Perhentian Islands Travel Guide to Paradise
To say, “we found PARADISE in Perhentian“, would be the understatement of the year!!
So here is our travel guide to help you find it too:
Stay in Paradise
The Perhentian Islands are made up of 2 islands – Besar, the bigger more resort-orientated island and Kecil, the smaller more affordable island. But regardless of the tourism setup, both squeak as you walk over the blinding white sand, sing as you wander into the lush humid jungles and roar as you ly in bed, listening to the crystal clear waves rush over the shore.
This guide focuses on finding paradise on and from the Perhentian Kecil Island. Coral Bay and Long Beach are the two main accommodation spots – and only a 15 minute walk apart.
This is the best swimming beach, with white sandy shores and crystal clear water. It also has a secret corner of paradise just to the right of the boulders, on the very right end of the beach. Here the water is literally a glistening turquoise – and thus our home for a week.
This beach is where the night life thrives. Quirky and rustic bars are set up all along the shoreline with a beach mat, sheesha and cold beer kind of vibe. The music is pretty loud so don’t stay too central if you’re a sensitive sleeper. We slept peacefully on the hill (where the below picture was taken from).
The main draw card of Coral Bay is the sunset view. We walked over a few nights for this. The evenings are quiet and most of the resorts offer big screen movies in the restaurants for dinner. Long Beach is definitely more beautiful and better for swimming but the 24/7 electricity of the Coral Bay resorts is a definite draw card.
Walk to Paradise
From Long Beach, walk the 15 minute path over to Coral Bay. Then, facing the sea, walk left to the end of Coral Bay by Senja Bay and start your shoreline walk to paradise.
After 15 minutes on the narrow paved jungle path you will reach Rainforest Beach. We decided to have lunch at the Rainforest Camp restaurant. Not only was this quirky little spot much cheaper but it had a beautiful view of the first beach stop.
Walk on another 15 minutes and you will reach one of our all time favorite spots – Mira Beach. Here we set up for the day, enjoying some epic snorkeling, hammock lazing and beach bat sessions.
How great are these boardies (Side note: Rudi has lost 13kgs since we started backpacking, so these sponsored shorts couldn’t have come at a better time). Go get your own here: Fat Face Beachwear !
Another 10 minutes of forest path will lead you to beach number 3 – Petani Beach.
Tips for the day: Wear walking shoes, spend the most time at Mira Beach and pack lots of water! Also if you are all sunned out like we were by the time you get to Petani Beach, you can skip the walk back and catch a local taxi boat back to Long Beach or Coral Bay for 20 to 25 MYR.
Drink in Paradise
There’s nothing like an ice cold sundowner in the sand after a long day in the sun. We loved the rustic wooden beach bars on Long Beach, but even more so, our own little spots in the sand.
A Coral Bay sundowner during sunset is also stunning, either on the beach or just to the right of that on the sun facing rock cliffs. Just pack a torch for your walk home to Long Beach.
But this gigantic OREA SHAKE – this is where paradise is found!! My word – we would literally fly all the way back to Malaysia just for this! You can find it at the Ewan’s Cafe & Restaurant on the walk between Long Beach and Coral Bay. We also ate here a lot – very cheap with big portions.
Swim to Paradise
You cannot come to Perhentian without doing the snorkeling tour. We have done a lot of snorkeling in Thailand, Mauritius, Philippines, Cambodia and Mozambique… but this was our all time best (with Palawan in the Philippines coming up pretty close).
We knew the snorkeling here was amazing and didn’t want to risk going on a bad tour. So we booked through the reputable Ombak Dive Resort (best decision)!
We swam with turtles ! Absolute dream come true! Turtle sightings are very common at Turtle Point. When we arrived we were the only boat in the bay. Things couldn’t have been better. Except they were – our fellow tourists were not comfortable swimming below the surface and so we spent a good 30 minutes all alone with this beautiful creature.
On a similar note, we were so impressed with how empty the whole tour experience was. We had just come from Thailand where the boats come in dozens and the tourists are almost as many as fish (can’t decide whether that’s a little dramatic or pretty spot on, lol).
The tour stopped at two absolutely pristine beaches. The first being Romantic Beach. Again, we were the only boat there.
How tropical is our new Fat Face Swimwear? We received the above “paradise feel” swimwear from their Summer Collection. This brand really caters for the active lives of travelers without skimping on style!
The second beach stop was just next door at Adam & Eve Beach.
The snorkeling itself was unbelievable. We swam with baby blacktip sharks (Jen: “the best kind of sharks to be swimming with”), adult blacktips sharks, stingrays, giant bumphead parrotfish, angel fish… and so the list continues. *Watch our short GoPro video below to see just how magical the coral life is.
We also got to jump off lighthouse towers, attempt a bit of free diving down to 16 meter shipwrecks and visit a local fishing village for lunch. As you can tell, this was the highlight of our stay at Perhentian.
Kayak to Paradise
Another awesome option is to hire a kayak from Coral Bay and paddle right, towards two small remote beaches and then around the corner to Romantic Beach and Adam & Eve’s Beach. This way you can avoid the long sweaty jungle hike and stop off at as many otherwise inaccessible beaches as your salty heart desires. You can also kayak left off coral bay to Rainforest Beach, Mira Beach and Petani Beach instead of the walk we mentioned above. This would be our recommendation for beach hopping.
But if you aren’t confident on kayaks, there is the hiking route.
Hike to Paradise
Walk from Long Beach up to the Windmill (45 minutes). Here you can see the beautiful Blue Lagoon / D’Lagoon. From here you can either walk down for a dip in the lagoon or carry on over the hill for another 30 minutes to Adam & Eve Beach. Pack sunscreen and mosquito spray and try to leave as early as possible to avoid the sun.
Although hot and a lot more effort – the hike will definitely provide some great opportunities to meet the locals. We bumped into numerous monitor lizards, squirrels, bats, eagles and even golden frogs.
Thats right, golden frogs !!! (this one joined us in the shower actually).
Dive to Paradise
We didn’t get the chance to dive, but Perhentian Kecil has become a well known spot for incredible diving. We were however, completely blown away by the prices! Having travelled through Southeast Asia, the rumors of Koh Tao in Thailand being the cheapest place to get licensed or go diving proved to be true. But Perhentian Kecil has officially taken the win !!
Watch our short GoPro video on this unbelievable island:
Where to Stay
Accommodation on the island, besides the one or two resorts, is very rustic. There are mainly bungalows and dorms of which most do not offer air-conditioning and only have electricity for certain hours of the day. The majority of budget accommodation do not advertise online, therefore operate on a first come first serve basis. We caught the first 7am boat from the mainland in order to have first dips on the best spots.
We stayed on the right hand side of Long Beach (best swimming side) at Lemongrass Bungalows. We paid 60 MYR a night for the bungalow. This is slightly more than most budget bungalows, but definitely worth it for the ideal location, hard pressure showers, comfortable mattress, clean room, and most of all, the hammocks to laze in during the afternoons when the wind blows in from the sea.
However, it is pretty rustic – which means the water was mostly cold, there are no cupboards or space to unpack and the holes between the wooden slats meant you were only safe from mosquitos inside the net.
The rustic experience is part of the Perhentian charm. But Ombak Dive Resort is also a great choice. They have 24/7 electricity which is very rare and the rooms are far more protected from mosquitos.
Being obsessed with the secluded and quiet paradise of Mira Beach, we would definitely stay in the Mira Beach Bungalows (also known as Keranji Beach Resort) if we were ever to return with a slightly higher budget. These stilted wooden bungalows are generously spaced apart, each with a stunning view and private hammock and deck.
If island paradise luxury is what you’re looking for, then the Perhentian Island Resort on Turtle Point is definitely the answer. We hope to visit here in the near future. Turtles and luxury villas – what more right ?!
But if you’re looking for a more secluded, jungle experience. There are campsites near Rainforest Beach. We considered these but didn’t feel their prices were low enough to justify sleeping without a fan. The Rainforest Camping had a wonderful restaurant and private beach as mentioned before. The tents are very basic. *Watch out for monitor lizards 😉 Instagram: @rainforestcamp.perhentian
Click on the below link for the best accommodation deals on the Perhentian Islands:
How to get to Perhentian Kecil
We arrived via an overnight bus from Georgetown to Kuala Besut bus terminal at 5am on Perdana Express for 55 MYR. Tickets for the bus can be purchased online via BusOnlineTicket. There were a few other travelers at the bus station when we arrived (half asleep). We all waited at the small station until around 6:30am and walked as a group to the Jetty which is 10 minutes away.
You can also fly from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru or Singapore to Kota Bharu’s Sultan Ismail Petra Airport. This is the closest airport to Kuala Besut Port, being a 1 hour drive away.
The Speedboats leave Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands. The tickets for the speedboat can be purchased from the men at the bus terminal or at the port directly. The cost for the speedboat is between 50 – 75 ringgit for a return ticket.
The Cost of Perhentian Island
The island is a bit more expensive than the mainland, like all other islands in Asia. The local food on average is between 10 – 15 MYR for a meal and a big bottle of water is 4 MYR. The alcohol on the island is expensive, a beer at a local beach outlet is between 8 -12 MYR. The cocktails are between 30 – 40 MYR.
Go find your paradise