If you have the time during your visit to Penang, Malaysia, I encourage you to head a little further afield than most and book a couple of nights in Batu Ferringhi.
But, while time at the beach, pool and sun-lounging is always high up on the list for me, you should definitely make sure you allocate one day to Penang National Park (Taman Negara).
The park is only about a 10 minute drive further up the coast from Batu Ferringhi, making it an ideal day trip!
Penang National Park gives you the opportunity to do some relatively easy hiking through the lush green jungle and visit both Turtle Beach and Monkey Beach.
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Getting to Penang National Park (Taman Negara)
If you’re on a budget and aren’t in a major rush, public transport is an option for getting to Penang National Park.
Take bus 101 or 501 from Batu Ferringhi to the very end of the line (Teluk Bahang).
Bear in mind that the buses don’t seem to have a set schedule, other than that it comes “every 15 minutes” (bus 101) or “every 60 minutes” (bus 501). But, (much like London buses 😅) they seem to not come for ages and then they all come at once!
Also, the information that I was able to find suggests it takes an hour to get from Batu Ferringhi to Penang National Park by bus. In reality, it shouldn’t take that long at all as it isn’t far (about 6km). Either way, just make sure you do give yourself enough time for the initial wait for a bus to come in the first place, and then to actually get there…
We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in Penang National Park, so we took a Grab (the Asian version of Uber).
This is much quicker!!
Going from Batu Ferringhi to Penang National Park with a Grab was super easy, and still only cost us RM 8 (€1.80) one way.
However, on the way back, there didn’t seem to be many Grabs around at the National Park. So, it did take a while (and a few attempts) for one to be assigned to us. On the plus side, the return ride was RM 1 cheaper for whatever reason 😅
Hiking In Penang National Park
Before you set off on your hike in Penang National Park, you have to register at the National Park Office.
There is no charge involved.
They do ask for your details including name, phone number and passport number. As we don’t tend to carry our passports with us, we simply jotted down the name and room number of the hotel we were staying at, which seemed to suffice.
You’ll also note down where you’re intending to hike to.
Turtle Beach (Pantai Kerachut)
You have a few different options in terms of where you want to hike to in Penang National Park.
One great option is to walk to Turtle Beach and back (Pantai Kerachut – F on the map above).
Note: There is officially no swimming at Turtle Beach due to jellyfish. Although we didn’t see any and did paddle our feet in the water… But there is a sign up on the beach with a red flag to indicate no swimming.
While we didn’t see any jellyfish, I have been stung by them a few times in the past (granted, that was in Thailand). Either way, I can say from experience that it is not fun! So, be careful.
If you do go swimming, maybe bring some vinegar with you, just in case!
Instead of swimming, you can visit the Turtle Sanctuary located towards the far end of Turtle Beach.
At the sanctuary they help to protect and preserve the dwindling population of Olive Ridley Turtles and Green Sea Turtles in Malaysian waters.
It’s a great cause and, well, who doesn’t want to see these adorable baby turtles swimming around?!
The sanctuary provides an enclosed area for the turtles to lay their eggs and for the eggs to be incubated.
Eggs and young turtles are protected so that they stay safe until they’re old enough to be released into the ocean for better chances of survival.
Entrance to the sanctuary is free.
Opening hours are 8am – 5pm.
As you arrive at Turtle Beach, you cross a suspension rope bridge from the jungle towards Pentai Kerachut (Turtle) Beach.
There, you’ll see a lake on your left.
This is one of only two meromictic lakes in the world.
Ok, sure… If you’re like me, you have no idea what a meromictic lake is… 😅
I’ve since learned that a meromictic lake is a lake with two layers of water. One fresh, and one salt.
These layers don’t mix because the fresh water and sea water have different densities and temperatures.
Honestly though, you can’t actually see the layers… So it basically just looks like any other lake… 😬 But there you have it! At least I learned something new! Ha!
Monkey Beach (Teluk Duyung)
Monkey beach (Teluk Duyung – D on the map above) is named after the Crab-eating Macaques that apparently live there, although we didn’t see any during our visit. (Just a kitten that decided to befriend us… Although maybe he was only looking for food!)
Note: Monkey Beach is not currently accessible by walking! (At least not officially) The trail is closed due to a landslide so you can only access Monkey Beach by boat.
Having said that, family friends of ours were there just after we were and they did manage to walk to Monkey Beach.
This does seem to include a somewhat perilous crossing on a bridge/boardwalk that’s not quite in tact…
Instead, you can organise a boat to collect you at Turtle Beach. You’ll have to decide whether you want to walk or boat before setting off on your hike though, as you’ll organise the boat trip at the National Park entrance.
The boat will drop you at Monkey Beach for however long you want (last boat is at 6pm!) and then collect and return you back to the starting point (this is what we did).
If you decide to go with the boat option, make sure you haggle on price!
Initially, the boat people we were talking to wanted to charge us RM100 per person. This was for a pick up at Turtle Beach, drop off at Monkey Beach, and then a pick up from there back to the main National Park entrance.
We thought this was rather pricey…. We’re travelling on a budget after all!
In the end, we managed to get it down to RM50 per person so stick to your guns and haggle!
At Monkey Beach you can choose to walk up to the lighthouse for views of the surrounding jungle and sea. We had initially intended to do this but in the end just decided to relax on the beach.
If you do choose to hike up to the lighthouse, we were told it takes about 30 minutes.
Alternative Hiking Trails In Penang National Park
Realistically, Monkey Beach wasn’t nearly as nice a beach as Turtle Beach. In fact, some areas were sadly covered in rubbish despite this being a national park.
But, the benefit is that you can swim at Monkey Beach as it is located in a calm bay and is (apparently) free from jellyfish…
In hindsight though, we probably would’ve preferred to spend more time at Turtle Beach.
Later, we realised that there is another trail that you can take from Turtle Beach to the more remote Teluk Kampi (Kampi Bay). This might have been a nicer option. You can also camp at Teluk Kampi, although this is an option at Monkey Beach as well.
The hike from Turtle Beach to Kampi Bay is about an additional hour.
Note: You’ll also see signs for a “Canopy Tree Top Walk” as you head towards Turtle Beach. Again, this is not currently accessible and has apparently been closed for 5 years due to fallen trees.
Other Activities Near Batu Ferringhi
If you’re planning on staying in Batu Ferringhi for a few days and you’re not one for lying by the pool for days on end, there are a few other fun activities that you can consider doing while you’re there!
- Tropical Spice Garden: Take a cooking class! (From RM180)
Sometimes the weather doesn’t want to play ball so this seemed like a fun option for a rainy day
- Escape Water & Adventure Park: For you adrenalin junkies out there!
Water slides, climbing walls, and acrobatics will keep you pretty well occupied for a day
- Night Market: Perfect for picking up some souvenirs in Batu Ferringhi!
A long stretch of vendors set up daily along Jalan Batu Feringghi, selling everything from clothes, bags and souvenirs
Where To Stay In Batu Ferringhi
Of course, I can really only tell you about where we stayed for the 5 nights we were in Batu Ferringhi!
We liked that it was located right down the far end of Batu Ferringhi so it was comparatively quiet.
Also, it was arguably on one of the nicest stretches of beach in Batu Ferringhi, based on what we saw further up.
The bonus too, was that due to it being low season, they upgraded us free of charge to a partial sea room 😁
Where To Eat In Batu Ferringhi
Breakfast – Kafe Vsassy Enterprise: Just across the road from Bayview Beach Resort where we were staying, we chanced upon the absolute best roti in all of Malaysia (in my humble opinion). It might not look like much but it was extremely cheap, super delicious and the staff really took care of us.
Lunch – Bora Bora: Located quite centrally right on Batu Ferringhi beach, Bora Bora is a fantastic place to enjoy a drink any time of day! The food was great and the prices very reasonable (we spent just over €20 on two (good!) G&Ts each, fried rice, noodles and spring rolls).
Dinner – Living Room: Undoubtedly the best place to go for dinner in Batu Ferringhi! So good, in fact, that we ate here three times during our stay in Batu Ferringhi! The staff are wonderful, the food extremely fresh and tasty, and the prices surprisingly cheap. Added bonus – they had some very good red wine to satisfy my wine cravings 😅 Most evenings there is live music too.
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