Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frenetic cities. From trekking into the rainforest to wildlife-watching – all between spells of relaxing on a wide, sandy beach – here are a few reasons why you should escape to Langkawi.
1. Because cocktails flow freely down by the sea
While beach resorts abound, there are still a few brilliant beach shack bars left on Langkawi’s shores, many of which are on the sands of Pantai Cenang.
Little Lylia’s Chillout Café is a throwback to island nightlife before the arrival of multinational investors. What’s lacking in ostentation is more than made up for by the warmth of hospitality. Flaming lamps on the beach and table-top candles add a touch of rustic romance. The sound of lounge music merges with the lapping of the waves and you can unwind with a shisha pipe or a plate of chicken satay in addition to cocktails.
2. Because it’s teeming with weird and wonderful wildlife
Board a boat at Kilim Jetty to tour the waterways of Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. You’ll have a good chance of spotting pythons between the twisted roots of mangroves and bonnet macaques feeding.
Keep your mouth closed when you pause to view the awesome sight of bat colonies hanging in caves within limestone formed 550 million years ago – who knows what might drop from above!
The island also provides habitat for more than 200 bird species. In the island’s foliage you’re likely to spot oriental pied hornbills, easily identifiable thanks to their bulbous beaks. Females have blue eyes and the males’ are red.
You’ll need well-attuned ears to identify the call of greater racket-tailed drongos, which have a quiff-like crest and distinctive twin tail feathers. Impressively, the drongos are able to mimic as many as 26 calls by other birds and animals, including the whooping and shrieking of monkeys.
3. Because you can trek in an ancient rainforest
Pack your boots and hike, to the sounds of squealing cicadas and chirping birds, in dense rainforest on the slopes of Gunung Raya and Gunung Machincang, Langkawi’s highest mountains. Companies like Dev’s Adventure Tours and Junglewalla offer guided tours providing insights into nature and wildlife.
Alternatively, follow marked trails at your own pace. Locals rate the trail to the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls, whose seven pools are associated with legends featuring fairies.
4. Because the sea waters are warm and ripe for swimming
If you’re a water baby, then you’ll love Langkawi. Ocean temperatures fluctuate between 28–30°C (82–86°F), making swimming in the sea inviting and pleasant. Be warned though: jellyfish can be a problem. The creatures, known locally as obor obor, lay their eggs by the shore on evenings. Several resorts protect guests with anti-jellyfish nets. Wearing a rashie or T-shirt helps minimise your exposure to stings.
5. Because you can ride a cable car in tropical temperatures
Cable cars are usually associated with winter holidays but riding the Langkawi Skycab lifts you above the dense canopy of the virgin rainforest decking Gunung Machincang. The peak of the steep-sided mountain stands 708m above sea level, where viewing platforms prove popular spots for enjoying panoramas of the island. On clear days you can see the coastline of southern Thailand beyond the glimmering Andaman Sea.
If you have a head for heights, ascend to the Top Station in one of the glass-bottomed gondolas, peering over the ancient jungle’s treetops on the way. The 15-minute ride carries you 2.2 kilometres.
At the top you can cross the 125-metre long Sky Bridge. The world’s longest free span, curved bridge dangles above a chasm from a single metal pylon. Blend in by snapping selfies on the vantage point that doubles as one of Langkawi’s best-known landmarks.
6. Because there’s great accommodation for all
Whether you’re strapped for cash or want to splash out, there’s somewhere for you on the island of Langkawi.
Many of the beachfront resorts are aimed at the higher end of the market – many making a perfect romantic getaway for couples in love. If stepping down from a chalet onto a white-sand beach to spend a morning dozing in a gently swaying hammock sounds up your street, splurge on the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa at Pantai Cenang.
The Tipsy Gypsy Guesthouse is a brilliant budget option, where you can hang out with fellow travellers and sip cocktails at the on-site bar. There’s also a smattering of homestays in Langkawi and even Airbnb has made its way to this little isle.
7. Because there are miles of silver sand for the beach bums…
If you want to roll out your towel and while away time on Langkawi’s sandy beaches, head to popular Pantai Cenang, on the south-west coast, or for ultimate relaxation, head north to the quieter Tanjung Rhu.
Stuart flew to Langkawi with Malaysia Airlines via their hub in Kuala Lumpur. Explore more of Malaysia with the Rough Guide to Malaysia. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.