Langkawi – Your ultimate city guide

wediditourway on Cenang beach in Langkawi

Our time in Langkawi was unlike anything we have done so far.  For the first time during this trip, we stayed put for a whole month.  No running around, less crazy exploration. We set ourselves down in the middle of some rice paddy fields, got ourselves a routine with our Workaway, and loved the simple and relaxing island life.

You can enjoy Langkawi and do most of what there is in 3 days, but if you really want to disconnect and immerse yourself in the sweet island life, then give yourself a good week.

Things to know

Langkawi is a predominantly Muslim island, so just be respectful of the locals with how you dress and how you address them.  You shouldn’t touch someone of the opposite sex.  And easy on the PDA when you are around them.

Also important to note that there aren’t many ATMs on the island.  The main ones are at the airport and in malls.  Not many places accept cards, so make sure you always have money on you.  But don’t worry, the ATMs don’t charge fees here.  Win!

Getting around

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The best and easiest way to get around Langkawi is by scooter.

There is no public transportation on the island so the best thing to do is to rent a car or a scooter.  We had the joy of driving around on a scooter the whole time we were here, and can say that it’s quite safe and easy.  Just make you you always carry your license and helmet with you as police road blocks are quite frequent.

Another easy and quick way to get around is through Grab.  Make sure you download the app before getting there.  You can easily get someone to come pick you up and drop you off and it’s super cheap.

Things to do

This island offers quite a few things to do, from fun activities to lazy beaches. There is something for everyone and every budget.

Beaches

There are 3 main beaches on the island, though you will find other small ones too.

Cenang

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Cenang beach on a beautiful afternoon

This is the main tourist beach, where you will find all the bars and restaurants.  You also have tons of resorts on this stretch of beach.  You can also find any water sport that you may be interested doing on Cenang beach.

The sand is white but very hard and full of shells.  The water is nice, but clarity depends on the number of boats running around and if it rained that night.  You can rent long chairs to lounge on or do a ton of activities here, but those aren’t free.

Tanjang Rhu

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Go all the way to the end of the road to find an empty Tanjang Rhu beach

This is where you will find the luxury resorts like the Four Seasons.  The beach is fairly secluded as it’s in a more quiet part of the island.  The best place to enjoy it is all the way at the end of the strip, near where the mangrove tours leave.  There, you have a few local restaurants and shops.  Expect clear waters, calm seas and beautiful sunsets.

Skull beach (Pantai Tengkorak)

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Our favourite beach in Langkawi, Skull Beach

This was our favorite beach on the island.  Soft white sand, clear blue waters and more importantly, barely anyone around.  The first time we went there, there were only a handful of locals.  The next times, there was barely anyone else there.

The entrance for this beach is a little odd: There are a few huts and cottages around and the main area around it is gated, but rest assured you can go and enjoy the best beach on the island.

Other beaches

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We found this stone lighthouse near Pantai Kok

There are a few other beaches too, but when we find one we like, we just stick to it.  You can do the same!

  • Pantai Kok is north of Cenang beach.  It’s small and in the lagoon with tons of boats around, but it’s quiet and lovely.  For an added photo-op, there’s a cute stone lighthouse around the bend from the beach.
  • Pantai Tengah is just around the cliff from Cenang beach.  It’s quieter, smaller, but offers better sand.
  • And finally, Black Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Hitam), 4 km southwest of Tanjang Rhu, is a stretch of black sand that looks amazing at sunset!

Dash Resort

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Dash’s infinity pool overlooks Pantai Tangah beach

Ok maybe Dash resort is not a beach, but it has a beautiful pool!  It’s quite different than anything else you’ll find on the island, so it’s pretty cool.  If you want to lounge around a beautiful resort pool, Dash is the place.  All you need to do to have access is to order food, or a drink, then the place is all yours!  Ok, you might have to share the pool with others, but each time we went, the crowds were pretty small.

The theme at Dash is “down the rabbit hole”, a theme inspired by Alice in Wonderland.  You will find statues, paintings, and all other kinds of art from the iconic children’s story.

You can even head down to a nice white sand beach, Pantai Tangah.  This beach is quieter than Cenang, and has nicer sand, so win-win if you ask us.

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Dash’s “down the rabbit hole” theme from Alice in Wonderland is out of this world

Waterfalls

The 3 main waterfalls to see on the island are the 7 Wells,  Air Terjun Temurun and the Durian Perangin waterfalls.  As you can imagine, the best time to see these waterfalls is during the rainy season, as they are barely alive during the dry season.  It was only the start of the rainy season when we were in Langkawi, so the falls were not as active.  Entrance to all these falls are free.

7 Wells Waterfalls (Telaga Tujuh)

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Usually, there is a lot more water flowing down the 7 Wells waterfall

Situated near the Cable Car (you can see them from there), these falls are actually seven natural pools that are connected and fed by seven separate waterfalls in Mount Mat Cincang.  To get to the wells and the observation deck, you will need to hike up some 690 steep steps, or about 10 minutes.  But be warned, it’s a hot and sweaty trek.  Is it worth it?  Yeah, after all, these waterfalls are said to be Langkawi’s most wonderful natural attraction… during the rainy season!  They were barely full when we were there!

Locals believe that the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are home to fairies, but it’s probably due to the fact that the nature around the falls is so lush and beautiful!  If the heat doesn’t get to you, you can climb to the top of the falls, past huge rocks and through the seven pools.  It will take you around 45 minutes, but you’ll be sure to spot plenty of birds and animals.  There are no bins along the way, so be sure to take your trash back home with you.

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This contraption above us is a viewing platform, where you can see the bottom portion of the 7 wells waterfall

After your hike, you can cool off at the pool that’s situated at the bottom of the 7 Wells. Many locals go to swim there, so it may be uncomfortable for some women as they do tend to stare a little too long for my liking.

If you’re still looking for more to do there, you also have tons of activities at the foot of the hills, like ziplining through the forest.  Make an day out of it and have some fun. These waterfalls are also a short drive from the cable car and Skull beach.

Getting here:  As with everything around the island, you will need to get here by your own means (scooter, car or Grab).  Just put the name of the falls in your GPS and it will lead you there.  If not, here is a handy link on Google Maps.

Air Tenjun Temurun

These waterfalls are in the Mat Cincang Nature Park of Datai.  A perfect place to cool down with refreshing waters coming down from the mountains.  The cascade down is about a 30 metre drop, with a nice pool below where you can swim.  Because the rainy season had barely started during our stay, we skipped these falls.  They are only full after the rain, if not, expect more of a trickle than a waterfall.

Getting here:  Same as for the other falls, just put it into your GPS or find them here.

Durian Perangin

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One of the best places in Langkawi to take a dip in some refreshing “cold” water

The Durian waterfalls are near Tanjang Rhu beach, just about 15 min away.  Thankfully, they don’t smell like durians, but instead, are quite lovely!  This is actually a 14-tier waterfall that cascades down Mount Raya, the island’s tallest mountain.  The falls are a stone’s throw away from the hot springs in Kampung Ayer Hangat.

To get to the top of the falls, you have to hike up a few steps, nothing as crazy as the 7 Wells.  The hike up here is well worth it, again, especially if it rained before.  The locals usually swim at the bottom of the falls, so we had the whole place to ourselves for a good 45 min.

Getting here:  You know the drill, just look up Durian Perangin waterfalls.

Langkawi Skycab

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What a view from the Langkawi Skycab

This is probably the most popular tourist destination on the island: the Langkawi Skycab!  At 950 metres high, it’s the longest free span mono car in the world.  The views from the top here are pretty amazing, especially on a clear sunny day.  While in the Sky Cab, you get a 360 degree view of the lush vegetation, the surrounding islands, the 7 Wells waterfalls and pretty much everything else!  The thrill of going up a super steep cable is also pretty cool and exhilarating, but probably not for those who are scared of heights.

Included in the RM55 per person price tag is the Sky Dome, a 360 degree movie experience that as about 7 minutes long; the Sky Rex, a 4D dinosaur ride that stopped working halfway through; and the 3D trick-eye museum.  However, the Sky Bridge is not included and costs an additional RM5, and if you want to take the Sky Glide, a weird-looking, slow-moving elevator that takes you from the Sky Cab tower to the Sky Bridge, add another RM10 to your costs.

Our advice would be to head there early for 2 main reasons. First is the obvious heat.  It gets super toasty up there when you’re that close to the sun.  You can’t bring water with you so try to avoid the 11AM to 2PM window.  Second, the crowds won’t be there.  This is one of the main attractions on the island, so expect tons of people.  Try to get there before 10AM or after 4PM to avoid them.

Although the views and the overall cable car experience was fun, we have one major complaint about the place.  They continuously force you to take pictures in front of green screens so that they then slap some random background in back of you.  Even when we refused to take the picture, they would not let us pass until we complied.  What a waste of people’s time, of paper and ink!  They print out all these forced pictures and sell them to you later in various shapes and forms.  We found a trick to avoid them printing it: We would cover our faces or make really ugly grimaces.  It worked like a charm!  No paper or ink wasted on us.

Getting here:  There are signs all around the island that direct you to the Sky Cab. You can follow those, or use Maps here.

Top of Mount Raya

At 881 meters, Mount Raya (Gunung Raya) is the tallest mountain on Langkawi.  Located in central Langkawi, you’ll find the Gunung Raya Golf Course at its base.  The mountain is covered with lush rainforest and creates a beautiful backdrop to the island’s landscape!  There are two ways you can get to the peak of Gunung Raya, either drive or trek.

The easiest route is obviously to get a ride up there and should take you about 30 min.  Take the not-too-steep but narrow winding road Jalan Gunung Raya that starts at its intersection with Jalan Ulu Melaka.  Be careful at the turns as many cut corners around here.

Then, if you like to hike, strap your shoes on and get climbing!  There are tour operators that will guide you up there, but from what we heard, you can trek on your own as well.  It should take between 1 to 1.5 hours.  There are no facilities on the way up, so bring food and water, and take your trash back down with you.

Once at the top, there is a resort and a watch tower, with an entrance fee of RM10.  You will get the same views as you do at the top of the Cable Car, but there are barely any people here.  It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

Duty free shopping

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This is the best place to get alcohol and cigars in Langkawi, and at pretty cheap prices!

In case you didn’t know, Langkawi is a duty free island.  Fun fact: in 1987, the Malaysian Government declared Langkawi duty free in order to boost tourism.  So you know what that means, right?!  There are tons of shops that will sell you tax-free chocolates, alcohol and tobacco products.  Just note that there is a limit to how much alcohol you can buy and you will need to present your passport when making these purchases.  Duty free shops are clearly marked and can be found all over the island, though they are mainly around Cenang Beach and in Kuah.

How good are the deals?  Depending on what you buy, it can be quite cheaper than what you pay back home.  For example, a 1-litre of rum back home will set us back CND$55 but cost only RM30 on the island.  That’s CND$10.  And that friends, is a great deal!

Island exploring

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Located off the west coast of Malaysia, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Melaccan Straits of the Andaman Sea.  So as you can only imagine, there are a ton of islands around Langkawi that you can go explore.  Most are uninhabited and are just thick forest, but they are beautiful.  The famous Pregnant Maiden island is the most popular and is where couples wishing to get pregnant go because of the legend that made this island popular.  Apparently, jumping in the lake there will help you conceive more easily.

If you want to tour the islands, don’t book anything online, as it tends to be more expensive.  Instead, you can check with your accommodations, or even walk along Pantai Cenang and ask the vendors there.  The competition is quite fierce, so you will likely find something in your budget.  Just note that some islands have an entrance fee (around RM6-10) that are probably not included in the price of your ticket.

Drive around

Because there is no public transportation in Langkawi, the best way to explore the island is to drive around.  This may not sound like much, but it’s the perfect way to discover island life.

Go find some water buffalo in the rice paddy fields, stop at the local fruit stand to chat with the vendor and get some insanely fresh fruit.  We found the best mangos we have ever had while in Langkawi.  Drive along the coast and admire the natural beauty of the island.  You’ll find tons of cute little restaurants that will serve you delicious food for a small price tag!

Activities

There is no shortage of activities to do on the island.  There is something for everyone, every type of traveler and every budget.  Most vendor stalls along Cenang beach will offer these to you, and so will your accommodations, so scout out prices and go have a blast.

Here are the main activities you can do:

Mangrove tours:  These were probably the most popular of the tours offered on the island.  The tours take off near Tanjang Rhu beach, starting off on the open ocean before diverting into the narrow tributaries of the mangrove forest on the north eastern part of the island.  These tours are guided and expect to see tons of animals.  A lot of the tours include other activities as well, like feeding eagles, fish farms and lots more.

Parasailing:  All around Cenang Beach, you will find tons of boats and vendors offering to take you parasailing.  The best time to go is probably at sunset, as the ones on Cenang beach are some of the best we’ve seen!

Jet ski tours:  You can also hop on a jet ski and go explore the islands around.  Tours are usually sold in blocks of 3 hours and a guide will be with you to show you around.  Again, if you are hoping to go on some of the islands, expect to pay an entrance fee.

Boat tours:  There are a ton of boat tours available on the island.  They range from more budget-friendly options to higher-end sunset cruises.  Take a look around and find one that best suits your needs.

Zipline:  As we mentioned before, you can go zipline right at the foot of the 7 Wells waterfalls.  They have a whole course in the lush forest in the hill.

Our experience

Like we mention in the beginning, our experience in Langkawi was different than any other place we’ve been.  A few things made it so:

Malaysian Elections

First, the hotly contested Malaysian elections were held during our time on the island.  It was really cool to see the flags of the opposing parties placed all over the streets.  Residents would proudly display their preference on their front door and even their cars.

More than once, we were held behind a procession of cars parading down the streets to show their support.  The main candidates were the current prime minister at that time, who was caught in a corruption scandal, and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the longest running prime minister who had bowed out of politics in the early 2000’s.

It was really cool to see the people rejoice after the Doctor won, making him the oldest leader in the world.  It’s always nice to see a people stand up and demand change from a corrupt government… but don’t get us started on world politics!

Ramadan

Next, during our last 2 weeks on Langkawi, we bore witness to the Holy Month of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a celebration held by all Muslims around the world where they commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

During this whole month, from mid-June to mid-July this year, Muslims around the world fasted from sunrise to sunset, not even drinking a sip of water.  They also refrain from smoking, and engaging in sexual relations, and must steer clear of any sinful behaviour that may negate the reward of fasting.

The purpose of this month is not only to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities, but it also teaches them self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate.  It was really great to see so many people practice this old tradition in solidarity.

During this time, a lot of businesses were closed or changed their working hours, including some local restaurants, tourist attractions and stores.  Also, our favourite night market moved, and it took us a good week to find it again.  The upside was that the night market was replaced by the Ramadan Bazaa, which was held every day, both in Kuah, and near the airport, where Muslims would head out to after sunset to break their fast.

Workaway

Finally, the last thing that marked our special experience on Langkawi was that we did our first Workaway here.  Basically, we stayed put for 1 month and helped a couple run their Airbnb’s.  But more on that later.

Where to eat

Night market: The night market in Langkawi is in a different spot every night of the week.

Monday: Ulu Melaka, Jalam Makam, Mahsuri Lama
Tuesday: Kedawang, near Cenang beach
Wednesday: Kuah Town
Thursday: Temoyong, Mukim Kedawang, Pantai Cenang (Less than 5 minutes walk from the house towards Cenang Beach).
Friday: Air Hangat, Padang Lalang
Saturday: Kuah Town
Sunday: Padang Matsirat, opposite of the Field of Burnt Rice

These night markets were some of our favorite spots to eat in Langkawi.  You will often find the locals eating here, so you know it is good.  Some of our favourite dishes were the Murtabak, the potato dumplings, noodles, these markets have everything you need.  We would often stock up for a few meals here, and the food costs next to nothing!  Just beware that food for vegetarians is limited, but you can find some pretty awesome fare still.

Burgersmith: We loved this place since they offered vegetarian burgers that you could dress with your choice of toppings.  There burgers come with fries and a drink, and all together will run you about 30RM, not bad for some good western food.

Tomato 24: Looking for great, cheap Indian food?  This is the best place on the island to find it.  Situated near Asean resort, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s delish, especially good for you vegetarians out there.  The options are limitless.  We absolutely loved the paneer masala, with rice and naan bread!  If you want to treat yo’self, splurge on the naan bread with cheese and garlic.  And by splurge, we mean spend the extra $0.50.

Where to Stay

Of course, we’re going to recommend the places we were running!  These Airbnb units are cute and homey, and the hosts who run them, along with their Workaway help, are awesome.  You can find the 3 different places here.  To help make your choice, here’s a bit about them:

Sawah Padi Villa

Set on a rice paddy field, Sawah Padi Villa is where you’ll see tons of water buffalo and some of the most amazing sunsets ever!  This home can accommodate up to 5 people and comes with a full kitchen and living area.  It’s about a 20-min walk to Cenang Beach, so you have both the peace and quiet of country living, while being close to the action.

Halia Village

A lovely unit with a full kitchen and living area as well, Halia Village accommodates up to 4 people.  This place was great for us, as it boasts a kitchen and living room.  After all our traveling it is rare that we get the space that Halia Village gave us.

The unit is 15 minutes away from the beach and set in steps away from the rice padi fields

Rama Rama

We help set up Rama Rama, so we hope you like it!  These units are more of a peaceful retreat, with breathtaking sea views and nature.  Still close enough to the action, but far enough that you can enjoy nature in peace.  With your own private veranda, a gazebo and a spot to sunbathe, you may never want to leave this  tranquil haven.

If this is your first time using Airbnb, you can use our code to get a discount off your first booking.

Getting there

There are 2 main ways to get to the island. And you’ve probably guessed them by now.

Fly

There are flights from most major destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Penang from local providers.  The flights are usually pretty cheap and quite frequent.  From Kuala Lumpur, it should take you about 1 hour, and a mere 40 minutes from Penang.

Ferry

Yup, that’s the other way you get to an island.  You get on a boat.  The ferry takes about 3 hours and leaves twice daily to and from Penang.  It cost about RM70.  However, be prepared.  From what we’ve heard, it’s quite a choppy ride.


We loved our time in Langkawi.  It’s not a very touristic island, and there’s enough to do that you can get away from the crowds if you want to.  With tons of activities, delicious and cheap food, friendly locals and pristine waters to just chill and enjoy island life, Langkawi is a perfect little paradise in Malaysia!

 


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