The coastal countries of Southeast Asia have an uncountable array of particularly beautiful beaches, some of which are among the most iconic paradise idylls, not only for their fine white powdery sands, invitingly warm clarity and the almost supernatural colour of the waters, but also for the unique and photogenically sculptural natural features within which these gems are often nestled.

The Goddess of island dreaming has indeed smiled beneficently on Southeast Asia, casting her pearls upon seas that reflect the startling aqua iridescence of her eyes, coral jewels that shimmer beyond the sands, her sparkling beaches and reefs the favourite haunts of many across the globe for sunbathing swimming, snorkelling, diving and surfing.

In addition to the mainland beachfronts, countless island clusters are scattered along the Indian Ocean and South China Sea coasts, littered with some of the world’s best beaches, and offer unforgettable beach escapes with everything from exquisite peaceful luxury or simple and tranquil ‘lost’ hideaways to bustling resorts with watersport activities, shopping and lively nightlife.


Da Nang is home to some of Vietnams finest beaches, such as Nam O (Red beach), Non Nuoc and the much-visited My Khe beaches, as well as the now legendary ‘China Beach’ famously used extensively in the American war era by the US military as a recreation facility.

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s premier ‘Costa’ with all the trappings of international beachside holiday destinations, though with its characteristically Vietnamese flavour you are more likely to pick up a ‘cone hat’ than a sombrero.

With its extensive beach promenade lining 6km of beachfront, numerous offshore coral-blessed islands, and picturesque harbour, there is plenty of activity to get involved in. Nha Trang is also the hub for the best diving excursions in Vietnam.

Qui Nhon is the site of the last stand of the ancient Cham empire, but visitors now are mostly here to visit the gloriously unpopulated beach and in particular, the ‘Life’ Resort, which offers a superb getaway beach experience combined with excellent opportunities for luxury pampering at its specialist spa facilities.

Mui Ne Beach is a blessed and uncluttered strip of sand near to Phan Thiet town, and possesses quietude whilst still having the air of a family friendly resort. Nearby, are miles of rolling colourful dunes, which provide a surreal Sahara like fantasy over which to stroll. A wind and Kite-surfing hotspot, Mui Ne also benefits from the least rainfall of anywhere in Vietnam.

Closer to Saigon, Long Hai’s lovely beach stretches out in a long lazy curve of pleasurably quiet and near deserted sand close to the southern city of Vung Tau, and is situated well away from traditional tourist destinations, and something of an ‘in’ secret place for those who can happily spend all day swimming and tanning.

Phu Quoc is a tear shaped tropically forested island in the Gulf of Thailand, whose superb beaches entice luxury Cruise ships into port. Historically a fishing island, and on the world map for its renowned fish sauce, tourism is rapidly changing the face of Phu Quoc, which already has some luxury resorts and bungalows. Because most of Vietnam’s beaches face eastward, Phu Quoc, in its western aspect, is almost unique among the country’s resorts for seeing spectacular sunsets.


Usually more famous for both its vast magnificent ancient monuments and disturbing late twentieth century history, Cambodia has a relatively short coast, which is nevertheless graced with some particularly fine white ribbons of sand.

The most developed of Cambodia’s beach resorts are to be found at Sihanoukville, Kep (close to the Vietnamese border) and Ko Kong (adjacent to the Thai border).

Tourist infrastructure is still at the developmental stage in many of Cambodia’s fine sandy stretches, with many of its most beautiful beaches secluded within Ream and Botum Satar national parks, or nestled on offshore islands with little or no development, which for many will represent an added appeal, and well worthy of the day boat trip.


Southern Thailand is quite simply one of the best endowed beach paradises on Earth, and for some years was the secret idyll of the backpacker, before mainstream tourism caught the scent.

Nowadays, with everything from humble beach huts, plush villas and boutique resorts, to vast international hotels and luxury resort complexes, Thailand has the most developed tourist infrastructure of the Southeast Asian countries, though despite the annual influx of tourists, its glorious beaches and islands are so numerous that it is still easy to find a quiet beachfront retreat.

The coast close to Bangkok is host to some busy resorts including Pattaya and its offshore islands to the east, and Hua Hin and Cha Am to the west. Although both areas are popular with tourists and especially with wealthy Bangkok residents due to their proximity to the capital, they consequently tend to overcrowding, and the waters not as clear as the best of Thailand’s fabulous array of beaches, all to be found to the far south of the country.

Phuket is blessed with many beautiful and curvaceously classic beaches, offering everything you could wish for, from quiet, peaceful stretches of sand to busy beaches with shopping and watersport facilities.

Phuket is also a great base diving and snorkelling holidays, with focus of underwater activity taking place on a host of sculpturally pretty satellite islands also reachable from Krabi, which can be readily visited, including the diver’s mecca of the Surin and Similan islands, famed for their superbly clear waters and marine life.

When not sunbathing or cooling off in the sea, visit the fascinating stilted communities of Sea Gypsies, or see the giant sea turtles at Nai Yang beach, or some relaxing golf at Banyan Tree golf club.

With its many fine beaches and the strange allure of its mangrove swamps, Krabi stares out into the exhilarating Phang Nha Bay, with its array of fascinating and strange outcrops, islands and lagoons, which offer a delightful cruise or kayaking excursion. There are also some fabulous mainland beaches, such as Railay, Ao Nang and Tham Phra Nang, all of which are complete destinations in themselves, as well as the magnificent offshore pearls of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta.

The preservation of all these priceless gems, nestled by their spectacular towering limestone cliffs, is aided by accessibility being limited to arrival by boat, though there is no shortage of luxury accommodation when you get there.

The Krabi area also offers the beachcomber rock climbing, caves, waterfalls and hot springs, with good interior trekking opportunities.

Further south, the seemingly endless island clusters and their beaches continue, including those offshore from Trang, in Hat Chao Mai National Park, all the way to the 51 islands of Ko Taratao Marine National Park, close to Malaysia’s Langkawi archipelago.

Off Thailand’s eastern coast, and famous for its endless beaches and nightlife, Ko Samui has long been a hotspot for tourists from all over the globe. From its early days as a backpacker hideaway, Ko Samui has steadily elevated its status over the last decades into one of Thailand’s luxury destinations with highly developed facilities fronted onto beautiful palm fringed beaches.

With great dining and shopping there is plenty to see whist you are not turning golden brown on its beaches. The neighbouring archipelago of Ang Thong marine Park and delightful island sisters of Ko Phangan, Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan are all easily accessible from Ko Samui.


There are a few notable beaches close to Yangon, but the country’s true sandy treasures are to be found in the Myeik (Mergui) archipelago, offshore from the far south of the country.

With little in the way of infrastructure, certain to change in the near future, these as yet mostly uninhabited islands, numbering over 800, are littered with pristine beaches. The islands are accessible by boat from southern Myanmar or from Phuket in Thailand, mostly aboard liveaboard dive boats, but also by yacht cruises and charters.


Adjoining Thailand’s southern border, Malaysia inherits the abundance of beautiful coastal and island beaches that continue south along the Malay penisula.

Malaysia’s best beaches are to be found along the eastern coast of the peninsula, centred around two island clusters. Offshore from Kuala Terrenganu, the Perhentian islands are home to some very fine beaches, most notably the blindingly white sands and crystalline waters of Pulau Redang and Pulau Lang Tengah, both also offering great snorkelling and diving.

Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar are also highly popular beach resorts, though accommodation choices are more limited, particularly with the former.

The isles around Mersing are home to some lovely beaches, the most popular and developed found on the largest island, Pulau Tioman, long regarded as one of the world’s best island jewels. Its smaller sisters Pulau Besar, Pulau Tengah and Pulau Hujung are much prized for their beaches and underwater excursions though, due to very limited accommodation only being available on Pulau Besar, are best visited on day trips.

For the adventurous, a scattering of beaches with good diving opportunities and mostly basic accommodation are spread across other islands of the Johor cluster, including Pulau Rawa, Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Aur, Pulau Pemanggil, Pulau Sibu Besar and Pulau Sibu Tengah.

The beaches of the peninsula’s western coast are dominated by the beautiful Langkawi archipelago, just south of the Thai border, with its most highly developed resorts concentrated on Pulau Langkawi, the largest of over a hundred isles. Many of the island’s best beaches are exclusive to luxury resorts and therefore inaccessible to the independent traveller.

The finest public beaches are Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah. The finest beaches of Langkawi’s many satellite islands are found on Pulau Bras Basah. The archipelago also offers many interesting dive and snorkelling sites.

South of Langkawi, the large island of Penang has some good beaches along its eastern and northern coasts, including Batu Ferringhi Beach, one of southeast Asia’s most popular beach resorts, though the water clarity does not rival that of the Peninsula’s eastern fringe.

Further south, but only accessible to residents, emerald bay’s delicious powder white sands on the private island resort of Pangkor Laut are a perfect luxury hideaway.

In Malaysian Borneo, some of the most beautiful beaches are contained within national parks, such as the 30 km golden stretches at Similajau National Park in Sarawak, and are therefore quite remote, with little or no facilities, but reward the trekker with very fine pristine vistas, backed by deep forest and superb wildlife.

In Sabah the most accessible beaches are those around Kota Kinabalu and offshore in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Off Sabah’s eastern coast, in Turtle Islands Marine Park, the island beaches of Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungen and Pulau Gulisan are great places to visit to see Green and Leatherback turtles nesting. Nearby, for those wishing an exclusive island stay, the white sand beaches of Pulau Lankayan are a civilised but tranquil heaven with superb diving.

Offshore of the south-eastern extremity of Sabah, but only reachable on diving trips, Pulau Sipadan, its beaches also a nesting site for turtles, is one of the most prized dive sites in the world, and for these reasons, its resorts have now been dismantled in favour of conservation, with accommodation confined to the nearby isles of Mabul and Kapalai.


Somewhat lacking in the grand Asian cultural sweep of ancient history, the Spanish influence upon these magnificent islands gives the place a superficially South American atmosphere rather than the characteristic oriental feel of other countries featured on this web site.

For this reason, the stunningly beautiful beaches which abound in this complex archipelago are the main focus for most visitors. Despite this, there are so many of them that, if your purpose is to ‘get away from it all’, it is easy to find desert island bliss.

The premier beach resort island is Boracay, now a highly developed holiday destination, since its previously little known status found sudden fame when the superb White Beach of this former backpacker secret was published in popular media lists of the world’s top beaches.

Actually consisting of several fine beaches, the island is now a tourist hotspot with all the supporting facilities you could ever want.

Nevertheless, the secret sandy wealth of the Philippines is still not as widely perceived as it assuredly deserves, masking the fact that there is a vast treasury of truly remarkable beaches to be found here.

Palawan has a dizzyingly beautiful range of options, particularly around El Nido and Bacuit Bay which is host to superb beaches with development and facilities to match any budget, yet still has the appeal of virtually deserted constellation of sensuously beautiful beaches within range of a short boat ride.

On Mindoro, Puerta Galera is at the centre of another host of delightful and excellently served beach destinations with numerous sandy resorts within its vicinity.

Another hotspot for premier beach holidaying is Siargao, best known among surfers as one of the world’s best surfing locations, but away from the Cloud 9 shoreline, its collection of offshore delights are a few priceless gems.

There are now a host of facility supported beach resorts throughout all the major islands of the Philippines, all of which are highly worthy considerations for beach holidays depending upon your location of preference for other activities.

Of the numerous galaxy of beach heavens in the Philippines, many are either without facilities, even entirely uninhabited, or have only limited accommodation making it an ideal place for the more exploratory visitor to discover the countless remaining secrets in this archipelago of 7,107 islands.


Despite its huge coastline and numerous well serviced beaches, China, being largely out of the tropical zone is not particularly well endowed with the style of island paradises of its southern neighbours. Coupled with this, the burgeoning growth of the middle classes in modern China has led to many of these locations becoming very crowded.

Nevertheless, if you are visiting China for its many other exiting and profound reasons, and really want to include a beach break, but cannot stretch your itinerary to include the more obvious beach locations, there are a few good choices.

The island of Hainan just slips below the Tropic of Cancer and features some good coastal strips such as those of Yalong, Sanya, Boao and Tianyahhaijiao.

Hong Kong has some fine beaches, both on the main island and offshore, but you should be sure you visit only one of the territory’s gazetted beaches, all of which have been netted to prevent shark attacks, which were frighteningly common in the 1990’s. The beaches listed in our Hong Kong are all netted and safe.

If you are visiting Macau, Hac Sa and Choek Van are the only options.