Things to do in Penang, Malaysia
Ever since George Town got inscribed its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008, the stream of tourists along the city’s streets has been never-ceasing. Though it seems like George Town is all Penang has to offer - apart from its food - the truth is that Penang has much more sights you should not miss on your next visit.
Here are some lesser-known places in Penang to make a trip for.
1. Take a S$2.30 boat ride to Pulau Aman for fresh seafood and an easy hike
Image credit: @ifandonlyiffah
As far as any Penangite is concerned, Pulau Aman is synonymous with cheap seafood and Mee Udang (prawn noodles) - not to be confused with Penang Hokkien Mee, also referred to as prawn noodles. To get to the island, make your way to Batu Musang Jetty along the south of Mainland Penang's coastline and hop on a boat for a 10-minute ride that costs just RM7 (S$2.30).
Fresh out of the sea and directly into the stomach!
Image credit: @hafiffymuhamad
If you are early, you might be able to see fishermen docking in with their catch of the day. Scurry over to pick your fresh favourites like prawns, crabs and fish. Then, head to the floating restaurant, Restoran Terapung Pulau Aman, to get your seafood cooked on the spot - either with noodles or on their own at no extra cost.
Image credit: @jagadeesensupramaniam
This is also where the famous Mee Udang is served and you can get it from RM10 (S$3.30) per bowl.
Image credit: @adimuhaiminhakim
To ease your stuffed belly, take a short and easy 1km hike up the small hill to catch panoramic views of the island and its surroundings.
Batu Musang Jetty (Boat transfer to Pulau Aman)
Address: Batu Musang Jetty , 14100 Simpang Ampat, Penang
Opening Hours: Departs to Pulau Aman every two hours from 8AM (last boat at 6PM)
Ticket price: RM7 (S$2.30)
Restoran Terapung Pulau Aman
Address: No 120, Pulau Aman, 14100 Simpang Ampat, Penang
Opening Hours: 10AM-6PM daily
Telephone: +6 019-476 6125
2. Cafe hop and take #OOTD shots at Cubopark container market
Image credit: @archiplan_id
Cubopark’s exterior may seem a little underwhelming but it proves to be the opposite once you enter into this shipping container mall. Located close to the shopping hub of Gurney Drive, this sprawling enclave is a haven for those who delight in gastronomical adventures and artistic knick-knacks.
Image credit: @eugene0903
Within the compound are spaces for live performances, exhibitions and events. Dozens of local entrepreneurs flock here to sell their products from delicious food to eccentric art at the bi-weekly art and craft market.
SYST Penang is a popular cafe at Cubopark which serves Hong Kong-style desserts and toast, and has eye-catching neon decor
Image credit: @ifat2015
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There are spots decorated with repurposed junk, neon lights and hanging plants for you take shots of to earn social media points. With so many F&B outlets and bars located at this alfresco mall, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it’s time to drink or dine!
Image credit: @krystallau_
Address: 6 Jalan Tanjung Tokong Tanjung Tokong, 10470 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: 4PM-2AM daily
Telephone: +6 012 420 2285
3. Have a durian farmstay at an eco-resort in Balik Pulau
Green Acres, a 16-acre durian orchard in Balik Pulau
Image credit: @mytravelguide
When durian season comes by, it seems like everyone in the region goes berserk, and rightly so - they don’t call it the kind of fruits for nothing. But what if we throw in a staycation in durian paradise?
Image credit: @flyingtothe_
As Penang is slowly moving rapidly towards eco-tourism, more farm stays are being introduced at the Balik Pulau region. It doesn’t matter if you are a durian fan or hater of durians, though, because all of the farm stays offer magnificent views and a resort-like experience - the good durians will just seem like an extra plus point.
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Bookings can be done via AirBnB or on the resorts’ various websites. A few recommended ones are Bao Sheng Durian Farm, Karuna Hill and Green Acres Orchard and Ecolodge with prices starting from RM 395 (S$130) to RM 760 (S$250) per night.
A durian staycation complete with an outdoor jacuzzi at Karuna Hill – yes please!
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Do note that the owners are not commercial durian sellers and open their estates for visitors to have a wholesome experience dining on durians and having a momentary hiatus from urban life.
View from Bao Sheng Durian Farm’s deluxe room
Image credit: @worksavetravelrepeat1.0
Each durian farm stay operates differently. Green Acres Orchard and Ecolodge offers private tours to the durian farm, while Karuna Hill serves guests durians from their own orchard every day. Bao Sheng Durian Farm offers personalised tasting sessions for guests.
Green Acres Orchard and Ecolodge
Address: No. 402, Mukim 4, Batu Itam, Balik Pulau, 11000, Penang
Telephone: +6012 428 6368 / +6019 479 1190
Address: 849, BHRN 125, Bukit Kechil Mukim 2, 11010 Balik Pulau, Pulau Pinang
Telephone: +604 866 2078
Bao Sheng Durian Farm
Address: 150 Mk2 Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau, 11000 Penang
Telephone: +6012 411 0600
4. Bask by the pristine beaches of Penang National Park
A rope swing at Monkey Beach
Image credit: @lilgetaway2019
Think all the best beaches in Penang are in Batu Feringghi? Beach, please!
Drive further past all the tourist-filled beaches and head to Penang National Park, the smallest national park in Malaysia. Arm yourself with flip flops, a bottle of water and good hiking shoes because you are going to conquer a hill before you reach the beach.
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There is no entry fee, but you have to register so they know you have entered the premises. There are a number of trails that you can hike which will lead you to various clean, pristine beaches.
Muka Head lighthouse
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If you choose to hike to Monkey Beach, you’ll be traversing the coastline. If you’d like something more challenging, take an extra 30-minute hike up to the lighthouse at Muka Head from the beach. Here, you can catch gorgeous views that span all the way up to the borders of Thailand.
Streams flowing out from the meromictic lake at Pantai Kerachut.
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The journey to Pantai Kerachut is also as exciting as you will be hiking through the lush rainforest, to get to the other side of the national park. There, you’ll be able to see the unusual meromictic lake - a lake where two layers of fresh and salt water do not mix. You can also say hello to baby turtles at the Penang Turtle Sanctuary.
A baby turtle being cared for at the Penang Turtle Sanctuary
Image credit: @shoutrageous
Address: Pejabat Taman Negara P. Pinang, Jalan Hassan Abbas, 11050 George Town, Penang
Opening Hours: Daily, 8AM-5PM
Telephone: +604 881 3530
5. Embark on a 12km cycling adventure along Penang’s East Coast
The first Penang Bridge
Image credit: @magnumoh
One of the best ways to experience Penang’s coastline is on two wheels - without a motor. Instead of manoeuvring through the busy streets of George Town, go rogue and get on the 12KM bicycle lane starting from Weld Quay that will lead you out of George Town to Penang’s second bridge, Jambatan Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Syah.
Penang’s second bridge at sunset
Image credit: @shivonneying
It’s best to embark on your cycling journey in the early evening. You can opt to take several stops; one at Karpal Singh Drive where you can have dinner, another at the Penang Bridge, and a third at Queensbay Mall (desserts maybe?) - before heading all the way up the spiral bridge till you see the twinkling lights of the second link.
Jambatan Harapan, a spiral bicycle bridge located close to Queensbay Mall
Image credit: @kt_cyclone_sb
You can head back the same way you came. There will be sufficient streetlights to guide you back in the dark.
6. Feed and pet adorable goats at Saanen Goat Farm
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Have a field day petting goats and other farm animals at Saanen Goat Farm located at Balik Pulau.
Image credit: @anceejay
This family-run farm has about a hundred goats, as well as other animals like rabbits, chickens, geese, dogs and cats. Visitors can enter and feed the goats pre-packed grass at no cost. If you are lucky, you might even get to witness the birth of a kid!
There are also deer roaming around in the farm
Image credit: @maytengho
You can support the farm by purchasing any of their products, namely: Fresh goat’s milk, nutmeg yogurt drink, goat’s milk pudding and goat’s milk with brown sugar bun. Because really, what’s a field trip without something to chow down on?
Image credit: @gynee315
Address: 298 Mukim 1 Sungai Pinang, 11010 Balik Pulau, Penang
Opening Hours: 10AM-5PM
Telephone: +6019 516 3017
7. Check out an abandoned hospital and conquer obstacle courses at Pulau Jerejak
Image credit: @normahahmad76
Just a stone’s throw away from the Southeast bay of Penang Island is an islet often seen, but not visited by many - not even the locals. Talk to the older generation of locals here and they might recount the notoriety surrounding Pulau Jerejak; It was dubbed the “Alcatraz of Malaysia” as it used to house a maximum security prison, a British detention camp and a leper colony. Now, all that is left are ruins of history and an air of mystery.
Try your hand at rock climbing
Image credit: @jerejakrainforestresort
If you’re looking for an adventure, hop on a boat at Pantai Jerejak Jetty and you’ll reach the island in 10 minutes. Here, you get to experience the great outdoors with activities such as rock climbing, archery, zip lining, jungle trekking, mountain biking and abseiling.
Ruins on the island
Image credit: @theislanddrum
Muster the courage to explore the 3km Prison Trail that leads you past the former leprosy colony, tuberculosis hospital, to where criminals convicted of heinous crimes and drugs were detained. *Cue Law & Order: SVU theme song* The Razak and Balqis trail will lead you pass the Russian memorial cemetery, pre-war underground bunker and the British detention camp.
Pulau Jerejak Jetty (Boat Transfer to Pulau Jerejak)
Address: Pulau Jerejak Jetty, Gelugor, Penang
Opening Hours: Departs to Pulau Aman every two hours from 6.30AM (last boat at 10.30PM)
Ticket price: RM25 (S$ 8.30) for adults, RM17 (S$ 5.30) for children
Telephone:+6 04-660 7776
8. Explore The Habitat, a nature reserve with canopy trails and ziplines
A Dusky Leaf Langgur sheltered from the midday sun.
Image credit: @thehabitatph
A funicular train up to Penang Hill and a short walk from the station will bring you to The Habitat, the 130 million-year-old tropical “Garden of Eden” of Penang. Be enveloped by the cooler temperature, the sound of nature, and - take a deep breath - fresh unadulterated air.
Take in views while you rock on a giant swing.
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After purchasing your entry ticket at RM 53 (S$17.50), you will be greeted by a guide that will lead you halfway up the 1.6KM Nature Trail. The guide will explain a little bit about the history and biodiversity of the park, and point out certain landmarks where you can probably spot the Dusky Leaf Langgur or the Red Giant Flying Squirrel.
Image credit: @maya_astuti08
Don’t leave without going up Curtis Crest, a sizable tree top circuit - the highest viewpoint in Penang. You’ll be able to take panoramic pictures of George Town, capturing Penang Bridge and the state of Kedah at the horizon.
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Sway away on the giant swings located along the main path or divert to another canopy walk called Langur Way. For those who seek a little more excitement, try The Flight of the Colugo at an additional RM99 (S$32.50) - it’s an adventure course comprising of 5 zip lines, an abseil station, and a rope bridge to conquer.
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At the end of the trail, you can chillax at The Habitat Café with tea and desserts to conclude your journey.
Address: The Habitat Penang Hill, Bukit Bendera, 11300 Penang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: Daily, 10AM-6PM
Telephone: +604 826 7677
Ticket price: From RM 53 (S$17.50) for adults. Find the full list of ticket prices here.
9. Take a dip in the turquoise quarry pools of Guar Petai (Frog Hill)
Image credit: @jo1in
About 40 minutes from Penang Island lies pools of turquoise that reflect the sky. Guar Petai (Frog Hill), an abandoned quarry located at Tasek Gelugor has turned itself into a natural theme park of sorts, which Instagram junkies and biking enthusiasts flock to. It seems to be an unclaimed piece of land and hence, there are no facilities of any sort - no toilets either, I’m afraid.
Image credit: @its.albert.yoon
Google is one way to navigate there but once you get close, do ask passers-by to get the exact point of entry as it is difficult to locate.
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Take a mini hike up the mount of red clay and rock for a better view of the pools. You might see some locals somersaulting into the water too!
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Psst, it’s best to head here earlier in the day because it can get really hot towards the afternoon.
GPS Location: GPS: 5.44593, 100.47361
10. Watch butterflies hatch at Entopia
Natureland, a glass dome filled with flora, fauna, and loads of butterflies
Image credit: @jianwoei
Formerly known as Penang Butterfly Farm, Entopia has metamorphosed into a full-fledged insect sanctuary. Purchase an entry ticket at RM65 (S$21.30) and stand enthralled as you walk into Natureland, a giant glass dome where you can watch thousands of butterflies flutter around and feed on cut fruits.
Image credit: @amin_wongso
There’s also The Cocoon, an indoor space where you can learn about the various stages of insect growth. In fact, there is a section where you can see butterflies ballooning their wings as they emerge from their cocoons.
Butterflies completing their metamorphosis
Image credit: @trippinsince81
Getting to learn about insects in such a close-up manner makes them less frightening...although abhorrence towards cockroaches might remain unchanged for some.
Image credit: @myentopia
Address: No.830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Daily, 9AM-6PM
Telephone: +604 888 8111
Ticket price: From RM 65 (S$ 21.30) for adults. Find the full list of ticket prices, click here.
Non-touristy activities in Penang Island, Malaysia
Just when you thought Penang was getting a little stale, the little island has made its way to enrapture you again. Guess it’s time for another Penang road trip – and this time, you’ll be taking on an adventure outside the confines George Town.
Read our other Penang guides here: