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The Perhentian Islands Travel Guide has been written by Laura Peters and edited by the website editor.
Imagine picture perfect white sandy beaches, clear blue water, colorful coral reef, hills that are covered with rainforest and spectacular viewpoints – it all sounds too good to be true? Welcome to the Perhentian archipelago – Malaysia’s lesser known paradise island group.
If you’re an island-lover, the Perhentian Islands are not to be missed. If you’re visiting Malaysia (or just South East Asia in general) then do yourself a favor, give yourself a break from the bustling Kuala Lumpur. Take a few days to explore the turquoise water and white sand beaches of these islands make for a perfect holiday getaway. You wouldn’t want to leave!
Ready to know more? First, let us introduce Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands to you.
What and Where are The Perhentian Islands?
The Perhentian Islands lie between Northeast Malaysia and Thailand. They have everything it takes to be called a tropical paradise. In today’s age of over tourism and Instagram led hectic travel madness, these islands will kind of give you a sense of peace that not a lot of so called peaceful destinations offer.
Historically, The Perhentian Islands were a stopping point for traders that traveled between Bangkok and Malaysia. In today’s age, they are a part of Pulau Redang National Marine Park and are protected. They are in the state of Terengganu in Malaysia.
The Perhentian Islands Map
Out of all the Perhentian Islands, two of them are the main ones:
- Big Perhentian (Pulau Perhentian Besar) – Family friendly
- Small Perhentian (Pulau Perhentian Kecil) – Backpacker friendly
We will talk more about these two islands in detail one of the next sections.
Apart from the main two islands, there are five other uninhabited islands which you will probabaly visit if you go diving or snorkeling as mentioned in the things to do on the Perhentian Islands section.
Are The Perhentian Islands Worth Visiting?
If you love exploring off-the-beaten-path places, then the Perhentian Islands are definitely worth visiting. We loved that these islands attracted far fewer tourists than other Malaysian islands like Langkawi and Penang.
We also found that these islands had plenty of activities for any type of traveler. With some of the best coral reefs in the country and friendly locals, we highly suggest adding the Perhentian Islands to your bucket list.
How To Get To The Perhentian Islands
Getting to the Perhentian Islands is an adventure in itself. Unlike Langkawi and other Malaysian islands, the Perhentian Islands are very secluded and offer very limited transportation options. But aren’t the most amazing places are?
To start, you’ll need to get from Kuala Lumpur (or your starting destination) to Kota Bahru or Kuala Terengganu. Both of these locations have direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, so it isn’t too inconvenient.
Note: You can also fly into Redang and hire a boat from Redang to the Perhentian Islands, but it is typically a longer journey.
If you fly into Kota Bahru, take a taxi from the airport to the Kuala Besut Jetty. From the jetty, take a boat over to the islands. You’ll tell your boat driver where you want to be let off and they do a great job of accommodating you.
This is by far the easiest way to get to the islands and it’s still relatively cheap, but keep in mind that you’ll want to coordinate your flight so that you can catch a boat across the ocean. The boats only run during certain times of the day.
Another easy way to get to the Perhentian Islands is by flying into Kuala Terengganu. From the airport in Kuala Terengganu, take a taxi to the Kuala Besut Jetty. That’s where you’ll take a boat over to the Perhentian Islands.
Perhentian Besar OR Perhentian Kecil – which one is for you?
As mentioned before, there are two main islands on the Perhentian Island group. Wondering if you should stay on one of them or both? If just one then which one?
Pulau Besar (Big Perhentian)
Pulau Besar is more expensive in terms of accommodation. It has decent resorts and attracts families and couples. The island has many bays that offer decent snorkeling opportunities.
Pulau Kecil (Small Perhentian)
Pulau Perhentian Kecil is backpacker friendly. A lot of restaurants and places to stay are on the Coral Bay on Perhentian Kecil. Coral Bay offers decent sunset views. As compared to Besar, Kecil attracts more visitors.
Perhentian Islands Things to do + Activities
The paradise of the Perhentian Islands is best for travelers looking to enjoy a beach holiday. There are Perhentian islands activities whether you like adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both; you can find it on the islands. To make your trip to the Perhentian Islands as simple and enjoyable as possible, use our guide to create the ultimate itinerary.
Most travelers spend their time in the ocean or on the beach, but you can also find adventures inland as well. Here are the 13 best things to do in the Perhentian Islands:
1) Diving in the Perhentian Islands
Diving in the Perhentian Islands is a true adventure. The marine life and coral reefs found here are incredible.
As one of the best things to do in the Perhentian Islands, it’s safe to say that these islands boast some of the most colorful diving sites in the world. You will find many dive shops on the Long Beach (Big Island) or the Coral Bay (small island). Here are a few of the diving spots that you cannot miss during your trip:
Divers of all experience levels should start their dive tour at Tokong Laut, one of the best dive sites in the Perhentian Islands.
Frequently called Temple of The Sea, Tokong Laut has an amazingly diverse ecosystem. It is home to various species, including neon-colored parrotfish.
Tokong Laut is a diving staple for the Perhentian Islands, so regardless of which company you choose to dive with, you will likely visit this location.
Another awesome dive site of the Perhentian Islands is a sunken shipwreck off Pulau Perhentian Kecil. The Sugar Wreck is a dive spot that will make you feel like you’re living in history.
During your dive, keep your eyes peeled for some Longnose Hawkfish, Cuttlefish, and Porcupinefish (our personal favorite). In our opinion, the Perhentian Islands had some of the most unique marine life we have ever seen.
We have been swimming with blacktip reef sharks all around the world, but it never ceases to amaze us. And you can do the same at Shark Point, another great dive site of the Perhentian Islands.
Contrary to popular belief, not all shark species are dangerous. The blacktip reef sharks are docile compared to their tiger and great white brothers and sisters. So, although these sharks are harmless, it is still an awesome feeling to be diving with sharks.
Note: We recommend diving with a company that has a lot of knowledge about the Malaysian Islands and surrounding reefs. Not only will you learn about the ocean’s biodiversity, but your guides will help you find the best marine life, too.
2) Enjoy the Beaches of the Perhentian Islands
As one of the most beautiful archipelagos in Malaysia, you have to set aside time to explore the many pristine beaches. Whether you want to get a suntan, go snorkeling, or just walk along the shoreline, you’ll fall in love with the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Perhentian Islands.
As there are many beaches on the Perhentian Islands, we recommend adding only the best beaches to your Malaysia itinerary. Here are the three beaches you must visit:
Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil
Long Beach is located on the smaller island of Perhentian Kecil. This little piece of paradise has something for everyone, from fun dives to relaxing days spent reading by the water. Stretching along the coast for nearly half of a mile, Long Beach has plenty of restaurants, bars, resorts, and ocean excursion companies.
Note: Although Long Beach is beautiful and may seem like the perfect place to swim, locals know that the riptides here can be deadly. Ask a local before swimming because, during some seasons, the riptides are extremely dangerous. We were there in April and three people nearly drowned because they decided to swim while on Long Beach.
Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar
If you’re spending time on the larger island, Perhentian Besar, you have to make a stop at Turtle Beach. While visiting other islands in the surrounding area, we decided to stop at this beach for a break.
Although there aren’t any coral reefs to explore, it makes it easier to go into deeper waters without worrying about cutting up your feet.
Keranji Beach on Perhentian Kecil
By far our favorite beach on the Perhentian Islands was Keranji Beach, located on the small island of Perhentian Kecil. This beach is often overlooked and that’s why we like it so much. With fewer tourists, you’re able to relax and have the beach all to yourself (most of the time).
There is also a hammock on this beach that is available for anyone to use. Claim the hammock for an hour for a quick nap or to watch the sun dip below the horizon at night.
3) Hike to the Viewpoints
While most travelers to the Perhentian Islands spend their time on the beach or in the ocean, we recommend setting aside some time to explore inland as well.
To get you started on a few hikes on the islands, here are our two favorites:
The Perhentian Loop Trail will lead you to some of the best locations and viewpoints on the big island (Perhentian Besar). This 3-mile hike is easy enough for people of all fitness levels, but with very little shade to cover the trail, you’ll want to head to the beach when you’re done for a refreshing swim in the ocean.
I recommend completing this hike in the early morning to avoid the hottest part of the day, but if you decide to hike in the afternoon, be sure to bring water and some extra cash for a mid-hike snack and drink on the beach.
The Windmill Trek can be found on the smaller Perhentian Island (Perhentian Kecil). This trail brings hikers to the highest point on the island and offers endless scenic views in every direction.
During your hike, you’ll be walking along a washed-out dirt road and similar to the Perhentian Loop Trail, you’ll be exposed to the sun along much of the trail.
If you decide to go hiking while visiting the Perhentian Islands, pack a few bottles of water and bring your sunscreen. You’ll thank me later!
4) Island Hopping to the smaller Perhentian Islands
Apart from the two main Perhentian Islands (Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil) there are several others that you should add to your list of things to do. Here are a few of the best islands to visit while island hopping in the Perhentian Islands:
Pulau Tokong Kemudi
Sitting just north of Perhentian Kecil is Pulau Tokong Kemudi, a magical island perfect for snorkeling, diving, and other water adventures.
Hire a boat to bring you across the South China Sea to this secluded island; it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, but if you’re traveling on a budget, find a few friends to go with you from your resort or hostel. This way, you can split the cost.
Redang Island is a bit more well-known among travelers than the Perhentian Islands, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring it while island hopping.
This island is south of Perhentian Besar and offers some unique snorkeling opportunities. With its vibrant coral reefs and tropical fish, I strongly suggest bringing your snorkeling gear during this excursion.
5) Perhentian Islands Snorkeling
Divers will be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful location for underwater exploration. The Perhentian Islands boast one of Asia’s most impressive barrier reefs, which houses hundreds of different species, and it would be a shame not to explore them.
But if you don’t have your PADI certification or you aren’t too keen on scuba diving, you can’t miss out on snorkeling around the Perhentian Islands.
There are plenty of dive shops that rent snorkeling gear for a reasonable price, but I recommend asking your accommodation if they supply such gear first. Our hosts had hoards of great snorkel gear, so we were able to go snorkeling for free.
6) Watch the Sunset on the Perhentian Islands
The sunsets in the Perhentian Islands are majestic. To start, you’ll be surrounded by the brightest aquamarine water you’ll ever see. As the sun begins to set, watch its reflection in the water and the brilliant colors it radiates.
To make your night even better, watch the sunset from a beach bar with a fruity cocktail or an ice-cold beer.
We loved doing this each night from the comfort of our own nature resort, Crocodile Rock Villas. With an attached restaurant that serves some of the best seafood and Malaysian beers, you may want to make this an evening routine.
7) Make the Most of the Happy Hour
Before the big sunset show, you might be looking for a way to unwind after a long day of hiking, snorkeling, and swimming. And if that’s the case, sit back and relax at one of the many beach bars on either of the Perhentian Islands.
For expansive sea views, we suggest grabbing an affordable happy hour drink at Keranji Beach Bar, located on our favorite beach that shares the same name.
A few other notable beach bars on Perhentian Kecil include El Paraiso Resto Bar and Chillout Cafe.
But, if you’re staying on the bigger island, Perhentian Besar, Jim’s Bar is perfect for classic cocktails and barbequed fresh seafood.
8) Perhentian Islands Kayaking
There are many ways to explore the Perhentian Islands, but our favorite mode of transportation was by kayak. One of our favorite things about kayaking around these islands is that you get to see them in a whole new light.
With each twist and turn, different views emerge, including hidden coves with beautiful turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and towering limestone cliffs jutting out from lush green mountainsides.
The best way to add a kayaking tour to your itinerary is by renting a kayak from one of the popular beaches like Long Beach, Turtle Beach, or Coral Bay. Prices should be relatively affordable, so make sure to pay for an extended rental package.
But, if you don’t feel comfortable kayaking around the island on your own, simply join a popular snorkeling tour.
9) Camping On The Beach
One of the coolest things to do on the Perhentian Islands is to camp on the beach. The best part about camping on Perhentian Islands is that you are able to experience everything a beach has without ever having to leave. From rolling waves and crashing surf, you’ll be lulled to sleep by the sounds one wouldn’t normally hear in a resort or hotel room.
To experience a night sleeping on one of the beaches of the Perhentian Islands, visit Long Beach on the small island, Perhentian Kecil.
Along this beach, you’ll find a nice campground that comes equipped with tents. We found this to be really helpful as we didn’t want to haul our camping gear around with us.
10) Watch the Fire Shows
It’s very rare to find an island in Southeast Asia that doesn’t host weekly or nightly fire shows. Whether you’re exploring the Thai islands, the Filipino islands, or the Indonesian islands, you’re bound to find a fire show at one of the nearest beaches.
Luckily, the Perhentian Islands are no different, which means that fire shows are one of the best things to do and experience while visiting.
Above all, the best place to watch a fire show on the Perhentian Islands is on Long Beach. Make your way to beach bars after the sun has set and wait for the coveted fire show.
11) Visit The Turtle Sanctuary
In 2015, an environmentally conscious group of adventurers established the Perhentian Turtle Project to advocate for and protect sea turtle populations in Malaysia. Through a collaborative effort between environmental activists and officials from the Fisheries Ministry and Marine Parks Division (MPD), this project is able to respond quickly when stranded turtles are reported on beaches.
To make your stay on the Perhentian Islands as memorable as possible, consider volunteering for this amazing project. Not only will you get to enjoy the sights of an island paradise, but you’ll be able to contribute and give back to nature.
You can sign up to volunteer with the Perhentian Turtle Project by visiting their website.
12) Day Trip To Terengganu Marine Park
For an additional adventure during your island hopping day trip, I recommend stopping at Terengganu Marine Park. Just off the coast of Redang Island, Terengganu Marine Park is just like its famous neighbor and has its own set of exciting underwater features to explore.
Hire a boat from Coral Bay, Long Beach, or Perhentian Besar and spend the day on some of the best beaches in Malaysia. Although we found more snorkeling opportunities in Perhentian Kecil, Terengganu Marine Park made up for it with beautiful views.
If you decide to add Terengganu Marine Park to your Perhentian Islands itinerary, bring your snorkeling gear anyway. This marine park may be lacking in coral reefs, but they still have some of the most fascinating fish.
13) Try The Local Food
The best way to get a good feel of the culture in any destination is to try the food. And the Perhentian Islands aren’t any different.
The Perhentian Islands aren’t the most accessible islands in the world, which means that the islands provide for themselves as often as possible. Fish and other seafood are a staple of any meal in the Perhentian Islands and you’ll find that it is a lot fresher here than nearly anywhere else in the world.
For the fresh catch of the day, I recommend going to Crocodile Rock Bistro on the small island of Perhentian Kecil. And for the most delicious giant shrimp, visit Keranji Beach Cafe’.
On the big island of Perhentian Besar, check out Ocean Boys Cafe for classic barbeque and seafood. Hang around for a while after dinner for an impressive fire show.
Where To Stay In The Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands aren’t very big islands, so accommodation options are limited. But I was impressed to see a wide variety of different types of accommodation.
There were campsites, luxury resorts, homestays, hostels, and more. Whatever your budget, the Perhentian Islands could serve you.
Here are a few different accommodation options on the Perhentian Islands that you should consider for your holiday:
Crocodile Rock Villas
We chose to stay in the Crocodile Rock Villas because it seemed that this nature resort was well-equipped. Since we work online, it was nice to have a wifi connection and it’s always a good trip when the bed is comfortable.
The Crocodile Rock Villas checked all the boxes and the owners, Erika and Atord are some of the most welcoming people you’ll meet.
Note: If you are getting to the Kuala Besut Jetty later in the evening and the boats are no longer running, reach out to Erika and ask if she can set up a private transfer. That way, you don’t have to spend the night on the mainland before heading over to the islands.
It’s hard to visit Perhentian Kecil and not notice Bubu Resort. On the far end of Long Beach, Bubu Resort sits in all of its glory, capturing the most picturesque view of the islands.
For an upscale stay, Bubu Resort has it all from direct beach access to spa services to an onsite bar and restaurant. It’s safe to say that Bubu Resort will take care of all of your problems so that you can fully enjoy your stay on the Perhentian Islands.
Long Beach Camp
For the most unique accommodation option in the Perhentian Islands, check out Long Beach Camp. As mentioned before, this is one of the best things to do on the islands.
Stay on the beach for a late-night fire show before retreating back to camp. Listen for the waves crashing into the beach; this sound will lull you to sleep. And as morning approaches, I recommend getting up early to watch the sunrise and to explore the shoreline before other travelers get up.
How To Get Around The Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands have no paved roads nor any motorized vehicles. To get around the Perhentian Islands, you can choose to walk or to take water taxis.
We chose to walk everywhere we went while visiting the Perhentian Islands and although some of the destinations are a bit far from each other, the unbelievable scenery kept us occupied.
Taking a water taxi is likely the quickest way to get around the Perhentian Islands. Water taxis stop at many of the beaches around the islands, so I recommend asking your accommodation host where the closest water taxi stop is located.
Best Time To Visit The Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands experience two distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season lasts from November to March and during this time, many restaurants and resorts shut down.
We recommend visiting the Perhentian Islands when it is sunny and dry so that you can maximize your time on the beach or in the ocean. You’ll get the best weather from mid-March to early November. But keep in mind, the dry season will also bring in more tourists and higher resort prices.
Safety On The Perhentian Islands
Overall, Malaysia is a safe country and the Perhentian Islands are no different. The crime rate is very low but always take normal safety precautions.
On the other hand, the Perhentian Islands do pose some safety concerns. Long Beach, one of the most popular spots on the islands, can be extremely dangerous during certain times of the year.
With strong currents and riptides, this beach has claimed many lives over the years. To stay safe, always check with your host before swimming in the ocean at Long Beach. In addition, pay attention to any signs on the beach warning of danger. Take these signs seriously.
The Perhentian Islands are the perfect location for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur or more popular island destinations. If you’re ready for some rest, relaxation, and beautiful turquoise bays, book your flight to the Perhentian Islands.
This is one of the most secluded and off-the-beaten-path island paradises in Malaysia that will leave you feeling completely refreshed. We hope you enjoy your time on the Perhentian Islands as much as we did.
About the Writer
I’m Laura and I’m the storyteller behind Mike & Laura Travel. With adventurous spirits and a strong work ethic, we’ve been able to maintain this full-time nomadic lifestyle since 2018. Our stories provide insight into how you can also make your “dream life” a reality through remote work and determination.