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The Perhentian Islands are listed among the most popular holiday destinations in Malaysia. The two islands named Perhentian Besar (“besar” = large) and Perhentian Kecil (“kecil” = small) attract more and more tourists every year – whether backpackers, package tourists, divers or Malaysians from the big city who like to spend their weekend here.

Opinions about the Perhentian Islands, however, are very divided. Some rave about the dreamlike paradise beaches, while the others complain about the garbage and curse the islands. I wanted to find out for myself what it is all about. The fantastic photos on the internet were motivation enough and I did not want to believe in a garbage paradise.

Dream islands or garbage paradise? My impressions of the Perhentian Islands

Marcel at Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar

So I visited the Perhentian Islands for the first time last June and now describe my impressions of the 5 days stay. One thing in advance: my expectations were more than exceeded, at least on one of the islands.


How to get to the Perhentian Islands

The best way to reach the Perhentian Islands is by domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu (alternatively you can also fly to Kuala Terengganu). These are relatively cheap, and you should search for the cheapest flights on Skyscanner and compare them there. Several planes fly daily to Kota Bharu and the prices are usually very reasonable.

From Kota Bharu the journey continues to Kuala Besut, where the speedboats leave for the Perhentians. It’s about 1 hour to Kuala Besut and you have 2 options:

1. You simply take a taxi from the airport. This variant is the fastest and most comfortable, but also the most expensive one. However, you can save a lot of money by traveling with several people or by finding someone at the airport to share the taxi with you. I did so with a Swiss blogger couple as the staff member from the taxi stand randomly got us together. We paid a total of 78 ringgit, that is 39 each (about € 9), which is totally fine.

2. It’s a little cheaper with the minivan – I did that on the way back. The price per person is 25 ringgit and the ride does not take much longer. The minivan transport was very well organized and there were no problems.

Once in Kuala Besut, you’ll find some travel agents near the jetty selling speedboat tickets. The price for the speedboat is 35 ringgit per direction. You can buy a single ticket or a ticket back for 70 ringgit. You finally want to go back and when you redeem it does not matter.

As soon as enough tickets have been sold, the journey starts. Shortly before boarding the boat you have to pay a national park fee of 30 ringgit. The speedboats will take you directly to the beach of your accommodation.

If you do not want to take a speed boat and want to save some money, you can also take the slow boat, which is correspondingly cheaper, but only runs until early afternoon.

Accommodation on the Perhentians – our hotel tips

The selection of good and relatively cheap accommodation is limited on the Perhentians Islands. If you are looking for a slightly larger resort right on the beach (and one of the most beautiful beaches on the island), choose the Perhentian Island Resort on Perhentian Besar. Another highlight of this bay is that you can go snorkeling right from the beach and see turtles.

On the beach of the Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar
On the beach of Perhentian Island Resort

For the slightly smaller budget, stay at Suhaila Palace, which also has a good location. For more hotels on the bigger one of the Perhentian Islands, visit here.

On the small island, Perhentian Kecil, I stayed at the Ombak Resort, which I can recommend. It is located on Coral Bay and it is just a 15-minute walk to Long Beach.


Perhentian Besar (Big Island)

After about 40 minutes by speedboat my girlfriend and I arrived at our hotel Suhaila Palace at Tuna Bay. In the accommodation we were welcomed very friendly and also got the room key directly. The room could be paid later. Shortly after taking off the luggage, we wanted to explore the island immediately.

View from Perhentian Besar to the main village of Perhentian Kecil
View from Perhentian Besar to the main village of Perhentian Kecil

From Tuna Bay to Teluk Keke

The southwest coast of Perhentian Besar has 3 beaches: the Tuna Bay, another stretch of Tuna Bay on the Abdul’s Chalet Resort (also often called Abdul’s Beach) and further south Teluk Keke. All beaches can be explored by foot on a beach walk.

The first beach highlight was the beach section at Abdul’s Chalet: an absolute dream beach, where you can snorkel wonderfully. Especially at the adjoining pier, from which you have an even more beautiful view of the beach. But also on almost all other beaches of the southwest coast you can go snorkeling directly from the beach. The restaurant right on the beach, which also belongs to the Abdul’s, I liked very much.

Abdul Beach (Abdul's Chalet) on Perhentian Besar
Abdul’s Beach

Abdul Beach (Abdul's Chalet) on Perhentian Besar

Along these beaches you will also find some other dining options, accommodations, small shops and of course water taxi stops.

The water taxi is the only mean of transport on the Perhentian Islands. Since there are no roads on the islands, only jungle trails, it is the only way to get quickly from one beach to another or from one island to another. The prices are always signposted at the stops and are valid for one trip per person.

A typical small water taxi on the Perhentian Islands
A typical water taxi at Turtle Beach

Further south towards Teluk Keke it will be significantly quieter and more uninhabited. Here we have even spotted a monitor lizard on the beach, which is not unusual on the Perhentians. You can meet them often.

Teluk Keke on Perhentian Besar
Teluk Keke

Perhentian Island Resort

One of the most beautiful bays on the island is part of the adjacent Perhentian Island Resort, so the beach is often called Perhentian Island Resort Beach. Actually, the bay is called Teluk Pauh.

You can reach the beach and the hotel from anywhere by water taxi. It is more adventurous and exciting to take one of the jungle trails. From the Cozy Chalet (northern Tuna Bay) there is a trail that leads through the jungle, which is mostly well accessible (just beware of mosquitoes).

Jungle trail on Perhentian Besar
Jungle trail

After 20 minutes we did it. The rest of the way then leads to the Coral View Island Resort, located on a rocky peninsula. At this beach, which has admittedly many stones and dead corals, snorkelers are often found. I myself did not try it here.

Beach at Coral View Island Resort on Perhentian Besar
Beach at the Coral View Island Resort

From there it is only a few-minutes walk to Perhentian Island Resort. The large bay offers turquoise, clear water and is great for swimming and snorkeling. Here you will find colorful corals, Nemos and at the Turtle Point also turtles, which sometimes swim to the surface.

Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar
Perhentian Island Resort

Small beach at the Perhentian Island Resort on Perhentian Besar

Marcel at the Perhentian Island Resort on Perhentian Besar

Water turtle off Perhentian Besar

Nemos (Clownfish) off Perhentian Besar

At the resort you can rent snorkeling equipment or a kayak and explore the bay. We liked it so much that we even came here twice and took the jungle trek from Tuna Bay again. The restaurant on the beach offers e.g. burgers for only 12 ringgit and has a great service. For me definitely one of the most beautiful places on the island.

Malaysia Flag at Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar

Perhentian Island Resort beach on Perhentian Besar

Water taxi station at the Perhentian Island Resort, Perhentian Besar
Water taxi station at the Perhentian Island Resort

So if you have enough travel budget, a stay at Perhentian Island Resort is certainly very nice and definitely worthwhile.

Turtle Beach

The next bay to the northeast is a true paradise with even a kind of Maldives feeling! For me personally the most beautiful beach of the island with such a clear and turquoise water, as I have rarely seen elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The powdery white sand is beautiful, too. I would even name it as one of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia (so far). A must-visit!

The Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar

The Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar

The name of the Turtle Beach comes from the fact that turtles use them as a resting place and hatchery at night. Thus, it may no longer be visited by tourists from late afternoon.

You can not reach the Turtle Beach on foot, you must definitely take a water taxi. Then you can arrange a time with the taxi driver to pick you up again.

The Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar

Tiny beach section of the Turtle Beach on Perhentian Besar

By the way: on this beach there was no garbage at all. It really has a true paradise feeling and too many tourists were not there as well. Even the other beaches on Perhentian Besar were actually all pretty clean during our visit.

Perhentian Kecil (Small Island)

For the sake of completeness, we spent one day on Perhentian Kecil. About Perhentian Kecil, especially about its main beach (the Long Beach), you don’t find many positive opinions on the web. Accordingly, I have screwed down my expectations after the Perhentian Besar stay significantly.

By taxi boat we went over to the Small Island for 20 ringgit, more precisely to our accommodation directly at the Coral Bay, the Ombak Resort.

Coral Bay (Senja Bay)

The Coral Bay is the second largest bay on the island, where some hotels/resorts, restaurants, diving schools and small shops have settled. Although admittedly there are quite many buildings, there is a beautiful palm beach and turquoise water.

Coral Bay (Senja Bay) on Perhentian Kecil
Coral Bay (Senja Bay)

Coral Bay (Senja Bay) on Perhentian Kecil

I really liked it here, although my expectations were already very low. In my opinion, Coral Bay is a good choice if you choose Perhentian Kecil. The main beach, the Long Beach, is only a 10-minute walk from here, which leads across the whole island.

Small road from Coral Bay to Long Beach across Perhentian Kecil
Small road from Coral Bay to Long Beach across the small island

Long Beach

No big talk: the Long Beach was a full disappointment! Construction sites, full of colorful plastic chairs, loungers and umbrellas. Here and also on the way there I noticed the first garbage, that was already criticized by many other bloggers. The final K.O. for the beach was then the giant construction site at the northern end.

If you like going out, parties and fire shows in the evening and the rest does not bother you, then maybe you can have a good time here. It absolutely was not my thing and in my opinion no comparison to the rest of the island, especially not to Perhentian Besar.

Ok, you can eat here very well and have a relatively large selection. No wonder with all the tourists here. In good weather (on the day I was there, it was also a bit rainy), the water is perhaps also nice to look at (if it’s not just full of boats) and at the pier you probably can have some nice snorkeling, too. But nothing more.

The Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil

Big construction site at Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil
Big construction site at Long Beach
Taxi prices on Perhentian Kecil
Taxi prices on Kecil

Best beaches on the Perhentian Islands

My favorite beaches on Perhentian Besar were definitely Turtle Beach, Perhentian Island Resort Beach (Teluk Pauh) and the beach section at Abdul’s Chalet. Each beach is a real paradise and at these places I didn’t see any garbage during my stay.

For time reasons, I only visited Long Beach and Coral Bay on Perhentian Kecil. Since the Long Beach was an absolute disappointment for me, I would definitely prefer the Coral Bay. On arrival to Perhentian Besar, however, I noticed some tiny dream beaches in the southeast of Kecil, which are certainly worth a visit or even a stay, at least if you like it totally quiet and secluded. One of them is the Mira Beach or Petani Beach.

Accommodations

Accommodations on the Perhentians Islands are comparatively expensive. They are usually very simple and often have fans only. The standard is not really according to the price category. If you want air conditioning and a higher standard, you have to pay extra!

It’s also important to book your accommodation online in time, especially in high season. Just going there and look for a hotel on the spot is not always recommended – in the worst case you will not find anything and have to go to another beach or maybe even the other island.

The largest selection of hotels can be found on the small island on Long Beach and Coral Bay. On the big island you find most on the southwest coast along the Tuna Bay. Some more are located at Flora Bay.

Conclusion – is a trip worthwhile?

Well, I’ll make it short: Perhentian Besar’s beaches absolutely impressed me and I would go there anytime again! The often mentioned garbage was not visible and I would recommend anyone to go there. Assuming you like it a little more quiet and need no action in the evening. For my girlfriend and me as a couple it was absolutely perfect.

In my opinion you can completely skip Perhentian Kecil and should rather – even if it is priced moderately more expensive – visit Besar.

What else you should know

  • ATMs are currently not available on the Perhentian Islands – so bring enough cash. However, some hotels and resorts do accept credit cards.
  • Food is relatively expensive on the islands, whether Malaysian food or western food.
  • The Wifi is often very weak and unreliable. A signal with a Malaysian SIM card is available, but mostly it is 3G and 4G is rarely available.
  • Alcohol is not offered everywhere, at least not if the owners are Muslims. Wherever you can buy alcohol, the prices are a bit higher.
  • Every now and then power outages can occur. However, many good resorts have their own generators.
  • The best time to travel for the Perhentians is around March through October. High or Peak Season are the months from June to July, where accommodations are usually fully booked. So make sure to book far in advance. In the low or off season, some resorts are even closed and the boats are not always operating.
  • I was there at the end of June, which was still Ramadan during that time. That’s why it was not quite so full. By the way, you can tour the islands without any problems during the Ramadan month. As a tourist it’s not a problem and you just have to wait a little bit longer for your dinner sometimes. Because shortly before the so-called “Close Fasting” the employees of the restaurants eat and do not work. During the day some small food shops are closed. In any case, you will not starve!

Plan your trip to the Perhentian Islands now

More hotel recommendations for the Perhentian Islands:


Have you been to the Perhentian Islands? How did you like it and what were your impressions? Tell us about your trip to the Perhentians.

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Marcel

Hi, I'm Marcel! Blogger, author, web & graphic designer and digital nomad. I love traveling in Southeast Asia and exploring wonderful beaches and trying delicious food. My home base is Koh Phangan, Thailand. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.