As with most tourist resorts, the food in the Perhentian Islands varies greatly as encyclopedic menus attempt to cover every possible whim of the famished traveller and end up doing nothing in particular very well. If you want to be sure of a tasty meal then avoid Western staples such as burgers and pizzas and stick to the authentic Malay dishes which no self-respecting local would prepare badly.
Alcohol is only served at a few establishments but hawkers selling cans of Carlesburg and Tiger for RM10 ply the shoreline and no establishment has a problem with consuming these on the premises as long as you purchase a meal.
On Perhentian Kecil countless barbecues get lit on both Long Beach and Coral Beach as dusk approaches and deals for a baracuda, tuna or blue marlin steak with rice/baked potato and salad cost around RM15 and come with a choice of sauces.
Lobster, crab, squid and king prawn sets are also available for slightly higher prices. The quality of these varies widely from season to season as kitchen staff come and go but for consistently good food trust our recommendations below. On Pulau Perhentian Besar there are no ’stand-alone’ restaurants as such and all eateries are attached to the large hotels.
Pulau Perhentian Kecil restaurants
BuBu Resort: The best restaurant on the island by some distance, BuBu has an extensive cocktail menu and fabulous food from all over the world including great pasta. The swordfish thermador is exquisite and there’s a top notch barbecue every night which costs a little more than the competition but is worth every penny.
Ewans Place and Café: Considered somewhat of a hidden gem by many, a delicious range of Asian and Western food plus great deserts await those that seek it out. Situated a few minutes from Coral Beach down the shady path that connects it with Long Beach.
Panorama Restaurant: This large dining area within the Panorama chalet complex has nightly barbecues and extremely tasty pizza. Always packed with guests who opt for great value half-board options, there are nightly movies at 20:00 but get here early to secure a decent view of the big screen. Alcohol can be purchased at the bar outside.
Matahari Restaurant: Part of the Matahari Chalet Resort just a few minutes behind the centre of Long Beach, this raised restaurant in the centre of a lovely garden serves good food and show’s nightly movies.
Pulau Perhentian Kecil bars and nightlife
Nightlife options on Pulau Perhentian Kecil are by far the most extensive but don’t expect Koh Pha Ngan full moon parties.
Coral Bay is lively in the early evening with lots of diners enjoying beachside barbecues, but everything comes to an abrupt halt as waiters start clearing chairs away at the end of their shift. Long Beach has some semblance of a party atmosphere and when the crowd is feeling lively it is possible to stay up drinking until dawn.
The Palm Tree Café looks like a haunted house but has straw mats and serves beers at RM10 as well as better-value vodka or local ‘monkey juice’ moonshine in small bottles with mixers. The best cocktails on the island are available from The Beach (north Long Beach) with chilled tunes to match. Buffalo Bar (middle Long Beach) also had vodka/monkey juice deals, loud dance music, fire lanterns and axe cushions right on the sand. Otherwise the best plan is simply to wander down the beach and see what seems like the most fun.