When traveling to Malaysia, we had to choose an island for a little rest. In Western Malaysia (Malay Peninsula) the tourists have the following options:
Langkawi - Well-developed infrastructure, airport, towns, and lots of tourists. The water and beaches are not very good according to reviews. Penang - Same as Langkawi. Tioman - Small airport, no towns, nice beach, few tourists. Perhentian - No airport, no towns, nice beach, pretty hard to get there.
We had a choice between Tioman and the Perhentian islands, and chose the last ones as this place was difficult to reach, which meant not many tourists. The best time for travelling to the islands is from March to October on weekdays, as on weekends a lot of locals come there for a rest. Take cash, there's no ATMs on the islands, and credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
At first you should find out how to get there. The best way is to fly to Kota Bharu. Three airlines fly there: AirAsia, Firefly, and Malaysia Airlines. We flew from Kuala Lumpur with AirAsia. Two return tickets, baggage, selected seat, and shuttle bus in Kuala Lumpur cost us $236.
In the arrivals area of the Kota Bharu airport there's a rack where you can buy taxi and boat tickets to the Perhentian islands. You buy a one-way taxi ticket (MYR 78 or $24 per car) and a return boat ticket (140 MYR or $42 for two people). For taxi back you need to pay additionally.
In about an hour the taxi will bring you to a small office on the beach in Kuala Besut. You should pay a small fee for entry to the reserve ($ 1.5). Tell your hotel name there and they'll tell you the departure time of your boat. Theoretically boats run on time, several times a day, but most likely they start when there's a sufficient number of passengers. The speed boats are very fast, it'll take you 40 minutes to get to the islands.
If you drive a car, then go to Kuala Besut, leave the car in the parking lot ($2 per day) and go to the boats. You can still come by the KTM train from Kuala Lumpur and even from Singapore (schedule). You need to go to the Tanah Merah station and then take a taxi to Kuala Besut Jetty.
There are two islands, Kecil and Besar. The smaller one, Kecil, is cheaper with more people, whereas the larger one, Besar, is more expensive and thus less visited. There are neither towns nor villages on the islands, only hotels. We had originally planned to go to the big island and chose the best hotel there, Perhentian Island Resort or just PIR (booking.com). We booked an inexpensive room in the bungalow 100 meters from the sea for $75 per day. There's air conditioning, 24-hour electricity (in other hotels it may not be all the day) and free Internet access at the reception and in the restaurant. Some bungalows, which are not far from the reception, also have WiFi access.
However, there are more expensive bungalows close to the sea for about $200. Prices in inexpensive hotels on both islands start from $15 per room, an average price is about $30-50. Here's a map with all hotels.
There's no cafe near the PIR hotel, you can only eat in the hotel restaurant. The buffet costs about $12 per person. But you can walk along the shore towards the Coral View hotel and further (about 1 km), and find several restaurants and cafes that are cheaper. There are not many small cafes and restaurants on the islands; many hotels offer food only on the all-inclusive basis.
We spent two full days on the islands and found what to do: - snorkeling - beach - trekking through the jungle - animal/fish watching
The main transportation here is a water taxi. Prices are about $3-4 if you want to visit another beach and $5-7 - to another island.
We must say that there's an excellent beach near the PIR.
Right beside the PIR hotel there's a home of giant tortoises. We swam there for a few hours, it was exciting.
The snorkeling tours are quite popular, we took one to the Rawa Island ($12 per person). However, it's possible to agree on an individual tour to any places. Some of the places are marked on the map below. Turtle Point is the beach at the PIR. Turtle Beach and Blue Lagoon (about 1.5 km from the PIR) can be reached by either a water taxi or a rented kayak ($12 per day).
Andon the next map someonewas walking along the beaches,but this map is better and you can find additional trails on it.Note that thetrails are the only way to move across the islands, so it's importantto know wherethey are.
We were very satisfied with the walks in the jungle. Once we went specifically to search for animals, reached the highest point on the trail and stopped there. In 10 minutes we heard rustling in the tree and saw a gibbon! Besides, we saw some other smaller animals. Be sure to return before sunset, as it's very dark in the jungle, and pythons live there :)
Boats to Kuala Besut leave at 8 am, 12 pm, and 4 pm. Some delays are possible, so consider this if you need to get to the airport in time. Sign up for the boat in advance at the reception of the hotel.