The Pulau Perhentian Islands (including Kecil, the small island, and Besar, the big island) are Malaysia’s finest islands and some of the best backpacker beaches in Southeast Asia. The islands are a paradise of white sand beaches, ultar-clear tourquiose-blue water, and a jungle interior. The islands are free of hassles, roads and touts. They are a place to sit back and relax. The islands lie many kilometers off the mainland coast, therefore prices are higher than the mainland.
March to November is the best time to visit. The islands close for the monsoon season and reopen around Chinese New Year in February. The high season is May to September, and finding accommodation can be hard.
Alcohol is available on the islands at bars and some resaturates (RM10 for a can of beer), but at some places you’ll have to ask.
There are no banks on the Perhenthians, or the towns from which the mainland boats depart. Stockup with cash before you head towards the region.
Generators provide the power to the restaurants and accommodation. Budget places will have power between 7pm and 7am, and it’s likely you’ll hear a generator running somewhere in the distance, or every closer! High end accommodation have power 24 hours per day.
There are some phone systems on the islands, but they are expensive. Maxis, and other Malaysian mobile phone providers have reception on the islands.
Diving & Snorkeling
Both islands offer excellent diving and snorkeling. The dive operators contend that the Perhentians offer all the underwater delights of the east coast of Thailand without the ‘dive-factory’ feel. Classes are smaller
Getting to and from the Islands
Boats leave from 2 jetty towns on the mainland, Kuala Besut and Tok Bali. Prices are RM35 each way.
Kuala Besut is a sleepy fishing with a few boat companies and a small bus station. More boats operate from Kuala Besut and you’ll find it easier to get to and from the islands from this port.
Kuala Besut boat operators
Watercolours Resort Sdn. Bhd.
t: 09 6974266
3 Arked Mara Besut, Jalan Pantai
Have fast boats (RM35 each way, 30 minutes) to the islands. They can also arrange a bus and taxi transfers to the Thailand border.
Getting to and from Kuala Besut
Some public buses, and more private bus companies run to Kuala Besut.
To Thailand: There is a bus to the Thailand border for which you’ll need to take the 8am boat from the islands. A taxi to the Thailand border costs RM70. Ask your boat operator to have one waiting at the boat jetty for you when you return from the islands.
Tok Bali has a newer and less frequent service to the Pehentian Islands, but services are constantly improving. Most taxi drivers will take you to Tok Bali as they get paid higher comission rates. If you get a boat from Tok Bali to the islands get just a one way ticket. You are then free to take a service back to Kuala Besut should you need to.