The Perhentian Islands Travel Guide ~ Malaysia

by Tsvete Popp
Nemo Fish Perhentian Islands

Welcome to Perhentian Islands

Welcome to the enchanting Perhentian Islands, a tropical paradise nestled off the coast of Malaysia. If you’re seeking a blissful escape surrounded by turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and vibrant coral reefs, then look no further. The Perhentian Islands offer a haven for adventure seekers, beach lovers, and nature enthusiasts alike.

Imagine waking up to the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore, feeling the warm sand beneath your toes as you stroll along the palm-fringed beaches. Snorkel or dive into the crystal-clear waters, and be mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colorful marine life that thrives beneath the surface.

Whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports, peaceful sunsets, or simply a place to unwind and reconnect with nature, the Perhentian Islands have it all. Immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance, indulge in fresh seafood delicacies, and witness breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that will leave you in awe.

Coral Beach Bay, Perhentian Islands

With its untouched beauty and serene atmosphere, the Perhentian Islands provide an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re embarking on a solo adventure, a romantic getaway, or a memorable family vacation, these islands will leave you with lasting memories and a sense of rejuvenation.

So pack your swimsuit, grab your snorkeling gear, and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the Perhentian Islands. Let the tropical charm, warm hospitality, and natural wonders of this paradise enchant you as you create memories that will last a lifetime. Your dream island getaway awaits!

Fire Corals, Perhentian Islands

Where to Stay in Perhentian Islands

As you would expect from a major travel destination in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation. As always, I’d suggest you stay somewhere central, to make accessing all the attractions as easy as possible.

Best Luxury Hotels in Perhentian Islands Malaysia

Bubu Villa: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Besar, Bubu Villa offers luxurious accommodations with stunning views of the turquoise waters. The resort features spacious villas and suites with modern amenities, a private beach, a swimming pool, a spa, and multiple dining options. Guests can enjoy a peaceful and upscale beachfront experience, indulge in water sports activities, and unwind in a tranquil atmosphere.

Perhentian Island Resort: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Besar, Perhentian Island Resort provides a luxurious retreat in a picturesque setting. The resort offers well-appointed rooms and chalets with modern amenities, a swimming pool, a spa, and multiple dining options. Guests can experience pristine beaches, snorkeling, and a range of recreational activities in a serene and upscale environment.

The Barat Perhentian: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Besar, The Barat Perhentian is a luxury eco-resort that combines sustainability with comfort. The resort offers stylish beachfront villas and rooms, an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, a spa, and a restaurant. Guests can relax on the white sandy beach, explore coral reefs, and appreciate the natural beauty of the islands while enjoying top-notch amenities.


Best Mid-Range Hotels in Perhentian Islands Malaysia

Senja Bay Resort: Located on Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Senja Bay Resort offers a tranquil stay experience at an affordable price. The resort provides cozy rooms and chalets surrounded by tropical gardens, a restaurant, and a beachfront lounge area. Guests can relax on the beach, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, and enjoy a peaceful getaway without compromising on comfort.

Tuna Bay Island Resort: Located on Pulau Perhentian Besar, Tuna Bay Island Resort offers a blend of comfort and natural beauty. The resort features cozy chalets surrounded by lush greenery, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a dive center. Guests can experience breathtaking sunsets, snorkel in clear waters, and embrace a tranquil atmosphere at an affordable price.

Alunan Resort: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Alunan Resort provides a peaceful and eco-friendly stay experience. The resort offers rustic-chic wooden villas with ocean views, a beachfront restaurant, and a lounge area. Guests can enjoy a serene beach setting, engage in water activities, and appreciate the laid-back charm of the Perhentian Islands.

Best Hostels in Perhentian Islands Malaysia

Quiver Dive Team: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Quiver Dive Team offers budget-friendly accommodations for diving enthusiasts and budget travelers. The hostel features basic rooms and dormitory beds, a dive center, and a common area. Guests can explore the underwater world, relax on the beach, and connect with fellow travelers.

Ombak Divers Lodge: Situated on Pulau Perhentian Besar, Ombak Divers Lodge offers affordable accommodations for divers and budget travelers. The lodge features basic rooms and dormitory beds, a dive center, and a restaurant. Guests can explore underwater treasures, relax on the beach, and enjoy a friendly and affordable stay experience.

Anemone, coral reef, Perhentian Island

Begin your search for the perfect accommodation now while the excitement is still fresh in your mind. Discover stylish and affordable options, and find the best accommodations at the lowest prices:

Explore a wide range of hotels in Malaysia here (

Explore a wide range of hotels in Malaysia here (Tripadvisor)

Explore a wide range of hotels in Malaysia here (Agoda)

Discover affordable hostels in Malaysia here (Hostelworld)

Easily compare prices and book hotels in Malaysia here (Hotellook)

What To Know Before You Go

Let’s move ahead to the reason why I decided to visit Malaysia in 2017 – the Perhentian Islands! The name “Perhentian” is to be pronounced as Perhen-tee-ahn, not Perhen-shen (as many Australians do).

The Perhentian Islands are located in the warm-water coral reef of the South China Sea, 19 km off the coast of north-eastern Malaysia, and 64 km south of the Thai border. What does the name mean? The word “Perhentian” means “stopping point” in Malay – back in the days, the islands were an important stopover for the trading route between Bangkok and Malaysia. I can easily imagine why the merchants did choose exactly these two small paradise spots …

Sunrise Long Beach, Pulau Kecil

The two islands Pulau Besar (big island) and Pulau Kecil (small island) became my secret paradise and after arriving here, I didn’t want to leave! Never. Why a secret? Due to the fact that the islands are actually not well-known (even) by the locals, they are still “virgin” in the sense of mass tourism, pollution, traffic and frivolous buildings.

The Perhentians can rightly be proud of their taintless beaches, wild nature and highly biodiverse coral reefs! One of my absolute favourite things about the Perhentian Islands is the fact that they have no roads at all! This also means no heavy development and useless civilization!

Perhentian Islands, Map

There are also three smaller and uninhabited islands: Susu Dara, Seringgi and Rawa. The locals call them “Baby Islands”. All three of them belong to a protected marine park – fishing, and collecting corals is strictly forbidden and illegal!

When to Go?

You can visit the Perhentian Islands (only!) from the beginning of March until late October. The islands are literally closed during November, December, January and February due to the eastern monsoon. Not only the islands but also all other east coast islands are affected by the weather condition during this time of the year! The eastern monsoon is NOT a funny thing… Don’t believe the travel agents if they try to convince you that all accommodations are open. They are not!

Sunrise Long Beach Pulau Kecil, Perhentian Islands

When asking about the weather, our diving teacher had the following question: “Do you see the restaurant over there?” while pointing with his forefinger toward nothing … And then he said:  “Yes. There is no restaurant. But it was the best one last year before the monsoon came.”

These are some photo examples from the last day before leaving the Island – I was snorkelling near the Baby Islands. The Monster Clouds came from nowhere … and I, without being religious, started praying to all Gods that I know… The last photo is from the last morning and the Thunderstorm that I will never forget! And this had nothing to do with the eastern monsoon – imagine how it looks like during the months between November and February

Monster Thunderstorm, Perhentian Islands
Monster Thunderstorm, Perhentian Islands
Snorkelling trip to Baby Islands, before the Thunderstorm
Snorkelling trip to Baby Islands, before the Thunderstorm
Baby Islands, Perhentians, Before the Thunderstorm
Baby Islands,Before the Thunderstorm
After the storm, part of the beach was missing
After the storm, part of the beach was missing

How do you get to the Perhentian Islands?

In the last couple of days, we were staying in George Town, Penang. We were flying with Fireflyz Fly (you can choose between Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia when flying from Kuala Lumpur) from Penang to  Kota Bharu, which took about 45 minutes. After we arrived at the airport, we took a taxi to Kuala Besut which is another 70 minutes / 55 km.

From Kuala Besut, you can take the speedboat (45 min, RM 70 two-way ticket) or the slow boat (1.30 h, RM 40 two-way ticket). You can choose from plenty of boat operators once you have reached Kuala Besut.  You’ll have to pay an additional 30 RM National Park marine fee for travelling to the Perhentian Islands. It costs only 5 RM if you are local.

Speed Boat from Kota Bharu to Perhentian Islands

Speed Boat from Kota Bharu to Perhentian Islands

Warning!  Pack up any electronics, your passport and documents in plastic bags! It can get very wet, anytime.

Warning! The speedboat operators are not always following the safety rules and they do often boarding much more passengers than allowed. Complain about overloading at police number 999 and the Malaysian Ministry of tourism if you notice any strange circumstances.

The speedboat will take you to your accommodation. Only a few accommodations have their own pier. First option: you’ll be waiting on a small wooden island until a smaller boat comes and takes you to your accommodation (extra RM 2). Second option: you’ll have to carry your bags the whole way (sand beach!) from the main pier to your hotel. Lucky us! Our Hotel was on the main Pier …

To return from the islands to Kuala Besut you have to take one of the boats at 8:00, 12:00 or 16:00. You should make a reservation one day before you leave the island.

Warning! When you’re flying from Kota Bharu, make sure you have enough time for getting to the mainland! Depending on the weather conditions, the boats can be easily cancelled! (Of course, that is what happened to us…). But because I knew this could happen, I booked a Hotel in Khota Bharu for one night, before flying to Singapore.

Pulau Besar (Big Island) or Pulau Kecil (Small Island)?

There are absolutely no museums, bigger shops, monuments, discos or fancy restaurants on the islands. Thank goodness for this! The white sand beaches, and the crystal clear turquoise water with the greatest marine biodiversity, are the highlight of the Perhentians. Well, both of the islands are insanely beautiful and both of them are much more expensive comparing them with the rest of Malaysia. Which island you’ll choose to stay at, is normally decided by the kind of traveller you are.

Pulau Besar has more family-friendly accommodations, as well as honeymooners’ luxury villas. The bigger island is more isolated and there are even fewer restaurants and places where you can eat something outside your accommodation.  Pulau Kecil attracts younger travellers, free-spirit travellers and backpackers. The food on Kecil is cheaper, as you have several opportunities to eat outside your accommodation.

The smaller Island has the most beautiful beach as well – Long Beach. Kecil also has Coral Bay beach – the only place on both islands where you can watch the sunset!

Of course, we’re heading for the Small Island – Kecil!

Stop at Pulau Besar, Perhentian Islands

BUBU Beach, Perhentian IslandsMy personal recommendation is the place we chose to stay in: BUBU Long Beach! It was for sure the best accommodation located in Long Beach, the service was great and the food – was fantastic! My favourite part of our stay in BUBU is definitely the view!

ATMs in the Perhentian Islands

Make sure you have enough cash when travelling to Perhentians! There are no ATMs on the Islands.

Sunrise Long Beach, Pulau Kecil

Sunrise Long Beach, Perhentian Islands

Using Electronics and Internet

Good to know is the fact that Perhentians still use generators to produce electricity. That means – dropouts are not to be excluded (especially in the afternoons). Only the “best” resorts have power 24h/day (again, BUBU wins!). All the others have power only during the night. So charge your electronics during the night!

The Wi-Fi and other internet options are very slow. But you have paradise surrounding you, so why would you need an Internet connection?

Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach

Boat Trip to Turtle Point

Diving and Snorkeling

I always wanted to learn how to scuba dive! And what better place than the Perhentian Islands! Many would say, the best of the Perhentians lies under the water. Generally, all activities on the Perhentians are “limited” to sunbathing, scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, sea-kayaking, fish feeding, turtle conservation volunteering and enjoying life. And hiking. And beach hopping.

There are many dive schools on both islands. On Kecil, you can find those scattered along Long Beach and a couple in Coral Bay. I can recommend you the “Turtle Bay Divers”, located on Long Beach, Kecil Island.

Snorkelling is like ...Snorkelling is like …

We booked a PADI Diving Course on the first day, right after arriving … and on the second day (and one hour of scuba diving and trying not to panic underwater) I quit. I felt miserable.  I cried. I was disappointed in myself. I wanted to see the turtles. And the sharks. And I wanted to find Nemo!

Pulau Besar, Lonely Beach

Pulau Besar, the Big Island

And I did all of this! God bless the “Snorkeling”! The water visibility around the Perhentian Islands during the summer months is absolutely excellent! I took three snorkelling excursions to the best spots by boat – I met my new friends and sweetest Girls (ever!) from Kuala Lumpur, I found Nemo, I met all his family, got scared by the reef sharks, and then by the manta rays,  and I saw the Turtles! The turtles that brought me to Malaysia… And I cried again, but this time out of joy.

Never give up your dream! Not all roads lead to Rome, but enough of them do…

Turtle, Perhentian Islands

The only turtle photo with a recognisable turtle on it

… And here is a much better one! Follow my Snorkeling Guide who works at BUBU Resort! He posts some incredible marine life photos from the Perhentians! …

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A post shared by Ahmad Aizat Khalil (@ahmadaizatkhalil) on

Attention! NEVER, EVER touch or kick the reef! Never touch marine life while snorkelling or diving! It takes months, sometimes even years for the corrals to recover after being damaged!

*A special thanks goes to Hasliza, who saved my post with the following underwater images! If you’re reading this: “Thank you! You are the best!”

Giant Pearl Clam, Perhentian Islands

Flat Corals, Perhentians

Fire Corals, Perhentian Islands

Coral Reef, Baby Islands, Perhentians
Nemo Fish Perhentian Islands


Let’s replace the word “partying” with “chilling”, because this is what the party does look like. Although there are almost no restaurants and bars on Kecil Island, there are still more than on the bigger island. If you want to have some alcohol, it is definitely more expensive than on the mainland.

Fire Show, Long Beach, Perhentian Islands

Fire Show, Long Beach

Reasons to Visit MalaysiaIn the evening, the favourite place among the chillers is the bar called “BAR”. The BAR 😀 is actually a beach shack that turns into a bar after 7 p.m. Here you can choose between (wow!) 4 types of beer and they do even have some rum and vodka (double wow!!). The BAR “owner” is a Swedish guy who also (with another 3 local guys) is the main actor during the daily fire show!

Long Beach, Kecil Pulau, Evening


There are many walking tracks which all lead through the wild forest (jungle). If you are lucky, you may (not) spot the wildlife of the Perhentians: huuuuge monitor lizards, monkeys, nesting turtles, giant fruit bats, snakes (of course), etc. during your hike or walk. If you’re not one of these people with excess energy, the only transport option for you is a water taxi. The prices are negotiable, but beach hopping should not cost more than RM 12, and island hopping – RM 20.

Sunset Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands

Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands

Coral Beach Bay, Perhentian Islands

Coral Beach Bay before Sunset

Amazing Sunset Coral Beach, Perhentian Islands

We spent a whole week on the Perhentian Islands – the best Islands you can visit in Malaysia when it comes to marine life, snorkelling, diving and water sports!

What is your favourite Island?! Curious to read about it!

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