The Perhentian Islands was high on my bucket list. Turquoise blue waters. A mecca for divers and snorkelers… both beginners and advanced. And now that I have been, I am in love with the place. Everything is on island time, so just grab that cocktail and chill by the beach.
Perhentian Island is magical.
It is paradise.
I truly could not believe my eyes when our boat arrived to the Perhentian Islands. The water was blue like a swimming pool – no photoshop, no editing required… It was blue as blue can be, and it was gorgeous.
These islands are located in the east coast of Malaysia in the state of Terengganu. A total of 5 islands makes up the Perhentian Islands, of which only 2 islands are inhabited – Perhentian Besar (translated to Big Perhentian) and Perhential Kecil (Small Perhentian).
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Where to Stay – Perhentian Besar or Perhential Kecil?
When I first started research about traveling to the Perhentian Islands, I was scratching my head deciding which island would be best to stay on. Basically it comes down to the type of traveller you are.
Perhentian Besar is for those who are happy to just stay in their resort, relax by the beach, and move around the island by boat. This means most likely breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be had in the resort, and it is not as easy to move around unless you book a boat taxi. In general, the resorts on Perhentian Besar will be a bit pricier, and many will offer all-inclusive deals.
One of the more popular resorts on Perhentian Besar is Tuna Bay Island Resort. It does book out quite quickly so do try and book early if you plan to stay here.
Perhentian Kecil offers a bit more variety.
On Perhentian Kecil, you will find several different resorts, some more accessible than others. This means that depending on where you stay on the island, you may or may not need a boat taxi to move around the island.
Long Beach and Coral Bay are the most accessible spots on the island. These areas offer an array of accommodation and food options. You may read that Perhentian Kecil, in particular Long Beach is more a backpacker scene. And it is true to a degree. There are a variety of budget accommodation, but there are also options for the more boutique traveller. The northern side of Long Beach (near the jetty) is quieter, and we stayed at the Bubu Long Beach Resort.
Long Beach is the most popular part of Perhentian Kecil to stay on…and for good reason. The beach is amazing, there is a great reef right around the corner from the jetty, and there is a decent selection of food and accommodation options.
Coral Bay is on the opposite side of the island and also offers an array of accommodation options. The beach is alright, although I found the beach at Long Beach to much better…however Coral Bay is great for sunset.
Whether you choose to stay on Coral Bay or Long Beach, both are connected by a walking path, which takes between 15-20 minutes. The walk starts from around the Seahorse Divers store on Long Beach and ends at the Ombak Resort at Coral Bay.
If you had to ask me for my opinion on where to stay, I would 100% recommend Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil. In particular, we loved staying at the Bubu Long Beach Resort.
Getting to the Perhentian Islands from Kuala Lumpur
At first glance it might seem a bit complicated. First a flight, then a car, then a boat, and then maybe another boat again. But fear not! Getting to Perhentian Island from Kuala Lumpur is actually a lot simpler than expected.
From Kuala Lumpur, the best airport to fly into is Kota Bahru. There are flights from both KLIA and Subang Jaya…so make sure to book carefully and not mix up the airports. From Kota Bahru airport, you need to drive to the Kuala Besut Jetty where you will then hop on a boat to the Perhentian Islands.
Once you are at the Kota Bahru airport, you can easily purchase your taxi and return ferry ticket to the Kuala Besut Jetty. There is a stand right before the exit of the arrivals hall to purchase. Truly, there is no point purchasing your ferry ticket at the jetty because the price is the same. And so I recommend purchasing your ferry ticket at the airport to save you time and hassle.
It takes approximately 1 hour to get from the airport to the Kuala Besut Jetty. Then once you arrive at the jetty, simply head down to the departure point. Before you can get through the departure gate though you do have to purchase a “Marine Conservation Fee” ticket. The booth to purchase this ticket is right at the departure spot.
Then once you get on the ferry, it is about a 30-45 minute trip out to the Perhentian Islands, depending on the weather and water conditions. The ferry from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands runs until 4:30pm.
On the way back, there are only 3 ferry departures – 8am, 12pm, or 4pm. And once you are back at Kuala Besut, there are plenty of taxis ready to take you back to the Kota Bahru airport.
To help you plan your budget, here are some key prices (correct at June 2017):
One-way taxi from the airport to the jetty: RM 78 (A$ 23 / U$ 18)
Return ferry: RM 70 per person (A$ 21 / U$ 16)
Marine Conversation Fee (Non-Malaysian): RM 30 per person (A$ 9 / U$ 7)
One-way taxi from the jetty to the airport: RM 75 – RM 80 (A$ 22 / U$ 17)
My travel recommendation
Travel with only carry on and book the 6:30am flight with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bahru. It’ll get you to Kota Bahru by around 7:30-7:45am (if there are no delays).
Once you hop off the plan, head straight to buy your taxi and return ferry ticket at the airport before you exit. This should get you on the road pretty soon after and heading straight to the jetty. Hopefully you’ll get to the jetty in time to catch the 9am ferry. This means you should be at Perhentian Island by 10am-10:30am.
On the way back, we booked a late flight, which meant we could spend a good part of the day on the island. We took the last ferry at 4:00pm.
Best Time of the Year to Visit
The best time of the year to visit is between April to September, in particular the shoulder season. July and August is high season, so you’ll find that accommodation can get quite pricey. Travelling during the shoulder season is best as you’ll avoid the crowds and accommodation should be more affordable.
Come October onwards, it starts raining, with November onwards bringing the monsoon season. The island shuts down at this time until mid to end of March when it reopens for business.
Been there, done that, and will definitely be going back again. I loved the Perhentian Islands and can’t wait to be back again.
I recommend pre-booking your accommodation before travelling to the islands. You’ll find most via several booking sites, but I have found that if you book directly you may even be able to snap up a discount.
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