Located off the northwest coast of Malaysia, the island of Penang enjoys abundant natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, earning it the nickname “Pearl of the Orient.” From Georgetown, the main settlement on Penang, it’s possible to take excursions to other areas of the island and region.
Pulau Payar Marine Park
The four uninhabited islands of Pulau Payar Marine Park, located a short ferry ride from Georgetown, are surrounded by clear waters teeming with large coral species and a colorful diversity of marine animals. If you want to explore Malaysia below the surface of the water, this is a great place to do so, either with a snorkel and fins or the entire scuba getup.
Penang National Park
Located on the northwest corner of Penang Island, Penang National Park is the country’s youngest and smallest national park, but it’s also home to the island’s best beaches. Day trippers to the park have a few options. With limited time -- as little as a half day -- it’s possible to do some trekking through the lush forests, wetlands and mangroves of the national park.
If you’re craving a day at the beach, take a day trip into the park to Monkey Beach. This popular strip of white sand gets its name from the macaque monkeys who sometimes show up to see what’s happening. Spend your day at this undeveloped beach lazing in the sand, going for a swim, fishing for your lunch and enjoying some relaxation.
Balik Pulau, or “Back of the Island,” serves as the center of Penang’s durian industry. Whether you love the spiky fruit or hate it, the region makes for a pleasant day of exploration, particularly from the saddle of a bike.
For a more culturally centered day trip from Georgetown, head across the bridge to Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. Nibong Tebal, the largest town in the region, is famous for its clay pot makers, many of whom have roots in India. Visitors learn about how the beautiful pots are crafted by watching the process firsthand. Day trips to Seberang Perai often end with a cruise along the mangrove-lined Kerian River to see the fireflies light up the night sky.