Singapore is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, boasting fantastic bars, world-class restaurants, art galleries, and a smorgasbord of events taking place every weekend — so there’s always something to do. However, no matter how great a place is, urban living can take its toll on you — and sometimes you just want to get away and retreat into nature for a little while.

Luckily for us, tropical paradise isn’t that far away, as we are surrounded by some of the most pristine islands in Southeast Asia. In fact, you don’t even have to book a flight to get to some of them. Besides the ever-popular Batam and Bintan, there are a few private islands surrounding us that are only a ferry ride away. And you can even rent a whole island for a party or group retreat.

If you’ve exhausted yourself of things to do in the city over the weekend (not that it’s possible), and you’ve done road trips to Malaysia one too many times, it’s time to look to destinations beyond our shores — literally. These private islands within three hours from the Lion City are the epitome of barefoot luxury, making the perfect weekend getaway to recharge.

(Main image credit: Batu Batu Island

Bawah Private Island

Located just three hours from Singapore, Bawah Private Island is a collection of five pristine islands amongst three crystal clear lagoons, offering an authentic island-hideaway experience. Slated to open in summer 2017, only 70 guests will be allowed on the island at any one time.

The island will feature 35 eco-designed villas (21 beach villas, 11 water villas and 3 garden villas), providing guests with a private oasis amongst spectacular scenery. Amenities include a treetop ‘Club House’ with a viewing balcony, a yoga pavilion, a beach-fronted infinity pool, as well as a wellness centre offering luxurious pampering treatments that incorporate local techniques and exclusive products.

A huge advocate of sustainable tourism, the Bawah team also aims to protect the island’s flora and fauna through a firm stance against pesticides, as well as being an official marine conservation area.

How to get there: Take a ferry to Batam, followed by a private seaplane to Bawah Private Island.

Nikoi Island

Boasting majestic architecture, delectable cuisine and excellent service, Nikoi Island is where you need to be to enjoy the natural, untouched beauty of a tropical sanctuary. Accommodation on the island comes in the form of 15 beach houses featuring designs that are a blend of Indonesian and contemporary architecture — using driftwood and alang alang roofing to blend into the environment.

The island features a diversity of nature and activities — such as a pool set amongst spectacular granite boulders, jungle paths, stunning coral reefs, as well as powder white beaches and deserted islands.

How to get there: Take a ferry to Bintan Resorts, followed by a one-hour taxi ride across Bintan, and a half-hour speedboat ride to Nikoi.

Cempedak Private Island

Developed by the same owners as neighbouring Nikoi Island, the newly-opened Cempedak brands itself as a unique private island for grown-ups. It is located approximately two hours from Singapore, and features 20 beautiful hand-crafted sustainable bamboo villas, each designed to create the impression of being cocooned within a lush, tropical paradise. Each villa is set over two storeys and features a generous deck with plunge pool.

How to get there: Take a ferry to Bintan, where you’ll be greeted by an island representative and driven to Cempedak jetty before a 25-minute speedboat across to Cempedak.

Pulau Joyo

Originally conceived to be a holiday home for Hong Kong-based shipping magnate Antony Marden, Pulau Joyo features stilted pavilions, reconstructed Indonesian joglos, and six houses with smaller bale houses.

Offering three types of accommodation, driftwood palaces, traditional java houses, or tree houses, each villas has been decorated with tastefully selected furniture and art pieces handpicked by Pulau Joyo’s owners during their travels — which adds a touch of personality to each villa.

For a fun-filled day, you can paddle board, kayak around the island, go snorkelling, or charter the resident yacht The Hang Tuah to explore neighbouring islands.

How to get there: Take a ferry to Bintan, where you’ll get a bus transfer to Pualu Joyo’s private dock, and a 20-minute speed boat transfer to the island.

Telunas Resort

If you’re craving to really get off the grid and be content with the bare minimum for a weekend, Telunas Island is your best bet. Located just three hours from Singapore, Telunas is truly a “no distractions zone”, as it offers no wifi, television, or mobile phone signal.

The only thing you can do is appreciate the peaceful surroundings with good company, indulge in spa treatments, and enjoy water activities such as paddle boarding.

How to get there: Take a ferry to Sekupang, Batam, followed by a 90-minute boat transfer to Telunas.

Batu Batu Island

Meaning “rocks” in the local Malay language, Batu Batu island is a rustic private-owned island in Malaysia. It features eight picture-perfect white fine sand beaches on the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah in the South China Sea.

It comprises buildings constructed from a variety of hard wood in the style of a “kampung” or village, built by local carpenters using traditional techniques.

How to get there: Drive to Mersing, Malaysia, followed by a 20-minute boat transfer to Batu Batu.

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.