The two main islands are Perhentian Besar ("Large Perhentian") and Perhentian Kecil ("Small Perhentian"). The small, uninhabited islands of Susu Dara (Virgin Milk), Serenggeh and Rawa lie off Kecil.
Like Besut, people here generally speak Kelantanese Malay, however English is widely spoken and understood to accommodate the growing tourism market. The Perhentian Islands have become a popular travel destination for families and backpackers alike due to the many lodging options that accommodate almost any budget.
The name "Perhentian" means "stopping point" in Malay, referring to the islands' traditional role as a waypoint for traders between Bangkok and Malaysia. The islands were sparsely inhabited by fishermen for centuries, although tourism now accounts for most economic activity.
The Perhentian Islands appear on many maps of the nineteenth and twentieth century as 'The Station Islands'. This arises from the British colonial period, as an English translation of "stopping point".
Pulau Perhentian was one of the islands where Vietnamese refugees or boat people landed during the 1970s.
Both islands are fringed by white sand beach, and the reefs and crystalline water are host to a wide variety of coral, sea-turtles, jellyfish, small sharks and reef-fish. The islands' maximum elevation is approximately 100 m (328 ft) and they are uniformly covered in coastal tropical jungle, with few interior foot-trails and no roads.
Other than the owners and staff of the numerous cabin-style resorts that dot the islands (many of whom depart for the monsoon season), the islands' only permanent inhabitants live in a small fishing village on Kecil. With the exception of a single mainland-communications tower on each island, there are no structures taller than two storeys.
Nature tourism provides the economic base for the islands. Both the islands have palm-fringed white coral sand beaches (that can be tough on the feet) and turquoise blue sea. Popular tourist activities include scuba-diving, snorkeling, and swimming. On most beaches, the water is shallow with many rays, cuttlefish and parrotfish. For diving, there are dozens of divesites around both main islands, as well as several off-shore sites. Apart from these, activities like camping, canoeing, fishing, jungle trekking, and banana boat riding are also available. As for accommodation, most of it can be found on Perhentian Besar, the larger island. Hotels are usually aimed at budget travelers. A rise in tourism Kuala Besar has lead to the expansion of many different resorts and tons of options for snorkelers and divers alike. It is possible to get PADI certified at various locations and take advantage of the various wrecks and coral reefs for an incredible experience. The Perhentian islands are home to numerous different speices of monitor lizards, poisonous spiders, and geckos. In the water and on the coral reefs, sea turtles, clownfish, cuttlefish, blue spotted rays, and black tipped sharks swim freely among many others.
Ferries to both Perhentian islands leave almost every hour from Kuala Besut during regular business hours. Travellers from Kuala Lumpur or other destinations can fly, train, or bus to either Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu. From either town, the jetty port in Kuala Besut is accessible by taxi. It is also possible to use minivan services offered by various companies if travelling from Taman Negara, the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur or many other cities in Malaysia. The minivan services vary in prices and there are many different companies that offer service to and from various destinations. A ferry ride of approximately forty minutes can be arranged by one of the many jetty operators, or in cooperation with many of the resorts. The ferries vary in size and capacity, so it is important to ensure that your baggage does not exceed the specifications of each particular watercraft.  Once on the island, there are limited trails that connect various resorts. A trail on Besar goes through the thick jungle, and some stretches of beach are home to various resorts so visitors can wander freely. The easiest way to travel around the islands is by water taxi, which can be arranged at most resorts. 
The Perhentian islands experience a heavy monsoon season between October and March, and most the islands are essentially closed off to tourists. Resorts and ferry services are stopped during this time due to the weather. On average each year, the Perhentian Islands receive over 100 inches of rain and experiences roughly 12 daylight hours on average. The best time to visit the islands is between April and September due to the warm weather and limited rainfall. It is important to note that the UV index is extremely high throughout the year which means that visitors should constantly wear sunscreen, condition-appropriate clothing and do their best to avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time. . Prolonged exposure to areas with high UV indexes can cause sunburns, skin ageing, and has been strongly linked to certain forms of cancer.  The monthly averages for weather are as follows (in °F):
January: 82 February: 84 March: 86 April: 90 May: 90 June: 90 July: 88 August: 88 September: 88 October: 86 November: 84 December: 82 
In the summer of 2007, two wind turbines were installed, although they were still not connected to the network as of August 2013, leaving diesel generators as the main source of the islands' electrical power. A third turbine is being built. Electricity is available 24-hours during high season. Fresh water is provided by springs. Wifi is available on certain resorts but the connections can be limited due to weather conditions and electrical issues stemming from the isolation of the island. Resorts are attempting to remedy the troubles stemming from limited electricity and internet connections, it is important to visit each resort's website to be aware of the availability of these resources.
The Perhentian Islands have been designated a marine park which means that visitors must pay a tax of RM5 to visit the islands. This also means that it is not permitted to litter, fish, or remove any marine life from its natural habitat. This status as a marine park is an attempt to maintain the natural beauty and abundance of natural life in the area. However, it is evident that despite these warnings, the growing tourism market has affected the marine life. The numerous boats that are used to help transport visitors and resources to the islands have damaged many of the reefs near resorts when they are unprotected by ropes or buoys. Moreover, due to the abundance of tourists in the past years, a large number of coral has been damaged and wildlife has been compromised as a result. Even so, it is possible to see anything from minnows to sharks in the area. More initiatives are being put in place to educate tourists and help keep the reefs safe so that many people can enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving in years to come. 
The Perhentian Islands were once home to a significant green and hawksbill sea turtle nesting population. Now the islands receive only 300 nestings per year, partly due to frequent oil spills from nearby oil production platforms and oil tankers owned by Petronas. The Department of Fisheries runs a turtle hatchery on the islands to help address the declining turtle populations. Egg poaching from the beaches is a continuing problem.