Many people make the mistake of believing Langkawi is simply a single island when, in fact, it is an archipelago of 99 islands known as the Jewel of Kedah, off the west coast of Malaysia. And what a jewel it is.
The main island, Pulau Langkawi, is a spectacular mix of palm-fringed white sand beaches, tempting ocean and rainforested hills, but with all the trappings that make for a superb holiday: accommodation catering to all budgets including some first-class resorts, duty-free shopping, restaurants and nightlife, and attractions on and off the water to satisfy both a thirst for adventure and the need for quiet contemplation.
Beautiful beaches are a key reason why Langkawi Island has become such a favourite family destination. Pantai Cenang, with its glorious white sand and a host of beachfront resorts, restaurants and bars, is the most popular.
Other excellent beaches include the nearby Pantai Tengah and the more secluded Pantai Kok, home to several high-end resorts. This is also the embarkation point for the Langkawi Cable Car that will whisk you to the top of Mount Mat Cincang for some amazing views.
Just when you thought you had tested your head for heights, there’s more: the astounding Langkawi Sky Bridge suspended above the jungle canopy. Safe, but a challenge for the faint-hearted.
Eat and Drink
If you expect little but Malaysian-inspired cuisine, think again. There is a surprising range of dining options catering to visitors from as far away as Europe and as relatively close as Australia. You will find delicious Asian dishes, of course, but also Italian, Spanish, Russian – even English fish and chips.
Most restaurants and bars are in and around the beachfront at Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, with an eclectic mix at Pantai Kok and in the main town of Kuah.
Other hotspots include the high-end resort restaurants and bars at Datai Bay and Tanjung Rhu. Some of the best local dishes draw heavily on the wonderful Langkawi seafood such as lobster, prawns and crab.
Where to Stay
It comes as no surprise that, like the restaurants and bars, the vast majority of places to stay are based around the beautiful beaches and the busy main town of Kuah, the arrival point for people journeying to Langkawi by ferry. There is a diverse range of accommodation on the island, from budget to five star, and including serviced apartments for those who prefer to self-cater, at least in part.
Think Pantai Cenang for the biggest range, shopping, and beachfront restaurants. Pantai Tengah is quieter and popular with families, Dantai Bay is home to luxury resorts, while Pantai Kok offers good access to key attractions such as the cable car and waterfalls.
The popularity of Langkawi as a destination really started to take off in the late 1980s after it was granted duty-free status by the government as part of a deliberate campaign to develop island tourism. You will now find duty-free shopping centres and malls in the capital Kuah, with 60 outlets in the Teow Soon Huat centre alone.
Pantai Cenang boasts two shopping centres as well as a host of beachfront outlets selling souvenirs and gifts. At the Atma Alam Batik Village in Padang Matsirat you can watch a demonstration of the art before you buy. For markets, the Thursday Temoyong Night Market in Pantai Cenang is a popular spot.
Langkawi Like a Local
Every night is market night somewhere on Langkawi. If it’s Sunday, it must be Padang Matsirat and if it’s Wednesday it must be the town of Kuah. Along with the Thursday Temoyong market in Pantai Cenang, they tend to be the largest and busiest of a seven-day rotation around the island. As well as budget buys, these markets are a great place to try the local street food such as sizzling satay, lemongrass chicken sticks, noodles, seasonal fruits and juice.