Dan & I went on our real honeymoon to Southeast Asia earlier this year, and we spent a large portion of it on Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Like some of other trips, not many of our American friends knew about Langkawi Island, and we got a lot of questions about it! This post is to answer all of your questions about Langkawi Island, and to help you plan a trip there (which you totally should do)!
Langkawi is a group of around 100 Malaysian islands located off of the northern part of Malaysia (north of Penang) in the Andaman Sea. Langkawi is very close to southern Thailand, and its geography is very similar to that you see in pictures of Thailand, particularly the green water and the lush, green mountains. Seriously, Langkawi is really beautiful.
Of Langkawi’s roughly 100 islands, only 2 are inhabited, one of those being Langkawi Island – where we honeymooned! If you are planning a trip to Langkawi, definitely concentrate on Langkawi Island; you can visit many of the other, non-inhabited islands on a day trip from Langkawi Island.
Most tourists come to Langkawi Island for its white sand beaches and clear, green water, and there are definitely a lot of those beautiful beaches. However, the interior of Langkawi Island, which is lush, green jungle, is also worth a visit. With its beaches and jungle, Langkawi can easily fill a week of time, and, coupled with its location (its not exactly easy to get to from North America), I wouldn’t recommend spending less than 4 days on Langkawi Island (between 4 and 7 days would be perfect).
WHERE WE STAYED
As I mentioned, we stayed on Langkawi Island, and there is no shortage of accommodation on Langkawi Island. From grand resorts, to cheap hotels, to Airbnbs, Langkawi Island has it all. Since it was our official honeymoon, we went all out and stayed in an overwater bungalow at the Berjaya Langkawi resort. Our hotel choice was solely based on these bungalows, which were worth every penny!
Aside from those magical overwater bungalows, the Berjaya Langkawi is a full scale resort with pools, a beach, numerous restaurants, and tons of activities. It was similar to a Mexico all-inclusive but without the “all inclusive” food and drink. While I am not usually a fan of these types of resorts, it was just what we were looking for on a honeymoon – relaxation, sun, and the beach!
In planning a stay on Langkawi Island, I recommend choosing your lodging carefully. Langkawi Island is really spread out and it takes a while to get around, even with a car. As such, resorts with all of the amenities are quite nice and convenient. If you are not staying at a resort, I recommend staying in a busy area, such a Kuah or Cenang Beach, where there are activities, restaurants, and nightlife within walking distance.
In addition to the Berjaya Langkawi, the Ritz Carlton (no overwater bungalows) is just down the road from Berjaya Langkawi. The Donna, Langkawi’s newest and rumoured best hotel, is also quite close to the Berjaya Langkawi.
WHAT TO DO ON LANGKAWI
The beaches are the weather are the reason travelers come to Langkawi Island. We ran into a lot of Malaysian and Chinese (Langkawi Island was really popular with the Chinese when we were there!) families on week-long vacations to enjoy the sun. Most large resorts have their own, private beach. The Berjaya did, and it was very nice.
If you are not staying at a large resort, Cenang beach (Pantai Cenang) on the west coast of Langkawi Island is the most popular public beach on the island. While Cenang beach is crowded, the sand is powdery and white and the water is beautiful. There are also lots of restaurants, shops, and bars within walking distance of Cenang beach, which makes Cenang a good base if you are not staying in a resort.
And speaking of the water, you cannot go to Langkawi Island without getting out on the Andaman Sea. As I mentioned, Langkawi is really an archipelago of many uninhabited islands and the best way to see them is from the water. We did a four hour jet ski tour around some of the islands, and it was one of my favorite activities during our entire stay.
You will definitely miss out if you do not see Langkawi from the water. In addition to jet skis, there are many boat tours around the islands. Almost all of these tours leave from Cenang or Kuah, Langkawi Island’s major city in the Southeast part of the island.
The Langkawi Skybridge is also an unmissable activity on Langkawi Island. The Langkawi Skybridge is a pedestrian bridge spanning some of the tallest mountains on Langkawi Island. To reach the sky bridge, you must take a cable car from the Oriental Village to the top of the mountain. And on that note, the Oriental Village is really nothing more than a kitschy shopping center near the Berjaya Langkawi. I would not make a special trip unless you are planning to do the Langkawi Skybridge. However, the skybridge and the cable car both have stunning views!!
Langkawi Island is a duty-free island, meaning that it is full of duty free shops. I did not love the shops, but it is apparently a good place to buy discount chocolate and alcohol (especially in Malaysia where alcohol is heavily taxed!). The Oriental Village has a few shops, Cenang has even more, and Kuah (where I did not visit) apparently has even more. If you are planning to buy duty free, you need your passport, although, I do not recommend prioritizing duty free shopping on gorgeous Langkawi Island.
Finally, Eagle Square, the main square in Kuah is rumoured to be quite popular, but we did not visit it. If those wondering, the eagle is the symbol of Langkawi, as Langkawi is home to many eagles. We saw some on our jet ski tour and it was really interesting!!
WHERE WE ATE
Eating on Langkawi Island can be a bit of an adventure. The island isn’t really home to any particular type of cuisine, and most restaurants cater to tourists who are not going to be repeat customers, so quality suffers a bit, especially compared to other parts of Southeast Asia. That being said, we did some research and found a few good places!
One of my favorite meals was at Unkaizan, an authentic Japanese restaurant near Cenang. Surprising, the food was very Japanese (its run by a family from Japan) and delicious, and I would definitely recommend this restaurant.
Another good restaurant, Pahn-Thai, was actually at our resort, the Berjaya Langkawi. Pahn Thai is a Thai restaurant literally built over the water. Its location is amazing and Pahn-Thai books up in advance, as it takes reservations from guests not staying at the Berjaya Langkawi. The food was very good, but the location makes Pahn Thai a standout. Definitely make a reservation in advance!
If you are just looking for casual fare, Cenang is home to a lot of restaurants, from nice places to street food to McDonalds. We randomly had a meal at the Red Tomato and it was very good. We also got street coconuts, which could have been a bit cooler! There are also a number of Western fast food outlets in Cenang, from McDonalds to Pizza Hut to KFC. If you are missing crappy American fare, Cenang is your place!
Finally, if you are in the Oriental Village, we hookah-ed and had some hummus at Laila Kebab House. The hummus was excellent and everyone else’s food looked great. I would definitely go back and have a meal at Laila Kebab House.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT LANGKAWI
Overall, we had a fabulous time on Langkawi Island, and I would definitely recommend it as a honeymoon destination. In terms of concerns, I do not have that many. Langkawi Island was safe, we had no trouble with money (the Malaysia Ringgit is used), ATMs were available and credit cards were widely accepted, and most everyone speaks English (English is one of the official languages of Malaysia).
We did read some horror stories about the jellyfish, but we did not see any and not many locals seemed concerned. Apparently there are major warning signs when the jelly fish are out, with many hotels even closing the beach.
Also, I really do not enjoy monkeys, and they are everywhere on Langkawi Island. However, I found Langkawi monkeys to be pretty tame compared to other monkeys that I have seen, but they will come right up to you and steal water bottles and food (see the below video on the Berjaya Langkawi beach). Take caution.
GETTING TO AND AROUND LANGKAWI
Langkawi International Airport is the only airport on Langkawi, and most likely how you will arrive in Langkawi. Langkawi International Airport is located on the northwestern part of the island and serves several destinations in Malaysia via budget carriers, Singapore, and a few long-haul flights to China. There not much to do in the airport aside from a few duty free shops and a fast food restaurant. No bars. No lounges.
Since there is not much to do at Langkawi International Airport and its tiny, I do not recommend arriving very early. We could not even clear immigration until 30 minutes before our flight. Note that once you clear immigration, there is only a tiny stand selling chips and soda prior to boarding.
If you aren’t flying into Langkawi International Airport, you will be arriving via ferry from elsewhere in Malaysia or southern Thailand. Ferries depart to and from the town of Kuah in the southeastern part of the island.
Once on Langkawi, if you plan to explore outside of your hotel, you need a car to get around, whether it be your own rental, a taxi service, or transportation provided by your hotel. Many hotels offer limited shuttle service, for example to the airport or tourist attractions close to your hotel. We used Grab, the Malaysian version of Uber (Uber no longer works in Malaysia). It works just like Uber. Download the app before you leave home.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Langkawi Island Ferries: English speaking website for purchasing ferry tickets to and from Langkawi. Confirm immigration requirements if you are leaving for or arriving from Thailand.
Berjaya Langkawi: Karung Berkunci 200, Burau Bay, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia. Our resort on Langkawi. We stayed in a Premier Chalet on Water. Reservations can be made on the linked website, and should be made far in advance for overwater bungalows (there are only so many!).
Mega Water Sports: Pantai Cenang, Jalan Pantai Cenang, 07000 Mukim Kedawang, Kedah, Malaysia. The company we used for our 4 hour jet ski tour. We each rented a jet ski at 750 Rinngit/person. The tour was totally worth every penny and included a safety lecture, an English speaking guide, and a water proof bag to store some small things (like your phone)! You can save money by doing 2 riders per jet ski. We booked one day in advance via Mega Sports’ website, but you can also sign up on Cenang Beach. There is usually a morning and an afternoon tour every day.
Oriental Village: Burau Bay, 07100 Langkawi, Kedah. Malaysia. Kitschy duty free shopping mall bear the Berjaya Langkawi. Not really worth your time aside from the Langawki Skybridge. The Oriental Village is generally open during the day, but stores begin to close in the early evening. Bring your passport for duty free shopping.
Langkawi Skybridge: Langkawi Skybridge and cable car in the Oriental Village. You can buy a number of different types of tickets for the skybridge and the cable car, including full glass cable cars (which we did, worth a bit extra). Tickets can be purchased in advance online, but that was not necessary when we visited. Allow an hour and a half for the full tour.
Unkaizan: Jalan Pantai Tengah, Pantai Tengah, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia. Closed Wednesday, open other days 18h – 23h. Excellent Japanese restaurant near Cenang. Call in advance for a reservation, as it frequently books up!
Pahn Thai: Thai restaurant in a gorgeous location at the Berjaya Langkawi (see the front desk for transportation to the restaurant once on the resort). Reservations can be made via the linked website and should absolutely be made in advance, whether you are staying at the Berjaya Langkawi or not.
Laila Kebab House: Taman Langkawi, 07000 Kuah, Kedah, Malaysia. Located in the Oriental Village near the food court. Casual. Reservations not required. Laila Kebab House also offers hookah.
The Red Tomato: No. 5 Casa Fina, Jalan Pantai Cenang, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia. Open daily 9h – 23h. Casual restaurant in Cenang specializing in pizza but with other offerings. Decent food. Reservation not required. There is a good souvenir shop right next door.
Scoot Air: Singaporean airline we flew from Langkawi to Singapore. Safe and well organized.
Malindo Air: Malaysian airline that we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. Also safe and organized, but our flight was a bit delayed.
ON A BUDGET
Langkawi Island is a great place for budget travelers. You can find really cheap accommodation and food in places like Cenang and Kuah. That being said, those on a budget will miss out on some of the upscale hotels, etc. listed in this blog post. If you are visiting on a budget, I recommend staying in Cenang, using the free beach there and taking advantage of some of the inexpensive happy hours.