Perhentian Island, or Pulau Perhentian in Malay, is a cluster of islands in the northern part of Malaysia that is also a part of the Terengganu state. Encompassing mainly two islands, “Perhentian Kecil” (small in Malay) and “Perhentian Besar” (big in Malay), the names are unsurprising because of the differences in their respective sizes, with the former being 10 kilometers long while the latter being 20 kilometers long. Depending on what your budget is, Perhentian Kecil is more budget-friendly, while still allowing visitors to enjoy a relaxing holiday surrounded by untouched nature. One could also choose to dive or do some snorkelling here, whereas Perhentian Besar is a little on the pricey side, and is a great destination for couples on a romantic retreat. Of course, it is fairly easy to hop from one island to another via boat taxis, should one choose to do so. This under-the-radar paradise is certainly the perfect getaway from life’s incessant demands with pristine beaches and crystal clear water, hospitable locals and spectacular diving and snorkeling sites. All this does come with a cost, however, as getting here can be quite challenging, as you’ll have to choose between flights or long and bumpy boat rides, if you’re fortunate enough to get one, but rest assured, upon your arrival, all of that would be worth it. Here’s what to know once you get here!
What can you do here?
Have fun in the water
The most obvious answers are diving, snorkelling, swimming, and island hopping, as one would guess on a piece of land surrounded by a large body of water. Despite the absence of the typical attractions one would expect when traveling like museums and galleries, one finds joy in the simplicity of the Perhentian Islands. With over 20 diving sites, diving in Perhentian Island is an experience like no other! While the price may feel a little steep, it’s a pretty good bargain when you consider the plethora of aqualife you’ll get to observe up close such as turtles, colourful fish, and even sharks (don’t worry, they’re harmless), especially with how clear the waters are here, allowing up to 20 meters of easy visibility underwater! It is not uncommon to find divers from all over the world coming here, and even if you’re a newbie, experts are available to assist you in these underwater activities, or you could check out the diving school here. Do note to come around April to October, though, as it is said to be peak diving season, with warm weather and lesser crowds. If diving isn’t your thing, snorkeling is another fun (and much cheaper) way to enjoy the rich marine life the island has to offer! Alternatively, you could also choose to have a similar scuba diving experience with a scuba walker, without the hassle of getting wet! Moreover, you could also try the hottest water sport of the region — sea kayaking! Due to how flat the waters around the islands are, you could rent a kayak along with the necessary equipment to go it alone, or sign up for an organized tour that would be more reassuring for beginners that wish to explore the place.
Watch Some Turtles
Other than those water-related activities, did you know you could go turtle watching too? Perhentian Island is actually home to an incredible population of turtles, and if you plan your trip right, you could come here when it’s turtle hatching season and witness the rare sight of turtles coming ashore to nest and lay eggs before heading back into the ocean with baby turtles in tow. One tip to get a better view of these creatures is to bring night vision binoculars, as the event usually happens at night. If you’re not satisfied merely watching from the sidelines, you can actually become a volunteer at the turtle sanctuary and help preserve the turtles’ nesting areas.
Jungle trekking is another activity you can add to your list to get a true taste of the wild on the jungle fringed islands. The multiple trails on site would take you past well-preserved idyllic rivers and lush rainforests. The animals on land are just as interesting as the animals in the sea, and you’re most likely to spot monitor lizards or monkeys! Like the sea animals, they are mostly harmless and keep to themselves, as long as they aren’t disturbed.
Watch a Fire Show
While it’s a little quiet in the nightlife department, one can be entertained on the Bubu Long Beach, where you can witness hula and fire dancing! It’s ironic how something so dangerous could also be so mesmerizing, making it difficult to tear your eyes away. The show typically takes place when the sun sets, and the natural backdrop of the fading golden rays adds a nice aesthetic touch to the performance. Besides, keep a look out for community performances by the locals, so do be sure to check the website as they happen throughout the day everyday.
Visit the Nearby Fishing Village
If it feels like the list of things to do here has dried up, you could try and visit the nearby fishing village on Perhentian Kecil. While it is slightly underdeveloped, it does have basic amenities should you wish to get some fruits and vegetables here. Besides, you can also watch the fishermen going about their daily lives, and get a glimpse of how they haul their catch.
Considering the fact that there are two islands, it is important to decide where you’ll be spending more time, and choose an accommodation there. As mentioned previously, Perhentian Kecil is a better choice for the financially conscious, and is actually more developed between the two, so the nightlife there is more prominent. Despite it being pricier in Perhentian Besar, there is a wider range of hotels there, and sometimes you might get a pretty good deal there, compared to its counterpart. Nonetheless, any choice you make is completely fine. Here are some accommodations in each island that you may want to consider.
Perhentian Island Resort Beach
If you’re looking for a place that has both helpful staff and efficient service, Perhentian Island Resort Beach is the place to stay at! For those that just wish to unwind,snorkelling is greatly encouraged, as this particular bay is also home to turtles. With restricted boat traffic here, you can just dip in without any concern, and explore the good spots around the jetty area! The rooms are generally comfortable with sufficient amenities and facilities, and you’ll never go hungry here as there are buffet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Barat Perhentian Besar Resort
About a 4-minute walk from Perhentian Island Resort Beach, it is also very near several beaches and restaurants. International cuisine will also be served as breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, alongside a bar lounge and a snack bar. It’s especially a delight for those that hate smelling smoke, as this hotel has a no-smoking policy. Furthermore, it is near kayaks and taxi boats, should you wish to visit Perhentian Kecil. Fairly clean and friendly staff, this is a fantastic place to stay at!
Scattered with the best hotels that Perhentian Kecil could offer, this vacation spot is quite a hit with tourists, especially those that want to party. Surrounded by a beautiful stretch of white sand and clear water, Long Beach is where you can find a beautiful stretch of white sand and clear water. All that glitters is not gold, however, as there are a couple of drawbacks, mainly the trash problem behind hotels. It might be a little tough to go swimming in this area as boats often occupy the space here. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun place to check out, whether you’re looking for an active nightlife and a quiet stroll in the evenings.
If you’re tired of staying in hotels and resorts, why not change it up with a treehouse instead? The locals in Kecil (Perh)Towns are creative and imaginative, as they’ve set up their own accommodation with a tropical flair. Imagine these cozy structures swaying gently below you under exotic trees alongside the chirping sounds of birds nearby…nothing spells relaxation better than man reconnecting with their primal roots. Despite the small-sized rooms, it is still pretty comfortable, though meal serving time might not be as quick as you’d like it to be. Other than that though, it certainly would be a unique experience staying here!
Tupai Beach Bar
Tupai Beach Bar is the perfect spot to visit on the Perhentian Islands, as it creates a very chill and understated luxurious ambience, with drinks served in style and live music. Of course, the live performances are dependent on their availability. You can get any drink ranging from cocktails to ice cold beer at their beachfront bar, besides meeting locals or other tourists.
Panorama Divers Buffet Bar
Panorama Divers Buffet is the best place that’s easy on your wallet with a variety of food choices! Here, you’ll have the chance of tasting international and Asian breakfast items like banana pancakes or roti canai, including fried rice and noodle dishes. These are pretty heavy meals, so if you want something just enough to fill your stomach, you could try the omelette toast. Visitors and locals alike have often revisited this place for the mouth-watering dishes.
If you are looking for something to do on the Perhentian islands, come eat and relax at Santai Restaurant. It is famous for its sets of Western food and drinks, and it is highly recommended that you come here when the sun sets, as nothing beats ending the day with a good meal! The range of food choices here are burgers and pizzas, besides barbecued cuisine prepared with the fresh catches of the day, and is served every night by experienced chefs.
The World Cafe adopts an open-style food court concept that showcases the best seafood in town. With a Mediterranean flair, you can get Western classics with your choice of fillings that are cooked on the spot. Like Santai restaurant, there is a nightly barbecue with the fresh catches of the day transformed into meals that would tantalize your taste buds. Other than seafood sandwiches, pasta, and wraps, you could also enjoy beer and cocktails here.
Come visit Belinda Café for a more exotic flair to your meals, as this meals in this restaurant are a fusion of Thai and Malay recipes. Affordable, family-friendly, and scenic, this is one of the best eateries that should not be missed! If those won’t convince you, their filling portions should. Try their buttermilk chicken dish with papaya salad, you won’t regret it!
The Perhentian Islands is definitely a paradise that you should go to at least once in your lifetime. In case you didn’t know, the word “perhentian” means stop over, and it certainly befits its title. What are you waiting for? Come stop over for some fun in the sun!