No ATMs and no cars.
The Perhentian Islands (or Pulau Perhentian) is what island life should be – back to basics and a place to escape from it all.
I spent one night on the big island (Besar) and the remainder of my time on the smaller one (Kecil) which is much better suited to backpackers and a younger crowd.
WHAT TO DO
If you’ve ever wanted to get your PADI diving license then this is a fantastic place to do it.
I’m not a diver myself but I met so many people here on a course and they said it was one of the most affordable places to become certified.
Since I’m not a fan of diving this is what I prefer to do instead.
Book yourself an all day snorkelling trip on Coral Bay (much cheaper prices than on Long Beach) for 35RM (9 USD).
The tours include gear hire and a boat man (we had an adorable older man, he spoke almost no English but made sure each of us didn’t miss out on the highlights) who will take you to about 5-6 stops.
We saw reef sharks, turtles, clownfish and amazing coral.
It was a fantastic day out and I strongly recommend this!
There’s not an extensive amount of trails or anything on this small island but my friend and I did choose to hike up to the top where there are some windmills. Once on the other side you get some great views of Kecil.
Made it to the top!
You can also walk to Fisherman’s Village which is an area with locals and a few meals options but if you’re going here dress appropriately since this is the area with the mosque and pretty much everyone here follows Islam.
Fisherman’s Village as viewed from the boat
Tip: Beware of the monitor lizards. I saw quite a few but if you don’t bother them they’ll leave you alone although I still wasn’t brave enough to get up close for a picture!
Long Beach is where it’s at after dark. I enjoyed the nightly fire throwing performances which are right on the beach and are set up with small tables – you can order drinks and shisha here.
Afterwards there’s a small ‘dance floor’ or section of sand with a DJ or you can have some drinks at a couple of the bars along the beach but there probably is only a couple to choose from that are any good really since this is not a large island.
There’s also a couple places such as Ombak or Panorama which project movies outdoors each evening so have a look around at what’s playing if you’re keen.
As I was only away for a few weeks I decided I could afford the luxury of a massage and I had the CUTEST Thai lady as my masseuse – her name is Aunty June.
I booked through Bubu Resort and an hour cost 100RM (26 USD). You get your massage pretty much right on the beach so it makes for an awesome view!
My favourite place to eat was Ewan’s which conveniently was right next to where I was staying – it also probably has the best wifi on the island.
I can’t remember the name but the place with yellow chairs on Long Beach has delicious fruit juices!
They have a wide variety of food from Malay cuisine to toasted sandwiches and everything I had there was great.
While food on the islands will cost more than the mainland understandably, it’s still pretty affordable at Ewan’s for example I had this delicious mamak mee goreng for 8RM (2 USD).
Mamak Mee Goreng
Otherwise there’s quite a few options on both Long Beach and Coral Bay to eat. Many will have of course fresh seafood options and you can generally find pretty much every type of food available so you won’t be bored for options.
The two main beaches to stay on Kecil are Coral Bay and Long Beach.
I stayed on Coral Bay and splurged a little by getting my own room at Ombak which is a resort style place which cost me around 150 RM (39 USD) per night. A lovely breakfast was included in the price each morning also.
There are options for all budgets though – a couple of my friends stayed at Maya’s where you can get your own basic bungalow for 60RM a night (15 USD). Many places will only have electricity for certain hours of the day only and hot water may not always be an option so it’s best to find this out.
If you’re after a hostel a few friends I met were at Tropicana which is located on the path between the two beaches. This is around 20RM a night (5 USD) but unsurprisingly is very basic from what I heard and I know of a couple incidents involving possessions getting stolen from here and the staff apparently showed no sympathy or help in any way.
Many places of the Perhentians have no website so you’ll just have to book directly when you arrive there if you’re after the more budget options.
The only way is by speedboat from Kuala Besut jetty and the return trip cost me 70RM (18 USD). I took the 5pm one over and it was BUMPY but quite good fun even if there was a very real possibility of falling out of the boat as we literally flew over the waves to get there.
To get to Kuala Besut I flew to Kota Bharu with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur which only takes an hour. If you book in advance you can get great deals, my flight only cost 99 RM (25 USD) with baggage included. I then split a cab with a couple girls to Kuala Besut since it’s an hour drive from Kota Bharu. This will cost about 80RM (20 USD) each way. There is also a public bus available.
I know some people also use Kuala Terengganu as a base to get to the Perhentians so this is also an option. If you don’t want to fly there are overnight buses to both Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu from Kuala Lumpur. I believe this takes around 8 hours.