The Perhentian Islands are part of the state of Terengganu in Malaysia and offer visitors acres of sandy beaches and azure waters. The Perhentian Islands are made up of two separate isles named Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian) and Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian). As you would expect, the larger island is a little less crowded and is popular with families, while the smaller island is more suitable for backpackers and those who want the quiet beach life coupled with some lively nightlife spots. It is also possible to travel between the two easily when you visit so you can island hop and explore at your leisure before deciding where you want to base yourself.
You won’t find much in the way of attractions on the Perhentian Islands such as museums or galleries, but the whole point of coming here is to relax and unwind. This is also a top choice for anyone who likes underwater activities as the diving and snorkeling here is some of the best in the region. As if that wasn’t enough, there are even opportunities to volunteer and spend time helping to preserve the gorgeous marine flora and fauna that the Perhentian Island are famous for.
Here are the 25 best things to do on the Perhentian Islands:
1. Have breakfast at Panorama Divers Buffet Breakfast
Anyone on a budget should make their way to Panorama Divers Buffet Breakfast on Perhentian Kecil as this is one of the best deals on the Perhentian Islands.
Here you will find a range of both international and Asian breakfast items and you can expect classics such as banana pancakes and roti canai, a kind of Indian flatbread served with curry dipping sauce.
Other choices include fried rice and noodle dishes or you can choose the Western options and dine on eggs, cereal and toast.
2. Go scuba diving
One of the main reasons to visit the Perhentian Islands is for the amazing diving on offer.
Divers from all over the world flock here and you can check out the amazing colorful coral as well as a plethora of exotic fish.
As well as the fish, you can also enjoy turtles and a range of different species of sharks including black tips.
Visibility here is around 20 meters so you can enjoy all the underwater delights on offer and as the water is warm there is no need to wear a wetsuit.
While not the cheapest diving in Southeast Asia, it is still cheaper to get a dive here than it would be in many other places in the world.
3. Have something to eat at Santai
One of the most famous places to eat on the Perhentian islands is Santai restaurant which is the best place to come for a cold beer or cocktail as the sun goes down.
If you want something to eat then you can try Western dishes like burgers and pizza or you can sample the delicious barbecue which is set up here every night and includes the catch of the day with treats such as freshly grilled prawns.
4. Go snorkeling
If you are not diving certified then you can always check out the underwater scenery by snorkeling.
You can easily rent snorkeling equipment on both Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil and you can enjoy a range of spectacular snorkeling spots close to the shore such as Teluk Pauh which is on Perhentian Besar.
Other favorites include Shark Point and Tanjung Basi.
You can also book snorkeling trips where you will get to go out in a boat and discover a range of different sites.
5. Camp at Teluk KK
There are a huge number of accommodation options on Perhentian Besar but if you want to do something a little different then head to Teluk KK. Here you will find a campground to the south side of the beach where you can stay overnight under the stars.
If you ask at the various guesthouses then they will be able to point you in the way of some camping equipment and this is one of the best ways to commune with nature when you are visiting the Perhentian Islands.
6. Go jungle trekking
If you want to stay on dry land on the Perhentian Islands then you can indulge in a spot of jungle trekking.
Both islands are covered in a number of trails that will take you through lush rainforests and past idyllic rivers.
Some of the highlights of a jungle trek include the chance to check out the local flora and fauna and you can expect to see monitor lizards and monkeys.
One of the most popular treks takes you from Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil to Coral Bay where you can then cool off in the surf.
7. Chill out on the beach
Another reason many people come to the Perhentian Islands is to relax and get away from it all.
With that in mind, you can head to the famous Long Beach which is the central hub of Perhentian Besar.
Here you will find a strip of golden and which backs on to turquoise water and you can rent a hammock or a sun lounger with a parasol.
8. Watch the sunset
The Perhentian Islands are known for their pretty sunsets and no more so than at Coral Bay on Perhentian Kecil.
There are a number of secluded beach spots here as well as private beach areas that back on to resorts like D’Lagoon and this is the place to come if you want to watch the fiery natural light show without the crowds.
9. Check out the turtles
Many people won’t realize that the Perhentian Islands are the home of a large turtle population who come ashore to nest and then lay their eggs on the beach before heading back into the ocean.
As you would expect, the best place to catch the turtles is on the aptly named Turtle Beach and the best time to come here is at night when the eggs hatch.
Watching the baby turtles waddle off into the sea to start their journey to adulthood is one of the most moving sights you can experience here so it is well worth visiting if you are in town at the right time.
The best thing to do is ask the locals if it is turtle hatching season.
10. Have dinner at World Cafe
If you want to try some local food then head to World Cafe which is designed in an open style that allows the warm sea breeze to waft through the building.
You can get beer and cocktails here as well as a wealth of Western choices like pasta, wraps and salads.
As well as seafood sandwiches you can also enjoy a nightly seafood barbecue which showcases the best of the daily catch so expect fish, crab, prawns and more.
11. Sunbathe on Adam & Eve Beach
If you are on Perhentian Kecil and are looking for a quiet beach where you can just sunbathe and relax then Adam & Eve Beach is a great choice.
It is not the largest beach on the island but the sand if clear and there are also a few smaller isolated beaches close that you can swim to from Adam & Eve Beach.
People come here to go snorkeling, which you can do all over the Perhentian Islands but the real draw is spending time topping up your tan with a good book.
12. Visit the Fishing Village
There are not many attractions on the Perhentian Islands as such but if you want to visit a less developed side of Perhentian Kecil then head to the local Fishing Village.
Here you will be able to get a glimpse of how the locals live and work and if you come in the morning you can watch the local fishermen as they haul in their catch.
13. Watch a fire show
If you want to see one of the most fascinating spectacles on the Perhentian Islands then you need to make you way to Bubu Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil.
Here you can enjoy hula and fire dancing right on the sand and the locals will perform a dance and fire show for guests.
Not only are the feats of athletics impressive, but as there is not much in the way of nightlife on the Perhentian Islands, this is a welcome event if you are looking for something to do once the sun goes down.
14. Volunteer at the Turtle Sanctuary
The Perhentian Islands are known across Malaysia for their green turtle population which includes Hawksbill and Green turtles.
Some 300 turtles come here every year to lay their eggs although they are at risk from oil spills and poaching.
As such there is a turtle hatchery on the Perhentian Islands which is run by the local Department of Fisheries and you can volunteer here and work to help preserve the nesting areas of the turtles.
15. Try sea kayaking
Anyone looking for a little adventure on the Perhentian Islands needs to try sea kayaking which is the hottest water sport in the region.
The waters around the Perhentian Islands are fairly flat and you can rent a kayak and go it alone or you can sign up for a tour which is a good choice for beginners.
You can rent a kayak at many of the guesthouses across the islands and it is a great way to check out all the scenery from the vantage point of the water.
16. Dine on Perhentian Kecil
In high season Perhentian Kecil can seem more crowded than Perhentian Besar but it is also known for being cheaper.
With this in mind, many people come here for the seafood dinners, even if they choose to stay elsewhere.
Some of the most famous spots to come for an evening meal include Coral Bay where you will find a number of delicious seaside restaurants that offer you spectacular views over the water as you dine on the sand.
17. Visit the Bubbles Dive Resort
Bubbles Dive Resort is one of the most popular on the islands and this is the place to come if you want to get PADI certified.
It is also a great choice if you are looking for a range of specialized diving courses such as muck diving, macro diving and underwater photography classes.
Bubbles Dive Resort is also dedicated to working on conservation projects to protects the reefs and turtles around the Perhentian Islands and you can sign up to re-plant coral here or gather data on the underwater life that swims in these seas.
18. Tour the Terengganu Marine Park
Terengganu Marine Park was established in 1994 and is made up of a number of islands off the coast of Terengganu.
If you are staying on the Perhentian Islands then one of the best things to do is enjoy the others islands in the park which include Lima, Ekor Tebu, Pinang and Pulau Tenggol.
The best way to do this is to hire a boat for the day on Perhentian Besar or Kecil and then cruise around taking in all the little secluded spots in the marine park.
19. Dive with sharks with Turtle Bay Divers
If you want to see some sharks when you dive in the Perhentian Islands then head to Turtle Bay Divers.
As the name suggest, this dive school is located at Turtle Bay and this is one of the best spots on the Perhentian Islands if you want the chance to dive with whale sharks and octopus.
Bear in mind that the sharks here are harmless and safe to dive with.
20. Try a scuba walker
Anyone who doesn’t dive needn’t miss out on the fun when they visit the Perhentian Islands.
Thanks to the latest technology, you can now hire a scuba walker and explore the ocean floor without even having to get your hair wet.
When you sign up for a dive you will be fitted with a watertight helmet and some weighted boots which will allow you to walk along the sand under the water and take in all the marine life firsthand.
21. Go swimming off PIR Beach
If you are staying on Perhentian Besar then you need to head to PIR Beach which is one of the most beautiful on the island.
This beach backs on to a resort but you can still visit even if you are not staying here and the sand is clean and the water clear.
This is one of the largest expanses of beach in the area and with that in mind it is a good place to come if you want to skip the large crowds.
The beach leads to a wide bay which is a good place to swim and search for turtles.
22. Have a drink at Tupai Beach Bar
Tupai Beach Bar is an ideal spot to visit on the Perhentian Islands if you are looking for a relaxed place to have a drink as the sun goes down.
One of the big draws here is that the bar has a live band and if you are traveling with younger guests then they can play on the surrounding sand while you relax with a sundowner.
They sell cocktails as well as ice cold beer.
23. Enjoy a movie night
In the evenings there is admittedly not much in the way of nightlife on the Perhentian Islands so with that in mind you may want to settle down and enjoy a movie night.
There are a number of different places that you can grab a bean bag and lay on the sand watching a movie, but one of the top spots is the Ombak Resort.
Most movie night places on the islands also do food and drinks so you can watch while enjoying a beer.
24. Buy some arts and crafts
The Perhentian Islands are not particularly well known for their arts and crafts but you can still pick up a few pieces here from places such as Chillout Cafe and Craft on Perhentian Kecil.
Here you will find the usual wood carvings and clothes, but if you are looking for some cheap beach wear or some souvenirs of your time here then you can get some pretty trinkets or gifts.
25. Stay in a tree house
Accommodation options on the Perhentian Islands are now changing.
In the days of old you would have been stuck with either a guesthouse or an upscale resort, but now many of the locals have set up their own accommodation choices and these come in some imaginative forms.
One of the best of these is the tree houses which are springing up across the islands which are built to resemble log cabins surrounded by jungle.
The best way to get to stay in one of these is to ask around when you get to Perhentian Kecil or look online as this is one of the most atmospheric options in the region.