With a tropical climate, thousands of miles of coastline and more than 25,000 islands, Southeast Asia has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches.
Flanked by the Indian Ocean in the west and the Pacific in the east, and surrounded by more than a dozen seas, Southeast Asia’s beaches are as diverse as they are plentiful. Whether you want to snorkel, dive, relax, party or surf – the region has a beach for every occasion!
Equal parts beach bum and surfer, next to the sea is my favourite place to be and I’ve been scouring the region for the top beach spots. Read on to discover some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia.
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15 Best Beaches in Southeast Asia
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1. Phra Nang, Railay, Thailand
Great for: Relaxing, kayaking, climbing, swimming
Arrive at Railay West Beach by longtail boat and you’ll see why it’s a memorable experience. Surrounded by towering limestone karsts, you’ll be in complete awe of your surroundings.
If you can drag yourself away from this stunning setting, take a short walk to Phra Nang Beach on the south of the peninsular. The scenic sands here are perhaps even more beautiful, and certainly quieter as many day-trippers don’t make it beyond Railay West.
The view is just as dramatic and the absence of boats means that this beach is the perfect spot for a swim. Swimming is just one of the activities you can enjoy here though.
Rent a kayak to see some of the karsts up close, explore the bat cave and find the lookout that provides a spectacular view of Railay West, or take on some of the cliff faces in a rock climbing session – a must-do activity in Railay.
2. Batu Bolong Beach, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
Great for: Surfing, partying, sunsets
Bali is synonymous with surfing and one of the most popular spots to catch some waves is Canggu. Increasingly popular with digital nomads, Canggu is a small but lively town with a laid-back surfer vibe. The surf at Batu Bolong is ideal for beginners with long mellow waves. Plenty of Bali’s surf camps and schools are located around here.
A popular sunset spot, travellers gather here for an evening Bintang beer, many at the well-known Old Man’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. The thriving nightlife in Canggu means the beach is just as popular after dark with surfers, digital nomads and hipsters enjoying drinks, food and good music along the shore.
Canguu is easily accessible from Bali’s international airport and the surf season here runs from May to September, coinciding with the rainy season in much of Southeast Asia. This makes it a great spot to while away a few weeks while many other countries in the region receive a soaking.
3. An Bang Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam
Great for: Relaxing, swimming, watersports
Once you’ve marvelled at the lanterns and been fitted for some tailored clothing in Hoi An, take a short scooter ride or a cycle through the rice paddies to An Bang Beach, just a few kilometres north of the ancient city. This pretty beach faces out into the South China Sea with only the distant Cham Islands breaking the endless vista of blue.
The beach is a great place to spend the day relaxing, perhaps broken up with a refreshing swim, and a good location for trying your hand at some water sports. There are plenty of restaurants providing delicious food and sunbeds, as well as rental shops for surf and SUP boards. For adrenaline junkies, there are also jet skis for hire and parasailing available.
4. Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia
Great for: Diving, snorkelling, diving
Pulau Perhentian Kecil (meaning Small Perhentian Island) sits just off of Malaysia’s northeast coast, next to its sister island, Pulau Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian Island).
The Perhentian Islands were historically used as a rest stop for traders journeying between Thailand and Malaysia – Perhentian means ‘stopping point’ in Malay. Popular with backpackers, Perhentian Kecil is home to some of Malaysia’s most beautiful beaches.
Coral Bay on the west coast is a sweep of white sand and crystal water, and a quieter spot than lively Long Beach on the east coast. The coral reefs that ring the islands, as well as two wreck sites, make the Perhentians one of the best places in Malaysia to snorkel or scuba dive with many of the best sites just off the west coast near Coral Bay.
As well as sea turtles and clownfish, you could also get lucky and spot blacktip reef sharks! Many places on the island close for the rainy season (November-March), so plan your visit between April and October.
5. Nacpan Beach, Palawan, Philippines
Great for: Relaxing, swimming
The Philippines are hardly short of a beautiful beach or two but Nacpan Beach on Palawan Island is surely one of the best, with its cream-coloured sand, blue sea and jungle-covered hills and palm trees, all providing a scenic backdrop.
At 4km long, this wide powdery beach is anything but crowded. You’re guaranteed to find a quiet spot to relax with a book and a coconut or if you prefer a social scene on the beach, pay a visit to (or stay at) Mad Monkey Hostel, which is situated directly on the sand.
The beach is easily accessible from El Nido town, around a 40-minute drive away, so a day trip is a must if you’re staying in El Nido Proper. When you’ve had your fill of relaxation (if that’s possible) go for a swim in the wonderfully warm water or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hire one of the quad bikes on offer and take a ride along the sand.
6. Haad Rin Nok, Koh Phangan, Thailand
Great for: Partying, sunrises
If your criteria for a good beach is the opportunity to party the night away on wave-lapped sands, then Southeast Asia’s most famous party destination won’t disappoint.
The notorious Full Moon Party takes place once a month on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Nok Beach. Expect raucous revelry, neon paint, fire shows and lots of bucket cocktails.
For those with stamina, the party continues until dawn and Haad Rin Nok is perfectly positioned to enjoy a tropical sunrise. Despite the nightly antics, the beach maintains a surprisingly peaceful atmosphere during daylight hours and the soft sand makes for a comfortable spot to relax and snooze off the hangover the day after the night before.
7. Cat Co 3, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
Great for: Relaxing, swimming
Cat Ba is the largest island in Ha Long Bay and makes a great location from which to explore Ha Long and Lan Ha Bay. Much of the island is a national park and nature lovers will have fun exploring the wild and rugged natural beauty.
There are also three small sandy beaches a short walk from Cat Ba Town, which is the main hub of the island. Cat Co 3 is a curve of soft sand and sparkling waters, overlooking one of Lan Ha Bay’s limestone rocks. The beach is a great place for relaxing and swimming and there’s a beach bar to provide seaside refreshments.
Cat Co 3 is backed by a resort but is publicly accessible, just follow the road up to the resort and the path and steps that run alongside the main building and down to the beach.
If you’re feeling a bit more active, take a walk along the rock trail built into the side of the cliff. It offers amazing views of the bay and heads around to Cat Co 1 where watersports are a popular pastime. There are jet skis, kayaks and surfboards available for hire.
8. Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Great for: Relaxing
Cambodia may not be an obvious choice of beach destination, but the country’s relatively short coastline boasts some idyllic spots to compete with the best of them.
Often overlooked by its neighbour with its bountiful beautiful beaches means Cambodia’s shorelines see a tiny fraction of Thailand’s tourists. So if you’re looking for a place to kick back and relax away from the crowds, Koh Rong Samloem is the island for you.
The little sister of better known Koh Rong, this island paradise is just a 30-minute boat ride from Sihanoukville on the mainland. The island’s biggest beach, Saracen Bay, is a sweep of dazzlingly white sand and clear aqua water and makes the perfect location for a few days of beach bumming.
The shallow warm waters are perfect for basking in the sun and there is a good choice of accommodation and restaurants along the bay, each offering picture postcard views of the sun-spangled sea. If you’re feeling restless you can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to explore the island, or head to Lazy Beach on the other side of the island (around a 30-minute walk) for a spot of snorkelling or swimming.
9. Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
Great for: Snorkelling, diving
The rocky shoreline of Moalboal’s Panagsama Beach, just 2.5 hours from Cebu’s international airport, may not be the best place for beach bums (who should head north to White Beach for silky sands), but it’s what lies just off the coast that makes this beach stand out.
Just 20-30 meters out from the shoreline the coral reef drops off dramatically giving way to a depth of up to 70 meters and providing the perfect conditions for spotting marine life, including sea turtles.
The star attraction here though is the shoals of sardines that gather near Panagsama Beach. The shoals are formed of millions of fish that move together as one in a fascinating display. The sardines can be found here year-round, although high season on the island is November to April.
While diving is very popular, the proximity to the beach means that the area is very accessible for snorkellers too. Simply grab a mask and some flippers and enjoy this magical spectacle of nature. The bars dotting the beach make a perfect location for enjoying the sunset after a day exploring the underwater world.
10. Buffalo Bay, Koh Phayam, Thailand
Great for: Relaxing, swimming, sunsets
If you’re looking for a quiet Thai island off the beaten track with a laid-back vibe and beautiful beaches, then look no further than Koh Phayam. This small island near the Myanmar border is much less visited than those further south along the Andaman coast of the three Gulf coast islands.
Getting here involves a little more effort including a long bus ride from Krabi or Bangkok (or a flight) to Ranong, followed by a boat to the island, but the effort is more than worth it.
In the northwest of the island is Buffalo Bay (or Ao Khao Kwai) with endless white sand and beautiful blue clear waters that gently lap the shore. It’s a perfect spot for swimming or simply lazing the day away. There are a few accommodation options and restaurants here but much of the beach is entirely empty of development, and often other tourists. It’s possible to find yourself the only person here and get carried away with dreams of being a tropical castaway…
Don’t miss the beautiful rock formations of Hin Talu and enjoy the views across the glittering water to the Myanmar islands in the distance. The Hippy Bar is a favourite hangout for backpackers – grab a beer and watch one of the mesmerising sunsets.
11. Gili T, Lombok, Indonesia
Great for: Partying, snorkelling
The three Gili islands just off the coast of Lombok may have their own distinct character but stunning beaches are something they have in common. The largest of the three is Gili Trawangan (usually referred to as Gili T) and is the choice for those looking to party in paradise.
The beaches here don’t typically have names but the stretch of sand along the southeast coast is the hub of the island with some of Southeast Asia’s most pumping party spots. Each night of the week sees a different venue play host so it’s easy to find the happening hotspots and other party-goers.
The Gili islands are also renowned for their fantastic snorkelling and you can enjoy some underwater wonders all over the island, including off the southeast beach, but for the best chance of snorkelling with Green Sea Turtles, head slightly north up the coast to the waters in front of Villa Almarik. April to October is the dry season and the best time to visit for both partying and snorkelling.
12. Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Great for: Relaxing, snorkelling, swimming
A short boat ride or a 30-minute walk from the bustling town, which includes a short rocky section through the jungle, is Koh Phi Phi Don’s oasis of calm, Long Beach. This long stretch of soft sand runs along the island’s south-eastern tip.
The aqua and azure waters and powdery sand make a prime location for relaxation and swimming. After a night of partying on Loh Dalum Beach, Long Beach is the perfect escape for some peace and quiet and there are a number of restaurants at which you can enjoy a leisurely lunch.
The Phi Phi Islands are known for having some of the best snorkelling in Thailand and a boat trip isn’t the only way of enjoying the sea below as one of the best spots can be found at Long Beach. Blacktip reef sharks can be spotted at the aptly named Shark Point, just off of the beach’s easterly edge, as well as lionfish, parrotfish and clownfish.
13. Bounty Beach, Malapascua, Philippines
Great for: Diving
Malapascua is a tiny speck of land just off of the island of Cebu (and part of the province of Cebu), accessed by a four-hour bus ride and a 30-minute ferry from Cebu City. Despite its proximity to an international airport, the island remains relatively undeveloped compared with many of its neighbouring destinations and retains a laid back beach vibe.
Malapascua is fringed with beaches, all as picturesque as you would hope to find in a tropical paradise, but chief among them is Bounty Beach along the island’s south coast. It is here that you will find much of the accommodation, bars and restaurants – it’s the perfect spot for passing the day lounging.
What really makes Malapascua special, however, is the world-class scuba diving, and in particular, the opportunity to swim with thresher sharks. The island is the only place in the world where divers can encounter these elusive animals on an almost daily basis. There are several dive shops along Bounty Beach including the professional Thresher Shark Divers who will take you to the best spot to meet the sharks.
14. Jungutbatu Beach, Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Great for: Surfing, SUP, relaxing, sunsets
Part of Bali and just a 30-minute hop by boat across the water from the main island is Nusa Lembongan, a laid-back tropical paradise that feels a world away from the often chaotic Balinese mainland. Surfers, beach bums, water babies and nature lovers will all find something for them on this wonderful island.
The main stretch of sand and the heart of the island is Jungutbatu Beach, which is where you will find three surf breaks. The beach is also a great place for SUP boarding and the white sand and turquoise waters provide a magical backdrop to a day of relaxation. The sunset views aren’t too shabby here either! So whether you love being on a board in the water or a sunbed on the sand, Jungutbatu Beach is an idyllic spot best enjoyed from April to October.
15. Juara Beach, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia
Great for: Surfing, SUP, relaxing
The effort to reach Juara Beach on Malaysia’s Tioman Island, which involves a ferry from the mainland and a journey through the island’s interior by 4WD, is well worth it when you arrive at this remote picture-perfect paradise.
Juara Beach is one of Malaysia’s premier surfing spots, the season runs from November to March with a three-day surf festival each January. It is also a popular location for SUP boarding. The area is also known for its efforts in sea turtle conservation and you can visit or volunteer at the Juara Turtle Project to learn about and help with the conservation of these wonderful creatures.
Southeast Asia is home to a huge variety of beaches, from white powdery sands with swaying palm trees to world-class waves for surfing, tropical seas teeming with marine life to coastlines lined with bars. The beaches in the region have something to offer every type of traveller.
So whether you want to party the night away on the sand, laze all day with a book and a cold coconut or enjoy being active on, or under, the waves there is the perfect beach in Southeast Asia. But don’t just take our word for it – come and test the waters for yourself!