With idyllic white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and marine life aplenty, Perhentian Islands or more commonly known as Pulau Perhentian in Malay, is a Must Visit for beach bums when in Malaysia!
Perhentian Islands, a slice paradise off the north east coast of Malaysia on the South China Sea, is no longer a secret to travellers and is a popular destination for backpackers travelling throughout Asia. Divided into two islands, Perhentian Kecil (Small) and Perhentian Besar (Big), these pristine islands are suitable for backpackers and families alike. The islands also boasts popular dive spots with colorful marine life and excellent underwater visibility.
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PERHENTIAN ISLANDS TRAVEL GUIDE – PERHENTIAN KECIL OR PERHENTIAN BESAR?
It does get confusing as both are separate islands but have the same first name. While it’s obvious one is bigger than the other, both islands offer a different vibe and is catered to different budgets. Find out which island will suit you best below:
PULAU PERHENTIAN KECIL
Perhentian Kecil caters mostly to the younger crowd and offers cheaper accomodation for backpackers. Along Long Beach on the eastern side of the island, you will find bars, restaurants, dive centres and accommodation ranging from MYR50.00 onwards. Although not as wild as some of the party islands in Thailand, Pulau Perhentian Kecil still attracts a vibrant crowd. During the evenings, the beach bars will have fire-shows and music. However, the mornings are a different sight with scuba divers struggling to walk up and down the sandy beach with their equipment before and after their dives. The beach here is wide and perfect for working on your tan.
Just a 10 minute trek through the jungle on the other side of the island lies Coral Bay. This place is ideal for those who want to party but still be able to retreat back to serenity. Here, you will find newer resorts and a more laid back atmosphere. True to its name, Coral Bay is scattered with corals and while the waters are calm, be careful of sharp corals while near the shoreline and in the sea. Sunsets here are gorgeous. There are far lesser dive centres on this side but food here is generally cheaper and better than on Long Beach.
PULAU PERHENTIAN BESAR
Pulau Perhentian Besar, a.k.a The Bigger Island, is more suited for honeymooners and families with children and is much calmer than Perhentian Kecil. You will not find parties here and dining options are limited. Mostly larger beach resorts and private villas have been built on Perhentian Besar, but don’t expect five-star luxury hotels. You will find the most pristine beaches that’s hardly packed with tourists on Perhentian Besar.
Turtle Beach on Pulau Perhentian Besar, aptly named for its resident turtles, has the softest stretch of white sand and crystal waters. These turtles are there everyday and will swim around with you just meters away from the shore. A trip between both islands by a small boat is only a ten minute ride away and can be arranged by the resorts. Snorkelling is great here as marine life are everywhere. You can also rent kayaks and explore the islands or rent a private boat for a day trip around the islands.
PERHENTIAN ISLANDS ACTIVITIES
Apart from the excellent diving and snorkelling conditions, there are lots more activities to do around the Perhentian Islands. Rent a kayak and explore the hidden beaches and bays around the islands. Perhentian Kecil is about 8.5 miles in circumference, and takes approximately 3 hours of constant paddling to get around the island. Perhentian Besar is about 10 miles in circumference.
Both Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar are surrounded by tropical rainforest and are perfect for some mild trekking. There are small trails along both islands that allow you to go through the jungle and explore the flora and fauna. If you’re lucky, you may spot small animals including the mousedeer, monkeys, monitor lizards and even come across large spiders. Make sure you’re protected with insect repellent.
An easy 20-30 minute hike up to Pulau Perhentian Kincir Angin (windmill) will reward you with magnificent views over the South China Sea. Be careful as some of the steps are broken and the windmill is no longer working.
GETTING TO PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
Perhentian islands do not have an airport. The only way to get to these islands is by boat from the mainland is through Kuala Besut jetty in Terengganu. It takes approximately 40 minutes by speedboat to reach the islands and costs roughly MYR35.00 each way. Tickets can be purchased at the terminal itself or through a travel agent. There is also a marine conservation fee (MYR5.00 for local residents and MYR30.00 for foreign tourists) to be paid before boarding the boat.
HOW TO GET TO KUALA BESUT
Bus is the most popular transportation mode among tourists to reach Kuala Besut Jetty. It is the cheapest and most convenient mode of transportation to Kuala Besut Jetty.There are regular bus services connecting major cities around Malaysia to Kuala Besut. Click here for the schedule.
The closest airport is Kota Bharu. Alternatively you can also fly into Kuala Terengganu. From the airport, take a taxi (+- MYR 70.00) or bus to Kuala Besut jetty.
The intercity railway network in Peninsular Malaysia consists of two main lines: The KTM West Coast Line between Singapore and Padang Besar, Perlis, on the Malaysian-Thai border, and the KTM East Coast Line between Gemas in Negeri Sembilan and Tumpat in Kelantan.
From Cities in West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia
From cities in West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia such as Butterworth or Bukit Mertajam in Penang or Pandang Besar or Arau in Perlis, or any other cities, get on the KTM West Coast Line towards KL Sentral. From KL Sentral take the train headed for Gemas (the Interchange from KTM West Coast Line to KTM East Coast Line).
From Gemas, take the KTM East Coast Line and disembark at Tanah Merah Station (the nearest station to Kuala Besut Jetty). From Tanah Merah Station, take a taxi or public bus to Kuala Besut Jetty (estimated 45-60 minutes ride).
From Cities in South and East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia
From cities in the South ie. Johor Bahru and East Coast ie. Jerantut, you will need to get on KTM East Coast Line to Gemas (the Interchange) and disembark at Tanah Merah Station (the nearest station to Kuala Besut Jetty). From Tanah Merah Station, take a taxi or public bus to Kuala Besut Jetty (estimated 45-60 minutes ride).
To check availability and purchase train tickets – click here
Kuala Besut to Perhentian Islands: 8:00AM, 12:00PM and 16:00PM. There may be an extra boat at 10:00 am depending on the season.
Perhentian Islands to Kuala Besut: 8:00AM, 12:00PM and 16:00PM
WHEN TO GO
Perhentian Islands are closed during the monsoon season usually from October to March. It will be wiser to head to the islands on the west coast of Malaysia during those months.
WHERE TO STAY
For spontaneous travellers, you can try your luck by booking your hotel stay through the travel agents at Kuala Besut Jetty on the day itself. Alternatively, you can take the boat to Perhentian Kecil and walk-in to the guesthouses and resorts along Long Beach.
You can also find the perfect accommodation in Perhentian Islands either in Pulau Perhentian Besar or Pulau Perhentian Kecil by scrolling through the map below:
TRAVEL TIPS & ADVICE
Banks & ATMs
There are no banks and ATMs on Perhentian Islands, however most bigger resorts accept major credit cards and some even offer currency exchange.
Alcohol & Drinks
Although Perhentian Islands are situated within the state of Terengganu – a predominantly Muslim state, alcohol is available within resorts and at the numerous beach bars around. Prices are more expensive, with beers sold at MYR13.00 for a can and cocktails from MYR15.00 upwards.
Alcohol is hard to find on the mainland in Kuala Besut. However, just close by to Kuala Besut jetty, there is the one and only Chinese Restaurant that sells bottled beers.
Water from the tap is not safe to drink. Convenience stores and restaurants sell bottles of mineral water on the islands.
Perhentian Islands are rather laidback and have no strict dresscodes. Bikinis are allowed on all the beaches. No nudity is allowed and topless sunbathing is frowned upon.
It is recommended to cover up if you decide to visit the mosques around the island and also on the mainland – especially in Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bahru. Women are advised to wear long pants and cover their shoulders.
If you are ever in Malaysia, remember to plan a trip to Perhentian Islands. Definitely one of the best islands around Peninsular Malaysia and is worth a visit!
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