When my husband and I decided to travel Asia, we had no idea where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do. We love the ocean though and so to gather ideas I did a Google image search for “best beaches in Asia” and quickly became convinced that we needed to visit one of Malaysia’s stunning islands.

I think Malaysia’s islands may be one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. Yes, some of them are crowded and touristy, but overall they are less known than their Thai cousins, which is reflected in endless white beaches with hardly a soul in sight. After a lot of debate, we chose the island of Redang and decided to stay at a place called Wisana Village.

After we arrived in Malaysia, getting to Redang proved a little tricky with multiple flights and a 1.5-hour ferry ride. However, the moment we arrived at Wisana Village and stepped off of the ferry onto a beach reminiscent of powdered sugar, fringed by a row of palm trees and adorable thatch huts, we knew we’d made the right decision.

Malaysia's Best Kept Secret 2

We spent four incredible days on Redang that involved a repeat loop of relaxing activities. Everything on Redang is quite spread out and there are no roads, so it’s not the kind of place where you can shop or restaurant hop, but the totally unplugged vibe suited us perfectly, with each day entailing nothing more than a good book, sand, and the sea.

A couple of days into our stay, we noticed boats and snorkelers hanging out off of a point at the left end of our beach. We’d thrown in our snorkelling gear so decided to swim over and check it out. Approximately 30 meters offshore we came upon a lovely reef complete with hard and soft coral and a myriad of tropical fish. Our simple hut at Wisana Village may not have had a television, but I’d take exploring a reef over TV any day.

Malaysia's Best Kept Secret 3

The next morning we decided to ask the owner about a kayak that had been sitting on the beach since our arrival. She graciously agreed to let us borrow it, but stressed that there was a leak so we wouldn’t be able to go far. We told her we wanted to take it to a sandbar we had spied across the channel the boats passed through, and she said she thought we could make it if we paddled fast. We decided to brave it and waited until there were no boats in sight before making a mad dash for the sandbar. The only problem was that paddling fast was a little difficult since there was only one proper paddle. The second paddle was a stumpy wooden thing that was pretty useless. The kayak was so waterlogged by the time we reached the sandbar, we were practically submerged! We could hear water sloshing around the hull, but since no water was actually inside where we were sitting, we were unable to bail during the crossing. After exploring the sandbar and draining a ton of water out of the kayak, we decided to head back but due to heavy boat traffic, ended up having to wait almost an hour for it to settle down enough to sprint back to Wisana Village.

And just like that our time on Redang was up and we had to bid the island a sad farewell. We could have stayed for months and hope that one day we’ll be able to return to what truly was a slice of paradise.


Betsy and Justin are avid travellers who have visited 40 countries on six continents. They have lived in Tanzania, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, and Haiti, but currently, reside in Washington in their self-converted Sprinter van. You can follow their travels and other adventures on their Instagram account @wandering.woods, or their blog.

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