White powder beaches, take-it-easy-atmosphere, crystal blue water and shipwreck for a good dive offers this tiny island on the east coast of Malaysia. For me it is the hidden treasure of Malaysia.
The island is really really really – I promise – a secret insider tip! So go there before it’s too late! It is NOT IN LONELY PLANET (at least not in my Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei version, 11th edition). There are more touristy islands around, like Perhentian islands, which have a vibrant backpacker party scene and are therefore more popular for some travelers, or Pulau Redang. That is why people seem to forget to check about better islands around and this little hidden treasure of Malyasia is still quite unkown.
How we found this hidden treasure of Malaysia when the lonely planet doesn’t even mention it? We opened a map and locked for a small island which looked remote. And we were lucky! Pulau Kapas is a real hidden paradise, we never heard any Southeast Asia traveller, we meet, speaking about it or having been there. So skip Thailands’s party beaches and go to Kapas!
By the way, „Kapas“ means „cotton“, a name which locals chose for the island for its white sandy beaches.
What is there to do on the island?
There is nothing to do on this island than relaxing or diving. Maybe that is also why it feels like a real hidden treasure of Malaysia. There are no streets and not even a hike through the jungle was possible as we didn’t see any path leading deeper than few hundred meters into the jungle. It takes you around 20 minutes to walk along the accessible parts of the island.
Is there really nothing to do on the island?
For divers there is a special highlight: a Japanese shipwreck from the second world war lies around 30 minutes offshore in the sea. Also trips to few other dive spots are available and you can do your PADI 4-day course with „Aquasports divers“ on the island. They also offer snorkel trips.
Another great activity in Kapas in watching the sunsets which are quite stunning every night.
Accommodations on Pulau Kapas range from one modern and well-maintained hotel to low budget options, so even for families this island is suitable. There are three little beaches on the west coast combined with little stairs and few more around if you are seeking a lonely beach.
Is there any other secret tip at this hidden treasure of Malaysia?
If basic accommodation and laid-back atmosphere are not your thing. Go for the luxury option just next to Pulau Kapas. Pulau Gemia, which is just as small as to fit one hotel. It hosts Gem Island Resort and Spa. I haven’t been there as it was too expensive for me, but the Google maps satellite looks pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
This was the view from Pulau Kapas to Pulau Gemia.
What else do you need to know?
Be aware that on public holidays or long weekends many locals might go there for a day trip as it is very close to the mainland and it might get crowded, so avoid these times!
Due to monsoon the island, like many on the east coast, is completely closed between November and February.
And another very important issue: There is NO ATM on the island, either it is possible to pay with credit card. So make sure to bring enough cash.
Do I need some special equipment?
As there is limited electricity on the island and mostly only available some hours in the evening, bring a torch for the evenings and nights. For me, this fact makes it even more a hidden treasure of Malaysia as everything is simple and slowed down here.
Besides that: plenty of books or whatever you like to spend your time with.
How to get there?
I went there with a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Marang. The bus from KL usually arrives at Marang in the middle of the night and just drops you at the street. From the main street, just head towards east along the first street you’ll see and after 5-10 minutes walking you’ll arrive at the Jetty. Speedboats which leave several times a day bring you to Pulau Kapas. Tickets can be bought at the Jetty. There is also a little market every morning at the Jetty where you can buy (Malay) breakfast.
I have been in this Paradise around 4 years ago and I’m wondering if it is still the remote paradise island and hidden treasure of Malaysia as I got to know Pulau Kapas. If you have been there lately, feel free to drop your comment and give un update.