11 Most Popular Things To Do In Langkawi, Malaysia
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On my recent trip to Malaysia I was keen to spend some time relaxing on the beach. Where better to do this than on Langkawi, Malaysia’s favourite island destination? I flew to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur and spent three full days on the island blending a mixture of sightseeing with swims and sunsets on the beach.
If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia and fancy taking a few days out to chill, I would certainly recommend you carve out some time to visit Langkawi.
Where Is Langkawi?
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands located off the west coast of peninsula Malaysia in the Melaccan Straits of the Andaman Sea. It is an island of densely forested, rolling green hills, rice paddy fields and beaches of fine sand and turquoise water.
Most people book their Langkawi holidays to take advantage of the beautiful beaches, warm weather and shopping. Yes, that’s right, I said shopping. It may seem like a slightly odd thing to be doing on a lovely little island, but in 1987 the Malaysian Government declared Langkawi duty free to boost tourism. This means holidaymakers flock to the island to make purchases.
Langkawi attractions are plentiful, so if lazing on the beach or duty free shopping doesn’t appeal, thankfully there are many other things to do. The best way to see the island and what it has to offer is by taking a Langkawi tour, either by hiring a moped and driving yourself around with a map, a guided group tour or by personal driver.
I chose to hire a driver for a morning for $35AU / 110 MYR. My driver, Anoor, helped me build a personalised tour based on the kinds of things I wanted to see. I also took several other tours by boat, as sometimes the best way to explore an island is by the water.
Things To Do In Langkawi
Here are my top things to do in Langkawi, based on a three day trip. You could easily spend several more days on the island if you were happy to intersperse your activity days with chilling on the beach or around the pool.
1. Cenang Beach
Beaches in Langkawi are in no short supply. I arrived at Pantai Cenang – or Cenang Beach – one of the main places to stay in Langkawi. Here there is a main road lined with shops, bars and restaurants and accommodation. If you’re travelling to Langkawi with kids and are looking for activities to do with the children, Pantai Cenang is a good option to keep everyone entertained. There are several vendors along the beach where you can hire water sport equipment or book a trip out on inflatable doughnut rings pulled by speedboats.
Beach bars fringe the sand, enticing you with their bean bags and cold drinks. There are umbrellas and sun loungers for hire here and you can easily make a day of it.
If you are wrinkling your nose up at the sound of all of this activity, don’t worry, there is plenty of deserted beach just a little further along the sand if you keep walking past the main strip. Here you’ll find uninterrupted space to roll out your towel and enjoy the water without a jet ski roaring past.
It’s worth noting that Cenang beach is close to the airport. This may make it some aviation enthusiast’s dream as they can sunbathe and plane spot. For the rest of us, it does mean there is some overhead noise from airplanes, which is a little disappointing, but totally unavoidable in this area.
Cenang beach comes alive at sunset when locals and holidaymakers alike come to stroll along the water’s edge and watch the sun go down. The bars turn on their twinkling fairy lights and you may be treated to live music or a fire juggling show. It’s the perfect time to take a wander as the temperature cools.
2. Explore Langkawi Beaches
If you fancy escaping the crowds at Cenang beach, hire a moped or a car. Head off on your own exploration of the island to discover many deserted island beaches. Up in the north west of the island is the beautiful little Datai Bay, a tiny little cove with gorgeously warm water. I could have easily spent all day here sunbathing and swimming. There are no beach bars or cafes here, so pack a picnic and take lots of water with you. On the horizon you could spot the hazy outline of Thailand.
Other Top Beaches On Langkawi
Other beaches on the island worth checking out are:
- Pantai Kok – A quiet stretch of beach in the western part of Langkawi Island, 12km north of Pantai Cenang.
- Burau Bay – Beach lined with rocky outcrops located on the west coast of Langkawi. Nearby Burau Island is also a roosting place for migratory birds.
- Pantai Pasir Hitam – Means ‘Black Sand’. The sand is mixed in white and black shades, due to rich tin and iron ore deposits.
- Pasir Tengkorak – Also called “Skull Beach”. On the north of the island. The water is clear here for swimming.” (Source)
Tanjung Rhu Beach is a place where the adrenaline junkies amongst us can go skydiving on Langkawi. It’s also where I departed for my mangrove day tour.
3. Take A Mangrove Day Tour
Exploring Langkawi’s coastal mangrove forest was a really interesting day out where I got to see a whole range of animal and plant species in their natural habitat. I was picked up at my accommodation by a driver who took me to meet the rest of my group at the beach where the boats were moored.
The boat starts off on the open ocean before diverting into the narrow tributaries of the dense mangrove forest that cover the north eastern part of the island. We cruised along this system of waterways as our knowledgeable guide explained how the mangroves survive in the salty water. He also pointed out various animals who made their home amongst the branches of the mangrove forest; we were lucky to see a whole tribe of inquisitive monkeys plus a snake snoozing in the shade of the tree.
A tour of the mangroves also included a visit to a large cave where we were shown an ancient cycad – a plant resembling a palm tree – that was thought to be hundreds of years old. We walked through the cave and could see – and smell – the resident bat population, plus a few examples of stalactites and stalagmites.
The day included a trip to a fish farm, which is not an activity I particularly enjoyed as our guides showed us various types of fish native to the area. These poor creatures were trapped in enclosures that I felt were too small, so for me, it wasn’t the highlight of the day. The tour included a lunch on board the floating pontoon restaurant of the fish farm and there was also an ice cream break.
For wild animal adventures in Malaysia, take a look at:
4. Visit Kuah and Eagle Square
Kuah is the main town on the island with a population of around 30,000. The main tourist attraction here appears to be a giant eagle statue down by the ferry terminal, which was installed 20 years ago. The area is called Dataran Lang, or Eagle Square, and is a waterfront plaza with views of the sea and the mountains as a backdrop.
A little bit of interesting trivia for you is that the name Langkawi is derived from the old Malay words of ‘helang,’ meaning eagle, and ‘kawi,’ meaning reddish-brown. The 12 metre statue of a reddish-brown eagle poised to take flight is therefore the symbol of Langkawi itself. As you explore the island you’ll begin to realise that Langkawi is famed for its eagle population, so the name is incredibly fitting.
Visiting Dataran Lang is free and the park area includes walkways, grassy areas and a few little food stalls. Kuah is the centre of duty free shopping on the island. You won’t find a sandy beach here for swimming, but if your main objective in Langkawi is to hit the shops then you’ll want to spend some time in Kuah exploring the shops and the markets.
5. Take A Dip At Durian Perangin Waterfall
There are several waterfalls on Langkawi. Depending on the time of year, the water level does vary. I was visiting at the end of the dry season so the flow was diminished. Durian Perangin waterfall is a popular spot for locals to hang out at the weekends. There are several picnic benches and pagodas set amidst carefully manicured gardens, with wooden bridges spanning the river. It did seem like a pretty place to enjoy a picnic.
You soon arrive at the first pool, into which flows the lowest section of the waterfall. At the right hand side I spotted some steps cut into the rock and my guide nodded that this was the best way to experience the falls. This lower pool was only a small section of the entire waterfall. We left a group of people splashing and shrieking in this lower pool and began to climb up the steps. These were slippery, uneven and quite steep. You follow the tiered waterfall upwards until you reach the top where a more impressive waterfall fell into a totally secluded plunge pool. Here, the forest surrounds you and I had the waterfall completely to myself to enjoy for as long as I liked.
6. Langkawi Cable Car
No visit to Langkawi would be complete without a ride on the most popular tourist attractions on the island, the SkyCab. The cable car can be found at Burau Bay near Pantai Kok in the north west corner of the island. When you first arrive you will walk through a purpose-built village of shops, stalls and gardens where you can buy souvenirs or food. In the centre, you will find a counter where you buy your tickets for the cable car and you are shown where to access it.
The SkyCab ascends Langkawi’s highest peak, Mount Machincang, to a height of 708m above sea level. The cable car is split into two sections. First, you travel to 650m above sea level to the Middle Station where you can get out and walk around the viewing platform to enjoy the views over the forest below and the island.
A second stretch in the cable car takes you up to the Top Station where there are two platforms affording 360 degree views over Langkawi, the offshore islands and Southern Thailand. The Machincang mountains form striking rock pinnacles, deep chasms and rocky crags dating back over 500 million years old.
The SkyCab is open 09.30 – 19.00 on weekdays and weekends with extended opening hours during school holiday periods. The ticket price is 40 MYR / £7.30 / $12.50AU for a local adult and 55 MYR for an international visitor.
7. Langkawi Sky Bridge
At the top station of the cable car you can access the Langkawi Sky Bridge. At 125m in length, the bridge is one of the world’s longest curved suspension bridges. It hangs 100m off the ground and offers you a unique perspective on the mountains and forest below.
Tickets cost 5 MYR for adults.
Visit the Panoramic Langkawi website for more information about SkyCab and the Sky Bridge. There is also a lot of other attractions you could visit in the village at the base of the cable car, such as a 3D art centre, which may interest you if you’re visiting with kids or you need something indoors to do if it’s raining. I didn’t visit any of these attractions as I was only interested in the cable car and views over the mountains and forest.
8. Island Hopping Tour
The best way to appreciate the archipelago of islands offshore of Malaysia is by boat. The waters around Langkawi are teeming with small islands, covered in dense forest and most are totally uninhabited.
I organised my island hopping tour through my accommodation. I would recommend that you arrange these kinds of activities locally instead of online before you get there, as you are more likely to pay higher prices on the internet. The company I used were called Family Island Sea Cruise, but there are many different companies offering the exact same service. If you talk to your accommodation, or take a stroll down the main street in Cenang to any visitor information desk, you’ll be given details of a local company they recommend.
I was picked up at my hostel and taken in a mini-bus with several other people to the jetty where we boarded our boat. It quickly became clear that this afternoon out was less of a guided tour and more of a taxi service between the islands. Whenever we would arrive at another island, our skipper would give us a brief explanation of the name of the island and how long we had there to explore. Regardless of this lack of information, I still found it to be an enjoyable activity as I got chatting to a couple of people on my boat and we hung out at each of the islands.
My island hopping tour cost me 30MYR / £5.50 /$9AU for 4 hrs. At the end of the afternoon I was dropped back off at my accommodation by mini bus.
9. Pulau Dayang Bunting – The Lake Of The Pregnant Maiden
The first island stop was Pulau Dayang Bunting. This island is home to the famous Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. You walk through the forest from the jetty to a lake in the interior of the island. High rocky escarpments surround the lake and one section of the mountainous terrain resembles the profile of a reclining woman who looks to have a pregnant belly. It’s one of those things where- just like when you look at clouds – you use your imagination to see the figure in the outline of the rocks above the lake.
The lake itself is fresh water, which means it’s perfect for swimming. There is a pontoon where you can sit, relax or jump off into the water. You can hire pedalos if you’re feeling the need to get further out onto the lake and exercise your legs. I enjoyed a swim in the clear water.
It’s worth noting that the lake is incredibly deep. If you were expecting to be able to access the lake from the shallows of a beach then you’re out of luck. The part where you access the lake is straight into deep water and therefore you must be a competent swimmer. It may not be the easiest place to swim if you have small children, but they do have a few inflatables and rings to hire.
10. Pulau Beras Basan
On Pulau Beras Basan we were given time by our skipper to wander the beach and swim in the water here. This tiny island had a remote, castaway feel and there was a small shack on the sand offering a few snorkels for hire but otherwise no facilities. With no shops or beach bars with bean bags and music, there is not much else to do but enjoy the sand and the water. Not an arduous task of course, but remember to take your swimming gear on the island hopping tour otherwise you will be left wishing you had brought it with you.
11. Eagle Spotting
You cannot have a tour of Langkawi – or the waters that surround the island at least – without seeing some eagles. Eagles are synonymous with Langkawi and this area. During the island hopping and mangrove tours my skipper killed his engine and we floated quietly on the water listening out for the tell-tale whistles of the eagles. It didn’t take long before several eagles appeared in the air.
I believe the skipper lowered a bucket full of fish scraps into the water to encourage them to fly over. This is a bit disappointing in my opinion as it encourages the eagles to appear and creates a reliance on this kind of feeding. However, I suppose these are fully wild eagles so there is no guarantee that they would show up if they chose not to on that particular day.
It is a wildlife photographer’s dream to see these giant birds swoop down onto the water. It was a remarkable spectacle to witness and I only wish I had a camera that was up to the job of photographing such a fast movement. Still, it’s perhaps one of those experiences that is best to sit back and soak in rather than scrambling with a camera.
Getting To Langkawi
You have several options for how to get to Langkawi island. Firstly, you can choose to fly to Langkawi. Flights to the island are frequent and cheap from Kuala Lumpur airport. I used Malaysian Airlines departing from the main Kuala Lumpur International airport terminal. The flight is short and only takes an hour.
From the airport I waited for a shared taxi service, which you join with other people and the driver decides the route dropping people off around the island. This worked perfectly for me as it keeps the costs down. There are also taxis that you can take privately, or you can arrange a pick-up from your accommodation.
The taxi rank is easy to spot outside the front of the small Langkawi airport terminal, and there were staff there to help direct people to waiting taxis. You purchase your ticket at a counter inside before you get into the taxi so the cost is pre-arranged and there is no need to haggle with the driver.
The second option to get to Langkawi from Malaysia (or visa versa) is to take a ferry. The ferry terminal is in Kuah, the main town on the island of Langkawi. You have several options for how to get to Langkawi by ferry; from Penang, Satun, Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah on the Malaysian mainland and even Koh Lipe in Thailand. I booked my ferry journey locally from Langkawi to Penang for a price of 70RM / $21AU /£12.
The ferry terminal is an organised place; your bags are scanned by x-ray machines, you wait in a departure lounge and are given a seat number for the ferry. Check out Langkawi Ferry Services for more information, or you can choose to book via your accommodation or ticket reps in any main area of the island.
The Best Time To Visit Langakwi
Langkawi’s climate is consistently hot and humid. The island is sheltered from storms by Malaysia on one side and Sumatra on the other, so visitors can enjoy the tropical weather and calm seas all year round.
The best time to visit Langakwi are between the months of November and April when the temperature ranges between 30 and 35 degrees C during the day. Sunny afternoons give way to cloudy afternoons with light rain. Night time temperatures fall to around 28 degrees C.
During the monsoon season between September and October, Langkawi is not adversely affected due to its sheltered position, so although there is heavy rainfall the seas remain quite calm. Visitors still head to Langkawi at this time of year to enjoy shopping and spa treatments.
Where To Stay In Langkawi
There are no shortage of places to stay in Langkawi and there is certainly an option to suit every budget. On my day tours I saw other guests dropped off at the luxurious resorts where prices can start at around xxx. As a solo backpacker, I chose to keep my costs lower and settled for shared dorm accommodation.
I stayed in the He & She Dorm, which was just set back from the main Pantai Cenang beach road. Despite it’s somewhat amusing name, I found the hostel to be well air-conditioned with curtained partitions separating a single main room of beds into two-person cubicles. I was given a towel, there were security lockers to store your valuables and the bathroom was clean. There was fast Wifi – good enough for a Skype chat – and the manager was friendly and happily chatted with me whenever I hung out in the reception area.
Admittedly not the height of luxury, but for xxx a night, a good choice to lay your head in the heart of Cenang. I was spoiled for choice at meal times when all I had to do was walk up and down the main street and take my pick from the wide range of cuisine on offer.
I always jump onto Booking to check reviews and availability when I’m travelling and I usually like to book at least the first night’s accommodation in each new place I visit.
The Best Places To Eat In Langkawi
There is no shortage of places to eat along the main hub of activity centred around Cenang Beach. Here you can stroll the main street and find a restaurant to suit every taste and budget. There are plenty of delicious sea food restaurants, plus Indian and traditional Malay cuisine too.
Most main meals will cost less than 15 MYR / $5AU / £3.
Hints And Tips About Visiting Langkawi
- Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, which means attitudes towards alcohol and clothing are a little more conservative. With Langkawi’s international holidaymaker feel and beach centred activities, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the religious beliefs of the majority of the locals. However, it’s worth bringing a sarong to cover up in a cafe if you are heading there straight from the beach to be mindful of the local culture.
- There is no bus service on the island so if you plan to get out and explore your options are to rent a moped or car to travel at your own convenience or book a taxi for short journeys. You can book cars and mopeds at the airport, or via your accommodation.
Plan A Trip To Langkawi
Have I inspired you to visit Langkawi? Have you been here before and want to share your favourite part about this island? Let me know whether you have any questions by leaving a comment.
Share with someone who is planning a trip to Malaysia so they don’t miss out!
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