The archipelago of Langkawi off Malaysia’s west coast consists of 100 or so islands (no one can quite agree on how many), but really, it’s the main Island, Pulau Langkawi, that people mean when they say Langkawi. As well as being where all the hotels are, it offers a mix of wildlife, ancient rainforest and traditional Malay villages, and, of course – star of the show – the warm Andaman Sea. Amazing things to do in Langkawi abound—as do amazing hotels. It’s become the go-to weekend break for people in nearby Singapore or Kuala Lumpur wanting to spend a couple days trekking through the jungle, splashing about in the sea or kicking back in a hammock. And although cheap places to crash still exist in the form of backpacker hostels on Cenang Beach, now, much like the Seychelles or Mauritius, it’s pretty much synonymous with luxe resorts: think opulent spas, impressive restaurants and landscaped tropical gardens, all just a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The 10 best hotels in Langkawi
Datai Bay on the northwest of the island is regularly voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches: a perfect one-mile crescent of sand bordered by rainforest teeming with monkeys, lizards and birdlife. There are only two hotels here, the Datai and the Andaman, both book-ending a private beach. Of the 124 rooms here, some are villas with their own plunge pools, and there’s also a main pool, a spa, a pool and four restaurants. Really though, you’re here for this beach, with views that stretch all the way to Thailand.
If you’re looking for somewhere smaller and, yes, more authentic than many of the resorts on the island, try this collection of eight antique traditional villas on a former coconut plantation owned by an Australian with a keen eye for design. You’re not on the beach here, but there’s a pool, and surrounded by the lush, picturesque surroundings of the former plantation, you’re not likely to care. And you won’t go hungry either: Nam restaurant is one of the island’s best.
Fifteen minutes walk minutes from the busy Cenang Beach, Tubotel is a hostel with dormitories as well as tube-like capsules that come with king-size beds, fans, plug sockets and storage lockers. Some of the pods have sea views, but if yours doesn’t, there are plenty of chillout bean bags, hammocks and daybeds set around the friendly, laidback space, many of them overlooking the water. An impressive international breakfast is included, and at night a communal area becomes a fun focus spot, with movies screened using a projector. Cute.
Like the Datai, with which is shares a private beach, the Andaman does a fine line in jungle-tinged, beachside luxury. So while lizards and monkeys roam the grounds (keep those windows closed) there is also a magnificent spa, a pool and a host of ecologically minded activities – including guided reef walks around an 8,000 year-old coral reef within wading distance of the shore. Perfectly pitched, discreet five-star service comes as standard.
Another five-star resort, another five-star view. The St Regis sits on a private bay looking out over the Andaman Sea on the southern tip of the island. The cobalt sea comes carefully framed by tended gardens and a large infinity pool, and there’s also a gym and renowned spa, though given the butler service, you may never want to leave your room.
The Ritz-Carlton offers a well-judged mix of tropical ambience and luxury service, so while villas and suites are enveloped in dense jungle that provides solitude and tranquillity for guests, sweat it out by the infinity pool for long enough and a waiter will appear, unbidden, with cold towels and fresh juice. The spa – housed in an architectural re-imagining of local fishing traps – is one of the region’s best regarded (and most Instagrammed).
If you want to be near to the bustle of Pantai Cenang, the busiest beach on the island, but stay in refined surroundings, Meritus is a good option. With its own private stretch of sand that connects with Cenang, and a whopping 14 hectares of serene, manicured grounds, it will suit those happy to walk a little (although golf buggies are available). It’s also good for visitors with children: the kids’ pool is akin to a mini waterpark, and there’s mini-golf and a well equipped watersports centre on the beach.
The Danna is great if you’ve children in tow. Not just for its kids’ club, enormous infinity pool and games room, but because it’s near some of the island’s most popular attractions, from zip-wiring through the jungle to riding the Langkawi cable car. Not that you’ll necessarily want to leave the grounds: the extensive spa cleverly hooks guests in early with a 3-minute power shoulder massage as they check-in.
Another spot that’s perfect if you’re looking for total solitude is this five-star resort on its own secluded beach on the island’s north. A tad less sparkling than its high-end competitors, Tanjung Rhu is nevertheless everything you’d expect of a five-star hotel: spa, a handful of restaurants and pools and a beach so pretty that it’s regularly used for advertising shoots. Special occasion? Book one of the private dinners on the sand.
Frangipani sits on a 400-metre long white sand beach adjacent to the cafés, bars and restaurants of popular Pantai Cenang, meaning you can pop in for a drink and a spot of souvenir shopping, or hide away here and enjoy the three pools, two Jacuzzis, sauna, gym, spa and watersports on offer. There are 115 rooms divided into two-storey blocks and individual villas – the latter benefit from outdoor showers.