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How to Navigate the Perhentian Islands

Perhentian Islands fantastic view
Perhentian Islands fantastic view | © Ahmad Fadzly Jamaludin / Shutterstock
Getting around the Perhentian Islands can be tricky when they don’t have any roads. You either have to walk or take a water taxi. Culture Trip uncovers how to flag a boat and which trails to follow from one beach to the next.

Ferry

Before explaining the ins and outs of getting around the Perhentian Islands, it’s worth mentioning how to reach them. Most visitors fly into Kota Bahru in nearby Kelantan State before taking a taxi or bus to Kuala Besut’s port. Fixed price ferries at RM35 ($8.60 USD) one way or RM70 ($17.30 USD) for a return connect the mainland with the Perhentian Islands. The skipper drops passengers off at the jetty closest to their accommodation. Pro tip: Make sure you know your address on either Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian) or Besar (Big).

Bars along Perhentian Kecil beach © zulkamalober / Shutterstock

Local tip

Some tour operators have special promotions and discounted fares. Don’t accept the first offer and you might save up to 30%. Ferries only depart when they’re full (you have to wait for more passengers to fill any remaining space). Sadly, overcrowding is common. Be prepared for up to twice as many passengers as the boat’s official capacity and a skipper racing as fast as possible in all weather conditions.

Ferries take approximately 40 minutes between Kuala Lumpur and The Perhentian Islands © zulkamalober / Shutterstock

Water taxis

Water taxis take passengers from one beach to the next. They’re the only way to get between Kecil and Besar. Walk up to the beach’s jetty and the skippers will almost always approach potential customers first. Negotiate a price before getting in the boat. Expect anything from RM12 ($3 USD) for a short trip on the same island up to RM25 ($6.20 USD) between islands. Popular routes pass from Kecil’s Long Beach (on the east coast) to the western Coral Bay. If you’re on Besar, speedboats connect Deep Bay (south), KK Bay (southwest) and Mango Bay (northwest). Pro tip: We recommend a water taxi to Turtle Sanctuary Beach on Besar where you can swim with the reptiles in the shallow waters.

Local tip:

If you want to visit the other Perhentian Island, negotiate a rate for a return journey. The price covers the cost of the boat regardless of the number of passengers. It might be cheaper to share a water taxi with other tourists.

Water taxis take passengers around the Perhentian Islands © Ijansempoi / Shutterstock

Walking

The only alternative to water taxis is by walking. Jungle trails connect beaches on both Perhentian Kecil and Besar. An easy 10-minute path links Kecil’s backpacker hotspot Long Beach to nearby Coral Bay on the opposite side of the island. More often than not, walking shorter distances will be quicker than getting a water taxi (finding one, negotiating a price and then getting from one jetty to the next). Other paths lead to D’Lagoon from behind Long Beach’s Bubu Resort. You can also walk to Kecil’s Adam and Eve Beach and Turtle Beach on the island’s west coast. Besar’s fewer trails pass around the southwest. A trail loops from Arwana Resort on the south to the northwestern coast.

Local tip:

Apart from a handful of paths, almost impregnable jungle covers the rest of the islands. Don’t stray from the trails and anticipate insects and hundreds of mosquitoes. If you’re at one of the restaurants, bring a flashlight. Only attempt the shorter routes (Long Beach to Coral Bay) after dark. Get a water taxi for longer distances.

Follow some of the trails to get views like this © Izuddin Helmi / Shutterstock