Langkawi is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Western Malaysia. With so many options for cheap flights and boat trips to reach this wonderful (and duty-free!) island, it is entirely understandable why. If you're looking for inspiration on what to see and do in Langkawi, you've come to the right place!
While the main tourist area of Pantai Cenang is developing fairly fast and is entirely focused on tourism, the rest of the island remains laid back, rural and mostly inhabited by locals. The district of Langkawi actually consists of an archipelago of 99 islands and another 5 small islands which are only visible at low tide! The largest of these islands is Langkawi Island (Pulau Langkawi) and what most people refer to as simply Langkawi or also affectionately named “The Jewel of Kedah”. This island is less than 480 km2 and can easily be circumnavigated by vehicle in a day.
The ever increasing tourism means that there are a multitude of tourist activities and attractions in Langkawi and if you are looking to burn some money, you can easily keep yourself entertained for days.
As full-time budget travellers, this article serves to show you that you don’t need to break the bank to have a fantastic time relaxing and exploring Langkawi. We first visited Langkawi Island in 2014 and returned to spend a month here in August 2019.
GETTING AROUND LANGKAWI
It is really easy to get around Langkawi Island and nowhere on the island is very far from the airport. You can pre-arrange a quick and affordable private transfer to and from the airport with Viator. You can also buy a coupon at the taxi desk in the airport - a taxi to Pantai Cenang cost around MYR25.
Of course, Langkawi is perfectly convenient to self-drive and there are plenty of options for car rentals at the airport. With a wide variety of affordable vehicle rentals available the prices do not vary greatly.
Both times we have been in Langkawi, we have rented a scooter from T-Shoppe along Jalan Pantai Cenang. They offer a discounted rate for same-day rental (<12 hours) for only MYR 20, but just note that this does not include any form of insurance. (Before you rent a scooter you should have a look at this article first.) We rented the newer model “Spacey” scooter including insurance for MYR 30 per 24 hours and the scooter was great for getting us all around the island. The roads are easy to navigate using Google Maps and the traffic is not too bad. Just be aware of the many other scooters around you!
Grab Taxis are easily available and a good alternative way to get around if you do not want to rent a vehicle. Renting a bicycle would also be a great way to explore the Pantai Cenang area and more immediate surrounds, just keep in mind that it is usually pretty hot and humid with the occasional unpredictable downpour! Most hotels and organised tours will also include a pickup and drop-off service which is convenient. You can explore the entire Pantai Cenang beach strip on foot as the beach is wide and full of entertainment and the road sidewalk is well established and lined with shops to keep you occupied.
PANTAI CENANG BEACH
Pantai Cenang is by far the busiest and most touristy beach on Langkawi Island. That being said, it is a fantastic 2km long slightly curved stretch of uninterrupted white sand beach located on the western shoreline of Langkawi and just a 10-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport. The wide sandy beach is lined with palm, coconut and other large trees providing plenty of shady spots to hang out in the midday sun.
You can find all kinds of fun water sport activities ranging from gentle boat rides to racing jet skis or exciting parasailing. If you do consider parasailing, remember that this is a very risky activity and that it may be advisable to book with a reputable operator rather than making use of just anyone along the beach. You can find reviewed operators with Viator here.
You can even go for a jet ski tour of the nearby islands which is guaranteed to be great fun!
The water at Pantai Cenang is calm, shallow and warm, so it’s a great place to take a swim or splash about. If all the watersport activity is a little too much for you, you can walk north along the beach and easily find a more tranquil and relaxing spot as the activities are concentrated towards the southern end of the beach. One thing that makes this beach so appealing is, of course, the amazing view of the ocean and all the smaller islands close by. Although the water quality is fine for swimming, it is a little murky and unfortunately not crystal clear.
Most of the high-end hotels and resorts are concentrated in this area and it is a very convenient area to stay in. The beach is lined with a wide variety of accommodation including backpacker style rooms, chalets, bungalows and fancier hotels as well as beach bars, cafes and restaurants. This makes it easy to grab a snack, meal or drink along the beach. While water sports activities continue until sunset, it is after sunset that these places come to life with tables and candles being brought onto the beach for some romantic (and slightly cheesy) settings! Being a duty-free island, the alcohol is cheap and freely available at most beach-side cafes where you can enjoy some live music and fire performances until late into the night. Although there is an evening vibe, it’s not a crazy party scene.
One thing to note is that there are currently no public toilets or changing facilities at Pantai Cenang Beach. If you are really desperate, you can ask one of the hotels to use their facilities and they will most likely oblige. Although it is considered a family and child-friendly beach, be aware of both the racing jet skis in the shallow waters and also support vehicles racing along the beach as these could catch small children unaware.
If you are feeling adventurous, at low tide you can walk across to Pulau Rebak Kecil. Just be warned that the tide only remains low for a couple of hours so if you don’t get back in time you may just get stuck there! Be sure to take enough water and sunscreen as there’s nothing on the smaller island and you are exposed all the way.
Although the busiest and most touristy beach, we still like this area of Langkawi as it is easy to find budget accommodation within walking distance to the beach as well as within walking distance to convenience stores and many local eateries. If yo