A while back we went to Penang for a weekend (can’t remember if there was any special occasion, there must have been, probably a film festival or something) and on a Sunday morning we went for a hike. This was my first beach-jungle hike and if you happen to be in Penang, I do recommend you do it.
So Penang is an island, the big town is called George Town (I wrote about it here) and there’s a beach area up north called Batu Ferringhi. The white sandy beaches are surrounded by hotels and resorts and I haven’t experienced enough to have an opinion of this place, so don’t ask. Only the hike. So let’s talk hiking.
Penang has a National Park which proudly bears the title of the smallest national park in the world. It offers an overnight and a few shorter organised hikes. We took the 2h one, the hike to the Monkey Beach.
It takes 45 minutes to an hour drive to the park entrance from George Town, we drove, I guess there are buses or you can always take a cab or an Uber there. Go early in the morning to avoid the heat. I wish I could write “to avoid the crowds” but the folks here are used to the local peculiarities of the climate so experienced hikers are on the trail with the first rays of morning sun.
The entrance is free, you just need to register with the park authorities and tell them where you’re planning to hike. Here’s the official map of the trail, we took the route from A to D (the Monkey Beach), it gives you an estimate of how long the hike would take to each point.
Here’s a link to the map in higher resolution and to more information about each point on the trail.
It says A to D is about 1.15h one way, so off we go.
The trail is sometimes paved, sometimes not, better come in sneakers or hiking boots. But a friend of ours wore flip-flops which he only regretted a little once and for short 5 minutes. no big deal. Take sunscreen and mosquito repellant. Don’t take shiny noise-making things as there are monkeys on the trail. And we all know what monkeys here are capable of.
The hike is relaxing and beautiful, shortly after entering the trail, you get to the beach.
You think you’ve reached Monkey Beach by now, readily unpacking your bag to take out all the yummy sandwiches and tropical fruits and have a picnic, but no.
Gotta keep going as Monkey Beach is further into the jungle. So you pack it all back and get back into the jungle.
The in-between the beaches on the trail is jungle, with its beautiful sounds, butterflies, all the insects that come with the package, fellow hikers and, if you are lucky, a monkey or something more exotic.
Don’t worry about the monkeys though, the worst thing that can happen to you on a trail is a family of 8, with kids, grandmas and dogs and you meet them on that one narrow path with a rope to get over a tall tree root. The only one on the while trail. No, wait, it can get worse – you can be overtaken by a group of trail runners (mud alert!), but they come way early, so no worries, they’ll be gone by the time you get there.
Oh, and here is the Monkey Beach, at last! It did take 1.5 hours one way and was a very pleasant walk. Except for that 10 minute wait for the family of 8 to laugh, giggle, transport the grandma over the tall tree root and all the kids and the dog and that group of runners that splattered the morning trail mud all over our pants.
If you’re thinking how beautiful and tranquil it looks – it does. There are people there though, I just had a lot of time and patience and was the last in our group of 4 to snap you guys a few “paradise shots”.
And here’s Anton chilling in the hammock. Our friends were swimming in the sea and we just hung out there for a good 40 minutes.
Worth mentioning is that the beach has no shops, no food, nothing. So do bring your own, but please leave it cleaner than you found it, ok? If you don’t want to walk back, call for a water taxi to pick you up from the beach and bring you back to the park entrance. I think it was something around 50rm per boat. You can also book the boat before embarking on the hike, just tell them where you’re planning to go, they’ll know when to pick you up. There is also sometimes no reception so don’t count on your phone coverage too much.
That is the water taxi by the way. We
were greedy didn’t use one and hiked back and got to George Town by lunch. Overall it was a very pleasant hike and I would love to go once again and go all the way to the lighthouse. I am recommending this hike to everyone who’s going to Penang, so if you are, go for it.