A friend of mine recently asked me what I would recommend for a trip To Langkawi in Malaysia. Me, being the overenthusiastic weirdo that I am, I wrote him an email that ended up being more like a novel. I thought I would share it here for others to see.
Langkawi was my third trip to Malaysia. I went when I was about 16 with my mum. Then my brother and I took our mum to Singapore and Tioman Island for Christmas 2016. For the most recent trip, we ended up having to shuffle our whole plan around because when we arrived in Singapore, we found out that all of the islands off the east coast were unreachable because of the windy weather, and rough seas. We quickly rescheduled, and flew from Johor Baru to KL, then took a small plane to Langkawi Island.
First, let me just say that the planes to Langkawi are scary as fuck. I definitely thought we were doomed and the take off was the most terrified I have ever been on a plane. But we lived!
Cenang Beach side of the island is really the best place to stay. It is the heart of the island. It is close to the airport. It is the touristy part with all the travel agents and food. Beachside beanbag bars, jet skis, all the regular, awesome SE Asia stuff.
Taxis are dirt cheap and there are plenty of them cruising about so you don’t have to stay right on the main strip of Cenang Beach. The main beach strip is really loud and a bit obnoxious but a place you will want to visit for food, drinks, and activities. We took cabs all over the island, from one side to the other. Even went to the movies in the main town one night to see Deadpool.
The people in Langkawi (and Malaysia in general) were so lovely. We even had a dude see us waiting for a cab and pick us up, he refused money, just wanted to give us a lift.
Where to Stay
We loved D’Coconut Villa. I wrote a review on Tripadvisor here. It is a 5 minute cab from the main beach area. Super quiet. Away from the backpacker douchiness. Lovely sunset view over the water every night from the restaurant where they sold super cheap bottles of Chilean wine. Here is the Tripadvisor page for the restaurant with photos of the epic dinner view.
Stay far away from Perdana Beach Resort. Cockroach filled hellhole. Here is my terrible Tripadvisor review.
Senyum Inn was also awful. They burned their trash outside our window all day, all night. Despite complaints. Some rooms didn’t even have windows.
The water at Cenang is not really that crystal clear blue that us spoiled travelers have become accustomed to. It was swimmable, but not the nicest beach. The best thing to do is to get out on different trips each day.
We made friends with a local tour agent. There are dozens of them up and down the main street. We stuck with our guy and he hooked us up on some good day trips. We often just got him to call a dude with a boat to take us out to sea. This is my favourite thing to do. I generally hate tours with too many people, but we did a few.
Things We Loved
Fishing. We booked a private boat for about US$150 for the whole day, it includes all the fishing gear, and the boat driver will stop as some small islands along the way for swimming and snorkeling.
The mangroves tour. I was totally not excited about this and when the van dropped us at the location, I was even more disappointed because there were hundreds of boats and thousands of people. However, once you were on your small boat of about 10 people, the tour was fantastic. It went out to sea to feed some tropical fish, there were dozens of eagles hunting on the river. There were monkeys swimming up to the boat for peanuts. Caves, bats, walks, birds. The lunch on the floating fish farm was surprisingly cool because stingrays are my fucking favourite and they let me feed them by hand. The best part, they dropped us off after the hot day at the nicest beach. The beach is called Tanjung Rhu and it was so nice, we made a separate trip to go back there another day by ourselves for swimming, and kayaking.
Scuba. We did our first scuba with East Marine Holidays. You can see my review and photos here. It was spectacular. No training, no certificate. They baby you through it all the way.
Snorkeling at Paya Beach. This place the same area we went for the scuba trip. There are a few companies that will take you out there. Some take you to the beach. I do not recommend these ones. Some take you to this massive floating barge. The barge is cool. You can get on and off when you want, and go the beach when you want. They provide a good buffet lunch. The only bad thing was that it was packed full of Chinese tourists and the ferry out there is an hour long. But it was still a great day. Oh, and there are adorable black tip reef sharks that you swim with!
We did a nice sunset yacht dinner trip. PHENOMENAL food and you can sit in the net and be dragged behind the back of the boat while you sip beers. We saw dolphins. It was pretty special. A few too many other people on the boat it was worth it just to have a nice relaxing day and a tour of the islands.
Rent jet skis. I was nervous, but they are just so cool. Motorcycles of the sea.
We went to the hella touristy sky bridge thing. It is the highest point on the island. It was okay. We got the vip tickets to skip the line, this also included a hike with a dude from one mountaintop point to the next which was awesome but so damn hot and we were not prepared. But it was a great day. We just did this by taxi, not a tour.
The heat got too much one day, so we went to the aquarium for some AC. It was actually really good. We saw marmosets and held big snakes. Do the crazy 4D adventure in there. Silly fun.
The water is often not good. The area is a bit unpredictable. A few good storms and there is no good snorkeling or diving. It gets very sandy and mixed up. We were super lucky. But you will see a lot of pissed off reviews from people online who go all the way out to Paya Island and then its too rough to snorkel and stuff. This is a risk you have to take.
We absolutely loved Langkawai. One of our favourite trips in Asia so far. For us, it was the best combination of tourist stuff, beach stuff, peaceful stuff, nature stuff, and animals.