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After me singing the praises of Langkawi last week I thought I should let you in on another of Malaysia’s backpacking secrets, the Perhentian Islands. The Perhentian Islands consist of 2 main islands – Pulau Perhentian Besar (The Large Perhentian Islands, more resort based) and the Pulau Perhentian Kecil (The Small perhentian Island – much better backpacker scene). If this doesn’t get you excited for your holidays, I don’t know what will!

perhentian islands

When you dream of traveling through Asia and visiting beautiful, untouched islands let me tell you – a full-moon party on Koh Pang An or a 4 star hotel in Koh Samui is not going to offer you that, the Perhentian Islands will. This is real traveling…

Where are the Perhentian Islands? There are in the North West of the Malaysian peninsula. Just over the border from Thailand (near Hat Yai).

Where are the Perhentian Islands

How do I get to the Perhentian Islands?

From Kuala Lumpur, take an 8 hour bus ($15) to Kuala Besut, from there you take a ferry ($15, one hour) to one of the 2 islands. Backpackers choose the friendlier, cheaper smaller Island – Pulai Kecil.

If you’re coming from Thailand: Take the train/bus to Hat Yai in southern Thailand, cross the border to Butterworth in Malaysia. There’s no direct bus I’m afraid, so from Butterworth take the bus to Jerteh (7 hours, $15) which is 20km from the boat. Taxi, hitchhike or walk to the boat!

Perhentian Islands ferry terminal

What is there to see or do on the Perhentian Islands?

Not a lot! This place is all about white sand beaches, beautiful clear waters and chilling. Other than sipping beers at sunset, here’s 3 things you could get up to:

– Scuba diving – This is an absolute must, visibily is unreal. Similar prices to Thailand so it’s about $30 for a ‘fun dive’ with equipment included in that price.

– Snorkeling – This is much cheaper than scuba diving – around RM10/person for masks, fins and slippers.. There are a number of excellent snorkeling spots like the Shark Point and Teluk Pauh on ther Pulau Besar Islands, but anywhere across the Perhentian islands, snorkelling is going to be awesome.

– Trekking through the jungle – There are a few trails through the islands, taking up to a couple of hours each. Plenty of monkeys, bats, lizards and potetnially massive spiders (I mean ‘size-of-your-hand’ massive eeeeek).

Perhentian islands spider
eeeeeeeeeeeeek

When should I visit the Perhentian Islands? 

Good question! The monsoon season hits these guys hard, so the islands effectively close between September to February. Best times to visit there are anytime between early March to late October, preferably in the middle of this time. Outside that window you might find accommodation but restaurants, bars etc are all closed.

Sunset at Perhentian islands
Sunset at Perhentian islands

That’s your lot folks, if untouched beaches is what you’re looking for, this is your spot. Most backpackers don’t make it here so it promises a whole different atmoshphere to any other islands you may have visited throughout South East Asia. Happy travels!

This post is brought to you in collaboration with  Holiday Hypermarket

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16 thoughts on “The Perhentian Islands, Malaysia’s best kept secret?

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  5. whoah this blog is excellent i like studying your articles.
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  6. Have you heard of Pangkor Laut? In my opinion its another place to rival the Perhentian islands as Malaysia’s best kept secret islands? I was lucky enough to go last month and they are amazing and only 3 hours drive from KL, so bit more convenient to get to then Perhentian. Although I still want to visit Perhentian islands after reading your post! I’ve written a post with info on how to get to Pangkor Laut incase its useful to your readers: http://www.justinewharton.com/2015/04/01/pangkor-malaysia-your-own-luxury-private-island/

    1. if you like to come here, i will guide you and give a good service. FREE OF CHARGE. mY HOME IS NEAREST THE ISLANDS. WELCOME AND CONTACT ME.

  7. Love reading your first hand reports Johnny! Going to Malaysia/Thailand end June but will only be in Malaysia for about 10 days. Trying to decide where to go during those days also taking weather into account… Focus on Langkawi or Perhentian??? If you have any advice will be appreciated!

    1. hey shey – this place rocks! It’s pretty cool because you could come south through thailand, from samui, phangan, krabi, phuket and experience the beautiful craziness and then finally reach the Perhentian islands and imagine what Thailand must have been like 40 years ago 🙂

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