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Outdoor Activities in Penang – Adventure City Guide

Scaling Penang Hill to Turtle Beach in Penang National Park, these are the best Outdoor Activities in Penang to try on your next travel adventure.

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Outdoor Activities in Penang

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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Kristy of Family Visa

    September 9, 2013 at 7:51 AM

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

  2. Makis Giokas

    September 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    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!

  3. Debbie

    September 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    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.

  4. Jonathan Look, Jr.

    September 26, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    I am convinced! Penang is definitely on my list of must dos in the next few months. Nice rundown.

  5. Alex | Partial Parallax

    September 26, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    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!

  6. Timothy W Pawiro

    January 21, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    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

    April 6, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Monkey Beach is one my favourite parts of Penang!

  8. Prabowo

    October 18, 2014 at 3:27 AM

    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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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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