Asia's top five tropical island paradises

Story highlights

  • The 20th annual Asia Boat Show will take place in Singapore this weekend
  • Southeast Asia's coastal waters offer some of the world's top adventure-laden sailing destinations
  • Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia all play host to spectacular coastal beauty spots

With vast expanses of sparkling blue ocean, remote dive sites teeming with marine life and thousands of uninhabited tropical islands ripe for exploration, Southeast Asia is home to some of the world's finest adventure sailing spots.

It's apt then that luxury boating manufacturers will this weekend drop anchor in Singapore, one of the continent's most vibrant harbor cities, to take part in the 20th annual Boat Asia show.

Specialist shipbuilders display the latest yachts, speedboats and ocean-going gadgets during the four-day jamboree.

With this spirit of maritime adventure in mind, CNN asked Herman Ho, Boat Asia 2012 managing director, and Stuart McDonald, founder and editor of Asian travel website,, to give the lowdown on Southeast Asia's most spectacular coastal spots.

Anambas islands, Indonesia

Situated 200 nautical miles east of Batam Island in northeastern Indonesia, the Anambas islands are a must for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts, says Herman Ho.

The Anambas Islands, Indonesia

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Pulau Bawah, the main island in the Anambas chain is uninhabited and offers "a naturally protected lagoon with beautiful clear blue waters and corals," enthuses Ho. Further inland there is a giant waterfall that offers a great secluded picnic spot.

Shipwrecked vessels "Seven Skies" and "Igara" have become a magnet for a wide variety of indigenous marine life and offer the perfect opportunity for a dip. What's more, he says, they are so remote that if you make the effort to go, you are likely to have them all to yourself.

Koh Chang, Thailand

Located near Thailand's maritime border with Cambodia, the Koh Chang archipelago offers a wealth of secluded tropical islands that are perfect for exploration by sea, says Stuart McDonald.

Hundreds of deserted beaches enable land lovers to get their feet sandy while the shallow waters near shore provide fantastic snorkeling opportunities.

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"Though the diving here isn't the region's best," says McDonald, there is still so much spectacular marine life that getting into the water will always be a treat.

McDonald warns however that Koh Chang can get extremely wet during the rainy season -- which usually occurs between June and October -- and advises all mariners to check the weather outlook before setting sail.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Blessed with gorgeous sandy beaches and some of Southeast Asia's most fertile fishing grounds, the waters of Langkawi Island straddle the maritime border between Malaysia and Thailand.

Langkawi Islands, Malaysia

Like its Thai island neighbor, Phuket, Langkawi has numerous marinas that cater for guests cruising the surrounding Malacca Strait.

Casting anchor and setting foot on the islands themselves offers a great opportunity to scale one of the region's most spectacular vantage points, says Ho.

Vistors can just hop on a cable car to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang mountain, some 2,300 feet above sea level, where they can take in the wonderful views.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay in northwestern Vietnam is one of the most stunning boating destinations anywhere in the world, says McDonald.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Comprising a vast coastal waterway of roughly 2,000 islands spread over an area of 1,500 square kilometers, carving out your own sailing space shouldn't be too much of a problem. While tranquil waters year round make sure going for a swim is always a pleasure

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The mysterious limestone caves on Halong Bay's bigger islands and the "incredible sunsets" meanwhile are two sights not to be missed, advises McDonald.

Similan Islands, Thailand

The Similan islands are a group of nine small archipelagos that have been designated a marine nature reserve by the Thai government.

The Similan Islands, Thailand

Situated off the country's west coast in the Andaman Sea, the spectacular islets are a nationally protected wildlife area, says Ho.

Sailing around the Similans is still allowed, though, and those who venture there are treated with "turquoise blue waters full of marine life," says Ho.

There are also hundreds of varieties of fish and turtles surrounding the islands, he adds, while peace and quiet is virtually guaranteed.