10 Beaches in Southeast Asia That Can Rival the Maldives

7 March 2023

Azure waters, pristine stretches of sand and spectacular landscapes… you don’t have to pay top dollar to enjoy these breathtaking sights.

Southeast Asia is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, with crystal-clear waters, soft white sands, and breathtaking natural landscapes. The beaches in this region offer a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, with opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and water sports. 

From the idyllic beaches of Thailand's Phuket and Krabi to the stunning shores of Bali, Indonesia, and the pristine islands of the Philippines, the region's beaches cater to every kind of traveler.

1. Boracay, Philippines

Boracay, Philippines. Image Source: Cojo Rosales on Unsplash

One of the most popular beach spots in Southeast Asia and one of the most visited destinations in the Philippines, Boracay is known for its beautiful beaches, resorts and numerous party venues. With a plethora of water sports, including snorkeling, diving, and kiteboarding, Boracay is the ultimate destination for adventure seekers. 

Alternatively, visitors can choose to relax on the pristine beaches or indulge in the numerous spas and wellness centers that offer rejuvenating treatments. At night, Boracay comes alive with a buzzing party scene, with beach bars and clubs hosting live music and DJ performances. 

Best time to go: November to May

2. Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines

Dumaluan Beach, Panglao, Bohol, Philippines

Panglao Island is a hidden gem located in the Philippines, offering an idyllic getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Known for its unspoiled beaches and crystal-clear waters, Panglao Island is a paradise for those seeking peace and tranquility. 

The island is home to a diverse range of marine life, making it a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can also explore the lush jungle interior of the island on foot or by bike, discovering hidden waterfalls and stunning viewpoints along the way.

Best time to go: November to May

3. Long Beach, Palawan, Philippines

San Vincente Long Beach, Palawan, Philippines

Known as the “Last Ecological Frontier of the Philippines”, you’ll be greeted by incredible waters and sparkling beaches in the northern part of the island. The beach is surrounded by lush greenery and towering limestone cliffs, creating a breathtaking backdrop for visitors to enjoy.

At night, Long Beach comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene, offering live music, cultural shows, and delicious local cuisine.

Best time to go: November to May

4. Koh Rong, Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Rong, in the southwestern side of Cambodia, boasts 43km of untouched white sand, clear turquoise waters plus schools of rabbitfish, sergeant fish and parrot fish. 

The island offers a range of water activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing, allowing visitors to explore the vibrant marine life of the region. Visitors can also hike through the lush jungle interior of the island, discovering hidden waterfalls and taking in breathtaking views from the top of the mountains.

Best time to go: October to April

5. Blue Lagoon in Bali, Indonesia

Blue Lagoon, Nusa Ceningan Island, Bali, Indonesia

Skip the touristy beaches of Seminyak and Kuta and head to the Blue Lagoon if you are spending more than a few days in Bali. The lagoon, which is about 1.5 hours away by car from Kuta, is as its name suggests. Sparkling cerulean waters are surrounded by cliffs and a short white sandy stretch. The beach is beautiful underwater too, with a spirited scene of colourful corals, cow fish, angel fish, cuttle fish and moray eels.

Blue Lagoon is also a popular destination for sunbathing and relaxing, with plenty of space for visitors to enjoy the tranquil surroundings. 

Best time to go: May, June and July.

6. Malapascua Island, Cebu, Philippines

Malapascua Island, Cebu, Philippines

One of the top diving destinations in the Philippines, this secluded island, with its living corals and vibrant marine life, remains relatively untouched by tourism. The island is surrounded by vibrant coral reefs and a variety of colorful fish, making it a paradise for underwater enthusiasts.

Best time to go: November to May

7. Rawa, Johor, Malaysia

Rawa Island, Johor, Malaysia

Ideal for honeymoons or short getaways, the idyllic island of Rawa, located off the eastern coast of Johor, is surrounded by aqua-blue waters and dotted with villas and resorts that remind one of the property in Oia or Mykonos, Greece.

Best time to go: March to September

8. Ko Phi Phi Le, Krabi, Thailand

Ko Phi Phi Le, Krabi, Thailand

Part of a group of six islands, the smaller Phi Phi Le (its bigger cousin is Phi Phi Don) is paradise on earth personified. Take a 45-minute speedboat or 90-minute ferry boat from Krabi or Phuket, and you’ll be greeted by striking turquoise waters, towering cliffs, immaculate beaches upon arrival.

Best time to go: November to March

9. Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Riung Island, Flores, Indonesia. Image Source: @supratours on Instagram

Famed for its unspoilt beaches, waters in varying shades of blue, and vibrant coral reef system and wildlife, the #nofilterneeded Riung is practically paradise on earth. A national conservation spot, the 17 Islands National Park (which actually comprises a total of 20 islands) is perfect for snorkeling and diving. And, if you have time to explore its surroundings, look out for exotic wildlife including the Timor deer, hedgehogs, ferrets, the Timor monitor lizard and marsupials.

To get there, you’ll have to get to the Komodo Airport near the town of Labuan Bajo on Flores, and drive from the airport.

Best time to go: April to October

10. Perhentian Islands, Terengganu, Malaysia

Perhentian Islands, Terengganu, Malaysia

Made up of two islands, Besar (Big) and Kecil (small), the postcard-perfect islands are perfect for snorkelling, diving, and admiring the friendly marine life which comprises turtles, stingrays, manta rays and a variety of schools of fish.

The larger island, Perhentian Besar, offers a more relaxed atmosphere, while the smaller island, Perhentian Kecil, caters to backpackers and budget travelers.

Best time to go: late February to early November

With its stunning natural beauty, diverse marine life, and relaxed atmosphere, it's no wonder that Southeast Asia is a top destination for beach lovers from around the world. Need a guide on what to do in Bali? Check out our article on the ultimate 4-day itinerary in Bali below.

What to Do in Bali: The Ultimate 4-Day Itinerary for Bali