From Thailand’s laid-back archipelagos and Cambodia’s jungle-clad wilderness to the pristine beaches of Malaysia and Bali, if you’re keen to swap the urban rat race for a lazy beach holiday, then Asia’s your go-to destination.
Here are our top 10 tropical Christmas destinations.
#1 – Railay, Thailand
Located on the Indian archipelago of the Andamans, Railay’s spectacular limestone formations make this spot a rock climber’s nirvana.
You can also get horizontal on its sublime beaches (like Phra Nang), hike your way through its inland jungles, or catch a long-tail boat for some snorkelling on a myriad of uninhabited islands.
Side-step the busy high-end resorts and you’ll find laid-back Thai-Rasta bliss, where rainbow shirts are optional!
#2 – Krabi, Thailand
Located on southern Thailand’s west coast, Krabi is a summertime haven of lush mangrove forests and more than a hundred offshore islands including the Phi Phi Islands, where the movie The Beach was shot.
Get adventurous with an elephant trek or a dirt bike session in Phanom Bencha National Park, or frolic amid the azure waters of Talay Waek Beach, which is easily accessed by a large sand bar that magically appears as the tide recedes.
Explorers should also visit Diamond Cave for views of illuminated caverns filled with sparkling limestone formations, and an amazing waterfall showcasing cascades of glittering gold-coloured quartz.
#3 – Koh Rong, Cambodia
Once little more than a jungle-clad wilderness rimmed by blindingly white sand, Koh Rong is today a seaside strip filled with throngs of hole-in-the-wall bars and backpacker crash zones. But there are no cars, no streets and no skyscrapers here, and lots and lots of jungle (perfect for nightly phosphorescent plankton spotting).
If you’re after a bit more action, then head to High Point Adventure Park. An exhilarating combination of suspension bridges, zip lines and ‘flying surfboards’, here you can view all of the island’s natural treasures, without even touching the ground.
#4 – Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Perhaps not a winner in a ‘best-looking beach resort town’ competition, Sihanoukville is nevertheless a chilled-out spot and the ideal launching pad for a Christmas spent on the best of Cambodia’s undeveloped tropical islands. The whiter-than-white sand and warm water makes for a perfect less-crowded tropical getaway, where you can enjoy lazy days of sunbathing followed by whirlwind nights of bar-hopping.
Get to know the marine locals with a scuba diving or snorkelling tour, gorge yourself on fresh-from-the-ocean seafood, and when the sun goes down, head to a bohemian-flavoured guesthouse where you can enjoy a balmy night’s slumber.
#5 – Nha Trang, Vietnam
A stunning setting encompassing a sweeping crescent beach edged with a necklace of hills, this high-energy beach resort rests amid the beauty of a turquoise bay sprinkled with tropical islands. For a low-key start to your Christmas beach holiday, check out the Long Son Pagoda with its 24 metre-high white Buddha statue, or visit the National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam for a peek at turtles, sharks and inquisitive sea horses.
Continue the wind-down with a river cruise, explore the ancient Cham towers or totally bliss-out with an old-school spa treatment. If you’re after a bit of high-energy fun, this spot offers some of the best scuba diving in the country by day, and by night, cranks up to reveal its true party-time personality.
#6 – Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc offers Instagram-perfect white sand beaches like Cua Can and Ong Lan and ample opportunity for trekking with its vast expanses of dense, lush jungle. You can also kayak in the bays, dive the reefs, undertake a motorcycle odyssey, or just spend your days lounging about in your beachwear in-between indulgent massages.
Visit the Dinh Cau Night Markets for delicious ocean-fresh street food and dishes that will inevitably be complemented by the island’s claim to fame – their high-quality fish sauce (nuoc mam).
#7 – Tioman Island, Malaysia
Tioman Island reverently guards the translucent waters of the South China Sea and offers island-bound travellers every possible shade of paradise. Here you can get a taste of authentic island life with a visit to Genting Village or by spending the day with sea turtles at Juara Turtle Project.
Adventurous types will also love rock climbing at legendary Gunung Nenek Semukut or splashing about in one of the island’s cascading waterfalls. And then there’s the ocean. This gorgeous kaleidoscope of blues and greens is home to an abundance of tropical fish and multi-hued coral, and is the ideal playground for surfing, snorkelling, diving and sailing.
#8 – Langkawi, Malaysia
Dominating an archipelago of more than 100 islands and islets and known as ‘the jewel of Kedah’, Langkawi is one of the most popular island destinations in Southeast Asia. Synonymous with amazing beaches like Pantai Cenang, the island has an abundance of hot spring spas, seafood restaurants and beach bars. However, it is surprisingly under-developed.
Visit traditional villages, climb the island’s tallest mountain or for an adventurous day trip, take a speedy boat ride to the Pulau Payar Marine Park. Extending over a collection of jade-green islands, snorkelers and divers are guaranteed an underwater adventure like no other.
#9 – El Nido, Philippines
Considered one of Asia’s hidden jewels, if you’re after a deserted island-type Christmas holiday abroad, then El Nido offers the perfect launching pad for exploring Palawan’s star attraction, the breathtaking Bacuit Archipelago.
El Nido also offers rock climbing on its limestone cliffs and waterfall splashing at Nagkalit-kalit. Or if you’d prefer to island hop-it, head offshore to 1006-hectare Cadlao Island (by kayak if you’re super-keen). Often referred to as a ‘mini Tahiti’, Pasandigan Beach has calm, clear waters, and the Cadlao Lagoon offers some great snorkelling in the shallow coral gardens just off the beach (keep your eye out for sea turtles).
#10 – Bukit, Bali
Bukit’s limestone peninsula has become a bit of a hotspot for travellers to Bali who are looking to avoid the Denpasar-bound crowds. Balangan, Bingin and Padang Padang Beaches offer some of the most popular surf breaks in the world, and the southerly winds here are also perfect for paragliding daredevils.
Explorers can scooter their way around the area’s rice paddies or visit the Ulutwatu temple, one of Bali’s most iconic sites. Surrounded by towering cliffs, it’s a great spot for sunset Instagram shots and a fairly chilled place to recharge as well. Namaste!