Outdoor Activities in Penang – Adventure City Guide

| September 5, 2013 | 8 Comments

Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Penang?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Lina from Erohisms provides us with her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Penang.

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Why visit Penang for adventure?

Nobody comes to Penang primarily for adventure, as it’s the food that draws you in. Arguably the best place in SE Asia to eat authentic street food that effortlessly blends the Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, Penang often gets shortchanged as a place “just for food.”

But staying here for two+ weeks has shown us that there’s a lot more to Penang than laksa, ais kacang, and char koay teow. Just a few kilometers away by bus, there are jungles and rainforests to be discovered.

Outdoor Activities in Penang

Take a Hike and Swim in Penang National Park

Penang National Park in HDR

Penang National Park is Malaysia’s smallest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Only 25km from Georgetown, the park has three accessible but hidden beaches and tons of trails for trekking. All in all, it covers a bit more than 1200 hectares, but it really packs in the jungle!

It’s hard to believe how close you are to the hustle and bustle of the city once you step foot into the park. It brought us right back to trekking in Borneo, but with the added benefit of no leeches due to the saltwater from the ocean.

Whether you do the easy hike to Monkey Beach or the more challenging trek to Teluk Kampi (past Turtle Beach), allow a few hours to explore what this park has to offer. We saw tons of monkeys, and a turtle crossing the trail. If you’re lucky, you can also see baby turtles hatching at Turtle Beach!

Penang Youth Park inhabitant

While the water isn’t crystal clear, if it’s hot enough, nobody will blame you for wanting to take a dip. Keep in mind that you are in a predominantly Muslim country, so more conservative bathing options are recommended.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

The cheapest way to get to the park is to take RapidPenang bus 101. It’s 4MYR each way and takes about an hour depending on traffic.

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Entry into the park is absolutely free! The only thing that costs money is the canopy walkway, but it was closed due to rain when we visited.

Penang Hill

Penang used to be home to a British hill station, set up top of Penang Hill and looking over the rest of the island and the city. Nowadays, Penang Hill still boasts those grand views and even a few leftover British cottages. But the real attraction for hundreds of daily visitors is the cooler air.

The most common way to get up to Penang Hill is to take the funicular and pay 30MYR return. But there’s another way, one most travelers never see. It starts by the Botanical Gardens and it’s called the Moon Gate. From here, it’s around 6km up to the Hill, where you’ll emerge behind a restaurant and in front of a lot of amused Malays who’ve never seen someone so sweaty.

The trek shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. It’s steep, muddy, and hot as hell, so bring lots of water and wear hiking boots if you have them. You’ll meet some Chinese locals on the way who’ll be happy to point you in the right direction if you’re lost. But mostly, you’ll be on your own, with the grand views of Georgetown all to yourself.

Short Holiday

If you’re in a hurry to get down or just want to avoid the mud, you can take the paved “Jeep Track” back to the Botanical Gardens. Just walk past the Hindu temple (opposite direction from the line for the Funicular) and start heading down. You’ll be sharing the road with tons of cyclists and a lot of Chinese locals walking backwards. It’s that steep! But the descent will take less than an hour, which is much faster than taking the trail all the way back down.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

Do NOT take the bus to Penang Hill if you want to do the hike, as the bus only takes you to the Funicular. Instead, take the #10 bus to the Botanical Gardens. It costs 2MYR but takes an insanely long two hours to drive the 8km. Alternatively, you can rent bikes, but after climbing that hill, the one hour long bus ride back in AC was much more appealing than pedaling!

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Absolutely free, which means you get the same views as the people who took the Funicular up but without spending a ringgit! You also get a workout in the process, which is a good thing considering the number one activity in Penang is eating.

Georgetown Heritage Walk

Can walking be considered an adventure? I think so, especially if it’s 30+ degrees outside and there’s so much to see!

Outdoor Activities in Penang

Outdoor Activities in Penang

The Georgetown area of Penang is where most travelers rightfully spend most of their time. As  a UNESCO Heritage Site, the area boasts Chinese shophouses from the 19th century, temples, clan houses, and mosques for several different ethnicities, more cute coffee shops and boutiques than you’ll ever have time to visit, and an awesome street art scene.

You could do worse than getting lost here for a few hours, either on foot or by bicycle. Start out at the Clan Jetties by the pier, where you can get a sense of how early Chinese migrants lived when they first moved to Malaysia. Each of these jetties belongs to a separate clan, or family, and as the name suggests, they stretch out over the water. Most of the jetties were occupied by fisherman, but now the occupants are as likely to own motorbikes and work in town as they are to gut fish.

From there, follow the Art Walk through the historic part of Georgetown and discover the many murals that decorate Georgetown’s beautiful old buildings. You’ll also have a chance to peek into the clan houses that abound in Georgetown, the most famous being Khoo Kongsi off of Cannon Street. These houses, which to us look more like temples, are places of worship and offering for the many members of the family.

Georgetown, Penang

A good way to understand Georgetown’s mixed heritage is to take a walk on the Street of Harmony. Here, you’ll pass a mosque, a temple, a church, and several clan houses that bring to life how diverse life on this island really is. It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and religions, all on one street.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

You’ll likely be staying in Georgetown, so all you have to do is walk out your guesthouse’s door in order to start the walk. Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen; this island is really hot!

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Free, though some clan houses like Khoo Kongsi do charge an admission fee.

Additional contact information for the adventure activity

Make sure to pick up maps from your hotel or from any tourist information center in town. There’s an Art Walk map, a Georgetown map, and a food map that all come in handy!

Best time of the year to visit Penang for adventure?

You can pretty much visit Penang any time of year, but keep in mind that October and November tend to bring heavy rainfall.

Penang

Finally, the reason I love Penang for adventure is because…

There’s nothing like coming back from a challenging hike and being able to gorge yourself on delicious freshly-made food that makes your mouth and head explore with flavor. With prices so low, nobody’s going to blame you for having two or three dinners to reward yourself for all those calories burned. And make sure to end your meal with ais kacang–there’s no better way to cool off in the tropics!

BIO:

Lina Eroh is the voice behind Erohisms. In February 2013, Lina and her husband Rob quit their tech jobs, rented out their San Francisco apartment, and set off for a year of travel. With a flexible timeline and a budget of $1000pp/month, their goal is to show others how affordable exploring the world can be. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@erohisms) or sign up for their travel newsletter.

Have you been to Penang before? Have you tried any of these outdoor activities in Penang?

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Comments (8)

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  1. I really adore their dishes especially their noodle dish and those street food is delicious and cheap too.

  2. That seems like the perfect day! Hiking and enjoying the outdoors and then returning to an amazingly rewarding meal. It just feels very fulfilling! Thanks for this post, it was very fun to read!
    Makis Giokas recently posted..What is a must see in the medieval city of York in EnglandMy Profile

  3. Debbie says:

    I love the laksa in Penang. And I do not know about the challenging trek to Teluk Kampi or the easy hike to Moneky beach. I think I should try it when I visit Penang again.
    Debbie recently posted..Umasribali ResidenceMy Profile

  4. I am convinced! Penang is definitely on my list of must dos in the next few months. Nice rundown.
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted..Capture the Colour 2013My Profile

  5. Penang looks to be a fantastic place to visit and hike around. It’s true many people write it off for just the food but you’ve proved you can actually have a great time around the place and end it with some amazing food! sounds like a great place to travel!
    Alex | Partial Parallax recently posted..Itsukushima Island – Touring The ToriiMy Profile

  6. I love Penang! In fact I just returned home from Penang, and miss it already. Love the food and the street art in Georgetown.

    My friend and I did a trekking to the monkey beach … It’s said the distance is about 2 km but we thought it’s longer than that! Phiew .. I can’t imagine taking the 6 km up to the Penang hill haha!! :-)

  7. Penelope says:

    Monkey Beach is one my favourite parts of Penang!
    Penelope recently posted..Top Tourist Attractions In Lake TiticacaMy Profile

  8. Prabowo says:

    Penang, one of my favorite place when I visited Malaysia. Last year I really enjoy the food. Its very delicious. With the fantastic beach.

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