Langkawi, Malaysia Explored
Langkawi, on Malaysia’s west coast, is an archipelago of 99 beautiful islands, although almost everyone stays on the main island of Langkawi. Now is the time to visit, as it is not yet so overrun like Phuket Thailand.
Whether you want to just relax or fill your days with activities, Langkawi caters to you. Here’s an overview of what to see and do, eat, and how to choose the ideal luxury or boutique hotel for you.
What to do
- Explore the islands: you need to get out and see these 99 beautiful islands. A sunset cruise with Tropical Charters lets you do just that. Plus you can try out their unique Saltwater Jacuzzi Net, even while sipping your drink! Cocktails and dinner included.
- Escape the heat: Langkawi Cable Car rises 700 meters above sea level on Langkawi’s second highest peak, Gunung Machincang. This is the steepest cable car in the world and on a sunny day you can see spectacular views all the way to Thailand. If you’re brave, walk the Sky Bridge!
- Beaches: Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach and has lots of water sports like parasailing, jet skiing, and banana boats. Shell collectors will love the northern part of Cenang. Just south of Cenang (at low tide you can walk around the rocky point) is Pantai Tengah, much quieter and with views of several small islands. An unusual Langkawi beach is Pantai Pasir Hitam, made of black sand.
- Nature: take a mangrove tour in a kayak with Selva Langkawi; see the tree canopy; go bird watching; snorkel or dive; or climb the Seven Wells Waterfall. Keep your eye out for dusky leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, giant squirrels and 246 species of birds and 340 of butterflies.
- Shopping: Langkawi is a duty free island, so there are lots of good deals. Check out the Craft Market for a good selection of local specialties, free museums, and to make your own batik.
- Night life: lots of bars to choose from, but try Warung for great cocktails, and if you want to start late, the retro SunBa (both near Cenang beach).
- Rejuvenate: massages of all types (Malay, Balinese, Thai, reflexology) and all sorts of spa treatments. Recommended: Star Anise spa (at Villa Molek).
- Golf: 99 Degrees Golf Club or at Gunung Raya.
- Give back: visit the Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary (LASSie) and volunteer some time and love to help the animals.
Where to eat:
You won’t lack for restaurants in Langkawi! Here are a few stand outs:
- Unkaizan Japanese: winner of Malaysian Tatler’s best Malaysian restaurant award every year since 2005. Near Ambong Ambong resort.
- Nam Restaurant at Bon Ton Resort: a favourite for expats and visitors. Excellent desserts and cocktails too. Twice weekly Malay set dinner with cooking demonstration.
- Straits Club at Temple Tree Resort: emphasis on colonial dishes, plus weekly wine pairing dinner.
- Red Sky: wide selection of international dishes, great setting, and kind staff. Huge cocktail menu and happy hour specials.
- The Danna Langkawi: traditional Tiffin set lunch, English afternoon tea, champagne breakfast, and expertly prepared Asian and Western dishes for dinner, all in the beautiful hotel.
- TJ’s Pizza: chef owned, and recommended by expats and locals alike for pasta and pizza.
- Street food: the night market moves around to a different spot on the island each evening and has several food vendors. Keep your eye out for afternoon banana fritter stalls wherever it is busy, plus for stalls selling local cashews.
Taxis are on a zone system and most trips will be about 20-30 Ringgit ($7-10). You can hire a taxi for three to four hours to tour the island for 100 Ringitt ($35), and the cost is about the same for a 24 hour car rental.
Where to stay
Langkawi offers a full range of hotels, from budget to luxury and boutique. Each is very different from the other, so you can pick one that caters exactly to your taste. LuxuryAndBoutiqueHotels.com suggests:
If you want peace and quiet, the rainforest and modern zen-like accommodation: Ambong Ambong Rainforest Retreat.
Up a steep hill with stunning views of the sea and surrounded by trees, away from it all but still able to walk to the beach (quiet Pantai Tengah) and the action. Great place for yoga practice too.
For lovers of animals and historic architecture: Bon Ton or Temple Tree (sister resorts).
Stay in an antique Malaysian building (with modern luxuries added), and pet animals saved by the nearby LASSie animal shelter.
Colonial luxury with all the trimmings: The Danna Langkawi.
Every amenity you could want (massage, beach, largest pool on the island, vast menus at several restaurants, games rooms, kids club …) with top notch service in a gorgeous colonial-style hotel.
Dreaming of a private island: Rebak Island Resort – A Taj Hotel.
On an island just off Langkawi, your stay includes activities like kayaking, cycling, nature walks, archery, cooking demonstrations, tennis, and squash, all in a resort with a spa, beach, pool, delicious food and the famous Taj service. Suits everyone from honeymooners to families. Great value too.
Tranquility but within walking distance of plenty of restaurants and beaches: Villa Molek.
Large suites (even with space to have another couple over for drinks), quiet garden and pool, extensive breakfasts, plus one of the best spas on the island is at your door step.
Whatever you choose to do or where you stay, you will love your time at Langkawi, Malaysia!
If you are looking for the best hotels in Langkawi, then check our top Langkawi Hotels page .
Blog and pictures by Johanna Read