4 great things to do in Langkawi, Malaysia

THINK stunning turquoise seas, irridescent paddy fields, friendly locals and a wealth of things to see and do and you’ll soon realize why the 99-island archipelago of Langkawi is one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. Located 30 kilometres off the mainland off northwest Malaysia it’s easily accessible by sea or plane (just one hour from Kuala Lumpur) making it a fantastic place for a weekend getaway – or longer if you have the time.

While it’s becoming a popular beach and island holiday spot in Malaysia, it’s still a far cry from the over developed, rabid commercialisation of some Thai resorts not much further north. It’s possible to escape the crowds and get back to nature and, with a few of the insider tips here, you’ll have a fantastic time on Langkawi.

Tengah beach. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

One of Langkawi’s most endearing characteristics is its array of attractions. Whether you’re a budget traveler or more the kind that sticks to exclusive resorts there’s a little something for everyone here. There are boating trips to nearby islands to see eagles and freshwater lakes (try the island boat hopping tour), snorkelling and diving opportunities, mangrove and forest tours, plenty of lazy day opportunities on local beaches and a fantastic array of fresh fruit, seafood and wonderful Malay dishes to enjoy.

The key to enjoying Langkawi is to get out and explore so plan in a beach day or two with some excursions to places both on the main island and to islands off shore for the best experience of the archipelago. The southern islands are by far the most accessible, but also the busiest.

Getting around with the wind in your hair
To escape the crowds make sure you rent a car, scooter or bicycle on the island to explore. The scooter is probably the most economical choice and the best one if you can handle the traffic and road conditions – narrow at times and busy. Once you leave the main hubs of Pantai Cenang or Pantai Tengah other parts of the island remain largely untouched by tourism. And given the size of Langkawi you can easily jet about and take in the major features in just one day.

The Cable Car
Initially dubious about this popular attraction, I was completely seduced with it once I went. It’s 30 RM (US$9.50) well spent. Located in the west of the island it is popular for good reason, swinging you up, rather vertiginously, to the very heights of the island to Mount Machinchang with stunning views of the coastline and the 7 wells waterfall below. It is also a safe and fun family activity and kids will no doubt love the sky bridge at the top that is literally suspended above a gap between the mountain peaks. The queues can be incredible throughout the day so go either very early, they start operating about 9.30am, or later in the day, they stop at 7pm.

Langkawi Cable Car. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Seven Wells Waterfall
Another highlight on the island, and easily combined with a trip on the cable car ride, is this stunning waterfall that cascades down about 80 metres from a series of natural pools. It’s a bit of a steep climb from the car park to the falls but you can wash off the sweat and exertion by relaxing in the pools either at the base or the top of the waterfall. Entry is free but there is a small charge for parking here.

Seven Wells Waterfall. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Tanjung Rhu Beach
This stretch of golden sand up in the north of the island is quite possibly the most beautiful in Langkawi with three fantastic islets just off the beach that you can wade out to. The beach front seems to be the dominion of an upmarket resort who have exclusive rights to the beach so don’t linger or use the sands in front of the hotel.