Ultimate one week Penang Malaysia itinerary
You could spend several weeks exploring without running out of things to do in Penang island. There are so many little streets to peruse, towns to wander, sites of interest, walks to do, beaches to marvel and swim at, restaurants to eat at, street art to admire. On a Penang trip, there is something for everyone. In this article you will read our best recommendations for a one week Penang Malaysia itinerary with children (or without!), a recommendation of accommodation in Penang, the best things to do in Penang, the best places to eat in Penang and how to get around Penang island without a car.
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Please note, all prices mentioned in this article were correct as of the time of writing – December 2023.
The best things to do Penang island – one week Penang itinerary
With just one week on Penang island it is important to carefully take the time to plan your trip. There is so much to do on Penang island that without taking the time to research and map out your activities, you may just miss out on some of the best things to do on Penang island.
Below you will read our top tips for Penang island (in no particular order)!
Visit Penang National Park
Penang National Park is the smallest National Park in Malaysia! Home to hundreds of flora and fauna, the historic rainforest and National Park is a treasure to explore. There is an abundance of silvered leaf monkeys and the park is also known to house flying lemurs, leopard cats and abundant birds including white bellied sea eagles, snakes and lizards.
How to get to Penang National Park
🚕 Book a Grab online!
Our Grab cost 25MYR one way.
🚌 Catch the 101 bus along the coast on @myrapidpg – it is super easy and far more cheap!
Our return trip was just 6MYR.
Turtle Beach and Monkey Beach
On Turtle Beach (also known as Pantai Kerachut) you will find the Turtle Conservation Centre. Here Green Sea Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles come to the shore to lay eggs and they are monitored, protected and preserved. Once the eggs have hatched, they young turtles are kept in ponds within the Centre to protect them until they are big and strong enough to be released.
The beach itself is beautiful with some shade offered from trees on the edge of the sand. There are no provisions to buy food or drinks here so you need to go prepared with your own water and snacks. When we were there we were unable to swim due to the influx of jellyfish so it is always best to ask your boat captain whether it is safe to swim.
Arrival on Monkey Beach will most likely see you being welcomed by a number of monkeys freely moving about. They are well used to humans but they can also be very cheeky. You need to ensure you have all of your belongings in a securely closed bag and don’t leave loose items around as they may just wander off with them! Monkey Beach is more built up and has a number of restaurants/bars that sell cold drinks and food.
Although we were able to swim at Monkey Beach the day we were there, similarly to Turtle Beach, you should always ask a local whether it is safe to swim as the water is murky and it is difficult to see whether there is anything in the water. Monkey Beach has a fun island vibe and you could spend an extended amount of time there enjoying the beautiful outlook.
How to get to Monkey Beach and Turtle Beach
I’m not sure you can go to Penang island and not visit Penang National Park and the beautiful (and popular) beaches of Monkey and Turtle.
From Penang National Park entrance, you can either trek through the jungle or travel by boat.
🚶♀️If you’re going to walk, be well prepared with water and snacks to take with you. Despite the shelter from the sun, it is hot and humid in there. Stick to the paths and get ready to share the track with resident monkeys 🐒 who aren’t shy and don’t always run away from humans. Take care with any food and your bags and ensure they’re all closed just in case those sneaky monkeys decide they’d like some of your goods. The rainforest is beautiful, and although the track is said to be hilly in parts, it would make a great adventure if you’re up for the challenge!
There are shops at Monkey Beach, so you can stop in there in both directions to enjoy a break, cold drink, and swim (if conditions permit).
🚣♀️ If you’d prefer the faster option, take a boat from the main entrance of Penang N.P. There is a tourist information centre at the entrance and they will arrange everything for you, for a price! The boat costs 200MYR return (total). It takes you directly to Turtle Beach, where you stay for 45 minutes to enjoy the Turtle Conservation Centre and a quick wander around. The same boat and captain will meet you at the meeting time and take you to Monkey Beach, where you have the choice about how long you stay.
🎟 Regardless of whether you trek or take the boat, everyone needs to pay entry to Penang National Park. For non-Malaysian adults, it costs 50MYR, children, it costs 15MYR, and under 3 and over 60 is FREE.
Visit Entopia Butterfly Farm
We had the most beautiful time in the gardens of Entopia, Penang’s butterfly farm and we would highly recommend you visit, if you like butterflies and insects. Boasting nature’s largest classroom, our walk through The Natureland living gardens where butterflies and insects are free to fly, was exquisite! 🦋
Entopia provided an experience like no other we’ve seen. From the sounds of flowing water from the waterfalls, the lush rainforest gardens and approximately 15,000 free-flying butterflies of 60 different species, we were in tropical paradise.
The range of butterfly species fluttering around was incredible. The colours, the sizes, the proximity to us! We frequently had dainty and fragile butterflies perched upon us or flying closely. Simply magical!
The Cocoon at Entopia is an indoor, multi-level, educational, and interactive space. From informative presentations, hands-on activities (such as The Wonders of Silkworms), and bug exploration (our highlight) where we were able to handle insects, there is something there for everyone!
Be sure to check the program prior to going to ensure you don’t miss out on an activity you want to be part of throughout the day!
Entrance to Entopia provides visitors with a day of fun, flora and fauna, learning opportunities and so much more. Towards the end of The Cocoon, you’ll find a small cafe and gift shop.
The number 101 bus has a stop for drop off and pick up just two minutes walk from Entopia, making it easily accessible from anywhere on Penang island.
Buy your tickets to Entopia via this link!
Visit Taman Rimba Teluk Bahang
Located just around the corner from Entopia, we would recommend coupling your visit to Entopia with a packed picnic lunch at Taman Rimba Teluk Bahang. It is a beautiful eco rainforest, very popular for locals to visit for a swim. Although we didn’t swim, it did look inviting! There are warning signs throughout the grounds and particularly near the water, about leptospirosis (bacteria that can be found in water and be harmful to humans and animals). There are also insects, so we’d recommend some insect repellent to be worn.
There are some stalls at the front gate that sell water toys and snacks, including cold drinks and ice cream. They were particularly good on our way back to the bus stop!
Visit Escape Penang for wild fun and adventures
Escape Penang is the place to go for wild fun – water and adventure! With waterslides a plenty, a wave pool, diving pool, Dead Sea pool, inflatables, pool bar and so much more there is a water activity to suit everyone. Escape Penang is home to the world’s longest waterslide – 1111m!!
Across the road from the water park is an enormous adventure playground including the world’s longest zip coaster – 1100m! There is a huge treetop high ropes course, a sling shot, the tubby racer and a small rollercoaster.
There is a chairlift taking passengers to the start of the longest zip coaster and waterslide and tubby race, however, the line is often long and slow. If you have the choice to fast track that wait, you can walk up the hill to the top.
At the park there are lockers to securely store your items, beach tents to rent, lounge chairs, toilets, changerooms and a café to buy your lunch. Plan for a full day at Escape because there is so much to do! You can’t take your own food into Escape, Penang so need to plan to buy it onsite.
You can pre-purchase your tickets to Escape by clicking on this link. We would recommend pre-purchasing as the line to buy tickets upon entry was significantly longer and slow!
A visit to Penang island is incomplete without taking the time to explore Georgetown. Georgetown was the first British settlement in South East Asia and is the capital city of the state of Penang. The city centre was inscribed as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2008 and is now known for its architecture, history, food and street art. The city is full of great history which you can discover on your own or participate in an organised tour where you will ensure you don’t miss any of the key places of interest and can learn along the way.
Pick up a map of all the sites of interest and plan for a full day in Georgetown to enjoy the journey. There is something to see on every corner! It is a beautiful city to walk around, meander down small lanes and marvel at the buildings and artwork.
Keep an eye out for the Umbrella Street and the surrounding street art in and around Armenian Street. Within the area there are some beautiful buildings full of history and great character. The streets are busy with people enjoying market stalls and street food.
Georgetown is known for its food options (mentioned further down in best places to eat in Penang). Everywhere you look you will find somewhere to sit and eat! We can recommend Kapitan’s Restaurant, delicious Indian food. The boys also loved their pizza and lasagne fix from Otto’s Pizza if you have kids with you like ours that need a taste of home every now and then!
Visiting Penang Hill is ranked the second best thing to do on Penang island on Tripadvisor and they’re not wrong – it is well worth a visit! Take the funicular from the Penang Hill Lower Station to the Upper Station where you will find a village of market stalls, restaurants, incredible views across Penang island. For just 1MYR you can use the binoculars at the viewpoint.
Keep an eye out for wildlife while you’re there – in particular dusky leaf monkeys, macaque monkeys (“the naughty ones” as we were told by a local) and giant black squirrels.
Although the ticketing system to get the funicular is well organised be prepared to wait a while to get on at the bottom and the top, particularly during the Malaysian school holidays.
On your planned visit to Penang Hill, be sure to take the time to visit The Habitat. Going into The Habitat was the highlight of our visit to Penang Hill. The walk through the rainforest was magnificent. We loved the tree top Langur Way Canopy Walk, taking our time walking around Curtis Crest skywalk, spotting wildlife and enjoying the incredible views in all directions around Penang island. The Habitat has additional activities and features such as giant swings, ziplines, bromeliad pavilion, endemic plants pavilion and more.
You can pre-purchase your tickets to The Habitat here.
Best places to eat on Penang island
Penang island is known for the amazing Asian fusion food choices. I’m not sure that you will go wrong with any choice of restaurant you eat at on Penang island, but we have highlighted below our top recommendations of the best places to eat on Penang island (majority are local to our chosen accommodation).
- Kapitan’s Restaurant – located on Chulia Street in the heart of Georgetown, this Indian Restaurant came highly recommended and it lived up to our expectations and the recommendation! Not only is the food fantastic, it is a great place to watch the world go by and take in Georgetown.
- Otto’s Pizza – this is a chain restaurant and you can find it in Georgetown and Tanjung Bungah. We visited the site in Georgetown and the boys had beautiful pizza and pasta – just what they needed at the time!
- In Armenian Street, look out for a refreshing treat – an ice ball! The rainbow ice ball was a hit and a highlight for our kids!
- JJ’s Garden Food Court – this was not only our local (from Leisure Cove Apartment), it was also one of the most authentic food court experiences we’ve had during our time in Malaysia. JJ’s Garden Food Court was our go-to for dinner while staying on Penang island. After a day out exploring the island it was great to be able to come ‘home’ to JJ’s for a great feed. We ate there multiple times and tried a range of cuisines – Thai, Malay, Indian, duck, chicken, vegetarian. The boys were able to try some local food and even found themselves a wholesome lasagne option which kept them very happy! We were well fed and hydrated for $20-30 AUD for the four of us.
- Tanjung Bungah Night Market – the night market is open on a Tuesday night and offers a delicious array of Asian foods to take away.
- Tanjung Bungah Food Market – a great place to go for an authentic local breakfast – local foods and local prices. Steam buns were a favourite for us to ‘grab and go’ and cost us under $10 AUD for breakfast for four.
- For the best coffee and bakery in Tanjung Bungah, go to the Golden Crust. Not only do they make good coffee, they are very kind and welcoming. They loved seeing Geoff every morning for the coffee run – he was always welcomed with, “Best coffee? One hot black, one iced black?” with a big smile on the owners face. What a lovely way to start our day!
If you are a food lover you may be interested in joining one of the Georgetown Food Tours available – we will have to come back without the kids to do this one!
Accommodation Penang island
When planning your trip to Penang you should definitely consider where you stay. Although Georgetown is the well known city on the island, it is not necessarily the best place to stay in Penang because it is actually further away from many of the sites, including the more popular beaches.
We stayed at Leisure Cove Hotel and Apartments. Upon first impression, we were a little underwhelmed, however, we did arrive in the rain and had just come from the magnificent Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur. Once we settled in and the sun was shining (which it did for our entire stay!), we fell in love with the hotel and location!
At our Leisure Cove Apartment we had a two bedroom apartment which has two single beds and a king size bed across two bedrooms. It has two bathrooms, a dining table, couches and a kitchen that does everything we need it to do. There are laundry facilities at the ground floor of the basement and a rooftop pool which boasts amazing views of the coastline and mountains. We have a balcony and have also lucked in with beach views and I tell you what, they are epic! There is also a chemist nearby which is sometimes handy when travelling with kids!
While it is far from flash, I will tell you the best things about staying at Leisure Cove Hotel and Apartments and this should be enough to make you want to stay here, too!
- It is a cheap family stay – at the time of writing (December 2023), it cost 225MYR per night (approximately $77 AUD per night) for our family of four in the room we are in.
- The rooftop pool – it’s not massive but it is pretty darn good and views are sensational. We spent several hours chilled by the pool enjoying the views beyond our hotel.
- It is actually very central on the island from different points of interest. The bus stop is about 100m from our hotel door (in both directions), they run every 15 minutes and cost us 6MYR (for the four of us, total) to go anywhere in one direction! It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to Penang National Park, Escape or Entopia; and, a little less for anything beforehand on the map. In the other direction, it took us about 30-40 minutes on the bus to get to the heart of Georgetown. Travel time is really dependent on traffic on the day!
- Food markets and local eateries – Tanjung Bungah, Penang, is home to some of the best local eating spots on the island. We have loved wandering down the streets in Tanjung Bungah to find food markets, stalls and restaurants. JJ’s Garden Food Court was a highlight – even if you don’t stay in the area, it is a gem and worth a look! There is a fabulous bakery (Golden Crust) nearby for all your bread needs and they also make a mean coffee!
Do yourself a favour and consider Leisure Cove Hotel and Apartments for your next holiday in Penang!
Alternatively there are some great holiday apartment options through VRBO/Stayz – we always look here when travelling with kids.
Transport on Penang island
🚕 Book a Grab online!
🚌 Catch the 101 bus along the coast from Georgetown through to Penang National Park. Many of the points of interest are on this route.
🚌 To get a bus from your hotel to Penang Airport, consider the options outlined here.