Located northwest of Peninsular Malaysia is a state known for being a melting pot of cultures - Penang. It is a rare destination that somehow manages to retain its relaxed charm, while still being exciting and urban.
But the allures of this Pearl of the Orient go beyond its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mouth-watering delights of Penang street food, though we can’t blame you for making these your main reasons to visit; the Penang Char Kueh Tiau is worth the trip alone.
With lush verdant pockets of nature just a short distance away from downtown George Town, it’s not hard to want to get out and explore the greener spots in Penang. From hiking the crowning jewel of Penang Hill to exploring the tranquil sights of Balik Pulau on a bicycle, here are our top choices of nature-focused places to visit in Penang.
1. Break a sweat hiking Penang Hill
If you’ve checked all of the hiking trails in Johor Bahru off your to-do list, then trekking up Penang Hill should be your next adventure!
Known locally as Bukit Bendera, which means Flagstaff Hill, Penang Hill lives up to its namesake with how it looms 833 metres above sea level. It offers phenomenal views of George Town and the coastline, making it a must-visit for anyone coming into Penang for the first (or however many) time.
A hike on Penang Hill is a perfect way to get up close and personal with the local flora and fauna of Penang without having to travel too far out from George Town itself.
There are several hiking trails that weave and interconnect with each other. Each one offers a challenge of its own, different durations to complete, and different starting points. No matter whether you are a seasoned hiker or novice trekker, there’s a trail on Penang Hill for you.
The Habitat Penang Hill is a key attraction here. At the heart of this ecological haven lies the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk, an enchanting experience that allows visitors to wander along an elevated walkway amidst the lush tropical rainforest canopy. It is, after all, the highest accessible viewing platform on Penang Island, giving you unbeatable views of Penang Island, George Town, and even the Penang Bridge. Then, conquer the Langur Way Canopy Walk, a 230m suspension bridge 40m above ground, offering a thrilling adventure to those who're not afraid of heights. Admission is RM60 (S$17.20) for a standard entrance pass.
Address: Penang Hill, Bukit Bendera, 11300 Bukit Bendera, Penang
Opening Hours: Most locals recommend starting your hike as early as 6:00am, though hiking trails are open at all hours.
Cost: Free to visit, but if you’re buying tickets for the funicular train there will be an admission rates tier. Get more information about the train schedules and pricing here.
2. Walk through a fairytale at Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm is a sanctuary that beckons nature enthusiasts and curious travellers to embark on a journey through the enchanting world of insects and butterflies. There’s just something magical about the way the free-flying butterflies of every colour and almost every species under the sun are allowed to just flit around uninhibited.
With its thoughtfully designed habitats, visitors can witness the life cycles of various butterfly species, explore lush gardens teeming with exotic plants, and even get up close and personal with a multitude of fascinating insects. Keep your eyes peeled as you’re walking through the nature park because you may actually get lucky enough to witness the ‘birth’ of a butterfly right before your eyes!
It is also one of the best places to visit in Penang with family, with plenty of things to do for all ages. There are free talks and hands-on activities lined up daily so do check out the schedule and plan your visit accordingly. You and your little ones can go on a guided tour, see newly-emerged butterflies being released, or come up close with bugs.
After all the fun, dine at the Tapestree restaurant. Choose an outdoor seat so that you can enjoy a meal among nature! There’s a great selection of sandwiches, pastas, Western and Asian main courses and a kids' menu too.
Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm is around 45 minutes away from George Town via car, making it an excellent addition to any half- or full-day itinerary around Pulau Pinang.
Address: 830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: 9:00am to 6:00pm with last admissions at 5:00pm; Closed on Wednesdays
Cost: Ticket prices start from RM59 (S$17) with different admission rates and packages available. Find out more and purchase your tickets here.
3. Spice up your life with the Tropical Spice Garden
This is probably one of the most underrated places to visit in Penang. The Tropical Spice Garden is Penang’s hidden paradise dedicated to showcasing a rich variety of spices from around the world.
Designed to be not only picturesque but educational as well. It’s got themed terraces and gardens, as well as a Spice Museum on its sprawling 8-acre property. Perfect for the gardener in you or any traveller keen on discovering the region's culinary heritage, this botanical gem showcases over 500 tropical plant species, including a diverse array of aromatic herbs and spices commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking.
The garden provides guided tours and cooking classes that allow visitors to gain insights into spice cultivation and the flavours integral to Malaysian cuisine.
Take time to stop and smell the spices and pick up skills on identifying medicinal plants and how to use them in your everyday lives best.
Don’t miss the outdoor cafe here that overlooks the Straits of Malacca. Besides park visitors, the Flora Cafe is a popular spot among families and cyclists.
Address: 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Kampung Keling, 11050 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday — 9:00am to 4:00pm; Friday to Saturday — 9:00am to 6:00pm; Closed on Wednesdays
Cost: Admission tickets with free audio guides start from RM15 (S$4) for Children, RM28 (S$8) for Adults and RM20 (S$6) for Senior Citizens. Guided tours are also available. For more ticketing information, you can click here.
4. Roam in peace around Pulau Aman
Get ready to get on the road less travelled on an easy day or half-day trip to Pulau Aman, a small island community just off the shore of mainland Penang.
Home to a community of fewer than 500 people, Pulau Aman, or Island of Peace, is an interesting time capsule of how a coastal Malay culture lives and operates in tandem with the times. Folks here are laid back and you will notice how easy it is to relax into the island’s idyllic vibes.
Visitors can explore the island's picturesque fishing villages, where time seems to have stood still, and experience the traditional Malay way of life. While nature lovers can indulge in the island's lush greenery - go for a hike, head to the beach or cycle around the island.
Don't miss the opportunity to savour fresh seafood at local eateries. Pulau Aman is particularly famous for its mee udang, which is a prawn noodle dish. The prawns are often cooked in a thick, flavourful broth, served with noodles, creating a hearty and satisfying meal. There’s also a dry version called mee goreng udang.
Getting to Pulau Aman is half the challenge. There’s no public transport to the Batu Musang Jetty on mainland Penang to catch your ferry to Pulau Aman itself, so you’ll need your own transport there.
Though if you’re lucky, there’s a reward waiting at the end of the drive. Come at the right time of day and you might just be in time to watch the local fishermen trawl the pristine waters for their catch of the day that could be on your dinner plate.
Address: Pulau Aman, 14100, Simpang Ampat, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Opened at all hours to visit, though the first and last boats to Pulau Aman are between 8:00am and 6:00pm. Remember to check the boat schedules.
Cost: Return tickets for the ferry are RM8 (S$3) for adults and RM4 (S$1.50) for children.
5. Be boujee at Boulder Valley Glamping
For those looking to experience being out in the great outdoors without sacrificing an ounce of comfort, we got you covered. Introducing Boulder Valley Glamping at Teluk Bahang just outside Penang National Park – an outside-of-the-box glamping paradise nestled amongst naturally formed boulders.
Visitors can opt to stay in one of their on-site tents, but day-trippers can still come to dine at the restaurant and enjoy the lush jungle ambience of the area. Boulder Valley Glamping is only about 20 minutes away from the popular Batu Ferringi beach resort via car ride, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds!
With 25 pre-pitched tents on the glamping site that are spread out with enough space in between for privacy and peace, their tents give the vibe of a very Robinson Crusoe-esque sleeping situation.
This is the perfect compromise for folks who want to have a tropical jungle experience, but their partners or companions are loath to give up any modern-day convenience. Enjoy the tranquillity of nature over lunch, and then head back to Batu Ferringi in the afternoon for water sports – it’ll be a win-win for everyone!
Address: 8 Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Teluk Bahang, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: Business hours for the restaurant are between 7:00am to 6:30pm
Cost: Accommodation prices start from RM500 (S$145) per night. Get more information here.
6. Get lost at Penang National Park
Located just an hour out from George Town is the smallest national park in Malaysia, the Penang National Park.
Upon arrival, it might be tempting to take the locals up on their offer to bring you around to the different beaches on the island on their boats, but resist that urge. Instead, take the time to explore Penang National Park on your own. There is plenty of trekking you can get up to on its 1,213 hectares of land and sea that attracts scientists, researchers, and of course, nature enthusiasts to explore and learn from.
Lace up your trekking shoes, load up your travel backpack, and fill up your water bottle, because hiking is a popular activity here. Several well-marked trails, including the Canopy Walkway, lead you through the treetops for stunning views. Visitors can also explore the rich biodiversity of native species of fauna, from vibrant birds to elusive sea turtles, and even witness the phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton along certain beaches at night.
For those seeking relaxation, the park's beaches, such as Teluk Duyung (Monkey Beach) and Pantai Kerachut, provide a tranquil escape. But if you want to up the ante, you’ll be less than 20 minutes away from Batu Ferringi’s beach resorts by car, and less than 10 minutes away from the heart-pounding ESCAPE Penang amusement and water park!
Address: Pejabat Taman Negara Pulau Pinang, Jalan Hassan Abbas, 11050 George Town, Penang
Opening Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm
Cost: Free to visit, but you should prepare some cash for the admission tickets for the Canopy Walkway if you’re planning on checking that out.
7. Explore Balik Pulau on a bicycle
Rounding this list out is a destination and activity in Penang that we can’t gatekeep even if we wanted to.
Going to Balik Pulau, meaning ‘back of the island’, feels like you’re stepping into a moment in time when the pace of life is slower and things are much easier. It’s located at the southwest of Penang island, and one of the best ways to explore this sleepy slice of verdant heaven is on a bicycle. The town is surrounded by picturesque countryside and rolling hills. Take a leisurely bike ride through the scenic landscapes, enjoying the fresh air and captivating views.
Balik Pulau is renowned for its lush fruit orchards, and a visit here is incomplete without indulging in seasonal tropical fruits like durian, rambutan, and mangosteen. You can even take guided tours of the orchards to learn more about the cultivation of these delicious fruits.
Kids will love the Audi Dream Farm, an eco-friendly farm that combines sustainable agriculture, interactive animal encounters, and fun outdoor activities. The petting zoo is a highlight, where you’ll get to meet furry friends like rabbits and guinea pigs. You can even do camel riding!
There’s also Countryside Stables Penang that offers horse feeding and joy rides, riding lessons, and photoshoots with horses for a keepsake you can bring home. For a dose of adorable goats, visit the Saanen Dairy Goat Farm to feed and interact with the playful goats and learn about goat farming. In short, families will find no lack of activities to entertain the little ones.
Before the day ends, find a spot to view the sunset - they’re known to look the absolute best when viewed from Balik Pulau. Time your visit to coincide with one and don’t forget to enjoy the golden hour when it’s out in full splendour!
What you need to know is that you can’t visit the whole of Balik Pulau in one day. Plan for a morning or an afternoon to explore one specific area, then save the rest for another day.
Address: Balik Pulau, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Opened at all hours
Cost: Free to visit, though we would recommend taking along enough cash for what you may need as ATMs are scarce in the area.
And here are all the best attractions for nature lovers in Penang. No matter your preferred level of engagement with nature, you can find an experience for you here.
It’s pretty easy to get around the island to the destinations we’ve mentioned above just by using the local buses. You can also rent a car or a motorcycle to tailor your Penang adventure to your own pace and convenience, along with using rideshare apps like Grab to call for a car.
The next time you’re wondering what to do in Penang, you’ll have way more options than just enjoying the sights in George Town. Whether you're exploring its historic lanes, savouring its world-renowned street food, or simply basking in its coastal charm, the sky is your oyster when you’re in Penang.
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Best time to visit
Due to its location in the tropics, Penang typically experiences hot and humid weather year-round with occasional wet and rainy seasons. However, the period between December to February is usually slightly cooler and drier making it a great time to visit the state. No matter when you end up visiting Penang, remember to pack an umbrella or raincoat to ensure you won’t be caught off guard by an unexpected downpour.
The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). You can buy currencies at real-time exchange rates and collect your currencies at Changi Airport using Changi Recommends FX.
Mainland Penang is connected to the rest of Western Peninsular Malaysia via the North-South Highway. You can travel from Mainland Penang to Penang Island via a ferry ride, which takes about 10 minutes on average, or via the Penang Bridge.
Once you’re on Penang Island, travelling around is made easier thanks to an array of public transport options, including public buses and free shuttle buses to local attractions. Taxis and e-hailing services like Grab are also available, along with trishaw rides that capture Penang’s distinctive heritage and history. You can also opt to rent a car, bicycle, or motorbike to drive around Penang on your own, subject to availability and rental fees.
You can get to Mainland Penang from Singapore via a car ride all the way up through Peninsular Malaysia, or via an international flight. The drive from Singapore to Mainland Penang takes between 10 to 12 hours, making it ideal for those who want a multi-day road trip full of scenic sights and stops.
However, if you want to land in Pulau Pinang as soon as possible, you can opt to take a 90 minute flight from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Penang International Airport (PEN) on Penang Island instead. Book your flight tickets now at Skyscanner – your adventure awaits!