If there is one place that I regularly visit for a short weekend getaway, that will be Pulau Perhentian. Talk about the clear blue water, sea turtles, gorgeous sunrise, resorts — Pulau Perhentian has them all.
Getting to Pulau Perhentian
The most convenient way to get there is by taking a flight to Kota Bharu and then continue by land transport to Kuala Besut Jetty. Otherwise, you can take a bus from many major cities in Malaysia to Jerteh, Kota Bharu, or directly to Kuala Besut; but this might take much longer than flying.
To get to Kuala Besut Jetty, you can take a taxi from Jerteh or Kota Bharu bus terminal. After reaching the jetty, you will have to take a 30-45-minute ferry ride to either Perhentian Besar or Kecil (they are located side by side). The ferry usually starts operating from 7 AM to 4 PM — subject to the weather condition.
Oh, please be reminded that the islands only open around March/April – October and close during November – February due to monsoon season
Upon reaching the island, I know you will want to jump straight away into the water, but hey, let’s take a look at the different activities you can do during your stopover at Perhentian!
Scuba Diving in Perhentian Islands
Besides the nearby Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian is equally famous for its pristine marine life. Many people even call it a heaven for scuba divers. This is the reason why I keep coming back here after my first trip to Perhentian Island. People always see diving as an expensive hobby, and I can’t disagree. But Perhentian Island offers both relatively affordable diving packages and beautiful sights of marine life. I don’t think I have found a better deal elsewhere.
Finally, Nemo is found.
If you are planning to explore diving as your new hobby, this may be the best place for you to get your Open Water Certification! You can get the certification after completing several dives. I took my Advance Open Water Certification here from one of the many dive centres scattered around the islands.
Certified Advance Open Water woohoo! Guess which one is me!
In the last 2 years, I had been to Perhentian 3 times just to scuba dive because I fall in love with its fantastic visibility, numerous wrecks, swim-through, and the magnificent Temple of the Sea (locally known as Tokong Laut). I’m sure if you have tried diving here once, you’ll be ‘addicted’ to it like I am.
Swim-through under massive rock formation
For those of you who don’t want to (or cannot) scuba dive, you are not missing out! Perhentian offers incredible snorkeling experiences, which are packaged as either a half-day or a full day trip to 3-5 sites. Sometimes when I want a break from diving, I will do snorkeling here.
During my last snorkel, I was so lucky that I got to see a sea turtle at the Turtle Point and a juvenile blacktip reef shark at the Shark Point. It felt really magical to be able to get so close to them.
P.S. Invest in an underwater camera or a waterproof action camera. Totally worth it!
Chilling on the Beaches of Pulau Perhentian
If you have had enough of sea water, you can always relax on the beach. At Perhentian Kecil, there are umbrellas and mats for rent during the day, as well as BBQ and performances at night.
As I was travelling alone, I decided not to visit Perhentian Besar, which caters more to families and large group of travellers — but I suppose the beach on the big island would be less crowded.
No island getaway trip is ever complete without a sunrise or sunset photo on your Instagram/Facebook account! Rest assured, the sunset and sunrise in Pulau Perhentian will get you tons of “likes” within a few minutes (I know because I’ve tried this!). Even if you are not a social media junkie, the sunrise and sunset views will still take your breath away. You would want to walk along the shore with your loved ones.
Psst… Just make sure you are facing the correct direction for the sunrise/sunset. I waited for a sunset at the wrong side of the island once…
Food on Pulau Perhentian
Although Pulau Perhentian doesn’t offer any incredible local specialty, many eateries offer fresh seafood BBQ during dinner. If you ever find yourself super hungry in the morning before your dive session, I recommend you to go to Panorama Chalet on Perhentian Kecil’s Long Beach. This place would be awesome for those with big appetites since they offer an affordable breakfast buffet every day!
BBQ Squid for dinner
Perhentian Island Resorts
During my stay on Perhentian Kecil, I decided to stay at Tropicana Inn, which is conveniently located uphill in the middle of the island, in between the two beaches (Long Beach and Coral Bay). Since it’s far from the beach (which also means it’s far from the party noise at night), this place is ideal for those seeking some solitude. For myself, this is exactly what I’m looking for — a perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan city life.
Although I’ve never been to Perhentian Besar, a friend of mine gave an excellent review from his stay at The Barat Perhentian Beach Resort. I will definitely check it out the next time I’m back to Perhentian.
Why Visit the Perhentian Islands?
There are so many other islands off the coast of Malaysia, but Perhentian Island has always been my to-go diving site. The laid-back ambience, the beautiful marine life, the scenic sunrise and sunset — they never fail to call me back to this island every year. Even as I’m writing this, my mind has subconsciously planned for my next visit there. So Perhentian, see you next year for another round of underwater adventure!