After my trip to Singapore, I wanted to finish my vacation with few relaxed beach days. I didn’t want to stay in Singapore, but where to go? I tried to find the best island close to Singapore.
I did a huge research on the best islands close to Singapore and found real paradise places in Malaysia and Indonesia (scroll all the way down to see the results of my research – all paradise places, but you need at least 4-5 days). But none of them was worth it just for 3 days as the travel seemed to be too long and flying was not possible for the most destination. That is why I decided for Bintan, an Indonesian island in the south-east of Singapore – just one hour by ferry. This seemed to be the best island close to Singapore and the best option for me, because a) the travel was short and easy and b) it seemed to be the pretty evil among other close islands like Batam, which I read was very industrial, crowded and ugly or the artificial created Sentosa island of Singapore.
Is Bintan the best island close to Singapore? What makes Bintan special?
I heard different opinions about Bintan – some said it is an ugly island and the sea is not nice, some said it is crowded, and others said it was not better than the industrial Batam. So I went there with mixed feelings and low expectations.
But Bintan turned out to be the best decision I could have made, for me the best island close to Singapore. Why? Because the travel there is so fast and not complicated. It takes only 1 hour by boat from Tanah Merah Ferry station, close to the Airport of Singapore. Because I chose the best hotel for my purposes (see next paragraph). And because I went there before the main season which seems to be April to November.
So what made Bintan so special? Actually nothing. Is it really the best island close to Singapore? For me, it was special because it gave me 3 days of perfect relaxing time with delicious food, few people in a spacious resort.
Bintan is not famous for great dives or snorkelling (although it is possible there) nor any other outstanding activities. That is why many hotels there offer alternative water activities and various other things to do, like stand up paddling, jet-skis, bowling, climbing, and so on.
Bintan doesn’t offer any outstanding activity or hotel what doesn’t make it special overall. What made it special for me personally was the perfect resort, at the perfect time (March) and the best conditions (me alone at the beach for three days) which fit my personal needs I had when going there.
Where to stay in Bintan?
The main beach, and probably the most crowded one, is Lagoi. This is the beach where all the big resorts are located and all the wealthy Singaporeans go. That is why I knew I didn’t want to go there.
A friend recommended Nirwana Garden Resort. This is a spacious hotel areal with the main house with very clean and very nice rooms, as well as various dining possibilities, a pool, a big garden and the whole beach just for the guests of the resort. The resort offers also a lot of activities, such as stand up paddling and in main season further water sports like jet ski, a spa, gym, and a seafood restaurant and bar tucked into the sea.
When I went there at the beginning of March, Singaporeans told me there is still monsoon in Bintan (which is not true) and that is why not many people go there. And it was true. There were only a few people in the resort and most rooms were empty. Which meant also the rest of the facilities were empty. Also the beach! I discovered a phenomenon there which I will never understand: All hotel guests were lying at the pool. NON of them went to the beach. I will never understand this behaviour. Why do you stay at the pool when your hotel is located directly on the beach? Anyways, that was what gave me the best time at Bintan. I had all the beach for myself. I had no problems in finding a hammock at a perfect spot and occupying it the whole day. I had various walks along the beach all by myself.
Nirwana Garden Resort also has some a bit cheaper bungalows which are called „Nirwana beach resort“. They cost half the price of the rooms in the main house but you can use all facilities of the main hotel. Which makes it a very pricey and good option.
What I also liked a lot about the resort was the seafood restaurant on the other side of the resort (a bus will bring you there). A restaurant tucked in the sea offering fresh catches of the region.
When to go to Bintan?
You can go to Bintan all year round. The main season is from April till November. Singaporeans often think that they can’t go to Bintan before April due to the colder a bit more windy weather. But believe me beginning of March, when I went there, was a perfect time. There were only a few people, it was in average 30 degrees, and a little bit windy, which made the climate very pleasant.
Is Bintan a paradise island?
Is Bintan really the best island close to Singapore? I don’t want to raise false hopes and sell Bintan as the paradise island. It is clearly not and I’ve been to numerous better beaches in South East Asia. Bintan’s sea is not the clearest and not turquoise like others. Plus when I was there were quite many algae at the beach and water. Also when walking a bit away from the hotel along the beach, when you come to the part where the hotel staff is not cleaning the beach anymore it is quite dirty, trash at the beach and even in the water (which is often the case in Southeast Asia).
I don’t want to speak too negative either: Bintan is a decent island and the perfect get-away from Singapore if you only have 2 to 4 days – I would even say the best island close to Singapore. Nirwana beach resort is absolutely recommendable, the staff is friendly, the food very delicious. And if all you want to do is relaxing it is the perfect island and the perfect resort.
If you have some more days and are looking for a real paradise island then keep reading about my research.
I don’t want to hold back the amazing options I found. But please be aware that I haven’t been at any of the following islands. All information comes from desk research and email contact with the resorts.
Paradise islands in Malaysia
I discovered some islands of the east coast of Malaysia already some years ago and realized that they are amazingly beautiful and still hidden gems. Mostly Malaysia (and its islands) are under the radar of the mass tourism because all are heading to Thailand’s (crowded) beaches or Bali. But believe me, there are real treasures at the east coast of Malaysia, small islands with white sand and crystal clear water, amazing snorkelling and diving and only a few accommodations and people (see also my article about Pulau Kapas).
That is why I focused my research first on the south-east coast of Malaysia. From Singapore, the common way to get there is by bus from Singapore to Mersing (find the schedule here). From Mersing, you have to take a boat to the islands close by. Be aware that schedules may change or boats may not go due to the weather conditions. Also be aware that during monsoon season (more or less from October till march – depending on the island) the islands are completely closed.
Private island Batu Batu
If I would be rich, this would have been my first choice. Batu Batu is a private island with just one resort – Batu batu resort. Their website looks epic and you must feel like stranded on a lonely island. See yourself:
Apparently, also diving is possible there, as well as a jungle hiking and turtle watching. If I would have had more time this island would have been the best island close to Singapore for me.
Rawa Island is another lonely island with just one resort – Rawa island resort. It seems to be less fancy with more rooms (70) but also cheaper than Batu Batu. And it is just 20 minutes by speedboat from Mersing. One of the closest option form Singapore I guess.
Sibu island is another get-away off the coast of Mersing. Even Singaporeans consider it as get-away because it is very close (4 hours by bus to Mersing, 30 minutes by speedboat to the island) and still unknown to many. The area around the island is a protected Marine Park and diving shall be great there. The island is a bit less private than the above mentions, it offers few more accommodations distributed over the island.
Pulau Tioman (Tioman Island)
Tioman island is the most famous and biggest island off the coast of Mersing. And also the most touristy one – it is in every guidebook about Malaysia. Tioman is famous for great diving and also experiences of some friends proof that. Many travel agencies in Singapore offer 3-day packages including the transfer from Singapore to Tioman and back, 4-6 dives, accommodation and meals. This almost became my first choice but I decided against in the end due to the tough schedule. This package is not for relaxing. It is a tough scheduled dive trip with 4-6 dives in 2 days. If that is what you are looking for, head to Tioman.
These were the closest and most beautiful islands in Malaysia according to my research. Please be aware that I haven’t been at any of them. All mentioned facts are the result of desk research.
Best islands in Indonesia
(best island close to Singapore)
Telunas private island
Besides Bintan, I found a real hidden gem in the south of Singapore: Telunas private island, a tiny little island in between some bigger Indonesian islands in the South China Sea, in the south of Singapore. Only one resort is located on the island: Telunas private resort. (https://www.telunasresorts.com/ ) The resort looks very premium and disposes of 15 sea villas tucked into the sea like you know it from the Maldives. See yourself:
This one definitly also eanes the title “best island close to Singapore”.
To get to the island you have to take a ferry from Singapore to Batam. From there a private shuttle to the resort will pick you up. It is just 50 kilometres away from Singapore.
Closest beaches and islands in and around Singapore:
Sentosa island is an artificially created island and the weekend getaway of many Singaporeans. When speaking to locals I realized that many people never leave Singapore – even if travelling in Southeast Asia is very cheap to them compared to the cost of living in Singapore. That is probably also the reason why Sentosa island is crowded all year round (at least that is what I heard). If you only have 1 or 2 days for relaxing at a beach, thus no time to leave Singapore, then it might still be a good option. Find a good overview of the beaches of Sentosa island here.
I guess you see that there are many options to choose from the best island close to Singapore. It all depends on the time you have and the purpose of your stay. I’m sure you will enjoy all mentioned above. If you have been to one of the islands I haven’t been – please drop me a comment!
And don’t forget:
Never stop exploring! #Maria