Penang National Park

Top choice in Penang

Rainforest canopy walkway

Getty Images/Flickr Open

At 23 sq km, this is Malaysia's smallest national park, but it's beach-fringed forests are home to silvered leaf monkeys, flying lemurs, leopard cats and abundant bird, amphibian and reptile species. You can easily fill a day with activities such as jungle walks and boat trips to serene golden-sand beaches. Bus 101 runs here from central George Town. From the park entrance, a return boat trip should cost RM100 to Teluk Duyung (Monkey Beach), RM200 to Pantai Kerachut and RM220 to Teluk Kampi.

Sign in at the park entrance, which is a short walk from Teluk Bahang’s main bus stop. It’s an easy 1km walk to the head of the canopy walkway (now indefinitely closed), from where you have the choice of two routes: bearing west towards Muka Head (5km, up to two hours) or south to Pantai Kerachut (3km, up to 90 minutes).

The easiest walk is the 15-minute stroll west to Sungai Tukun, where there are some pools to swim in. Following this trail along the coast about 10 minutes more brings you to the private University of Malaysia Marine Research Station, where there is a supply jetty, as well as Tanjung Aling, a nice beach to stop at for a rest. From here it’s another 45 minutes or so down the beach to Teluk Duyung, also called Monkey Beach (after the numerous primates who scamper about here). It's another 30 minutes to Muka Head, the isolated rocky promontory at the extreme northwestern corner of the island, where on the peak of the head is an off-limits lighthouse dating from 1883. The views of the surrounding islands from up here are worth the sweaty uphill jaunt.

A longer and more difficult trail heads south from the suspension bridge towards Pantai Kerachut, a beautiful white-sand beach that is a popular spot for picnics and a green-turtle nesting ground. Count on about 1½ hours to walk to the beach on the clear and well-used trail. On your way is the unusual meromictic lake, a rare natural feature composed of two separate layers of unmixed freshwater on top and seawater below, supporting a unique mini-ecosystem. From Pantai Kerachut, you can walk about 40 minutes onward to further-flung and isolated Teluk Kampi, which is the longest beach in the park; look for trenches along the coast – they're remnants of the Japanese occupation in WWII.