Langkawi island, known as the ‘Jewel of Kedah,’ is an archipelago of islands off the coast of northwestern Malaysia. A duty-free paradise home to waterfalls, mangroves, lush forests and white sandy beaches; there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.
We were lucky enough to spend 8 nights on Langkawi island over Christmas and New Year; here’s everything you need to know if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful island.
How To Get There
The main island, Pulau Langkawi, is less than an hour away from Kuala Lumpur by airplane. There are several domestic flights a day with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia at very reasonable prices. Keep an eye on Air Asia’s website prior to your trip for sales and offers.
If time isn’t an issue then why not consider taking a ferry across to the island from Kuala Kedah, Penang or Kuala Perlis. Click here for the ferry timetable and prices to Langkawi island. (If you’re backpacking through South East Asia, it’s worth noting that Langkawi can also be reached by boat from Thailand.)
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see the airport Taxi Counter by the baggage claim area. One way taxi fares from the airport are fixed so there is no need to haggle. It takes around 10 minutes to get to Cenang Beach and costs around 20 MYR depending on the number of passengers.
When to Go?
Typically, Langkawi’s dry season is between December – February, and the rainy season March – November.
The island has one of the most stable climates in Malaysia with day time temperatures averaging between 30-35 and around 28 at night, making it an ideal holiday destination all year round. So no matter what time of year you choose to visit, you can expect warm temperatures (yay!)
Langkawi island is the perfect destination if you’re after some Winter sun, we visited at the end of December and the weather was hot and sunny for the majority of our trip. Mornings were a little overcast but the clouds disappeared by lunchtime. It rained a couple of times for an hour or so late afternoon, but generally the weather was great.
How Long Should I Stay?
Langkawi is pretty small; you can reach one end of the island from the other in less than 45 minutes. We spent a week here which seemed like the perfect amount of time to both explore and relax.
Considering the island’s size, there are many activities from island hopping to jungle trekking, so we’d recommend staying here for a week if you want to see as much of the island as possible. If you’re pushed for time, 4-5 nights should be enough.
Where to Stay?
Surrounded by restaurants, hotels and shops; Pantai Cenang (pronounced Chenang) is the busiest beach town on Langkawi island and in our opinion, a great place to be based during your trip.
There are tons of hotels to choose from ranging from hotels to resorts – whatever suits your budget. We stayed at the Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel, a mid-range hotel located on the main strip and less than a minutes walk to the beach.
We enjoyed our stay; the hotel is in a perfect location if you want to be close to bars and restaurants. Our room was cleaned daily and the staff were very friendly and helpful. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, you may want to consider the nearby areas of Pantai Tengah and Pantai Kok.
If you’re not interested in staying on the beach, Kuah is the main town in Langkawi and has many restaurants and duty-free stores.
Keep in mind that it’s cheap and easy to reach any part of the Island by taxi or motorbike.
How Much Money Will I Need?
Like most countries in South East Asia, Langkawi is relatively cheap compared to the Western World. If you’re travelling on a budget, willing to stay in a low-budget guesthouse, chill on the beach and eat local malay food you can expect to spend as little as 100 MYR per day.
Of course there are more up-market restaurants and luxury hotels on the island if money isn’t an issue during your trip.
Transportation on Langkawi island
For an easy and convenient way to see the island we’d recommend hiring a car or motorbike. There are plenty of car rental companies to choose from when you arrive at the airport.
We rented a motorbike for 24 hours costing only 35 MYR. It was a fun and cheap way for us to explore the island on our own time and we’d highly recommend it. Click here for more information on how you can rent a bike on Langkawi island.
If you don’t fancy driving you can rent a taxi with a personal driver who will take you wherever you want to go; a four hour trip costs 140 MYR. All taxi fares are fixed and reasonably priced; you can find the rates clearly on show at any taxi rank on the island.
Eating & Drinking
Malaysian cuisine reflects its multiethnic population; a truly delicious combination of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes – we had some fantastic food here.
There are tons of restaurants on this tiny island catering for all budgets, we ate out for every meal during our stay – click here to check out our favourite places to eat.
The average price for a main meal at a restaurant was around 30 MYR, with Western food being more expensive. If you’re happy to eat with the locals you can fill your belly for less than 10 MYR.
With a large Muslim population, drinking on the island was an unexpected hurdle for us as several restaurants did not sell alcohol. If you like a cheeky cocktail or two, you can read about our favourite watering holes on the island here.
You can also get a drink on the beach which comes to life after dark. Make-shift bars set up on the sand selling cheap cocktails, beer and shisha into the early hours.
If you you enjoy relaxing on the beach, you won’t be disappointed on Langkawi island.
Cenang Beach is without doubt the most popular beach on the island lined with hotels and restaurants and you can hire sun beds for 10-15 RM per day.
In the middle of the beach there is a watersports area where you can hire jet skis, banana boats and arrange boat trips.
The beach is beautiful but beware that it can get very busy and we were slightly disappointed with the amount of noise and disruption from construction work that was happening along the beach during our visit in 2016.
A 15-20 minute walk south and you’ll find yourself on Tengah Beach which is usually less crowded compared to it’s neighbour but it can be a trickier to find sun beds.
If you prefer something a little quieter, we’d highly recommend a trip to Tanjung Rhu, which was our favourite beach on the island.
This beach is secluded and gives breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea. Mistaken by many to be a private beach, it is in fact only the Tanjung Rhu Resort and Four Seasons Resort which are private; the public can freely use the Eastern Side of Tanjung Rhu beach which is just as beautiful. There are a couple of roadside stalls selling drinks and street food, but keep in mind that there are no sun beds to rent here.
Burau Bay and Pasir Tengkorak Beach are also worth a visit if you have time.
Excursions and Activities
For a small island, we were surprised by the amount of things to do here. Outdoor activities include taking a trip on Langkawi’s famous Cable Car & Skybridge, island hopping by boat/jet ski, mangrove and kayaking tours at KILIM Geoforest Park, jungle trekking and sailing to name a few.
Click here to see what activities we did on our trip and what we’d recommend.
There are also several waterfalls located on the island, our favourites were Telaga Tujuh (known as Seven Wells Waterfall) and Temurun Waterfall.
If this sounds a little too adventurous for you, spend the day shopping at one of the island’s duty-free stores. There are also tons of reasonably priced spas and and massage parlours if you fancy a pamper – you can treat yourself to a 30 minute neck and back massage for around 25 MYR.
What to expect during Christmas & New Year
We spent Christmas and New Year with our family on the island in 2016; there was a great atmosphere and everything was open and running as usual.
Although many people on the island do not celebrate Christmas, the festive period is still acknowledged and we were greeted with ‘Merry Christmas’ by happy locals throughout the day.
We enjoyed eating ‘Christmas dinner’ at The Cliff, a more up-market restaurant offering stunning views across the beach which we’d highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little more special on Christmas Day. We reserved a table via their website about a month before Christmas.
We spent New Year’s Eve on Cenang Beach and it was one of the best New Year’s we’ve ever had; the beach was lively and full of people lighting lanterns into the sky.
You could buy tickets for events at some of the larger beach-front bars, but these were pricy and we wouldn’t recommend it as there were plenty of cheap shacks to buy cocktails and beers on the beach.
The atmosphere was great (child friendly too); there were firework displays at midnight and plenty of music to keep you dancing into the early hours.
Watch the best bits from our trip to Langkawi island (Music: Outlines by Mike Mago & Dragonette)
If you decide to visit Langkawi, we hope that you’ve found this post useful. If you have any suggestions, questions or want to share your own experiences with us, please leave us a comment below
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