Perhentian Kecil island guide for backpackers

Perhentian island, Malaysia
Perhentian island, Malaysia

We had a great time on Perhentian Kecil island and really loved it. Why? First of all warm crystal clear water, very nice for swimming and snorkeling. Second, the island has no roads, no cars, motorbikes only boats or walking trails. Third, you can do it cheap; camping and eating in local food places. Forth, diving was quite good and again cheap, not in many places nowadays you can dive for less than 20$ including equipment. Hope our Perhentian Kecil island guide will help you!

There are two Perhentian islands, big and small, not far apart from each other. Perhentian Besar (big) is supposed to be less developed and crowded but more expensive with mostly resorts and fancy restaurants. For this reason we chose Perhentian Kecil (small).

Long beach, Perhentian Kecil island guide
Long beach, Perhentian Kecil island guide

Two main beaches on Perhentian Kecil are Long beach and Coral Bay beach. The first is bigger, more touristy and busy with many bars opened till late and parties at night. Corral Bay beach is smaller, with couple of local food places, two or three restaurants, four dive shops. Coral Bay is very quite at night-time, nothing going on here after 10pm. You can always walk between two beaches, they are just 10-15 min. apart. On both you can find accommodation and food for different budget. We decided to stay on Coral Bay beach firstly because Campbell had stayed before on Long beach and secondly, because we found cheap camping there.  Nevertheless Coral Bay is small you can find anything you need here; accommodation, food, shops, diving, snorkeling trips, rental places etc.

Coral Bay beach, Perhentian Kecil
Coral Bay beach, Perhentian Kecil

Accommodation on Coral Bay beach. Perhentian Kecil island guide.

We stayed at Maya cabins/camping, nice place right on the beach. Here you have two options, to stay in a room with own bathroom and fan – 60 Ringgit/15$ per person for double or stay in a tent for 20 Ringgit/5$ per tent, doesn’t matter one or two persons (mattress is included). To camp with your own tent costs the same 20 Ringgit.  No wi-fi, electricity after 6pm, cold shower, kitchen where you can boil water. The place is quite basic but cheap and clean, the owner, Sunny, is a very nice and helpful person.

Camping at Maya, next to Anti Gravity divers, Perhentian Kecil
Camping at Maya, next to Anti Gravity divers, Perhentian Kecil

Apparently there are two more campsites on Perhentian; Rainforest and Pirate’s camping. The second is near Long beach, we didn’t go there just saw it on the way. Rainforest camping is 15 minutes walking from Coral Bay beach, at Rainforest beach, kind of hidden in the jungle. The price is 60 Ringgit/15$ per tent. Booking through Hostelworld is compulsory, if you walk in without a booking they will still ask you to book online. You not allowed to camp with your own tent. The place looked nice but for 60 Ringgit you can get a room on Coral Bay beach. Some people complained about thousands of mosquitoes  due to its location right in the forest.

Maya camping and guesthouse, Coral Bay beach. Perhentian Kecil island guide
Maya camping and guesthouse, Coral Bay beach. Perhentian Kecil island guide

What to do on Perhentian Kecil


We did three dives with Anti Gravity divers and enjoyed it. The visibility was good, the water was 30C, healthy coral reef with some interesting things to see. For more info about diving on Perhentian, prices and photos click HERE.

Prices for dives are between 75-80 Ringgit/20$ for one dive, the more you dive the cheaper it gets. The days we dived with Anti Gravity we were allowed to use fins and wet suits for snorkeling for free, as well as to refill our water bottles.

There were really many of clown fish and anemone. I Love these guys!
There were really many of clown fish and anemone. I Love these guys!

Do a dive course

Good place for learning, warm water, good visibility, beautiful corals, no current, nothing dangerous in the water. The average price for Open Water is 1000 Ringgit/245$, Advanced 900/220$. Some dive shops (e.g. Ombak divers, Coral Bay beach) offer free accommodation for those who do a dive course with them for all the period of your course.


If you are not that much into diving you can snorkel right from the beach or do a trip with 5-6 stops for 30-40 Ringgit/8-10$, including mask and fins. You can rent a mask and fins on the beach for 5 Ringgit/1,2$ for the day. Snorkeling was very good just wear rush vest or put a lot of sunscreen. WARNING! Don’t swim out too far from the shore or buoys, boat traffic can be quite hectic, there were couple of accidents.

Things we saw snorkeling around Coral Bay, Romantic and Rainforest beach. Three black tip sharks, two big and one small, many bumphead parrot fish, four dotted stingrays, one snake, many needle fish, couple barracudas, big schools of parrot fish, yellow box fish, titan triggerfish, many clown fish, sea cucumbers, huge schools of small silver fish. For more info on snorkeling and photos click HERE.

Pier at Coral Bay beach
Pier at Coral Bay beach


Paddle around, stop at different beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Half day rental (4 hours) – 20 Ringgit/5$, full day – 30/7,5$, at Maya guesthouse. We rented a kayak for four hours and paddled to Long beach and back with one stop in between for snorkeling. 4 hours was just enough to do it. Apparently if you’re strong enough you can paddle around the island in 4 hours but without too much stopping.

Chilling on the beach or in a hammock, reading, sunbathing, actually anything, just to be on Perhentian is quite a pleasure on its own.

Where to eat on Perhentian Kecil?

Of course food on the island is more expensive than on the mainland. In cafes for a meal you will pay from 5 to 30 Ringgit depends what you eat and where. Our favorite was  Dinie’s cafe next to our camping. We usually ordered plain rotis with curry for 5 Ringgit/1,2$, beef burger with chips for 8/2$ or fried vegetable rice for 6/1,4$. There is a shop next to where you can buy noodles, chips, cookies, cool drinks and some other stuff. Everything for 1-2 Ringgit more expensive.

The biggest gecko I've ever seen. Nevertheless its size it still lives between the walls
The biggest gecko I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless its size it still lives between the walls

Useful tips

  • To save money bring some food from the mainland, e.g. we brought instant oats for breakfast, eggs and noodles for lunch. If you stay at Maya you can boil eggs or water for oat or noodles.
  • Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent you’ll definitely need both.
  • There is a water dispenser on Coral Bay beach, at Amelia restaurant, you can refill 1,5l bottle for 1 Ringgit/0,3$, to buy 1,5l water costs 3/0,7$. Some dive shops (Anti gravity) and restaurants can refill it for 1 Ringgit as well so just bring empty bottles with you.
  • If you arrive on weekend it can be difficult to find accommodation.

How to get to Perhentian from George Town?

We took a bus+boat option and paid 115 Ringgit/28$ per person, 55 for the bus (George Town – Kuala Besut) and 60 for the boat (Kuala Besut – Perhentian – Kuala Besut). Boat ticket isreturn and open date you can go back any day. Bus leaves at 8.30pm from A.G. Express Services office, Prangin Mall building. It took 12 hours to get to the island, including 3 hours of waiting in Kuala Besut for the first boat to go. In Kuala Besut we saw some agencies offering return boat ticket for 50 Ringgit/12$. It’s better to know beforehand which island and beach you want to go that the boat can drop you right there.

Boats back to Kuala Besut leave from Coral Bay beach every day at 8am, 12pm, 4pm. Try to arrange everything the way you don’t need to stay overnight in Kuala Besut, accommodation is very expensive here, for dirty ugly AC room you’ll pay 70 Ringgit, for better options from 100. We took a night bus to KL for 45 Ringgit, leaves at 8.30pm.

Thousands of small fish at Jeti, Coral Bay beach, Perhentian
Coral Bay beach, Perhentian

We spent 5 days on Perhentian and had a great time. Comparing it with Langkawi I prefer Perhentian, much smaller, quieter, the water is warmer and cleaner and the diving is definitely better.


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  • Hello! Did you book your bus and boat together via an agency? Was the bus going straight to the pier in Kuala Besut or stopping in Kota Bahru and you took a local bus?
    The only direct bus from Georgetown to the jetty I find online costs 85MYR (+ 70MYR for the roundtrip boat)
    Pls let me know how/where you book it 🙂

    • Hello, Nat! Thank you for the question!
      You can find an answer for your question in the article, there is a section How to get to Perhentian island from George Town with all the prices and details.
      Good luck!

  • Hi!
    Did you book the accommodation in advance or did you get it as walk-in? Because I saw that the price on the inernet for double room (garden view) is 120 MYR! But I h´don’t know if I can risk not having anything booked since we’re going there from 3 June to 6 June (Sat – Tue).
    Thanks for your answer.

    • Hello, Katerina! Thank you for your question! We are very sorry but the price 60 is per person (we changed it in the article as well) if you’re two it’s 120. If you don’t mind staying in a tent you can rent one with mattresses for 20MYR for two people (at least it was 20 last July). It can be a bit hot in the tent but you spend most of the time outside. We just walked in to Maya guesthouse but we had our own tent we just needed a spot to pitch it. What about booking in advanced we’d recommend to make a booking for the first night because many people from the mainland come to Perhentian on weekends. But as we remember there was one or two tents always available.
      Good luck!

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