Team Buro Answers: The best beach holiday destinations
This month, we're all about the water, the ocean and summer holidays. Not the kind of summer we're blessed with all-year-round here in the city of Kuala Lumpur, but the kind that spells breezy palm trees, azure waters, white sandy beaches and the like. Being in this part of the world, beach holidays are as easy as driving down to Port Dickson or flying up to Langkawi or down to Bali. We've all had our fair share of island getaways but if we really need to pick a favourite, we could. So if you're looking for some ideas of which beach to conquer next, Team Buro Malaysia's recommendations are as follow.
TERRY SAW, editor-in-chief
The light azure sea, white powder-fine sandy beaches and lilac evening skies in Pulau Redang make up the perfect holiday backdrop —especially if you only have a long weekend and want to do away with the hassle of flights and trips to the airport. I recommend a relaxing stay at the Taaras Beach & Spa Resort, ensconced in a quieter part of the island with its own private beach, so all you hear are the tranquil rustling of leaves from the wind and sounds of lapping waves for days as you sip cocktails by the beach at sundown. Rooms are spacious and come with stunning views of the ocean and food was actually good at the resort, which means more time spent exploring the crystal-clear waters diving, surfing, kayaking or as you do—hitting the spa. Located just off the North East Coast, make an adventure out of it with a six-hour road trip from Kuala Lumpur to the Merang Jetty. From there, a short boat ride (just under an hour) will take you straight to your beach calling.
GWEN ONG, deputy editor
I've spent more holidays exploring cities than I've had at the beach. But one tropical getaway that really stuck in my mind is a joint (and a few months late) birthday vacation with my best friend at Nusa Lembongan, Bali. We stayed in this quaint beachfront chalet that is away from the hustle and bustle of the main island that we know as Bali. Lembongan is so small that there were few cars in sight and only scooters and motorbikes zooming by. This could only mean adventure to our excited minds! While neither my best friend nor I are licensed to ride a two-wheeler, we rented one anyway and rode through the bridge linking Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan to explore the unknown territory. One of our favourite spots was a unique cave pool/cliff called Devil's Tears that offers a panoramic view of the coastline and crystal clear blue water. Here you'll get to witness the power of Mother Nature as the forceful waves go smashing against the rocky cove to create a massive ocean mist aka the 'Devil's Tears'. Definitely IG-worthy but note that the rocky cliffs and huge waves can be dangerous. Tread cautiously if you're doing it for the 'Gram. P/S: Also make sure your scooter is fuelled up even though the renter may say the petrol is sufficient for the whole day!
JOAN KONG, fashion editor
Before I answer, let me just start by saying I'm not a beach person, and I've only been on a beach holiday for less than three times in my life. That being said, I do understand the appeal of it. It's an ideal place to relax and unwind—although my idea of de-stressing would be a weekend of retail therapy in the city. My most recent (non-work related) vacation was to Krabi three years back, where my boyfriend and I decided to try something different for our mid-year holiday. Complaints aside, I really enjoyed the four-island tour (Tup Island, Mor Island, Chicken Island and Poda Island) but the best part of my trip was getting to eat my way through the island, followed by affordable massages every night. My favourite meal in Krabi was definitely the boat noodles that's laden with various cuts of beef at this restaurant called Ao Nang Boat Noodle. We loved it so much that we made it our last stop before we had to leave for the airport!
STEPHANIE BOEY, fashion writer
My best beach holiday was a complete surprise. I followed a close friend of mine to her hometown in Kuala Terengganu for a quick day trip—24 hours was all we had. In that short time, we explored her favourite haunts in the coastal town. Less than 10 minutes from her childhood home lied the jetty with speedboats to Pulau Kapas, a small island off the mainland. Almost everything about the trip was a spur of the moment, so I didn't get to Google the island before our quick and spontaneous beach getaway. I'll admit, I wasn't expecting much, the waters at the jetty were pretty murky and it smelled...funky. So you can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to a beautiful, white sandy beach with crystal clear waters a mere 10 minutes later. Although, the most beautiful part about the island isn't its clear water or white sandy beach—it was the privacy. There are only a handful of places to stay on Pulau Kapas; small, cosy chalets on the beachfront (which are always fully booked) and there aren't any buildings that rise more than two-storeys. If you look to the far end of the beach, you'll find a steep staircase leading into the jungle that brings you to the other side of the island. The jungle isn't the problem, the tricky part is getting to the stairs during a high tide, you may have to wade in the water just to get to it. (But it's so much fun!?) The next challenge is the steep hike, your quads will burn by the time you reach the top but man, the view and the private beach that you find on the other end is definitely worth it. It is surreal. All that was missing was Leonardo DiCaprio circa-2000 from The Beach to greet me on the other side.
WEI YEEN LOH, senior beauty writer
I'm not big on beaches (various excuses attributed to the sun's damaging effect on the skin, hair, etc) but I was really excited to check out one of the most Insta-worthy beach destinations in the world: Maldives. Earlier this year, I embarked on a 5-day snorkelling trip to Maafushi Island in Maldives where the sands were white, saltwater crystal clear, and marine life aplenty. A must-do is to really get out of the island (no point staying in a cushy hotel, no matter how many stars it's got, when the real wonders are out there) and explore the vast waters via snorkel or dive trips—guides are available island-wide. It was my first time snorkelling as well (believe it) and I was fortunate enough to catch a bevy of beautiful creatures including magnificent manta rays, one impressive whale shark, a school of nurse sharks, sea turtles and even moray eels. A bunch of uneven tan lines and seriously-tangled salt-streaked locks later, I have to admit that 1) I can't wait for my next beach getaway, and 2) Maldives is a truly worth a spot on anyone's bucket list for all the reasons listed above—and more.
RACHEL AU, lifestyle editor
For someone who doesn't know how to swim and do any water sports activities, I actually like beach holidays—the relaxing sound of crashing waves, watching the waves approach the beach in intimidating folds, and the soft, tender breeze. I definitely favour it over the deafening beat of a city. One particular beach (work) holiday standout for me—though it was literally an entire private island—is Song Saa in Cambodia. The island allows you to be barefeet the whole time so that first bare step onto the fine white sand seemed almost like stepping into another dimension. And everywhere you look is either lush greenery or clear, cerulean waters (sea creatures can often be spotted swimming around in groups). Sunsets there were also a magical swirl of Paddlepop colours and by night, it's immensely quiet except for the chirps from nature—and the waves. It was pure bliss. (Oh, and their pizza was really good!)
READ MORE: The full review of Song Saa Private Island
RONN TAN, editorial assistant
Malta isn't exactly well-known. The Mediterranean country, located south of Italy, is so small that Singapore is almost three times larger! The good news: the nation is full of wonders, despite its size—from historic sites to one-of-a-kind architecture to brilliant hospitality. No wonder I've been there five times. My first four visits were spent on Malta's mainland and I knew I had to visit the iconic Blue Lagoon while I can. On my fifth visit, I took a long bus ride from the capital, Valetta, to the port, and I hopped on a ferry awaiting my arrival in paradise. A brief 15 minutes later, there I was in Blue Lagoon! There was a massive horde of humans, which was expected since it was summer, but that did not deter my spirit. The water was crystal clear and vibrant, and the cool azure hues—epitome of relaxation. Crowd or not, all I had to do was find a spot (literally anywhere) and let my guard down. Food, such as burgers, as well as drinks (even cocktails) can be found everywhere, and were the perfect companion for the much-need down time. The one thing that caught my eye was the cocktail in a pineapple (yup, that). Every direction I looked, everyone was drinking from a pineapple. While it was rather unreasonably-priced (it is a tourist hotspot after all), I felt the urge to join in with the rest and got myself one. Not only did I take amazing photos with the pineapple, I managed to keep it from falling when I slipped on the sand (and hurt myself). All for the aesthetics, right? One more thing: jumping off the rock arches into the mega blue water is a must. It was a holiday I would never forget, ever.
SU FEN TAN, senior contributing writer
There are times where a place is only as good as the people in it—fortunately I had the best of both worlds last year on a trip to Gili Islands with a group of close friends; the place was beautiful, and the company was as good as it gets. We stayed on Gili Trawangan, the largest of the archipelago of three small islands (the others two being Gili Meno and Gili Air). It was a few days of pure bliss, with hours on end spent just kicking it back at the beach, getting in our fair share of water activities (stand-up paddleboarding, surfing and snorkeling), and soaking in the laidback yet vibrant island life. Fun fact: there is no motorised transport on the island, but you can easily go around on foot or rent a bicycle—which brings me to one of my highlights of the trip. Every evening, we'd ride to the western side of the island to catch the sunset, watching the sky change colours as the sun dips behind Bali's majestic Mount Agung across the sea. It was magical.
ALYSSA LEE, special projects writer
Sand as fine as baby powder, water as blue as the Night King's eyes, leaves of coconut trees dancing in the wind—sounds more like a visually arresting desktop wallpaper, than an ideal holiday to me—a person with self-diagnosed ataxophobia and heliophobia, a.k.a the fear of mess and sunlight. This is why I found my perfect beach holiday in Brighton. And no, I do not mean Melbourne's IG magnet with the colourful bathing boxes, but the one in the UK, where it's almost always slightly gloomy, and where smooth pebbles line the coast in place of sand. No sun damage, no sand creeping into the dark recesses of my body—you would think that it doesn't get much better than that, but it does. Take a short stroll and you'll find the iconic Brighton pier, the home of dusty arcade games and outdated rides, nostalgia in a nutshell; grab some fresh-from-the-fryer fish and chips with malt vinegar and get a round of hide-and-seek with a hungry flock of seagulls for free; wander through Brighton's version of Soho, a labyrinth of boutiques and eateries for a taste of London, sans throngs of hipster millennials and Asian tourists queueing for every TripAdvisor recommended spot. I truly could not ask for more.
YI SUEN CHONG, art director
I love a good beach holiday. As both a diver and a free diver, I really enjoyed the beautiful underwater world—it's the most wonderful feeling when you slowly descend into the deep blue. I've been to quite a few beaches from other countries, but I have to say, the islands in Malaysia are still my favouritea. Top on my list? Pulau Tioman, because a) it's closer to home which means less travel time, b) its crystal clear water and white clean beach, and c) it doesn't cost a bomb. In fact, we even wrote an article just about Tioman. If you are looking for something beyond scuba diving, you can even consider joining Reef Check Malaysia to do a reef survey. Giving back to the ocean? Can't think of a better way to spend my beach holidays.