20 Of The Most Beautiful Islands In Asia You Need To Visit
Who doesn’t want to go on a relaxing beach vacation on a stunning island? With the following islands, you’ve got plenty of destinations to choose from for all preferences. Whether you are looking for a deserted island in the middle of nowhere or a cultural hotspot with a vibrant nightlife, you’ll find the perfect island among these most beautiful islands in Asia!
Bali, Indonesia – The Spiritual Island
Not exactly a hidden gem, Bali is one of the most visited islands in Asia. However, it still offers a unique and deeply cultural experience and something for everyone. From party beaches to tranquil retreats, Bali is a destination with a unique spiritual vibe. Especially Ubud, in the center of the island, is not to be missed and a great starting point for your Bali adventure. The monkey sanctuary, many palaces, and delightful restaurants and flower baths at local spas are what makes Ubud so incredibly fun. The most beautiful beaches in Bali can be found in Kuta, Nusa Dua and Legian and Canggu.
Boracay, Philippines – The Luxurious Party Island
Titled “The World’s Best Island” by Conde Nast Traveler 2 years in a row, it’s no surprise that Boracay has a spot on this list of the most beautiful islands in Asia. Located in the center of the Philippines, the island offers both a vibrant nightlife and stunning natural beauty and remote resorts, making it an ideal honeymoon destination in Asia. There’s a lot to do in Boracay with scuba diving and snorkeling being on top of the list. Unfortunately, the government in the Philippines has decided to restrict travel to the island over the next months, an attempt to clean up and restore the natural beauty of the island.
NOTE: Boracay is closed for 6 months (April – October 2018) to protect its nature and beaches. Read more here.
Cat Ba Island, Vietnam – The Romantic Party Island
Cat Ba Island is one of the most beautiful islands in all of Vietnam. You’ll find the perfect mix of beautiful scenery and fun activities to keep you busy on this tropical getaway. Cat Ba is perfect for backpackers who want to party or couples who want a romantic vacation. You’ll find everything from hostels to luxury resorts with private beaches and everything in between.
The best part of Cat Ba is the karst mountains that make up this incredible landscape. Rolling hills of steep black mountains are covered in green jungle liter your view from everywhere around Cat Ba Island. The area neighbors the more famous Ha Long Bay but without the same busy crowds. Be sure to take a boat tour, check out monkey island and try kayaking in this paradise. Monkey Island has a private resort that is perfect for couples or you can join a day trip there but be sure to hike to the top for this epic view.
Don Det, Laos – The Hidden Gem Island
Just because Laos is landlocked doesn’t mean there aren’t any islands to explore. The 4000 Islands region, in the far south of the country, features several large islands in a wide stretch of the Mekong River. Don Det and Don Khon (they are connected by an old French bridge) are the most interesting islands and are well set up for tourists. The main appeal of Don Det is its sleepy riverside setting and stunning sunsets and sunrises. It’s the perfect spot for a few lazy days by the river, and many people end up staying much longer than first planned.
A must-do while staying on Don Det is the bike ride over to Don Khon. There’s an impressive waterfall to check out and you can also head out onto the Mekong River to spot Irrawaddy dolphins. You can also visit the nearby Khone Pha Pheng Falls, the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia by volume of water. Don Det is an extremely cheap place to stay. You can rent a riverside bungalow for a few dollars and meals and drinks are very affordable. It’s not the easiest place to get to as it’s not really close to anywhere else on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail, but it’s well worth the journey from Siem Reap or Vientiane.
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is a wild, untamed place with stunning scenery, gorgeous lakes, beautiful volcanos and delicious food. There are countless places to visit on Hokkaido. Popular favorites include the lavender fields of Furano, the Blue Ponds in Biei, Lake Shikotsu and Noboribetsu.
During winter, you can go skiing, for example in Niseko, Asahidake or Furano. Onsen (Japanese hot springs) are plentiful on Hokkaido and with its cold climate, relaxing in an onsen is a blissful way to spend an afternoon or evening. In spring, you can see the Sakura (cherry blossom), for example at Goryōkaku Castle in Hakodate or at the beautiful grounds of Matsumae Castle (a typical Japanese style castle). Flower fields around Furano are spectacular in summer and during the fall, the colorful leaves draw many Japanese visitors to Hokkaido.
Altogether Hokkaido is a great year-round destination, one that is of the beaten track but more than worth a visit!
Jaco Island, Timor Leste
If you want to see what it’s like to be stranded on a desert island, perhaps totally to yourself, Jaco Island of Timor Leste might be the perfect spot for you! Jaco Island is an uninhabited island, a little over a mile in diameter, off the east coast of little-visited Timor Leste. This island, at the meeting of the Banda and Timor Seas, is considered sacred by locals so no one is allowed to live or camp there.
However, the fishermen and local tourist cooperative are happy to have you visit for a day. A fisherman will take you out for a day and drop you on the north end of the island in the perfect white sand. You can choose to walk along the beach or swim in the warm sea. Even better, bring your own snorkeling gear and watch the fishes in one of the healthiest coral gardens you’ll ever see just a few yards/meters from the shore. Make sure you spend a night or two at the local cooperative bungalows on the Valu beach just opposite of Jaco Island. You can enjoy the stars and fireflies on the beach at night and sunrise in the morning.
Jeju Island, South Korea
Jeju Island is South Korea’s largest island and a popular beach getaway for locals and foreign tourists in East Asia. The island has been isolated from mainland Korea for centuries, thus, boasting a different cultural heritage. Besides delicious seafood, beautiful turquoise beaches and a hike to Hallasan, a volcano crater, the island is famous for Haenyeo, its real-life mermaids. Haenyeo are female divers hunting for fish, shellfish and other seafood all over Jeju Island.
Most of these women are over 70 years old and do not use modern diving equipment, thus, are able to hold their breath for an extensive period of time. The best part is, you can try out being a Haenyeo yourself on a specialized tour. If you are looking for a unique cultural experience paired with UNESCO World Heritage sites, Jeju Island will definitely not disappoint.
Koh Kood, Thailand – The Uncrowded Paradise Island
Love the clear turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, but hate the crowds? Unlike some of Thailand’s better-known islands, Koh Kood sees relatively few tourists, even during high season. While many of the island’s beaches are privately owned by upscale resorts, the beach at Klong Chao on the western shore is the ideal place to spend a few hours lounging in a hammock, drink in hand, before going for a swim. Only one major road traverses Koh Kood, stretching from the ferry port at the northern tip to the small fishing village of Ao Yai on the southeastern shore.
The road’s lack of traffic makes it ideal for motorbike riders who want to enjoy the island’s various waterfalls, coconut-strewn beaches, and pristine jungle habitat without the risks prevalent in more crowded destinations. The Secret Waterfall is one must-visit attraction, located near the geographic center of the island. It sees relatively few tourists as it requires a long ride along a sometimes perilous dirt track, but the falls at the end of the road are a worthy reward for the journey.
Koh Poda, Thailand – The Tiny Thai Heaven
Named “One of the most photographed destinations in the world”, is the island of Koh Poda in Southern Thailand. This tiny island is located 8 kilometers south of Ao Kang, in the Krabi Province. What makes Koh Poda so photogenic is its white sand beaches, the crystal clear blue water and the iconic giant “mountain” right off the coastline. The beach is large enough that you can find your own private corner to lay in the soft pillow-like sand and take in some sun
There are no hotels, resorts, or restaurants so the number of tourists is kept to a minimum. You will see a one stand selling drinks and snacks, but it is best to bring your own food if you plan on staying all day. You can only arrive at this island if you either book a tour or rent a private longtail boat. If you go with a tour group, the fee for visiting this National Park is included in the tour price. Arrive by private boat and the entrance fee is 200 baht (approx. $6 USD).
Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia – The Picture Perfect Island
Koh Rong Samloem is a picture postcard island off the coast of Cambodia that’s been likened to Thailand before it got completely overrun with tourists. Picture a small island with white sand beaches, no roads, cars or noisy scooters, friendly people and a bunch of small bars and restaurants to chill away the day in!
It’s not the easiest place to get to, but that’s why it’s still relatively off the beaten track and unspoiled. In fact getting there is half the adventure – we found ourselves taking a bus, tuk-tuk, ferry and dinghy to get to our accommodation but it was absolutely worth it. We stayed in a gorgeous beach hut right on the water and hardly wore shoes the whole week we were there.
A jungle walk from the main bay of the island over to the aptly named Lazy Beach is a must-do. It’s around a 45-minute gentle hike through lush, tropical jungle where you can spot monkeys and beautiful hornbill birds. Lazy Beach is a stunning stretch of golden sand that’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing without the bother of hawkers or noisy beach bars.
If you’re looking for a laid-back paradise, then get to Koh Rong Samloem before the secret gets out!
Lakshadweep Islands, India – The Hundred Thousand Islands
Lakshadweep means “Hundred Thousand Islands” in Sanskrit. It is India’s smallest Union Territory and perhaps the most beautiful one too! It is a dreamy paradise of innumerable islands, lagoons, turquoise blue and green waters, submerged reefs and so on. For a beach lover, it is like visiting heaven on a budget! Lakshadweep has various islands which can be visited but the most famous ones are Minicoy, Kadmat, Kavaratti, Bangaram, Agatti etc.
They are world famous for their lagoons, coral and marine life, smooth sands, amazing palm groves, villages, mosques and multi-colored sea.
For the adventure junkies, there are various water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, sailing, water skiing and kayaking. Lakshadweep can be reached by flight/ship from Kochi, India, and everybody (Indian or otherwise) requires a special permit to visit Lakshadweep. The easiest way to reach this magical place is to book a package tour through the government’s tour operator. The best time to visit Lakshadweep is from December to May when the weather is pleasant and cool. June to September is the monsoon season when it receives heavy rainfall and should be avoided.
The Maldives – The Tropical Island Nation
Just saying the name the Maldives brings up images of white sand beaches, beautiful turquoise water and over the water bungalows! The Maldives is a favorite island destination for many people around the world.
The Maldives recently opened up to local tourism as previously it was all-inclusive resorts but now you can find reasonable places to stay. The island of Mahibadhoo (about an hour south of Male via speedboat) is perfect for this and the bill for the entire week will be less than you would have paid for an overwater bungalow and you can experience living like a local.
There is so much to do and see in the Maldives and most of it is underwater! The Maldives is like an underwater playground. Snorkeling every day and going on boat trips to go snorkeling with whale sharks, manta rays, and lots of turtles and fish is the way to spend your days. You can stop at sandbars in the middle of the Indian Ocean where there was absolutely nothing around. To say the Maldives is stunning is an understatement. You really must see it for yourself to believe it.
And of course, if you just want to unplug and get away from it all there are plenty of gorgeous spots to lie under the sun, read a book, take a nap or just enjoy the view.
Miyajima, Japan – The East Asian Wildlife Island
Itsukushima is a small island located just off the coast of Hiroshima. The island is also known by its more popular name ‘Miyajima’. Which is most famous for its UNESCO Itsukushima shrine; the shrine with a beautiful ‘flooting’ red torri gate that is only accessible from the island during low tide.
With a population of approximately 2,000 people, it might surprise you that no traffic lights can be found on the whole island! As the island is regarded as being highly sacred; monkeys and deer can roam freely and it is illegal for trees to be cut down.
Apart from the Itsukushima shrine, tourists can visit Dajganji Temple, Toyokuni Shrine, Daishō-in Temple, a five-storied pagoda and Setonaikai National Park. During spring the hills of the Island are filled with the oh-so-famous cherry blossoms that turn the whole island into a paradise. During autumn the maple tree cover the island like a colorful blanket! Also, make sure to take home some Momiji Manju; yummy pastries filled with custard or jam. From the mainland, you can easily access Miyajima by taking one of the frequent ferry services. The boat ride only takes around 10 minutes.
Nusa Penida, Indonesia – Bali’s Beautiful Sister
Nusa Penida is a little escape paradise. It may not seem highly logical but when I get “island fever” from Bali, I like getting on the 40 minutes speedboat to this even smaller island. Nusa Penida is raw and underdeveloped compared to Bali but that is what makes its charm. The small streets lined with palm trees or licking the coast, the seaweed farms at the shore, the turquoise Indian ocean water, do I need to go on?
The North and East of the island are where you will find most hotels and amenities. The West and South are more rugged and the roads can be challenging but that is where you will find the most beautiful spots and beaches. The best way to discover the island is to take your time, talk with the locals and explore the small roads that seem like they might not lead anywhere, there is always something beautiful around the corner on Nusa Penida!
Okinawa, Japan – Japan’s Paradise
This small island in the middle of the Pacific was once a different country before it became part of Japan. The culture, the people, and the food make it one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived. To this day, no other place compares to the glittering waters, the breathtaking sunsets, and the salty sea air.
Okinawa boasts natural beaches filled with coral and clear waters where you can easily see fish and sea turtles. On Okinawa, there’s nothing like sipping an ice cold Orion beer on a hot summer night while in your yukata waiting for the festival fireworks to start on the beach.
Okinawa’s beautiful culture also boasts eisa (the traditional dancing) and sanshin (the three-stringed snakeskin banjo). What’s most special about this island is that it’s not just one main island, but a chain and each has their own unique stories and culture. If you’re looking for another unique country that is a part of Japan and not a part of it at the same time, Okinawa is the bomb.
Palawan, Philippines – The Pride of the Philippines
There’s a reason Travel+Leisure put the Philippines’ Palawan Island in its list of World’s Best Islands two years in a row. Several reasons, in fact, that change as you move up or down the length of this slender island on the Philippine archipelago’s western side.
Fly in via the provincial capital Puerto Princesa, and you can catch a van straight from the airport to the northern coast where you’ll find the karst archipelago of El Nido. But why not stay a few days in a Puerto Princesa hotel, and explore the city?
Travelers who linger awhile can see Palawan’s mysterious Underground River, or go island-hopping around Honda Bay’s gorgeous white-sand-fringed islands, or just enjoy a night on the town – gorging on Filipino food at Kalui’s or enjoying Palaweno Brewery’s curiously wide collection of craft beers.
But El Nido calls – a five- to six-hour drive by van or bus up north to Bacuit Bay and its dozens of strangely-shaped karst islands. From this sleepy town, you can go hiking up the sharp-spired karst hills overlooking the sea, or take a boat-hopping tour to the bay’s collection of hidden beaches, caves, and islets.
Further north, you’ll find Coron Island, another karst wonderland with some of the world’s most entrancing diving spots – including a collection of World War II-era Japanese shipwrecks that offer a gorgeous scuba experience for the properly certified.
Palawan’s just as beautiful under the water as it is above: as good an island as you can get anywhere land meets the sea.
Perhentian Islands, Malaysia – The Turquoise Dream
Turquoise blue waters as far as the eye can see. Clear waters, with so many options to snorkel and scuba dive. Swimming with Turtles – check. Swimming with Black Tip Sharks – check. Kayaking over crystal blues waters – check. There is so much to do and see, making the Perhentian Islands a must-visit in Asia.
The Perhentian Islands are made up of two islands – Perhentian Besar (‘big’ island) and Perhentian Kecil (‘small’ island). Both islands are equally beautiful and offer a number of homestays and resorts to stay in. If you are looking for somewhere a bit more social, then I suggest staying on Perhentian Kecil, where there is more of a social scene. But if you want to be on resort time, with a cocktail in hand and just chillax, then Perhentian Besar is the spot for you. The Perhentian Islands is oh-so-beautiful and one of the most underrated spots to visit in Asia.
Saadiyat Island, UAE – The Middle Eastern Paradise Oasis
Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi is by far one of the most beautiful islands in the UAE. The reason being the island’s dedication to the culture and heritage of the UAE, with the breathtaking Louvre Abu Dhabi as well as the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The rest of Abu Dhabi simply falls in contrast to that as it’s such a modern city! The Louvre Abu Dhabi truly has some exciting exhibits as it has touches of Middle Eastern art unseen elsewhere. Any art buff would be thrilled to visit this particular Louvre museum, as it can be seen within 3-4 hours, unlike the one in Paris which might take a couple of days!
Saadiyat island can be accessed by car and is supposed to be part of a cultural district. It’s split into 3 parts – the cultural district, the beach and the marina. Those who love culture will revel in the architecture of the various museums in the area, whereas the beach and golf course is perfect for those that want to enjoy ultimate luxury.
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort is absolutely beautiful and has its own strip of private beach. The hotel is also home to some spectacular restaurants, including one that floats above the water. It has its own private golf course as well as a lovely organic vegetable market called ‘Ripe market’ on Fridays. If you’re not looking to splurge, the 400m public beach at Saadiyat island is virtually untouched and beautiful. If you’re lucky, you might even see Hawksbill sea turtles on the shore!
Sri Lanka – The Pearl of the Indian Ocean
What comes to your mind when you think of a word ‘island?’ Stunning and cloistered beaches lined by swaying palm trees, wavering turquoise clear ocean waters, delicious seafood, and water sports. Sri Lanka has all this and beyond. This tiny tear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean has breathtaking beaches, amazing wildlife, culture, and history abound, and nature at its best – undoubtedly one of the finest islands in Asia. Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as the most beautiful islands in the world and you’ll agree once you visit this island of serendipity.
One of the special charms of the island is its varied landscapes ranging from barren plains to rainforest to highlands to sandy beaches. The Cultural Triangle (Ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Dambulla) offers wildlife, nature, temples and World Heritage Sites. Galle, Mirissa, Bentota, Negombo, Tangalle, Trincomalee, Palagama, Arugam Bay, Unawatuna are some of the beautiful beach towns. Mirissa is famous as one of the best places in the world to spot Whales and Dolphins.
To get the real taste of Sinhalese culture, visit Kandy during August when Esala Perahera festival is celebrated with great pageantry and magnificence. If you love being surrounded by nature, the lovely town of Nuwara Eliya is a perfect destination for you. The hill county holds ample natural beauty like waterfalls, tea plantations, and towering mountains to mesmerize your senses. The island even has a lot of options for hikers and trekkers – Adam’s Peak and Horton Plains to name the few.
Sumba Island, Indonesia – Bali’s Tranquil Cousin
A flight away from Bali, Sumba is nothing like its much popular cousin. Wild, off-the-beaten-path, and rugged are words that aptly describe this Island in East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. What you get for this wildness are miles of empty white sand beaches (Waingapu, Tarimbang), waterfalls (Tenggedu Waterfall), and mangrove forests all for yourself. The tribes who live on Sumba still live by the old adat tradition.
They live in houses with tall, sloping roofs made of dried grass and bury their ancestors in their front yard. Some of these villages are open to visitors (e.g. Kampung Ratenggaro). The surfers have long discovered this island and domestic tourism is developing, but for all sense and purposes, Sumba is still reserved for the more adventurous travelers. Be prepared for rough roads and lack of infrastructure. Is it worth it? I’d say so.
Taiwan – “Formosa” The Beautiful Island
Taiwan is one of the most beautiful islands in all of Asia, but it seems to be misunderstood. For one, many people think of it as just another Hong Kong or Singapore. Wrong! Taiwan is massive compared to those city-states, covering an area of nearly 14,000 square miles (Singapore, by comparison, is less than 300 sq. miles.)
Those who do know how big Taiwan is don’t know just how lush, green, and mountainous the island is. Taiwan is composed of a series of volcanoes, giving it a rugged and mountainous landscape covered with beautiful trees and shades of green. It has a rugged, beautiful coastline that goes quickly from mountains to sea. Not only that, but Taiwan has several stunning waterfalls including its most beautiful — Shifen Waterfall, located just 2 hours outside of Taipei, the frenetic capital city. This horseshoe-shaped waterfall is stunning, with a width of 40 meters and a height of 20 meters, sending powerful cascades of water below all year round.
There are countless beautiful towns dotting Taiwan — one of the most popular is Jiufen, which was the inspiration for the famous anime movie, Spirited Away. Built atop a mountain overlooking the sea, the teahouses are the perfect place to take in the sunset over the beautiful ocean. As it gets dark, lanterns light up and make this one of the most spectacular towns in all of Taiwan.
Which island are you heading to next?
With so many beautiful islands in Asia to choose from, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Luckily, you can visit them all!