Heading to the east coast of Malaysia and trying to work out which island (or “Pulalu” as it is in Malay) is worth your time? It’s something I get often asked “which is best Pulau Redang vs Perhentian vs Tioman” – and to be honest, there is no easy answer as it really depends what you’re looking for.
When I first planned a trip to the east coast of Malaysia, I scoured the internet for hours trying to work out whether Tioman or Redang or Perhentian was best. Which was the best looking? Which is overcrowded? Which is the easiest to get to?
It was surprisingly hard to work this out – Redang – Perhentian – Tioman – they all looked amazing. So instead of working out a winner from Redang vs Perhentian vs Tioman, I decided to visit them all! Which I have to say, is the best way to go if you can!
However, for most people, visiting Tioman AND Redang AND Perhentian isn’t going to be an option especially as it isn’t the easiest thing to get from Perhentian to Tioman (although it is quite straightforward to get from Redang to Perhentian Islands and vice versa – more about this below!).
So is Pulau Tioman, Pulau Redang or Pulau Perhentian better? Well, it really depends on what you are after. Below, I break down the differences so you can decide your own winner of Pulau Tioman vs Pulau Redang vs Pulau Perhentian!
I also share how to get between the islands if you decide you want to visit more than one (great choice!).
Table of Contents
Quick Overview Of Each Of The Islands
To help you figure whether you want to visit Pulau Redang or Perhentian or Tioman (or all three) below I provide a brief overview of each of the islands as well as a map so you can see where they are located compared to each other.
As you can see from the map below while all islands – Perhentian – Redang – Tioman are all on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia – only Perhentian and Redang are near each other. This is why most people tend to visit Pulau Perhentian or Redang – although I highly recommend you consider Tioman as well.
Tioman Island is the biggest of these islands at 20 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide. Located off the coast of northern Johor, it’s the biggest and southern most of the islands pictured on the map above. In the 1970s Time Magazine named it one of the world’s most beautiful islands as it still is today.
While staying on the island there are waterfalls, jungle hikes, villages, beaches and an underwater marine park to explore. To get around, you’ll find a short road on the east coast and one that connects across to the west, but mostly you are relying on sea taxis and your feet to get around. Its size makes it easy to escape.
The highest mountain is 1038 metres and this does feel like a mountainous island. Good surfing is possible during the monsoon season. Although one of the main things to do here is to go diving – the dive season goes from March to October and many of the local resorts offer some great deals during this time.
To get to Tioman Island, the ferry ride is 1.5 – 2 hours depending on your final destination.
Redang Island is one of nine islands that are surrounded by a marine park for great snorkelling and diving. The island is famous for its stunning white sandy beaches and crystal clear water which is every shade of blue.
Redang Island is 7 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide with the highest peak being 359 metres. It has a reputation of being a resort island with higher end resorts making up the majority of the accommodation here.
There is also a lack of roads on Redang with sea taxis and trekking being the way to go. The main activities are focused around water sports and trekking.
Redang is an hour and a half ferry ride from Kuala Terengganu or 40 minutes from Merang.
Given the two islands close proximity people often ask – Redang or Perhentian – which one is better and the truth is that depends! Given it’s easy to go from Pulau Perhentian to Pulau Redang my recommendation is to go to both!
The Perhentian Islands have a reputation as being the backpacker choice and there are definitely more non-Asian tourists here than the other islands. The islands are more built up than others and this makes it easy to get around and join activities and tours. There is a noticeable trash problem but minor compared to what you see in Thailand.
The main islands are called Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil and are where the accommodation is located. The islands are surrounded by a marine park for great snorkelling and diving. The highest point is around 100 metres and there are some great trekking opportunities.
The ferry from Kuala Besut takes 30 – 45 minutes depending on which part of the islands you are going to and how many stops are first. There are no roads.
As mentioned above it’s easy to go from Perhentian Islands to Redang so if you can’t decide between Perhentian Island vs Redang – why not go to both!
Redang vs Perhentian vs Tioman Comparison
Now you know a little about the islands – (yep Pulau Redang – Pulau Perhentian – Pulau Tioman – are all beautiful!) – let’s try and narrow it down a little more to which island might be best for you depending on your interests and the type of holiday you are looking for.
Best Natural Experience
Whether you go to Tioman, Redang or Perhentian, all three islands are in a Marine Park with great snorkelling and diving. Sadly, all three don’t police how this is accessed and the coral is dying. They all have a jungle filled interior and you aren’t going to lack for natural experiences at any.
However if you’re after a more natural experience weighing up Pulau Perhentian vs Pulau Redang vs Pulau Tioman, I do think Tioman offered the most here thanks to its size. It’s also more mountainous and seems more undiscovered – I felt like I was coming up to a Jurassic Park style island as we approached Tioman!
When it comes to Pulau Perhentian vs Pulau Redang for this category, second place goes to Redang Island. This is simply because the Perhentian Islands are more built up. However, the upside of Perhentians is that the trekking is better signposted and it’s easier to get around.
All of the islands are beautiful. If you only visit one of the islands on this list, you’ll think you are visiting the most beautiful island , regardless of which island you go to. So regardless of Pulau Perhentian vs Redang vs Tioman, they are all just stunning.
However, when it comes to Redang or Tioman or Perhentian, the winner for me is clear.
Honestly, Long Beach took my breath away when I first saw it and I have been to tons of beaches around the world declared to be the best.
The sand is just so so white and the water every shade of blue. It wins far and away from me.
Perhentian Island is not far behind. It had the shades of blue but the sand was not quite as white. Also, many beaches here are full of boats which ruins them somewhat.
Tioman Island definitely deserves a high mention here and it may be your most beautiful simply because it looks untamed and more remote.
Most Things To Do
The things to do on all the islands are very similar. Obviously, there is a huge emphasis on water sports and underwater activities. You can kayak, snorkel, dive, swim and relax on the beach anywhere.
There is jungle trekking everywhere.
So is Perhentian or Tioman or Redang better for activities?
I choose Perhentian. There is not just a good range of activities but they are easily accessible. It is very easy to go do whatever you like and it is somewhat obvious how to go about it. We particularly loved hiking here. You can read our list of things to do in Perhentian Island here.
Tioman Island really should win this category as I think it does have the best variety. However, the problem with Tioman is that everything is really spread out and it’s hard to work out how to go about anything. We found most tour desks unmanned, it’s hard to get a taxi, etc etc. It made it difficult to do things.
If you are visiting during the monsoon season though, Tioman Island is your best bet. This is the ideal time to go surfing here.
Redang Island has the least on offer (read our list here) but then it really is similar between them all.
On each island, we chose to stay in a similar style resort. This is a large resort with many facilities that gets great reviews and is not the priciest on each island but among the priciest.
With our accommodation, we got meals and ferry tickets.
When comparing Pulau Perhentian / Pulau Redang / Pulau Tioman the most expensive was Redang Island – about 40% more. But we also had a far superior experience at Redang and the resort was much better. You can read about the Laguna Redang Resort here.
So looking a Pulau Tioman, Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian it’s not really comparing apples for apples as unfortunately, the top resort experience at Redang isn’t available on these other islands.
If you compare Tioman to Redang and Perhentian it is much more expensive if you want to get around. Transport is crazy expensive on Tioman to the point where you can feel isolated and stuck at your resort.
Although I found food and drink cheapest on Tioman Island, particularly alcohol which is quite expensive on the other islands (Tioman is duty free). There are normal shops in the villages which make things cheaper since you can more easily get local prices.
It was all somewhat comparable but to give a winner (or should it be loser in this case?!) in Tioman vs Redang vs Perhentian Island, I’d say Redang is most expensive followed by Tioman and then Perhentian.
Perhentian Island is your best choice on a low budget.
The winner for best accommodation when it comes to Pulau Perhentian or Pulau Redang or Pulau Tioman is easy for me – Redang Island.
It is home to one of the best resorts we have stayed at in Malaysia when it comes to having great facilities, rooms and just being well organised. We loved the Laguna Redang.
If you’re after a top resort where things are just easy and you don’t have to think about anything, Redang Island was the only place where I really saw this as an option with Taaras also being highly rated.
Tioman comes in next here with Perhentian last thanks to not having any really top resorts (but I did still love the Perhentian Island Resort here).
If you want a big range of budget accommodation then out of Pulau Perhentian – Redang – Tioman, the Perhentian Islands wins that contest. Redang Island has a reputation of being for package tourists, but you don’t need to buy a package to go there.
This one is tricky as I didn’t spend long enough to try enough local food to really make an informed decision.
However, from the experiences I did have, the winner of Redang Island or Perhentian Island or Tioman for me is Tioman Island.
I had some great local meals here without trying too hard. Although the meals in my resort (Berjaya Tioman) were not good at all and among the worst I have had in Malaysia. My best resort meals were definitely in Redang.
If you like a glass of wine or a beer or other alcohol, Tioman wins here too. It’s a duty free island and wine was the cheapest I have ever had it in Malaysia.
On Perhentians, it is relatively hard to get alcohol. It isn’t served in many of the top resorts.
Easiest To Get To
This somewhat depends on where you are coming from.
If you are coming from Singapore and don’t want to fly anywhere then Tioman Island. Otherwise, Perhentian and Redang win because they are much closer to airports and the ferry times are shorter.
It’s also overly complicated to get to Tioman Island on the ferry because times vary daily and they don’t run as often as the other islands (but during the monsoon, they are more regular than the other islands). You can read my full guide to getting to Tioman Island here.
So the winner? I pick Redang Island. It was the smoothest and easiest island for us to get to. Perhentian Islands are not far behind. It’s also easy to hire a boat from Perhentian to Redang if you want to visit both these islands.
If you are after an easy holiday experience, Redang Island wins by far. It felt like there was no way to completely avoid hassle at Tioman Island thanks to an overly complicated ferry process and getting around the island once there is frustrating. Staying at the Laguna Redang, in particular, is a very polished experience.
Perhentian Islands are relatively easy especially once you are there with sea taxis everywhere and some great walking tracks. But this comes at the price that it feels much more touristy than the other options with boats and tourists everywhere. There’s also far more non-Asian tourists and it’s more built up.
Redang is more set up for package tourists, but it’s fine to visit without a package. Plus, I’m not sure why this is looked down on by some travel segments really as it doesn’t mean more people or that you have to do the same as everyone else.
If you are visiting during the monsoon season which is late October to early March, all these islands shut down at least somewhat. The only one I would consider visiting is Tioman Island and, if you are a surfer, this is actually the top time to go.
Tioman vs Perhentian vs Redang Winner?
Redang Island is my winner!
It’s just so gorgeous.
Plus, I visit tropical islands because I want an easier holiday and Redang delivers this.
I did really like the other islands too though and when it comes to Pulau Tioman vs Pulau Perhentian, I do pick Perhentian because it was so easy to get around and do things.
But it really depends on what you want for your holiday. I hope the points above help you find your winner of Tioman Island or Perhentian or Redang Island.
Should You Visit More Than One Island?
It is relatively easy to hire a Perhentian to Redang boat and travel between the two islands. So combining both these islands on your trip is very doable. It is much tougher to combine Tioman Island with the others.
I would only recommend going to all three or Tioman and either Perhentian Islands or Redang if you have at least a week. Even then, you are going to have at least one long travel day and it kind of gets away from the point of a fun island break.
However, if you have more time, I highly recommend island hopping up the east coast along with visiting cities like Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu (that’s what we did). There are also beautiful beaches in Cherating and one of our favourite resorts in the country. With 2+ weeks, this would be a great trip.
How To Travel From Perhentian To Redang
While there is no Redang to Perhentian ferry, it is possible to hire a boat to take you from the Perhentian Islands to Redang or from Redang Island to Perhentian Island – either Besar or Kecil.
You may get lucky and be able to share a boat with other people, but otherwise, you will need to hire your own boat which can be costly. We paid RM645.
We found this worthwhile as it took only an hour compared to most of the day travelling had we gone back to Kuala Terengganu, travelled overland to Kuala Besut and then caught a ferry from there to Perhentian Islands which is your only other option.
If you decide to take the other option, note that you will want to start early as it would be annoying to miss the last boat to Perhentian or Redang (depending on which way you are travelling). You can see the latest timetable here for Perhentian Islands or here for Redang.
However, you will save money travelling from Pulau Redang to Pulau Perhentian this way.
If you decide to take a direct boat, contact your hotel in both locations and most probably at least one of them will be able to organise it. We organised ours via the Perhentian Island Resort.
You can find more details about travelling to Perhentian Islands here.
If you still can’t find your own winner from Tioman Island vs Redang Island vs Perhentian, I have good news! They are all great so you can’t go too wrong!
I hope this article will help you come up with your own winner and whether you find Tioman or Perhentian or Redang better, that you have a fabulous trip!
When you have decided on Tioman, Redang or Perhentian, read our full guides to each of these destinations to help you plan your trip!
All our Tioman Island guides are here. All our Redang Island guides are here or click here to download your full PDF guide to Redang now! All our Perhentian Island guides are here.
Sharon is an Australian who has fallen in love with Malaysia! She explores Malaysia multiple times a year, often with her kids, and has previously lived in Penang.