A guide to Penang’s best beaches
MOST travellers on Penang Island in Malaysia flock to the capital Georgetown with its gleaming skyscrapers overlooking crumbling colonial architecture and famous street food markets.
But while the city life of Penang is a wonderful example of vibrantly multi-cultural Malaysia, the beaches and islands – known as “pantai” and “pulau” in Malay – are also a popular drawcard for tourists and locals alike.
There are beach resorts, coastal fishing villages, and even campgrounds in Penang where you can enjoy the coastline for more than just a day trip. Not only is the seafood freshly caught and delicious, but the beaches are stunning and clean, particularly in and around the northwestern Penang National Park.
Here’s our guide to Penang’s best beaches:
The most accessible, well-known and developed beach on Penang is Batu Feringghi, which has a good selection of water sports, accommodation and dining options. For a break from the bustle of Georgetown, head here for some relaxing time on a white sandy beach and try your hand at parasailing or windsurfing – it’s hard to beat. The night market here is vibrant with colourful crafts and delicious food.
Jerejak is a small tropical island just off the south-east coast of Penang. Pulau Jerejak was once a prison island, but now the lovely beaches and lush, 400-year-old rainforest has attracted a resort and recreational facilities. There’s even a spa on the island! To get to Pulau Jerejak, take the day ferry from the Bayan Lepas ferry terminal.
The coast along the beautiful Penang National Park is strung with lovely beaches, and the most remote is probably Pantai Keracut. It is a nesting site for both Green Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles between September and February. If you time your visit right, you will also find a fascinating meromictic lake here that is only there six months of the year. In this lake, the sea water and fresh water do not mix and the latter is colder than the sea water underneath – kind of unnerving. As is the case for Monkey Beach, you will have to hike there or hire a small fishing boat to drop you off and pick you up.
Much quieter and also more remote than either of the above Penang beach options, Monkey Beach or Teluk Duyung, is set against Penang’s National Park and requires either a boat ride or a one-and-a-half hour hike to get there. On Penang’s northwest tip, the 2,563-hectare park has a range of protected habitats, some pristine beaches and even a colonial-era lighthouse. Monkey Beach is named for the crab-eating Macaques who live here, but you may also be lucky enough to see flying squirrels, lemurs and the White-bellied Sea Eagle. It is also possible to arrange a boat ride from the park entrance to Monkey Beach.
Pantai Nelayan is known as Fisherman’s Beach and is a secluded cove on Penang’s south coast, near one of the many tiny traditional fishing villages. Photographers love the old jetty stretching 200 metres out to sea with its peeling paint and perfect sunset silhouette. This is where the seafood for Penang’s famous markets comes from, so you won’t get it fresher than here!
A little further along the south coast of Penang is Gertak Sanggul Beach, which is known for its sunsets and a very popular seafood restaurant. As well as good food, Hai Boey Seafood restaurant has hung swings and hammocks in the trees, making it particularly popular with children. The busy fishing village of Teluk Kumbar is nearby – another great place to eat seafood.
Pulau Aman is another tropical island within easy striking distance of Georgetown. The name means “Island of Peace” in Malay and it features luxuriant rainforest, a picturesque fishing village and a tranquil pace of life. To get to Aman Island, it’s a two-and-a-half mile boat ride from the town of Tambun, close to the Malaysian mainland.
More ruggedly rocky, but still very picturesque and serene, Bakar Kapor beach lies on Penang’s southeastern side. It is very secluded, but you can drive a car to this beach and there are trees to provide shade for what is a very nice picnic spot.
Moving around to the southwest coast of Penang, Pasir Panjang Beach is rarely visited by tourists, making it a quiet and authentic experience on a beach where the locals come to relax. You can drive here via the town of Balik Pulau and the village of Kampung Pulau Betung.
Natasha Von Geldern (Australia)
Natasha von Geldern lives in Melbourne but is the World Wandering Kiwi, a freelance travel writer whose obsession is discovering and covering the world – making the pages of the atlas real, one trip at a time. See her blog at WorldWanderingKiwi.com.