Surrounded by sparkling, turquoise waters that shimmer and shine in the sun next to their wealth of beautiful beaches, the jungle-coated Perhentian Islands really do make for an island paradise. Lying just off the northeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the small collection of islands are part of the Pulau Redang National Marine Park, and their waters teem with amazing marine life.
The islands are a great place to go snorkeling and scuba diving, while sea-kayaking is also very popular. Besides the fantastic marine-related things to do in the Perhentian Islands, visitors can lounge on one of the idyllic beaches, volunteer at one of its turtle conservation projects, or simply bask in the stunning nature on show.
The two main islands in the group are Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil. From them, you can explore the rest of the gorgeous uninhabited islands that lie nearby in the South China Sea.
10. Petani Beach (Kecil)
Tucked away on the south coast of Perhentian Kecil – or ‘Smaller Perhentian’ in English – this lovely little beach is ideal if you’re looking for a quiet getaway. Due to its secluded nature, not many people come here, so you’ll often have its golden sands entirely to yourself.
Backed by lush jungle that threatens to overwhelm the beach and bordered by rocks at one end, Petani Beach looks very picturesque and has a laidback feel to it.
It is a great place to go swimming; just offshore, there’s a delightful coral reef for you to snorkel above, with lots of brightly colored fish to see. If you get hungry, then Petani Beach Chalet – the one restaurant and hotel on the beach – serves up some delicious Malaysian food and has cozy hammocks for you to swing in lazily.
9. Teluk Dalam (Besar)
Although it’s not quite as spectacular as many of the other beaches found on the island, Teluk Dalam on Perhentian Besar’s south coast still makes for a fantastic beach holiday. Its secluded setting means that the beach is quite peaceful in comparison with others and never gets too crowded. This is compounded by the fact that it is only accessible by boat or by hiking through the jungle-clad interior.
Although it means ‘Deep Bay’ in English, Teluk Dalam’s turquoise waters are actually quite shallow, so you can only really go swimming at high tide. Its fine white sands, however, are perfect for kicking back and relaxing on, and many great restaurants and hotels can be found tucked away among the palm trees lining the beach.
8. Teluk Keke (Besar)
Often abbreviated to Teluk KK, this beautiful beach lies on the southwest coast of Perhentian Besar, with lots of untouched and unspoiled nature all around it. As it is a bit far removed from more popular areas on the island, Teluk Keke has a very calm and peaceful air about it, and some impressive looking boulders lie at one end of it.
On top of all the gorgeous scenery, Teluk Keke is a brilliant place to go snorkeling, with coral reefs full of colorful fish lying just offshore. Another great thing to do here is to spend the night at the nearby camping ground.
Waking up with the beach before you really is an amazing experience. Due to the direction in which it faces, Teluk Keke is also blessed with breathtaking sunsets; you can watch these from its small cafe.
7. Turtle Sanctuary Beach
Renowned for the Hawksbill and Green turtles that come to nest here every year, the appropriately named Turtle Sanctuary Beach is one of the best places in the whole of Malaysia to spot the adorable creatures up close. Set in a lovely bay with a mess of thick jungle behind it, the beach looks incredible and makes for some great sunbathing.
Offshore, there are a couple of coral reefs for you to snorkel above; you may even see a turtle or two lazily swimming about. A great thing to do when in the area is to volunteer at the Perhentian Turtle Project and help out with their conservation projects that ensure Hawksbill and Green turtles continue to nest on the beach in the future.
6. Kincir Angin (Trail)
Starting at Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil, this fantastic trail takes you through some wonderful nature and scenery before you reach the highest point on the island. From here, you can enjoy commanding views out over the island.
Off in the distance, you can also see Perhentian Besar. After drinking in the panorama to your heart’s content, you can either hike back to Long Beach or continue on to Windmill Point – another lovely lookout.
To get to the viewpoint, which is located on a craggy outcrop of rocks down by the water, there is an old wooden boardway and staircase for you to follow. While this is quite rusty, rickety, and even falling apart in places, it is well worth persevering to the end of Kincir Angin for the dazzling views out over the sea.
All in all, it should take around forty minutes to hike the trail. On the way, you’ll often see brightly-colored birds flitting about the trees, and even monitor lizards if you’re lucky.
The waters around the Perhentian Islands are a memorable place to snorkel, and a remarkable number of its best snorkel sites are found just offshore. This accessibility means that in no time at all, you can find yourself swimming above beautiful coral reefs full of brightly-colored fish; the fantastic visibility only adds to the perfect experience. Besides seeing stingrays, clownfish, and jellyfish, you can also expect to see turtles and reef sharks, depending on where you go.
As scuba diving and snorkeling are so popular, there are lots of dive shops around the islands where you can rent equipment or arrange to go on a boat trip to some of the different snorkel sites.
Among the most popular spots are Teluk Pauh and Shark Point, while Turtle Point and Coral Garden are also well worth checking out. With so much marine life to see in Pulau Redang National Marine Park, you really can’t go wrong.
4. Main Beach (Besar)
Stretching along the west coast of Perhentian Besar – or ‘Greater Perhentian’ – Main Beach is, well, the main beach on the island. Here you can find the majority of its bars, restaurants, and hotels. These are decidedly more upmarket than the ones on Perhentian Kecil. Its gorgeous white sands are beautifully backed by lush rainforest, and swimming in the inviting waters or snorkeling above its coral reefs is a divine experience.
Although at various points rocky outcrops prevent you from strolling any further along the beach, you can easily circumnavigate these by taking a short walk through the forest. In addition to all the marvelous scenery all around you, from Main Beach, you can easily book scuba diving or snorkeling tours if you want to explore the islands’ many underwater marvels.
3. Coral Bay
Lying just a ten-minute walk from Long Beach (the other most popular beach on the island), Coral Bay offers a much quieter and peaceful stay than its noisy neighbor. Located in a stunning setting, it is the largest beach on Perhentian Kecil’s northwest coastline and has lots of great restaurants, chalets, and resorts for you to choose from.
While these new developments detract somewhat from the scenery, they do mean that visitors have a lot of choices available, with a number of dive shops also on offer. Coral Bay is particularly renowned for its incredible sunsets, and no stay can be complete without watching the evening sky turn a delightful golden hue over the sea.
2. Long Beach
Although it is a bit overdeveloped in comparison with many of the Perhentian Islands’ other beaches, Long Beach certainly boasts the most in the way of amenities and is the most popular and famous beach of them all. Lots of restaurants, bars, and hotels can be found along its white sands; these cater to every budget, with various dive shops interspersed among them.
In addition, its long stretch of sand has lots of parasols and deck chairs for you to rent, and the views out over the sea are simply fabulous. At night, its bars are often full of people having a good time. It is the best place in the Perhentian Islands to head if you’re after a nightlife.
Besides enjoying its soft sands and inviting waters, Long Beach is also just a stone’s throw away from Coral Bay and many other beautiful beaches.
1. Scuba Diving
Due to the astounding array of marine life in the surrounding waters, the Perhentian Islands have long attracted scuba divers to its shores and coral reefs. As such, a wealth of dive shops have sprung up, particularly on Perhentian Kecil. These cater to every level, regardless of whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned pro.
Organizing a trip with one of the dive schools is one of the best ways to visit Pulau Redang National Marine Park’s underwater attractions. Prices are very favorable when compared with other places in Asia. The biodiversity on show is simply staggering, and in most places, visibility is over 20 meters.
Some of the best dive sites in the marine park are Pinnacle, the Sugar Wreck, and T3. Divers can expect to see everything from incredible underwater rock formations and coral reefs to reef sharks, sea turtles, and clownfish.
With so many underwater riches on show, scuba diving in the waters surrounding the Perhentian Islands is simply a must and is the highlight of many people’s holiday.
Best Time to Visit the Perhentian Islands
As November to March is the monsoon season, almost no one visits the Perhentian Islands during this time. Not only are most of them closed off to tourists but all the ferries stop and resorts close due to the rough waves and terrible weather.
Once the dry season begins and services resume again, many head here to sunbathe, swim and snorkel at its pristine beaches. April to June is quieter, cheaper and much less crowded than the busy summertime. Although very hot and humid, averaging 32°C (89°F), you can still hike along its coast or trek through the jungle.
July, August and September are the most popular and expensive months to visit with plenty of people pouring in for their holidays. Its hotels and resorts can get packed, particularly at weekends, with some fun nightlife found at Kecar. This is also by far the best period to enjoy scuba diving and viewing all the amazing marine life.
In October, the rains already start to pick up with the stormy weather sometimes stopping ferry services and making swimming unpleasant. While some guesthouses stay open even in the monsoon season, you won’t be able to enjoy its beaches or scenery much as there is so much rain.