Short getaways from Singapore: family holiday in Rawa Island, Malaysia

Rawa Island with kids
If you're looking for an easy peasy quick getaway from Singapore, then Rawa Island with kids in tow should definitely be on your vacay radar!

There’s really nothing better in life than a cheeky weekend getaway with the family. We’re talking about an easy beach vacay to reboot and renew so you’ve got energy to make the most of all the awesome things to do in Singapore with kids. Rawa Island is easier than a direct-flight holiday from Singapore: it’s only a two-and-a-half hour drive and a speedboat transfer away! You wouldn’t be the first to be surprised by how pristine, idyllic and unspoilt the sweeping white beach is on this little jewel of island. You’ll feel like castaways on this rustic family-friendly isle, with its swaying palms and laid-back vibe. Relax, reconnect and try a spot of water sports all with sand between your toes. Rawa Island with kids? Bliss lives here.

First – chill out

Rawa-Island-with-kids-Slides

Rawa Island has something for everyone. Photography: Rawa Island Resort via Facebook

Feel the stresses of the city wash away as you float in the warm turquoise seas of Rawa Island (superbly located in the archipelago of the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park, Malaysia). The beauty of this place is that you can do as much or as little as you like – but more on aquatic activities later. Lie back and get a zap of vitamin D or swing in a hammock with the sea breeze and read that book you’ve been neglecting for months. No one will notice if you have a quick nap. And when you’re ready, build a sandcastle or two in the fine white sand (helpfully bucket and spade sets are available at the island shop). Decompression complete.

Now, hit the water!

Rawa Island with kids

Those slides! Oh, the fun to be had… Photography: Georgina Hockley

Let’s be honest. When the kids spy the epic waterslides into the sea from aboard the boat on approach to the island, that’s the first place you’ll be heading. Save the chilling out for later. You won’t mind though as the slides are brilliant fun. We hired kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and retro paddleboats at various times over the weekend, which the kids loved. If, unlike us, you’ve got skills (or bravery) why not take out a catamaran for a spin?

Explore the island

At low tide we took an early evening stroll down the beach, and our kids got a real kick out of crawling through a small cave to a ‘secret beach’ on the other side. The fact that it’s inaccessible at high tide made the kids feel like intrepid little explorers. While you’re out and about, count the resident peacocks, and walk along the cliffside to the new deck teetering above the ocean. Safety rails are absent in some areas, so hold on tight to toddlers!

Go scuba diving and snorkelling

Rawa Island with kids

Pop on a snorkel and go out in search of Nemo and his little buddies Photograhpy: Orca Scuba

Teeming with tropical fish and colourful coral, Rawa is a hotspot for scuba diving and snorkelling. A fab dive centre has been set up in collaboration with Orca Scuba. You can take PADI courses based on your ability – Orca Scuba takes kids from age five. If you’re lucky you’ll spy the well-loved clown fish (Nemo!) peeping out from the sea anemone – they’re actually quite tiny! We can’t think of a more enjoyable way to while away an afternoon with the kids than bobbing about fish spotting. Our exhausted kiddos literally flopped into bed every night with sun-kissed cheeks and salty hair.

Refuel at the buffet

All that activity (or, ahem, sunbaking) certainly works up a hunger. It’s a full-board set up with a decent buffet on offer for every meal. Catering with kids in mind meant even our fussy eaters were running to the table (think spaghetti aglio e olio, wedges, chicken bites and homemade fish fingers). While not Michelin-starred, the spread is a good, fresh mix of international and local cuisine, with a barbecue in the outdoor pavilion on a Saturday night. A definite advantage is the trampoline within eyeshot of the restaurant (hello, post-dinner night cap). You can also BYO wine for a small corkage fee. 

Recreation zone

Rawa Island with kids

Rawa Island has the perfect set up for fun!  Hire a stand-up paddle board, play some tunes on the piano, or grab a scooter and go exploring. Photography: Georgina Hockley

We love the old-school summer holiday feel of the recreation zone with its wooden piano (chopsticks, anyone?), selection of novels and board games, and separate enclosed kids playroom with soft flooring and mini rocking horses. And while we aren’t massive fans of big screen TVs, it did come in handy one rainy afternoon. Parents of teens will be glad to hear there’s also a billiard table upstairs for a game of eight ball.

The spa

Take your relaxation to the next level with a transcendent massage at the Chirawan Spa. To quote a friend we travelled with, “It was the best massage I’ve ever had in my life.” We’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself, but we will say that the remedial pressure worked out knots in our back we didn’t know we had. If you prefer to sleep through your massage (we won’t judge), just ask for a lighter touch.

It’s good to be green

Rawa Island with kids

Show your kids why being eco-friendly is worth it while they enjoy the pristine beaches of the marine park. Photography: Georgina Hockley

As Rawa is within a marine park it’s breathtakingly untouched. We applaud its green status, and as plastic-free mums we wholeheartedly support its “no straws” mantra. You won’t be disturbed by loud and pesky jet-skiiers, or hooked by overzealous fishermen, and you’ll have the perfect excuse to refuse when your kids beg to lug home huge pieces of washed-up coral. As eco-warriors, Rawa don’t provide beach towels, so do pack your own (we took our Turkish towels, which dried nicely on the line on our front deck). 

Just a hop, skip and ferry from Singapore

Rawa Island is a super-short 2.5 hour drive along palm-lined roads to Mersing, Johor, followed by a 20-minute speedboat ride. Taking airports out of the equation makes for a much happier journey. Our tip: Resist the urge to take the last boat home on Sunday evening as the brutal immigration queues will kill your post-holiday high.

Rawa Island Resort, Jalan Abu Bakar, Mersing, Johor; www.rawaislandresort.com

Top image: Georgina Hockley

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