Pulau Perhentian Kecil vs. Pulau Perhentian Besar
Two islands make up the Perhentians – Pulau Perhentian Kecil (“the small island”) and Pulau Perhentian Besar (“the big island”).
Which island/beach you pick depends on what type of accommodation/environment you want. Both islands have affordable accommodations and nice resorts. The small island (specifically Long Beach) has plenty of backpacker hostels, cheap restaurants and several beach bars. If you’re traveling solo and want to meet people, Long Beach is for you. Coral Beach on the small island is a good spot for couples or those who want a smaller beach with less people (it’s only a 12 minute walk to Long Beach). The big island (around Mama’s chalet) has a good selection of hotels (chalets, resorts, etc.).
Mama’s Chalet on the big island is a great option. For RM 120 we had a “garden view” room with our own bathroom and a fan. We were also within walking distance to a handful of restaurants (which are better than the ones on Long Beach IMO). If you’re staying on Long Beach, I recommend Panorama. The restaurant is pretty good and the chalets are a bit removed and quiet. For RM 150 we had a chalet with a fan and our own bathroom. Dinner for two was also included (but no breakfast).
Diving, snorkeling, doing nothing on the beach
The Perhentian Islands is a great place to dive and a very affordable place to learn how to dive. I did both my PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water there. I dive with Turtle Bay Divers and have nothing but good things to say!
If you’re not interested in diving, try snorkeling (1/2 day trip is about RM 40), lay out on the beach (free or RM 10 to rent an umbrella for the whole day), explore the islands (there are some short hiking options) or take a yoga class on the beach (RM 20 – 6:30am and 6pm).
Seafood barbecue, egg roti canai and ice blended juice
Restaurants on the island have very similar menus and I found myself eating a rotation of roti canai, egg roti canai, nasi lemak, and fried rice. You can also find western food – pizza, sandwiches, etc. Most restaurants have seafood barbecue in the evening and serve a wide variety of fish including barracuda, squid, king fish, prawns, and so much more. You can get a roti canai for breakfast for about RM 8 or a set breakfast for anywhere between RM 15 and 20. Lunch/dinner can also range from RM 10 to 20 (not including drinks). To cool down, have an ice blended lime juice at Chill Out Cafe.
Getting to the Perhentians: One hour flight from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur (price varies but approx. $USD 50 – $100 RT), a one-hour taxi to the jetty at Kuala Besut (RM 60-70 one way) and about a 30-40 min. boat ride to the jetty near your hostel (RM 70 RT). There are comfortable overnight buses (RM 88 RT) from Kuala Lumpur Terminal Bersepadu Selatan which is very easy to get to via the LRT Sri Petaling line. You can also take a bus from Penang!
Cash: No ATMs on the island so bring lots of cash! A couple of restaurants on the big island take CC (e.g. Barat Perhentian).
Internet: Some restaurants/hostels will have wifi, but it’s about as reliable as a cat at a dog show so get all of your internet needs out of the way before getting on the island.