How to get to Perhentian Islands is one of the key questions for every traveler who wants to explore this beautiful place.
The Perhentian Islands consist of two islands: Pulau (which means “island”) Perhentian Kecil (“small”) and Pulau Perhentian Besar (“big”). They are not only a tropical paradise but also one of the cheapest places (if not the cheapest) in the world to get an open water diver certificate. If you either love beaches or diving or both, do not skip the Perhentians when you travel in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
In this article, we will talk about the best ways on how to get to the Perhentian Islands with extra tips on the best beaches, things to do and our favorite accommodations.
HOW TO GET TO THE PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
There are several options on how to get to the Perhentian Islands and we will mention all the ones we know.
The one essential mode of transport on how to get to the Perhentian Islands is by boat.
The closest city on the Malay peninsula is Kuala Besut. Here you will easily find boat transfers to the Perhentians. Tickets cost RM70 (RM35 one-way) plus an RM5 conservation fee. The small speed boats depart USUALLY at 08:00, 10:00, 12:00 and 16:00 (same times once you return to the mainland) and take 30 to 45 minutes.
The boats will go to most beaches and the resorts’ piers/pontoons. The captain will ask you for a hotel/beach name when you board. If you want to book something once you are there, the best place to look for (budget) accommodation on the Perhentians is Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil.
Tip 1: It might get rough on the boat, so if you tend to get seasick, do yourself a favour and take a motion sickness pill. 2. Also, pack light and secure everything that should not get wet.
Tip 2: Don’t even bother to spend too much time in Kuala Besut. Lonely Planet calls it a “lovely seaside town”. Not sure what this generous assessment is based on. We recommend to spend not more than a night here and to catch the boat the next day.
HOW TO GET TO PERHENTIAN ISLANDS FROM KUALA LUMPUR, GEORGETOWN AND SINGAPORE
If you plan to fly in by plane you will have to fly to Kota Bharu. There are connections to bigger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang (Georgetown) and Singapore. We paid a ridiculous 30€ (return) per person from Penang to fly to Kota Bharu.
From the airport, you can take a taxi (RM60 to RM70) or better use Grab to reach Kuala Besut. It’s a 1-hour ride. Or catch bus 639 which should be RM6 and take 1.5 to 2 hours.
Tip: You might fly with a smaller plane so don’t expect to fit a big backpack in the overhead. We did, though. It was fun (not).
YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ: DITCH TAXIS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND USE GRAB INSTEAD.
You can reach Kuala Besut by bus from Kuala Lumpur (9 hours), Kuala Terengganu (2 hours), Cameron Highlands, Penang, and other tourist destinations. Check Rome2Rio if you are unsure how to organize it.
THE BEST BEACHES OF THE PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
Once you make it to the Perhentians, it’s time for you to enjoy one of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. Yes, we are serious! I think we don’t have to write much about it, pictures will do 🙂 by the way this list includes just a few of the many options.
Turtle Beach, Perhentian Besar
In our opinion the best beach on the Perhentians. It can only be reached by taxi boat (a short taxi boat ride costs usually RM15) and has no hotels, restaurants or bars. It is as close to a paradise beach as it can get. When we visited we were alone. The water was calm and beautiful turquoise. The only downside to this beach is that there are no turtles. At least this is what we were told at the hotel reception. There used to be of course lots of them but I guess tourists scared them away with time.
Long Beach, Perhentian Kecil
For the main beach not bad but for our taste to busy to chill out. There are many boats anchored so be careful as the anchors are hidden in the sand. Be careful when you go for a walk. Especially when it’s dark.
Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil
Coral Bay is not as busy as Long Beach and it is located on the other side of the Kecil. However, this is the beach you should visit for sunsets. You will also find restaurants, dive schools, hotels and so on.
PIR Beach, Perhentian Besar
A beach with fine sand that never really seems to get to busy despite the hotels around. The snorkeling is wonderful here. You will very likely see turtles and maybe even a few (baby) reef sharks. Use the pier to reach deeper waters. Other than that there are loads of fish especially at the southern end of the beach where the rocks are located.
Adam & Eve Beach, Perhentian Kecil
Maybe the most beautiful beach on Perhentian Kecil. It can be reached on foot. It has shade, good snorkeling and not too many people around (or at least they can spread out). If you don’t mind swimming to find an even more secluded beachhead to the southern part of the beach and then around the rocks.
FUN THINGS TO DO ON THE PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
We love the Perhentian Islands as there are many fun things to do.
The Perhentians belong to one of the best diving spots in Asia offering one of the cheapest diving courses. So if you are planning to get certified, this is the place. If you are not sure if you like to get an Open water Certificate then you should do a discovery dive. It is super worthy. We did our Open water course with PADI.
Not into scuba diving? You can also go on awesome snorkeling trips. We stopped at 4 locations. I saw beautiful corals with so many “Nemos” (clownfish) around that I got bored to even count them all. And I even saw 3 Bumphead Parrotfish just one meter from me. Even Nico hasn’t seen them close like this during his dives. He still keeps telling himself that he saw one in the corner of his eye (but I’m sure he didn’t :D).
Both Kecil and Besut have a number of trails surrounded by lush rainforests with many kinds of animals, including cute monkeys like the one in the picture below. We actually didn’t even need to go far to see any monkeys, they were hanging around above our hotel roofs. You can also see large monitor lizards and all types of birds.
I just leave this picture here. No words needed.
HAVE A DRINK OR TWO AT LONG BEACH
Long Beach is a great place when you want to enjoy a bit of party life, watch a fire show and listen to some live music.
PERHENTIAN ISLANDS ACCOMMODATION
It is quite tricky in regards to accommodation on the Perhentian Islands. Overall the accommodation on the Perhentians is not necessarily a dream come true. But we try to help you find something anyways. We advise booking accommodation before you come. Especially during high season (May to September).
However, the really cheap places will not be on any booking website. If you are into that kind of thing, make sure to take the very first boat in the morning to the Perhentians. Most budget accommodation is located at Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil. If you want to come and take a look in person instead of booking in advance, this is the place you should check out. Accommodation on Perhentian Besar is generally more upscale than on Kecil.
We personally decided to stay on Besar as we prefer peaceful places rather than loud hostels with noisy bars and drunk people. We booked in advance and it was on short notice.
Check out a few Perhentian Island hotels we can recommend.
The Barat Perhentian, Perhentian Besar
This place is next to the water. It has a beautiful pier out on the water. There is also a restaurant, a dive center and the possibility to rent snorkel gear. The staff is very friendly. The food is solid but not necessarily cheap or diverse. If you get bored check the Thai restaurant that is right next to the hotel. PIR Beach is a short walk to the north.
Ombak Resort, Perhentian Kecil
Located at Coral Bay Beach it is a bit higher priced than the typical backpacker places around. The rooms are well-equipped and clean. Another plus is the attached dive center.
Bintang View Chalet, Perhentian Kecil
This typical backpacker favorite is located near Long Beach and has cheap walk-in rates. It offers clean bungalows with a private bathroom for around RM100 and a shared bathroom for RM50.
THINGS TO KNOW
There are a few things you should consider when you intend to visit the Perhentians.
WHEN TO GO TO PERHENTIAN ISLANDS?
The best time to visit is from March to the end of October. Monsoon season starts in November and lasts roughly until February. We visited at the end of October and were lucky as we got the last “good” week. During our last days the waves picked up and locals visibly started to prepare for the offseason.
Some resorts might stay open and you will still have several days with the sun. But diving and snorkeling will be no fun. Rough waves, bad visibility and closed down dive schools will make it hard to do it all. Furthermore, the boat ride from Kuala Besut on a rather small boat will be no bliss. If there are any boats going at all.
HOW TO PAY?
There are no ATMs on both islands. So bring enough cash and load up at the last ATM at the “harbor” in Kuala Besut. Be warned that this ATM might not work. If you come by plane get cash at the airport in Kota Bahru.
Don’t rely on hotels and restaurants to take credit cards. Some certainly do, but others don’t so prepare to have stacks of cash in your pockets.
One exception is dive schools. At least the big ones will take credit cards (and charge a commission/fee). So don’t worry about that. But ask beforehand especially if you take a course that will cost a few hundred ringgit.
Most accommodations offer Wifi at least in the lobby (or near the reception). In your room, you will probably need to depend on your mobile phone’s data. But don’t expect to have Internet everywhere.
The Perhentians are definitely more expensive than mainland Malaysia. Depending on where to decide to stay you will have not much choice regarding food and drinks. Beer will be around RM10 and a plate of fried rice RM10-15.
There are not many hotels on Perhentians, so if you don’t want to sleep in hostels, make sure to book your hotel in advance.
I hope we answered all your questions on how to get to the Perhentian Islands and regarding the awesome things you can do there. Hope you will enjoy your time there.
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