While many backpacker haunts have become gentrified over time, the Perhentians have managed to retain their low-key vibe.
They might not be easy to get to, but the Perhentian islands off the northeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia have achieved iconic status on the backpacker trail.
And for good reason — the waters are so clean that you can snorkel right off the beach and still see a diverse array of aquatic life.
Fishermen turned tour guides will also take you out in their small boat for a day trip to swim with sharks and turtles.
In the evening, beach bars set up cushions on the sand as wandering fire artists do their thing.
Where to stay: For high-end Malaysia holiday lodgings, check out the Tuna Bay Island Resort. Budget hunters should look up Abdul Chalet.
Getting there: Regular buses leave from Hentian Putra bus station in Kuala Lumpur, taking nine hours. Alternatively, fly from Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT airport to Kota Bharu, and then catch a taxi to the port town of Kuala Besut.