Two rings of tropical bliss with just a fraction of the crowds of Thailand and a much lower price tag. Malaysia’s Perhentian Island beaches are sublime.
Think of Southeast Asia and Thailand’s beaches immediately spring to mind.
Images of white sand and swaying palms run through the mind, the promise of escapism almost everywhere. But for all their natural splendor, many of Thailand’s beaches have become seriously crowded and expensive in recent years.
Just south of the border, Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands are equally sublime, two rings of tropical bliss with just a fraction of the crowds and a much lower price tag. (Featured Image: cnn.com)
If you like beaches, you’ll love Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands. Here’s why…
Tropical Colors Leave the First Impression on Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands
Just north of the equator, Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands can be found in the same sapphire ocean as Thailand’s more famous islands. If you’re coming from Thailand, the Perhentians are barely an hour over the border. Take a boat from Kuala Besut and towering greenery is visible in the distance, each island dominated by lush tropical forests and palms that leave shadows on the sand in late afternoon.
Green tumbles into white, the beach fulfilling all dreams of island paradise. Occasionally there’s a smattering of rocks, a collection of boulders that separates individual beaches. And this only elevates the reverie. If you want to completely escape, you’ll find half a dozen private bays with nothing but the sound of waves to keep you company.
Which is the Best Perhentian Island to Choose?
This little archipelago consists of two main islands and a few deserted islets. Big Perhentian is quieter and has the Perhentian’s best hotels. Small Perhentian is framed by wooden beach shacks selling cocktails and has simple but great value accommodation.
It’s the more popular and certainly the island to choose if you want to mix days lounging on the sand with nights listening to reggae. Hiring a speed boat to take you between the two islands is easy, so most people try a bit of both, starting on Small Perhentian and taking their vacation to the solitude and serenity of Big Perhentian.
How Good are the Beaches on Malaysia Perhentian’s Islands?
The Perhentian beaches aren’t unique. There’s the fine white sand, lavish natural backdrop, and shallow azure waters. But that’s most beaches in Southeast Asia. Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands won’t feature in a list of the world’s best beaches. Still, if you haven’t been to Southeast Asia, there’s no denying that the Perhentians look like a picture that has everyone on facebook swooning.
It’s the atmosphere that makes the beaches here so desirable. Half a dozen juxtapositions find the indelible halfway point; it’s quiet enough to only hear waves as you spend languid hours in the sun, yet it’s lively enough for an evening of live music and cocktails with your bare feet in the sand. There’s enough activities to keep everyone entertained, but not so many that the leisurely rhythm is broken. The accommodation is cheap and simple, wooden shacks with elegant views onto the sapphire.
Turtles and Diving
And when you explore the sand there’s more. Thousands of turtles lay their eggs along the beaches, tiny hatchlings emerging and attempting to swim off into the waves. Snorkel just off shore and huge turtles share your route, dozens of them gracefully meandering through the sapphire. Swim with them, following the lethargic fin strokes until the turtle moves off into the deep. A series of tropical reefs continue the marine adventure, all of them ideal for first-time divers.
While Thailand is idolized as the place for learning to dive, it’s just as cheap on Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands and the water isn’t crowded with hundreds of other learner divers. Swimming with a turtle is an incredible experience, but not when 15 others are trying to get close and grab the poor turtle’s shell. That doesn’t happen on the Perhentian.
Why Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands and Not Thailand?
It’s precisely this relative lack of tourists that makes Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands such an idealized choice for those that love beaches. Because a white sand getaway is only special when there’s no footprints greeting you, and a week in the sun is only tranquil when you don’t have dozens of beach tourists interrupting your slumber. Yes, it’s not as famous as going to the beaches of Thailand.
But who cares when you have such an evocative combination of paradigms in just two small islands…
Written By: Stephen Bailey, Traveling Islanders Contributor