The island of Penang, located in Northern Malaysia, is well known for it’s street food and street art, but a lesser known attraction are Penang’s well maintained hiking trails.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that Penang has more trails than we could ever possibly hike in our five week stay. Not only that, but there is a ton of good information about the trails that can be found on the following website.
We managed to hike just a handful of these hiking trails during our stay in Penang.
How to not get lost on the trails
I know I’ve said this before on my post about trekking in the Cameron Highlands, but I’ll say it here again. Maps.me is an invaluable application when you’re hiking in a new and unknown area. Data is contributed publicly from users all over the world via Open Street Maps. Maps.me uses this data in their application and allows you to access it and track your location even when you’re offline and have no data. The best part? It’s free!
I also like to use Runkeeper (another free app for your smartphone) to keep track of my hike and get an idea of the elevation gain, information that can be hard to find beforehand about the hike.
We found the trails in Penang to be mostly well maintained and with sufficient signage. Many of these trails are also used by mountain bikers, so make sure to stay alert at all times! You may also encounter wild monkeys, exotic birds, snakes, wild pigs and giant monitor lizards. Although we didn’t end up finding any snakes or wild pigs (which may have been a good thing), we did come across plenty of wild monkeys, birds and monitor lizards during our treks on Penang Island! One of my favorite things to do while on the trail was to spend a few moments just in complete silence and listen to incredible sounds of the forest. It can be surprisingly noisy with the multitude of bird calls and insects in the jungle!
Penang National Park
The National Park of Penang is home to the some of the nicest beaches on Penang Island, that can only be accessed by foot. Two of the most popular trails in this park are the Monkey Beach trail and the Turtle Beach trail. If you’re looking for a challenge, there is also an extended loop that you can hike as part of the Turtle Beach trail.
Don’t forget! You need to register your name and passport number at the main office right next to the trail head if you wish to hike in Penang National Park. Their opening hours are from 8 am to 5 pm.
Monkey Beach and Lighthouse
Monkey Beach is an interesting trail that closely follows the coastline, passing some beautiful scenery, and culminating at the famed Monkey Beach. Although I have heard many stories of tourists enjoying the companies of monkeys at the beach (hence the name), we were not one of them. There were no monkeys to be seen (which was fine with me as I’m not such a fan of pesky monkeys anyways).
We didn’t manage to make it to the lighthouse, but if you keep going just a little further after reaching Monkey Beach, you’ll be rewarded with great views (or so I’ve heard!).
Turtle Beach (Pantai Kerachut)
The hike to Turtle Beach is mainly through dense forest and arrives at a seasonal meromictic lake near the end of the trail. The trail was beautiful, and we only passed two fellow hikers on the way back! The only set back is that you’re not able to swim in the ocean due to the poisonous jellyfish, other than that it’s perfect for a day trip.
Bukit Batu Itam (Loop including Turtle Beach)
The Bukit Batu Itam Trail is accessed from the trail to Turtle Beach. We decided to head first to Turtle Beach, and then came back via the Bukit Batu Itam trail.
If I were to do it all over again, I would have avoided this loop and simply gone back the way we came. The Bukit Batu Itam Loop went up. And up. And up. It seemed as if the stairs were never ending. After all this work, you would expect a nice view, right? But there was nothing on the top to write home about. There were also several sections where the trail was seriously overgrown and you had to push away bushes to get through. If you are still serious about doing this trail after reading this, wear long pants.
The first 4 km of the trail (with maybe 200 m of elevation gain) is to Turtle Beach, whereas the last 5 km is on the Bukit Batu Trail. You can see from the topography that this is where it starts to get rough!
There are trails all over the island that lead up to the top of Penang Hill. You could literally camp and hike for days on the island of Penang.
Moonlight Gate (Botanical Gardens) to Penang Hill
We ended up hiking to the top of Penang Hill from the Moonlight Gate, which is near to the Botanical Gardens. The trail was not so obvious, as there are so many forks and turns! It was a good thing we had maps.me to guide us. It may have helped had we done a bit of research before hand as well. This article about the hike is spot on, especially the part about not taking the Jeep track to reach Penang Hill. I wish we had read that earlier, as instead of ‘wasting’ our money on the funicular, we decided to take the jeep track. “It’s only 5 km!”, Pascal said. But the trail was steep, and relentless the whole way down. There are much, much better ways (including the funicular 😉 ) to get down from Penang Hill. Trust me on this one.
So as you can see, we hiked just a small fraction of all the trails Penang has to offer. If you love hiking or mountain biking, than you will definitely love exploring the trails of Penang Island.
Do you like to seek out local hiking spots on your travels? What are some of the most favorite places you’ve hiked at?
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