If you’re looking for a Malaysian island that has crystal clear blue waters, white sandy beaches and some of the best scuba diving / snorkeling, then look no further than the Perhentian islands! We have your complete travel guide to the Perhentian islands in Malaysia below.
We spent 5 days on the islands and my oh my, we loved it. We’ll be giving you all the tips and information you need to know to get your trip off to a proper start in order to enjoy your time there!
Understanding The Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands are located off the northeast coast of Malaysia. It’s super close to the Thai border (40 km/25 mi) so it’s a popular choice for backpackers traveling overland to/from Thailand.
Something you’ll need to understand is that there are two islands that make up the Perhentian Islands.
- Perhentian Besar: The larger of the two islands and more popular with couples and families who are looking to avoid the backpacker party scene. This island is also the more expensive option of the two.
- Perhentian Kecil: The smaller island and very popular among budget travelers.
You can easily get between the two islands by water taxi if you want to see them both.
We also want to call out a few important items to take care of before or to just generally understand before setting foot on the islands…
- ATMS are pretty much non-existent, so bring cash!
- Electricity is limited so come prepared with headlamps or other forms of lighting. There is Air Con available but typically is shut off during the day.
- Come prepared with bug repellent! Mosquitoes are VERY real here.
When to Visit The Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands have a window when you can visit. They literally become unreachable once the monsoon season hits – think coppy, violent water.
The eastern monsoon hits late October/beginning of November and stay still February. This is the time frame you want to avoid.
So, when is the best time to go the Perhentians? Anytime between March – September.
If for some reason you do go to the islands during its rainy season, PLEASE understand it will be you and the locals. Sounds cool, right? Well, it’s not.
Very few shops and hotels are open, and you may have trouble finding basic amenities like food and water. Also, things will be very pricey and options are limited. Just an FYI.
How to Get to The Perhentian Islands
Bus: Wherever you are in Malaysia, catch a bus to Kuala Besut Jetty. This is the jumping off point where you’ll catch a boat to either of the two islands mentioned above. The busses in Malaysia are comfortable and well run.
Flight: Catch a flight to either Kota Bharu or Kuala Terrenganu. Regardless of what airport you fly into, you’ll have to catch transportation to the Kuala Besut Jetty from the airport.
Admission Costs: Once at the Jetty, you’ll need to pay a 30RM ($7 USD) “marine fee” to get access to the islands. In addition to the marine fee, you’ll pay 70RM ($15 USD), which covers your ride to the islands.
The boat ride to the Perhentian islands takes about 30-45 minutes.
To set your expectations, the boat you take is a small speed boat that they pack full. Safety isn’t their top priority (welcome to Asia), so make sure you wear the life jacket they give you.
Also, you may be approached by “captains” giving you a cheaper price on the ride. Be wary and use your own judgement as they are more than likely unlicensed boat operators.
All the shadiness aside, we ran into no issues. It was easy-peasy, and we were on Kecil island in no time!
What to Do on The Perhentian Islands
If you’re looking for fast-paced and jam-packed days of activities, you’re heading to the wrong place! There are two things you do on the Perhentian islands 1) lay on the beach and 2) swim in the ocean. Simply beautiful.
We stayed on Kecil, so we are going to give you two specific recommendations on what to do on Kecil…
A makeshift beach bar that two Malay brothers built right on Long Beach. Literally, it’s built of plywood and tin. They stock their bar with coolers of beer, cheap liquor and mixers.
They have a stereo that plays amazing knock off reggae music. This place, Abba’s Bar, is where you should end every day here! It’s seriously a blast and a gathering place on the island.
Abba is kind and will let you take over as DJ for the night…that is if you have good taste in music 🙂
2. Angel Divers:
If you are a diver, the dive company you should dive with is Angel Divers!
If you’re not a diver, you should ABSOLUTELY get your open water certification! Diving with Angel Divers was the CHEAPEST diving we experienced in Southeast Asia and some of the most beautiful.
Dives cost around $18 USD and it was legit. The dive shop wasn’t sketchy and the sites they took us to where fantastic! Be prepared to carry you gear across the beach to the boat though, but hey that adds to whole experience right?!
After you do these two things, go ahead and get back to laying on the beach why don’t ya! Relax and take it easy. You’re on holiday!
Where to Eat on The Perhentian Islands (Kecil)
If you stay on Kecil like we did, Long Beach is packed with beachfront cafes. You can take a walk up and down and take a pick to whatever vibe tickles your fancy for that day. A few notable cafes we enjoyed are below…
For The Budget Conscious: Senjay Bay Resort has little beach front bungalow, air con rooms. Perfect for the island vibe you are looking for.
*TIP: You can also book on the island if you are keen to Dive. We stayed on the resort with Angel Divers. Unfortunately, a lot of Perhentian’s more budget friendly accommodations are not online for booking.
For The Luxury Inclined: Bubu Villa is smack dab on Long Beach. Cute and comfortable villas await. Your walking distance from a beautiful beach, endless cafes and a handful of dive shops.
For Something In Between: Resort Mimpi is a 4-star accommodation right on long beach. From delicious breakfast and a great beach front setup, it’s not wonder why this is one of the top accommodations on the island.
For more places to stay in “Perhentian Islands” you can check out the latest places and prices here.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)