Larger and more tranquil than Kecil, Perhentian Besar is the place to take a book, alternate between sand and sea, and to forget about the world for a while. Visitors can enjoy the same blue, crystalline water and fine, white sand without the party madness and backpacker crowds found on Perhentian Kecil.
Accommodation on Perhentian Besar is far more upscale compared to the smaller island; luxury bungalow operations abound. Unfortunately, the upgrade in comfort also comes with an upgrade in price.
Things to Do on Perhentian Besar
Do not come to Perhentian Besar expecting sites, entertainment or even a cultural experience for that matter. The only real reason to visit Perhentian Besar is to take advantage of the sun, sand and sea.
- Snorkeling: If not a diver, do not despair: Perhentian Besar has some excellent snorkeling just off shore on the northern and eastern sides of the island. Renting snorkel gear costs around $4 per day.
- Diving: The Perhentian Islands are blessed with cheap, excellent scuba diving. A myriad of dive shops keep enough pressure on prices to make diving a great value compared to the rest of Malaysia. Low prices and great visibility make the Perhentians a popular place for people with enough time to get PADI certified.
- Trekking: Much of the interior of Perhentian Besar can be explored on foot. Sweating through the jungle paths is an excellent way to see monkeys and other wildlife. The trail between Watercolors Paradise and Arwana is a popular, 30-minute walk for seeing termite mounds and the occasional monkey. Read these hiking safety tips.
Unless you consider a “party” to be watching the sunset from the sand with a bottle of rum, there is very little nightlife on Perhentian Besar. Occasional beach bonfire parties may break out during the high season, depending on the mood of the bungalow staff.
Travelers wanting to socialize beyond the boundaries of their resort should try Love Beach -- a rocky strip of beach where people go to meet other travelers. Otherwise, nearby Perhentian Kecil is the place for serious partying and dancing.
- Monkeys and lizards: Macaque monkeys roam the island; most are friendly, but know how to deal with a monkey attack just in case. Although the large monitor lizards walking around the island closely resemble Komodo Dragons, they are harmless!
- Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are a real problem on Perhentian Besar, particularly at night. Read how to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
- Theft: With no ATM on the island, thieves know that guests must bring a large amount of cash. Room break-ins and petty thefts from unattended bags left on the beach are common. The Watercolors Paradise Resort will change money or provide credit card advances for a commission.
Read these basic tips for staying safe in Southeast Asia.
Getting Around Perhentian Besar
Although the island is quite large, only the very western side of Perhentian Besar is developed. The island has no motorized transportation. Instead, water taxis carry people who want to go snorkeling or cannot walk the sandy path between beaches.
Getting to Perhentian Besar
Perhentian Besar is easy to reach via the port town of Kuala Besut -- approximately a nine-hour journey by bus from Kuala Lumpur. If traveling overland from Kota Bharu, you must change buses in either Jerteh or Pasir Puteh.
The fiberglass speedboats from the mainland to the Perhentian Islands spend more time in the air than the water as they bounce off waves at full speed. Both passengers and luggage get wet; the ride can be a painful experience, particularly when the sea is rough. The bumpy ride takes around 45 minutes before reaching the islands.
When to Go
The only time to visit Perhentian Besar is during the dry season between March and October. The islands mostly close and are difficult to reach during the eastern monsoon period between December and February.