If you are passionate about the paradisiacal islands, you have already seen a thousand photos of the Maldives, the Caribbean or the Seychelles. However, Asia also offers a lot of destinations of this type with the difference that you will spend less than half the budget of the trip if you compare it with the previous ones.
Examples of these paradisiacal islands are the Phi Phi islands or the Hong in Thailand, the island Ko Rong in Cambodia, the Perhentian in Malaysia or the Gili Islands and western Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia. From this last one, we made a post a little bit ago, where we explained what to do specifically on the island of Flores.
Today we want to focus on the paradisiacal destination that we enjoy the most. For the clarity of the water, the little tourism we found and the leafy vegetation that you find on the beach. That destination is the Perhentian Islands, a set of small islands located northeast of Malaysia.
How to get to the Perhentian islands
As we have already mentioned, these islands are in the east of Malaysia, very close to the border with Thailand.
To access them you have to go to Kota Bharu and from there take a ferry. We came from Penang and, although there were options that took you by bus, we chose to take a direct flight that turned out to be cheaper than we thought (and lasted less than an hour!). Yes, we took it well in advance but if you want to save time it’s worth following prices for a few months.
As soon as we landed at the airport, they offered us a combo ticket that included both the transfer to Kota Bharu Port and the round-trip ferry. They had recommended us to take this option since it is cheaper and thus you avoid haggling on foot from the port so we took it.
Once in the port, you queue according to which island you go to. People usually stay in one of the two largest Perhentian islands: Kecil Island (the smallest) and Besar Island (the largest).
The first is known as the island of “the party” and many blogs recommend staying there for the quality of accommodation and maritime activities they offer.
The second is reputed to be the island “for families” because it offers a calmer environment.
In our experience, it does not matter much where you stay thinking about “which one is going to be prettier” since both offer incredible beaches and decent accommodations.
The most significant difference we found between the two was the budget. Contrary to what we expected, Kecil Island is quite more expensive. Almost all are resorts and the cheapest options are campsites or lodges that leave a lot to be desired.
In Besar, being larger, there are more options, especially in the southern part. The quality-price, if you compare it with the rest of Malaysia, is not going to be the best, but we find “decent” accommodation for an affordable price if you go backpacking.
But the Perhentian Islands do not stop there, there are many more nearby islands that offer perfect spots for snorkeling and diving. Even in some of them, you can plan your honeymoon stay an experience that we could not enjoy but that we will do in the future.
Perhentian Islands Diving
These islands are a favorite destination for those who are thinking about taking the PADI OPEN WATER course or similar. There are very cheap packs that include lodging and meals with the course, and for what they have commented to us they are very well.
If you already have the course, the price per dive you will also love it. For less than $30 they take you where you want with equipment rental and everything.
We did two dives in one day, one in the temple of the sea (Tokong laut) and another in the Vietnamese wreck. The first is the most popular in the area and it is a pinnacle with much coral and marine life. On the second you see three sunken ships and also, lots of marine life. In both, you can go to a depth of up to 24 meters.
If you are more curious, here you can see the best places to do dives in the Perhentian Islands.
Both were pretty good, but we were not as lucky with the marine fauna as in Indonesia. Despite having few people on the island in the first dive, we got together in the water with a lot of people (everyone goes to the same places you stay where you stay) so we saw more people with bottles than turtles. But not everything was bad, we saw a shark, a lot of coral and fish of all colors.
The second dive we enjoyed much more. We told the agency that we would only go if we were promised that the group would be a maximum of 4 people, and they did.
In the Vietnamese wreck, we swam at ease, saw sharks, lobsters, rays and countless schools of fish. Highly recommended
Of course, if you plan to dive to look very well in the area that you take, sometimes the most beautiful areas do not compensate so much for the number of people who join.
And apart from diving, what else can I do in the Perhentian?
The answer is … Eat! If you are a fan of fresh fish and seafood … this is your place! For us, nothing feels better than after a day at the beach and sun, on the beach, fish of the day. Besides, the Malay cuisine is delicious and they make you some stir-fry to accompany your fingers.
Fortunately or unfortunately there is not much more to do in these islands. There are no bikes, no cars and the longest walking route (on the big island) is half an hour.
So the “only” thing you can do is: roast in the sun, read a good book, play cards, swim, dive and eat. And is not that what you end up looking for in an island paradise?