I can’t say that I hear people mention Penang Island when rattling off their must-visits for holiday fun. I’m going to let you in on a little secret—you’ll be extremely happy if you add it to your list!
Penang Island is full of life, culture, breathtaking views, and culinary delights. The British refer to it as the “Pearl of the Orient” for a reason. It’s a relaxing and inspiring place for all types of travelers.
Here are five reasons to visit Penang Island.
1. Island Vibe and Multicultural Environment: The minute you step on the island you’re on what’s referred to as “rubber time” – a relaxed, elastic time. While it’s a cosmopolitan locale, the pace allows you to truly relax and take your mind off the work you left behind.
The island is also extremely multicultural—giving you the opportunity to experience multiple cultures in one place. This is exemplified in the food options, history, and sites. The three largest populations on the island are Malay, Chinese, and Indian, and there is also a large number of expats, which together bring a variety of world cuisines, shops, and more.
2. Food: If you’re a foodie…book your flight right now! A person living in Kuala Lumpur recently told
me, “Our family goes to Penang Island for food holidays.” And I can see why…from seafood to every kind of Asian cuisine your taste buds can imagine!
There is an “eating out” culture in Penang. If you eat at a different hawker stall or restaurant every night for the next year, you probably wouldn’t cover them all and you would still be enjoying every last bite. Experiencing all of the street food and varying dishes cooked right in front of you is a highlight of the food scene.
3. Outdoor Adventures: There are several options to explore the jungles and terrain of the island. For a casual and scenic walk, the Botanical Gardens are a favorite. And for a more intense hike, climb Penang Hill or follow the trails through the National Park to secluded beaches.
If you prefer to ride, you can rent a motor scooter for a day and venture out to the National Park along the coast. Once you get to the park, hire a boat to Monkey Beach and more.
For swimmers, take time out in the pool after a day in the heat. While the beaches aren’t world-class in Penang, 4-5 star resorts with pools are inexpensive. Or rent through Airbnb and get a “neighborhood” experience—most condos and homes on the island also have pools.
4. Street Art: One of the unique features of Georgetown, the capital city of Penang, is its street art. There are 3D pieces that tourists flock to, as well as hidden gems you’ll find as you meander through the historical streets. And as an added bonus, you’ll often see artists at work in their shops. From textiles to paintings, you may get an opportunity to witness the creation of an original piece and purchase it right on the spot.
5. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Georgetown is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a mix of modern infrastructure and its British colonial past, stroll down the city’s famous Armenian Street and take it all in. And be sure to check out the Clan Jetties, Chinese settlements that date back to the 19th century.
You can find museums in Georgetown, including the Islamic Museum and Upside Down Museum. There are also unique shops throughout the city and when you’re ready for a break in the air conditioning, take a short Uber ride to the Gurney Plaza Mall.
Are your bags packed yet?!
Check out more of my time in Penang Island on Instagram. And if you’re planning a visit to the island, reach out for tips!