You are currently viewing 14 things to do on Penang Island in Malaysia (just south of Thailand)

Penang Island, located just off the coast of Malaysia, is not as well-known as islands not too far to the north, in Thailand. But it’s one of the most multicultural places in Malaysia and it has incredible features to please both culture and nature lovers.

Penang Island is also one of the best destinations for maximizing your amount of free nights in beautiful hotels (17 or 34 with a travel companion!!!) with the current amazing limited-time hotel rewards deal, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card’s increased welcome bonus (until May 6). 

So here are some of the best things to do during your stay on Penang Island.


Overview of visiting Penang Island

Penang Island is part of the state of Penang. It’s off the coast in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, close to the Thailand border.

Location of Penang Island (image credit: Google Maps)


Since Malaysia is among the most affordable countries to travel to, visiting Penang Island is very affordable.

As mentioned, it is also one of the best places to use your Marriott Bonvoy points to get many free nights in beautiful hotels. There are many of these hotels in magnificent destinations in Malaysia, a country I adore.

You can get to Penang Island very affordably:

Although small in size — it’s only about 13 kilometers wide by 26 kilometers long — Penang Island packs a punch, with several can’t-miss attractions that can be covered in a relatively short amount of time. 

things to do penang island
Northeast Penang Island (photo credit: Mahmud Ahsan)


Here are 14 things to do to discover this amazing island.


1. George Town Historic Center

Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi Temple in George Town (photo credit: Chun Ghee Low)


George Town is the capital of the state of Penang (which has even more territory on the continent).

Its historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008, especially thanks to its unique architecture, culture, and townscape which are almost unseen anywhere else in Southeast Asia. 

George Town (photo credit: Carlos Torres)


Penang state’s capital city is a former trading port linking the East and the West.

That past is reflective of the coming together of Malay, Indian, Chinese, as well as European colonial influences.

Jetties in George Town (photo credit: Steve Douglas)


The city is also known for its street art, so you’ll see something pretty all over the place.

And if you want to get free hotel nights from your Marriott Bonvoy points, 1 of your 2 options in Penang is the Courtyard Penang, a stunning and very modern hotel a few minutes walk from George Town’s historic city center, smack in the middle of all the action!


2. Pool day at the Courtyard Penang

Courtyard Penang Hotel (photo credit: Marriott)


Obviously, the goal of traveling is certainly not to stay locked up inside a hotel — and that’s why we always recommend authentic trips and not all-inclusive vacations. But our issue with vacationing is just the idea of doing only that.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a few days to relax during a trip, of course! It’s great to mix that into an otherwise packed itinerary. But at least, you need to explore too!

After busy visits of Penang (or Kuala Lumpur and Melaka nearby), you can relax for free thanks to your Marriott points if you are among the many savvy travelers who took advantage of the current increased deal on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.

The Courtyard Penang, located in the heart of George Town, is almost brand-new! It has an infinity pool with quite a view of Penang. You can hang out there for free — but most importantly, the free nights cost very few points.

Pool at the Courtyard Penang (photo credit: Marriott


The price in points is as low as 10,000 points per night (50,000 points for 5 nights). That’s just 5,000 points per night per person with a travel companion. 

You can get 71,000 points with the current increased welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card (or 142,000 if your companion takes advantage of it too).

Price of the Courtyard Penang (image credit: Marriott


As in all Marriott hotels, there’s a fitness center to stay in shape of course, but this one also has a pretty amazing view of the skyline.

Gym at the Courtyard Penang (photo credit: Marriott)


The hotel also has a sauna. And if you prefer other types of relaxation, the distillery-themed bar is for you.

As for your 2nd option in Penang, the AC Hotel Penang is closer to Penang Airport (PEN) in a quieter neighborhood in the south. It is a bit more dated but can still be an interesting option, especially since it’s even less expensive.

The price in points is as low as 4,000 points per night (20,000 points for 5 nights). That’s just 2,000 points per night per person with a travel companion. That would give you 34 free nights with your companion, pretty incredible!

Price of the AC Hotel Penang (image credit: Marriott)


3. Batu Ferringhi Beach

Batu Ferringhi beach (photo credit: Hongwei Fan)


Located on the island’s northwestern coast, about a 30-minute drive from George Town, the 3-kilometer, white-sand beach of Batu Ferringhi is a top-notch destination among locals and foreigners — it’s where this post’s cover image was taken. 

Here, you can enjoy a ton of activities, including sunbathing, water sports (such as jet skiing, windsurfing, and parasailing), or just relaxing!

Batu Ferringhi waterfront (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


4. Batu Ferringhi Night Market 


Open daily, the Batu Ferringhi Night Market is one of Penang’s most popular spots for shopping. With hundreds of stalls lining up for over a kilometer, you’ll find everything from comic pop art and clothing to traditional handicrafts and toys. 

There are also many food stalls behind the market offering food from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and more. It’s a perfect place to soak up the atmosphere and get your haggle on. 

Penang food (photo credit: Krystal Ng)


5. Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram


Located just outside of George Town’s historic center, Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram is a Thai temple built in 1845. It houses a huge statue of the Reclining Buddha. At 33 meters in length, it’s believed to be the world’s 3rd largest indoor statue of the kind. 

The temple also has colorful murals depicting the life of Buddha, smaller Buddha statues, as well as other Thai deities.


6. Penang National Park

Penang National Park (photo credit: Syed Abdul Khaliq)


This might be Malaysia’s smallest national park at 23 square kilometers, but don’t let that deter you from visiting it. 

Its location near George Town makes it conveniently accessible by city bus ($1 for the 90-minute ride) or a cheap taxi/Grab (SE Asian Uber equivalent).

The park offers a nice respite from the city, with gold sandy beaches like Monkey Beach, jungle trails for all levels of difficulty, an 1883 lighthouse, and a turtle conservation center.

Monkey Beach (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


There is also a meromictic lake (with separate layers of fresh and seawater that don’t mix), one of only 3 in Asia.

7. Penang Hill

Penang Hill (photo credit: Keith Chan)


Also called “Flagstaff Hill,” or Bukit Bendera in the local language, Penang Hill is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with its highest point reaching 833 meters above sea level. 

It’s perhaps the most famous attraction on the island, simply because of the scenic views from the top. A funicular train takes you up in about 10 minutes. You could also hike one of the many trails with popular rest stops along the way. You’ll find a pretty mosque and a Hindu temple at the top, along with cafes and restaurants.


8. Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple (photo credit: Geraldine Ng)


The Kek Lok Si Temple of the biggest Buddhist complexes in Southeast Asia. It’s located in Ayer Itam, in the hills. 

Over a century old, the site consists of beautifully landscaped flower gardens, a fishpond as well as prayer halls and pavilions. 

Kek Lok Si Temple (photo credit: Geraldine Ng)


However, the main attraction is the 7-tiered pagoda known as the “Pagoda of the 10,000 Buddhas,” mixing Chinese, Burmese, and Thai architectural styles.


9. Khoo Kongsi

Khoo Kongsi (photo credit: Nimalan nims)


Hidden away in the heart of old colonial George Town, the Khoo Kongsi is a clan house for Chinese individuals who have Khoo as their surname. It represents the spiritual and social commitments of that family. 

Also called the “Dragon Mountain Hall,” it stands for wealth and good luck. The outside is adorned with ornate Southern Fujian architecture, while the inside displays mesmerizing murals depicting the “36 Celestial Guardians” as well as weddings and birthdays.

Khoo Kongsi (photo credit: Nimalan nims)


10. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (photo credit: Raissa Lara Lutolf Fasel)


A famous Chinese industrialist from the mid-1800s used to live in the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, nicknamed “The Blue Mansion” because of the distinctive indigo hue of its outer walls. 

It has received numerous awards (including one from UNESCO for preserving its cultural heritage) and is regarded as the best example of 19th-century Straits Chinese Eclectic architecture. Today, it’s a boutique heritage museum/hotel that offers guided tours of its beautiful premises.


11. Fort Cornwallis

View from Fort Cornwallis (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


One of Penang’s most famous landmarks, Fort Cornwallis is an 18th-century fort erected to defend the island from pirate attacks. It’s home to a chapel, an ammunition storeroom, a prison cell, a lighthouse, and more. Of the 70+ cannons in the original artillery, only a few remain today. 

Initially built entirely using wood, later refurbishments have produced the current brick look of the fort.


12. Penang War Museum


The Penang War Museum, the largest war museum in Southeast Asia, is a great attraction for history buffs looking to learn about wartime in the area. 

The British Army built this fortress-like structure in the 1930s. It was then taken by the Japanese Army during WWII as a base to detain and torture prisoners of war, whose tales gave the place an infamous reputation. 

Despite being abandoned for decades, most of the structure remained, and the underground tunnel network underwent restoration work, making it a fascinating exploration spot.


13. Tropical Spice Garden


At Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden, you can learn about more than 500 species of spices, herbs, and other tropical plants either endemic to the region or from around the world. 

You can wander across this living museum with a guide or enjoy it at your pace with an audio tour. Camping in the garden is also possible: a few camping spots are available. 

Also, activities such as nature walks, stargazing, scavenger hunts, and outdoor movie projections are offered to suit just about everyone.


14. Adventure Zone and Escape theme parks


If you are among those who enjoy theme parks, Penang has 2 popular ones.

The Adventure Zone indoor adventure park was built for some family fun. Spread across 950 square meters, it offers kids of all ages over 30 activities, including rope bridges, ball pits, a tumble tower, and modular play zones. 

The highlight, however, is the 3 slides in the special features section. One of them is a drop slide measuring 24 feet, which is fun for parents as well. Cafés, a retail and snack counter, and free Wi-Fi are also available to help grown-ups take a break.

Aerial view over Escape Theme Park (photo credit: Nazarizal Mohammad)


The Escape amusement park is designed with a wide range of age groups, abilities, and energy levels in mind. It will make for some thrilling moments in your Penang trip. Located in the rainforest, it specializes in ziplines and other forms of jumping and swinging attractions. 

It’s also a Guinness World Record holder with its 1111-meter tube water slide, the longest in the world!


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Penang Island, in Malaysia, is packed with cultural and natural attractions to fit all types of travelers. It’s the perfect place to take advantage of the free hotel nights you can easily get with the increased welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex Card.


What would you like to know about things to do on Penang Island? Tell us in the comments below.


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Featured image: Penang Island, Malaysia (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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