From the Andaman Sea to Java Sea, these are the best & most beautiful islands in southeast Asia to visit.
If you love nothing more than relaxing on pristine beaches, with the sun beating down on your face while listening to the waves lap the shore, then these Asian islands are for you.
Here we’ve chosen out ten favorite islands to visit in Asia that can be easily be combined as part of a longer trip, taken as an individual vacation or just a beach holiday.
Table of Contents
1. El Nido – The Philippines
2. Camiguin – The Philippines
3. Phu Quoc – Vietnam
4. Havelock – India
5. Siargao – The Philippines
6. Karimunjawa – Indonesia
7. Con Dao – Vietnam
8. Koh Tao – Thailand
9. Pom Pom Island – Malaysia
10. Koh Rong – Cambodia
El Nido – The Philippines
The dramatic scenery of El Nido in the Bacuit archipelago is what keeps visitors flocking to the islands year after year. The karst limestone peaks tower over the calm turquoise waters and are the perfect place for a relaxing kayak adventure.
El Nido in Palawan, Philippines is made up of a cluster of islands that each offer their own slice of paradise.
With secret lagoons, white sand beaches and fish-filled seas, El Nido provides plenty of activities to keep you occupied for days if not weeks!
El Nido is also great for scuba divers.
There are tons of intriguing dive sites around the island including the famed Dilumacad Underwater Tunnel which lies 12m under the sea and boasts a range of colorful marine life.
For those who prefer to stay on land, hike up Taraw Peak to view the archipelago from above, visit the abandoned shrine to the Virgin Mary on Matinloc Island, or simply kick back and relax on one of the many picture-perfect beaches.
At the end of each day, grab a local beer and head to one of El Nido’s sunset spots where you can watch the sky turn to orange with your toes in the sand – heaven!
***Check out this post to find where are the Best hotels to stay in El Nido***
Camiguin – The Philippines
Much less-known than the islands of Boracay and Alona Beach, Camiguin is a remote paradise that will have you wanting to stay for a lifetime!
The island perfectly combines everything we know and love about the Philippines, from epic landscapes and perfect beaches to friendly locals, awesome dive sites, worth-it hikes, and quirky festivals.
Camiguin has options to suit everyone! I wrote an entire blog post about Things to do and see in Camiguin, if you have time to travel this part of the Philippines, don’t miss out that post.
Head out on a dive to discover the giant clams that reside in these waters or witness the sunken cemetery that lies off-shore; hike up the Mount Hibok-Hibok peaks; or while away the day on White Beach.
Just like Whitehaven Beach in Australia, White Beach in Camiguin is a pristine sandbar of perfect white powder where you can relax on the shore before taking a dip in the clear blue waters.
Even the natural springs are happy to accommodate everyone; with both the warming Ardent Hotspring and the refreshing Sto. Niño Coldspring to suit your mood no matter the weather!
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The island is now more accessible than ever thanks to regular Cebu Pacific flights, but this means its popularity will be on the rise, so go quick! Plus, it is known to be one of the safest destinations in the Philippines, so you have no excuse.
Phu Quoc – Vietnam
Moving on from the Philippines we have Phu Quoc in Vietnam.
This island in the Gulf of Thailand is dominated by a protected National Park (taking up more than half of the island) meaning it is great for jungle treks and wildlife watching.
The Suoi Tranh waterfall, in particular, is well worth a visit thanks to its powerful wide falls and lush tropical surroundings – the perfect place to go for a dip!
The whole island is a tropical haven which features over 20 beaches, year-round sunshine and a wealth of coral and marine life just off the shoreline.
Don’t forget to pack your snorkel as you may be lucky enough to witness dugongs and turtles (green and hawksbill) darting around in the ocean.
Heading out to Hon Xuong (aka Robinson Crusoe Island) is an awesome day-tripper option as you will truly feel as though you’ve stepped away from reality!
This island is uninhabited, but if you book as part of a tour, you can be one of the few to camp overnight.
With luxury hotels springing up around the island, Phu Quoc isn’t a typical backpacker location, but if you visit as part of your larger trip, you’re sure to be the envy of all your friends!
Havelock (Andaman Islands) – India
When most people think of India, they imagine the bustle of Mumbai and Delhi or the mountainous peaks of the Himalayas.
Yet across the Bay of Bengal, in the Andaman Sea, lies the stunning island of Havelock. Far removed from India’s lively mainland, arriving in Havelock Island feels like stepping back in time.
The island is mostly off-grid meaning you won’t be bothered by pesky work emails, and you’ll be able to switch off and relax.
The white sandy beaches seem to sprawl for miles and while you may be one of the very few people dipping in the sea, you may be joined by some friendly elephants looking to cool off!
Of course, getting to Havelock can be a bit of a mission (read: flights to India’s mainland, connecting flight to Port Blair (the capital and main island in Andaman) and a boat to Havelock) but this makes it all the more worthwhile.
Havelock beaches are considered among the best beaches in Asia, make sure you don’t miss out this little piece heaven.
Siargao – The Philippines
Yet another Filipino island to grace our Top Islands in Asia list is Siargao. This teardrop island in the Philippine Sea is a hotspot for surfers who gather year-round to appreciate the amazing waves.
We definitely consider Siargao among one of the best islands in Southeast Asia!
The Cloud 9 Surfing Cup is held here each year, so even if you don’t want to hit the board yourself you can admire those with skills from the shore.
However, if you do want to give surfing a go, Jacking Horse is a great spot for beginners.
For those who prefer to get their hearts racing elsewhere, Siargao offers some of the Philippines’ best cliff-jumping with the Magpupungko Rock Pools being a perfect spot to dive into the crystal-clear waters.
Alternatively, swim, snorkel and generally bask in the beauty of the pools.
Day trips in and around the island allow you to explore all the Siargao has to offer including the Tak Tak Waterfall, Santa Monica Pier sunset and the epic coconut palm forest – a rolling expanse of palm trees that will capture both your heart and your imagination.
There are so many islands and beaches around Siargao that you can always find one that is relatively quiet where you can while away a few hours in paradise.
Karimunjawa Islands, Java – Indonesia
Another excellent option for wildlife-lovers is the Karimunjawa Islands in the Java Sea.
The protected land (and sea) of the Karimun Java National Park features sprawling mangrove forests and beautiful coral reefs that are home to a plethora of species.
On land, keep your eyes peeled for wild deer and rare pangolin while in the ocean you can swim with playful turtles and along with hundreds of other tropical fish.
With leaning palms, rustic piers, crystal-clear waters you’ll feel like you’re in heaven.
One of the things that make the Karimunjawa Islands so special is that they are off-the-beaten-track!
There are both ferries and speedboats (although not always regularly), and the only way to reach the island by plane is to fly by Cessna (a pretty expensive option).
The island only has electricity between 6 pm and 6 am, and there is just one ATM (which may or may not work).
While this may make staying for a lifetime somewhat difficult, you’ll probably want to stay just one (or two, or three) days more!
Con Dao – Vietnam
Long gone are the days of political prisoners, Con Dao is now home to luxury resorts, endemic wildlife and miles of pristine coastline.
The beaches here look like they’ve popped out of a postcard, with blue water, golden sands, lush green fringing and a few large rocks peppered around the edges.
Each beach is unspoiled and offers a haven of tranquillity for travelers getting away from the hustle and bustle of mainland Vietnam.
For those who don’t want to lounge around on picture-perfect beaches, you can delve into the island’s history by visiting the museum and prison which tell stories of Vietnamese wartime.
Con Dao National Park is fortunate enough to be the only place in the country where both forest and marine life are conserved.
It therefore makes for an ideal day trip, first hiking through the jungle looking out for some of the 150 species that reside here, before stripping down to dive into the turquoise ocean to swim among the teeming life there.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to an island paradise without sampling some of the seafood delicacies, so head to the Con Dao Night Market to get your nightly fix!
Koh Tao – Thailand
Renowned as one of the best locations for scuba diving in the world, Koh Tao receives thousands of visitors per year. Yet despite its popularity, it has managed to retain its charm!
The island itself is lush and verdant and is best explored by hiring a moped and seeing where the day takes you… Jungle hikes, beaches, lookouts and epic sunset spots will keep you entertained day after day.
When sun sets, Koh Tao’s nightlife takes hold. With street food markets, buzzing bars, ladyboy shows and fire dancers on the beach you’ll be in for a lively night!
Koh Tao is one of the main scuba diving destinations in Thailand so if you want to get your PADI certificate, this is the place to be.
Not only is it the cheapest place in the world to receive your qualification, but the wildlife in the waters is awesome too.
It’s not called Turtle Island for nothing! Swim with greens and hawksbills, rays and sometimes even whale sharks (March to June) while also checking out the bright, colorful corals and friendly fish.
Thanks to its popularity Koh Tao offers activities, food, and lodging for every budget, so all travelers are able to experience the island’s beauty.
Pom Pom Island – Malaysia
On a map, Pom Pom Island literally looks like a drop in the ocean, but when you arrive on-land, you’ll see that there is so much more to it than that.
With gorgeous over-the-water huts is looks like something out of a honeymoon magazine, and whether you’re here on a honeymoon or not, you’re sure to create memories of a lifetime.
Relax on the shores, enjoy a massage while listening to the lull of the waves or take part in some conservation volunteer projects that aim to protect the coral and nesting turtles from harm.
The reef off the coast of Pom Pom Island slopes down and away from the island allowing divers easy access to the incredible biodiversity that teems in both the shallows and deep water.
It is, therefore, one of the best places for diving in the region but thanks to it having so few travelers, you’re likely to be alone while exploring the underwater world – winning!
Koh Rong – Cambodia
Just off the coast of the popular party town of Sihanoukville lies Koh Rong, a tropical paradise that will leave you longing to stay.
Only accessible by boat (for now!), Koh Rong retains a peaceful charm that allows you to fully switch off.
Spend your days reclining on the beach under the powerful rays of the Cambodian sunshine, snorkeling with tropical fish or heading out with local fisherman to try and get yourself a catch.
Sit on the beach with a cocktail in hand while day turns to night, with colors of crimson and burnt orange painting the sky.
By night, make new friends in the bars and restaurants along the beach front or get back into the ocean to swim among bioluminescent plankton!
While the island has become more and more popular over the past decade – with lots more hotels than were available just five years ago – it is still relatively calm.
An island that used to have just a few hostels and a treehouse now feature over-the-water bungalows and 5-star resorts.
The island has a plan to introduce an airport though, so try and go as soon as possible before the calm turns into chaos!
You can find Koh Rong Island under Conde Nest Traveler list of recommended beaches in Asia.
We could go on for days about the epic islands that pepper the seas of Asia but you’ve probably heard enough to have added some of the above Asian islands to your bucket list already!
With year-round sunshine, clear turquoise waters, colorful marine life and hammocks aplenty, you’re sure to find a paradise to suit you.
While some of the islands may be hard to get to – making them difficult for a quick weekend break – this is exactly what makes them so appealing.
Knowing that you’ve made the effort to reach your chosen off-the-beaten-path-island makes the relaxation even sweeter. Plus, you won’t have to share your slice of heaven with many other people, meaning you can do what you want when you want.