Exploring the best places to visit in East Coast Malaysia

Exploring east coast Malaysia

Exploring the best places to visit in East Coast Malaysia

Exploring the best places to visit in East Coast Malaysia 1000 600 Shouket Ali

If you are keen to explore the coastal fishing town and enjoy water activities, the best place to be is the Perhentian Islands. The Two Islands located close to each other are a mecca for holiday planners in peak tourist season between April and mid-September. The rest of the year is a time of low activity due to monsoon seasons and most resorts are shut down.

Other popular Islands include Radang Island, Kapas Island, and Tioman Islands. All these islands have resorts in different price ranges and attract solo tourists and families alike.

Perhentian Islands are very popular with European tourists because of the very low cost of accommodation and other activities.

Traveling East Coast Malaysia

Trip Details

Number of Days: 5

Distance covered: 600 KM

Areas explored: Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Kapas Island

Placed stay: Regency Waterfront Hotel TerengganuMegaView Hotel Kuantan 

Mode of transport: Plane from KL TO KT, Bus from KT to Kuantan, Bus from Kuantan to KL

How to travel to Perhentian islands?

The cities of Kota Bharu and Kuala Terengganu offer a starting point for visitors to the Islands. Most operators work from Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, and Kota Bharu. If you have booked your tour through international tour operators or tour operators based in Kuala Lumpur, the flights will take you to either Kota Bharu or Kuala Terengganu.

AirAsia and Firefly have several connections throughout the day costing under $50 for return tickets. A shuttle from the airport transfers the travelers to the jetties on Kuala Besut or Merang (different from Marang).

Perhentian Islands

Two islands to visit are Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar. Perhentian Kecil is popular with backpackers as some low-cost accommodations and bars are located on this island. This island attracts a younger crowd that wants to party at night and enjoy the crowd in the day times. Perhentian Besar is suited for family living and relaxed romantic getaways.

How many days to spend on the islands?

Most tours include shuttle transfer, ferry rides,s and accommodations at various resorts. The package is sold as two nights and three days or three nights and 4 days. Each day during the tour includes various activities such as Island hopping trips, snorkeling, and deep-sea diving. Other activities are optional based on your budget and interest.

What are the popular activities on the islands?

The islands offer a great option for deep-sea diving, diving training, snorkeling, and fishing. A number of licensed divers operate off these Islands. Make sure you book your driving tour from a licensed shop for safety. Some of the operators also offer licensed training for divers.

Snorkelling at Perhentians
Snorkelling at Perhentian Islands

Other popular activities include sea-kayaking, trekking through Islands, and seafood BBQ or turtle watching.

exploring the east coast?

Another relatively cheap option quite popular with local tourists is Kapas Island. The Island offers a great option for a one-day tour as the distance is very close to Marang Jetty (south of Kuala Terengganu).

Pulau Kapas offers quiet spots for snorkeling and diving. The diving equipment can be rented at the Marang jetty.

A day-night stay can be booked at one of the resorts on Kapas or Jem Island from Marang Jetty. This is a great way to enjoy an Island holiday on a very reasonable budget.

Cities on the East Coast of Malaysia

If you are more of a city person who loves exploring the history and culture of the various cities of Malaysia, Kuala Terengganu is a great starting point. There is a beautiful museum in Terengganu providing an interesting insight into the history and culture of this region. The museum takes a number of hours to explore as various section focus on culture, painting, and other crafts of the islands.

Food of Kauala Terengganu

Some memorabilia including vehicles used by the Sultans are also preserved on the museum premises. Other interesting places in KT are Turtle Alley and Chinatown. Crystal Mosque is easily accessible by boat tours offered on the KT riverfront. The one-hour tour costs around 15RM per person and takes you to the crystal mosque.

Crystal Mosque in Kuala Terengganu

Taman Tamudun Islam is a beautiful park adjacent to Crystal mosque offering alternative entrainment in Islamic culture and values. The park has a replica of a number of popular mosques in Malaysia and other important buildings in Muslim countries of the world. This is a great place to explore the history, culture, and traditions of Muslim society in Malaysia.

KT being predominantly a Muslim area does not have many nightclubs or active nightlife Bar 45 is located in Chinatown and is open till late. There are a number of nice restaurants across the city offering popular Malay seafood dishes. KT gets busier over the weekends as it attracts people from surrounding areas. Mid-week is relatively laid back and not too crowded.

How to travel?

The cities on the East coast are connected by an amazing network of freeways. The bus services are world-class. A bus stand in the middle of the city next to Masjid Abidin. Various networks have their office right next to each other.

The tickets for most of the popular bus networks can be easily bought online or over the counter. The buses run round the clock and the tickets are quite cheap as compared to trains or airlines.

A ticket from Kuala Terengganu to Kuantan is 15RM and travel time is 4 hours.


The trip from KT to Kuantan takes you along the ocean touching a beautiful laid-back coastal town. During my first trip, I realized that there were a number of interesting stopovers on the way including Cherating and Kuala Dungan. With more development in cities in KT and Kuantan, the significance of Cherating has decreased in recent years.

However, there are some nice beachfront resorts offering a great option for water sports and surfing. There are some nice beach bars and cafes along the water making evening and sunset at Cherating an enjoyable experience.

Kuantan Bus station is located outside the city. A GRAB ride costs around 10RM to CBD. Taxi drivers try to haggle for 25RM at night time due to the distance to the city.

Bus station at Kuantan
Kuantan Bus Station

Kuantan is a modern city with a lot of investment in infrastructure. The city has a number of beautiful shopping centers and buildings. You will be surprised at the lack of activity in the daytime during the mid-week. The weekends bring people to the surrounding town and the city becomes very lively.

East Coast Mall in Kuantan

The most visited spot that stays busy till late is a beachside development in Teluk Chempedak. The beachfront has plenty of the latest development including fast-food chains, traditional food stalls, and some resorts.

The cool breeze from the ocean throughout the evening makes this sport a great night out with family. In the daytime, it is not as crowded as its location is out of the city. A bus network connects Teluk Chempedak with Kuantan CBD. The taxi rides cost 15RM.

Two days in Kuantan

Kuantan has a number of nice restaurants. Based on the review online I decided to visit Sarah Boat Noodle which is within walking distance from Mega View Hotel. Mega view offers a great location overlooking the water. The hotel is one block away from Masjid Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Sarah Restaurants is packed with families in the evening. Two restaurants adjacent to each other specialize in Thai dishes and steamboat noodles. I ordered deep-fried local fish in tamarind sauce and Thai curry dishes. The food is great and very reasonably priced.

Sara restaurant Kuantan
Sara Thai Kitchen in Kuantan

fish in tamarind sause
Sara Thai Kitchen Kuantan

restoran tai han
Restoran Han Tian Kutantan

coconut prawns at han tian kuantan
Tiger Prawan Cooked in the Coconut Cream at Han Tian Kuantan

The next day I decided to explore local shopping centers including Kuantan City Mall, Digital Mall Kuantan, and Guitar Zone. These shopping centers have a number of local and international brands. The city layout is very neat with wide roads and nice shopping areas and cafes. Kuantan is definitely a place to visit over the weekend.

The trip back from Kutan to KL takes around 4 hours. The journey is quite comfortable in five-star buses with free wifi on board. Terminal Besepadu Selatan is the major bus terminal where you get a bus for almost any destination in mainland Malaysia. This is a world-class facility with a booking terminal open around the clock. The terminal is equipped with accommodations, restaurants, and other services for travelers on the road. The terminal also connects to KL airport and you can find a shuttle that takes around 30 minutes to the airport.


Terminal Bersepadu Selatan

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