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Guide to the Perhentian Islands

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A tiny archipelago off the west coast of Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands are a perfect place to relax and unwind. With white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters, they form the perfect spot to be – and the only place on Earth guaranteed to be a thousand times better than the city.

The Perhentian Islands are a group of three islands located off the west coast of Malaysia that are popular with travelers looking for a place to relax on a budget. The islands are covered with palm trees, coral reefs, white sandy beaches, and turquoise crystal clear waters. There are a number of resorts and hotels available on the islands, and they are well-connected to the mainland. The islands are known for their diving, snorkeling, diving and fun sports.

One of the most beautiful islands in the world, Perhentian Island has long been a popular destination for travelers from all over. But for those who are in the know, the Perhentian Islands are best known for their natural beauty and the beauty of their people.

Last week’s Perhentian Sunsets and Storms post demonstrated just how moving it was to be on Perhentian Kecil at dusk. The storms swept in nightly and as the video shows, the thick clouds were surreal in their density. However, my days on the islands warranted no complaints either, thanks to a great sea-facing bungalow, newfound friends and fantastic snorkeling.

The Perhentian Islands have long been a famous beach resort in Malaysia, although they were once a stopover on the way from Bangkok to Malaysia. In Bahasa Malaysia, the term “perhentian” means “stopping place.” Though the islands were formerly sustained by fishing, they are now part of the Terengganu region’s Pulau Redang National Marine Park, where fishing is strictly banned. In a Malaysian eco-travel roundup, Tourism Malaysia even mentions the Perhentian Islands. As a consequence, tourism is the main source of revenue, and the breathtaking beauty of the fine sand beaches, crystal-clear sea, and abundant marine life has resulted in a burgeoning tourist industry.

Are you gluten-free when you travel? Please read my Gluten-Free Travel Guide to Malaysia, which was created with celiacs in mind. It also includes a Bahasa-language gluten-free restaurant card that you may use to dine safely and without worry.

The Perhentian Islands are a great place to visit if you’re looking for a

Each of the Perhentian Islands, Besar (“Big”) and Kecil (“Small”), provides a distinct kind of leisure. Besar is the most secluded of the two, while g, as its name implies, is the larger of the two. The island’s perimeter is dotted with beaches, but the interior is a tangled labyrinth of woodland and jagged rock.

The resorts on Besar are more costly and cater mostly to married couples.

Kecil’s two major beaches, on the other hand, are ideal for backpackers, with Coral Bay being a great place to view the sunset and Long Beach being known for partying and, regrettably, petty thievery.

Perhentian islands boatLocal transportation is excellent!

In comparison to Indonesia’s Gili Islands or Thailand’s azure Andaman coast, the Perhentian Islands had much less alcohol – at least in 2009!

Long Beach had a few bars, but the expense and limited variety meant that most visitors either brought their own poison or skipped it entirely.

While I did make one under-the-table purchase of cheap Malay vodka (a huge mistake), I spent the most of my stay on Perhentian Kecil dry, and it was wonderful to get up early and spend my days in the sun without a hangover.

beach signs on Malaysia's PerhentiansDon’t worry, I wasn’t the one who started the fire.

 

Senja bay perhentian islandsSenja Bay is where I’m staying for the time being.

Those who aren’t fond of local fauna should be aware that monitor lizards, poisonous spiders, and geckos may be found in abundance. While I disliked the monitor lizards and spiders, I enjoyed seeing the geckos bounce about the ceiling looking for mozzies, and I would keep my outside light on when I went out to supper to provide them with some delicious snacks.

gecko on the perhentian islandsNew pet.

In the Perhentian Islands, there are a variety of things to do.

Snorkeling and scuba diving are both excellent near the islands of Kecil and Besar, with plenty of marine life to see. Canoes and kayaks may also be rented, but the current can be difficult to navigate on a windy day.

Hiking through the rainforests and around the perimeter of Kecil is excellent, and a tiny Terengganu fishing hamlet on the island’s southernmost point is worth a visit in the afternoon. Besar also offers a round walk that takes you from the shore to the top and back.

Perhentian Islands Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Then there’s the marine life under the waves. There are a lot of sea turtles, clownfish, huge blue-spotted rays, and black-tipped reef sharks. The majority of the resorts on Kecil provide snorkeling rentals and day-long snorkeling excursions, which are well worth the money. Climbing and leaping from a towering lighthouse into the deep water below was a delight.

There are numerous diving companies on both of Coral Bay and Long Beach that will take you out to “the Pinnacle,” a section of land rising out from the seabed and the neighboring Malaysian islands, for scuba divers.

things to do in the perhentian islandsIt’s very vibrant.

Legal Nomads readers who went diving after my stay suggested two dive companies:

  • Here’s a panorama diver.
  • Here are the Turtle Bay Divers.

On the Perhentian Islands, you may go trekking.

The islands include forest paths where you and your partner may view monitor lizards and deadly spiders. A Travel Mermaid describes her two-and-a-half-hour walk on Besar, from rainforest to viewpoint and back to the sea. The path is a little tougher than my Kecil forest treks.

Here’s a map of the Kecil hike, which passes directly through Senja, where I was staying.

All in all, my weeks on the Perhentians were perfect: my toenails managed to grow back after my Agung climb, I enjoyed my time on the beach and in the sea and I left completely relaxed and ready to conquer my next destination.

Other reliable resources from across the web:

  • Legal Nomads’ Friend The Perhentian Islands guide on Travelfish.org was updated in 2019.
  • April 2018 update to HHWT’s lengthy guide to the islands.
  • Here’s Savvy Dispatches’ Perhentians handbook.
  • Perhentian Kecil is included in The Wandering Quinn’s 2019 guide.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Perhentian Islands?

The high season finishes in mid-September, and the monsoons arrive in November. The ideal time to come is between March and early November, but due to the islands’ popularity, booking ahead is recommended. The summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, July and August, as well as early September, are the busiest.

The monsoons arrive in November, and many places shut. Some locations on Kecil, particularly the bigger ones, are now accessible all year, according to Travelfish’s 2019 guide. However, food, transportation, and general activity choices like as diving will be limited during that time. If a monsoon is approaching, I’m not sure I’d want to be on the Perhentians, but if you don’t mind the danger – the sole hospital is on the mainland, not on the islands – there’s diving, beach days, and cheaper lodging to be had.

Our prices were usually higher on weekends because the Perhentians are busier at that time of year; visitors from Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere descend during the open season. So don’t be surprised if you notice a higher cost on Saturday and Sunday on your hotel bill.

We were able to negotiate a better cost for the prolonged stay since it was shoulder season and we were six new friends staying for a longer period of time. Many years later, I’m still friends with the folks I met on the Perhentian Islands – it was one of the most memorable and beautiful stays I’ve had in my decade of travel.

From Kuala Lumpur, how do you go to the Perhentian Islands?

Kuala Besut is the entry point to the Perhentian Islands. While many travel agencies in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and other cities will arrange for transportation to and from the island, it’s really very simple to do it yourself.

Taking an overnight bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut is the most convenient method to travel to the Perhentians. The route is served by both Mutiara and Mahligai bus companies, both with contemporary, air-conditioned buses that depart at 4 a.m. for a meal break and arrive at daybreak. Both depart from Kuala Lumpur’s PWTC Station. These tickets may be purchased through travel agencies in touristic regions or at the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan bus terminal. Tickets are also available online at this link.

Alternatively, Air Asia offers very low-cost flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu. Kuala Terrengganu is also accessible via air. It’s then a short cab journey to the Kuala Besut jetty, where the boats to the Perhentian Islands depart. Due to the popularity of the Perhentian Islands, flights to Kota Bharu are available from Penang, Singapore, and other locations. This is one of the reasons why prices rise on weekends.

Set-price speed boats will transport passengers from the Kuala Besut jetty to the Perhentian Islands for a fixed fee. Boat tickets are available for RM 70 return upon arrival at the jetty, and boats depart frequently throughout the day. Note that these boats will completely flood your baggage, so put any gadgets in plastic bags. The boat will drop you off at either Besar or Kecil, at your preferred resort.

On the Perhentian Islands, where should you stay and what should you eat?

2019 update: I’m happy that this website is still helpful to travelers, but since I was in the Perhentians in 2009, I wanted to include a link to a lodging article from Travelfish, which covers the whole archipelago and is updated more regularly.

Many places are also available on AirBnb, which you may search for here. (If you haven’t tried AirBnb yet, click here to receive $40 off your first booking.)

Kecil Perhentian:

– Only Senja Bay Resort offers free Wifi and breakfast, as well as continuous power, on Coral Bay. Bungalows vary in price from RM 200 for a seaview bungalow to RM 100 for cliff-side rooms. Specials are also available on their website.

– Butterfly Resort, managed by the mysterious Barry, is located at the further end of Coral Bay Beach and is the place to go if you want your own private bungalow. Each of the 9 simple wooden chalets has a beautiful view of the ocean, and although there may be some 8-legged animals about, you’ll be OK if you remain beneath your mosquito net.

– Maya Guesthouse, managed by the beautiful Maya and her large family, is another excellent lodging choice on Coral Bay (she was about to give birth to her 4th child when I was there). During peak season, rooms cost RM 60.

— Panorama Resort was the most popular and well-reviewed hotel on Long Beach, but it was fully booked when I visited the islands. During high season, fan rooms cost RM 90. Later on, the reviews became… a whole lot worse (yikes).

Perhentian Besar (Perhentian Island):

Three options for lodging received excellent marks:

– Mama’s Chalet, where my buddy Danilo stayed for a few weeks and raved about how cheap it was, as well as how delicious the cuisine was and how friendly the people were.

– The Reef Chalet, on West Beach in Besar, south of the Coral View resorts; and

–A brand-new Coco-hut Chalet in the heart of Besar. At the beach’s edge, there are charming A-frame cottages that have recently been restored.

On Perhentian Kecil and Besar, Where to Eat

The majority of the beach eateries serve delicious lassi and provide amazing evening barbecues with fresh seafood. I was faithful to Senja’s BBQ deliciousness, as well as their banana-coconut lassi, after trying all of them on Kecil.

I would also suggest Fatimah’s and Maya’s, both of which were excellent.

On Besar, Abdul Chalet’s daily BBQ was comparable to Senja’s, and a dependably excellent supper choice for guests staying on the island.

Here are the top ten restaurants to visit in the Perhentian Islands, according to Culture Trip.

Visiting the Perhentian Islands, MalaysiaLong Beach, Perhentian Kecil, with coconuts

Important Information to Keep in Mind When Visiting the Perhentian Islands:

  • When I went there, there were no ATMs on the islands, so carry cash. Senja Bay will accept a credit card without charge, and if you are staying there, you will be able to run a tab to calculate your damage at the conclusion of your stay.
  • Except from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., the majority of the island was without power. As a result, your best buddy is a headlamp, both for those storms at night and to avoid killing yourself on your walk home after supper.
  • Mosquitoes abound, and they favor Canadians. Bring insect repellent! In addition, pharmacies in Kuala Lumpur sell mosquito patches infused with citronella and eucalyptus (1 package RM 13).
  • Hospitals are exclusively found on the mainland, not on the islands. Bring a comprehensive medical kit (see my recommendations here) and make sure you have travel medical insurance.

-Jodi

legal nomads perhentian islands guide

All of us have traveled around the world, but have you ever been to the Perhentian Islands? These islands are located in the Malaysian state of Kedah, which is the second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia. The islands are located about 28 km off the coast of the main Malaysian state of Peninsular Malaysia. The Perhentian Islands are famous for their beautiful beaches, laid-back culture, and warm hospitality.. Read more about perhentian islands accommodation and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Perhentian worth visiting?

Perhentian Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Malaysia. They are known for their beautiful beaches and coral reefs.

Which Perhentian Island is best?

The best Perhentian Island is the one that youre most interested in.

What is the best time to visit Perhentian Island?

The best time to visit Perhentian Island is during the dry season.

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