting, snorkelling, scuba diving and trekking, all of which you can easily cover in a day’s trip.
6. Perhentian Island
Who’s it for: Families, backpackers, diving enthusiasts
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 islands 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 its sapphire blue waters, beautiful beaches and rich marine life. Those travelling with kids will appreciate the family-friendly resorts abound on the former, while gap-year backpackers on a shoestring budget will love the nightlife scene and affordable stays in the latter. There are a spattering of dive centers around the island and an underwater excursion here will get up close with sea turtles, shark species and more. You can also hop in a boat and snorkel around the smaller, uninhabited islands of Rawa, Serenggeh and Susu Dara, just off the tip of Perhentian Kechil.