Giant street murals, roadside hawker stalls with endless queues, and the historical Kek Lok Si Temple. These are just some of the fine things that comes to mind when we think of Penang. And deservingly so. These are places worth the visit for any traveller – from home or abroad – to experience. They are popular because the destinations merit the attention.
But Penang has far more depth than the glistening plate of Nasi Kandar, deeper even than the timeless design of Kek Lok Si Temple and its historical concrete neighbours.
When Penang was listed as one of the 19 best places to travel for the spring of 2019 by CNN, the main attraction wasn’t that of its culturally rich city. Instead, it was the state’s green lung that placed it up on the charts among the holiday destination powerhouses.
Often seen instead as a well-developed and modern state for city slickers, not many people are aware of the greener side of Penang. However, with Visit Malaysia 2020 just around the bend, the government have appointed more focus in highlighting ecotourism, arts, and culture of our nation.
In light of that, here are some of the best destinations to experience Penang’s ecotourism gems!
1. The Habitat, Penang Hill
The Habitat opened its doors in 2016 and is built in the midst of a 130-million-year-old rainforest. To get a perspective of how ancient this forest is, the famed Amazon rainforest is about twice as young at 55 million years old!
The surrounding rainforest has aged gracefully over the millennia, becoming home to the abundance of flora and fauna, some of which are the Langur monkeys, Dusky Leaf monkeys, and various other bird species including the Asian Fairy Bluebirds, Racquet-tailed Drongos, Brahminy Kites. To get a panoramic view of The Habitat’s surroundings, climb the 13-metre high Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk for an entire 360-degree view, and marvel as far as the eyes can see.
Address: Jalan Bukit Bendera, 11300 Bukit Bendera, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 7am – 7pm
2. Penang National Park
The Penang National Park is another destination for travellers looking to get up close with the greener side of Penang. Visitors can choose to climb up the historic Muka Head Lighthouse built by the British in 1883, or have some fun under the sun on the sandy beaches of Pantai Kerachut. Alternatively, pay a visit to the Turtle Sanctuary and learn more about the preservation of turtles on the island. There are also hiking trails which you can attempt that will lead you to other spots around the park.
Address: Penang National Park, Jalan Hassan Abas, 11050 Teluk Bahang, Penang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 8am – 5pm
3. Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm offers a unique experience especially for families. The largest butterfly sanctuary in Malaysia, Entopia has a staggering 15,000 free-flying butterflies from about 60 varying species fluttering about the premises. This large sanctuary is built with state-of-the-art learning facilities that replicate the natural living conditions of the butterflies, and visitors are free to self-explore the entire vicinity of Entopia. Hugely popular among families with young children, Entopia opens its doors for visitors of all ages who are fascinated by these winged creatures.
Address: No.830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 9am – 6pm
4. Batu Ferringhi
Don’t miss out on the sandy beaches of Batu Ferringhi if you find yourself in Penang. Just a short drive from Georgetown, the Batu Ferringhi beach is worth a visit if you’re looking for a respite from the city’s busy streets. The long strip of white sand makes for a grand view, and even better still if you are able to catch the sun setting along the coast. So grab a mat, throw your shades on and get comfortable, the beach breeze awaits!
Another option you could consider is hiking to the Batu Ferringhi Waterfall. The route is not too difficult as it is only a 10-minute trail from the main road near Chin Farm, and at the end, hikers will meet with the cascading waters flowing down multiple levels of stone. Travellers can then take a dip in the cool waters and relax for the day.
5. Balik Pulau
Perhaps a lesser known name among the Penang top spots, Balik Pulau nevertheless does not lack in adventure. The land is akin to the countryside, and many have flocked to the area to take in the scenery.
One could also rent a bicycle and have a leisurely cruise around Balik Pulau. The route through Balik Pulau is not too difficult and people of all ages have enjoyed it. Imagine the wind brushing off your face as you cycle on dirt roads past bucolic paddy fields through the ‘kampung’ landscape.
While you’re in Balik Pulau, look out for the Bao Sheng Durian Farm. Established in 1959, this durian orchard is one of the best known locations in Penang for durian lovers looking to indulge in the sweetish-pungent taste of various durians while also looking for a getaway from the concrete jungle.
6. Saanen Dairy Goat Farm
Nearby Bao Sheng Durian Farm, you can also get close to the furry adorable animals at Saanen Dairy Goat Farm. Apart from the goats, this farm also has another animals mingling within their vicinity such as deers, tortoises, cats, ducks, and even an ostrich! Being a goat farm, the goats undoubtedly take centre stage and you can find their fresh dairy products such as goat’s milk, milk pudding, and yogurt drink sold here. This child-friendly estate is open for goat feeding, so it makes it an ideal place for quality family outings out in the wild!
Address: 298 Mukim 1 Sungai Pinang, 11010 Balik Pulau, Penang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 10am – 5pm
7. Tropical Spice Garden
Spreading over 8 acres of jungle valley, the Tropical Spice Garden offers visitors a tasty insight into Mother Nature’s cultivated ingredients which we use in our cooking and medicine. Dubbed as Malaysia’s ‘hidden Eden’, this garden is the growing grounds of over 500 living specimens of plants from around the world.
Once you’ve gotten familiar to some of the spices around the garden, test your culinary skills in the hands-on cooking class lead by a panel of chefs which will guide you across the use of herbs in the Nyonya, Malay, Indian-Malay, Thai, and Penang Street Food cuisines. Tucked snuggly and surrounded by greenery, visitors could also take a jungle walk around the premises and enjoy the tranquillity of the forest.
Address: Lot 595 Mukim, 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 9am – 6pm
8. Penang Botanic Gardens
Another garden alternative that you could check out is the Penang Botanic Gardens. This place is a popular spot even for the locals, who frequently visit either for a jog or just to have a relaxing time. Here you can spot plenty of different species of plants and trees, and amidst them, monkeys! So be careful if you are having any food or gadgets in your hand, or it may get snatched!
Address: Kompleks Pentadbiran,Bangunan Pavilion, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm (Closed on Sat & Sun)
9. Tasek Gelugor
On mainland Penang, a snaking 18km river offers travellers the opportunity to experience a river cruise in Tasek Gelugor that will take them past fishing villages and lush green forest. On the cruise, travellers will be able to see the fishing methods of the local fishermen on Sungai Perai who make their livelihood off their catch. This immersive experience will give you an insight view of the local fishing trade, and you will learn where Penang’s delicious seafood is harvested!
10. Pulau Aman
Pulau Aman is an island that sits in between mainland Penang and Penang Island. The island’s modest allure offers invaluable quiet time away from the city, which is why it is one of Penang’s top ecotourism spots. As it is a fishing village, fresh seafood is one of the things you should not miss out when on this island. Next to Pulau Aman, the island of Pulau Gedung is famous among the locals because of a spot called Batu Perompak, or ‘Pirate Rock’, because the island was once used by pirates as an ammunition depo and a stash for their loot. Locals also believe that the fearsome pirate Panglima Garang is buried on the island.
Once you’re done with your visit, head back to Pulau Aman in the night to stargaze and see the night glitter in a way it wouldn’t in the city.
11. Mengkuang Titi
To really soak in the way of the village life, don’t miss out on Kampung Mengkuang Titi, or Mengkuang Titi Village. Travellers who are looking for a genuine approach to interacting with the locals can engage with them by participating in agricultural activities, observing and supporting the traditional trades and cottage industries. They can also integrate themselves by joining in on the traditional games played by the locals.
As Kampung Mengkuang Titi is listed on Penang’s Homestay Programme, the village is open for travellers who are keen to experience the authentic village life and to integrate themselves into a community.
12. Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest
Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest is a green getaway that is packed with flora and fauna even though it is just about 10 hectares in size. Despite being smaller in size compared to the other national forest and forest reserves, this educational woodland is not lacking in its variety of plants and animals.
The forest also has a 210-metre suspension bridge with an observatory tower on both ends. The network of a 1,163-meter boardwalk covered in the natural shady canopies will give you a peaceful view along the way. If you are an avid birdwatcher, you will be treated with a host of birds that have taken refuge in its trees.
Address: 13310 Air Hitam, Penang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, All day
13. Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest
The Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest is a popular spot for the locals to escape the concrete city. Situated on mainland Penang, this recreational forest is frequented by joggers and hikers who can attempt the jungle track located within the same forest.
Like any other healthy forest, be prepared to encounter its wildlife inhabitants such as the monkeys, millipedes, and giant red ants. Picnicking next to a waterfall is also a popular activity, but always remember to clean up after yourselves.
Address: Kampung Teluk Bukit, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Penang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, All day
14. Penang Bird Park
As Malaysia’s first and largest bird park, the Penang Bird Park is a spot not to be missed for nature-seeking travellers. With an impressive collection of 300 over species of birds from all over the globe, including the exotic hornbills and sunbirds, the park is an attractive visit for expert ornithologists and the common bird enthusiast. Aside from the birds, don’t miss out on the wandering mouse-deers and tortoises who have also made this sanctuary their home.
Address: 45, Lintang Kurau 7, Chai Leng Park, 13700 Perai, Pulau Pinang
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 9am – 7pm
Looking to uncover the greener side of Penang? Head on to Lokalocal and let yourself be guided through Malaysia by local travel experts who can give you a one-of-a-kind experience!