Pulau Perhentian is little more than 10 miles off Malaysia’s northeast coast and comprises Perhentian Besar (big island) and Perhentian Kecil (small island). Due to their location so close to Thailand, they have become very popular with sun-seekers looking for a place to hang out in Thailand’s off season, from April to October, which just happens to be the best time to visit Malaysia’s South China Sea based islands. The National Marine Park at Pulau Redang officially owns the Perhentians Islands, offering the protection necessary to keep the rich marine life safe and thriving.
Both the small and large Perhentian Islands encompass lush jungle backdrops and beautiful white, sandy beaches fringed by bright coral reefs and crystal-clear water where small sharks, sea turtles, reef fish, an array of coral flourish. The islands are a place thickly forested with few roads and fewer interior island footpaths. The only full-time residents remain on Perhentian Kecil in the small fishing village. Otherwise, small resorts featuring cabin-style accommodations are available but close up during monsoon season between October and March.
The feel on Pulau Perhentian is small and cozy and a world away from commercialized Thai resorts like Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan. Descriptives like “untouched” and “unspoiled” really do ring true in these parts. These islands are not a place to come to seek out a party lifestyle or to consistently have something to do, unless diving in Malaysia everyday is on your wish list. The Perhentians are where a slowed pace of life is evident, and wandering around, swimming, sunning, and dining on local fare are popular things to do. Relaxed may very well be an understatement.
Kuala Besut is the main gateway to both Perhentian Islands. It’s on the Terrangganu coast near Khota Baru. It’s possible to reach the islands in 40 minutes via fast boat, an hour and a half by slow boat, or by flight. Note that during monsoon there may not be any boat service to Pulau Perhentian whatsoever, and if there is, weather conditions are very unpredictable.