THINGS TO DO IN LANGKAWI
Welcome to an Island Paradise. Here rice paddies dilly dally with lush tropical rain-forests and secluded beaches set the scene for stunning sunsets. It’s easy to spend weeks lazing around on Langkawi’s powdery beaches while devouring delicious Malaysian food but if you’re bitten by the travel bug, there’s tons of things to do in Langkawi.
Renting a car is undoubtedly the best way to explore the island. There are a number of car-rental booths at the airport and rental prices start from as little as £8/day. Here’s a short video of our time on the island and a list of our favourite things to do in Langkawi, Malaysia 🙂
1) Go Island Hopping
Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands located just off the coast of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea. Unsurprisingly there are dozens of opportunities to explore the small islands scattered around the main inhabited island. It’s easy to book a day tour on a catamaran or speed boat and visit a few islands. However we’re not big fans of the package tours that include clichéd pit stops such as Pulau Dayang Bunting (Island of the Pregnant Maiden) because such day trips involve tourists being packed like sardines into overcrowded boats and regimented stops at already jam-packed islands.
Instead we would highly recommend renting a boat for a day at Kuah Jetty or Tanjung Rhu Jetty (make sure you bargain!) to explore uninhabited islands. Ask the boatman for suggestions and flesh out an itinerary before you start off for the day. If you’re in the mood for something indulgent and ultra-romantic, check out Casa Del Mar’s Castaway Picnic – a gourmet picnic on a remote island just for the couple in question. It’s perfect 🙂
2) Sample Local Food
Langkawi’s local food is all kinds of scintillating. Both of us have a long standing love-affair with Malaysian food, which we’ve written about many times- it’s just the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and spicy. Our favourite places in Langkawi?
- Nasi Kandar Tomato (Tomato Restaurant) is one of our favourite haunts in Langkawi – it’s open 24 hours a day. It’s really popular with locals and is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The sprawling restaurant has an enviable selection of Roti Canai (£0.20 – £0.80), Mee Goreng (£0.40), Malay curries (£1 – £2) at prices that will keep you going back for more. A word of caution – lookout for the original “Tomato Restaurant” because there are a fair few knock-offs. The real deal is on Jalan Pantai Tengah, just off Jalan Pantai Cenang.
- If you enjoy Laksa, then you must try the Laksa vans lined up near the Langkawi Airport. Our sources tell us Laksa Power is the best of the bunch. Umm – so good.
- If you’re after a light snack, hit the daily night market. The market is at a different place every night. Pick scrumptious satays, murtabak (flatbreads layered with minced lamb) and an Iced Milo (or Milo Dinosaur as it is known in South-East Asia) or Malaysian Syrup, a brightly-coloured cold drink.
3) Go For A Mangrove Tour With Dev’s Adventure Tours
Glide through the labyrinthine mangroves of Langkawi on a speed boat or kayak while spotting snakes, eagles, monkeys, crabs, and snails. Marvel at the skirt-like trees that thrive in this mysterious swampy area and listen to the call of the cicadas. Don’t forget to visit Langkawi’s famous Bat Cave on your Mangrove Tour. This spooky cave is 390 million (yep, you heard that right!!) years old. Its walls are lined with hundreds of bats and rock structures – stalactites, stalacmites, straws, and sculptures all made of rock boast of the marks left on this cave over time.
Try to opt for an eco-friendly tour company that does its bit for the environment. This is especially important in Langkawi because its delicate eco-system is endangered by unlicensed tour operators who don’t respect speed limits imposed by UNESCO and don’t think twice before force-feeding birds and animals. We opted for a tour with Dev’s Adventure Tours after asking a couple of locals and would recommend the company. They have a host of educated guides on board who respect nature and don’t exploit animals. More information on their website :- www.langkawi-nature.com
4) Relax At Tanjung Rhu Beach
There are beaches and then there’s Tanjung Rhu. Located at the northernmost tip of the island, this beach is straight out of a dream. A secluded powdery beach overlooking stray islands is surrounded by limestone crags and Langkawi’s famous rain-forests.
A part of this beach is reserved for the guests of Tanjung Rhu Resort but not too many people know that the rest of it is open to the public. That might be why it’s never too crowded. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a dozen people there at any given time – perfect for day dreaming and other such 🙂
If you’re up for a boat ride, you could rent a boat at Tanjung Rhu Jetty and explore Gua Cherita (Cave of Legends). This set of two limestone caves sits in the midst of turquoise blue waters. Gua Cherita is shrouded in mystery. According to local folklore, the Princess of China was captured and kept hostage inside the caves by Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s eagle. However she was eventually reunited with her soulmate – the Roman prince – at Gua Cherita.
5) Unwind At Wu Senses Sanctuary
Wu Senses is Mandarin for Five Senses and sure enough this is a retreat that will awaken your senses of taste, smell, sight, touch, and feeling. Owned by an affable Chinese lady Pei Pei, this retreat is located in the middle of lush paddy fields. Pei Pei’s house is perfect if you want to explore Langkawi on a budget. She lets out the entire house on Air B&B. Lemongrass trees and hammocks greet you as you enter this traditional wooden Malay house comprising two spacious bedrooms, a huge verandah, kitchen, and dining room. Pei Pei has worked in luxury spas for over a decade and is an excellent masseuse and chef. Make sure you sample her home-cooked food and sensational massages if you stay at Wu Senses Sanctuary. Our favourite part? The massage studio has large windows overlooking bougainvillea trees and paddy fields – a massage here is bound to put you at peace within seconds 🙂
More details on Air B&B here
6) Drive To Gunung Raya – Langkawi’s Highest Mountain
A picturesque drive on a winding road will take you to Gunung Raya, Langkawi’s highest mountain.If you love spotting wildlife, then you might be in for a treat on this drive. We spotted the monitor lizard and the ever elusive long-tailed Macaque (see our video above). Once you’re at the top of the mountain, you could take the elevator to the top of the Watch Tower for some seriously stunning panoramas of Langkawi. On a clear day, it’s easy to spot Langkawi’s lush rainforests, its network of roads, and 360° views of Langkawi’s awe-inspiring natural beauty. This is the perfect spot to witness one of Langawi’s famous sunsets.
Admission fee for the Watch Tower :- RM10/£2 (as of December 2014)
7) Step On That Cable Car
No list of things to do in Langkawi would be complete without a mention of the Cable Car. Yes it is one of Langkawi’s most touristy attractions, but you can’t leave the island without experiencing the world’s highest cable car ride can you?
Do yourself a favour and skip the rather tatty Oriental Village that is part of the complex. Make a beeline for the Cable Car. After a wobbly 15 minute ride on the world’s steepest cable car, followed by another 30 minutes of waiting for the clouds to clear, you will be rewarded with this magnificent view of lush tropical forests, turquoise water, and many of Langkawi’s 104 islands – it’s totally worth the wait 🙂
Tickets start at RM54/£10 (as of December 2014). More information on their website www.panoramalangkawi.com
8) Hike to the Durian Perangin and Temurun Waterfalls
There is no shortage of waterfalls in Langkawi but Durian Perangin and Temurun Waterfalls would have to be our favourites. Durian Perangin is definitely the more popular of the two – it seems to be the locals’ favourite picnic spot on the island. You will spot a few shops at the entrance. Be prepared for a steep climb once you enter – Durian Perangin is a multi-tiered waterfall and there are panoramic points at every step of the way. The waterfall isn’t particularly spectacular but it’s free to enter and well worth a visit. Make sure you carry your swimwear – you could join the locals for a dip in the shallow rock pools made by the falls.
Temurun Waterfall, close to Datai Beach, is the lesser known of the two. The 3-tiered waterfall passes through scenic surroundings as you probably saw in the video above. Make sure you don’t carry food as there are a fair few macaque monkeys around. We hiked all the way up to the topmost tier and spent some time at the rock pool – we were the only ones there at the time, so we had the waterfall all to ourselves. Aah!!
A word of caution :- Langkawi’s waterfalls are reduced to a trickle during the dry season. You’re better off skipping them completely because a visit is bound to leave you disappointed. September, October, and November are the best months to visit the waterfalls. A hike to one of these waterfalls is definitely one of the more active things to do in Langkawi – after lazing on the beach for 4 days we welcomed the moderate activity 😉
9) Talk To The People
It’s a fact universally acknowledged that island folk are the happiest people in the world (sorry Jane Austen!). We met such happy people during our stay in Langkawi – everywhere we went locals made us feel at home. That’s probably why we never wanted to leave. Here are some of the smiles we enountered and the stories behind them :-
- Langkawi is predominantly Muslim, so Friday is observed as a weekly holiday. Every Friday, Muslims congregate for prayers in the numerous mosques scattered around the island. This is followed by family outings. These kids were sat on the table next to ours and spent 20 minutes pestering their parents for a second round of dessert. Sometime during those 20 minutes, they took a fancy to my camera and came to sit with us. We got talking and spent the entire afternoon with them. 3 hours later, I had to tear Savi away from this mischievous lot. Such posers 🙂
- We pulled up on the side of the road to sample some street food. That’s when we spotted this lady frying banana fritters. I walked up to her to ask her if I could click a photo of the fritters – she called her grandsons out of the adjoining house and the next half an hour was spent clicking their photos. On getting back, we got the photos printed and sent the prints all the way to Langkawi 🙂
10) Watch the sun go down at Pantai Cenang
Langkawi’s sunsets are famous and not without reason. The colours at sunset are literally breathtaking. Pantai Cenang, Langkawi’s main strip, is jam-packed with beach-front hotels and restaurants. Make sure you drop by for drinks or a languorous meal as you watch the sky turn ochre, indigo, and violet all at once.
We love La Sal – the al-fresco restaurant at Hotel Casa Del Mar. The restaurant serves the best cocktails on the island and dishes up scrumptious grub as well. Of course the multi-hued sunsets are the star of the show. Still not convinced? Take a look at this :-
Have you been to Langkawi? Is it on your wishlist? Just drop us a line in the comments below if you have any questions or suggestions on your favourite things to do in Langkawi 🙂
Wondering what to pack? Check out our Langkawi Lookbook for inspiration 🙂
Planning a trip to South East Asia? Don’t forget to read our tips on accommodation, street food, and sightseeing