[Updated 8 April 2019]
Spectacular beaches, stunning marine life and amazing sceneries - these are some of the things you can expect to experience in one of Malaysia's favourite islands, Perhentian! The long Labour weekend is almost here and if you’re looking to just travel locally, why not head over to this pristine island? ?
When to get there
The best time to visit the Perhentian Islands is during the dry season between March and November. The islands are practically empty during monsoon season and many businesses are mostly closed as it can be quite dangerous. Do note that the month of July is the busiest season, so book your stay in advance!
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the islands is to take a speedboat from the Kuala Besut jetty. You can purchase boat tickets upon arrival at the jetty for by speed boat or by cargo boat.
The speed boat will take about 45 minutes to reach the island and some service operators have speed boats that depart every hour. It is RM70 for a return ticket and boats leave regularly throughout the day from 9:00am. The cargo boat costs RM35 for one way and also leaves multiple times a day between 9am to 5pm (they depart when there is sufficient people on the boat).
Before we get started, it’s important to highlight that the Perhentian Islands are composed of two islands, Pulau Kecil (small) and Pulau Besar (big).
While the islands are equally famous amongst visitors, both cater to different types of travellers. If you’re still unsure of which island to go to, stay with us as we’ll guide you through! ?
#HHWT Tip: Those who travel by car can park at the Kuala Besut bus station for RM10 per day.
Pulau Kecil is the busiest part of the Perhentian Islands and it’s basically every backpacker’s paradise! The small island is usually very packed during peak season and accommodations are almost fully booked, so be sure to book your stay in advance!
The island is home to two very distinct beaches: Coral Bay and Long Beach with the latter being the primary destination for many. This island also happens to house bars and clubs than Pulau Besar, thus attracting many foreigners.
Coral Bay on the other hand is significantly more private and dining options are relatively cheaper than Long Beach.
Perhentian Besar is larger and far more tranquil than Perhentian Kecil. For a vacation of luxury and seclusion, you can definitely count on this island. In terms of leisure, you can still enjoy the same blue and crystal-clear water like Perhentian Kecil, but with lesser crowds.
Pulau Besar has many fancy beaches, but we definitely recommend the Turtle Bay! ?
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in Perhentian Islands
The scuba diving here is more leisurely as compared to its neighbour, Redang or other islands like Tioman and Layang-Layang island. Due to the shallow waters, Perhentian is more prominent as a snorkelling spot.
Most of the resorts come with their own dive centers that can provide you the best packages, including diving instructions.
Some of the dive centers you can find on the islands are Turtle Bay Divers, Anti-Gravity Divers, Leisure Divers, and Monkey Dives.
The accommodations in Pulau Kecil vary from backpacker shacks to midrange resorts. In fact, if you're not looking to spend so much on your lodging, you'll be able to find a wider range of lower budget accommodation options here as compared to Pulau Besar. To ease your planning, we recommend these two resorts:
1) Sha-ri La Island Resort
About 5 minutes away from Coral Bay is the beautiful Shari-La Island Resort! Waking up here is a refreshing experience against the backdrop of the crystal clear waters and the serenity of the island.
The resort is designed according to the traditional Malay architecture as depicted by the hand-crafted wooden panels. Around the resort vicinity, you’ll also be treated to splendid views of the Coral Bay.
#HHWT Tip: There is a lookout point at the restaurant, so you can spend the evenings just chilling with your loved ones while waiting for the sun to set ;)
Phone Number: +6096977500/501
Price Range: Based on our search for June 2019, the prices are from RM62 per night on Agoda.
2) Bubu Long Beach Resort
Built on the soft white sandy beach of Perhentian, Bubu Long Beach Resort is placed in a very convenient and centralised place (right opposite the Long Beach!).
Retreat into the minimalistic room and help yourself to the gorgeous view of the ocean. If you’ve always dreamt of waking up to the sound of crashing waves, you should definitely book your stay here ?
#HHWT Tip: Many activities are also offered in-house such as snorkelling, hiking, scuba diving and sea sports!
Phone Number: +603-2142 6688
Price Range: Based on our search for June 2019, the prices are from RM522 per night on Agoda.
Accommodations with rock-bottom prices can still be found in Pulau Kecil. Consider staying at Matahari Chalet (from RM190/night) and D’Rock Garden Resort (from RM240/night during peak season), while in Coral Bay, you can choose between Senja Bay Resort (from RM290/night), or Maya Bay Chalet (from RM120/night).
#HHWT Tip: Do note that some of these accommodations do not have online booking systems, thus you may need to call them to make your reservation.
Accommodation on Perhentian Besar is far more upscale compared to Pulau Kecil as the island sees a number of luxury bungalows and villas around. For maximum comfort and more privacy, we definitely recommend staying here. We've rounded up two of the best resorts you can find on this island:
1) Arwana Perhentian Eco Resort & Beach Chalet
The largest resort on Teluk Dalam beachfront, Arwana is all about immersing guests in a serene atmosphere. The beautifully designed resort is awe-inspiring in its scale: it’s one of the only two places that has a swimming pool in its premise, one of Perhentian’s top spas, and a prime location on one of the main beaches on Pulau Besar.
It may be a little expensive for some, but we definitely think it’s worth the price, especially for big families. Rooms here are spacious and also come with sitting spaces where you can just unwind and enjoy a nice bottle of soda with your loved ones.
#HHWT Tip: This resort offers all-inclusive vacation packages that include snorkelling, scuba diving and any other activity. For more info, click here.
Phone Number: +6097528188
Price Range: Based on our search for June 2019, the prices are from RM285 per night on Agoda.
2) The Barat Perhentian Resort
The next resort on our list is none other than The Barat Perhentian Resort. The resort is the epitome of your dream island retreat! Surrounded by lush greenery and glistening turquoise waters, it’s hard to say no to this resort.
With its romantic, minimalist arty décor, you won’t want to leave! The resort currently houses 3 seaview deluxe rooms, 5 seafront chalets and 63 chalets and family rooms that are fully furnished so you don’t have to worry about toiletries.
Phone Number: +096911288
Price Range: Based on our search for June 2019, the prices are from RM247 per night on Agoda.
Alternatively, you can still opt for cheaper accommodations like Samudra Chalet (from Rm105/night), Fauna Chalet (from RM100/night), Flora Bay Resort (from RM193/night) and Mama’s Chalet (from RM110/night).
#HHWT Tip: Similar to Pulau Kecil, some of the accommodations do not have online booking systems, thus you may need to call them to make a reservation.
Food in Perhentian Islands
Halal food in Perhentian isn’t scarce as most of the eateries are Muslim-owned and almost any restaurant on the islands will offer a nice variety of seafood or meat, accompanied with local cuisines and even international ones too.
Many of the smaller resorts only offer meals as part of an all-inclusive package. These are usually buffet-style with a variety of Western and Malaysian dishes. In Pulau Kecil, you'll find eateries ranging from budget to lavish. If you're not sure where to eat, how about these restaurants:
1) Shari-La Sunset Restaurant
The spot is high up facing the sea, and it's one of the best places to catch the sunrise or sunset. Part of the Shari-La resort, this restaurant serves a combination of Malaysian, Thai and Western cuisines. At night, you can enjoy a jolly good BBQ time by having your seafood grilled. ?
2) Chill Out Café & Craft
This Long Beach café is loved by locals and tourists and it gets busy at weekends. It's such a lovely place to chill (the name says it all!) and is especially relaxing during the warmer months, when you can sit outside and eat your meal, with the sound of waves in the background. ?
There are more low-key restaurants in Pulau Kecil if you walk a little further to The Fishermen's Village or Kampung Nelayan.
Along the jetty sits a number of warungs with local food sold by the villagers. The food here is marginally cheaper than what you’ll get on the main beaches. Once you’re done with your meal, take a stroll around the village and interact with the locals.
Food in Pulau Besar
When in Pulau Besar, the food choices are relatively more expensive than in Pulau Kecil and because of that, you won't be able to see much warungs around. For comfort and ease, we recommend these two:
1) The Barat Restaurant
Situated right next to the beach front in Pulau Besar, The Barat Restaurant offers excellent food that would cater to every taste bud! Serving authentic Asian, Western and local cuisines, having a hearty meal here would cost a little bit more but you can be assured that it is worth every penny. Not to mention, together with it comes the hospitality - friendly and helpful staff.
2) Ombak Cafe
Part of Ombak Resort, dine on the patio outside of the resort and experience a true al' fresco dining. In a hip setting, complete with a beachgoer clientele and chalkboard menus, you'll find a wide lip-smacking spread of local and international delights including fresh seafood and meat - name it and you'll get it barbecued or cooked.
#HHWT Tip: This premise serves alcoholic beverage, do dine at your own discretion.
Cheaper dining options are still available along Teluk Keke, a local favourite where you can get a plate of mixed rice with side dishes at RM5 or RM6.
Other Activities Besides Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
While the Perhentian Islands are known for world-renowned scuba diving and snorkelling, there are several other activities that you can partake amid the natural rainforests and crystal blue waters.
1) Experience the kampong life in Kampung Nelayan in Pulau Kecil
Besides the water sports, Pulau Kecil also houses the Kampung Nelayan, or The Fishermen’s Village.
Experience a glimpse of authentic village life and explore the local school, kampong houses and visit the one and only floating mosque on the island, Masjid A R Rahman.
#HHWT Tip: You might come across reptiles like lizards in your path and if you do, steer clear and be on your way!
2) Volunteer at the Turtle Sanctuary Beach and save turtles
Not in the mood for swimming? How about a walk to the Turtle Sanctuary Beach and volunteer to save the endangered species and learn the basics of conservation with the local guides? Yes, turtle conservation is part of the government’s initiative to spread awareness among the public to protect the sea turtles from poaching and over-exploitation.
#HHWT Tip: There are no facilities on this isolated beach, so it’s best to bring your own refreshments.
When in Pulau Besar, kayak along the coastline around the island. It’s the perfect activity for families with children as you get to enjoy the scenic views of the island and spot a myriad of fishes around.
4) Jungle Trekking
Due to the vast landscape, the islands nest a dense jungle for nature enthusiasts to trail out. Unlike Pulau Kecil, the trails at Pulau Besar are better marked and maintained so if you're not into water activities, you can always go back to basics and witness Mother Nature in her magnificence while you hike.
#HHWT Tip: Since you can get around the island easily on foot, do look out for dusky leaf monkeys and monitor lizards around. They are generally harmless but it’s best that you don't taunt them as there is a risk of being attacked :(
Without a doubt, the Perhentian Islands are beautiful and it's definitely worth a shot if you've never been to the East Coast. Will all these various activities planned in line for you, just pick and choose the one that suits you best. So, are you in? Well, time to start packing! ?