Travel writer: Melissa Foo
Perhentian Island is a great destination for those looking for an island getaway in Peninsular Malaysia – with (still) clear blue waters and sandy beaches. During my last visit, I stayed in Perhentian Besar which I felt was more suited for families traveling with kids.
I recalled reading about Alunan Resort and managed to book a double room with balcony for RM599 (excluding 6% tax) a night inclusive of breakfast. The room was fairly spacious with a queen sized bed and single bed, air conditioning, hot water, safety deposit box, fridge and essentials.
Best part of the resort? The rooftop balcony overlooking the ocean, complete with deck chairs and a hammock – perfect for a lazy afternoon tipple or a quick nightcap just before bed.
Most people think of Long Beach when you mention Perhentian Kecil, but there are quite a number of smaller and more private beaches along the opposite side of the island from Long Beach, mainly frequented by foreign travellers.
We only found out during our stay at Alunan Resort, situated at Petani Beach – we had the option to take a 40-minute hike to Long Beach, passing by Mari-Mari Chalet, Mira Beach Chalet, Rainforest Beach, and Coral Bay (Senja Resort, Amelia Resort etc.) before crossing over to Long Beach.
Although the hike seemed long, it was thoroughly enjoyable and pleasant as we could just park ourselves on the many secluded spots along the island and snorkel for an hour before moving on to the next beach. We feel the best time to hike is around mid-afternoon and trekking at a leisurely pace would allow plenty of time to catch the sunset by the time you reach Rainforest Beach or Coral Bay.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also opt to spend RM20 per person for a one-way water taxi ride to Long Beach from the resort. Night time rates will vary between RM15 to RM 30 per person, depending on your luck and availability of water taxis.
On our last day, we decided to hike in the other direction instead towards the fishing village and White Mosque in search for lunch. The village was about 20 minutes away via walking, but alas, the meal wasn’t memorable. Like 90% of our dining experiences in Perhentian Kecil, unfortunately.
Food options aren’t aplenty so I relied on Trip Advisor for recommendations. We tried Ewan’s place and Amelia Chalet for dinner on our first and second nights respectively, and both restaurants bordered on average. If you asked me, I would suggest keeping your expectations low when it comes to food on the island.
Some travel tips about Perhentian Kecil and Alunan Resort:
• Location – the resort has its own beach so snorkelling is a must. However, as it is slightly further from the main tourist attractions, be prepared to pay for water taxis to get around to/from Long Beach or Perhentian Besar.
• Planning – plan your itinerary carefully as you wouldn’t want to be stranded on the other side of the island at night due to a variety of possible reasons such as sea/weather conditions, availability of water taxis etc.
• Activities – the jungle trek to Long Beach allows you to see the quieter and less commercial parts of the island. There are also plenty of snorkelling spots if you don’t plan to go on any organised island hopping tours. We did try out the resort’s 3-hr snorkelling trip to Pulau Rawa instead of going for the more well-known Shark Point and Turtle Bay in Perhentian Besar. It was a bit steep at RM80 per person, but well worth the trip. You should be able to find cheaper packages on other parts of the island, as low as RM50 per person if you have time to ‘shop’ around.
• There is no 7-11 or sundry shop near the resort. Be sure to purchase mineral water, snacks etc. from Long Beach or the fishing village if you are there.
• Bring sufficient cash as it goes without saying that ATMs are nowhere to be found on the island.
• Never go anywhere without mosquito repellent and sunblock.
• A torchlight would be really useful for traveling at night. You will never know when you might need it.
• The easiest and fastest way to get to Perhentian is to fly to Kota Bharu and take a taxi from the airport to the Kuala Besut Jetty (roughly 45 minutes journey). From the jetty, the return boat transfer costs RM 70 per person and can be purchased at the jetty itself. We made a mistake of flying to Kuala Terengganu – that doubled up our traveling time.
Granted we paid more than what a local beach vacation would cost, we definitely do not regret being able to explore and experience the little unknown treasures that Perhentian still has to offer, and hopefully for many more decades to come.
Melissa Foo is a glorified Quality Assurance Manager with a not-so-enviable 9-5 job, who still dreams of being an urbanite once in a while. She kills her time experimenting in the kitchen, inconsistently practicing yoga, and discovering obscure movies. Occasionally, she and her husband travel for leisure to make up for lost time in the future (when life gets more serious and you wish you had travelled more).
P/S: She is also a walking Shazam.
Find her on Instagram @mellymellyfoo