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Penang National Park hike to Turtle Beach / Pantai Kerachut: (3.8km, linear)

Penang National Park hike to Turtle Beach / Pantai Kerachut: (3.8km, linear)

The hike to Turtle Beach in Penang National Park is a personal favourite on the island and is one of our must do Penang activities for visitors. Navigate through lush rainforest with the meditative jungle sounds as your backdrop to arrive at arguably the best beach in Penang, Turtle Beach, known locally as Pantai Kerachut. Here your sweaty adventures will be rewarded with a stunning, sandy beach, to relax. Or perhaps explore the Meromictic Lake (there’s only a few left in Asia) and Penang Turtle Conservation Centre.

This is a linear route. Whilst you can return along the same track, we recommend booking a boat to return via the coastline (RM100 per boat). This can be booked at the park gates (we go into more detail on this further down).

This Turtle Beach walk takes about 1.5 hours and is 3.8km. Whilst the start of the walk is flat and easy going, after 500 metres the climbing begins. The footpath from this point can be tricky underfoot with exposed tree routes, although there are also steps in places. Expect to sweat as you ascend and descend along the route. The total ascent is 172 metres, reaching a maximum altitude of 157 metres.

Here we cover everything you need to know about the Turtle Beach hike starting from Penang National Park entrance.

Want to read more about what there is to do in the National Park? Then read our guide to Penang National Park.

Monkey Beach swing

Penang National Park guide

Our comprehensive guide to visiting Penang National Park, including how to get there, what to do, fees, how to get around, and a suggested itinerary.

Map of Penang National Park hike to Turtle Beach

The walking route to Turtle Beach is well signposted, but here’s our online map for you to follow.

elevation of Turtle Beach hike

How to get to the entrance of Penang National Park

Just because you’re visiting a rainforest in a national park, doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in a car or bus to get here. There’s an excellent road network leading all the way around the island from the airport in the south, through George Town and Batu Ferringhi before reaching Teluk Bahang, where the National Park is located.

From either George Town or Batu Ferringhi, it’s usually easier and quicker to order a Grab taxi and be dropped off at the park entrance. Bear in mind that this corner of the island is very much the ‘end of the line’, so it’s not always the most popular Grab drop-off or pick-up point. You might need to wait a few extra minutes, especially when you’re leaving the park.

The journey from George Town should take around 45 minutes, depending on traffic, which can be very bad on a weekend evening heading back into town.

Alternatively, you can take bus number 101 from several locations around George Town (including the Jetty where the Penang ferry to Butterworth departs) and it also passes through Batu Ferringhi. It’ll take about one hour from George Town, potentially a lot longer on busy days. The bus will drop you a few metres away from the entrance gates and is a good, cheap option if you’re travelling solo.

Booking your return boat

This Penang National Park walk to Turtle beach is a linear walk. Whilst you could retrace your steps back to the park entry gate from Turtle Beach, a much quicker (and arguably more fun) option is to take the boat back around the coastline. Trust us, that sea breeze will feel wonderful after sweating away in the jungle.

Boats need to be booked at the park entrance before you start your hike. There are a handful of shops selling boat tickets. Fares are fixed, so don’t try and negotiate between shops, they’re all friends.

The fare from Turtle Beach back to the Park Entrance is RM100. This is the fare for the boat, not per person. Some travellers like to club together to save on the individual fare.

There’s no mobile service at Turtle Beach, so you can’t contact your boat driver to let them know when you’ve arrived. Instead, arrange for a specific time to be collected from Turtle Beach. We recommend two hours from starting the hike. Your boat will wait for you at the jetty. Don’t worry if you’re not there exactly on time as they will wait for you within reason.

However, if you want to visit Penang Turtle Conservation Centre (which is at Turtle Beach) and/or laze under a tree reading a book, then allow yourself time to do so. Just make sure you mention this when booking the boat, so as to not keep your driver waiting unnecessarily.

Paying the National Park fees

Before you start your hike, you need to pay your national park fees. This is not done at the shop where you book the boat. Instead you need to walk through the barriers and to Penang National Park Registration Counter.

Penang National Park HQ

For non-Malaysians, the fees are RM50 for adults, RM10 for children aged 3-12, under 3’s are free. Note that credit cards aren’t accepted, the fees must be paid in cash only. There’s an ATM just outside the park gates if you’ve been caught short.

Penang National Park is open year-round, seven days a week. The Park HQ registration counter (where you pay your fees and register) opens from 8:00am to 4:30pm, with an hour’s closure for lunch from 1pm to 2pm. Try to time your arrival in the morning to get the most out of your day.

You will be asked to register online using your mobile phone before entering the National Park. A small guardhouse checks your permit (wristband) just after the entry gate, so make sure you have paid your fees before attempting to enter.

Tips for your Penang National Park hike and important information

The National Park opens at 8am. It’s worthwhile arriving early in the day to beat the heat.

The walk to Turtle Beach starts at the park entry gates, to the left of Penang National Park registration counter.

Whilst the very start of the walk is paved and very easy going, after the first bridge crossing the terrain becomes tricky underfoot with exposed tree roots and steep inclines. Towards the end there is also a section of steep decent, which can be very slippy after wet weather. This is not a hike to do in flip flops or your favourite white trainers.

  • Wear lightweight trainers with good tread
  • Wear clothing that is lightweight and you don’t mind sweating in (moisture-wicking clothing is ideal)
  • Carry lots of water with you as there are no refill stations en route. You can purchase water from the shops at the National Park entry gate. You can purchase water from the Turtle Conservation Centre at Turtle Beach, but check that it is open before relying on getting water there.
  • Spray on the mossie repellent before you start sweating on the trek.
  • Pack flip-flops to change into when you arrive at Turtle Beach. Your feet will thank you.
  • Don’t forget the suncream and sun hat. Whilst the jungle canopy shelters you for most of the hike to Turtle Beach, once you arrive at the beach you are very exposed to the sun.

If you are planning to catch a boat back to the start from Turtle Beach rather than walk back, make sure you book this at the park entry gates. The fee is RM100 for the boat (you pay per boat, rather than per person).

You can ask your boat driver to stop at Monkey Beach on the way back for some food and a drink. The food options here are better than at the park entry gates. Plus there’s a much better view. Just be mindful of the monkeys (no guesses as to how this stretch of sand got its name).

Route instructions for the hike to Turtle Beach

1. Walk through the entrance to Penang National Park along the paved path. 50 metres along your permit will be checked. Show the wrist band that was given to you at the park registration counter.

2. Continue along the paved path. It’s very easy going along here and you will shortly come across a sandy beach on your right. Spot the fishing village in the water ahead.

3. At the far end of the beach is a bridge. Walk across and follow the sign to Kerachut Beach (Turtle Beach), taking the footpath on the left.

4. Follow the footpath uphill. Note the 2km sign on your right as you walk up the steps. Trust us, it’s not 2km to the end of this walk. It’s closer to 3km.

5. You will come across a fork in the path just next to the large tree on the right (you can’t miss it). Take either as they re-join as one footpath again. Continue uphill taking care underfoot as there are lots of exposed tree routes.

Penang National Park - hike to Turtle Beach

6. The path forks again. Take the more defined footpath on the left. Further uphill you will approach a big trench, take the footpath that runs to the left of the trench (although you can walk through the trench if you wish).

7. The path starts leading you downhill. Soon you will cross over a bridge. Listen to the sound of the stream trickling downhill. There’s then a conveniently placed hut for you to catch your breath and rehydrate. You are now 1.3km along the walk.

8. Continue up the steps and keep following signs for Kerachut Beach. 300 metres from the first rest stop, you will arrive at the second rest stop, which is just short of the halfway mark to Turtle Beach.

9. Continue straight ahead, downhill, to reach another rest hut, signposting ‘Simpang Tasik […] 30 minutes’.

10. Just after this is a footbridge with steps leading uphill. The footpath soon levels out for some much easier hiking. Look out for the 1km Kerachut Beach sign on your right. From this point, it’s mostly downhill.

11. At the 500 metre marker keep going slightly downhill, following the sign to ‘Meromictic Lake’ (which is at Turtle Beach). Shortly after this sign, there are steep stone steps leading you downhill.

12. The footpath then flattens out again to lead you over a bridge and up a short uphill section. You will notice a clearing behind the trees to your left. This is the Meromictic Lake. You’re almost there!

13. Cross another bridge with another short uphill section.

14. A wooden bridge brings you out onto Turtle Beach with the Meromictic Lake immediately on your left. Whilst the sea (on your right) may look inviting for a swim, beware of the jellyfish. Continue along the beach for a further 300 metres to reach the jetty. This is the end of the hike and where your boat will collect you.

What to expect at Turtle Beach (Pantai Kerachut)

The beautiful beach, with its uninterrupted sea views is perfect for sunbathing (bring plenty of sunblock and a sun hat). However tempting the sea looks, it’s teeming with jellyfish so you’ll need to restrict yourself to just dipping your feet in.

As soon as you reach Turtle Beach from the wooden bridge, you will notice a lake to your left. This is a Meromictic Lake.

At first glance it might just look like a normal lake but these natural phenomenon are actually incredibly rare, with only a few existing in the whole of Asia. As the saltwater and freshwater don’t mix, two distinct layers are created. It makes for a unique and interesting visit, with the bridge being a good viewpoint. Although when there hasn’t been much rainfall, it can just look like a big bog and rather unimpressive.

Meromictic Lake Turtle Beach

At the other end of the beach, just past the jetty, you’ll find a small turtle sanctuary that houses a few turtles in rather sad-looking tanks, plus some tired information boards and displays. Entry is free and it makes for an interesting side-trip as you wait for your boat. Click here for more information on Penang Turtle Sanctuary.