You’ve found your slice of paradise – Perhentian Islands! But now you are wondering what to do in Perhentian Islands?
You are in the right place. Below, we share all the best things to do in Perhentian Islands.
The Perhentian Islands (or Pulau Perhentian) are located off the east coast of the northern part of Malaysia. They are known for their beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, jungle trekking and fabulous underwater marine life. While these are the main Perhentian Island attractions, there are also more things to do in Pulau Perhentian than this.
The Perhentian Islands are a collection of islands with the main ones (where all these Perhentian Island activities are located on or around) being Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. These islands are close together and it’s easy to hire a boat to take you between the two during daylight hours.
Perhentian itself actually means stop. A very appropriate name as you will want to stop on these islands for awhile! This is a very beautiful part of the world.
But more about that below! In addition to what to do in Pulau Perhentian, we share information about where to stay, the differences between the main two islands, how to get there, the best time to visit and what it’s like in Perhentian Islands with kids if you are thinking about visiting as a family.
By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do and where to be on your trip for a fabulous time!
Table of Contents
Top 15 Best Things To Do In Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
Go Scuba Diving
If you are a diver, or thinking about learning to dive, this is the perfect place to do it! Diving is one of the top Pulau Perhentian activities.
There are coral reefs around the islands and it’s also easy to organise diving trips further afield to Redang Island or Pulau Lang Tengah.
There are many dive centres on the islands which keeps prices low and this is a very good value dive destination. If you aren’t certified yet, it’s a great place to do your PADI open water course as well with it possible to do a course for about RM1000 including simple accommodation.
If you aren’t certified yet, it’s also possible to do a discovery dive to try it out.
If you aren’t a diver, don’t worry. You can still enjoy the amazing underwater environment with one of the most popular activities in Perhentian Island – snorkelling! There is some great snorkelling on offer so there is no reason to feel like you are missing out.
You can rent snorkels from many resorts and guesthouses and you shouldn’t have any problem finding one. Some good spots where you can snorkel off the beach are:
- Northern end of Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil
- In front of Coral View Island Resort on Perhentian Besar
There are also some great boat trips that can take you to a few different snorkelling spots. This is recommended over snorkelling off the beach as the marine environment is usually in much better condition – meaning you get to see more!
If you are a turtle fan, you will love this Pulau Perhentian attraction! Turtles can be seen at many of the snorkelling and diving spots around the island. When you are booking diving or snorkelling trips, ask where they have been seen recently and head there!
But even better is if you visit between June and September when there is the chance you may see giant green turtles laying eggs on the beach. One spot for this is the beach at the Perhentian Island Resort.
You can also visit Turtle Sanctuary Beach on Besar during the day which is one of the most stunning spots on the Perhentians. You will need to get a boat here or kayak and leave before sunset when the beach is only for turtles.
Volunteering At The Perhentian Turtle Project
You can take your love of turtles a step further with volunteering at the Perhentian Turtle Project from March to September.
As a volunteer, you can do things like snorkel trips to identify turtles and photograph their habitat, patrolling for nesting turtles at night and learn how to deter poaches.
This is a paid program and prices include dorm accommodation, meals, activities and the ferry to and from Kuala Besut. There is plenty of time to enjoy the islands as well.
Go Sea Kayaking
For a fun answer to what to do at Perhentian Island AND a great way to explore either Perhentian Island, go sea kayaking.
This is a great way to see more of the islands and get some great views from the water. You may even be able to find your own beach! Outside the monsoon, the waters are usually calm and you can go alone or with a tour.
You can rent kayaks from many guesthouses on both Besar and Kecil.
Go Camping At Teluk KK
For a different choice of the things to do at Perhentian Island, head to Teluk Keke on Perhentian Besar. Here, you can stay at a campground on the southern end of the beach where you can sleep under the stars.
You can ask at your guesthouse where you can hire camping equipment or there are some tents available at Keke but not other camping equipment like bedding.
Explore The Wonderful Beaches
If there is an essential thing to do on Perhentian Islands, it’s exploring the beaches! There are many wonderful beaches and it would be a shame to stick to just one!
Some best beaches on Perhentian Besar are:
- The beach outside the Perhentian Island Resort
- Turtle Sanctuary Beach
- Love Beach
Some best beaches on Perhentian Kecil are:
- Long Beach
- Beaches around Teluk Kerma
- Petani Beach
- Keranji Beach
You can find more information on different beach areas in my guide here.
Go Jungle Trekking
If you can pull yourself out of the water then another must do activity on Perhentian Islands is to go jungle trekking! The interior of both main islands has some great jungle to explore and there are many trekking opportunities.
It’s also a great way to see more of the islands and the only thing that is tough about it is finding the entry point! So I help you with this below.
I recommend you pick at least one that’s convenient to where you are staying and add it to your Perhentian Islands itinerary!
Some popular hikes:
1. Besar Island north to south – You can take this trek that goes from behind the Perhentian Island Resort to Teluk Dalam on the island’s south side. It’s about 2.5 kilometres long and takes about an hour thanks to being hilly. It has by far the most adventurous feeling of the treks we did and you really feel like you have escaped everything in the jungle.
2. Kecil Island Long Beach to Coral Bay – This signposted and paved path will take you between these two beach areas on the east and west sides of the island. It’s up and over a hill but it’s easy and takes about 15 minutes. Unfortunately, you do get a close look at some of the trash problems on the island.
3. Long Beach to the Village – This “boardwalk” runs from near the start of the path between Long Beach and Coral Bay to the village. You can’t miss the starting sign pictured above.
4. Kecil Island Coral Bay to the Village – This west coast track is a lovely one between Coral Bay and Petani Beach where it is often shaded and offers regular glimpses of the coastline. It takes about an hour. It’s my favourite one and I have full details and instructions below!
You can also combine 2, 3 and 4 above for a really fantastic hike! But one way treks work well as there are many sea taxis to take you between locations (more about this below).
Make sure you take plenty of water – it’s HOT. Also ensure that you will finish your trek before it’s dark. Leave the flip flops in your room and wear sturdier shoes.
Hiking From The Village To Coral Bay On Perhentian Island
We took a boat to the Village and then hiked from here continuing on to Long Beach. You can just as easily do this in reverse.
To find the start of this path, walk left on arrival and keep going until you get to another sea taxi stand just before the end of the village area by a beach. Behind this, is what looks like a local path running up through the Village. Walk up it, until you find the following sign to Petani Beach – you are at the start of the path!
The first part of the trek is to Petani Beach. There are up and down parts but it is pleasant with plenty of shade. Petani Beach itself is the most built up beach on this path until Coral Bay.
At the end of Petani Beach, the path continues. It is easy to spot.
Not long after Petani Beach was my favourite part of the walk – a tiny private cove. There are quite a few of these over the length of the walk.
After Petani, we regularly started seeing little beaches with resorts and restaurants, all very low key. I particularly liked Keranji Beach.
Whenever you hit a beach like this, you walk to the end and the next section of the path is always obvious. It keeps winding its way around the coast to Coral Bay.
The path is generally in good condition but there are parts with trees over it. Mostly, with makeshift paths around them but sometimes you need to get in some weird limbo action.
70 minutes after we left the village, we arrived at the start of Coral Bay. I did this hike with my 7 year old and a broken toe so I’m sure you can do it faster this with no hardship. It’s a fun walk and we really enjoyed it.
It also felt like we had the path alone. We only came across one other person walking on it and that was right at the end. I highly recommend it!
Relax At The Perhentian Island Resort
If you are looking for things to do in Pulau Perhentian Besar, take a walk to Perhentian Island Resort if you are not staying here already (otherwise enjoy the facilities and make at least a half day of it!).
This resort is towards the northern end of the west coast and is set on a stunning beach. You can relax, have a bite to eat, hire a kayak and snorkel nearby. There’s also usually some beach volleyball and soccer set up.
Visit Mosque A R Rahman Pulau Perhentian
For a different answer to what to do in Perhentian Kecil, head to Mosque A R Rahman Pulau Perhentian. This attractive mosque is built over water at the island’s main village. You can enter if dressed appropriately.
Also keep a look out for it as you arrive on the islands – you should get a good view from your ferry.
Visit the Fishing Village (Kampung Pasir Hantu)
While you are visiting the mosque, you can also visit the local fishing village which is located here. It’s definitely a different side of these islands to see how the locals live and work as these islands are not just for tourists.
It’s a colourful little village with plenty of restaurants and shops.
The best way to visit is by hiring a taxi boat to take you. Ideally, visit in the morning as the local fishermen bring in their catch.
Get Great Views Of Perhentian Kecil From The Wind Turbines
For some great views and a work out, this option of the things to do in Pulau Perhentian Kecil is worth finding time for.
The wind turbines are on top of a hill and there is either a short trail (made up of steep stairs) from the coast that a boat can drop you off at OR you can take the hiking trail from Long Beach to Teluk Kerma and you will find these about 20 minutes along after leaving Long Beach.
After you take lots of photos and finish enjoying the views, you can choose whether to head on to Teluk Kerma, back to Long Beach or back down the stairs to the coast (note that last time we went that the stairs were in bad shape and may not be safe).
Eat And Drink On Long Beach
If you want a bit of action during your Perhentian Island trip and a wide range of drinking and eating options then Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil is the place to head. This is the most developed beach and there are many choices!
It has a party reputation and this is also the best place to go in the evening if you want to go out. Note that it’s not safe to travel by boat after dark so if you are staying on Besar or elsewhere on Kecil, leave before sunset.
Watch A Fire Show
The second last item on our list of things to do in Perhentian Islands is to watch a fire show!
You can see these every night at 10:30pm on Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil near the outside of the Bubu Long Beach Resort.
You can sit on the beach and enjoy a drink while watching the dance and fire show. The performers are very talented and it’s lots of fun. It’s definitely the best of the things to do in Perhentian Islands at night.
Take A Day Trip To Redang Island
Redang Island is another gorgeous east coast Malaysian island about a 60 minute boat ride from Perhentian Islands and it’s possible to visit here on a day trip.
Surrounded by a marine park, it also has some great diving and snorkelling. In addition to this, you can explore the beaches, go kayaking and do many of the same activities mentioned above while seeing a different part of the world.
Perhentian Besar Vs Perhentian Kecil
Now you know all about the activities on Perhentian Islands, you might be wondering about the differences between the main islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil, and which one you are best to stay on.
Besar means big and kecil means small – meaning that Perhentian Besar is the bigger of the two islands.
Perhentian Besar is also the quieter and cruisier of the two. I read that it is more developed but personally I found areas of Kecil much more developed. It has a bigger range of resorts and is often recommended for families or people who want nicer accommodation and want to get away from it all.
I think the accommodation is better value here, and I like that the resorts are a bit more spaced out and there is less of an top-of-each-other feel like on Long Beach or Coral Bay.
Perhentian Kecil has a reputation as a backpacker island, and most people that stay here are backpackers. There is also more opportunity to party. There are more budget accommodation options including camping in great spots on Long Beach, and there are some top resort options too. But I think the value is better on Besar where there are cheap options as well.
Alcohol is more readily available on Kecil and there are places open late. Compared to Besar where everything is shut by 11pm.
I prefer Besar as I don’t want to be out late and the accommodation is better. But, if you want night life, you definitely want to pick Kecil and stay on Long Beach. While it’s easy to journey between the two islands and explore both, you shouldn’t do this once it is dark.
While sea taxis do operate in the evening (at twice the prices), it isn’t safe.
Either island is beautiful though so you can’t go wrong!
Best Resorts In Perhentian Islands
There are some fabulous accommodation options on Perhentian Islands and I list choices for all budgets in my accommodation guide here. I also include more information about each beach area on the islands so you can find your perfect spot!
Below are my top choices for the best resort in Perhentian Islands for each island.
Perhentian Island Resort Review - Best Resort on Perhentian Besar
The facilities at this resort are maybe the best on any of the islands. There is a swimming pool, tennis courts, beach volleyball and soccer, kayaking, a day spa and more. You can even sing in a karaoke room. When we visited in October 2019, they were also building some new facilities so expect even more coming soon!
There is a restaurant and cafe and you can have a drink on the beach (but note that there is no alcohol).
There are many room types including three different comfort levels depending on what you want to pay but all come with a fridge, kettle, air conditioning and balconies. If you can, pay extra to be beachfront – just stunning! I also recommend not booking the most basic room type as these rooms tend to be the oldest and could do with a renovation.
Bubu Villas Review - Best Resort On Perhentian Kecil
This resort consists of spacious villas which are somewhat removed from the noise and bustle of Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil. They are well presented with thatched roofs, air conditioning, bathrobes, personal safe and tea and coffee making facilities.
Some villas have outdoor bathrooms and there are family villas available too.
There are not a ton of facilities beyond an outdoor restaurant and beach chairs. You do get a complimentary cocktail later in the day and breakfast is great though.
This resort is in a good spot if you want easy access to nightlife but it does come with the drawback that some villas have a noise problem thanks to surrounding bars. There can also be a fair amount of trash on the beach at times.
Map Of What To Do In Perhentian Islands
How To Get To Perhentian Islands
Getting to the Perhentian Islands can seem complicated because it’s always going to involve at least two forms of transport – but it’s really not.
There is no airport on the islands so you need to catch a ferry from Kuala Besut. This means that the first part of your journey is to get to Kuala Besut which is a town to the south of Kota Bahru. You can look for buses directly to Kuala Besut here.
Otherwise, you can fly or catch a bus or train to Kota Bharu and then take a bus or taxi to Kuala Besut.
To make this extra easy for you, you can read full step-by-step details of how to get to Perhentian Islands from anywhere in my guide here.
Getting Around Perhentian Islands
Transport is all about sea taxis. These are in many points with signs telling you the prices per person. Find any local around the sign or in a boat nearby and they will either take you or find someone who will.
Prices are reasonable for one or two people but they would certainly add up for a family. I found prices somewhat static around the islands EXCEPT on Long Beach on Kecil. Head to the jetty at the end for the best prices.
Here are the prices from the end of Long Beach.
And where you can go on a map:
Best Time To Visit Perhentian Islands
The best time to visit Perhentian Islands is in the dry season from April to September. This part of Malaysia has a very heavy monsoon period and the islands can basically shut down to tourists from late October to early March. It can be hard to get boats to the islands and most resorts and restaurants are shut.
This is also the most popular time to visit and you should book ahead. The absolute best time is April to June so you are there during the dry season but there are also less tourists compared to the later months. However for divers, visibility is best in August and September. We last visited early October and found everything perfect.
Perhentian Island With Kids
The Perhentian Islands are an excellent place to visit with kids. I went with mine! All the outdoor attractions are easy for kids to enjoy (and thus parents). They are also likely to enjoy the journey there and everything on offer.
There is also a playground in the village by the waterfront on the way to the mosque.
This is a beautiful part of the world and I highly recommend a visit! From the gorgeous beaches to exploring under-the-water to jungle trekking, they have a lot to offer people who love enjoying nature.
The best part is that everything is easy on these islands. They are well set up for tourists with many restaurants, hotels, shops and “taxis”. It’s definitely the easiest of the East Coast islands I have visited for independent travellers. However, the downside then is that it is more built up. Still, these things are relative and it’s still a very relaxed, beautiful part of the world that we love to visit.
Looking for more options for the best resorts in Perhentian Islands? Find our full guide here. You can also find all our other guides for the best trip possible to Perhentian Islands 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.