Looking for a last-minute vacation spot for some family fun time in the sun, or just had an unexpected long weekend pop onto your mama radar? Don’t fret… we’ve got you covered with seven of the best beach getaways within whistling distance from our sunny shores. All you need to do is pack your bags, make sure you’ve got the kiddie sunscreen and then you’re set to go!
For the budget conscious – Pulau Tioman
If you’re just after a weekend of serious relaxing (read: laying on the beach while the kiddos splash in the waves) and want to keep costs as low as possible, Pulau Tioman in Malaysia is your go-to. And don’t think that a low price means shoddy beaches as the water is clearer and the sand softer than you expect. Accommodation on the island comes in the form of simple chalets and you normally don’t even need to book beforehand (though when you’re travelling with little ones it always pays to be organised). Salang is a popular village on the west coast of the island, but if you’re after some seclusion, pay for a four-wheel taxi drive across the island to Kampong Juara – a less visited part of Tioman. It’s also home to a turtle conservation centre.
How to get there: It’s a 4-hour bus ride from Singapore to Mersing jetty. From there, you’ll take a ferry to Pulau Tioman. The ferry ride takes two to two and a half hours, depending on which village you wish to get off at. For more information, see www.tioman.com.my
For the scuba-diving junkies – Layang Layang Island
This tiny reclaimed-land island, created by the Malaysian Navy, is located about 300km northwest of Sabah in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The drop off from the island’s gorgeous, pristine reef falls away to approximately 2,000m and the waters are extremely unpolluted – given that it’s sitting in the middle of nowhere. Its isolation will deter all but the avid divers as this island, also known as Swallow Reef, is a top-ranked dive site with the most kaleidoscopic marine life in its waters. Think turtles, manta rays, barracudas, whale sharks and even the elusive hammerhead shark – there are schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks that grace the waters, sometimes in their hundreds (maybe best to keep the kids in the resort and tag team with your other half when you want to go exploring). There is only one resort you can stay in on the island, Avillion Layang Layang, which offers packages of various stay durations, with flights and meals included.
How to get there: It’s a two to two and a half hour flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu, followed by a one-hour chartered flight – arranged by the resort – to the island. For more information see www.avillionlayanglayang.com
For the families with a surfer dude in their midst – Lombok
People call Lombok “the Bali of 20 years ago,” so try to visit before the island’s tourism peaks – visitor numbers have already been growing in recent years. Ironically, one of the best places to surf in Lombok shares the same name as the overrun tourist town in Bali. “Kuta” lies down south on this Indonesian island and is a sleepy village untouched by rapid overdevelopment. It’s got fantastic shore, reef and point breaks along its coast. Hit up “Desert Point”, a famous surf spot, or try places like Seger Beach and Mawi Beach if your surfer dude (or dudette) is looking for some serious waves.
How to get there: You can fly direct to Lombok in about two hours and 15 minutes, or head to Bali and then take a domestic flight or travel by sea from there.
For the most stunning beach you’re ever seen – Boracay
White Beach is where most travellers end up on this Philippine paradise island. It’s divided into five areas and are referred to as such. Lazing on the soft sand, frolicking in the unpolluted azure sea waters and having a go on the jet skis and kayaks are activities that rule the day. When the sun goes down, you can expect the energy levels to stay up – Boracay’s night scene means you’ll find plenty of places to stop for a meal, plus everyone loves kids here. Fill up your tummy with delightfully delicious seafood in restaurants all along the coast, then wander past the funky reggae bars and beach clubs on your way home. Those looking to avoid the serious party areas will find that Boat Stations one and two are the most happening spots. If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, head to Boat Station three, which has a more laid back vibe.
How to get there: You can fly direct to Kalibo city in about three and a half hours. Then there is a 15-minute ferry ride to the island from Caticlan Jetty Port Terminal (about 90 minutes drive from the Kalibo International Airport). Alternatively you can transit through Manila or Cebu and get on a domestic flight to Kalibo.
The Vietnamese city of Hoi An is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Town, which was a buzzing spice trading centre in the 16th and 17th century. These days, the old homes of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese merchants have been converted into antique stores, restaurants and galleries, but there are still historic temples, museums and assembly halls to explore. The culture lessons never stop in this quaint town with its street markets, temples and natural scenery. Beautiful Cua Dai beach with its long stretch of powdery sand and cool, turquoise waters is where most travellers end up for a bout of sun tanning or sea sports. If you’re after more serenity, less folks, and an equally gorgeous sea view, visit An Bang Beach.
How to get there: Fly direct in about two hours and 25 minutes to Da Nang and then there’s a 45-minute drive from the airport to Hoi An. Alternatively you can transit at Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and grab a domestic flight, or travel by land to Da Nang.
The Gili Islands are made up of three different islands, each with their own personality and crowd. Beach addicts will find it a pleasure to experience all three for their different vibes. First of all, let’s get it out of the way that each Gili is home to the most jaw-dropping sea view, with the softest sand and unbelievably clear azure waters. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most visited of the three, with a huge night scene – probably best to avoid this one when you’re travelling with littlies. Gili Air is the nearest one to Lombok and has kept its rural feel – don’t expect lots to do here apart from some sea sports and chilling out. Take the energy of Gili Air, turn it down five notches, and you’ll have Gili Meno, a seriously mellow place with the best chance of finding out what it’s like to live on a desert island. Word has it that untouched Meno has the best beaches of the lot.
How to get there: The Gili Islands are a two-hour boat ride away from Lombok. From Bali, the boat ride duration can range from one and a half hours to two and a half hours. Flight time from Singapore to Lombok is about two hours and 15 minutes, and to Bali it is about two hours and 30 minutes. For more information see www.wikitravel.org/en/Gili_Islands
For the ultimate chill out spot – Batu Batu
Pulau Tengah in Malaysia is a privately-owned island about 30 minutes away by boat from Mersing jetty. There is only one resort on the island, called Batu Batu, where you and your brood can bond over some sea activities or simply laze quietly on one of the eight picture-perfect, white sand beaches. The limited villa accommodation option guarantees crowd control on the island for you and your kids (read: privacy). Besides being a protected marine park because of the surrounding waters’ rich underwater life (pacific bottle-nose dolphins, black-tipped reef sharks and even a dugong, have been spotted), it is a nesting ground for giant leatherback turtles who visit the island’s shores yearly (especially in July). A conservation team is on-site if you wish to learn more.
How to get there: Take an approximately two-hour bus ride from Singapore to Mersing jetty where representatives from Batu Batu will take you on the resort’s speedboat – it is a 20-minute ride then, in good weather. For more information see www.batubatu.com.my
So there you have it mamas, time to get booking. Your next luxurious (and easy) holiday is just a hop, skip and a jump away!