Travel Guide to Kapas Island: Backpacker’s Paradise in Malaysia

Beachfront of Captain Longhouse, Kapas Island
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Some say that Kapas Island is the most beautiful island in Malaysia and some further add that it is the country’s best-kept secret. Kapas Island (referred by locals as Pulau Kapas) is a small island in Kuala Terengganu in the east coast of Malaysia, which boasts quiet & beautiful white-sand shores.

Kapas Island is one of the less popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. It’s well known among locals in the province, but less so among foreign tourists.

I went here on a weekend for a short time off from work. At this time, I’d been living in Malaysia for about a year and I was badly missing the beaches in my home country the Philippines, so I was glad to learn about Kapas Island.

One of the first things that amazed me here is the lack of tourists — especially considering that my trip was on a weekend. Some were locals on a day tour and the rest were foreigners who seemed to be staying several days on the island before moving forward to their globetrotting adventure. I strolled along the beaches and generally just beach bummed. There was a time when I laid down on a hammock and the only sound I could here was insects and tree branching swaying from the wind.

I read that Kapas Island is described as a “sticky island” — a place that makes you stay longer than planned. Here, time passes by slowly, as if time operates differently.

I swam in our beach front, snorkeled, rested in a hammock, listened to meditative music, took a nap, walked, pet the cats in Captain Longhouse — repeat and repeat and only 2-3 hours had gone by.

As someone who lived in the Philippines, admittedly I’d seen better beaches in my life, but Kapas Island has this quality that makes you feel it’s one of a kind.

Overview of Kapas Island

Kapas Island or Pulau Kapas in Malaysia
Welcome to Kapas Island.

Kapas Island is an island located in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. The word “kapas island” means “cotton island” in Malay, which is a reference to the island’s white-sand beaches.

The province of Kuala Terengganu is actually a gateway to the best beaches you can find in Malaysia, namely, Perhentian Islands, Redang Island, Tioman Island, and others. While Perhentian Islands and Tioman Island are known for snorkeling & diving and Redang Island for its exclusivity, Kapas Island is the best choice for those who are looking for secluded beach vacation.

How to get to Kapas Island

There are different ways to get to Kapas Island.

By air

From Kuala Lumpur, take a flight to Kuala Terengganu.

From the airport, ride a taxi to Marang Jetty. Clarify to your driver that you’re going to Marang Jetty, not Merang Jetty which is a different port.

By land

If you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur, it’s easy to get to Kapas Island via overnight bus.

From Kuala Lumpur, ride an overnight bus to Kuala Terengganu and get off at MBKT Bus Terminal. Fare is around RM44, and travel time is about 7 hours.

From the MBKT bus terminal, there are different ways to reach Marang Jetty, which is the port to Kapas Island.

  • The common option is to ride a bus and get off at the town of Marang. Then walk to the jetty. Take note that, if you arrive early in the morning or late at night, there may no longer be buses available.
  • Another option is to take a taxi or Grab to the jetty. This is the easier way for me. Fare is around RM20-25, and travel time is about 20 minutes.

Marang Jetty to Kapas Island

Once in Marang Jetty, buy a round-trip ferry ticket to Kapas Island (RM40). Ticket counters open in as early as 8AM. Here are the schedules of the ferries to Kapas Island:

  • Marang Jetty to Kapas Island: 9am / 11am / 1pm / 3pm / 5pm
  • Kapas Island to Marang Jetty: 9:30am / 11:30am / 1:30pm / 3:30pm / 5:30pm
Jetty in Kapas Island, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Jetty in Kapas Island.

Commute Tips

Here are some commute tips when going to Kapas Island:

  • If you’re going here for a weekend trip from Kuala Lumpur, I suggest taking the 10 or 11PM bus schedule so you won’t have to wait long in the morning for the services in the jetty to start.
  • You can book a bus seat online via Easy Book or Bus Online Ticket. Make sure to printout the confirmation ticket in your email and show it at the bus station.
  • Kapas Island isn’t that popular but if you’re going on a weekend, it’s still best to buy tickets at least a week before. From my experience, the queues on Friday night for overnight buses can be long and bus tickets may ran out.
  • Marang Bus Terminal has food stalls, so you can grab a breakfast before heading to the island if you wish.

When to visit Kapas Island

The best time to visit Kapas Island is from April to August.

Like other beaches in Malaysia, it’s closed from November to February due to the monsoon season.

It may open early in February to give way to vacationing locals for the Chinese New Year, so if you’re here during that month you can always inquire with the resorts if they are already open.

Best Things to Do in Kapas Island

1. Beach bum

The best thing to do in Kapas Island is to lay down on a hammock and beach bum. Seriously, this place is amazingly quiet and peaceful.

I’ve seen other beaches in Malaysia and by the country’s standards, the beaches in Kapas Island is truly one of the best. The sand is fine and the water are in beautiful blues.

Beach in Kapas Island, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Beach in Kapas Island.
Katherine in Kapas Island
Me chilling in a hammock.

2. Snorkeling

Kapas Island is part of a marine national park so you can definitely see some nice underwater sights. There are big corals and colorful fishes. There are also sea turtles and black tip reef sharks.

You can pay for a guided snorkeling tour or just dive right in front of your resort’s beachfront. There are rentals for life vest (RM5) and snorkel set (RM15). If you like wearing fins, it’s best to bring your own because it might not be available for rent.

3. Kayaking

Kayaking is one of the ways you can explore the island. With a kayak you can visit the less-accessible bays in the island. You can also head to Gemia Island, a tiny island close by.

Kayaks are available for rent for about RM20 per hour.

Kayak boards in Kapas Island, Malaysia
Kayak boards.
Kapas Island activity - kayaking
Kayaking

4. Scuba diving

There are different dive spots around Kapas Island, which are ideal even for beginners. Some of the marine features you can see are reef fishes, turtles, and WWII shipwreck.

The ideal months to visit are from July to August.

5. Explore the beaches by foot

Kapas Island has beautiful shores. There’s a total of 5-6 beaches in the island, connected through bridges. You can visit them end-to-end in about 30 minutes.

Beachfront in KBC, Kapas Island
Beachfront in KBC Resort.
Bridge in Kapas Island, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
One of the bridges connecting the beaches.

6. Take photos of the rock formations

Kapas Island is covered by sedimentary rocks, and you can see interesting rock formations particularly along the shoreline.

You can go to the jetty to see the rock formations or hike across the jungle to the other side of the island for an hour.

Rock formations in Kapas Island, Malaysia
Rock formations.
Kapas Island - rock formations

7. Day trip to Gem Island

You can take a day tour to the nearby Gem Island, which can be arranged by the Longsha Campsite. Gem Island is similar to Kapas Island, although more secluded. There is a resort there with bungalows over the water.

Where to eat in Kapas Island

There are several restaurants you can find in Kapas Island, so don’t worry about getting hungry! Meals are a bit more expensive compared to that in the mainland, but still within reasonable rates.

Prepare about RM15 for one meal.

You can find typical Malaysian food such as rice meals and nasi. Don’t forget to try out nasi dagang (steamed rice in coconut milk with rice curry), which is a specialty here. I also recommend the yellow coconut fresh lobsters in Kapas Island Resort Restaurant. If you want budget meals, you can go to the JT Cafe.

Don’t know what to eat? Check out my favorite foods in Malaysia.

Where to stay

There are no “fancy” accommodations in Kapas Island, but the resorts here are decent. Budget options include camping tents and dorm rooms. There are also resorts offering private rooms.

Captain Longhouse

I stayed in Captain Longhouse and I highly recommend this one. There are private rooms and beds in dorm available. They have a kitchen that is open for breakfast. For other meals, you need to walk to the other restaurants in the island. There are hammocks outside where you can lie down all day.

Captain Longhouse is located at the end of the island, so the beachfront is almost deserted, especially in comparison with the main beach near the jetty.

By the way, the staff is also very friendly.

Captain Longhouse, Kapas Island, Malaysia
Captain Longhouse.
Dorm room in Captain Longhouse, Kapas Island, Malaysia
Dorm room in Captain Longhouse.
Beach hut in Kapas Island, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Beach hut in front of Captain Longhouse.
Beachfront of Captain Longhouse, Kapas Island

Captain Longhouse isn’t strict about check in/check out times, and rate is calculated per night. I checked in at about 10AM and checked out at 3PM and paid only RM50 for the dorm slot.

Captain Longhouse: Rates: Twin shared room – RM100 / triple shared room – RM150 / dorm – RM50 / tent – RM20-25 or RM15 if you have your own tent. Contact: Facebook

Budget stays

If you’re on a budget, you can always book for a tent or slot in a dorm. I find that private rooms for one person are also not that expensive. For instance, chalets in Kapas Beach Chalet (KBC) cost only RM70-90 per night.

As of this writing, booking in Kapas Island is a bit traditional so you can actually just walk in. (Of course, contacting them first-hand via their pages or Whatsapp for available rooms is always advisable.)

Longsha Campsite, Kapas Island, Malaysia
Longsha Campsite.
Kapas Beach Chalet or KBC, Kapas Island, Malaysia
Kapas Beach Chalet or KBC.

Here are your options:

  • Longsha Campsite. Rates: Tent rental – RM15 /if you bring your own – RM10. Contact: Facebook
  • Koko Land. Private and dorm rooms available
  • Kapas Beach Chalet (KBC). Rates: Chalets – RM70-90 / backpacker room: RM50 – only available for walk-ins

Others

If you want a more comfortable stay, there are the other resorts available:

You can also stay at the nearby Gem Island Resort & Spa. Book discounted rates here.

Reminders and Tips

Here are some reminders before your trip to Kapas Island.

  • Bring enough cash. There are no ATMs in the island.
  • If staying overnight, bring mosquito repellent. (Read how to prevent mosquito bites here.)
  • You may also want to bring flashlight for walking at night.
  • There are stores where you can buy necessities, such as sunblock. Alcohol is limited, so you might want to bring some over from the mainland.

That’s it. Hope you enjoy your trip to Kapas Island as well!

Has this travel guide to Kapas Island been helpful to you? Have any questions to ask? Post them in the comment section below. 🙂

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2 Comments

  1. Nice blog and info .. Keep a good work. You can also visit Redang Island in Terengganu which near to Kapas island. You may enjoy the snorkeling trips through the island.

  2. Yay thanks for the article! Can’t wait to explore Malaysia as we are moving there for work in a few months! 🙂

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