10 Southeast Asian Paradises to Visit Before It’s Too Late

Jan 8, 2018

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Southeast Asia has been a popular tourist destination for many years and continues to overflow with every type of traveler, from rugged backpacking explorers to fanny-pack-carrying tourists. Here are 10 stunning destinations you should visit before they get overrun by tourists and lose their authentic charm.

1. Song Saa, Cambodia

This intimate private island resort is located in the Koh Rong Archipelago off the coast of Cambodia, and can be reached via a 35-minute boat ride from the popular port of Sihanoukville. You’ll have full access to two islands, Koh Rong and Koh Ouen, which are conveniently connected by a walkable bridge; hike rain forest trails, kayak to hidden coves, dine on organic ingredients from an on-site garden, join yoga classes on the beach and relax with an invigorating massage to the sound of waves. Luxury and serenity this accessible won’t be kept a secret for long.
Photo courtesy Song Saa, Cambodia
Photo courtesy Song Saa, Cambodia

2. Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines

It’s hard to believe that one of the most picturesque natural creations in the world formed from the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. After erupting in 1991, the top of Mt. Pinatubo transformed into a large lake filled with water that changes color depending on the weather. Visit during the rainy season and you’ll find shades of mint and summer offers a turquoise; a stunning emerald green will take your breath away if it happens to rain a few days before your hike. Take an 11-day tour through the countryside and you’ll also see coffee plantations, incredible waterfalls and the 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces, which are often called the eighth wonder of the world. Who said paradise is limited to the beach?
Scenic view of the crater of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. Photo by amanalang / Getty Images
Scenic view of the crater of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. Photo by amanalang / Getty Images

3. Koh Kood, Thailand

Finding an island in Thailand that hasn’t been stampeded by tourists has become even more difficult in recent years, but Kood’s remote location helps steer the masses away; getting to the island requires a domestic flight or train from Bangkok followed by an hourlong boat ride. Visitors are rewarded with a relaxed, tranquil environment with limited internet access and few cars. If you’re looking to experience one of Thailand’s best islands in luxury, then I recommend staying at Soneva Kiri.  It’s the most lavish resort on the island offering spectacular views, a private cinema, a dedicated chocolate room and even its own time zone! The best time to visit is between November and March, when you’re almost guaranteed wonderful weather. Koh Kood is ideal for the vacationer who wants to completely disconnect from the outside world.
Photo by @elana.sr via Twenty20
Photo by @elana.sr via Twenty20

4. Redang, Malaysia

Redang, with its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, is a tropical paradise perfect for the luxury traveler who’s craving a full island resort experience. What keeps people coming back are the coral reefs of the Redang archipelago, home to more than 55 genera of coral and 100 species of fish, including whale sharks. Visit between April and October, before the monsoon season begins, and you’ll be rewarded with more than ideal weather. The best way to get to the island is Berjaya Air, which offers direct flights from airports in Kuala Lumpur (SZB) and Singapore (SIN). If you prefer to travel by water, then you can catch a ferry from either Shahbander jetty in Kuala Terengganu (KT) or Merang jetty. Whether you decide to arrive by land or sea, there’s a good chance that you and this island will be in love at first sight.
Aerial View Of A Tropical Island.
Photo by oariff / Getty Images

5. Sanur Beach, Indonesia

This blissful slice of paradise in Southeast Bali offers a laid-back atmosphere for the upscale beach bum. Visitors can expect an eclectic mix of dining options, shops and entertainment venues in this former fishing village that’s retained its charm, thanks to the colorful jukung fishing boats resting along its shallow shores. Most of the action happens along the long stretch of Sanur Beach, which is hugged by a paved cycling path that attracts locals and tourists alike. This laid-back family-friendly beach has reef-protected waves, safe paddling for kids and nonswimmers and a dedicated area for water sports. One of the best parts about Sanur is the extreme low tide, which allows visitors to walk all the way out and view the coral reefs up close and personal. Start your day at Kopi Kiosk Coffee Hut, as it’s the best beachfront cafe in town!
Photo by LadyBird89 / Getty Images
Photo by LadyBird89 / Getty Images

6. Andaman Resort, Myanmar

Ever dreamed of vacationing on your own private island? Well, the Myanmar Andaman Resort is one of only two operating resorts among 800 mostly uninhabited islands off the coast of Myanmar. The island first opened to the outside world in 1997 and has been meticulously preserved ever since. Relax on the white sandy beaches, scuba or snorkel in pristine waters or venture outside the resort and meet native tribes.
Photo courtesy Andaman Resort
Photo courtesy Andaman Resort

7. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Located off the west coast of New Guinea in eastern Indonesia, Raja Ampat, or “the Four Kings,” is known as one of the best dive spots in the world. It’s a tropical archipelago similar to what you’d find on the Southern gulf side of Thailand but without the hotels, busy streets and bright lights. Composed of four main islands surrounded by 1,500 smaller islands, cays and shoals, Raja Ampat offers coral reefs brimming with biodiversity, making the six-hour flight from Jakarta and mini-cruise from the mainland well worth the trek. Whether you’re interested in diving below the transparent turquoise waters or paddling through the hidden lagoons and mysterious caves, you’re bound to have a sui generis experience on one of the most extraordinary island chains in Southeast Asia.
Limestone islets and tropical lagoon in the Raja Ampat islands, West Papua. Photo by pkphotoscom / Getty Images
Limestone islets and tropical lagoon in the Raja Ampat islands, West Papua. Photo by pkphotoscom / Getty Images

8. Palawan, Philippines

Palawan is a true natural gem that was once among the world’s best-kept secrets. Today, word has spread, but it’s not too late. On my first visit to Palawan, I was captivated by the natural beauty of the island — it looked like something out of Jurassic Park, with mountainous jungles rising up from emerald-hued water. The best time to visit Palawan is between October and May, when island hopping is at its prime. Visit Puerto Princesa for a culinary experience unlike anything you’ve had before. Try the crocodile sisig at Kinabuchs Bar & Grill or satisfy your sweet tooth with the extra creamy Halo Halo at Noki Nocs Savory House. If scuba diving is what you’re after, then I highly recommend submerging yourself in a shipwreck dive with Neptune Dive Center off the coast of Coron. You’ll easily see why it’s ranked as one of the top diving spots on the planet!
landscape of Coron, Busuanga island, Palawan province, Philippines. Photo by Sean3810 / Getty Images
landscape of Coron, Busuanga island, Palawan province, Philippines. Photo by Sean3810 / Getty Images

9. Pom Pom Island, Malaysia 

A small speck of white sandy land located in the Semporna archipelago off the east coast of Malaysia in the Celebes Sea, this island is ideal for environmental enthusiasts who appreciate a land free of pollution, minimal fishing and no buildings other than a few sleepy resorts. Pom Pom has managed to stay out of the spotlight despite its impressive natural beauty, which makes it an excellent destination for those in search of a quiet vacation on a pristine little island.
Pompom Island. Photo by mgokalp / Getty Images
Pompom Island. Photo by mgokalp / Getty Images

10. Baros Island, Maldives

This small coral island is located in the Indian ocean and prides itself on being the most romantic island in the Maldives. The entire island is a resort, so there’s nothing off limits here. You can book yourself a secluded water villa for your stay, many of which have their own private pool. Guests have the option to indulge in various spa treatments including Ayurveda massage and shirodhara body treatments or the more traditional pedi, mani and massage. Visitors can practice complimentary yoga by the infinity pool or book a personalized underwater excursion at one of the 30 world-class dive spots all within a 50-minute boat ride. The entire experience is specifically designed to provide an upscale and stress-free adventure.
Photo courtesy Baros Island
Photo courtesy Baros Island

Feature photo of Palawan by Sean3810 / Getty Images

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