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The island of Langkawi is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. With beautiful beaches and incredible resorts, it was one of the first places that put Malaysia on the map as a viable tourist destination in the 1980’s. Sine then, tourism has continued to flourish and now caters to everyone, from backpackers taking their right of passage around south east Asia, to celebrities looking for their private slice of paradise.
Langkawi has a variety of different sides from all pampering resorts, to budget hotels in the main city Kuah, to small bungalows close to the tourist beaches.
From each of these there is plenty to see and do on your doorstep.
However, if you want to see everything Langkawi has to offer, I highly recommend hiring a scooter or car for a day or two so that you can get out and explore Langkawi island to the greatest extent.
I’ve broken down this guide into what to see in Kuah, the main city and the possible first port of call if you arrive to Langkawi by ferry, around the Pantai Cenang area where you are likely to stay if you fly into Langkawi airport and stay close to a picturesque beach, and what to do on the rest of the island if you do get the chance to get out and explore.
But if you’ve booked your trip and are wandering the best things to do in Langkawi, wait no more as I’ve got the answers!
Top Things to See and Do in Kuah
Kuah is the main town on the island of Langkawi, and if you arrive by boat from the mainland, it will be your first port of call. Whilst there isn’t a great deal to see or do, and I wouldn’t recommend staying there, it would be nice to spend part of a day there on a tour around the rest of the island.
Duty Free Shopping
As Langkawi is a duty free island, there are numerous outlets offering the usual duty free fare such as alcohol, cigarettes and perfumes. Due to Malaysia’s high alcohol taxes, getting your booze here is a no brainer. A small can of Tiger beer can be as low as 3RM (£0.60) whereas it normally retails for between 6-10RM (£1.10-£1.80) in the rest of Malaysia. Similar savings can also be had on spirits. Be warned though, if you buy too much and want to take it home, you may have to pay duty when you leave Langkawi.
Once you’ve left the major ferry port, Dataran Lang (Eagle Square) will be your next stop. This square with a gigantic eagle statue welcomes all guests to the island. At 12m tall, the eagle looks out to sea as a protector for the island. It also give the name to Langkawi (Lang – eagle, kwai – red/brown colour).
Langkawi is a place of myths and legends, with almost every natural feature on the island having a story behind it. Legenda park is located just next to Dataran Lang and contains diaramas and large statues depicting these myths. Whilst it is a lovely park located on the coast with some cheeky macaque climbing around, there is very little information on the actual sculptures in the park, so a guide may be warranted.
The Maha Tower is one of Langkawi’s most recent attractions. Building started in 2014 and opened to the public in 2021, it now stands alone on its own little peninsula overlooking the rest of Kuah.
For an international adult (eg not a Malaysian citizen), it costs 78RM to go to the top of the tower at 139m high. To go at sunset costs 90RM. Considering this is a similar price to the Petronas Towers and KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur, it does seem pricey.
Top Things to See in Cenang
If you are coming to Langkawi as a tourist, it is highly likely that you will be staying in Cenang. Just a short drive from the airport, Cenang is home to most of the hotels, a lively main street with numerous eating options and a place where you can rent scooters or book tours around the island. Of course, if you wanted to spend your time in a more horizontal position, it is perfectly fine to just relax by the golden beach.
Let’s be honest, this is the real reason to come to Langkawi. It may not be the most adventurous thing to do in Langkawi, but sitting on a golden beach on a lush green tropical island is hard to beat. For the softest sand, head to the northern end, close to the Pelangi Resort, where there are also fewer locals but even then, only a small number of western tourists. The southern end, including down to Pantai Tengah, is the best place to catch sunset. Along the beach are some beach bars as well as rentals for water sport activities.
Tackling the water sports on the beach
To get the adrenaline pumping again after catching too much sun, head to one of the many stalls on the beach that rent out jet skis. With parasailing and banana boating also available, there will be something to get your pulse racing. If you would rather spend your time under the water instead of above it, SCUBA diving is on offer from 170RM for one dive.
See how rice is traditionally grown at Laman Padi. The open air museum still has a working rice farm and depending on the season, it is possible to pick your own rice. The small museum and restaurant makes a fantastic place to visit after more adventurous activities and is also child friendly.
Another family friendly activity, Underwater World is a great place to go to learn all about the different types of aquatic life. From the coral reefs of the tropics, to a penguin enclosure, spend a few hours at Underwater World to experience one of the best aquariums in south east Asia.
Get a massage
Being a hub of tourists, Cenang is also a hub of a variety of spa options. Along Jalan Pantai Cenang, there are ample places to get a variety of massages, from a simple foot rub to full body Thai massage. Realistically, you get what you pay for to a point. Operators are very honest with their pricing and expectations, with full body massages for one hour ranging from 60-100RM.
Temonyong Night Market
Staying close to Pantai Cenang on a Thursday night? Head to Temonyong night market, a small but bustling night market with a wide variety of food to suit all tastes. Many of the stalls only have the signs for their food in Malay, knowing it’s a place for locals and not designed for tourists. Bargain prices for excellent food is always a winner!
It is also home to some of the best satay I have ever tried (and I have tried a few!). Go with friends and family and take a bit of everything and share.
Things to See and Do in the rest of Langkawi
The beaches in Langkawi are a massive drawcard for those that head there. Although Cenang is the main tourist area, there are some great beaches further afield. Tanjung Rhu on the north of the island has pristine white sand looking at green cask limestone figures out to sea. Heading out to any other the smaller islands around will also allow you to explore beautiful secluded beaches.
Kota Mahsuri was once the site of a tomb of a young woman killed after being accused of infidelity. Legend has it, as she was killed, her blood flowed white, proving her innocence so she cursed the island of Langkawi for seven generations. A tale that adds to the mystery of of the myths and legends of Langkawi.
Nowadays it contains a small museum, a theatre for traditional performances and information on the history of Langkawi.
A bit far from Kuah or Pantai Cenang, it will take a tour or personal transport to visit.
Kilim Forest Geopark
The Kilim Forest Geopark, is a unique wonder in Langkawi, with mangrove forests, limestone karsts, caves filled with bats, and countless other species of wildlife.
Bats, eagles, monkeys and stingray can be seen on boat trips around the park.
Kayak tours are also available. Contact Farly Khalid, of Xtreme Langkawi for kayak day tours that take in all of the above!
Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge
The Langkawi Sky bridge was built in 2005 as a view point over the entire island, and on a clear day, with views as far away as Thailand.
Park up and make your way through the Oriental Village to the cablecar that will whisk you high up into the trees, 66m above sea level. The Langkawi cable car takes about 30 minutes to the top, with an additional stop on the way up (not particularly necessary in my opinion, but a nice photo opportunity).
The 125m long Sky Bridge is an extra 6RM with another small cable car, or a steep walk down to it. The bridge with glass in the floor, allowing views to the rainforest canopy below, has a sleek curved design that blends in with nature.
Tickets for foreigners start at 85RM with fast track entry another 50RM. Even if you don’t get fast track entry, single foreign travellers will often be ushered to the front of the queue to make up numbers of the 6 person containing cable cars.
Seven waterfalls (Telaga Tujuh)
Wat Koh Wanararm
Wat koh Wanararm is just 5 minutes outside of Kuah and is one of the finest examples of a Thai buddhist temple in Langkawi. With Thailand just a few kilometers away, the Wat and stumpa’s are a chance to see the beauty of Thailand whilst staying in Malaysia.
The 16 Best Things to Do In Langkawi
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.