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Visiting Penang Hill and The Habitat – A complete guide

shows susie looking out at the view point - visiting Penang Hill, Malaysia

If you’re looking for things to do during your visit to the vibrant island of Penang, look no further! Can you really say that you’ve been to Penang, without visiting Penang Hill? We think not. It’s a popular attraction for both tourists and locals, providing some stunning panoramic views of the island. Beautiful jungle scenery, endless hiking trails and exotic wildlife can all be found on the hill. There’s also a fun funicular transport to get to the top – more on that later.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ahead of visiting Penang Hill. We’ll share how to get to Penang Hill, how much it costs, what to see and do, and some helpful tips and tricks. We absolutely loved our visit, and we hope this in-depth guide will make your trip up this iconic hill just as memorable.

What is Penang Hill?

Penang Hill is a hill resort comprising of a group of peaks on Penang Island. The area was used as a retreat during the British colonial period and has since then been developed into a hugely popular tourist attraction. It has a series of nature trails, fun attractions, viewpoints, and even a wildlife sanctuary.

Fun fact: the highest peak of the hillside stands at 2732ft above sea level, providing some of the most spectacular views of the city of George Town.

shows a viewpoint of George Town

Is Penang Hill worth visiting?

If you’re a fan of viewpoints, nature and scenic walks, you’ll absolutely love Penang Hill. From the fast funicular ride that takes you up from the base of the hill, to the epic viewpoints, and the incredible nature surrounding you – it’s a unique place to explore. Here are our top 3 reasons to visit Penang Hill.

  1. You’ll almost certainty see the local wildlife. Dusky leaf monkeys, macaques, lizards, topical birds and flying squirrels can all be seen in the forests of the hillside.
  2. It’s a great place to enjoy a scenic walk-in nature. Nothing beats the fresh air and cooler temperatures at the top of Penang Hill.
  3. The views are something special. George Town city, the bridges of Penang, mountains and valleys can all be seen from the hill’s many vantage points.
shows a monkey on a bridge - visiting Penang Hill, Malaysia

How to get to Penang Hill?

There are three ways to get to Penang Hill base station at the bottom of the hillside:

  • Order a Grab. The most popular option for tourists is to order a taxi on the Grab app. Grab is extremely popular in Southeast Asia and is very easy to use – and it’s cheap! The taxi drops you at the base of the funicular, where you can then make your ascent to the top of the hill.
  • Hire a car/moped. If you’re a local, or fancy hiring a car, driving to Penang Hill is straightforward and easy. There’s plenty of parking at the base of the hill.
  • Go on an organised tour. Group tours are a great way to meet other like-minded people, and in some cases, they make sightseeing easier. Tours offer transport to and from the attraction, along some other nearby attractions. They take the hassle out of organising your own transport and tickets.

Once you arrive at the base of Penang Hill (view the location on Google Maps), you’ll need to use the funicular transport to reach the top of the hill. You can walk too, but it’s a challenging hike, so the funicular is recommended.

shows a funicular going up to Penang HIll

Getting tickets

Entry to Penang Hill is free. However, if you want to use the funicular railway transport to get to the top of the hill, which most people do, you can buy tickets at the base station booth when you arrive. We recommend booking tickets for ‘The Habitat’ separately in advance. These tickets can be booked online using Klook or Get Your Guide.

Top tip: As Penang Hill is one of the top attractions in Penang, expect long queues no matter the day. We recommend visiting as early as possible, ideally before 10am.  

BOOK The Habitat tickets ON GET YOUR GUIDE

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Things to do in Penang Hill

There is a plethora of things to see and do in Penang Hill. Whether you want to go on a relaxing nature walk, or fancy embarking on a more thrilling adventure, there’s something for every taste.

Funicular ride

The Penang Hill railway, also known as the funicular, first opened in 1923. It’s a single-track railway that passes through the steepest tunnel in the world, passing some beautiful scenery along the way. The funicular ride may not be an attraction as such, but it’s definitely an experience that we loved! The ride from the base to the top of the hill takes around 5 – 10 minutes. The ride is quite fast, so hold on tight!

Walking trails

One of the best things to do in Penang Hill is to follow one of the many walking trails. There are a variety of trails, ranging from easy, to more difficult routes. Get yourself in amongst the wildlife, plants and trees! Be sure to wear the correct footwear if you’re planning on doing a trail.

shows vast greenery in Penang Hill

Hiking trails

Whilst we’re on the topic of walking, another great thing to do in Penang Hill is a more challenging hiking trail. If you fancy a bit of exercise with a view, the hillside is home to some epic hiking routes. It’s one of the best areas in Penang to embark on a hike. View all trail options on the official Penang Hill website here.

The Habitat

One activity to add to your list when visiting Penang Hill is The Habitat. Nestled deep within the rainforest, The Habitat is a biosphere nature reserve that was created to protect the beautiful forests of the region, but also to give people a glimpse at Penang’s ecosystems and wildlife. During your visit to The Habitat, you’ll encounter wild monkeys, insects, birds and other animals that make the hillside their home. The top things to see and do at the Habitat are:

  • Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk
  • Langur Way Canopy Walk
  • Flight of the Colugo Ziplines

Entrance to the Habitat isn’t included with the ticket to Penang Hill. You can either pay in advance online or purchase a ticket on the day. Tickets cost 60RM per person and it’s well worth the cost. In our opinion, The Habit is the number one thing to do on Penang Hill.

shows susie walking across the tree top walk at the habitat in penang

Kopi Hutan – the highest café in Penang

Can you really say that you’ve been to Penang Hill without visiting Kopi Hutan? Kopi Hutan is the best place to grab a coffee with a view. Sip on a drink of choice at one of the highest cafes on the island. The scenic hillside views and surrounding nature scenery is a relaxing and fulfilling experience. Listen to the birds chirp away as you sip your coffee. Be sure to try their signature coffee, ‘Kopi Hutan,’ which consists of a blend of 5 distinct coffee beans.

See the local wildlife

One of the best parts about walking around Penang Hill is getting up close to some amazing wildlife. Penang Hill is home to some magnificent creatures, from the adorable, yet shy Dusky Leaf Monkeys, to the cheeky macaques, squirrels and other smaller creatures. As with all wild animals, be sure to respect the rules and don’t feed or touch them. Wander off the trail and see what kind of animals you can find. Top-tip: look up! You’ll always find monkey in the trees.

shows a dusky leaf monkey sitting in a tree

Historical buildings

There are various historical buildings in Penang Hill, all of which pay homage to its colonial history. You’ll find British-style red post boxes, canon batteries, a police station, old cottages and much more. Take a photo of the Penang Hill map and take a self-guided tour around the main buildings and photo spots.

Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple/ Penang Hill Temple

Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan, better known as Penang Hill Temple, is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Penang. The temple was initially built in the 1800’s as a small shrine to the Hindu deity, Murugan. The outside of the temple is colourful and vibrant, making it the perfect spot for a photo.

shows a Hindu temple on Penang Hill

Masjid Bukit Bendera/ Penang Hill Mosque

Penang Hill Mosque was first built for the Muslims who’s lived and worked on the hill back in the day. When you visit the hillside resort, you’ll frequently hear the sounds to call for prayer at the mosque, which is being broadcasted by the mosque. Penang Hill Mosque is located next to the temple.

Teddyville Museum

Another top thing to do in Penang Hill is the TeddyVille Museum. Here, you’ll get the chance to learn more about the history and culture of Penang through the eyes of cuddly teddy bears. They’re dressed up in the fashion and style of past decades, telling you a story as you walk through the museum. It’s a fun activity for the whole family that will put a smile and will put a smile on any little one’s faces.

shows a brown teddy bear

David Brown’s Tea Terrace

A great spot to relax for an hour or so after wandering around Penang Hill is David Brown’s Tea Terrace. This quintessential colonial restaurant and tea terrace is the perfect place for some lunch or afternoon tea. Their fish and chips are highly rated, and the terraced garden area is a lovely place to dine on a sunny day.

Where to eat and drink at Penang Hill

There are some great food and drink options at Penang Hill. Some of them are surprisingly good value for money! Top places to eat and drink include:

  • Penang Hill Food Court – The main place to go for a bite to eat or drink is the food court, located next to the main entrance. On the ground floor, you’ll find various stands selling fresh juices and shakes, sliced fruit and soft drinks. On the first floor, there are several quick service options for lunch. Expect a variety of different Malaysian and western food options at an affordable price. We really enjoyed our meal here. Just choose wisely as some stalls will be better than others.
  • David Brown’s Tea Terrace – Featured above in our recommendations of things to do at Penang Hill, David Brown’s Tea Terrace is a fancier place to enjoy lunch or dinner. It has a beautiful setting and some good menu options. However, expect to pay higher prices than other dining options.
  • The Habitat Coffee Shop – If you’re visiting the Habitat, you’re in for a treat. The best place, in our opinion, to grab a drink and snack is at the Habitat Coffee Shop. Located at the exit of The Habitat attraction, it’s a small café with a balcony terrace that looks out at the forest. They make the best freshly brewed coffees, along with delicious cakes and hot food options…and the best part – the jungle view!
  • Kopi Hutan – Known as the highest coffee shop in Penang, Kopi Hutan is a quirky café in a unique location, perched on the edge of the hill. It serves up some excellent drinks and the views from its terraces are stunning.
shows a glass of iced coffee with a view

Our top tips for visiting Penang Hill

  • Pre-book your tickets for Penang Hill ‘Habitat’ attraction in advance using Klook or Get Your Guide. They sometimes offer discounted tickets, so you can save a few Ringgits versus paying on the day. Tickets for the funicular railway can be bought at the ticket booth before you board.
  • Arrive early on a morning. Penang Hill can get extremely busy, so try to arrive at the funicular station before 10am. Alternatively, visit the attraction around 1 hour before sunset for less crowds.
  • When arriving at Penang Hill funicular, check how big the queue is. If the queue is long, you can buy an express pass ticket to skip the line. It can sometimes save you 1+ hour of queue time.
  • If you’re planning on visiting the Habitat, we recommend heading there first once you arrive at the top of Penang Hill. The Habitat is an open area, and it can get pretty hot later on in the day. There are also less crowds on a morning.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for Penang Hills’ residents. Near the main entrance, you might spot some Dusky Leaf Monkeys hanging around in the trees. Look up and listen out for rustling trees.
  • There’s a free golf cart transport service on hillside that you can use to get around. We recommend this option for those who have mobility issues, as the walking trails have a high incline.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as there are many walking trails and steep areas on the hillside. Leave the flip flops and sandals at your hotel.
  • Eat at the food court to sample some of Penang’s delicious cuisine. It’s affordable, tasty and is surprisingly good for such a popular tourist attraction.
  • There are a few attractions on Penang Hill that we recommend skipping. They include a toy museum and a 4D dinosaur attraction. The reviews for these attractions are very poor and time is better spent enjoying other areas of the hillside.
shows green trees and plants - visiting The Habitat

FAQs

Combine your visit to Penang Hill with Kek Lok Si Temple

After you’ve explored Penang Hill, we highly recommend visiting Kek Lok Si Temple. Located less than a 10-minute drive away, Kek Lok Si is one of Malaysia’s most impressive and largest Buddhist temple complexes. It was built in 1891 and is full of colourful lanterns, towering pagodas and buddha statues. Entrance to Kek Lok Si is completely free, though you can pay a small fee to ride the small funicular to the large Buddha statue.

We recommend visiting the hillside on a morning and then booking a Grab taxi to Kek Lok Si Temple once you’ve returned to the base of the hill.

Where to stay in Penang Hill

Hickory on Penang Hill – View ON BOOKING.COM

If you want to soak up those incredible city views for a little while longer, we recommend spending a night at Hickory on Penang Hill. It’s a small, quaint hotel with just 13 rooms, each furnished to a high standard. It’s a colonial-style hotel with simple, yet elegant décor. As a bonus, breakfast is included!

Hillside Retreat Penang | View ON Tripadvisor

Treat yourself to a night of tranquillity at one of the oldest bungalows on Penang Hill, at the Hillside Retreat Penang. Once a rest house for the British government officers in the 1900s, this cosy hotel is a category II heritage building. With three different types of rooms to choose from, it’s a great place to spend the night for those that want to be right in the heart of the hillside. Stay here if you’re planning on going on hikes; there are plenty of amazing trails nearby.

We’ve reached the end of our guide on visiting Penang Hill and The Habitat. It’s a truly spectacular place to visit in Penang and you can’t miss it off your list. We highly recommend visiting the Habitat if you have the time too – it was one of our trip highlights. If you have any questions, be sure to leave us a comment down below.

Have fun exploring Penang’s most iconic hillside!

Need more inspiration on the top things to do in Penang? Check out our Penang travel guide.

BY SUSIE

Author bio:

I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.

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