Once the most famous islands of Malaysia – Tioman, Perhentian and Redang islands – have been checked off the list, one starts to look for less visited ones, like Pulau Kapas and Lang Tengah. We were looking at islands near Johor, and reviews of Pulau Besar Johor came up.
One of three little islands not far from the mainland, it was originally called Pulau Babi Besar – the Big Boar Island. The neighbouring Tengah island is home to the luxurious Batu Batu which we love, but we were on a stricter budget this time. When we realised the two islands hosted the contestants of Expedition Robinson, a popular European reality TV show in the golden 1990’s, the decision had been made!
Pulau Besar resorts
There are only a handful of resorts on Pulau Besar, all of them fairly low key.
We stayed at Bayu Lestari, the newest Pulau Besar resort right on the beach. It consists of various chalets, built in traditional Malay style but decorated with a modern twist and seems to be the nicest resort on the island.
Our group had two Exclusive Villas right next to the reception, overlooking the beach and the jetty.
The chalets come with with different configurations of beds: ours had a queen bed and single bed, and we had requested an extra bed (additional charge applies). The rooms were brightly decorated, clean and have air conditioning, however there is only cold water in the shower.
Rose and her team were extremely friendly, and were particularly concerned about us not finishing our plates at dinner time! This was purely because there was an abundance of food, all delicious local dishes with a few Hari Raya specialties thrown in. We had chosen the full board package that came with several dishes at lunch and dinner, but if you are used to lighter meals, you’d save a few holiday kilograms – and a bit of money too – by just ordering off the menu. Breakfast is equally hearty, you can request Asian or Western style dishes. They also have burgers and nuggets to please even the fussiest of kids, just remember to request for no chili sauce! Bayu Lestari does not serve alcohol.
The family in the room closest to the reception and restaurant got woken up by the morning routines in the restaurant, so light sleepers may want to ask for a room further away. The rooms were not cleaned during our stay – we are not sure if that’s because we visited during Hari Raya and the resort was at full capacity – so had rather sandy floors in the end of our stay. Bayu Lestari prices start at around RM500/night – check the current prices here.
The other resorts on the island seem to cater either to backpackers or larger groups, like the Aseania Resort Pulau Besar and D’Coconut Island Resort and didn’t look as appealing as Bayu Lestari. Both have bars though! Mirage Resort next to Bayu Lestari has also a small bar with Robinson memorabilia and a friendly bartender, and was the spot for our sundowners.
What to do on Pulau Besar
Pulau Besar does not really live up to its name – it is actually tiny. Besides the sand and sea, you can rent or borrow bikes, and cycle the short track from one end of the island to the other. All resorts organise boat trips, and there are dive shops and jungle walks.
The sea is very clear and we just snorkelled off the beach and spotted fish from the long jetty in front of Bayu Lestari.
We borrowed kayaks from Bayu Lestari for a bit of exercise, and the kids loved playing the old table football in the restaurant/lounge area. The many cats of the resort also provided endless entertainment!
How to get to Pulau Besar
Mersing is the access point to Pulau Besar. The drive there from KL took us well under 5 hours, but the return trip on the other hand was much longer. There is paid parking at the jetty (RM20/day). We organised our boat transport through the resort.
Tips for visiting Pulau Besar
- Like with other islands, there is a risk of sand flies. Oil-based repellent seems to work best.
- There is next to nothing to buy on Pulau Besar other than a limited selection of snacks. Do bring a stash of whatever you think you’ll need during your stay.
- The boat trip is just 30 minutes. The boats we had all had life jackets, but not always kids’ sizes.
- The coffee wave hasn’t yet made it to Pulau Besar – if you need a strong cuppa to keep you going, we suggest you bring your own.
We received a discount on our stay at Bayu Lestari. All opinions, as always are our own. This post contains affiliate links – by booking through them we get a small commission at no extra cost to you.