Langkawi, Malaysia: The Perfect Guide for Your Vacation
Langkawi Island alias the Jewel of Kedah is a popular island in the Andaman Sea which belongs to Malaysia. Read our travel guide on the best things to do in Langkawi, tips on how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, how to stay safe and information on how to narrow down your itinerary to see as much as possible in the paradise.
Langkawi, an archipelago consisting of more than 99 islands (most of them are inaccessible) on the northwestern coast of Malaysia, is for many travelers exactly the place they have been looking for.
Although the archipelago is actually closer to Thailand than to Malaysia's mainland, the main island still keeps its vibrant atmosphere, non-touristy feel (despite the fact the island is very popular among both local and international travelers), and most of its visitors including us appreciate clean sandy beaches, many things to see and plentiful activities to do, compact size of the island, and especially great food which has just the right mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influence.
We traveled to Langkawi mostly because other Malaysian beach destinations on the east coast were during the time of our visit hit by the monsoon season, but had we known how beautiful the island is, we would have felt very guilty for considering Langkawi as only the backup option.
Do not be fooled by travel guides who like to write that Perhentian Islands are the only place where to travel to see pristine beaches in Malaysia as it is no longer completely true. Tourism has changed many destinations in Southeast Asia, and they are all not that secluded and magical as they used to be, but we believe Langkawi is still the authentic place you can visit. Do not get us wrong, Langkawi is for sure super-developed compared to Perhentian Islands, but it’s been this way for decades, and yet it is still possible to find here many laidback places.
It does not mean you won't meet touts on the streets selling tours, or that you won't meet many other travelers on the busy street eating the same food, but we had a feeling Langkawi does not pretend to be something it is not, and that's why we enjoyed our limited, but very intense time there.
Except for amazing beaches, and island-hopping one-day trips, there are many best things to do in Langkawi you should firmly put on your itinerary. Are you bored or sunburnt after several hours spent on the perfect sandy strip?
Head inland and enjoy a day in the forest, above the clouds or near waterfalls. Let your imagination run wild.
THINGS TO DO IN LANGKAWI
When creating your itinerary, balance active outdoor activities with leisure time spent on a beach.
To create a plan which is to your likings, we've created a list of the best things to do in Langkawi, and the only thing you must do is to choose the perfect activities for you.
As Langkawi is an archipelago, it should not take you by surprise there is a large number of nearby islands where it is possible to unwind, and see more this destination has to offer.
The classic island-hopping boat tour usually includes visit of three islands - Dayang Bunting, Singa Besar, and Beras Basah.
During this half-day trip, you will enjoy swimming, admiring natural wonders, and photographing outstanding flora and fauna.
Mangrove Boat Tour
Langkawi has many mangroves along its shore, and taking mangrove boat tour and exploring the waterways of Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is an amazing opportunity to admire the diversity of Malaysian flora, and especially fauna because many species of animals such as bats, eagles, monkeys, birds, otters, lizards or even snakes live in the mangroves of Langkawi.
This activity is extremely popular among travelers, and there is a reason why because seeing all those animal in beautiful surroundings of towering limestone karsts is top-notch.
Of course, among the best things to do in Langkawi cannot be missed is enjoying wonderful beaches.
There is quite many of them, but in case you rent a car or a scooter, you do not have to stick only to the closest beach to your accommodation.
We were pleasantly surprised that even the beach in Kuah city which under normal circumstances should be the most crowded and polluted was absolutely gorgeous, and it became our custom to sit on a beach every evening and photograph sunset before we headed to grab some food.
Beaches in Kuah are more for locals, but the real hub for tourists is Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, where you can also find many resorts and the longest beach on the island.
Langkawi Night Markets
Night markets are pretty popular affairs in Langkawi, and what is the best about them except for great food, cheap clothes, and original handicrafts?
It is the fact that you do not have to come to see the market, but the market will come to you as it changes location every night. You can read more information about Langkawi night markets on this page.
The stalls are usually open from 5 PM to late night, so it is an activity you should not miss when looking for what to do in the evening.
The coast of the island is packed with beautiful beaches, but even the inland has something to offer.
Chasing waterfalls is one of the most popular activities among backpackers when traveling on a scooter.
One of the most popular waterfalls on the island is Seven Wells, where except for admiring the falls from a viewing platform it is possible to swim as well, but you should remember to pack swimsuit.
Other two favorite waterfalls are Temurun Waterfall and Durian Perangin Waterfall. It is good to know that at the end of dry season waterfalls can be dried out, so check out the current situation with locals to avoid disappointment.
We did not expect Langkawi to be an equally perfect culinary destination such as Penang or Melaka, because it is more expensive to bring fresh food to the island, and the choice of food on islands is usually not that varied, but we found the main street in Kuah to be just as great when it comes to food as the rest of Malaysia.
If you are staying in a fancier hotel with a restaurant, you won't probably have a reason to go out for dinner, but for sake of your belly, do it at least once, and taste street food in Langkawi, it is delicious.
MORE ACTIVITIES TO DO IN LANGKAWI
Cable Car & Sky Bridge | Are you wondering what is the best way how to see Langkawi's tropical rainforest? The answer is from above. But no, you do not have to pay for expensive flight tickets, it is enough to pay admission to a cable car with a glass floor, which will take you high above the trees and offer amazing views from one of the highest peaks in Langkawi, Mt. Machinchang. But the cable car is not the main highlight here, because it will take you to Sky Bridge which is built 700 meters above sea level. To get to the cable car, head to Teluk Burau. You can buy your tickets for Cable Car and Sky Bridge via this link.
Ski Jet | Ski Jet Tour is certainly not the most budget-friendly activity to do in Langkawi, but despite it, it is one of the most popular one, famous especially among backpackers and adrenaline junkies who love water sports. Even if you've never done jet skiing, it is not a problem, as the instructor will explain you everything thoroughly, and after that, you will, for several hours, have the privilege to enjoy the unique landscape (and some of the abandoned islands) and wind in your hair.
Cycling | When traveling around the world we've noticed that cycling is getting more popular than hiking, so in case you are an avid biker, sign up for a half-day cycling tour which will allow you to explore the island even better and more freely.
Jungle Trekking | If you do not feel confident doing water activities, you still can enjoy lots of fun. Jungle trekking with naturalist guide is a unique opportunity to get to know Malaysian environment, especially the rain forest better.
Fishing | The number of water activities in Langkawi is nearly endless. In case you like fishing, it is a great activity to try when on the island. We did fishing in Peruvian jungle even without any previous experience and really enjoyed it. Obviously, you can not go fishing on own, so hire an experienced guide.
Sailing | If you wanted, you could have easily spent all your time in Langkawi on a boat, sailing to unknown destinations. There are dozens of best sailing tours, but one of the most popular ones is a sunset boat tour which includes dinner.
Parasailing | No matter what beach you will visit in Langkawi, as soon as the wind starts to pick up you will notice that the sky is dotted with colorful parachutes, and realize, that parasailing is a real thing on the island. Parasailing is a great activity for everyone wanting to spice up their day on a beach but simultaneously don't need to experience adrenaline craziness.
Snorkeling | Another water activity possible doing in Malaysia is snorkeling, and Langkawi is easily one of the best spots for snorkeling in the country - the Andaman sea is known for the diversity and amazing underwater world.
Shopping | Shopping lovers should definitely take into account information that Langkawi is a duty-free destination. Although it can be sometimes hard to find a duty-free shop with real duty-free prices, it is definitely worth looking. What are the most advantageous items to buy in Langkawi for significantly lower prices? It is especially chocolate, alcohol, and suitcases.
3D Museum | The biggest 3D Museum in Malaysia is in Langkawi, and it is a great place to go as a family or when you feel a bit dizzy after all day spent on the sun.
Take a trip to Thailand | Who would not like to check off one more country from a bucket list? Unless you've just arrived from Thailand, it might be pretty tempting to visit the country, namely its famous island Koh Lipe on a one-day trip from Langkawi.
WHERE TO STAY IN LANGKAWI
Langkawi is one of Malaysia's top travel destinations, and there are hundreds of accommodation options all around the island.
Most of them are close to Kuah city, and the rest is spread around the island, so it depends only up to you whether you prefer to be based close to nature, or closer to civilization. All hotels in Langkawi are easily accessible by scooter or by car, or more secluded places usually offer transfers to and from the accommodation.
We've handpicked the best three hotels on the island for every budget category in either the city of Kuah and even more popular Pantai Cenang.
Budget | Bed Attitude - Perfectly located hostel offers differently sized dormitories, clean rooms, shared lounge, free wifi, and much-needed air-conditioning.
Mid-range | Aseania Resort Langkawi - Amazing value for money. The hotel is surrounded by a lush green garden you can taste traditional Malay cuisine, and even enjoy a small water park on the premises.
Luxury | Four Seasons Resort Langkawi - Absolutely splendid resort has a fantastic location, private beach, outdoor pools, and well-appointed rooms. Get pampered in the best hotel in Langkawi.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN LANGKAWI
Although you can for sure plan whole your vacation around visiting Langkawi, we believe you would like to see some other worthwhile destinations such as Kuala Lumpur or Melaka therefore you should know how many days to plan for Langkawi when working on your ultimate Malaysia itinerary.
According to our opinion, three days for the island are absolutely enough.
During this period you won't be limited only to relaxing on a beach, but you will have an opportunity to do some water activities and even travel inland. In case lazing on a beach is your main reason why to travel to Langkawi, add as many days you think is necessary to feel relaxed.
HOW TO GET AROUND LANGKAWI
In case you will decide to explore the island a bit, and not to stay either in Kuah or Pantai Cenang for the whole length of your holiday, to get around you will have to either rent a car, hike a driver, book a tour to a place you want to go which includes transport, or rent a scooter.
As there is no public transport on an island, you must be quite independent when getting around, luckily Langkawi is pretty compact, and driving around is not hard, and definitely not that crazy like in bigger Southeast Asian cities, so you should be alright even without any experience.
Usually, it is possible to rent a car at the airport or in a place with a large concentration of hotels and travelers like Pantai Cenang.
In case you do not feel confident to rent a car or a scooter, it is possible to either choose from a large number of tours available on the island, or you can install an application on your phone called Grab Car, which is an Asian equivalent to Uber.
HOW TO GET TO LANGKAWI
Although when looking on a map it might seem that Langkawi island is quite remote, being one of the must-visit places in Malaysia has the advantage that it is actually easy to get to Langkawi, from several places in Malaysia and Thailand, and there are two ways how to reach the island.
By air or by the sea.
Getting to Langkawi by plane
Langkawi island has an international airport, which means you can get there not only from domestic airports in Kuala Lumpur and Penang (Air Asia often has very cheap rates) but also from Thailand, Australia or Chine, just to name a few.
The domestic flight is not only cheap (you can check out rates here), but it also takes only about an hour, which is a great option for travelers pressed for time.
To get from the airport to your hotel, you must either take a taxi or rent a car at the airport, as there is no public transport service.
Getting to Langkawi by Ferry
Langkawi is well-accessible from the mainland by ferry as well. Ferries run between Langkawi and Penang, Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, or two destinations in Thailand, Koh Lipe, and Satun. It is usually enough to reserve the ticket one day in advance, depending on where you are traveling from, the journey can take between one to three hours.
Once you arrive in Kuah jetty, take a taxi in front of the arrival hall or reserve transport in advance.
In case you will be returning to the mainland the same way, make sure you book your transport to the jetty with a reputable company. Our van did not arrive for us, so after an hour waiting early in the morning in the dark, we were running around Kuah trying to find anyone who will take us to the jetty.
WHEN TO VISIT LANGKAWI
Unlike other places in Malaysia, you can travel to Langkawi all year round. Temperatures throughout the year are more or less the same, around 30-35°C during the day, and a bit lower at night, but it is still warm enough to enjoy all outdoor activities.
Although Langkawi has two distinct seasons, wet and dry, because of its location, the island is a bit shielded from major storms, which means even the peak of the rainy season is not that bad, and you can expect nice weather, at times interrupted by short storms.
The best time, but also the most crowded time in Langkawi is between December and April when it rarely rains, but especially at the end of the dry season waterfalls can dry out and the forest is not so lush green.
The rainy season is between May and November with the highest precipitation between August and October.
As the weather on the island is really hot, and most of the activities take place near water, here are several essential things you should pack with you for visiting Langkawi.
SAFETY IN LANGKAWI
Out of all the destinations we've visited in Malaysia, we felt the safest in Langkawi.
We stayed in the city of Kuah in the busiest part of the island, and we never had a problem to walk to the beach, go shopping or to a restaurant or a bar after dark.
The main drag is well-lit, and there are people all the time around, both tourists and locals, restaurants and shops are also open until late evening.
It goes without saying you should keep your valuables in a hotel room, and although we are not saying there is no chance of pickpockets, there is a higher chance you will destroy your electronics by saltwater or it will be stolen by monkeys when you won't pay attention.
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