Home Asia The complete travel guide to Perhentian Islands, Malaysia (2024)

The complete travel guide to Perhentian Islands, Malaysia (2024)

by Hanna
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Perhentian Islands are two mesmerizing islands located on the east side of Malaysia with perfect waters for scuba diving and snorkeling. They are the most perfect destination for any beach lover and those who enjoy their time in the water. In this guide, I will walk you through all you need to know about these Islands.

How to get to the Perhentian Island?

To get to Perhentian Island you have to take a speed boat from Kuala Besut. You don’t necessarily need to pre-book the tickets, you can buy them from a tour operator near the pier. A round-trip was 70 RM (in 2023) per person plus the environmental fees you have to pay before entering the boat.

You can get to Kuala Besut either by bus or flying to Kota Bharu. From Kota Bharu airport I recommend taking a taxi to the pier. It takes approximately one hour. I wouldn’t recommend hassling with the local busses because there is no direct connection, and the taxi is quite cheap. In addition, it is an extreme Muslim state where they even have a different line for women and men for supermarkets and a lot of other rules so I wouldn’t risk it.

The best time to visit the Perhentian Island?

There are two seasons in the Perhentian islands; the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season is from the end of March until the end of September. The peak months are June and July, and this is when the islands are most packed. It’s not very recommended to travel to the Perhentians during the rainy season because obviously it rains a lot, and the seas are rough. This also means that the visibility on the sea is very bad and scuba diving and snorkeling aren’t that enjoyable if at all possible.

Is April a good time to visit to the Perhentians?

I found that April is a perfect time to travel to the Perhentians. It’s the beginning of the season but the weather was perfect from the beginning of April to mid-April and there weren’t too many travelers yet. There were enough people so that all trips were operating but none of the sites were full of people. In most of the dive and snorkeling sites, we were the only group there.

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
The water is amazingly turquoise in the Perhentian Islands

Which island to choose: Perhentian Kecil or Perhentian Besar?

The first important choice to make is on which island to stay Perhentian Kecil or Besar. The two islands of Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar are located next to each other, but they are very different.

Perhentian Kecil is the smaller of the islands and is more known as the backpacker island. The most famous beach on this island is Long Beach where most of the accommodations are located. The other most common beach to stay on is called Coral Bay. Long Beach is where most of the budget hotels are located and many young travelers stay on this side of the island. Long Beach is where the nightlife and fire shows also take place.

An important decision in Perhentian Kecil is to choose whether you want to have more restaurant choices and nightlife or peace and quiet. If you prefer sleeping in peace you should choose either Coral Bay or some of the smaller beaches. If you feel like you want more action, choose Long Beach. About Long Beach, I give you a little warning though. There is a beach party happening every night and even though I stayed on the other side of the beach I could still hear the music loud and clear in my bungalow. So be prepared not to sleep before 1 am or 2 am if you decide to stay in Long Beach.

Perhentian Besar is known as the big island and it is the most popular among couples and families. The island is a lot slower-paced than Kecil and the vibe is completely different. The clientele is much older than in Kecil and there are a lot more families. Besar is a good choice if you are traveling as a couple or as a family and are looking for a peaceful holiday. For solo travelers and young travelers, I would say that Kecil is a better choice.

I stayed a week in the Perhentian and I stayed on both of the islands. I actually liked both islands and I was glad I got to experience them both.

Check out accommodation for your travels here!

Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar
The most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, PIM Beach in Perhentian Besar

What to do in the Perhentian Islands?

Perhentian Islands are known for water activities, so scuba diving and snorkeling are the main activities on the islands. In addition, you can go hiking and chilling on the beach. Perhentian islands are so focused on water activities that if you don’t like any of them it may get a bit boring for you.

Hiking in the Perhentian Islands

The hikes you can do are to explore the hidden beaches and on Perhentian Kecil, you can hike up the windmills. The hike I did was on Perhentian Kecil first to the windmills and then down to the other side to Adam and Eve Beach and Landing Beach. It was cool to be on the deserted beach alone or almost alone since on Adam and Eve we saw a couple of other people.

If you decide to go on this hike, I do advise you to get proper shoes and a lot of water with you. It’s not the most difficult hike but it is hard with the heat. The hike took about 1h one way so reserve 2h just for walking.

In Perhentian Besar, you can do similar hikes to see the quieter beaches but I didn’t try any of them.

Best places for snorkeling?

Perhentian Islands are a perfect destination for someone who loves snorkeling. There are a couple of snorkeling trips offered by the tour operators that are half-day trips and include all the equipment.

The snorkeling trips you should definitely do are a trip to Rawa Island and another around the island which would include the Shark Point, Turtle Point, and Fish Point. The Rawa island tour was a great half-day tour where all the stops (except for the lighthouse) were amazing for snorkeling. On Rawa Island just 10m from the beach I saw maybe 15 baby black-tip sharks and on the other stop it was like the kingdom of cute anemone fish!

The other tour with Shark Point, Turtle Point, and Fish Point is also great. In Shark Point, there aren’t many corals to see but I did see many baby black-tip sharks. In Turtle Point, it’s a sandy bottom and I saw 3 turtles. Fish point is as it says bunch of fish and some nice corals. In addition to these, if you don’t scuba dive, I would also add Coral Garden to my snorkeling list because that place, as the name tells, has some amazing corals.

The best place where you can go snorkeling right from the beach is PIM Beach, Perhentian Island Resort’s beach. On this beach, there is only one resort but it’s open for anyone. I would suggest either going on the left side of the pier or from the beach on the right side of the protective rope next to the boats. I saw here a lot of anemone fish and a black-tip shark! I’ve heard occasionally there are some turtles too but didn’t see any.

Best places for scuba diving?

Perhentian Islands are known for their amazing waters for scuba diving. It is also a great place to get your certification for Open Water Diver because the local diving schools are very affordable but good in quality and there are a lot of easy dive sites around the islands.

If you would have to choose only one dive location during your stay in the Perhentian islands I would recommend the Temple of the Sea. It is suitable for open-water divers and it truly is an amazing dive site. It is a big rock mostly underwater, and it consists of different layers of marine life. The amount of different species of fish is incredible and I even saw a sleeping baby bamboo shark there. The corals are also very vibrant in color at this dive site. I 100% recommend it!

The dive shop I was diving with was called Oh La La Divers. I would recommend them because they are one of the most affordable on the island but real professionals. The dive masters really take care of you when diving! Their courses are also very good so if you need to get your certification done, I would recommend them. (Not an ad, just liked diving with them.)

Perhentian Islands have different kinds of dive sites from coral gardens to different kinds of wrecks. In Long Beach, you can also do a beach dive from the left side of the bay. I did my refresher dive there and saw a turtle!

Are Perhentian Islands worth visiting?

Shortly put Perhentian Islands are a paradise on earth and completely recommend visiting them! The beaches are pure white and the sea is perfectly turquoise. The underwater world is absolutely beautiful and there is a good variety of dive and snorkeling sites. I had my best dives and best snorkeling experiences so far. I saw so many turtles and sharks that I was blown away. Absolutely loved it!

If you are looking for similar types of destinations in Southeast Asia, read also my tips for the beautiful Coron in the Philippines!

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
Loved the Perhentian Islands and cannot wait to go back there!

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