Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands paradise

A few years ago, I got introduced to the Perhentian Islands in a Dutch travel programme. Ever since this magnificent island paradise with its crystal clear sea full of marine life and coral gardens, powdery white sand beaches and virgin jungles has been high on the bucket list. Last weekend, we finally had the chance to visit and the islands most certainly met our expectations!

The Perhentian Islands is an island archipel in the north-east of Malaysia. The two main islands are Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. We chose to stay at the bigger Pulau Besar, at the westside of the island.

Coral View Island Resort

Several resorts are located at the island, we booked a stay at the Coral View Island Resort. The rooms are quite basic, however we loved it for the location. From our veranda we spotted many wildlife species including (flying) squirrels, bats, large monitor lizards and tropical birds. Make sure to be at the resort in the afternoon, as a group of unique Lutong monkey pays a daily visit at 5 – 7 pm.

As the name predicts, a coral garden is right in front of the resort. All you got to do is walk into the water with your snorkeling gear and right from the start, you will get to admire the beauty of this incredible marine park. Fun fact: when you are close to the shore, the fish tend to think of you as food and bite gently into your body as a test. Wearing a shirt and swimming away of the shore is helpful to prevent that.

Diving at the Perhentian Islands

Our main reason to get to the Perhentians was the diving scene. We did several dive trips with a small dive school near the resort, Pro Divers World – diving with the pro’s. Since the diving school is quite small, they let you prepare and clean your own gear. This is something I particularly liked as it will help you to keep your knowledge up, a necessity to feel secure in the water.

Many magnificent dive sides are surrounding the island, all easy accessible by boat. One of my favourite spots was the police wreck, an artificial reef consisting of three police cars that have been brought to sink in 2013, providing food and shelter to large schools of fish. But the natural coral reefs are stunning as well, with astonishing amounts of fish, turtles, baby sharks and anemones including clown fish inhabitants.

Other activities at the Perhentians

As we were pretty caught up with the diving and snorkeling activities, not much time was left to take on other activities. But that is definitely a reason for a return visit as the Perhentians have much more to offer! Several jungle hiking trails are located at both the islands. We did a small trail that gives a taste of the jungle, starting at the neighbouring Perhentians Island Resort next to the big watertank.

You could also take a watertaxi to Perhentian Kecil to do the one-hour Windmill Trail which takes you along a short path through the jungle to the island’s two windmills, providing breathtaking views on top.

Perhentian beach

Another option is renting a sea kayak to do a beach hop to the many isolated beaches at the islands. Make sure to bring sunscreen, some clothing to cover up and a supply of water to protect yourself against the sun and dehydration.

Eating and dining

Most resorts include a restaurant and the menu’s are pretty similar as they offer Western, Malay, Thai and Chinese options. We had a basic but tasty breakfast and lunch at our resort daily. For dinner, we liked going to the Barat restaurant. Apart from their regular menu, the Barat has a BBQ station where you can order a variety of meat, fresh fish, vegetables and potatoes which made it also very suitable for vegetarians. Another nice eatery is the Belinda cafe.

Marine life conservation in the Perhentians

Apart from all the beautiful eye candy we noticed substantial amounts of death coral, both in the water and at the beach. When asking the local dive instructor about it, he answered that damage is caused by heavy rainstorms that occur during the monsoons.

Death Coral Perhentian

However, as coral reefs over the world suffer from mass bleaching events due to global warming, there is no doubt that the reefs of Perhentian islands also have been affected by warming sea’s. The death coral is a visual reminder of the fragility of important marine eco-systems. Read my previous blog about lifestyle choice we can make to preserve unique eco-systems like the Perhentians for future generations.

Sunset Perhentian.jpg


Hotel & prices

  • Prices at the Coral View Island Resort start at 150 MYR per night for a basic room. Prices exclude meals. You can choose from rooms with a sea or garden view.
  • Perhentian Island Resort is another fine resort, prices start at 350 MYR per night.
  • Book a stay at Bubu Perhentian Resort if you are looking for a somewhat luxurious option at the smaller Perhentian Kecil island, starting at 593 MYR per night.

Getting there

Several flights are departing from KL to the Kota Bharu airport daily. From the airport, it is a one hour drive to the Kuala Besut port (you can book a cab with Grab). At Kuala Besut, 3 boats depart to the islands daily. Ask your resort resort for information about the best boat connection.

We had some time to kill in between boat tour and the return flight, which gave us the opportunity to have lunch in Kuala Besut and pay a visit to the Wat Phothikyan temple and its tall Buddha statue while on the way to the airport.

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