If there was something I knew before arriving to Georgetown from feedback I got from other backpackers is that I was definitely staying camping in Penang at the Monkey Beach!
Penang’s National Park should be a must for you if nature is your thing and it’s perfect for solo backpackers.
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There are plenty of trails that can be done just in one day and back to town or alternatively you have a few campsites around the park so you can easily spend a night or more camping in Penang.
As Monkey Beach is not part of the National Park, you can stay there camping for free, or very cheaply, and without guides.
How to get to Monkey Beach:
To get there from the city centre you need to take the bus 101 and the final stop will be at the park’s entrance. From here you have the option to either hike to Monkey Beach for about an hour, or take a 5-min boat.
When I went, the guy at the registration office (you need to register but entrance is free) said that the path to the beach was closed and it was mandatory to go by boat (we later found out it was indeed possible to hike even with the path being “closed”).
I met a bigger group and we paid the boat between all of us for a cheaper ride (Rm40 for 8 people, but can take up to 10 people)
MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS
On our day of arrival we were only 5 people camping, with a couple arriving a little bit later so we had the beach pretty much for ourselves. The Lazy Boys Cafe is the place to stay camping in Penang, for only Rm5 you get to use the kitchen, toilet and shower facilities which is pretty decent.
Contrary to what I read earlier, it’s possible to buy food there at OK prices. It’s also possible to drink the tap water there although came with a few litres as I didn’t know this beforehand.
The landscape at the beach changes drastically in a cool way depending on the tide. On low tide you can walk around the shore and see lots of stuff, from starfish to hermit crabs. Always be careful with some jellyfish! We even saw a family of sea otters swimming and eating fish!
On high tide you don’t see this, but instead you get rewarded by the peaceful sound of the waves really close to camp.
At the camp you can also make bonfires and Aislam, the Lazy Boys Cafe owner, has enough musical instruments for a band so if there are any musicians you will also be delighted with some music while looking at the bonfire and sunset! he also has lots of stories and if they happen to be true he seems to have had quite an adventurous life.
Time does not exist at Monkey Beach, it has been the most relaxing place I’ve been in Malaysia. The days here were spent chilling by the beach, hiking around, swimming, building bonfires, seeing glowing plankton and even the storms that we had in two of the nights were pretty awesome!
Other activities you can do there are Kayaking (Rm10 per person) and a short 30min walk up the hill from the beach to the lighthouse will reward you with some magnificent 360 views!
It’s completely fine to swim at Monkey Beach, just keep an eye for the occasional jellyfish.
We had a terrific atmosphere in the camp as well, it was a great bunch of people there. We would all look for wood for the bonfire, make communal coffee jugs and sit together at night just listening some music or playing card games. A real community feeling over there which is the main takeaway for me from these days.
If you’re planning to come to Monkey Beach you must stay camping there to really absorb the vibes and everything the place has to offer. If you don’t have a tent you can cheaply rent one for only Rm10. Some other prices as a reference: beer Rm10, breakfast from Rm2, bbq fish or chicken RM10.
Note that the “restaurants” will close very early, so make sure to feed yourself well by 16:00 as otherwise you may end up starving until the next morning when they open around 10:00.
I went in early December as we still had some storms, they were always late in the evening and worked out well to refresh the environment.
One of the storms came with lots of lighting and that was cool to watch from the shore. Always happy that I decided to spend a few bucks on my tent as those storms could be terrible with a cheap one.
As the name suggests, there are quite a few monkeys around so make sure to be careful with any plastic bags as they will associate it with food and take it from your hands.
One of the things that sadly shocked us was that the beach was not exactly spotless clean, please always take your rubbish with you and give a hand to clean the beach.
The Lazy Boys Cafe has orange bin bags so you can do a bit of trash hero. I filled a full bag in no time. So, please grab a bag and give a hand to the planet!
After the third night it was time for me to move on and catch a ferry to Langkawi. Penang has been a fantastic place to visit and the highlight for sure were the dream days at Monkey Beach.
Feel free to drop any questions if you plan to go Camping in Penang or your personal experiences if you already visited!
Check out the rest of my adventures in Malaysia for more inspiration on your next trip!