The Hidden Islands of Malaysia

Senja Bay Resort – a family owned cottage resort

The Perhentian Islands is a tiny gem in north east Malaysia. I first heard the name from a co-worker when I was working in Korea, back in 2009. On this 2nd trip to Malaysia, I wanted to venture off the main route so hitting up this small island seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Perhantian consists of 2 islands – Kecil and Besar – small and big.
Besar is home to the luxury resorts while Kecil is home to the backpackers, specifically due to Long Beach where the entertainment is. Both islands are stunningly gorgeous and have access to all facilities.

Getting to the Perhentians is an adventure in itself – from Penang, I flew to Kota Bharu, from where you get a taxi transfer to the port, Kuala Besut, and take the jetty to the islands. The entire journey from the airport in Penang to my beachfront cottage took half the day. Once I saw the beautiful clean water and the white sand beach, the effort was completely worth it!

Beachfront villas are adorable and simple. The beaches are not crowded with people. There are a few shops run by local families and no one hassles you.


Once you get to the island there are 2 things you can do – eat and swim (remember to rest in between). The water is so warm that I spent about 5 hours each day just snorkelling and floating. It’s such a peaceful place, with small cottage resorts run by local families. I took a boat out one day for a snorkelling trip which cost 30 MYR, with a guy from my resort  and got to see some amazing sea life! We visited Coral Point, Shark Point, Turtle Point, a lighthouse, Romantic Beach and a fishing village. I did see turtles and corals, but not sharks. The visibility in this part of the ocean is crystal clear, probably because these islands are still off the radar (shhh! Let’s keep it a secret).

Long Beach is the main strip of this island and is home to more expensive resorts, restaurants and activities. Walking over to this beach I saw Komodo dragons because the 10 minute trek cuts through the jungle which is the centre part of the island. This part is undeveloped and hilly, and most of the budget backpackers are located here for the more adventurous souls.

the view from my cottage

Perhentian Islands are truly a hidden gem, and I’m envious that Malaysians can just whisk away to this beautiful place, for just a long weekend holiday. A 3 night stay is minimum to make the effort worth it, and to soak in all this beauty. Be careful of fish biting in the ocean in the mornings and water shoes are highly recommended due to the rocky coral. I stepped on a sea urchin during this trip and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, to say the least.

Beer is challenging to find due to it being a Muslim country. There is a mosque located on the big island because after all, this is a community so it’s important remember to dress conservatively and be mindful that we are visiting someone’s home when visiting these islands.

P.S – the best FRIED ice cream I’ve ever tried is on Long Beach. I hope to return to just taste that ice cream again 🙂 #willtravelforfood


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