Penang National Park holds a curious record, it’s the world’s smallest National Park. However, it is home to an extraordinarily wide spectrum of tropical plants, animals, and geographical features. It contains six different types of habitat: a meromictic lake, wetlands, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs, and turtle nesting beaches. All of this in only 2500 hectares… which means it’s a great place for hiking as you will never get bored. As they say: “Good things come in small packages.”
Hiking in Penang National Park
There are two main trails in Penang National Park. One goes through the jungle to Pantai Kerachut aka Turtle Beach, while the other goes through the coast to Teluk Duyung aka Monkey beach. Everywhere you read about them says that it’s impossible to do both on the same day. So, you have to choose between them… or do you? Well, even if you are extremely fit it would be very difficult and mainly a little foolish. What’s the point of rushing through everything only to walk through the jungle for 7 or 8 hours? Yet, we did both trails in one day and it was fun, relaxed and fairly easy! It only took us about 4 hours of hiking… How did we do it? We did the trail to turtle beach, then took a boat from turtle beach to Monkey beach and then hiked back to Penang National park entrance! Easy-peasy right? 🙂
Note that there is a Canopy Walk in the Park, but it was closed when we went there. Supposedly this Canopy allows you to walk among the rainforest treetops and costs only 5 Rm per person. We did other Canopy walks in Malaysia and it was very cool, so if they open up this Canopy make sure you give it a try…
The trail to Turtle Beach
If we really had to choose we would have chosen to do this trail. Within minutes you are right in the middle of the tropical lush jungle. The path is clear and easy to follow, but it’s hard work, with some steep and slippery parts. This is a true jungle trail with a few concrete stairs to help climbing the steeper parts. Along the trail, there are a few huts to rest and some information about the trail, the fauna, the flora and the park. Just before arriving at turtle beach you will have to cross the suspension bridge over the meromictic lake, a rare natural feature composed of two separate layers of unmixed freshwater on top and seawater below. Or a muddy plain because this rare lake only exists during the rainy season.
Taxi boat from Turtle beach to Monkey Beach
In our opinion turtle beach is the most pristine of Penang, however, it has a big downside you aren’t allowed swim there. Anyhow, it’s a wonderful beach to enjoy the sun, the sand, and the relative solitude. This beach is a turtle nesting reserve, thus the name. While it’s very difficult to actually see the turtles on the beach you can visit the turtle center where they have some information and a few turtles to show you.
From here you can get a taxi boat to Monkey Beach. Though it’s safer if you book it at the park’s entrance, we just tag along with a girl we met during the trek and paid for our way. There are several boats doing this service, so it’s fairly easy to go to one of them and haggle your way. The trip itself is very pleasant and you get to see the park from a different view. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Monkey beach.
The trail from Monkey Beach
We were expecting monkey beach to be very different. Why? We were expecting it to look like turtle beach or Koh ta Kiev. However, with the number of boats, water sports and people, it really didn’t look like a National Park, it was just another average beach… Unfortunately, both the water and the sand weren’t very clean. We rested a bit, enjoyed a swim and continued the trail, now returning to the Park Entrance. Although this last trail is always close or by the shore, it’s still a forest trail that gets narrow and a bit challenging, with the occasional boulder or fallen tree to vault over. Along the trail, we saw several monkeys and another two scary monitor lizards. This part of the trail is also dirtier, particularly right in front of the building of University of Malaysia Marine Research Station. It’s very disappointing that the university is contributing to the pollution of the park instead of helping clean it.
In conclusion, the National Park has the best hiking trails on the island. It is appropriate for adventure seekers, backpackers, and even families. Hiking in Penang National Park is a very safe and easy way of enjoying a virgin tropical jungle. In a few minutes you are in the middle of a jungle like the ones you see in the movies or pictures and you’ll be pleased by its sounds, smells, and views. Furthermore, if you want to see the whole park our suggested route is your best option. Do both the trails and connect them by a small and pleasant boat ride. Instead of 2 separate linear trails, you get a circular route and don’t have to come back the same way you went.
Useful information about Penang National Park
How to go to Penang National Park
Get bus 101 that runs from Georgetown’s jetty to the National Park. It’s the last stop, where the bus turns around. This bus travels along Chulia Street, KOMTAR, then out of town along the coast through Batu Ferringhi beach. There’s a bus every 10 minutes and it takes about an hour for the full way.
Price/Entry Free to Penang National Park
The park has no entry fee, however, you need to register at the entrance. The bus costs 2.7 Ringgit (0.5 USD) each way. If you fancy our suggestion of doing both trails and connect them by boat then you obviously have to pay for the boat. We paid 20 Ringgit (4.2 USD) per person.
Time required to visit Penang National Park
Each of the trails takes about 1:00 to 1:30, and the boat 10 to 15 minutes. However, overall this is a full day activity, particularly if you want to do both beaches as we suggested! The park opens from 8:00 to 17:00.
Bring lots of water and snacks. In monkey beach we found people selling snacks and drinks but hiking in the jungle is hard work and you can get dehydrated very fast. Bring walking or running shoes with good grip, don’t forget that this is a jungle trek!
Where to stay in Penang National Park
There’s no accommodation in Penang National Park and you can’t spend the night in the park. However, the park is very small and it isn’t necessary! If you are planning on going to the park you may find accommodation in Teluk Bahang (the closest village to the park entrance) in Batu Ferringhi or even in Georgetown itself.
The easiest way is obviously staying in Teluk Bahang, as you can just walk into the park! In Taluk Bahang we suggest you stay in Hotel and Chalet Sportfishing. Click here to see the prices during your stay.
In our opinion, the best option is to stay in Batu Ferringhi because it’s less 5km away and the public bus 101 goes directly to the National Park entrance. Or you could always hire a taxi, or maybe even a taxi boat! In Batu Ferringhi, you have dozens of options and between those we suggest:
- For backpackers – Rasa Motel Penang, It’s a basic motel very close to the bus station. It’s extremely and excellent value for money! Click here to compare prices
- Mid-range accommodation – Bayview beach resort is a good compromise between a still excellent price and an overall better hotel. Click here to check prices!
- High-end hotel – Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang is the hotel to stay if you only want the best! click here to check prices
If you decide to stay in Georgetown, you can still make a day trip to Penang national park. Just take into consideration that it will take almost one hour each way by bus. Though it’s perfectly doable and this way you won’t need to change hotel! In Georgetown you should stay in the old city center and here we suggest these places:
- For backpackers – Wassup Youth Hostel is a great option for private and shared rooms at a good price. It’s clean and well located. Click here to compare prices.
- Mid-range – Sunway Hotel Georgetown is a refurbished hotel that guarantees excellent quality with reasonable prices. Check the prices here.
- High-End – Eastern & Oriental Hotel is the best hotel in Georgetown. This is a great hotel for couples with outdoor pool, sauna, and solarium. Check its price here.