Only a short 30-minute fast boat ride from Kuala Besut, this backpacker getaway is the perfect island to escape to as you make your way through peninsular Malaysia. Days can easily turn into weeks, as we quickly discovered after exploring the island for a few days (we ended up extending our stay from 4 to 7 days).
“No hurry no worry” should be the catch phrase of Kecil as most people spend their days diving and snorkeling in the crystal clear water and lounging around soaking up the sun on the white sandy beaches. However, if you’re more on the adventurous side like us, trekking through the jungle in search of remote beaches is a must!
Where To Stay On Perhentian Kecil
There are plenty of expensive resorts you can book online if you’re looking to pamper yourself. However, the majority of the accommodation on this island consists of walk in only chalets, jungle camp sites with “private” beaches, and countless dive shops that offer free or discounted accommodation for divers. The entire island is run on generators and most for only a few hours each evening.
After a bit of research and some sound advice from a friendly Scot we met at our hostel in Kuala Terengganu, we decided to wing it and find a place to stay once we arrived. We were thrilled with our decision.
The Perhentians are made up of two separate islands. The big island, Perhentian Besar, is more popular with resort seekers and families on vacation. While Perhentian Kecil, which is the smaller of the two Perhentian islands, is the main destination for young backpackers and Malays on holiday.
On Perhentian Kecil, there are two beaches where most of the resorts, bars, and restaurants are located.
The larger of the two beaches and also the “party” beach at night.
There are several dive shops, dozens of places to rent a room ranging from cheap camp sites for a few dollars per night to rustic chalets and full-scale resorts.
There are also a variety of restaurants ranging from cheap eats to typical resort prices and most of the dive shops have restaurants and bars as well.
Later in the day you will start to notice several “tiki” style bars starting to open up along the beach. These are basically just makeshift bar stands where a local barman will sell you a beer, cocktail, or hip flask of liquor. Usually people will gather around these bars at night and take drinks to sit on the beach and watch a fire show.
Be sure to catch the main fire show at the far end of the beach (away from the jetty) at around 10:30 each night. People keep the party going until around 2:00 am most nights. Pro Tip: If you are there on a night with a particularly low tide, a small sand bar island is revealed just off the beach and the fire dancers put on an elaborate show that is not to be missed!
This side of the island has a much more mellow vibe than Long Beach. It is only a short 10-minute walk on a well-maintained path to cross from one side to the other.
Here you will find several fancy resorts, a few restaurants, small shops where you can buy some basic supplies and snacks, and a few more dive shops.
This side is where you will want to be to catch the sunset, but the swimming is better over on Long Beach.
There is also a more secluded beach which can be reached via Coral Beach. Just head up the steps at the Shari La Resort and take a right before you enter the reception/restaurant area. Follow the signs and you will find Sunset Beach (ironically not the best for catching the sunset though).
The local population on Kecil mostly reside at what is known as Fisherman Village which is located at the Southern tip of the island. Here you will find a school, a beautiful seaside mosque, local shops, markets, and restaurants. Although it is small, this colorful village vibrantly smiles its island culture.
Places To Stay On Perhentian Kecil
Booking ahead is not usually necessary during non peak seasons and you will save money by negotiating a rate upon arrival in most cases (some places don’t even take booking online).
Remember that the entire island is run on generators and most places only offer power during the evening hours (6PM-9AM). A few of the more expensive resorts keep the generator going all day. WIFI is also basically non-existent as of August 2017.
Private beach, luxury villas, and daily breakfast and dinner buffets make this one of the most popular resorts on Perhentian Kecil. Though we just came for breakfast and dinner a few times, this would have been our top choice if we were looking to stay somewhere nice.
On A Budget
These lovely hillside chalets are where we ended up staying for five nights after roughing it for our first night in a rustic beachside hut. We walked in and negotiated a rate upon arrival.
For around 80 ringgit a night you can stay in a reasonably sized room with a huge king size bed. These hillside chalets, though not the most glamorous, offer what is probably the best view on the entire island. You will also welcome a lovely breeze blowing off the water which is a nice luxury as most of the rooms on the island are without AC.
Each room has a spacious deck with chairs, which make for the perfect place to sit back and cool off with a cold beer and friends (as well as a great place to hang your laundry to dry!). Don’t expect any frills and be ready for a few mosquitos, but we will definitely book here again the next time we return to the Perhentians.
If you plan to dive, then you should definitely be staying at one of the dive shops. Depending on the company, they offer free and reduced rate lodging to all divers and you will be surrounded by the new friends you meet during your many dives around the islands.
From a non-diving perspective (as we did not dive), Ombok Dive Resort is the nicest on the island in terms of facilities and quality of their accommodation.
For those looking to stay off the beaten path a bit, there is a private beach camp where you will literally be sleeping in the jungle. They provide the tents and even have a kitchen on site where you can order meals. Just ask your boat driver to drop you off at the Rainforest Camp and have fun “roughing it” for a few nights on the beach with new friends and plenty of stars.
Just be aware that you will be about a 20-25 minute walk from Coral Beach and 35-40 minute walk to Long Beach.
Getting Around Perhentian Kecil
There is a decent network of paths that wrap around the entire island, so you can easily travel the entire stretch in a couple of hours if you’re keen on seeing all that this island has to offer. We recommend using Maps.Me to get around the island and to find new things to see.
You can also hire local water taxis to take you practically anywhere on either of the two islands for a reasonable price (10-25 ringgit depending on where you want to go).
What To Do On Perhentian Kecil
Be sure to ask which direction you should go based on the current and pack enough water and supplies for a 4-6+ hour adventure. There are loads of beaches to stop at so this can easily become an all day affair. Read about our experience kayaking all the way around the island in this post.
If you look on Maps.Me you will see an area marked “Power Stations” on Perhentian Kecil (search for it) with a series of paths leading to it from Long Beach.
You can get on this path from a couple of places:
- On the path that leads to Coral Beach you will find a trail leading to the right just before a guest house. There was a sign for the windmills when we were there, but it is roughly what you see on Maps.Me.
- There is also a trail leading off the opposite end of Long Beach behind Santai Restaurant. When we were there we walked through a tented area and were able to find the trail. You can always ask for help!
Once you reach the windmills mentioned above you will find what is probably the coolest site on Perhentian Kecil. This is an absolute must! Check out the video in this post and you will instantly know why.
Trek Through The Jungle From Long Beach To Coral Beach
There’s the short way to get from one beach to the other and then there is the long way around the island.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can walk the entire island in around 3-4 hours. There are several points where the trail is not the easiest to find, but if you can’t find the trail, just ask a local. Its an incredible way to explore the island, but definitely not for the meek. Don’t forget to pack water, sunscreen, and any other supplies you may need.
Get dive certified or take some fun dives at one of the many dive shops. If you’re going to dive and are looking to save money on accommodation then you should take advantage of the free or discounted rates that most of the dive shops offer customers.
Take a snorkel trip to see incredible sea life in some of the clearest waters out there. There are many locals along Coral and Long Beach that you can hire to take you out for the day. A short half day trip will cost around 40 ringgit per person (3-4 snorkel spots) and a long full day trip will cost about 60 ringgit (6-8 snorkel spots).
Watch A Movie By The Beach
You can watch a movie most nights at the outdoor theater at Ombok Restaurant on Coral Beach. Films play nightly at 7:30 pm. Ombok has some delicious pizza and really strong cocktails. Try the long island ice tea if you’re looking to get a serious buzz going (2 had me feeling some type of way). Be warned, food and drink prices are some of the most expensive on the island, but the movie is free and changes daily.
Check Out Long Beach At Night
Drink some beers and watch a fire show at the Sheesha Bar on Long Beach. Apart from those who stay to drink at the dive shops or resorts, the beach is where you will find everyone once the sun goes down. Beers are relatively cheap (8-10 ringgit) and you can post up and smoke some sheesha with friends as you enjoy hours of fire spinning shows.
Just Chill And Go Swimming
Spend your day sunbathing, reading a book, and swimming in the crystal clear blue waters at Long Beach. The white sand is soft and the beach is perfect for swimming. Just watch out for the little fishies that may try to bite your toes 😉
Play Some Volleyball
Pick up volleyball games on Long Beach are quite common. Just stop by Oolala Dive Shop and ask some of the divers if they would like to get a game going.
Where To Eat On Perhentian Kecil
This eatery has the best WIFI on the island that we found and also some of the cheapest food. The curry and beef paprik are bomb and you have to try the Oreo milkshakes (probably the best milkshake I have ever had). You will find Ewans on the path from Long Beach to Coral Beach at approximately the halfway point (7-minute walk from Long Beach).
This Indian restaurant can be found at the end of Coral Beach (opposite the jetty). They have a set Indian plate lunch and dinner special for 15 ringgit with several options to choose from (Nan/Roti, two main dishes, and a special dessert). Great place to cool off after an afternoon of sunbathing on Coral Beach.
Some of the cheapest food on the island and super convenient when you’re looking for a quick bite on the Long Beach side.
This is the place to go if you are looking for the most bang for your buck. They have breakfast and dinner buffets with lots of options to choose from. For 14.90 the breakfast buffet comes complete with an egg bar, roti bar, fruit bar, cereal bar, hot buffet style items, coffee, tea, juice, and a number of other delicious goodies to help jump start your day.
The dinner is similar, but with a lot more local dishes to choose from. If you choose to do the bbq as well the total cost comes to around 20 RM and you get to choose one item (either chicken, a small fish, or squid) for the staff to grill up for you.
One of the more expensive establishments on the island, but if you’re looking to splash out they have yummy wood fired pizzas and some of the strongest cocktails mixed on Kecil (two long islands had me buzzin). The ambiance is top notch and makes this the perfect for date night because you can catch dinner and a movie all in one beautiful outdoor setting.
Tips For Perhentian Kecil
Bring Your Own Alcohol
It’s a small tropical island and booze is not cheap. If you know you are going to be drinking a lot of beers I would recommend bringing your own case from the mainland.
Refill Your Water Bottles
Fill your water at the fill station machine at Amelia’s Cafe. Located just down the beach to the left as you enter Coral Beach from the Long Beach pathway.
When we were there the machine was rigged so that you could get 5000 ml with only one 20 sen coin. You will save a lot of money by not having to buy multiple bottles of water each day (bring 5 or 6 bottles to fill at a time to cut down on your trips). This is assuming that the place you are staying doesn’t offer filtered water, which some do.
Don’t Book Ahead
Many places are walk-in only and you will get a much better deal if you wait to book upon arrival. We walked in and found a very affordable room at Mochin Chalet which sports one of the best views of Long Beach.
If the idea of not having accommodation booked in advance totally freaks you out then don’t worry, Alli was the same way. Read about how she overcame what used to be her biggest rule.
Heading To The Perhentians? Here Are Some Tips On Getting There
When You Visit Pehentian Kecil Kayaking These Two Things Are A Must!
Also, While You’re In Malaysia You Should Go See Kek Lok Si…
A Few Lessons We Learned From Another Beautiful Island In Malaysia…
And Learn To Order Food Without Making A Fool Of Yourself 🤣
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