Comprising the territories of Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah, Malaysia stretches from peninsular Malaysia to no...
Comprising the territories of Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah, Malaysia stretches from peninsular Malaysia to northeastern Borneo in Southeast Asia. Central mountains divide peninsular Malaysia (Malaya), separating the narrow eastern coast from the fertile western plains, with its sheltered beaches and bays. Sarawak and Sabah share the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei, where swamps rise to jungle-covered mountains. Malays make up half the population, and almost all Malays are Muslims. Ethnic Chinese constitute a quarter of Malaysia's people, and Indians some 7 percent—both groups are concentrated on the peninsula's west coast.
Plus: genuine tropical wildlife is often very nearby or even on the beach, Malaysian facilities are efficient and sophisticated, it's fairly crime-free, and local cuisine is varied and excellent.
Minus: the humidity is energy-sapping, costs can be wallet-sapping and it's often very commercial. Most islands will require a potentially bouncy boat ride to get there, especially off-season.
Datai beach, Langkawi island [North-west]
The beaches on this well-developed island are regarded as some of the world's most secluded and picture-perfect hideaways by many travel specialists. Unfortunately most of the best coves are private, occupied by luxury resorts.
If you are independent, try Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, or the beautiful crescent of Datai beach. Langkawi has also exquisite snorkelling sites, especially at Palau Payar Marine Park where Malaysia's best coral reefs are. The best season is Nov-May, when the sky is clear and the humidity is low, but rainfall here on the west coast is lower than in the east, so most of the year is OK. The worst time is Sept-Nov.