Tioman Island is a small island located in Malaysia that first became famous as the shooting location for the film South Pacific in 1958. The island was chosen to represent ‘Bali Hai’ thanks to its amazing white sand beaches and its azure waters and if you are looking for a tropical paradise in Malaysia then this is a great choice.
The island is located on the east coast near Pahang and is also part of the wider Mersing Marine Park. This is also one of the most commercialized islands on the east coast of Malaysia and people flock here to dive and snorkel, or to just relax on the beach. Tioman Island also has duty-free island which means you can stock up on cheap products here, and although this is one of the most developed islands it is still possible to get away from it all and enjoy isolated beaches and lookout spots. Some of the highlights of a trip include spending time relaxing on the beach or trekking through the lush jungles that cover the island.
Here are the best things to do on Tioman Island:
1. Sunbathe on Paya Beach
Paya Beach is one of the most famous beaches on Tioman Island and is a great place to relax if you have come to the island for some peace and quiet.
At Paya Beach you will also find the Paya Beach Resort which is known for its amazing spa services such as traditional massages that will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.
You can also have a cocktail here and look out to sea as you enjoy the sunset, or indulge in a delicious seafood buffet.
Even if you don’t want to visit the resort you can still spend time of the golden sand and take in the stunning views.
2. Dine at Riverside Cafe
Riverside Cafe, as the name kind of suggests, is located next to the main jetty in Tioman.
This means that it makes a great place to eat if you are either arriving on or departing from the island.
It is also a good spot to get some cheap and tasty fare which includes burgers and fried chicken as well as brunch specials like pillowy omelets.
If you want to try something from the region then the cafe also serves up a number of Malay and Thai dishes like fried noodles or toothsome Tom Yum seafood soup.
3. Meet the fishermen at Genting Village
If you want to see a more authentic side of Tioman Island then head for Genting Village.
The beach here is often overlooked as it is not widely considered to be one of the prettiest in the region but it also backs on to a delightful traditional Malaysian village which is filled with local fishermen.
If you come in the early morning then you can watch them hauling in their catch and get a glimpse of how the local community live and work on Tioman Island.
4. Learn to dive
If you want to dive but are not yet PADI certified then Tioman Island is the place to do it.
Not only is the sea here crystal clear but, as many visitors will tell you, diving certification classes are much cheaper than in many other parts of the world and you can get PADI certified for around RM 1,000. If you want to check out the marine life up close but want to make sure that you are doing so safely then consider signing up for a course.
There are a huge number of different dive schools to choose from here including Dive Asia which is said to be one of the best on the island.
5. Go surfing at Juara Beach
Juara Beach, which backs on to Juara Village, is said to be the best, if not the only place, to surf around Tioman Island.
The swells here are usually larger in the rainy season although this can also make for rather a damp trip, but they can get up to around 20 meters depending on the weather conditions.
There are a few places here where you can rent a surf board and Juara Village also has some worthwhile cafes and bars.
This is also one of the best places on the island to stay if you want to book a beachfront villa.
6. Hike to Asah Waterfall
Asah Waterfall is one of the main attractions on Tioman Island and it is sometimes also referred to as Mukut Waterfall as it is located close to Mukut Village.
The waterfall featured in the film South Pacific in 1958 and there are a number of ways that you can get to it.
One of these is by trekking through the jungle from Kampung Mukut or Kampung Asah, or you can also take a boat or convenient water taxi that will drop you off close to the falls if you are feeling a little lazy.
On the way to Asah Waterfall you will be able to take in the stunning flora and fauna for which Tioman Island in famous as you trek through the pristine rainforest.
7. Sample the seafood at ABCD Restaurant
ABCD Restaurant is one of the best loved restaurants on the island and it is usually quite busy so if you come in the evening then it is best to get here early.
The restaurant has a very popular barbecue special and you can choose from an amazing selection of freshly caught fish and seafood including prawn, squid, and crab.
You will also find meat options available such as grilled chicken and you can grab an ice cold beer and enjoy the sea breeze as you sample the day’s catch.
8. Relax at Mukut
Mukut is one of the eight main villages on Tioman Island and is also said to be one of the prettiest.
It has one of the nicest beaches on the island which consists of a strip of golden sand which then backs on to crystal clear seas.
Mukut is a little sleepier than some of the other villages, so if you want to get away from the party scene then this is the place to come.
It is also a great place to observe traditional village life on the island.
9. Visit the Marine Park Information Centre
The Marine Park Information Centre on Tioman Island is just that- an information center that will fill you in on everything you wanted to know about marine life in this part of the world.
The park runs a number of television programs all about marine life in the seas around Tioman Island and you will also find other exhibits such as displays of different kinds of coral.
There is also a wealth of other educational information about flora and fauna that lies beneath the seas here and if you want to go diving when you are on Tioman Island then this is a great place to visit before you take the plunge.
10. Eat your vegetables at Golden Dish Cafe
Tioman Island has quite a good selection of different eateries but Golden Dish Cafe stands out from the crowd.
The cafe is Chinese owned and is the only eatery on the island to grow its own organic vegetables which are then used in all the dishes.
As if that wasn’t enough, they also serve Chinese stir fries and seafood dishes and you can get a range of traditional herbal drinks which are said to have medicinal properties.
If you want to eat your veggies but also indulge a little, then you will be pleased to know that they also sell ice cold beer.
11. Go on a fishing trip
One of the big draws of Tioman Island is the marine life and if you want to see this up close and also work for your supper then you need to go on a fishing trip.
There are several different kinds of trips that you can take, and you are only allowed to fish up to 25 kilometers off the coast of Tioman Island.
This means that you can either stay close to shore and have a go at reeling in a catch, or you can explore a little further and try island hopping at the same time to see which spot has the most marine life.
Many fishing trips also include a seafood dinner (made with your catch) as part of the package.
12. Walk to Air Batang
Air Batang is one of the main villages on Tioman Island and if you are not staying here then it makes a great place to trek to.
Air Batang is often referred to simply as ABC and has a larger range of eateries and accommodation options than the neighboring village of Salang.
One of the great draws of a trip to Air Batang however is that it is bisected by a number of pretty trails that make approaching the village feel like you are discovering a hidden paradise.
At the end of a long trek you can also spend time lounging on the beach here.
13. Play a game of golf
You may not think that you can indulge in a golf game when you visit Tioman Island but actually you can.
The Tioman Island Golf Course first opened in 1989 and has a green with 18 holes.
The first nine of these holes (in an area called the Seaview) were designed by Ronald Fream and the second nine (the part of the course called the Hillview) were designed by Michael Coate.
One of the best reasons to take in a game here is so that you can enjoy the gorgeous views that look out over the sea on one side (the seaview) and the lush jungle on the other (the hillview).
14. Spend the day at Nipah
Nipah is one of the most isolated beaches on Tioman Island.
As you would expect, it is also one of the most unspoilt which is why it is well worth the trip to get here.
When you arrive at Nipah you will find nothing but clear sands and a serene atmosphere but the real draw is coming here at night.
When the sun goes down you can experience an amazing natural light show as the phosphorescent seaweed glows under the dark sky.
15. Go snorkeling at Salang
Salang is known as the backpacker hub of Tioman Island and is one of the most popular villages here.
It is also widely considered to be the best place to go snorkeling on the island as you can swim out to some nearby reefs which means that you can see a plethora of marine life without having to venture too far.
If you are feeling active you can swim out to the outskirts of Coral Island to hunt for aquatic life and in the evenings you can also make the most of the beach parties for which this village is known.
16. Explore Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach is one of the most famous beaches on Tioman Island and one of the nicest hikes on the island is the one from Monkey Beach to Monkey Bay.
If you walk along Monkey Beach you will find a secluded foot path that takes you to Monkey Bay which is in itself a delightful beach in the shape of an hourglass.
Both the beach and bay are known for their gorgeous snorkeling opportunities and as you walk between you two you may come across some of the famous simians after which this part of Tioman Island is named.
17. Go free diving
One of the main reasons to go free diving on Tioman Island is for the chance to see some of the amazing underwater life up close.
The waters around the island are known for being the home of graceful turtles and even blacktip reef sharks and you can dive down to some 25 meters off the shore.
It is also possible to free dive as part of a boating trip and if you choose that option then you can expect to dive down to depths of around 30 meters.
The main free diving center on the island is located in Tekek Village and you can do free diving training here to get certified.
18. Hike Gunung Kajang
Gunung Kajang or Mount Kajang is the highest mountain on Tioman Island and rises to a height of 1038 meters at the summit.
This also makes it the highest island peak off the coast of Peninsula Malaysia and you can trek to the summit from either Kampung Paya or Kampung Juara.
Whichever route you choose however, know that the terrain is challenging and you will need to hire a guide.
It takes around 10 hours to get to the peak and back, but many guides will offer you the chance to camp overnight in the jungle which will give you the chance to slow down a little and savor the experience.
19. Go sea kayaking
As you would imagine, water sports activities abound on Tioman Island and one of these is sea kayaking.
Many locals will tell you that the best place to do this is at ABC Beach where you can rent a sea kayak and get out on the water.
You can also kayak from Salang although the vessels are not as new as the ones at ABC Beach.
Many visitors who choose to kayak will also take the opportunity to go snorkeling off the coast of Tioman Island at the same time.
20. Stock up on duty-free
Tioman Island is known for being a duty free zone, much like other islands in Malaysia such as Langkawi.
This means that you can stock up on alcohol and other goods very cheaply here and the main shopping spot on the island is Vision Duty Free.
There are some smaller outlets in villages like Paya and Salang although you should note that if you are travelling through Singapore after you visit Tioman Island then you will need to pay duty on any items you buy.
21. Take a trip to Coral Island
If you are looking for a day out when you are staying on Tioman Island then consider a trip to neighboring Coral Island.
This picturesque isle is located off the coast of the main island of Tioman Island and you can get there either by taking a public ferry or by hiring your own private boat which will give you added flexibility.
One of the main reasons people make the journey here is for the diving and snorkeling opportunities.
As the name suggests, the isle is surrounded by miles of stunning coral which is also home to an amazing array of marine flora and fauna.
If you are lucky then you may even spot sharks and turtles.
22. Trek from Tekek to Juara
One of the main activities that visitors can enjoy on Tioman Island is the chance to go trekking and one of the nicest hikes on the island is the walk from Tekek Village to Juara.
Tioman Island does not have many paved roads as such so most of the paths between the villages still take you through lush jungle which is alive with varied flora and fauna.
Although you will be hiking through the forest, the trek from Tekek to Juara is not particularly strenuous and will take around two hours.
23. Go island hopping
Tioman Island is part of the wider Mersing Marine Park which is made up of eight other islands in addition to Tioman.
One of the best ways to explore the marine part is to charter your own boat (which is very cheap here) and then set off and island hop at your leisure.
Swimming and snorkeling are popular pastimes as part of a boat tour and this is the highlight of a trip to this part of Malaysia for many visitors.
24. Party the night away at Tioman Cabana Bar
Tioman does not have a particularly vibrant nightlife scene compared to other places in the region such as Bali or the islands around Thailand.
Still, if you want to enjoy the best party on Tioman Island then you need to head to Tioman Cabana Bar which is located in Tekek Village.
Here you will find beer, cocktails, and music nights but the big draw is the tradition ‘poipoi’ or ‘fireball shows on the beach as well as large bonfires.
25. Visit the Juara Turtle Hatchery
For many visitors to Tioman Island the highlight of a trip here is the chance to visit the Juara Turtle Hatchery.
The aim of the hatchery is to preserve and rehabilitate the turtle population that swims in the waters around the island so if you are interested in marine conservation then this is not to be missed.
You will find a huge range of species here as well as turtle eggs that are ready to be released into the wild once the turtles hatch.