After a busy and stressful – not to mention, extremely cold – winter, I was in need of a warm, sunny break. One that was decidedly focused on rest and relaxation. That, coupled with the fact that I’d yet to join my parents on their expedition (for those who don’t follow me on social media, they’ve been sailing around the world for almost 14 years), made Malaysia an easy choice.
With only a week available in our schedule, we booked our flights mid-February and before I knew it, our March 1 departure had already arrived. We spent the first couple days in Langkawi relaxing and enjoying some touristy activities around the island, and then we set off sailing. It was amazing just to stop and go swimming wherever we wanted. We were only planning for a day trip but were having such an amazing time we decided to drop anchor in a gorgeous cove and spent the night under the stars. The next day we went exploring and found a deserted island with an incredible white sand beach. We spent an afternoon lounging here and did a quick little hike up to a lookout point, before setting sail back to Langkawi Island.
Below are just some of my travel tips if you’re planning a vacation to Langkawi Island, Malaysia. This travel guide is especially good for any first-timers!
Cenang Beach is on the west coast of Langkawi Island and while it is a bit touristy, it was an obvious choice for us because of the proximity to the beach and to Rebak Island, where my parents stay. I really liked that there’s no major resorts here so it’s not really built up and the beach is super accessible to the public. We did look at other resorts on different parts of the island but they’re quite remote and we didn’t want to spend our limited time driving around.
I knew we would be spending very little time in our hotel so my main priority was finding Langkawi Island accommodation that was clean, affordable, and in a convenient location. Adya Hotel Cenang ticked all those boxes. It’s a new hotel right across the street from the beach. While basic, the beds were super comfortable, the rooms are spacious, and everything was very clean. For such simple accommodation, there were actually some nice little touches in the room, like USB and power adapters built right into the wall. One downside is that the WIFI was terrible; each guest got a convoluted username and password that you’d have to re-enter every time you lost the connection (and it expired every two days!) and we could only get a good connection while in the lobby. This wasn’t a big deal because we were on vacation but definitely an annoyance. Breakfast was served from an amazing rooftop terrace and offered an unusual mix of Asian noodles and Western dishes (French toast, beans, and chicken hotdogs). There’s a Starbucks next door if that’s more your jam. Our rate was approximately CAD $75 per night, and included breakfast. They do not have a hotel website so you’ll have to book on a third party site.
And heads up – there’s a second hotel in the same group called Adya Hotel Langkawi. Don’t make the same mistake I did of accidentally booking this one. We had to forfeit payment for our first night to cancel our stay here and rebook at the proper one on Cenang Beach.
One of my favourite airlines to travel with is Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific (they’ve got a great YVR-JFK direct if any of your Vancouverites are looking), and they have an abundance of connections to Asia. Another great option is EVA Air. We flew Cathay to Kuala Lumpur then took an Air Asia flight from KL to Langkawi. If you’re spending any amount of time in Asia, my suggestion would be to book your international travel to a major hub then take Air Asia around that region. Our flight from KL to Langkawi was about CAD $40, which is consistent with their fares to get to most parts of Asia.
TAXI/RIDE HAILING WITH GRAB
Before leaving home, download the Grab app. Grab is a ride hailing company (Asia’s version of Uber) that offers an incredibly fast and affordable way to get around. You have the option of setting up payment through the app or paying cash to the driver. In the larger centres, you also have the option of ride share (think Car2Go) and food delivery. It was seriously an awesome discovery for us that changed our entire trip! To give some perspective on price, a distance that would typically take us about 30 minutes to walk cost about 6 MYR (about CAD $3). Well worth it. Download the app here.
THINGS TO DO IN LANGKAWI
When you arrive at the Langkawi cable car location – called Panorama Langkawi – it feels a little bit like Disneyland. There is loads of animation, retail shops, candy stores, etc. that can quickly overwhelm you. It can get busy here so I’d suggest getting your tickets and heading straight up; you can always wander around afterwards if that’s of interest to you.
There are bathrooms on site however you have to pay MYR 5 to use them.
The cost of a Grab taxi from Cenang to Panorama Langkawi was approximately MYR 18 (about CAD $6).
‘SKYCAB’ AKA LANGKAWI CABLE CAR
As you near the ticket window for the Langkawi SkyCab cable car, you’ll be approached by sales people trying to upsell you on your experience. They’re totally legit and if it’s busy, this will allow you to skip any lines at the window however be sure to ask lots of questions because we found the information to be quite confusing and ended up going to the ticket window for clarification anyways. Tickets for the SkyCab cable car start from MYR 30 however we opted for the glass bottom gondola which was MYR 105 per person (CAD $35) and also provided Express Lane privilege allowing you to skip the queue.
The SkyCab stops at a mid-station where you can get off and take in the sights from a viewing platform. It was amazing to see all the way to Rebak Island, and where they’ve recently built the tsunami wall.
Jump back in the gondola and go to the upper deck of the Langkawi Sky Cab. Here you can walk up to a couple different platforms with 360 degree views which allow you to see all the way to Thailand from the northern side. There’s also information around the perimeter that provides history and context, like that the mountain you’re on is 550 million years old! So cool!
The Langkawi SkyCab, recognized as the Longest Free Span Mono-Cable in Malaysia, stretches 4,400 meters (14, 435 feet) from the base to the top.
The Langkawi SkyBridge, the world’s longest free span and curved bridge, is 125 meters (410 feet) long and hangs at about 100 meters (328 feet) above ground. The design is remarkable and until you’re up close, you don’t really appreciate how it is suspended in the air from a single tower. The incredible curve on it makes you feel like you’re floating above the world. There are a couple plexi-glass floor areas of the bridge that I think were designed for photos or to look below but they’re dirty and only look out to metal suspension so don’t add much to the experience.
You have to pay an extra fee of MYR 5 to access the SkyBridge. There’s quite a steep hike down and up again to get to it but it’s only about 15 minutes and definitely worth it. You have the option of taking the SkyGlide (which is basically an elevator) but it costs an extra MYR 10 so unless you’re travelling with little kids or someone with mobility issues, I don’t think it’s worth it.
TELAGA TUJUH WATERFALLS AKA 7 WELLS WATERFALLS
I heard that this was quite a hike up but it’s only about 600 steps which, by Canadian standards anyways, I didn’t think was too bad. I believe it only took us 20 minutes or so to hike up to Seven Wells Waterfalls. Many locals discouraged us from going, telling us that there was no water and it was closed. This certainly wasn’t the case! It hadn’t rained in two months so while the falls weren’t overflowing as much as they usually are (and I’d love to see them when are are), the pools were still full and you could easily swim in them and slide on the slippery rocks to splash into pools further down.
Please be mindful of a massive drop off the front pools which is roped off to keep visitors away. I saw some boys ducking the rope to go further down the falls. It’s just not worth it to do this, friends, just not worth it.
There’s no fee for the hike or the falls, and you can stay all day. There are bathrooms and change rooms on site.
I was fortunate enough to explore the area on my parent’s sailboat however if you’re keen for a similar adventure, I’d recommend Dream Yacht Charter which rents out skippered or non-skippered boats. Another option would be to take a jet-ski, but definitely consider doing it as part of a tour, like with Mega Water Sports, just in case you have mechanical issues or get lost.
RNR ON A PRIVATE ISLAND
If enjoying the good life in luxury on a private island sounds up your alley then head to Rebak Island, a short 10-minute speedboat ride away from Cenang Port. The only thing on Rebak is Vivanta Rebak Island, a Taj resort hotel, which encompasses the marina where my parents kept their boat. Because of this, we had access to the hotel’s restaurants, pool, and beach. If you want to splurge, book yourself a night here (although we’ve been told the rooms are quite dated) or make a reservation at one of the restaurants and go early to enjoy the hotel facilities.
CENANG BEACH SHOPPING
Like any resort, you’ll find the usual tourist trinkets and gift shops. However, at the southern end of Cenang Beach there’s a nightly market that offers loads of fresh fruit and some vegetables food-truck style from locals. On Thursday evenings, you’ll find the Langkawi Night Market on the opposite end. And one of our favourite surprises – the number of Duty Free Shops in Langkawi! They’re peppered along the main street and offer the usual goods of chocolate, booze, perfume, and such. Don’t forget your passport, though!
EATING AND DRINKING IN LANGKAWI
If you’re looking for an ideal place for sundowners, this is it. Located right on Cenang Beach, Thirstday Bar has an array of beers and cocktails, and delicious non-alcoholic drinks too. It’s an ideal place to stop for a beverage and bite if you’re out for a walk along Cenang Beach or looking for a pre-dinner drink.
ORKID RIA SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
The service was very good and the seafood was incredibly fresh, cheap, and bountiful. However, I noticed afterwards that they have Shark Fin Soup on the menu. I was appalled. Places actually still serve this? For this reason alone I won’t go back but I’m recommending it ONLY in the off-chance they’ve removed it from the menu when you visit.
CASA DEL MAR’S “LA SAL RESTAURANT”
Located at the stunning Casa Del Mar resort, we had high expectations when we took my parents to La Sal Restaurant on our last night with them, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The setting is right on the beach so it was an exceptional evening to be able to watch the sunset while we enjoyed our dinner and a bottle of wine. We decided to share all of our dishes amongst the four of us so we could try more things, like the yummy seafood platter. The service is the best we had on our entire trip and while the portions are quite small (consider yourself warned), the food was excellent. This fine dining restaurant was definitely a highlight for me.
THINGS TO KNOW IN MALAYSIA
The currency in Malaysia is Ringgit (pronounced ‘Ring-It’) and was approximately 3:1 to the Canadian dollar. You can check the current exchange rate here. Goods and services are incredibly affordable in Malaysia so I found it easy to stick to a basic budget.
RELIGION, CULTURE, AND DRESS CODE
The official religion in Malaysia is Islam so I’d encourage a conservative approach to your behavior and attire. If you’re a bacon lover, you’ll have to press pause on the pork because most restaurants are halal. Also, some establishments (like our hotel) don’t allow alcohol so do your research in advance to avoid any surprises. As for attire, it’s best to keep your shoulders and knees covered in government buildings and public places, especially in the urban centers. Langkawi Island, especially Ceneng Beach, is more casual and swimwear is acceptable on the beach however I always like to keep a scarf in my bag in case I go inside a shop or restaurant (not to mention the A/C is always blasting!).
We loved Malaysia so much we’re already planning another trip back next year. Who wants to come?!
Is there anything I’ve missed on my Langkawi Malaysia travel guide that you’d like to know? Comment below and I’ll answer your questions. All of my recommendations are also saved in my What Lynn Loves TripAdvisor travel itinerary for quick and easy research and reservations.