As many runners know, training in the same places all the time can become boring, too repetitive and hence, less enjoyable. With a large number of islands all across Southeast Asia near Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, there is never a shortage of locations to visit that make for excellent running vacations. No matter if you are a speedy 5km racer or a steadfast marathoner, these 10 islands in Southeast Asia are suitable for fulfilling running experiences.
Located off the eastern coast of Malaysia, the Sibu Islands offer decent opportunities for short runs of any pace. Travellers can reach the Sibu Islands by taking a ferry from Tanjung Leman to Sibu Tengah. Travel expenses can vary depending on the driving distance and boat fare. The main features of the Sibu Islands include a quiet fishing village, beautiful beaches, and modern resorts. While the main island is only 6km wide and 1km long, runs up to 15km are possible if you do not mind running laps around the island. Trails consist of easy terrain and gradual turns, so both easy runs and speed workouts are suitable on the Sibu Islands.
The Malaysian island of Tenggol can be reached after a drive of six to eight hours from Singapore and then a 17km ferry ride from Kuala Dungun. If you have the money to spare, you can use the quicker option of taking a flight from Johor Bahru to Kuala Terrenganu and then driving to a boat at Kuala Dungun. Tenggol is best known for its beautiful shores, lush forests, and popular dive sites. The island is not very developed, but there are some hotels and accommodations available for visitors. Trails are rough in certain areas and hilly in others. While only seasoned trail runners can run Tenggol’s trails with ease, it is an ideal place for tempo runs, long runs, and hill intervals. If you’re trying to pound out some distance, the island is large enough for runs of about 25 to 30km. The prime season for visiting Pulau Tenngol is between March and October.
Pulau Redang is located off the eastern coast of Malaysia, about 50km away from Kuala Terengganu. The best and most popular way to travel to Redang is by speedboat from Merang. Often described as a scuba diver’s paradise, Pulau Redang boasts crystal clear waters and a huge community of tropical fish. Depending on your preferences, you can stay overnight in a first class hotel or chalet. The roads and trails throughout the island are well maintained, but the running distance is limited to 8 to 12km. As always, you can double-back if you would like to gaze at the beautiful scenery for a relaxing long run. The best time to visit Redang is between June and August.
The Malaysian islands of Perhentian are located just 20km or two minutes away from Kuala Besut, or 45min away from Kuala Bahru. This group of islands is well known for its wildlife, coral reef, and fish communities. Pulau Perhentian has a plethora of forest trails and beaches that are suitable for beautiful and memorable running adventures. Trails are quite smooth, but you may want to plan workouts, such as slower long runs or hill intervals, because of the hilly terrain. The various trails and roads in Perhentian allow you to run distances beyond 20km if you so choose.
The island of Kapas off the eastern coast of Malaysia can easily be reached from the mainland. From Marang, you can travel for 6km or 30min by boat to reach Pulau Kapas. Travellers can also take a boat from Chendering, but that trip takes much longer. Kapas can be described as a tropical paradise with its variety of plants, shallow lagoons, white beaches, and blue waters. Accommodations include simple chalets, so this is the place to go if you prefer quiet island life over bustling tourist locations. The trails of Kapas are relatively flat and well maintained; therefore, a variety of workouts ranging from steady runs to fartleks can be completed here while enjoying the picturesque scenery. The island is not very large, so runs of up to 12 to 15km are usually recommended if you do not want to run laps or double-back. Travellers should avoid Kapas between November and March due to the monsoon season.
Located in the Indonesian archipelago, Sulawesi is accessible by plane. As one of the Greater Sunda Islands, Sulawesi is very large and offers a huge selection of attractions and tour spots. Sulawesi has six beautiful national parks and a variety of nature reserves spread out across the island. As most of the island is rural, there is also a healthy environment full of flora, fauna, and wildlife. You can also enjoy the views of beaches, waterfalls, lagoons, freshwater streams, mountains, and lush forests. Since the island has a total area of about 175,000 square kilometres, you have the freedom to run any distance. Running trails range from flat paved roads to rocky mountain paths.
Koh Lanta is an island located just off Thailand’s southwestern coast near the town of Krabi. Koh Lanta is a large island that is best known for its dense forest and Mu Ko Lanta National Park. Snorkelling and diving are popular activities due to regular sightings of black tip reef sharks and hawksbill turtles. Koh Lanta has well over 70 kilometres of trails that are suitable for running; you will find that there are opportunities to complete any kind of workout that you may have planned. Terrain varies across the island, but it is manageable if you are in decent shape.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is a Thai favourite and can be found between the Strait of Malacca and the island of Phuket. Koh Phi Phi’s most famous attraction is the Pileh Lagoon, a deep natural pool that is visible up to a depth of 50m. Koh Phi Phi is covered with pedestrian-only roads, so this is an excellent place to run if you do not mind pavement. Runs beyond 20km are possible without ever lapping or doubling back.
Koh Racha is located 19km off the southern coast of Phuket. This island boasts white beaches and a variety of unique restaurants and shops along Siam Bay. Trails on Koh Racha are limited, but you can enjoy short runs without worrying about rough terrain since most of the paths are well maintained.
Phuket is the prime tourist destination in Thailand and is well known for its powdery white beaches, restaurants, rocky cliffs, blue lagoons, and clear waters. Because Phuket is large with a total area of 543 square kilometres, there is no shortage of good places to run. Some parts of Phuket are hilly while others are more suitable for long distance running; hence, the island is perfect for a wide range of training programs. You should plan trips to Phuket outside of the monsoon season if you would like to enjoy the outdoors. You can even take part in the Phuket marathon for a more competitive experience.
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. Bali is the largest tourist destination in Indonesia and was ranked number two on Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Islands 2012 survey. So there is no reason why you should not visit it at least once in your lifetime. The island is approximately 153km wide, spans approximately 112km and covers 5,780 km2. From volcano to black sand beaches, there are exotic attractions to explore for any curious runner. You can even consider taking part in the annual Bali Marathon, which features a combination of flat road and rolling hills, to experience Balinese natural life and traditional art performance along the course. You can proceed on any direct flight to Bali from cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.
Start Your Islands Running Tour
The islands of Southeast Asia are beautiful, diverse and offer a wide range of opportunities for travellers looking to spice up their running adventures. While visiting other islands for a leisure run or a marathon, there are several safety measures and precautions to take note of in order to fully enjoy your trip.
Have you run on any of the above mentioned islands before? How was your experience? Do share with us!