An idyllic paradise just 4 hours from Singapore, Pulau Babi Besar is the kind of picturesque island you see in holiday brochures – at a fraction of the price. The beaches looked exactly like the ones I’ve seen in the Maldives and dreamed about going to. I have never ever seen sea so blue or sand so white!
There’s not a whole lot to do here, but that’s part of the appeal! It’s so stunning that you’ll be happy to walk along the beach just to marvel at its beauty. Besar was our first stop in Malaysia and by far the most beautiful of all of the islands we visited. We spent our days lying on the beach, jumping in the sea and wandering down hidden paths and across rickety bridges to find even more stunning (and empty!) beaches. I absolutely fell in love with this little island!
When Is The Best Time To Go To Pulau Babi Besar?
The resorts open in March, when the monsoon season is over, and close at the end of October. March and October are the ‘shoulder’ months so you get great off-peak rates and will have the beaches to yourself. These are considered off-peak as the weather can be less consistently sunny than peak months, but the weather was amazing when we were there. Tim and I try to travel during these shoulder months as you get great deals, and you almost always get a room upgrade! Peak months are between April and September, with June & July being the busiest. You’ll pay peak prices during these months, and if you want to go at the weekend you’ll need to book well in advance.
How To Get To Pulau Babi Besar
Pulau Besar is a 30-minute boat ride from Mersing Jetty on the south-east coast of Malaysia. Your boat journey costs 55MYR / £10 / €11 per person each way and is usually arranged through your hotel. The timetable will change depending on weather conditions – ask your hotel for the current schedule. If you are paying a package rate the boat price should be included in your package, otherwise you can pay at your hotel when you arrive. There doesn’t seem to be a public boat schedule to Pulau Besar so it’s best to book your accommodation before you go and arrange your transport through them.
To get to Mersing Jetty you can get a direct bus from Kuala Lumpur (4-5 hours, 34MYR / £6 / €7 each way) or Singapore (3.5-4 hours, 30SGD / £16 / €18 each way). It’s best to book your bus before you go, even in low season and especially at weekends, when a lot of Singaporean and Malaysian people will visit the islands. We used 12go.asia to book our buses. The prices are the same as quoted on other websites but the customer service is better. You get to choose your seats when you book so you will be guaranteed to sit with your travel buddy!
Where To Stay On Pulau Babi Besar
When we visited there were only 3 resorts open to stay on Pulau Besar (it really is a tiny island). They’re all spread out across the same beach and if you aren’t visiting on a package deal you can eat or drink at any of them. There is a fourth resort opening soon, we could see it was being built when we were there.
Room rates are usually offered as a package (where your accommodation, food, your boat to and from the island, and activities are included) or else as bed & breakfast. From what we could see the package is only worth it if you’re staying in a high end resort as the food is more expensive and the tours are higher quality, also if you don’t mind eating in the same place every day. We went for just bed and breakfast and it worked out cheaper.
Here are the three places you can stay on the island – but I’ve got one tip for you before you look: the quality of the resort’s website does not reflect the quality of the resort! Aseania is far superior to what you would assume from their website, while Mirage Resort is not as great as theirs suggests…
Mirage Resort $$$
Mirage Resort is the most expensive resort on the island and where we booked into originally. We booked a 3 day 2 night package at Mirage for a very pricey 1900MYR / £350 / €394. All transport, food activities etc were included in this price so while we knew it was expensive we thought we would give ourselves a rare treat at the start of our trip, and the place looked so good from their website.
The problem is that Mirage charge premium prices for very, very basic accommodation and food. I would have happily paid around a third of the price to stay there, but our hut smelled a little, the linens weren’t clean and the food options were just eggs, rice or sandwiches for every meal. It definitely wasn’t worth the price, and we don’t have the money to pay that much for budget accommodation so we only stayed one night.
They were kind enough to refund our money for the rest of the stay and just agreed that we would reimburse them for the boat which we agreed to. I wouldn’t recommend staying here at all as both other places on the island are much cheaper and much, much nicer.
This is the mid-level budget accommodation on the island, even though it looks the most upmarket – and has the best part of the beach. We ate here a few times and the food was excellent. They are also the only place that served alcohol that wasn’t beer, although this might change in the high season when there is more demand.
Aseania offers beach- or garden-facing huts with air con for around 438MYR / £80 / €90 per night all inclusive on Booking.com. There are great deals to be had if you book last minute – I’m seeing up to 20% off when I look at certain dates in April right now. You should also be able to get a cheaper rate if you stay without a package, and you would save money if you ate next door at D’Coconut for a few meals. (Always looking for ways to save a bit of cash!)
If you have the budget and feel like staying somewhere a bit upmarket, or you’re going on a romantic holiday, then I would opt to stay here.
This is the cheapest option on the island and where we moved to after the Mirage disaster. D’Coconut offers one bedroom, air conditioned wooden huts overlooking the beach for a relatively cheap 230MYR / £42 / €47 per night for bed and breakfast. For a package it’s around double that price (but you would never spend that much on food each day there as the restaurant is so cheap). There is a pool with a swim-up bar and daily hiking and snorkelling trips available to all guests (free if you’re on a package or 40MYR / £7 / €8 if not). The staff are super friendly and accommodating, and our hut was clean and spacious. It is a budget place so it’s nothing fancy, but it’s clean, comfortable and right on the beach.
There is a restaurant attached, serving a mix of Malay and western food. Meals cost around 18MYR / £3 / €4 for a main. There isn’t a huge amount of variety, just the usual fried noodles & rice, curries, sandwiches and fruit, but it’s good quality and well presented. The free breakfast is eggs, sausages, beans, toast and fruit.
You can book D’Coconut on Booking.com. Take the reviews with a pinch of salt! It’s common in Malaysia for local people to give a place a one-star review just because their toast was burnt or some other minor issue. You have to learn how to read reviews differently when you travel here – don’t just look at the review score and actually read the reviews to see what people had a problem with. I don’t know why but people are really harsh when they review accommodation there!
There are a few other huts dotted around the beach that can be rented but I couldn’t see any resort names or contact numbers. If you’re going in the low season and really want to save some money I think you could turn up and find something very cheap – you would have to arrange your own boat though. To do that, I reckon you could call D’Coconut and ask to jump on their boat and pay them the 55MYR fee. Sorry I don’t have more info on this, but if you’re up for leaving things to chance to save a bit of money then I would give that a go. Do get back to me if you try it and it works, I’d love to update this section with more detail.
Things To Do On Pulau Babi Besar
The snorkelling around Besar is incredible! Only 1-2 boats arrive each day so the water is crystal clear and you step off the boat onto the island. You can snorkel right from the beach or as part of a tour organised by your hotel. You’ll need at least 4 people to do the tour so this might not be possible in low season.
There is a hike you can do to a viewpoint on the island. Doing this alone is not recommended – your accommodation can arrange a guide. Sadly we couldn’t do the hike as it was really quiet and the guides require 4 people minimum to go. Definitely do it if you can – the photos look incredible!
There is a trek that takes you through the jungle to a beach on the opposite side of the island. It’s a long jungle trek (2 hours or so) so bring water and bug spray. Your accommodation will give you a guide for this. Do not attempt it yourself as you will most likely get lost. Scratch that, you’ll definitely get lost – there is no clear defined path for a lot of the trek so a few people on our group that decided to go slightly ahead of us managed to take a wrong turn a few times.
What To Bring To Pulau Babi Besar
There is no ATM here so bring enough cash with you for your entire stay. If you do extend your stay and run out (like we did!), the resorts are understanding. They’ll send someone to the mainland with you when you leave to get the cash.
There is a tiny shop on Besar (literally a small wooden shack) selling water, soft drinks, snacks and some toiletries. Apart from that you won’t be able to buy anything there.
There are no laundry facilities on the island so bring some detergent to wash your clothes in the sink.
Bring plenty of suncream and bug spray as you will definitely need both. There are sandflies on the beach so bring coconut oil to put on your legs to stop them biting you. This should be easily available in any shop on the mainland (any tanning oil works just as well).
Alcohol is really expensive on the island and will kill your budget. The selection is really limited too. I would recommend bringing some with you from the mainland if you want to drink.
Kitchens are only open between 7-9am, 12-2pm and 7-9pm. Outside these hours you’ll have to feed yourself, so bringing some snacks is a good idea.
Running Routes On Pulau Babi Besar
There’s a paved path that runs from the south end of the island, near Mirage, up past Aseania. After D’Coconut go across a little wooden bridge which brings you onto a smaller and much quieter beach. The entire length is only around 1.2km so we ran there and back a few times to make up 5k. It’s a beautiful, quiet run, there are no vehicles on the island so you won’t meet any traffic.
We exercised each morning between around 7:30 – 8:15 when the sun got a little too hot. We also had space on both balconies to hang up our TRX and do a little leg and ab work after our run.
Save The Pennies
To stay in Besar on a budget stay at D’Coconut on the lower bed & breakfast rate (above). For lunch bring some food to the island with you. Packaged noodles or sandwich supplies are ideal (you will have a fridge to keep them in). Bring your own alcohol if you want to drink and treat yourself to food in the D’Coconut restaurant (£5 / €6 approx) for dinner. That should keep your budget below £50 per day, with a little extra for activities.
Splash The Cash
If you have a little bit more money stay in Aseania resort (all-inclusive if you’re happy eating there each day). Enjoy sunset drinks on the deck, indulge in their great buffet dinner and take a snorkelling tour around the island.
Thanks for reading!