A rustic tropical island just 15 minutes from the mainland, Pulau Kapas is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for a cheap, relaxing few days. A popular spot for backpackers who are looking to get off the beaten track, this is a great place to meet other travellers. Pulau Kapas is not a party island but somewhere to go to read, swim, snorkel, hike or take day trips to neighbouring islands. You can easily get bored here so pop it in your itinerary between busier places when you need a little downtime. The vibe of the island is super rustic, relaxed and everyone living and working on there seems so chilled out that it ends up being contagious.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip to Pulau Kapas;
When To Go to Pulau Kapas
As with the rest of the islands on the east coast, resorts open and ferries start in March after the monsoon season ends, and close at the end of October when it kicks off again. March and October are seen as the off peak ‘shoulder’ months with tourist numbers slowly going up through April and May before peaking in June and July, then gradually tailing off again.
In the peak months (June – July) it’s worth it to book ahead to guarantee a bed for the night, but I’m sure you can pitch a tent somewhere if you do decide to go on a whim. As with the rest of the islands in Malaysia, Kapas gets busier on weekends with locals coming for a short break.
We were here in March and had incredible weather and it was quiet, but there was still a great vibe around the place and lots of people to chat to.
How To Get To Pulau Kapas
Boats leave Marang Jetty, near Kuala Terrengganu and cost 20MYR / £3 / €4 each way. You can find the boat schedules here (note that these can change depending on the weather). The sea crossing here can be rough but it’s very short – I would still take some anti-nausea tablets if you’re prone to sea sickness. You can book the boat at the jetty or call ahead using the number on the above website.
From Kuala Lumpur
To get to Kuala Terrengganu you can take a direct bus from Kuala Lumpur (6-7 hours, 43MYR / £7 / €9) or fly directly from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia for as little as £15 / €17 each way if you book in advance. 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 BusOnlineTicket.com to book our buses. The prices are the same as quoted on other websites but the customer service is better and you can pay by PayPal for your protection. You get to choose your seats when you book so you will be guaranteed to sit with your travel buddy!
If you’re coming from Pulau Tioman or Pulau Babi Besar you can get a bus directly from Mersing to Kuala Terrengganu. This takes 6 hours and costs 37MYR / £6 / €7 each way. This is what we did and we had a very comfortable journey. The Transnasional bus we were on had air con, comfortable pre-booked seats that reclined. We stopped once for lunch and twice for bathroom breaks as there was no bathroom on board.
From any other locations check 12go.asia for routes and prices. I would also recommend staying a night in Kuala Terrengganu if you have time!
Where To Stay in Pulau Kapas
Pulau Kapas was probably the most laid back island we visited, and had the cheapest accommodation options. I had trouble finding places to stay here online but since we were travelling in low season I knew we could just turn up and find a place. This should be fine if you’re coming any month other than June and July, or on weekends around those months. If you are coming in peak season and aren’t happy to just bunk down anywhere then I would book ahead – I’ll give you details of some places below and some contact numbers to call.
Camping On The Beach $
Longshacamp.wordpress.com,or call +60 199-66-2968 / WhatsApp +60 199-83-2968
There is a campsite on Longsha beach which you can stay on for as little as 10MYR / £1.85 / €2 per night if you bring your own tent. You can rent a tent for 5MYR / 90p / €1 per night and also a sleeping mat for another 5MYR. The facilities are basic – cold shower, squat toilet and there are also kitchen facilities so you could save a bit more money by cooking for yourself.
This was really popular when we were there, while the island was pretty quiet there was always a crowd of backpackers on Longsha beach playing volleyball and hanging out. There were a lot of European guests plus a large group from Argentina. If you are travelling solo this might be a good place to stay to meet other travellers.
Kapas Beach Chalet (KBC) $$
This is where we stayed on Kapas and we absolutely loved it. This Dutch-run beachfront place offers a variety of rooms for small to medium budgets and a great menu full of cheap local and western food. The staff are really friendly and it seems to attract a lot of young travellers so it would a be spot to meet people.
The budget rooms in KBC are 19MYR / £3.50 / €4 for a bed in a dorm room, 80MYR / £15 / €16.50 for a double fan room with a shared bathroom and 120MYR / £22 / €25 for a double air con room with en suite. The rooms are clean and well kept, you don’t hear much noise apart from the ocean and the chickens that roam freely around the place every day. They have western toilets and the showers are cold water, but it’s so hot that it didn’t really matter. They also offer mosquito nets in the rooms.
The confusing thing about KBC is that there are two of them, right beside each other. We heard a rumour that the original KBC was set up and run by a Dutch guy and was very popular with westerners. More recently the Malaysian authorities made him hand half of it over to be run by a Malay person so you have one side (where we stayed) that has budget dorm and double rooms (air con & fan), and another (the Malay side) that offers beach chalets. Googling KBC will mostly get you the chalet side – I can’t find our rooms anywhere. The two places are basically combined so they’re right beside each other, but the chalets are a bit more expensive at 170MYR / £31 / €35 per night.
I’d recommend staying at KBC (the Dutch side) and when we go back to Kapas I’ll definitely book back in! The food was SO good (Tim recommends the Thai beef salad!) and really cheap, so if you don’t stay here then at least pop over here to eat.
Kapas Turtle Valley $$$
Set on its own private beach with sea-facing bungalows, Turtle Valley is the most upmarket resort we saw on Kapas. This is another Dutch-owned resort, and offers rooms from 240MYR / £45 / €50 for a double room with private bathroom, hot showers, breakfast and wifi. There is a minimum of two nights per booking and they are the only place that we found that takes card payments. If you’re on a romantic break / honeymoon or just have more money then it would be a good option.
I’m never sure whether to add places like this to my travel guides because these posts are mainly aimed at backpackers, but sometimes even when you’re on a tight budget you want to spurge on special occasions. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether or not to include the more upmarket options – comment below, message me on Instagram or email me if you have any suggestions!
What To Bring to Pulau Kapas
There is a small shop in KBC resort that sells crisps, Oreos and toiletries, plus another small shop up by the jetty which doesn’t seem to open much but sells noodles and other sorts of snacks. Apart from that you won’t be able to buy anything there. There is no ATM either so bring enough cash with you for your entire stay.
Bring plenty of suncream and bug spray as you will definitely need both. It’s always more expensive to buy these on islands so always stock up in a pharmacy before you leave.
There are no laundry facilities on the island (although KBC does offer a service where your laundry is taken to the mainland and brought back clean the next morning), so bring some detergent to wash your clothes in the sink . This is true of all of the islands we went to apart from Tioman so bring it with you when you leave!
If you want to drink alcohol you will have to bring it with you as nowhere is licensed here. We did see a sign at KBC offering beer but apparently they were caught by the authorities doing this and can’t do it anymore. There was a small restaurant up by the Longsha campsite that also said they offer beer sometimes but not while we were there. There is an off licence in Kuala Terrenganu called Vinum Xchange where you can pick it up before you get your boat.
What To Do in Pulau Kapas
The snorkelling around Kapas is superb! You can snorkel right from the beach or else you can do it as part of a tour organised by your hotel. It’s 10MYR / £1.85 / €2 to rent a snorkel and usually around 40MYR / £7.50 / €8 to join a snorkel tour, although you can haggle a bit. If you’re a good swimmer you can snorkel across to nearby Gem Island, a private island just beside Kapas.
You can rent kayaks from your accommodation to explore the island and islands nearby. I’m not sure of the price as we didn’t do it (Tim won’t kayak with me anymore as I always sit there and make him do all the work. Understandable I guess!).
This tiny, beautiful island is right next to Kapas and a good place to visit on a day trip. There is just one resort here but it’s very expensive – around 3x more than Kapas, so only go here for food if you have the budget – but they do sell alcohol unlike Kapas (albeit very overpriced alcohol – a bottle of cheap wine was 150MYR / £27 / €31!). There are deck chairs or hammocks where you can relax and read or you can snorkel around the island. You can swim, kayak or take a boat here which should cost 15MYR / £2.75 / €3 per person return. There is a stand outside KBC where you can arrange this and they can usually bring you immediately and you phone them when you want to come back.
There is a hike you can do to a small beach on the island. I love hiking and trekking so I was going to do this, but I read about it online and apparently it’s an underwhelming experience. The beach that you reach isn’t as nice as the ones you’re already on and the hike apparently isn’t worth it. If you do want an activity then you can reach the entrance of the hike just to the right when you come off the jetty on Longsha beach.