Updated: Jul 25
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Are you looking for a complete travel guide and honest opinion on Perhentian Islands, Malaysia? Great, read our travel blog post, including the best things to do in the Perhentian Islands, tips on where to stay, top beaches, how to get there, and safety advice.
The Perhentians Islands is a archipelago with beautiful white-sand beaches, coconut palms trees, and turquoise waters, situated on the East coast of the country. The islands have been a perfect tropical holiday destination for many years now, and even today attract backpackers, tourists, families and beach lovers from all over the world.
Perhentians are one of the most popular beach destinations in both Malaysia and South East Asia, and many travelers include this place unmistakably in their perfect Malaysia itinerary.
Who would not want to see the real paradise with own eyes, right? When traveling, we always think there is never enough of relaxing on the beach, and Perhentians was simply the place we could not miss out.
Perhentians are one of those places where the time moves slowly, and you can just chill out on the beach, snorkel, scuba dive, have a drink, or sleep in the hammock. It's a perfect getaway from the busy city of Kuala-Lumpur, beach enthusiasts, adventure seekers, nature lovers, and those who love water sports and underwater life will definitely find what they are looking for.
My wife and I are now living in Kuala-Lumpur and the Perhentians have become our getaway destination for the past 3 years now. In this travel guide, we will break down what to expect from the Perhentian Islands, top things to do, how to get there, best hotels in Perhentians, what to pack, when to visit, where to snorkeling or dive and much more.
Let's gets started...
1- WHEN TO GO?
The best time to visit the Perhentian Islands is during the dry season from March to October and July is peak season so if you plan to come around that time make sure to book accommodation in advance.
From November to the end of February the islands are closed due the raining season and boats will not operate either.
2- HOW TO GET THERE - From Kuala-Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut Bus Tickets
TBS bus station: Get there by train - KL Sentral to Bandar Tasik Selatan Safe time and Book your bus directly online: HERE
Estimated Trip Duration : 7 hrs 45 min
Estimated Cost of your trip: RM49 each way ($11,50)
Advice: If you are on budget, we recommend you to take the overnight bus, it will allowed you to safe one night at the hotel
Please note that the bus drop-off point is at Kuala Besut Bus Terminal, which is just a few minutes walking distance away from the jetty to Perhentian Island.
If you live in Kuala-Lumpur and decide to take some time off away from the big city with your family, driving to Kuala Besut could be a great option for you. We all know that it may be difficult for young children to stay still in the bus for long hours especially if you often need to stop to go to toilet.
Estimated trip duration: 6 hrs to 7.5 hrs
Estimated Cost of your trip:
Gas: RM60 one way ($14)
Toll: RM40 one way ($9.4)
Parking at Kuala-Besut: RM10-15 per day ($3,5) (Ask someone to help you when you arrive at the jetty- No official parking)
See map: HERE
Believe it or not but sometimes flying is often cheaper or as good as taking the bus. Air Asia offer crazy good deal and it will be a shame to miss it.
From Kuala-Lumpur KILIA 2 to Kota Bharu Airport ( Departure airport may change depending of the company you are flying with)
Estimated trip duration: 1 h 05 mn
Estimated cost of your trip: From RM150 one way ($35,15)
Taxi from Kota Bharu to Kuala besut: RM70 one way ($16,4)
Book your plane ticket today: HERE
Boat to the Islands
Estimated cost: RM39 one way ($9)
Marine conservation fees:
Foreigners: RM30 - ($7)
Locals: RM5 - ($1.17)
We recommend to book your boat ticket in advance to avoid queuing at the jetty, boat getting full very quickly and it is always better to have it ready before to get there.
3- WHICH ISLAND IS BEST FOR YOU?
Perhentian Besar or Perhentian Kecil
1- Perhentian Besar
Also called "the big island", Perhentian Besar appeals more to families, couples, and a slightly higher-budget crowd. The island is far quieter and more relaxed than Perhentian Kecil. Luxury bungalow operations resembling small resorts have set up on Perhentian Besar and, unlike their counterparts on the small island, include private bathrooms and air conditioning.
There are three main beach areas on Perhentian Besar, with Teluk Dalam claiming the most secluded stretch of clean, white sand. A rocky stretch of sand known as "Love Beach" is pretty much the gathering place for people looking to socialize.
1.1 - Where to stay
The Barat Perhentian Resort enjoys a commanding position in the beaches, family fun, romance hub of Perhentian Island. The hotel features 57 beautifully appointed guest rooms, many of which include television LCD/plasma screen, clothes rack, free welcome drink, linens, mirror. The hotel offers an excellent variety of recreational facilities, including snorkeling, private beach, diving, fishing, garden. Enjoy unparalleled services and a truly prestigious address at the The Barat Perhentian Resort.
Flora Bay 1
Flora Bay 1 is located on Perhentian Island, known for its beautiful sandy beaches and dove spots. Sitting on Teluk Dalam Beach, it has an on-site diving center, snorkeling equipment for rent, as well as a souvenir shop. Cozy and fitted with wooden flooring, all rooms come with either a fan or air conditioning. From the private balcony, rooms enjoy views of the hill, garden or sea. Private bathroom has a shower.
2 - Perhentian Kecil
The rowdier and smallest of the two islands, Perhentian Kecil is split into two sides: Long Beach on the east side and Coral Bay on the west side.
A 15-minute, partly bricked jungle trail connects the two sides of the island. Most people head directly to Long Beach on the eastern side of the island for the better beaches. The soft-sand ocean bottom is easier on the feet for swimming. Long Beach has more eating, sleeping, and nightlife options than Coral Bay. It's certainly more "lively" and developed.
Coral Bay on the western side of the island is the place to go for spectacular sunsets, slightly cheaper prices, and better snorkeling. Small, private coves along the beach offer nooks and places for setting up a base to enjoy snorkeling. When facing the sea, walk to the right and scramble over the rocks past the last resort to find a series of small private beaches.
Although the snorkeling is better on Coral Bay, the narrow beach is strewn with dead coral and shallow water that make swimming less pleasant. The anchor ropes from parked boats stretch across the beach.
The Internet functions in all zones of accommodation. You can take the water sports facilities at the front desk. You can use the shuttle service from/to the airport. There is a restaurant functioning where you can order delicious dishes and beverages. The residents can use the service of food and drinks delivery in their rooms. Fishing is one of the pastime options offered to the guests. There are non-smoking rooms provided. You can snuggle down and read a book in the library. Laundry is an indisputable amenity for the guests. Travelers can pay using these types of bank cards: Visa, Mastercard, JCB.
Staff is fluent in Malay, English.
Located on a quiet, intimate stretch of Petani Beach, Alunan Resort sits on a rocky slope that gently sweeps down to merge with the sparkling azure ocean at its doorstep, enveloped by a stunning backdrop of lush, verdant tropical rainforest. A contemporary boutique resort experience can now be enjoyed in this private hideaway. Inspired by gentle ocean waves, the property is dotted with sparkling boxes framed with black steel, white washed walls, and a broad expanse of glass, creating a magnificent view of terraces cascading down the slope of the hill like a stream of rolling waves. Blessed with all the trappings of a tropical idyll, this contemporary boutique resort is home to 18 intimate, double-story private suites furnished with modern architecture that is exclusive only to Alunan Resort. Covered in floor-to-ceiling glass panels designed to capture majestic views of the ocean and sprawling rainforest, each suite opens up to a private rooftop sun deck on the top floor where a hammock, sun loungers, and a shaded patio awaits. Unique to Alunan Resort, an open-plan lobby and multi-level beachfront sun deck is the perfect setting to view the vastness of the shimmering South China Sea.
Budget Chalet in the Perhentian perfect for backpackers
Murai Guesthouse provides air-conditioned rooms and a garden. The guesthouse features family rooms. At the guesthouse all rooms have a private bathroom. Tuna Bay is a 12-minute walk from Murai Guesthouse, while PIR Beach is 0.9 miles away.
Download your FREE Perhentian itinerary Pdf to find out all the best accommodation on the island.
4- WHERE TO EAT ON THE ISLAND?
Check out these restaurants in The Perhentian Islands for cheap local meals, Western dishes and the best places to meet other travelers.
Bayu Restaurant barbecues today’s catch at the Alunan Resort along Petani Beach. Both families and couples rate this among the best restaurants in The Perhentian Islands for their high-quality food and views. While the prices might be higher than the rest of Perhentian Kecil, it does offer a classier dining experience.
Blue Paradise Located next to Belinda Café on Perhentian Besar, Blue Paradise offers a selection of food at more budget-friendly prices. The menu includes Asian, Malaysian and Thai dishes as well as the delicious mango sticky rice. Western-style breakfasts and pancakes are available in the morning. This is one of the best restaurants in The Perhentian Islands for families with young children for its friendly environment and variety of food.
Download your FREE Perhentian itinerary Pdf to find out all the Best restaurant on the island.
5- BOOK A SNORKELING TRIP
SNORKELING ON THE PERHENTIANS ISLANDS
If you are not into diving but do like to explore the underwater world, you can go snorkeling. Snorkeling on Pulau Perhentian Kecil is (almost) just as beautiful (and a lot cheaper than diving).
There are tours offered everywhere on the island, but if you are staying at Long Beach you can also just get your mask and snorkel and swim to the rocks behind the jetty pier. There are beautiful fish and even coral very close to the shore!
Speed boat Shuttle
6- BOOK YOUR NEXT MALAYSIA ADVENTURE
7- SCUBA DIVING IN THE PERHENTIANS ISLANDS
Scuba Diving Perhentian Islands, Malaysia: A Quick Guide
If you are travelling in Malaysia, I definitely recommend you visit the Perhentian Islands for some great dives and a very affordable version of Paradise.
Q&A - Questions & Answers guide:
What’s it called? Perhentian Islands – Palau Perhentian in Malay
Where is it? The East coast of peninsular Malaysia, Terrengganu state.
When can I go? The diving season is March to October. From October to March the monsoon season shuts down the island as the sea is too rough to make the crossing and land on the beach.
Is it a tropical paradise? Yes! The Perhentians are made up of a big and small island ( Perhenatian Besar & Kecil) that have beautiful beaches and palm trees covering the entire island. Development is still quite low key – there’s no roads or high rise buildings or vehicles and we really hope that it will stay that way.
What’s the diving like? Perhentians scuba diving is excellent – It has a collection of dive sites to choose from. Highlights include two shipwrecks, the Vietnamese Wreck, which is upside down, and the Sugar Wreck, which is lying on its side with two cranes still attached to its deck. There is also the labyrinth of rocks and boulders known as T3 (Terumbu Tiga) and the pinnacle which is variously called Temple and, er, The Pinnacle. The reef in D Lagoon is excellent for a long, shallow dive too.
What can I expect to see underwater? The marine life is rich with all the usual reef fishes of Southeast Asia. You can also spot pelagic fishes, lots of turtles and reef sharks. If you are very lucky it is possible to encounter Manta rays and even the tail of a Whale Shark!
There have been sightings of the shovelnose guitarfish at T3 on occasion, and a couple of dive-masters found a seahorse by going off one of the wreck dive sites; big marble rays and cobias are also spotted too.
What’s the setup for diving? Very laid-back – all diving is done from small wooden skiffs which run straight off the beach. Carry your gear down to the boat, motor out to the dive site within 20 minutes (remember sun-cream!) , back-roll entry and that’s it. Morning dives are around 8.30 am, afternoon dives around 1.30pm
What’s the visibility like? The visibility varied quite a lot from day to day – usually around 8 or 9 metres on the wrecks, going up to 15 metres at The Pinnacle. Remember that visibility is always better first thing in the morning.
Are the dive sites crowded? During week days is fine especially when kids are at school but it can also get pretty crowded sometimes, usually at weekends when lots of people come up from Singapore or Thailand.
How much does diving cost? A single dive on Perhentian Kecil costs around RM100 - US $23; prices go down to RM85 -US $20 if you do more than four dives. Some popular dive sites such as the famous Sugar Wreck, Temple/Pinnacle, and Redang Island cost more because of the extra effort required to get there. Night dives are more expensive, starting around RM170 - US $40.
Get PADI Certified:
With all the different dive companies, if you are looking for a great place to get certified, than this is a solid option. The Perhentian Islands are known for having spectacular diving opportunities. You can shop around, but all the dive centers offer 4-Day Open Water Certification packages from 950 – 1100 MYR.
Have you thought about getting your travel insurance?
Scuba Diving Travel Insurance
Simple and flexible travel insurance to keep you safe on your next dive trip. Buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world.
8- Book your next accommodation with AIRBNB and get a huge discount on your first night.
9- ULTIMATE PACKING LIST - PERHENTIANS ISLAND
BEACH VACATION PACKING LIST: WHAT THINGS TO PACK FOR A BEACH TRIP
If you’re worried about what to bring to the beach, we’ve got you covered with a list of beach essentials. From basics to extras, and from toiletries to luxury relaxation, you won’t forget a thing if you stick to these beach necessities.
Your luggage should always be versatile and lightweight. Especially for a beach vacation, you want to make sure you don’t pack too much. The goal is to relieve stress, not add to it.
Consider a carry-on, a personal item, and, if you must, a checked bag. But no more than this. You will be lounging on the beach in your bikini most of the time, so you don’t need much. Your bags should be easy to carry, too. You’ll feel more carefree. My wife still bring a bunch of dresses for each day & night but I think that most of women are the same. Isn't it?
Here are some things to consider:
Wheeled bags - You can’t beat wheels for heavy bags or long walking distances. If you plan to be on the go more than you intend to relax, this is an excellent back-saver.
Carry on - small backpack -Finally, for a care-free week at the beach where all you need is a swimsuit, a small carry on is easy, lightweight, and perfect.
Keep your beach essentials straight with packing organizers like cubes, and save space by compressing your clothing. You can quickly slide organizers of any kind straight into the drawers of your hotel dresser, making unpacking a breeze.
For vacations when you’re on the move more than you’re staying put, it’s easy to load up and head out if everything is contained. Compressing your clothing saves up to eighty percent more space, so for extended trips, it can reduce the amount of luggage you need.
THE BASICS: BEACH PACKING CHECK LIST
Even if you plan to lounge on the beach and do nothing else, there are some basic items you want to include in your beach packing list.
If you plan to sightseeing or do anything else, your beach vacation checklist is probably more extensive. You may include walking shoes and socks, additional toiletries like makeup, and more lightweight clothing you can layer.
Other fun things to take to the beach include:
Toys to play in the sand
Even when packing for the beach, don’t forget prescription medications and other items to stay healthy. You don’t want to ruin your vacation by getting sick. Take precautions like using hand sanitizer (even after washing your hands), and pack a small first aid kit with band-aids.
PERSONAL ITEMS AND TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Even if you plan to check a bag, make sure necessary travel documents are always accessible in your carry on. You should have photo identification, passports, insurance, credit cards, and boarding passes for the jetty with you at all times, perhaps in a money belt.
Also, keep an extra outfit and some essential toiletries with you in case your checked bag gets lost or delayed. It’s a good idea to pack a light jacket, an eye mask, or earplugs to keep you comfortable on long journeys.
For entertainment purposes, you should consider packing the following items as well:
Journal and pen
There's no ATM on the island. Typically, the accommodations on island offers full board package so you don't really need to bring much unless you are going for scuba diving. Only you would know how much to bring since we don't know your spending habits and what activities you are looking to do on the island.
There small shops everywhere and on both island, selling mostly the same things (Souvenir t-shirt, pareo, hats...) Beware that sun-cream will best to purchase before as it will be more expensive on the island.
Both island are very safe but we do recommend you to not leave any valuable items on the beach while you are going to swim same goes if you decide to go party (especially if you have a bit too much to drink)