I’m a huge beach and island fan. Especially the secret, hard-to-get-to ones. I often chase these hidden gems for their pristine splendour, glorious underwater world and solitude. These destinations might even require a wee bit of effort to get to. But the rewards are multifold when you arrive.
Many assume that the best island paradises are in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean or Polynesia. But that’s not always true. Southeast Asia has some incredible stunning spots of their own to rival those far-flung beauties. In fact, these spots are so stunning, you’ll want them all to yourself.
And believe it or not, they’re not in Bali, Phuket or Boracay.
1. Unwind on a sugar-white beach – Pantai Bira, South Sulawesi
Five hours away from the hectic city of Makassar lies a strip of sugar-white beach. This gorgeous destination not only offers a postcard-perfect landscape and crystal-clear waters, but also powdery white sand which makes it heavenly to lie on. Wriggle your toes and bury your feet in the sand for a natural exfoliation while you relax under the sun. Best of all, the waters here are shallow and still.
Most accommodations are perched along the bay, where even the cheaper ones include breakfast on the balcony. Imagine having a cuppa while taking in the view—now, doesn’t that spell paradise?
2. An idyllic paradise worth journeying for – Waleakodi, Togian Islands of Sulawesi
If you dream of swinging on a hammock between palm trees and having an island all to yourself, then seek out the mystical Waleakodi beach of Togian Islands. The journey requires some effort, but great discoveries rarely ever come easily. Swaying palms, gentle lapping water, white sands and not a soul in sight. Your fatigue will be magically washed away by all 50 shades of blue, green and yellow.
Once underdeveloped and forgotten by the Indonesian government, the entire archipelago was left untouched for many years. These islands are home to an abundance of healthy marine life, untouched coral reefs and dense rainforest jungles. However, the Togian Islands are now gaining traction in the tourism industry. It may take a while before these islands become the next Koh Phi Phi or Bali, so why not enjoy them while they are still unspoiled and unexploited?
3. A perfect coastline for a stroll – Tanjung Aan, Lombok
Lombok has more to offer than just Mount Rinjani and its neighbouring Gili islands. South of Lombok, not too far from Kuta Beach (yes, the quieter version of its namesake in Bali ) is Tanjung Aan. Facing the Indian Ocean with almost 2km of stretched coastline makes this place a perfect place for a stroll.
Scale the rocky side of the island and you’ll arrive at a vantage point where you get to photograph the whole landscape in its sweeping glory. It’s not the place for party revellers or water sports fans, but if you love to enjoy your beach vacation in peace without having to fight for a spot, this is it.
4. Kick back and enjoy the island life – Mantanani Islands, East Malaysia
Sabah is a popular destination for island vacationers, but most flock to the islands near Kota Kinabalu or Mabul island for their beach fix. A group of three islands called the Mantanani islands, on the other hand, lie under the radar.
Only an hour away from Kota Belud, these islands boast of turquoise water, powdery beaches and amazing dive spots. Many species of rays like the blue-spotted ray and marbled stingray can be easily spotted around here. Laze on the beach or grab a kayak and explore the surroundings.
5. Experience the magic – Siquijor Island, Philippines
Mention Siquijor Island to any Filipino and you will see their eyes open a little wider. To the locals, Siquijor is more widely known as an island of witchcraft, folk healing and the supernatural. Whether you are a believer or not, you’ll realise that Siquijor is indeed enchanting; its magic lies in its natural beauty.
Here, you can bask on the beaches, seek out secret swimming spots, motorbike around the island or take a dip in the natural spring park. Resorts and tour agencies also offer day tours to Apo Island, where it is famed for marine sanctuaries and gorgeous coral reefs.
The next time you’re considering a beach getaway to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, why not give these islands a try? These paradises are only a few hours of flight away and are wonderfully affordable. But be warned: Spend a day or two there, you’ll never want to return to reality ever again.