MalaysiaLangkawi Free All Year
Island

Tuba Island (Pulau Tuba)

Josh & Jacinta Bender
By 21 days ago

Want to witness Langkawi's history as a sleepy fishing island before its tourism boom? Spend a day on Tuba Island, one of 4 populated islands in Langkawi's archipelago. The island is only partially modernized, with locals living modest lifestyles and practicing traditional farming techniques.

Tuba Island is part of the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, and is home to geologically significant granite and marble rock formations dating back over 290 million years. The unique twisted and stacked rock patterns are best seen at Bukit Kecik, meaning "small hill", and reflect gradual pressure movements in the earth's tectonic plates over millennia.

Popular attractions include the island's only remaining tuba tree, world-class seafood vendors, and a series of caves including Gua Kelawar (bat cave) and Gua Wang Buluh, filled with exquisite stalactites and stalagmites. Other activities include jungle trekking, watching water buffalo graze in rice fields, swimming at Tanjung Pandan beach, fishing excursions, and birdwatching.

The island is a 20-minute boat ride from the main city of Kuah, and is best explored at your own pace on a motorbike or bicycle. Zip along the narrow streets, admiring scenic sea views and brightly colored houses painted hues of pink, yellow, orange, blue, and purple. Don't forget to smile and wave at friendly locals passing by.

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Price

Free

Time Spent

4-48hours

Fitness level: Some effort

Hours

24 hours7 days

Look Around

Concrete staircaseConcrete staircase
Marble & granite rocksMarble & granite rocks
Ancient rock formationsAncient rock formations
Ancient rock formations at Bukit Kecik (Small Hill)
Local boy with kittenLocal boy with kitten
Water buffaloWater buffalo
Local goatsLocal goats
Kitten by the beachKitten by the beach
Friendly stray kittenFriendly stray kitten
Island animals
Jalan Selat Bagan Asam - road from Tanjung Pandan in the north to the southwest cornerJalan Selat Bagan Asam - road from Tanjung Pandan in the north to the southwest corner
Typical sightseeing van on the west coast overlooking Dayang BuntingTypical sightseeing van on the west coast overlooking Dayang Bunting
Local cropsLocal crops
Island's west coast
Teluk Puyuh BeachTeluk Puyuh Beach
Rocky outcrop on Teluk Puyuh BeachRocky outcrop on Teluk Puyuh Beach
Tanjung PandanTanjung Pandan
Gazebo at Tanjung PandanGazebo at Tanjung Pandan
Tuba Island beaches

Who Will Like Tuba Island

Nature Lover

Bring your binoculars to watch for rare bird species like hornbills, or take a light hike through the jungle to search for macaque and dusky leaf monkeys. Marvel at hints into the earth's formation at Bukit Kecik, or quietly watch sleeping bats at Gua Kelawar.

Food Connoisseur

Join Langkawi locals in visiting Tuba Island for its flavor-packed seafood. Try grilled fish, spicy prawn noodles, and prawn-filled sticky rice. If you're staying overnight, visit the local fish market to buy fresh crabs and fish directly from fishermen, and have the seafood cooked up at your homestay.

Culture Buff

Stay overnight at a homestay for a local village, or 'kampung', experience. Rise early to watch fishermen bring in their nets or visit the local handicraft store to purchase woven baskets from underprivileged women. You can also visit Gua Kelawar, or bat cave, to learn the fascinating history of locals hiding in caves when the Japanese invaded during WWII.

Photography Whiz

Stay overnight to wake up early and photograph the sunrise from Pemandangan Indah beach or Batu Hampar for rocky backdrops. Next, try to capture a herd of grazing water buffalo or head to the rainforest to glimpse the dusky leaf monkey or oriental pied hornbill.

Relaxation Guru

Relax on the sandy shores of Tanjung Pandan, or book a stay at Tuba Beach Resort to wake up to birds softly chirping and one of the most exquisite sunrises you'll ever see.

Outdoor Trailblazer

Tackle the 90-minute-long hike up makeshift rock steps to Gua Wang Buluh to see stalactites and stalagmites, or try jungle trekking through the rainforest.

Fun Expert

Spend a day at a beach so secluded you'll feel like it's your own private stretch of sand. Safely wander around the quiet streets with your family and spot roaming farm animals from chickens and ducks to goats and cows.

Insider Tips For Tuba Island

  • Tuba Island is visited on many island-hopping boat or jet-ski tours for a short time. Longer stays are recommended to see all the island has to offer.
  • Most accommodation options on the island are modest guesthouses, but a couple of full hotels, like Tuba Beach Resort, are also available.
  • If you paid for a return journey in a private boat, make sure to arrange a time for the captain to collect you on the return trip. It also helps to take down your captain's name and WhatsApp number in case you can't find the boat.
  • Be mindful that heavy rainfall is likely during wet season. It's best to visit during dry season to explore the island's natural attractions.
  • Many locals speak very basic English so it's best to learn some Bahasa before you visit. Especially learn to explain any dietary requirements you may have in Bahasa Malaysia.
  • Motorbikes can be hired at the main jetty for 25-30 per day. Most are older, manual transmission, not scooters. Van hire is also available for RM70 (USD$16.85) per half-day including a driver. The vans are quite old and unglamorous but work just fine.
  • Take care when driving as the roads are very narrow and often dotted with large cow droppings. There are only a couple of main roads that loop around the island so you have to try pretty hard to get lost.
  • Download offline Google Maps before your visit as cellphone reception can be patchy. This is especially important if you plan to trek through the rainforest as there is limited signage.
  • Don't leave any belongings, especially water bottles, unattended on motorbikes as monkeys will steal or destroy them.
  • Local handicraft store, Bengkel Kraft, sells affordable hand-woven bags, baskets, purses, mats, and keyrings made by local women. Keyrings cost RM7 (USD$1.69). Handicraft workshops are also available.
Woven purses at Bengkel Craft Complex
  • Bukit Kecik (Small Hill) is easy to visit thanks to a series of concrete steps. After a 15-minute hike, you'll see exquisite rock formations, beehives of stingless bees, and a cave with stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Underwater caves with unique rock formations can be explored via boat during low tide. Don't visit without a licensed guide as it can be quite dangerous.
  • A road bridge connects Tuba Island to Pulau Dayang Bunting, where more restaurants, colorful villages, and homestays can be found as well as the famous Pregnant Maiden Lake.
Road bridgeRoad bridge
Colourful fishing shacksColourful fishing shacks
Bridge to Dayang Bunting

Video

Where Is It

Pulau Tuba, Kedah, Malaysia

Open map...

How To Get There

Water taxis are available for RM10 (USD$2.41) per adult & RM8 (USD$1.93) per child for foreigners and RM5 (USD$1.20) per adult & RM3 (USD$0.72) per child for Malays. Boats run every 2 hours from 9am-7pm.

Chartered private boats are also available on request. You'll have to negotiate a reasonable price with the captain, but try to pay around RM80 (USD$19.26) per boatload each way

Boat

20-minute boat ride from Jeti Dato Syed Omar in Kuah (formerly Marble Jetty) to Jeti Pulau Tuba. Private boats and island-hopping tours can also be found at Pekan Rabu Pier in Kuah.

Map for boat...

Jeti Pulau Tuba

What To Bring

Do:
  • Spare bag to store your rubbish as bins are hard to find.
  • Swimsuit & towel.
  • Comfortable, lightweight clothing to keep cool while hiking.
  • Enclosed-toe shoes suitable for hiking.
  • Sunscreen & insect repellent.
  • Poncho if visiting during wet season.
  • Overnight bag if staying multiple days.
  • Water bottle.
  • Camera.
Don't:
  • Large, unnecessary items that will be difficult to carry around the island.
  • Valuable items like large amounts of cash.
  • Food to areas near monkeys as they will get aggressive and try to steal it from you. Always keep any food enclosed in a bag.

Tech & Photography

Wifi

Public wifi access: None

Photography

Photography allowed: Yesflash is ok

Tripod allowed: Yes

Selfie sticks allowed: Yes

Best time to shoot: Sunrise

Tips: The best spot to photograph water buffalo is this intersection, facing north. This road forms a loop and buffalo tend to feed here amongst abandoned rice paddies. A drone will best capture these meandering beasts, although from the ground a telephoto 70-200mm lens is recommended. Keep a watchful eye, as they move swiftly in a herd and can stampede along roads. Boats in front of Tuba Beach Resort make a commanding subject for a sunrise shot. During low tide it is possible to walk out over 100 meters from the usual shoreline. Otherwise, a drone will bring out the repeating patterns amongst anchored boats.

Drones

Drones allowed: Yes (subject to national/regional rules)

Bags

Backpacks allowed: Yes

Secured bag lockers available: No

Rickety jetty at Resort Noba on neighboring island, Dayang BuntingRickety jetty at Resort Noba on neighboring island, Dayang Bunting
Fishing boats near Tuba Beach ResortFishing boats near Tuba Beach Resort
Abandoned van near Bengkel Craft ComplexAbandoned van near Bengkel Craft Complex
Portrait spot at Tanjung PandanPortrait spot at Tanjung Pandan
Photo spots around the island

Food & Drink

There are several seafood restaurants located near the main jetty and also at hotels like Tuba Beach Resort. Other local food vendors are located along the main road. Tuba Island is famous for grilled fish, prawn noodles, and prawn-filled sticky rice.

Visit the seafood market at Teluk Puyuh Jetty to buy freshly caught crabs and fish. Most homestay hosts are happy to cook these for you using local recipes.

Locals making prawn sticky riceLocals making prawn sticky rice
Cooking over coal fireCooking over coal fire
Roadside food stallRoadside food stall
Prawn Sticky Rice
Coconut is a main ingredient in many local dishes

Backstory

Only 5km from the main city of Kuah, the 20sqm Tuba Island provides insight into the main island's past as a fishing community. Most facilities on Tuba are quite basic, with electricity only reaching the island in 1995. Development is rapidly increasing with 500 homes having been constructed since the mid-1990s.

The island's population of 5,000 is 100% Muslim Malay, split into 7 villages. Locals are very community-focused with 60-70% of the population being fishermen and most others are farmers.

The island was named after its native tuba tree, a species with roots poisonous to fish. Local fishermen once used these roots to kill large quantities of fish for their daily catch. Over time, tuba trees were replaced with rubber tree plantations and only 1 tuba tree remains on the island.

During WWII, Tuba, along with several other parts of Kedah state, was invaded by the Japanese military. Locals hid in a network of caves until the worst of the invasion passed.

The island is now popular with Malay tourists looking to indulge in seafood. International tourists are also starting to explore Tuba for its beautiful natural attractions and undiscovered vibes.

Last remaining tuba treeLast remaining tuba tree
Tourist-friendly photo stop in front of rice paddiesTourist-friendly photo stop in front of rice paddies
Tourism on Tuba Island

Etiquette

Do:
  • Dress and behave modestly as Tuba is a Muslim island.
  • Wave and say hello to locals passing by.
  • Be respectful when visiting the tuba tree as it is located on a private property.
  • Learn a few words in Bahasa to show respect.
Don't:
  • Chase or harass wildlife or farm animals.
  • Litter. The island part of the UNESCO World Geopark.

Scorecard

Best Parts:
  • Authentic fishing town and village vibes.
  • Geological significance with ancient rock formations.
  • Chance to get close to nature and see rare wildlife.
  • Colorful houses around the island.
  • Peaceful beaches with views of nearby islands.
  • Locals are friendly, welcoming, and helpful.
Could Be Better:
  • Lack of signage for directions.
  • Google Maps POIs are almost non-existent.
  • Vegetarian meals are difficult to find.
My itinerary Save View

Oh, you're so close

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Joining only takes a minute and it's... um... free! Plus you get other perks like badges, points, and unicorns.

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