Monkey Beach is a beautiful white sand beach in Taman Negara, outside of Georgetown, Penang, and is known as one of the nicest beaches on Penang Island. The beach also has an amazing jungle backdrop. The color of the water is that light turquoise that the ocean turns in tropical locations, creating an inviting feel to it. The temperature of the water is like stepping into a bath, not a huge relief from the heat but a nice retreat from being covered in sweat.
The best part about this beach is that there are two ways of reaching it, either by boat or walking in about 3.5km. So you can make it in depending on your preference. Honestly, I love hiking and walking, but in the extreme heat of April in Malaysia I was completely wiped out after arriving at the beach so a boat ride is probably better at that time of year.
The hike is nice because you have the chance to encounter some of the local wildlife. I was lucky enough to see two different kinds of monkeys, some beautiful birds, monitor lizards (that really scare the hell out of me because they are huge!), and some weasel/squirrel type animal. Apparently there are many different kinds of wild cats in the forest, but I only saw one lazy domesticated one taking a nap in the shade.
The hike is not a loop trail, and you can choose to walk a bit further to see the lighthouse. Again, it was so hot and the sun was so bright, the idea of walking further wasn’t appealing but would be on a cloudy day, or maybe outside of the hot season. The trail starts just to the left of the visitor center where you must register. They give you a map that seems mostly useless but there is a better, larger one next to where you register. Make sure to either have your passports with you or some other form of ID. Thankfully I had my drivers license. I guess it’s for safety reasons in case something were to happen. But the trail is by no means treacherous, although might be a bit challenging in areas if it were pouring down rain.
(*If you choose to take the boat option in and out, you can find a boat right in front of the visitor center, and once you arrive at the beach it’s very easy to find a boat back if you have had enough hiking.)
The trail is really well marked and at no time did I feel like I was lost or searching for where to pick up the trail. There are a few forks in the road which are labeled well and if you are heading to Monkey Beach you will keep taking the right side of the fork. If you head left you will walk to another beach where there is a turtle sanctuary, and if you come at the right time and camp out near the beach you can watch the turtles come in and lay their eggs on the beach. I decided not to head to that beach primarily because I read that the beach was known to have lots of big jellyfish. Getting stung by a jellyfish is far from my idea of a fun time. You will also pass by a few smaller beaches along the way that would all be nice places to take a dip, or a nice place to break up the hike and cool off.
After about an hour or so you will reach Monkey Beach. There are in fact supposed to be a lot of monkeys on the beach but when I was there I didn’t see any. But you will see lots of them on the hike there and the beach itself is scenic and relaxing. You will see plenty of parked boats luring you in to catch a ride back, and there are places to grab a snack and something cold to drink as well. There are many different shady spots to throw your towel down and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Getting to Taman Negara National Park
You can grab Bus 101 from either the Jetty Pier station or KOMTAR. It cost 3.80RM per person from KOMTAR to the entrance to the park. Make sure to have exact change, as the driver will not give you any. Also, keep your ticket because it’s possible another person will come and ask for it. (If you don’t have it you could get fined, so make sure the driver gives you the ticket)
The bus takes about 45min to get there. Coming back took a bit longer but it was about the time work would be letting out and the beginning of rush hour.
You can also pay for the Hop on Hop off bus that also has a bus stop at the entrance to the part.