Rawa Island is a coral island off the east coast of Johor, Malaysia. It’s a teeny tiny island owned by the Johor Sultanate. Surrounded by clean blue waters and soft white sands, I think this piece of paradise would have been completely overlooked were it not for Alang’s Rawa.
Over the last 5 years I’ve gone to Rawa Island about 5 times, so I’ve gotten tons of questions from friends asking me everything about how to get there and what to do there. So I’ll break it down for those wanting to check out this slice of paradise. Here we go:
How to get there:
The thing about paradise is that it’s so elusive and challenging to get to. But trust me, it will all be totally worth it. I’m based in Singapore, so my explanation will be Singapore-centric – but feel free to leave a comment down below if you’re coming from somewhere else. I can try to give you some advice 🙂
There are 3 ways to get to Rawa Island. These are based on my personal experience:
- By bus. SG$62.99/person/two-way. You can book your bus tickets here, and select the Five Stars Express option. There are other options, but I find this timing to be the best. This bus leaves at 6:15 AM from Golden Mile – which sounds super early and it really is – but that means you get to miss the traffic jam and immigration queues on the way to Malaysia. I recommend this option, as you’ll arrive at Mersing at around 11-12, and then make it in time for the jetty and a nice lunch at Alang’s Rawa. The entire trip will take around 4 hours.
- Pros: Cheapest option for those on a budget.
- Cons: Need to get off at Singapore immigration at Woodlands and queue for about 20-50 minutes. Then wait for the rest of the bus passengers to be done. And then get off at Malaysian immigration again and queue for another 20-50 minutes to get stamped in to Malaysia. Quite a hassle – you will also have to bring your baggage down for scanning. This procedure applies both ways – exiting and entering Singapore.
- By 8-seater van. SG$70/person/two-way (price if 8 people) or $560/van. If you’re traveling with a group a friends, this would be an ideal choice as the van would be your group’s. Book the van directly with Alang’s Rawa when you’re booking your stay. If you’re a big group, they’ll connect you to a driver. If you’re just one or two, they’ll connect you to an existing group of people leaving Singapore one of these vans so you can join in and split the cost. The last trip I did to Rawa, there were 6 of us in the group, and they added a nice couple heading to Alang’s as well into our van. Made the trip much cheaper. The entire group has to agree on one pick-up spot though – the van will come and pick everyone up at the spot. Remember, this option is best when you book directly with Alang’s Rawa, so they can help connect you to other travelers if you need to fill some spots left in the van. You can email them here.
- Pros: Second cheapest option, great for traveling in a group. Pick-up time is flexible.
- Cons: Need to get off at Singapore immigration at Woodlands and queue for about 20-50 minutes. And then get off at Malaysian immigration again and queue for another 20-50 minutes to get stamped in to Malaysia. Quite a hassle – you will also have to bring your baggage down for scanning. This procedure applies both ways – exiting and entering Singapore. Silver lining is that you know everyone from the van (unlike taking a regular bus), so waiting for them will be less annoying. Haha!
- By private car/taxi. SG$85/person/two-way (price if 4 people) or SG$340/car/two-way. If you’re traveling with a smaller group, I highly recommend taking a private car/taxi. This is not a regular taxi – but a driver with a regular car who acts as your taxi. The price is not that much higher than taking a bus (if you manage to get 4 people in the cab), and it so much less hassle. What happens is that the driver will agree to pick you up from one pick-up location and then he will then drive you through two immigration checkpoints. Unlike the other options, with a regular car you don’t have to exit the vehicle at all. You simply hand over your passports through the checkpoint drive-through, and then you’re done. When you reach Johor Bahru, they will stop to change cars at some location (usually gas station). Here, your Singapore driver would have an associate waiting for you with a Malaysian-license plate car. They help you move your stuff from the Singapore car to the Malaysian car. Then you’re off again! All the way to Mersing. I have a driver contact which can be reached at +60197168850. Alternatively, you can contact Alang’s directly and they can hook you up with one. You can email them here.
- Pros: By far the least hassle. Not having to get off twice at immigration can save you up to 1-1.5 hours.
- Cons: If you cannot get 4 people in the taxi, then this is a very expensive option. If there are only two of you, that’s a staggering $170/per person!
Once you reach Mersing jetty:
You will have to wait for the Alang’s Rawa boat to pick you up. According to my experience, the speedboats leave at 1 PM, 3 PM and 6 PM respectively. Make sure you aim to arrive before these timings so you can get on the boat. However, do note that the timings vary according to tide. Once, we arrived at 2 PM but because of low tides, the 3 PM boat couldn’t run and we had to wait for the 6PM boat instead! At the jetty, there is a hawker center and some small shops. While waiting for the speedboat, you can grab some local malay food there or do some last minute shopping for sunscreen, snacks and the like.
When you’re ready to go into the waiting area, make sure you go to the ticketing counter. You do not have to buy any tickets. Just inform them that you’re getting picked up by Alang’s Rawa, and they’ll let you through. There will be Alang’s staff there to collect everyone into one place. This part will be the most hectic – the Alang’s Rawa staff don’t really make themselves obvious, so just ask the guys at the waiting area. They’ll point you to the Alang’s staff there, who’ll then lead you to the speedboat. The journey from Mersing Jetty to Rawa Island lasts only around 20 minutes.
Where you should stay:
There are a grand total of 2 resorts on the entire island. Everyone is always surprised when I tell them there are only two options, but it really is a tiny island, so I’m glad they decided to keep the place pristine by limiting it to 2 resorts. Oh, and just so you know, your choice of resort will make or break the trip. Seriously. The first resort, which I will be covering in great detail today, is called Alang’s Rawa. The second resort, which I won’t be covering, is called Rawa Safaris resort. Rawa Safaris is a much more family-oriented establishment – 90% of their guests are expat families with very young children. I don’t have much experience with this place, so I won’t be covering it here.
Who stays here?
- In general, young expats (around 20-35 yo) mainly from Singapore and Malaysia
- Big groups of friends
- INSEAD students (for some reason)
- Exchange students in Singaporean Universities
- Big group of colleagues from the same office
- Young expat couples
- The sultan’s son (and a bunch of his model friends. yup, this happens from time to time)
Stay here if you’re looking to:
- Meet people
- Drink and dance the night away
- Enjoy the pristine beauty of Rawa Island nature
- Never worry about your meals
- Have the most epic weekend ever
Room rates & explanations;
There are several types of rooms at Alang’s Rawa. Here are the room types and its rates (Prices are based on a 3 days 2 nights stay):
These are these pretty houses on stilts by the beach. Ideal for two people / couples. Very hard to get, so you have to really book these way in advance.
RM880 per person (based on two sharing) / Approx SGD$286
New Beachfront rooms:
These rooms are in the new buildings. I think these were completed only in 2014, so it’s a little bit of a different style. It has a very Santorini-esque, clean vibe about it. The bottom rooms contain two double and two single beds. The top rooms contain a double and a single bed.
3 per room RM790 per person / Approx SGD$257 per person
4 per room RM750 per person / Approx SGD$244 per person
5 per room RM700 per person / Approx SGD$227 per person
These rooms are right next to the A-Frames, and just below the group rooms. There is a massive hammock in front of it that’s great for lazing around. Each room contains one double and one single bed.
3 per room: RM750 per person / Approx SGD$244 per person
4 per room: RM700 per person / Approx SGD$227 per person
5 or more per room: RM650 per person / Approx SGD$212 per person
I’ve never stayed in these rooms, but from the outside they have a thatched roof and shared veranda, facing the sea. They seem to be the smallest and darkest rooms out of all – but the quietest.
3 per room: RM680 per person / Approx SGD$222 per person
4 per room: RM630 per person / Approx SGD$205 per person
5 or more per room: RM580 per person / Approx SGD$227 per person
The Group Room is the most spacious. It contains a private double bedroom, a mezzanine bedroom reached by a ladder, a main group room, and a gorgeous balcony with wonderful sea views. Suitable for between 6-12 people. The bathroom for the group room is downstairs.
7 pax and above: RM540 per person / Approx SGD$189 per person
These are simple tents that are erected outside the New Beachfront Rooms. I believe they accommodate 2 per tent, but they have agreed to our request of having 3 people inside before. The cheapest option by far, but you have to use Alang’s Rawa’s public bathroom.
RM420 per person / Approx SGD$137 per person
What the above rate includes:
- 2 nights accommodation (perfect for weekend getaway)
- Two-way boat transfer from Mersing Jetty and Rawa Island
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
- There is even an awesome communal BBQ on Sundays (it it’s not raining)
Food and drinks:
Alang’s Rawa serves simple, understated yet delicious food that makes use of all the freshest fish, seafood, and local ingredients from around the area. I’ve stayed here a couple of times now and have had nothing but good things to say about the food. Some meals I remember having:
- Fresh seafood (prawns, squids, fish)
- Fried rice
Remember, these are all included in the cost of your stay!
Also, you’ll never go thirsty at Alang’s Rawa. It has all kinds of drinks you could ever need in an island. Their bar is always fully stocked, and their recipes are completely on the fly. Meaning you can hop onto the bar stool, tell the bartender whatever you want and he’ll mix it up for you right away. And I really mean whatever. One of my friends asked for something they’ve never made before, and actually let him make it himself. The bartenders are one of the coolest staff around at Alang’s!
During the day, you can order all kinds of freshly squeezed juices – Watermelon, Apple, Orange, Carrot, Celery, Ginger, Pineapple, Purple Dragon, Mango… they have it all. I can’t tell you how absolutely wonderful it feels to be lying on white sand reading a book while sipping on an endless supply of fresh juice. Oh – however, beverages are not included in the price and they have to be paid separately. But only when you’re checking out. All expenses during your stay are noted down in your room bill.
What to do at Rawa Island and Alang’s Rawa:
Again, I’ll break down what happens during a typical stay 3D2N at Alang’s Rawa, based on my previous experience.
1. First Day/Night: If you arrive at late afternoon, you’ll have time to unpack, and grab a quick snack. The staff will also give you a quick tour around the place. As it’s getting dark, you can also play a game of beach volleyball, chill by the beach, or you know, take pictures (instagram-worthy place, yo!). If you arrive in the evening, you basically unpack, get a quick tour, then head towards the communal dining area. The communal dining area is a beach shack where everything happens. Here you’ll have dinner, and then later on, some intense partying at the beach shack until the break of dawn! The music here is on until around 4-5 AM, so don’t expect to sleep before then 😉 I myself have woken up on this beach the next morning, completely hungover and covered in sand. Blame it on their ultra potent Long Island Iced Teas! (p.s. Here’s a tip – order the Rawa Special. You’ll thank me later.)
2. Second Day: Most people wake up a bit later today courtesy of the night before, but many don’t sleep in. Why stay indoors when it’s paradise outside? Some things you can do during the day at Rawa Island:
- Chill and read by the beach.
- Borrow snorkeling gear and snorkel around shore. There are many gorgeous fish close to shore!
- Borrow kayak and explore the island’s surroundings.
- Play beach volleyball.
- Sleep in on one of the many hammocks around.
- Play jenga, charades, cards, or one of the many games they have stocked.
- Water slides! Water slides! Water slides!
From my previous experience, the level of partying on the second night is usually not as intense as the first night. Usually because we probably still have all that alcohol in our system (yeah right), and most are a bit tired from the day’s activities. But you never know, maybe you get a pretty fun crowd who can power through both nights!
3. Third Day: On the third day, I suggest you wake up early and hike up the hill. Try to wear proper shoes – but flip flips are OK too as long as you’re careful. It’s around a 20-25 minute hike, and when you’re at the highest point you’re rewarded with a stunning view of the island and the myriad of colors down below. It really is something special.
Today is usually pick-up time – the staff will let you choose between 10 AM or 3 PM. If you choose 3PM, you’ll still be able to enjoy another half day of chilling by the sea and lunch. Then, half an hour before the boat picks you up, you settle the bill that you’ve racked up in these 3 days. Before you know it, the 3PM speedboat arrives, and it’s time to wave goodbye to the most beautiful 3 days you’ve ever had!
Hope this has been a helpful guide about Rawa Island! Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything or if you have any questions for me 🙂 To book a stay or enquire about availability, contact Alang’s Rawa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and here’s a little preview of paradise from my last trip. Enjoy!
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