Photo: Lazy beach days.

Eat and meet

Long Beach, Perhentian Kecil Just to the left of the beachside entry to Mohsin Chalet is The World Cafe, a large open-air venue serving up breakfast, smoothies, pizza and cold beer throughout the day. They also do the best attempts at fancier presented cuisine across either of the islands and the standards and prices are pretty fair. Staff are very obliging and free WiFi is available, though in our experience often doesn’t work.

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Surrounding World Cafe you’ll find a bunch of beach shacks doing simple snacks and beachfare like barbecued corn and roti canai at very reasonable prices, though these places don’t really get going till the afternoon.

Further north seaside is a series of eateries all serving basically the same cuisine of "Thai", Malay and Western -- consider all the dishes to be very broad interpretations. We didn’t have a single decent dish at any of these, but if you just want to fill a hole, they’ll do the job. Timor Laut and Andy Cafe spring to mind, but all others were forgettable.

A little further along still is the trail leading to Panorama Restaurant, which screens movies nightly and has free WiFi -- both of these seem to be greater drawcards than the food, which comes from one of those all-encompassing comfort menus listing sandwiches to tandoori. Staff are friendly and we did see a good film here!

Right by the entrance to Panorama is Oh Lala (afternoon/evening only) which does decent pizza and cold beer -- they’d run out of wedges the day we visited though -- how can you ever run out of wedges?! Nevertheless this is a friendly and sociable place, ideal for single travellers looking to meet up with others, and the pizza looked good. Also by the entrance to Panorama is a small wooden bar which can get very busy and is open till very late.

Moving on from Panorama, walk past Turtle Bay Divers and Symphony, continue on a bit further, and you’ll reach Chill Out Cafe, which lives up to its name, being an ideal place to chill out in the afternoon. They can also help with details on the nearby campsite.

From Chill Out, standards jump considerably when you reach BuBu Restaurant, which delivers solid food at solid prices. This is really hotel dining on the sand and prices are high, but if you can’t face more faux Malay or Thai food and need a decent repast, this could be your revival point. There’s an early evening happy hour (17:00-19:00) and free WiFi.

Once the sun sets, the bars at the southern end of Long Beach really get going -- and going -- and going. A 03:00 or 05:00 finish sn’t at all out of the ordinary and while they can be a good place for a couple of sundowners, drinkers should exercise considerable care regarding unattended drinks. We heard a few reports of women having their drinks spiked here and subsequently being attacked and/or sexually assaulted. Travelling guys also should be careful to avoid misunderstandings that result in a half dozen locals attacking you. In summary, most people will have no problems grabbing a few quick drinks here, but if you start to feel uncomfortable, leave -- preferably not alone. Drugs are all over the shop -- we were offered weed, ketamine and supposedly cocaine within a very short time of sitting down. Dabblers should familiarise themselves with Malaysia’s tough laws regarding the possession of drugs.

Coral Bay
Crossing Perhentian Kecil via the Long beach to Coral Bay path, you will run slap dab into Ewan’s Cafe. This very popular eatery has a sizeable wooden deck, free WiFi, and serves breakfasts, sandwiches, salads and the like from early morning till late. They also screen everything from kids TV to football games, which can make for a pretty crowded and raucous scene. Food is typical for the islands.

From Ewan’s the path leads through Ombak Resort and you’ll see their restaurant on your right. It screens nightly movies and has a full spread. Prices are moderate for the standard, but we thought the eating was better (and more affordable) on the beach.

Once you’re on the beach, turn left and you’ll see Fatimah’s, Mama’s and Amelia’s all in quick succession. Their claim to fame are nightly seafood barbecues, which people rave about. We tried the barbecue at both Amelia’s and Mama’s and were not blown away -- of the two Amelia’s was probably better, but they’re really bringing in the hordes, so perhaps we were just unlucky. Fatimah’s does okay pasta. In the evenings, after 19:00, a guy sells cans of cold and affordable-ish beer from an esky between Mama’s and Amelia’s -- you buy off him direct rather than from the restaurant staff. Average barbecue aside, the sunset views here are spectacular, though you’ll need to eat down at Senja to make sure your views are not obscured by the pier.

West Beach, Perhentian Besar
For a cold beer under shady trees, Paradise Restaurant is especially inviting, doing a smattering of Thai, Malaysian and Western dishes. The venue is very no frills and the service a bit all over the place, but they’re friendly and it is a pretty spot.

Further south again are two more dry restaurants, Watercolours and Mama’s Chalet’s restaurant. The menus are very similar, covering all the main bases, but they do a roaring trade with their nightly seafood barbecues, which we found to be okay. Both also offer bare minimum WiFi.

Tuna Bay, Perhentian Besar
Restaurants along Tuna Bay are mainly in the resorts, but all have great seaside views, with prices in correlation to the resort’s room prices. New Cocohut Chalet Restaurant, Tuna Cafe at Tuna Bay Island Resort and Abdul’s offer typical beach resort fare from all encompassing menus. Both have expansive verandas that are ideal for taking in the late afternoon light as the sun sinks behind Perhentian Kecil. New Cocohut sells beer. None struck us as particularly memorable settings.

Teluk KK, Perhentian Besar
Teluk KK Cafe is the only eatery on this beach plus they double as a very limited minimart. Simple Malaysian dishes and cold drinks are served all day, on most days, especially if there are campers staying nearby. They do not however sell beer. Service is slow – slow as in hell may well freeze over before you get service.

Teluk Dalam, Perhentian Besar
At the end of the far eastern end of the beach, next to the seemingly untamed jungle, is the beachfront oasis of Taxi Point-N-Cafe that is open on an on-again off-again basis. Although it may appear abandoned or closed, you may find the staff passing time in a nearby hammock and more than ready to serve or to simply have a chat. Serving up cold drinks, this is a perfect stop before you take the nearby jungle ’trail’. Although they open for breakfast the real action starts later when they fire up the barbecue every evening.

Flora Bay and Fauna Beach both have typical resort restaurants, though the latter’s is extremely rundown while Flora Bay’s is so large they must get enormous groups in here at times. At the far other end of the beach, the Arwana has a similarly massive restaurant.

Walking east, the small cafe at B-First is an unpretentious and welcoming choice for tasty and inexpensive Malaysian, Thai and Western. Feel free to linger without feeling like an intruder. Cold beers are on hand and the seafood barbecue we had here was the best meal we had in almost two weeks of eating around the Perhentians. Recommended.

Next door to B-First is Bayu Dive Lodge and their restaurant is pretty good, doing a mix of Western and Asian dishes. Service is friendly and the beers cold.

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Popular attractions in Perhentian Islands

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Perhentian Islands.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Perhentian Islands? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

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