Not only famous for the modern Kuala Lumpur, antique Malacca, and beautiful Penang, Malaysia attracts visitors with enchanting islands as well. One of them is the Perhentian archipelago with two main islands – Perhentian Kecil (small island) và Perhentian Besar (big island) in the northeast of Malaysia adjacent to the southern border of Thailand.
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Listed as one of the world’s 100 most beautiful beaches by CNN, Perhentian will never disappoint you. Immerse yourself in emerald water or stroll down the coastal roads to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere there. The pristine beauty of the small islands will bring you to a new world with colorful coral reefs, vibrant fish and lovely turtles having fun in the ocean.
Kota Bharu – An unique destination
Located in the north of Malaysia, Kota Bharu is the capital of Kelantan state. This is a unique destination for those who want to explore Malaysian culinary arts and the local traditional culture before heading to Perhentian. Separated from the hustle and bustle of modern cities, Kota Bharu brings you to a nostalgic world with special architectural styles exhibited via museums, culture centers, mosques, and local markets. There, you will have a chance to buy an array of goods, including exquisite silverwares, handcrafts, and batik fabrics well as enjoy delicious street food.
On my own trip, after strolling along the center area I visited Gelanggang Seni -the cultural center of Kota Bharu- to learn more about Malaysian architecture and Kelatan culture by partaking in folk games, contemplating pictures, and watching traditional martial arts performances. I also took time to visit the antique castle Istana Jahar and Royal Museum which is home to historic relics and royal artworks from the ancient Islamic dynasties. Since Kota Bharu is a small city, it is quick and easy to travel to different mosques and historic sites.
At noon, as guided by the information desk’s staff, I traveled to the suburbs to visit traditional villages which specialize in silverware and textile crafts. After that, I went back to the city and visited the most popular central market in the shape of an octagon. While locals and visitors can enjoy simple traditional food on the first floor, the upper level is home to the region’s signature spices, colorful fabrics and silks, along with copper products, and other goods.
At first glance, Kota Bharu doesn’t have much to offer, but inside this small peaceful city are countless interesting places to attract and entrance visitors. Explore what secret’s are hiding behind the city’s gates.
Inviting beach paradise
When we were travelling from Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut harbor, our friendly driver told us many stories about locals and how they often visit mosques. He also invited me to experience a prayer meeting. After a 15-minute prayer meet ended, we continued the trip to the harbor. I decided to stay there a night so that I could enjoy nasi lemak, a traditional breakfast with rice chicken, boiled egg, fried fish and sambal sauce, served with a hot fragrant the tarik (hot milk tea).
Taking the first ship to the island in the early morning, I knew my time spent waiting was well worth it. The turquoise water waving upon the ship’s sides brought me a pleasant feeling and wiped away all my weariness of daily life. I decided to stay in Perhentian Besar (the big island) for its tranquil space, fresh air, and long white sand beaches. A true beach paradise in Malaysia!
To completely take in the beauty of this area, I rented a kayak to explore around the islands and its surrounding islets. Then, I started my adventure in the ocean to admire the beautiful marine life. There are snorkeling and scuba diving tours which last from 3 to 5 hours at various rates. What could be better than feeling small fish touch your skin, swimming over beautiful large coral reefs, and watching big turtles and small sharks swimming around?
What could be better than feeling small fish touch your skin, swimming over beautiful large coral reefs, and watching big turtles and small sharks swimming around?
Perhentian is renowned not only for turquoise water and snorkeling tours but also tropical forests covering the island. Small paths in forests lead you to a new world of diverse plants and animals. I spent a day trekking through the forest with a group of young people. We were captivated by the amazing scenery, fresh air, harmless iguanas, and countless different type of birds.
At sunset, I walked along the beach, watching small boats carry fresh seafood from the ocean. Although the island is far away from the main land, food is fresh and delicious. One is best to enjoy grilled meat and seafood for dinner while saving local specialties for breakfast and lunch.
True highlight to mention is that there are music parties every weekend night in summer. Relax on the beach paradise, feel the music, and enjoy a BBQ party with friends. What more could you ask for?
Relax on the beach paradise, feel the music, and enjoy a BBQ party with friends on weekend. What more could you ask for?
You can fly from Vietnam to Malaysia with Air Asia, Malindo Air, or Malaysia Airlines.
+ From Vietnam to Kota Bharu, you have to transit at Kuala Lumpur (KLIA or KLIA2 with Air Asia) for 3-4 hours. Based on your flights, you can stay a night in Kuala Lumpur.
+ From Kota Bhary, buy a taxi ticket at the airport (RM78) to travel to Kuala Besut wharf (for 1 hour). There are 3 ships to the island (7am – 12pm – 4pm). Take a ship to Perhentian Besar – Perhentian Kecil (RM70/ round trip) for 45 minutes.
+ When you return from the island, ask the hotel to inform the ship’s driver about your departure time.
+ Kota Bharu: Choose your accommodation on agoda.com, booking.com or airbnb.com. You can also go sightseeing in the city in the morning then travel to the island in the afternoon and overnight on the island.
–> Airbnb link discounts up to $35 for the first booking here: https://www.airbnb.com/c/anht5185
+ Perhentian: Kecil (small island) is a suitable place for group of friends. There are many guest houses and resorts along Long Beach such as Rock Garden Chalet, Matahari Chalet, Maya Guest house, and Shari-La Island Resort. Besar (large island) is great for families or those who prefer quiet place. Barat Perhentian Beach Resort and Coral View Island Resort are among recommended resorts there. You can check rates & availability for the Perhentian Islands hotels & resorts on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
Buy some snacks before heading to the island. There are many restaurants serving all day with reasonable prices from RM7 to RM75/ meal. Some notable places to eat are Mama’s, the restaurant at Barat Resort, Matahari Chalet, and more.
+ The best time to visit Perhentian is from March to October.
+ There are lots of mosquitoes. You should prepare cream to prevent mosquitos and insects.
+ Bring water proof camera so that you can save amazing moments when diving. You can also rent a camera for RM50/ day as deposit and get money back after you give the camera back.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Perhentian Islands you can refer to
- 3D2N Fun Dive Experience with Accommodation at MIMPI Perhentian Island Resort
- [Flash Sale – 10% Off] Boat Transfers between Perhentian Island and Kuala Besut
- [Exclusive] Staycation at Alunan Perhentian Resort with Snorkeling Trip Experience
- Redang Island Snorkeling Experience
Are you looking for more top things to do in Perhentian Islands: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here.