Once a sleepy backwater, Langkawi is now one of Malaysia's most popular tourist destinations. Known officially as 'Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah,' the region is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea – the largest of which is the eponymous island of Langkawi. While it was once largely inaccessible, tourism has transformed the island and Langkawi holiday packages are now highly prized. With white sandy beaches, family-friendly resorts and lush rainforest vegetation luring visitors to its shores, it's little wonder Langkawi has become the jewel of Kedah state.
Famed for the stunning white sand beaches which fringe its picturesque coastline, Langkawi is the ideal place to indulge in a relaxing family holiday. Many of the island's resorts boast their own private beach, although the1.2 mile long Pantai Cenang is popular with locals and visitors alike. Nearby is Pantai Tengah and both beaches are renowned for the fineness of their sand and the brilliance of the turquoise waters lapping at their edges. The island also boasts lush natural rainforests and has been granted World Geopark status by UNESCO. Taking a cable car to the top of Gunung Matchinchang to enjoy sweeping views as far as Thailand is one of the most popular things to do in Langkawi.
Langkawi cuisine offers a delicious blend of Malaysian and Thai-influenced delights, owing in part to the island's close proximity to Thailand. The island's main town Kuah contains the largest range of dining options and fresh seafood is not surprisingly a staple of many Langkawi restaurants. One of the most popular is the Aquarium Seafood Garden, which locals swear offers the tastiest seafood anywhere on the island. The Barn Thai Restaurant is another local favourite, not least for its atmospheric setting in the middle of a mangrove forest. Though predominantly a holiday destination for families, Langkawi does possess a handful of nightlife spots, including Chime Nightclub at the Sheraton Hotel and the popular Beach Bar.
Where to Stay
Langkawi accommodation ranges from cheap guesthouses to opulent all-inclusive resorts. Many enjoy beachfront access, with the best range of budget options located just a short walk from Pantai Cenang beach, including the comfortable Cenang Beach Motel. There are plenty of mid-range options scattered across the island, catering predominantly to couples and families. For a touch of luxury, consider checking into the The Datai Langkawi – a secluded retreat surrounded by ancient virgin rainforest. Bon Ton is renowned not only for its stylish setting but also for housing the acclaimed Nam Restaurant.
Langkawi was granted duty-free status in 1987, instantly transforming it from a largely forgotten outpost into a hotbed of domestic and international tourism. The island now welcomes hordes of keen shoppers from mainland Malaysia and beyond, eager to take advantage of the tax-free Langkawi shopping. The town of Kuah is the best place to fill your suitcase, with the Langkawi Fair Shopping Mall and the Saga Shopping Centre selling a range of clothing, jewellery and household items. The Jetty Point Duty Free Complex is the place to stock up on liquor, perfume and other popular duty-free items, while you can buy traditional handicrafts and authentic local souvenirs at the Temoyong Night Market.
Langkawi like a Local
Such an idyllic setting encourages a laidback lifestyle and the string of beaches and comfortable year-round Langkawi weather ensure the island is the perfect place to relax. However, while many visitors take the Langkawi Cable Car to the top of Gunung Matchinchang, it is possible to hike part of the way the through dense mountainside rainforest – provided you're wearing proper hiking shoes. Once you get to the top be sure to take a stroll along the scenic Langkawi Sky Bridge – a unique pedestrian bridge suspended majestically above the rainforest canopy.