Perhentian means “place to stop” in Bahasa Malay, the language spoken in Malaysia; The crystal-clear blue water swarming with aquatic life in Perhentian Islands will make you want to do that. Easily reachable from the northeast coast, the Perhentian Islands are the crown jewel of the islands of Malaysia. Attractive beaches, cheap scuba diving, and the chilled vibe of island life cause people to leave their hearts buried in the white sand once they leave the place. Here is a list of things to do in the Perhentian Islands.
Two islands make up the inhabited part of Pulau Perhentian, both with their unique personalities as well as devotees. Perhentian Kecil- the small island-tends to attract travelers, backpackers, and young crowds while the larger Perhentian Besar attracts more mature, resort-oriented travelers.
Visiting the Perhentian Islands
Though tourism is the lifeline of Pulau Perhentian, the islands have not lost their jungle appeal. There are no structures that are more than two stories tall, no motorized vehicles, and electricity is offered by temperamental generators which could leave you in the dark without any prior notice. The infrastructure available on the islands is quite low, there are no real “sites” or activities outside of enjoying the water and sun.
- Internet access is expensive and spotty; internet cafes here charge the US $5 per hour or more.
- There are no call centers on the islands, but in some areas, mobile phones do work.
- Sometimes, you can see lizards roaming around the island, do not worry, these are not Komodo Dragons like the ones on Rinca Island
- Before traveling to this place, keep enough cash with you as there are no banks or ATMs on the islands. Thieves target guest houses as they know that travelers will bring enough cash with them while coming to the island.
How to Reach the Perhentian Islands
Reaching the Perhentian Islands is simple, but there are a few different options based on how much time you have with you and your budget.
From most of the cities in Malaysia, it is easy to catch a bus to Kuala Besut where the ferries for the Perhentian Islands depart. Also, you can fly to Kota Bharu and take a taxi or bus to Kuala Besut situated just an hour away.
Things to do in the Perhentian Islands
Beach Bumming on the Perhentian Kecil- Grab your favorite book, your towel, and an umbrella, and park yourself on the white arch that is Long Beach. Having spent far too little time on beaches in South East Asia, emerging through the trees to see this postcard-perfect position unfolds under your feet will bring a big grin to your face. It is love at first sight for many. As you spend virtually every afternoon here out on the sand, churning through your podcast list, reading your favorite books, and taking swims on this beautiful beach you will want to visit the place again and again. With not much crowd, this is a perfect place for spending a lazy afternoon that many of us crave for.
You can take umbrellas on rent at Long Beach for 10 RM only for a day to protect yourself from the scorching sun. If you are looking for a secluded piece of sand, Perhentian Kecil is the perfect place for some genuinely little beaches.
Towards the north, you will find Adam and Eve beach, Turtle Beach, and D’ Lagoon. All of these can be accessed through the rocky trail leading uphill behind Long Beach. Romantic Beach is another beautiful spot situated in the north of Coral Bay which needs a rocky scramble along the coastline. Towards the south, follow the paved jungle trail to find Rainforest, Petani, and Mira beaches.
If you are not ready for a walk, you can reach any of these beaches by boat also- just ask at any of the shops or contact tour operators on Coral Bay or Long Beach.
On Perhentian Besar, most of the beaches are claimed by the resorts but Turtle Beach on the north side of the island is meant to be stunning and, predictably, a perfect spot to see the turtles.
Snorkel or dive
If you are visiting this place and not sure what to do, then diving or snorkeling is one of the important things to do in the Perhentian Islands. Koh Tao of Thailand may have long held the crown as the cheap place to dive in Asia, but the Perhentian Islands would give it a good competition for its money. For fuss-free, easy, and fun diving, it is a perfect place to see some attractive marine life and a few cool wrecks without worrying about affecting your pocket. Here, dive courses are the cheapest in the world.
If you are not interested in diving, then snorkeling is another great way to spend your day with several pockets of reef found right off the beach. Near the rocks around the Long Beach Jetty and the shelf off D’Lagoon are both great places to start with attractive sun-drenched coral and a lot of marine life. To make the most of your day, you can even join a half or full-day snorkeling trip which will take you to different spots around the islands for just 50 RM.
When you are in the water, mainly during high season when there is too much traffic, be careful. During this time, you must use a brightly colored flotation device to make others understand your presence.
Walk around the forest for enjoying the best views
When it is so humid that just walking a few steps is enough to have you sweating from top to bottom, wandering through the jungle is hardly the first activity that strikes the mind, but it is a great way to escape the island’s tourist fizz and experience it from a different perspective.
Between Long Beach and Coral Bay, a route that blends from rightly paved to broken and wildly lush hugs the southern coastline, weaving through dense jungle, across barren beaches, and amongst the Fisherman’s Village at the farthest point.
It takes nearly 2 hours to walk the 6 km distance, though you will want to allow more time to stop at the beaches on the way. The path worsens along the final stretch to Long Beach so be careful and watch your step.
Otherwise, take the 20-minute walk behind the Long Beach to the wind turbines hovering over the hill and a short way down the other side for beautiful views on the iridescent blue bay that calls you in for another dip. This trail will lead you to all the island’s Northern Beaches. Here, the way is quite steep and dusty so consider wearing something sturdy instead of flip-flops. The stairs on the farthest side of the hills are pretty banged up and you cannot go far before they become risky, but the views are mesmerizing.
Visit the Fisherman’s Village
Another one in the long list of things to do in the Perhentian Islands is a visit to the Fisherman’s village. While several visitors will not go further than Coral Bay, Long Beach and the rough way that joins them, the south of the island provides a wholly different experience. Far from the crowd, the Fisherman’s Village is where local life plods on, where kids ride their bikes along the sandy path, boat dash to and from the jetty boat and your existence, with strange stares.