Thailand Alternative: The Perhentian Islands

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Thailand Alternative: The Perhentian Islands

perhentian islands

perhentian islands

The Perhentian Islands offer an alternative to the crowded, booze-soaked islands of southern Thailand. Located about 10 miles off the eastern coast of northern peninsular Malaysia, the Perhentians are fringed by white sand beaches and crystalline waters. Just south of the border with Thailand, the two main islands of Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian) and Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian), are part of the protected Pulau Redang National Marine Park.

 

perhentian islands

We were treated to this sunset one evening on the Perhentian Islands.

 

My Visit to the Perhentian Islands

I was initially attracted to the Perhentians because of their reputation of being quiet islands with availability of cheap accommodation. I found both to be true. I visited in early July and should point out that the season for visiting is between June and October. The rest of the year the sea can be choppy, skies overcast, currents dangerous, and most accommodation closed.

 

The small island, especially around Long Beach has a reputation for being more of a party beach. Not exactly the full-moon party of Thai Islands, but for Malaysia it’s considered a party zone. My brother and I stayed at Mama’s Chalet (RM70 for a double, garden view) on the main beach on the western side of the Big Island. That beach isn’t all that spectacular, but the adjacent beach, reachable 10 minutes away by foot, is very nice. The food here is adequate, but not great, and is, of course, pricier than the mainland (RM10-15 for basic meals). But that is to be expected, you’re on an island. Also, beer is available at about RM8 per can. There aren’t really bars on the Big Island, just guest houses and hotels that have restaurants which serve beer.

 

Snorkeling, diving, swimming, and relaxing on the beach are the main ways to spend your time on the Perhentians. I got a lot of reading done and walked along the beach several times per day. If you’re feeling ambitions, there is a trail which leads you to the other beach, Teluk Dalam, in about an hour.

perhentian islands

The coastline of the Big Island.

 

Go Snorkeling

Snorkeling in the Perhentian, if you go to the right spots, is some of the best I’ve every done. About as nice as snorkeling off Malapascua Island in the Philippines and close to Komodo in Indonesia. Most guesthouses offer a short snorkeling trip (RM30) and a longer one (RM45). We took the longer one which went out to the “lighthouse”, Rawa Island, and Susu Dara Island. The coral was outstanding there as was the variety and numbers of fish. On the way back we stopped to see the resident sea turtle swimming in the bay. My first time swimming near a turtle in the sea! (Remember to snorkel responsibly and respect the wildlife: do not touch the turtles or fish.)

perhentian islands

The white sand beaches of the Perhentian Islands: good for rest or taking a walk.

 

Getting to the Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands are reachable by ferry from Kuala Besut. You can reach Kuala Besut from either Kota Bhauru and Kuala Terengganu. Although the islands are part of Terengganu State, they are slightly closer to Kota Bharu in the neighboring state of Kelantan. From Kota Bharu you can catch the local bus service (RM6) or get a share taxi, which nearly any guesthouse can arrange. From Kuala Terengganu, take any northbound bus and get off at Jerteh. Then continue from there another 17km by local bus.

 

perhentian islands malaysia

A good view isn’t hard to find.

perhentian islands

The lighting in the distance never reached us.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 15 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Google +, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

6 Comments

  1. […] this dramatic view. We were in the Perhentian Islands of Malaysia. I consider these islands a nice alternative to Thailand if you are trying to avoid the crowds and party atmosphere of the beaches of southern Thailand. […]

  2. Stephen says:

    Looks like a nice spot. Have you been to Langkawi before? I’ve heard that makes a good trip away from the mainland as well.

  3. Hey Stephen, Yeah, I’ve heard that Langkawi is really nice, but also that low-budget accommodation is hard to find there. But I haven’t been there myself.

  4. rebecca says:

    looks awesome! thanks for the well detailed article! Love the idea of this place

  5. Craig says:

    I’ve never heard of The Perhentian Islands before but they look spectacular. That sunset is amazing, I’ve never seen such a purple sky. Awesome pictures, you’ve definitely convinced this traveler to check them out

  6. […] and collecting shells or coral is prohibited. The Perhentians are made up of two main islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil, as well as a few uninhabited islands. The Perhentians were traditionally used […]

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