Perhaps not as established as an island haven compared to the likes of Penang or Langkawi, the comprehensive offerings of Johor have made it into a compelling destination of late. Style mavens seeking a bargain can head over to Johor Premium Outlets, families can indulge in wholesome fun over at Legoland, and now, Desaru Coast is coming in hot as a new playground for those seeking that island life.

You’ll be glad to know that Desaru Coast even made it to TIME’s World’s Greatest Places list. With a slew of high-end resorts opening in recent years enticing travellers to its gorgeous stretch of golden beach, it’s not hard to see why. And if you’re looking for something a little more intimate, there are also numerous islands dotting the cerulean South China Sea, where more private resorts offer their take of sun, sea, and sand.

Here, we list some of the best resorts in Johor for your next island trip.

One&Only Desaru Coast

Nestled on the South-Eastern shoreline of Malaysia between the lush rainforest and the South China Sea, this resort is a tropical retreat that embodies the essence of its location, known as the ‘village of palms’. A harmony of wellness retreats and epicurean encounters, One&Only is easily accessible from major and local airports, including Senai International Airport and Singapore Changi Airport.

Thanks to the superbly appointed Villa One boasting a 27m-long private pool, the Kerry Hill-designed hideaway feels curated and personalised. Get your adrenaline pumping with a range of fitness activities from tennis and padel to beach biking and spectacularly scenic rounds of golf at The Els Club.

Journey with masters in an immersive Silat Melayu class, listen to the great call of gibbons, scale up the most magnificent trees in the surrounding rainforest, or awaken the body and mind at the Chenot Spa. It’s the ultimate transformative experience that you didn’t know you needed.

Address: Darul Ta’zim, Persiaran Damai, Desaru Coast Bandar Penawar, 90, 81930, Johor
Contact: +607 878 2400

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Batu Batu Resort

Just a 20-minute boat ride from the district of Mersing, you’ll find the protected Johor Marine Resort and, within it, Batu Batu Resort. Dotted with swaying coconut trees and rocky boulders, it’s a picturesque paradise for those looking for a touch of serenity.

Nestled into the island’s wild and natural environment in a way reminiscent of a Malay kampung, you’ll find yourself enjoying lazy sun-kissed days on one of the island’s eight white sandy beaches. Or, for the more adventurous, trail through the jungle learning about our fragile ecosystems from on-site biologists.

Believing that private sector tourism can act as a catalyst for positive change through the preservation and regeneration of the biodiversity around the island, Batu Batu founded and funds Tengah Island Conservation, a biodiversity management initiative dedicated to the research, rehabilitation, and regeneration of the surrounding natural environment.

Address: Pulau Tengah, Mersing, Johor.
Contact: +607 228 8000

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Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas

Offering a range of luxury accommodation nestled in lush tropical gardens, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas offer guests a truly luxurious escape. Home to a collection of one-to-two-bedroom abodes, each fitted with elegantly curated furniture, expect a modern living space juxtaposed against traditional Malaysian design.

Just 45 minutes drive from Johor Bahru International Airport or a short 1.5 hours drive from downtown Singapore, the tranquil beach destination provides all you could dream of without the need to leave the resort grounds.

With low-rise buildings and stand-alone villas that overlook the gardens, lagoon, and ocean, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas offers expansive residences for families and groups craving privacy, complete with an infinity pool, full kitchen staff, chef, and butler service. Read our full review of the resort to learn more.

Address: Persiaran Pantai, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor.
Contact: +607-828 0888

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The Westin Desaru Coast Resort

As the third Westin-branded hotel in Malaysia, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort is a premium 275-room hotel in Johor. Part of the Desaru Coast development, a large-scale integrated holiday and event destination featuring Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark, The Els Ocean and The Els Valley championship-level golf courses, and three other international branded hotels and villas; Westin is a sanctuary flanked by an immaculate garden at one end and powdery sands at the other.

Unwind and relax on a stretch of golden sanded beach with the warm Desaru sun overhead, or savour healthy, inventive fare and creative cocktails at the property’s restaurants and beach bar.

Rest well in tranquil accommodations with spacious floor plans with scenic private balconies and be prepared to feel blissed out to enjoy colourful sunsets, attentive service, and glittering coastal waters.

Address: Jalan Pantai 3, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor
Contact: +607 838 3333

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Rawa Island Resort

Circled by crystal clear waters and lush greenery, Rawa Island Resort has the best of both worlds, with rooms dedicated to different group sizes, ranging from Hillside Deluxe to Frangipani Villa. With unmatched natural beauty by resorts located on the mainland, even the most discerning island girl will amaze at the perpetually azure waters surrounding Rawa Island.

And if the sandy white beaches and clear waters won’t impress you, perhaps the house reef just off the shore inhabited by a kaleidoscope of marine creatures will. The only downside is the limited connection to Wi-Fi and television, though it might not be a bad thing if you’re looking to go off the grid. Though only available at the restaurant, you won’t be missing out on much, as there are various other more active activities available like snorkelling, kayaking, scuba diving, and even island hopping!

Address: Rawa Island, 86800 Mersing, Johor
Contact: +607 799 1204

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Alang’s Rawa Resort

For a slice of paradise, head to Alang’s Rawa Resort, where you can cosy up in one of their many quaint accommodations. Tucked away on Rawa Island, give in to the likes of water sports such as snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, and island-hopping. For the ultimate romantic adventure, you can even trek up the 270 steps to the top of the hill and watch the sunset or sunrise!

The soft white sand, clear blue sea, and bright sunshine might be what gets you on the boat over to Alang’s Rawa Resort, but its other delights are what will have you returning time and again. The website boasts of the Rawa Special Fish and other favourites, with guests coming back for more. Their simple but flavourful menu uses the freshest fish, seafood, and local ingredients to ensure the best dining experience.

Address: Rawa Island, Mersing, Johor.

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