Langkawi, the Island of Legends, is situated in the Andaman Sea 30km off the coast of northwest Malaysia. Think vast white sand beaches, turquoise waters and lush rainforests – all packed into a small but perfectly formed island paradise.
We recently spent a week in Langkawi and it was a perfect destination for a family getaway. Want to know why? Read on!
1. Unspoilt white sand beaches
We opted to skip the main tourist centre of Pantai Cenang entirely and stay on the northern coast not far from Tanjung Rhu beach – the most spectacular beach on the whole island.
It was absolutely pristine and cleaned daily. We spent endless hours building sandcastles and playing in the shallows. Early in the mornings, the beach was totally deserted and it felt like we were the only people around for miles.
Tanjung Rhu beach is either accessed via a resort or by a public road. The beach itself is about a kilometre long and benefits from beautiful white sand bordered by lush green forest. Get there early to beat the crowds.
2. Incredible wildlife
The dense mangroves of Langkawi’s Kilim Geopark are teeming with life. Residents include brown eagles, tree crabs, giant water monitor lizards and macaques. A visit to the mangroves is sure to delight visitors of all ages and was certainly the highlight of our time in Langkawi.
The most spectacular of the wildlife is the brown eagle, native to the islands. In fact, the name Langkawi is derived from the Malay word helang, meaning “eagle” and kawi, for the spectacular red-brown colour of these birds.
The best way to explore the mangroves is via a boat, picked up from Tanjung Rhu beach. There are different boat trips to choose from, varying in length and combining different sights. We opted for a two hour tour, which included an exhilarating trip on the open water to access the mangroves, fish feeding, viewing macaque monkeys and the brown eagles. For older children, kayaking is also an option.
3. Bustling night markets
Kids will absolutely love the night markets, held every night in a different town on the island. The night markets start at about 5:30pm and run until late, serving a fantastic array of freshly prepared foods.
The food is incredibly cheap, with most dishes priced between RM4 and RM10. There aren’t really seating areas to eat, so we had some snacks on the go and picked up a wide array of dishes to take back to our accommodation.
Monday – Ulu Melaka Market
Tuesday – Kedawang Market
Wednesday and Saturday – Kuah Night Market
Thursday – Temoyong Night Market
Friday – Air Hangat Night Market
Sunday – Padang Matsirat Night Market
4. Perfect swimming for young children
There isn’t much surf to speak of at the majority of the beaches and the warm waters make for perfect paddling. My two young children loved splashing about in the shallows, collecting seashells and driftwood.
To the north of the island, you can choose from Black Sand beach, Tanjung Rhu beach and Shark Bay beach to name a few. Kok beach, near the cable car, is a really nice spot for a family swim and very quiet.
The south of the island is quite a lot busier but still has some fabulous spots. If you want to try out some watersports and like bustling beaches, then Cenang and Pantai Tengah beaches are for you.
5. Stunning waterfalls
The island is dotted with fabulous waterfalls, due to extensive mountainous regions and frequent rainfall – particularly during the rainy season towards the end of the year.
We visited the stunning Durian Perangin falls – a 14 tier waterfall that flows down Mount Raja. Other waterfalls of note include Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) waterfalls and the Temurun waterfalls with a breathtaking 30m drop into a pool – perfect for swimming in.
6. Easy to get about
The island is compact and has a decent network of roads. There isn’t a public transport network to speak of, but hiring a car is cheap and a great way to get about to the main sights. Car hire firms can also provide car seats if required. The roads are relatively quiet and we found that the drivers were considerate and travelled at sensible speeds.
Alternatively, you can usually get taxis through your accommodation or order a Grab or an Uber via your smartphone.
Distances between the main sights aren’t more than 30-40 minutes, meaning the kids won’t get too fed up with being stuck in the car. We hired a car for two days and travelled around the entire island visiting other beaches, Pantai Cenang, waterfalls and Kuah for the night market.
7. Great walking tracks
The island has some lovely walking tracks to suit all ages. The most popular spot to hike to is Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) waterfalls, a beautiful location and, according to local legend, home to mountain fairies. It’s a bit of a hike up a staircase, but we managed without too much trouble with a toddler walking and a baby in a carrier.
Be rewarded at the top by bathing in the cool, clear waters that run between interconnected natural pools.
8. Culinary delights
Langkawi offers a wide variety delicious cuisines bound to tempt even the fussiest of eaters, with a fantastic array of Malay, Indian, Thai and Chinese foods on offer. The night markets offer the best fresh street food and are extremely popular with local people and tourists alike (see below). Be sure to try some of nasi lemak and nasi ayam – Malay staples and totally delicious.
The seafood is as fresh as can be and we particularly enjoyed the snow fish at Scarborough Fish and Chips. Don’t be fooled by the name – this fantastic eatery is about as far from Scarborough as you could possibly get! Nearby at Tanjung Rhu beach, check out Restoran Seafood Anis – it’s not much to look at but the seafood here is absolutely incredible.
9. Accommodation to suit all budgets
Fancy staying in a six star resort in the lap of luxury? Or is your budget more likely to suit guesthouses? From the famous six star Four Seasons resort located on the northwest of the island, to humble homestays in local villages, Langkawi has it covered.
We opted to stay at a mid-range beachfront accommodation called Labu Labi residences and absolutely loved our time here. We chose this accommodation because of the spacious family rooms, the fact that the bungalows were practically on the beach and because the water was perfect for young children.
The family who own it were brilliant and helped out with booking taxis, airport transfers and kindly let us to use their private cooking facilities to prepare food for the children. Plus they had cots and highchairs available to use free of charge. We spent evenings sitting outside our room watching the most incredible sunsets, and the days drifting in and out of the sea, right on our doorstep.
We also stayed one night in De Balqis Chalets nearby – traditional chalets right on the beachfront. The rooms were simple, clean and the location was unbeatable.
10. Not too crowded
Wherever we visited, there were very few crowds – we often had huge areas of the beach just to ourselves and the busier tourist spots of the waterfalls had just a few other friendly visitors, usually wanting to know where we were from and how cold it was back at home!
The only exception were the night markets that were teeming with hungry locals and visitors – a reassuring sign that the food was a safe choice, and delicious!
Have you found your own island paradise that makes for the perfect family destination? I’d love to hear from you!