The Malay Peninsula will never disappoint when it comes to whiling away your holiday in tropical bliss. The very finest of its beaches are not on the mainland, however, but rather scattered among the many sparkling islands off its east coast, though you’ll need to catch them at the right time to enjoy them to the full.

Due to the eastern monsoon, the season to visit these glittering gems is typically very short, from June through to October, with the peak period between June and August. From November through to May, most of the resorts are closed and water conditions during this time can be dangerous. Though it is still possible to find accommodation from April, very little else will be open.

The Perhentian Islands are a beautifully serene escape with an abundance of superb fine sand beaches and crystalline waters, great for snorkelling and diving. Of the two main Islands, Besar is the most developed, while Kecil caters more to budget travellers.

Pulau Redang’s stunning white sands and intense clear blue waters offer a more upmarket alternative to the Perhentians, with most of the resorts along Pasir Panjang Beach and several other delightful coves.

Pulau Tioman, majestically overlooked by its twin peaks, featured in the film ‘South Pacific’ and is often regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Juara, Salang and Monkey beaches are among some of its finest.

The west coast of Malaysia, despite having the advantage of being available to visit all year round, generally lacks the translucent sheen of the eastern islands, but there are nevertheless some very good beaches to visit if you’re on this side of the country.

The best of these are to be found on Pulau Pangkor at Teluk Nipah and Pasir Bogak. If rarefied indulgence is your thing, the beautiful serenity and private luxury of its little sister Pangkor Laut offers one of the world’s top beach escapes.

Pulau Langkawi is home to a number of fine stretches. Cenang beach, on Langkawi's west coast, despite being its most popular, still offers plenty of space for quietude. One drawback is that jellyfish, including the potentially lethal Box Jellyfish, are a common sight along the shoreline, particularly during high season. Another cherished beach on Langkawi is Teluk Yu, along its northern coast.

Aside from its colonial history, Penang’s north coast beaches offer a pleasant diversion from the bustle of Georgetown, with Batu Ferringhi and Tanjong Bungah being the best.

Malaysian Borneo has some superb beaches, most of which are in the western state of Sabah, but to find the secret treasures you’ll need to travel offshore. These locations can be visited all year round without difficulty, but the calmest seas, least rainfall and best water clarity are found from March to October.

If you’re staying in mainland Kota Kinabalu, and need a beach, 6km out of town to the southwest, Tanjung Aru is a fine stretch of soft sand, as popular with the locals as tourists. Close to the albeit diminutive airport, it won’t be serenity, but if you like a bit of buzz with your beach it has a pleasant mix of restaurants and cafes, a beach park and a food court.

If the city is all too much, the short boat trip to the five pretty islands collectively known as Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park will definitely bathe the eyes with bright beach visions.

The most developed of these islands are Manukin, Sapi and Gaya, where you can stay at some fine resorts if you want to prolong the experience. The superbly clear waters are excellent for snorkelling, and, if you fancy getting a little deeper, it’s also a great place to learn to dive.

There are a cluster of lovely beaches close to Sabah's north-eastern tip, of which Kelambu is a fine example. 

Around the coast from here, Semporna is the focal point for numerous offshore treasures such as Bohey Dalang and Maiga Island.

If you like your beaches in crystalline far flung isolation and, if not a diver yourself, you can happily coexist with the underwater fraternity, the outstanding but uninhabited jewelled island of Pulau Sipadan, home to beautiful sands and lapped by the finest translucency, are a treat available only by staying at a single exclusive resort on each of the surrounding islands of Mabul, Kapalai or Mataking.

Of these, Mataking Island is also a popular honeymoon destination. With a lovely beach of its own and plenty of outlying islands to visit, there is a lot to do besides sunbathing, including kayaking and fishing.

Mabul Island’s resort, more overtly geared to the diving community, is a collection of bungalows built on stilts over a coral garden offset from the beach. The resort shares the island with a rare colony of Sea-Gypsies, whose stilted village can be found on the other side. Aside from a tiny sandbar, Kapalai has no beach at all, but its stilted bungalows sit in the sandy shallows of Ligitan Reef in wonderful isolation.

By contrast, the state of Sarawak is not endowed with the archetypal white sand dreams of Sabah or other parts of Malaysia, but for people who like getting away from civilisation and sharing their time with wildlife, Turtle Beach and Golden Beach are part of a splendidly wild 30km stretch of jungle backed beach at Similajau National Park, reachable by a good trek or by boat through the park office.

The wildlife is stunning and the area is excellent for bird watching, but among the macaques, langurs and deer, you will have to keep an eye out for crocodiles, though, in fairness, no attacks have ever been reported. This area is best visited between February and October.