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Guide To The Perhentian Islands: Diving, Snorkeling And Relaxing

The Perhentians is a cluster of small islands about 20km from the Northeast coast of Malaysia.

The Perhentian archipelago is a dream destination, with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters that will take your breath away.

The ocean around the islands is a designated marine park and is famous for its beautiful underwater world. This makes it a great place for scuba divers, which is exactly why we traveled to the Perhentian Islands!

Fun fact: in Malay ‘Perhentian’ means ‘Stopping point’. The island was an important waypoint on the trading route between Bangkok and Malaysia.

There are 2 main islands: Pulau Perhentian Besar (Besar means big) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Kecil means small). There are also a couple of uninhabited smaller islands, many can be visited on snorkeling tours offered on Besar and Kecil.

We stayed at Perhentian Kecil (the small island), on Long Beach to be exact. More about where to stay further in this post.

Guide to the Perhentian Islands

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Why visit the Perhentian Islands

It’s not surprising we ended up on a tropical island after 3 weeks of hiking in Nepal. After all, what better way to relax and ‘recover’ from the cold Himalayas than on a tropical beach…

Guide To The Perhentian Islands Diving, Snorkeling And Relaxing

However, the most important reason for us to book a ticket from Kathmandu to Malaysia was to go diving. The Perhentian Islands are great for scuba diving (and snorkeling as well).

Diving is addictive and since getting our PADI, it’s gotten to the point that researching the dive opportunities is one of the first things I google when deciding upon visiting a country.

Diving on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

During our 5-month trip, we went diving at Tioman island on the Southeast coast of Malaysia. We did 4 dives there and the marine world was incredible! 

And when friends of ours told us about their PADI course at the Perhentian Islands and the excellent diving opportunities, I added the Perhentians to my ‘Places to Visit’ list. You know, just in case…

So when we were brainstorming where to go after Nepal these little islands popped up and before we knew it we were on a boat to paradise.

Well, before we knew it isn’t entirely accurate. Getting to the Perhentians actually involved several transportation steps, you can read more about that below.

Where to stay on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

How to prepare for your trip to the Perhentian Islands?

First of all, be sure to get enough cash on the mainland. There are no ATMs on the islands, however, you can pay with a credit card at larger resorts as well as at some dive shops (though they will charge extra for this).

Second of all, there are no supermarkets in Long Beach or Coral Bay so be sure to buy all your essentials (mosquito repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops, etc) on the mainland.

Finally, keep in mind that peak season is in July and it can get very busy during that month. If you plan to travel during this time, booking a room as early on as possible is a smart thing to do!

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How to get to the Perhentian Islands

Step 1: bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut

We took a bus from Kuala Lumpur, unfortunately, the night bus was already sold out so we traveled with the 9.45 am bus.

We booked our bus ticket online, which I highly recommend doing if you want to make sure you're able to travel on a specific date, especially in peak season.

The bus was modern and comfortable, with reclining seats and nowhere near full (probably because everybody was traveling on the night bus…).

The bus left on time and stopped for lunch around 1 pm. We arrived in Kuala Besut around 6 pm.

As the last jetty leaves from Kuala Besut to the Perhentians around 5 pm, we had to spend a night here before continuing our journey. We booked a double room (with a private bathroom) at Ila Homestay.

While it's not a luxury accommodation, we had a comfortable stay. The room had air conditioning, was clean, and was within walking distance of the bus terminal and the jetty. Click here to book.

When you're looking for a place to grab a bit there are plenty of options in the street across the jetty terminal. Two of the best places to eat are La Wood Cafe (for lunch) and April Cafe (for dinner).

Kuala Besut La Wood Cafe - where to eat in Kuala Besut near jetty
Kuala Besut April Cafe - where to eat in Kuala Besut near jetty

How to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut by bus?

How much does the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut cost?

If you book online, a bus ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut costs between 39 and 56 RM ($8-$12).

Where to catch the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut?

Buses leave from Kuala Lumpur TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) which can easily be reached from Kuala Lumpur city center by LRT train.

We took the LRT (Sri Petaling Line) at Plaza Rakyat, a 5-minute walk from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

How many buses leave from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut?

There are many buses (10+ each day) from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut, departing 24/7. Check the schedule here.

How long does the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut take?

The bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut takes approximately 8 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

Night buses are generally faster than buses departing throughout the day. Click here to book your bus ticket.


Step 2: boat from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands

We stayed at BuBu resort, they have their own speed boat service so we didn’t travel to the islands by jetty.

However, buying a ticket for the jetty is easy. Just walk from Kuala Besut bus station to the jetty pier (about 1km) and look for the ticket office.

Alternatively, book your ticket online. Regardless of how you book, you'll have to pay a Marine Conservation Fee, for foreigners this fee is 30RM per adult.

How to travel from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands?

How much does the ferry from Kuala Besut to Perhentian Kecil cost?

A ticket costs 35RM one way, but it’s better to buy a return ticket (which also costs 35RM). You can also book your ticket online.

Where to catch the jetty from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands?

The jetty departs from the terminal in Kuala Besut, click here for the location on Google maps.

How many ferries leave from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands?

The ferry departs every hour (on the hour) starting from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm daily. Click here to book your ferry ticket online.

How long does the jetty from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands take?

The jetty takes approximately 40 minutes but this depends on the weather. In choppy seas, the journey can take a bit longer.

If you're prone to seasickness, consider taking motion sickness medication. It can be a pretty rough ride and starting your tropical island escape feeling crappy isn't the best idea.

The Perhentian Islands: when to go

Unfortunately, the Perhentian Islands are not a year-round destination. Between November and March, it's monsoon season, and the islands are closed (for tourists).

We visited at the end of April and had beautiful weather. Yes, it was hot and humid, but sunny every day.

Diving on the Perhentian Islands

Every time I go diving one of my favorite moments is when I push the button on my BCD.

That magic button releases the air so I slowly float down to the bottom of the ocean and can immerse myself in the amazing underwater world…

Diving at the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia - Anti Gravity Divers

Anti Gravity Divers Dive school

After arriving at the Perhentian Islands, diving was the first thing we arranged. We went diving with Anti Gravity Divers, located in Coral Bay on the West coast of Perhentian Kecil.

The dive shop is near the end of the beach on the left-hand side.

Anti Gravity Divers Dive School Perhentian Island Malaysia

For me, one of the most important things when choosing a dive school is checking their equipment. Diving is all about safety and the equipment should be well-maintained.

At Anti-Gravity Divers, all the gear was in great condition, in fact, if I had enough room in my backpack I would have bought the fins I used during my dives…

Anti Gravity Divers Dive School Perhentian Island Malaysia - dive equipment

Other important things to me are the size of the groups and the dive master. All the staff at Anti Gravity Divers spoke perfect English and happily answered all our dive questions.

We did all our dives with dive master Matt. He did an excellent job at the dive briefings, going over the safety procedures, showing us a drawing of the dive site, and explaining about fish we could expect to see and potential hazards.

Sugar Wreck Dive Site Perhentian Islands Malaysia - what does the wreck look like

I like diving in small groups and our dive group was between 3 and 5 people, which was perfect. Smaller groups mean the dive master can easily keep an eye on everyone.

It also makes it easier to stick together as a group and spot cool fish (if you are in a group of 10 people chances of the shark still being there when you arrive as #10 are pretty slim?).

Diving Perhentian Islands Malaysia - giant clam

Dive sites at the Perhentian Islands

We did 4 dives around the Perhentian Islands and went to 3 different dive sites. We went to Lokong Laut, the top dive site in the area twice, lucky us!

Dive #1 & #4: Tokong Laut

Clown fish Nemo scuba diving Perhentian Island Malaysia

One of the most popular dive sites in the Perhenthians is Tokong Laut, a pinnacle also known as ‘the Temple of the Sea’.

The deepest point of the dive site is 25 meters, we started our dive at the bottom and slowly made our way up around the pinnacle. There were so much marine life and amazing coral reefs!

We saw bamboo sharks, porcupines, many scorpion fish (don’t touch, they sting! You shouldn’t touch anything while diving anyway!), clownfish (I love them!), moray eels, blue-spotted stingrays, a banded sea krait (sea snake), a beautiful nudibranch and much more…

When you go diving it's always a surprise what you'll see. Other marine species commonly seen in these waters are blacktip reef sharks, bumphead parrotfish, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, and if you're very very very lucky you may even see a whale shark (still one of the things on my personal bucket list).

Sea Snake Perhentian Islands scuba diving
Nudibranch Perhentian Islands scuba diving

We were lucky to do 2 dives here, both were quite long (56 and 51 minutes) so we had a lot of time to explore this amazing site!

Visibility was great, between 10 meters at the bottom and 15 meters at 10 meters deep.

Dive #2: Romantic Bay

Romantic beach dive site Perhentian Island - closed sea anemone

Our second dive was at Romantic Bay, a relatively shallow site (13 meters at the deepest) with lots of big boulders to swim around.

We saw moray eels, clownfish, butterflyfish, longfin bannerfish, a tiny coral crab, see-through cleaner shrimps, tiger cowrie, angel fish, and more.

Cristmas tree worm Perhentian Islands scuba diving

Visibility at the bottom wasn’t great (about 4 meters) but when we got closer to the surface it significantly improved (to about 10 meters).

The bright sunlight made the corals even prettier. And for me, this dive site was all about the colorful coral. Because we were not diving deep, the colors were much more vivid than in deeper water.

And there were so many types of coral, I really enjoyed floating over this underwater garden…

Dive #3: Sugar Wreck

Dive Site Sugar Wreck Perhentian Islands Malaysia

This was our second wreck dive, our first wreck dive was in Koh Tao, Thailand. Sugar Wreck lies 18 meters underwater and it’s an awesome dive site!

The ship sank during the monsoon season in 2000 while transporting sugar (hence the name). What’s cool about the wreck is that it’s on its side. The ship is 80 meters long and you can swim completely around it.

My favorite part was checking out the mast, nets, and the top of the ship. It’s amazing to see how the ocean is slowly taking over the boat, there is so much cool stuff growing on the wreck.

During the dive, we saw pick handle barracuda, moray eels, a bamboo shark, a mappa pufferfish, and many schools of different kinds of fish swimming around the wreck.

Visibility at the bottom was not that good (around 3 meters) but the higher we got, the better the visibility (at the top of the wreck it was at least 10 meters).

Sugar Wreck Dive Site Perhentian Islands Malaysia

Dive prices

For certified scuba divers

For experienced divers, the price per dive depends on the total number of dives you do (the more dives = the lower the price per dive).

Prices at Anti Gravity Divers for a certified diver can vary between 70-90RM per dive. For the Sugar Wreck, there is an additional charge of 20RM.

For new divers/course divers

A PADI Open Water Course costs 1150RM, so approximately €240. If you're taking one of the PADI courses at Anti Gravity Divers, you can stay in their dormitory for free.

There are also a couple of bungalows next door belonging to Maya Chalet (which the dive center can help you book), the beach-facing ones are 90RM per night and the ones in the back are 70RM per night.

You can find more info about the prices for diving here.

Other things to do on the Perhentian Islands

Hiking on the Perhentian Islands

For us, diving was our primary reason to go to the Perhentian Islands. Well, diving and relaxing at our resort (more about that below). But there are other things to do on these beautiful little islands as well.

There are a couple of hiking tracks through the jungle, but be sure to bring plenty of water with you because you’ll be sweating a lot. And I mean a lot…

Hiking on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia - jungle trails

You can walk from Long Beach to Coral Bay Beach (1km), from Long Beach to Fisherman Village (3,2km), and from Long Beach to the Wind Mills on top of the hill (2km).

You could even walk from Fisherman Village all the way around the south side of the island to Coral Bay. However, with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius I am not sure how smart that would be…

Snorkeling on the Perhentian Islands

Snorkeling on the Perhentian Islands - what to expect

If you are not into diving but do like to explore the underwater world, you can go snorkeling. Snorkeling on Pulau Perhentian Kecil is (almost) just as beautiful (and a lot cheaper than diving).

Click here to book a tour online (including snorkeling gear, boat rides to the snorkel sites, and an English-speaking guide/boatman)

Alternatively, if you are staying at Long Beach, simply get your mask and fins and swim to the rocks behind the jetty pier. There are beautiful fish and even coral very close to the shore!

Where to stay on the Perhentian Islands

We were lucky enough to stay at BuBu Resort, a beautiful hotel located at Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil.

The room

BuBu Resort Perhentian Kecil sea view room - where to stay
BuBu Resort Perhentian Kecil view from balcony

After a month in Nepal (3 weeks of which we spent in lodges along the Jiri – Everest Base Camp trail) we were delighted to check into our beautiful room at BuBu Resort.

The bed was very comfortable, the shower was good and the towels big and fluffy. We received 2 complimentary water bottles per day, the room had a safe, a big closet for storage, and universal sockets (no need for an adapter, yay!).

But what we loved most was the view from our balcony…

The food

Each morning the smell of freshly baked croissants lured us to the breakfast buffet.

Breakfast options included made-to-order vegetable omelets, yogurt with cereals, salad, and fresh fruits. A cup of Italian coffee completed our daily breakfast ritual.

The food menu for lunch and dinner was excellent. Food prices are higher than at other restaurants on the island, but the quality is also much better and the portions are generous.

There is so much to choose from, we tried everything from the Club Sandwich to the Thai Green curry and from the Beef Skewer to the Aglio e Olio pasta. It was all delicious!

Perhentian Kecil BuBu Resort delicious food
Perhentian Kecil BuBu Resort delicious food Pad Thai
Perhentian Kecil BuBu Resort delicious food Bubu Nasi Goreng
Perhentian Kecil BuBu Resort delicious food Aglio e Olio

Another perk of staying at BuBu was the 2 free cocktails (each) we got during the daily happy hour (5-6 pm)! Life is good when staring over the bright blue ocean with a cold beverage in your hand…

BuBu Resort Perhentian Kecil free cocktail hour

Other things you need to know about Bubu Resort

The BuBu staff is great, all of them were very welcoming and they knew our name after one afternoon.

There is no pool, but who wants to swim in a pool anyway when you have the most beautiful ocean in front of the resort…

Perhentian Kecil BuBu Resort ocean view from terrace

The speed boat transfer from and to Kuala Besut was included:

– The boat to the resort leaves at 11.30 am and 2 pm.
– The boat to the shore leaves at 10.30 am and 12.30 pm.

BuBu also operates a sister hotel, BuBu Villa, on the opposite side of Long Beach. We checked out a couple of the beautiful villas and they look perfect for a romantic getaway or a family vacation.

BuBu Villa Perhentian Kecil - where to stay
Perhentian Kecil BuBu Villa where to stay

We had a wonderful time at the Perhentian Islands, for us it was just what we needed after Nepal: diving at beautiful sites and relaxing with a perfect view. You can read more about our travels in Malaysia here.

Tioman or the Perhentian Islands?

First of all, both islands are beautiful so there is no wrong decision here.

Tioman Island

Tropical Tioman Island Malaysia

The villages at Tioman where I stayed (Salang and ABC village) were very small, with a handful of accommodations, no paved road, and just one dive school.

We were on Tioman during the week and there were a few tourists. However, during weekends Tioman gets very busy with visitors from Singapore and KL. If you prefer peace and quiet I strongly recommend avoiding the weekend.

All accommodation at Tioman is very basic (at least it was when I visited in 2015), think bamboo cottages on the beach with no hot water and a fan. There are no large resorts in Salang and ABC and only a couple of restaurants.

For both Tioman as well as the Perhentian Islands it takes some effort to get there. You can find more details in my Malaysia itinerary.

The Perhentian Islands
Pin for later ⤴️

Perhentian Kecil is slightly more busy than Tioman, though I definitely wouldn’t call it crowded (at least, not when you visit outside of peak season, which falls in July).

We stayed at Long Beach but our dive school was on the other side of the island, in Coral Bay. Accommodation on the Perhantians is more varied, you can find budget accommodation but also a luxury resort (Bubu, where we stayed).

What about diving?

Dive prices were similar and both locations have stunning coral. At Tioman, I saw turtles but at the Perhentians, I did a wreck dive…

So again, you can’t really make a wrong decision!

Perhentian Islands diving guide: in conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this Perhentian Islands travel guide. If you've got any questions, send me a message or leave a comment below, I'm happy to help you plan your trip to these tropical islands!

Are you looking for more beautiful islands to visit in Southeast Asia? Also read my guide to Langkawi, Bali itinerary, El Nido travel guide, and Phu Quoc scooter itinerary.

And don't forget to check out my other Malaysia posts as well:

This post was updated in February 2023.

Complete guide to the tropical Perhentian Islands on the east coast of Malaysia: where to stay, how to get there & what to do. The Perhentians are famous for scuba diving and snorkeling, the underwater world is absolutely amazing! The beaches are pure white sand and the ocean is a vivid blue. A perfect place to relax for a couple of days! #Malaysia #PerhentianIslands #ScubaDiving #Snorkeling
Complete guide to the tropical Perhentian Islands on the east coast of Malaysia: where to stay, how to get there & what to do. The Perhentians are famous for scuba diving and snorkeling, the underwater world is absolutely amazing! The beaches are pure white sand and the ocean is a vivid blue. A perfect place to relax for a couple of days! #Malaysia #PerhentianIslands #ScubaDiving #Snorkeling

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Anti Gravity Divers and BuBu Resort. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.


Tuesday 18th of October 2022

Enjoyed your write up on perhentian, lotte. I've just got back from perhentian kecil last week, it was my 12th visit spanning 19 years. The first was back in 2003. Some recent historical contexts on perhentian kecil, it was only opened to local malaysians in 1998. Before that it was strictly allowed to foreigners only. For locals prior to 1998, were only allowed to go to the perhentian besar island. Another that was forgotten in perhentian kecil is the banana plantation hilltop lookout point, if you ask the new generation that works in long beach, they most probably didn't know about the lookout point. Only the windmill lookout point. But for decades, the banana plantation was the place for breathtaking views from up the hill. You could read about the banana plantation here on my (abandoned) old blog: (have to scroll down a bit)

You could also check some of the old photos on Google maps "banana plantation view point" on perhentian.



Wednesday 19th of October 2022

Hey Imran,

Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your knowledge and experience with Perhentian Kecil:-) 12 visits, that's so cool... And it just goes to show that there's always a reason to return to a place to explore more and make more travel memories.

Thanks for sharing the link to your old blog, I've looked through the pictures and really enjoyed traveling through time this way. A lot has changed over the years. Safe travels and I hope you'll take many more trips to this tropical paradise! Lotte


Monday 10th of October 2022

Hey Lotte. Great piece on an absolutely stunning place. I went there in 2000, yes 22 years ago and did my PADI course with the then 'turtle bay divers'. It cost the equivalent of about £90 at that time. You photos of the coral, while amazing, are not a patch on the colours of 20 years ago. It just shows how we are effecting our planet. Bubu (monkey boy) was a 20 year old lad with big plans and I see he has done well.


Monday 10th of October 2022

Hey Simon,

Thanks so much for reading and it's incredible to hear about your diving experience at the Perhenthians so many years ago! I can only imagine how beautiful the corals must have been back in those days... I pray that we'll be able to save the beautiful underwater world of our planet.

And yes, Bubu Resort and Villas are the most luxurious properties on Perhenthian Kecil so he has done well indeed. Thanks again and have a lovely day.



Sunday 25th of August 2019

how to get the snorkeling package? how much is it?


Wednesday 28th of August 2019

Dear Ahamad,

I'm sorry but I actually don't know as I only went snorkeling myself along the coast (and of course I went diving but I've mentioned the costs of this). I'm sure you can find nice snorkeling tours for around 20eur per person!


Hayato Davis

Thursday 27th of June 2019

Hello Lotte,

Such a great place to dive! Southeast Asia is one of the most adventurous places to dive. I am planning to dive in Southeast Asia. Thank you for the post. Keep sharing!


Sunday 30th of June 2019

Hi Hayato,

I agree, SE Asia is an amazing place for scuba diving!



Tuesday 31st of July 2018

Honestly, I have never ever been to such an amazing island like this! I will discover it in may 4-day off vacation in September for sure. Thanks so much for the awesome post and keep moving.


Wednesday 1st of August 2018

Have a wonderful trip to the Perhantians! Lotte