The Perhentians have long been a popular beach destination in Malaysia, but were originally a break in the long journey between Bangkok and Malaysia. The word “perhentian” in Bahasa Malaysia means “stopping point,” Though the islands were supported by fishing income early in their history, they are now part of Pulau Redang National Marine Park in the Terengganu region, and fishing is strictly prohibited. Tourism Malaysia even refers to the Perhentian in an eco-travel roundup of Malaysia. Consequently, tourism is the primary source of income, and the staggering beauty of the fine sand beaches, crystal-clear water and thriving marine life has resulted in a booming tourist trade.
Split into two separate islands, Besar (“Big”) and Kecil (“Small”), each Perhentian offers a specific brand of relaxation. Besar is the more isolated of the two and g as its name would suggest, is bigger in size. Beaches dot the circumference of the island but the centre is a tangled maze of forest and jagged rock. The resorts on Besar are more expensive and cater mostly to couples or newlyweds. In contrast, Kecil’s two main beaches are perfect for the backpacker set, with the quieter Coral Bay a sunset-watching haven and Long Beach renowned for its partying and, unfortunately, for petty theft.