Can I say that Malaysia is one of the most underrated countries in South East Asia? I believe so and I may add that Langkawi is one of the top destinations to have on the bucket list.
But keep in mind that this island is big! So the question is:
What are the best areas to stay in Langkawi (or even better where to stay in Langkawi)?
This is what I will try to answer with this guide, updated to 2020.
Table of Contents
There are 2 popular towns with a great beach, Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, and a few other areas which can also be a great solution.
Unfortunately, public transportation is non-existing. My suggestion here is to book a hotel or a resort which is close to your favourite attraction, this may be a beach, a golf course, a trekking area or just a relaxing place.
If you are looking for the latest news on Langkawi and possibly local events, then you should check out the Langkawi section of DNA and the Gazette. They are both in English with a notice board of the local festivities.
Best areas to stay in Langkawi
Located on the west coast of the extremely beautiful Malaysia, Langkawi is one of the core tourist’s places of visit.
Having the nature of an archipelago when it comes to its geological position, in Langkawi you can find excellent diving opportunities and beautiful sandy beaches stacked up with lots of entertainment possibilities just around every corner.
There are mainly 5 areas that I would suggest staying:
- Pantai Cenang: the most popular area of Langkawi, just 20 minutes from the airport, with great restaurants and nice cafe scattered along the main street. The best nightlife of the island with sunset drinks at the beach to die for. Beautiful beach with plenty of watersports options.
- Pantai Tengah: south of Pantai Cenang(less than 5 minutes by taxi to Cenang), this village is more relaxed with almost no nightlife and a few chilled out resorts, houses and spas. Great area of Langkawi to seat, relax at the beach and enjoy a quiet meal at night
- Pantai Kok: upper-class area of Langkawi with some fabulous resorts and a lovely beach. The Sky Bridge is a must do attraction if staying in the area
- Tangjung Rhu and the north coast: a secluded part of the island with crystal clear water and ultra-fine sand. Not much happening and this is perfect if you want just a quiet time
- Kuah: you will end up in Kuah because you either arrive by boat or because you are after some cheap duty-free shopping. Not a great place to stay but an interesting town to visit.
Pantai Cenang, nice restaurants, beach cocktails and nightlife
This has to be one of the busiest locations you will experience the moment you arrive in Langkawi.
It is located at a driving distance of just about 20 minutes from the Langkawi’s International Airport.
Pantai Cenang is a real “foodie’s heaven”, in a delightful manner. So many options, so many kinds of cuisine, you can’t get bored.
Additionally, the place also has some really wonderful accommodations for any budget and taste, whether you want to stay in a hotel with beach access, a spa resort, a hut palace or a little cozy affordable housing, it all comes down to your preference and liking.
Why staying in Pantai Cenang?
This beach town has a name in the books for the vivid culture it portrays and the ultra-distinctive lifestyle it offers to the residents and tourists.
It has a vast selection of appealing cafes as well as restaurants along with a scenic beach view.
The vividly extending shorelines of the place are well known for their excellent sun-bathing as well as thrilling aqua sports like parasailing and jet-skiing.
Pantai Cenang’s true limelight comes out at sunset. You can comfortably roam around the beach bars for a few drinks and some food, listening to the great live music until late at night.
Pantai Cenang is also a great location with kids thanks to the presence of alluring attractions like the Underwater World Langkawi, the Rice Garden Museum as well as the kiki club, which is located in the Meritus Pelangi Resort and Spa.
The only suggestion here is to book your accommodation far from the nightlife action and the Meritus Pelangi Resort is just perfect in this respect. My favourite in Cenang for a family stay, offering also the Kiki kids-club. There is also the possibility for a mini golf session and some archery.
Check prices at the Meritus Pelangi
Where to eat
For some food have a look at one of these options:
- Telaga Terrace: located just 10 minutes away from the beach, this cafe/restaurant is a great option for breakfast while taking a splash in the courtyard pool. The cafe is part of the resort.
- Smiling buffalo: Great spot for coffee and lunch, with a nice garden area. Mushroom soup and coconut ice cream are very popular
- Seashells Restaurant: great original Malay food served in big portions. Consider sharing if you are just the two of you
- Yellow Café: located near the shorelines, the place offers excellent dining amenities blessed with an amazing beach view while having your preferred snack or meal.
- Huggin Hippo: located exactly across the shorelines, the place is quite famous for the coffee and the new experimental food dishes that Huggin Hippo keeps adding to its list. You will love the vibe of this place, definitely a good reason to revisit Huggin Hippo.
Pantai Tengah, chilled out and close to the action
Pantai Tengah is basically the chilled out continuation of Pantai Cenang. In fact, you will not notice where is the border between the two areas.
If you are looking for a quiet place, still walking distance (15-20 minutes) from the hustle and bustle of Pantai Cenang, then this area is the perfect destination.
The beach is much quieter in Pantai Tengah, the perfect place to read a book or to have a short nap.
There is a small selection of restaurants and cafes with a good offering of SPAs.
I recommend the Ishan SPA. Maybe it’s not easily reachable, considering its location on a top of the hill, however, you will be rewarded with an amazing peace.
The SPA incorporates several western as well as eastern region massage traditions, with bamboo massages and herbal body scrub. The place also specializes for pregnancy massage, damaged skin by sunburns (it can be handy), after surgery reliefs.
Pantai Tengah is the perfect place for families with kids or couples that are looking for a romantic stay, still with the possibility to enjoy the local nightlife with an easy 5 minutes taxi ride
The Tropical Resort has been one of my favourite resorts on the island. Great position, a short walk to Pantai Cenang for restaurants and drinks, still so quiet at night. The lovely breakfast was a fantastic start of the day and the beach was right in front of the rooms. Not to mention the bargain price.
Check the deal at the Tropical Resort
If you are after a relaxing environmental stay, on the hillside with a beautiful view and immersed in the local fauna then have a check at the Ambong Rainforest Retreat, an elegant accommodation in a tropical jungle. Perfect place to stay for honeymooners and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Check availability at the Ambong Retreat
Food options in Pantai Tengah
- Fat Cupid: the place offers Australian, Asian as well as Malaysian cuisines and it is well known for its Bruschetta starters as well as desserts. Even if you are not based in Tengah you should add this restaurant to your bucket list, you will not be disappointed
- La Chocolatine: The place, across the road from the beach, is a great French eaterie, with homemade food like quiches and crepes as well as the all-time popular scrambled eggs.
- Melange Bistro and Bar: The location has a very nice ambient topped up by excellent servings of steaks and chocolate mud pies as well as popular cocktails like the mojito.
- Lavilla Poolclub: This restaurant specializes in seafood as well as Italian cuisine. Additionally, there is a steakhouse located by the infinity pool, facing the beach, with an exceptional sunset view.
Pantai Kok, the upper-class area
Surrounded by a huge number of limestone mountains and evergreen jungle bushes, Pantai Kok is located 10km north of the airport
It offers one of the most elegant bays in Langkawi. Beaches around here are extremely clean with crystal clear waters across the shorelines.
From Pantai Kok, you can take also the cable car up to the Sky Bridge, an impressive walk on the top of the mountain, over the green forest. Book your ticket in advance if visiting in high-season. It’s often booked out.
Why staying in the area?
Pantai Kok has some beautiful and peaceful resort where you will feel miles away from the busy daily life.
Moreover, there is a good Marina, in a boutique size, which is great if you are planning a day out sailing.
On the other side of the Marina, there are shops, bars, restaurants along with a petrol station and a post office.
In Pantai Kok, you can find also one of the best resorts in Malaysia, The Danna. The check-in is a bit of unique, with a nice complimentary neck massage.
Book the suite for the best view in Langkawi. As expected, fantastic food and service. And do not worry about the transfer to/from the hotel, complimentary and private.
Check availability at The Danna
Restaurants and Cafes around
- The Beach Grill: amazing ambience, very romantic, lovely interior and awesome food, mostly grilled. Even a simple dish as Mee Goreng is taken to another level.
- The Terrace: brilliant ambience and top of the line Italian menu. The Terrace is part of the Danna complex however it can be accessed by externals too. The delightful dessert options are the “Icing on the Cake”.
- Hafiz Rojak: the real street food experience. The menu is not in English so you have to trust the photos and explore new dishes. Something different, directly from a food truck.
Tangjung Rhu and the north of Langkawi
Tanjung Rhu boasts one of Langkawi’s unique shorelines. The waters in and around this region are crystal clear. The long driving towards this beach is in a lush dense corridor of jungle greens.
The area is as peaceful as you can hardly find anywhere else. Bounded by the staggering limestones, Tanjung Rhu is really breathtaking.
The north coast is a bit warmer than the rest of Langkawi. In saying that, there is always a nice sea breeze that cools down the evenings
This is a perfect area for everyone looking for some seclusion or for couples searching for a romantic and quiet stay.
The Tanjung Rhu Resort, on the most northern point, is one of best resorts in Langkawi with a very long beach, 2 restaurants options, 3 pools, of which one is adults only. Beautiful rooms, most of them facing the water and very convenient too. So quiet, perfect for the honeymoon or a romantic getaway.
Check the amazing deal at the Tanjung Rhu
For a spectacular sunset have a walk to the Rhu Bar, right on the beach. Great spot and lovely chilled out ambience. The drinks are not cheap however you come here for the view more than anything else.
Kuah Town, great duty-free shopping
This is the primary town of Langwaki which is located in the southeast section of the island and is known to serve as a harbour for most of the ferries to the mainland and also to the other islands, as Georgetown in Penang.
Unfortunately, Kuah lacks any of the beach amenities and it’s therefore not a great place to spend the holiday unless your main reason for the trip is shopping.
The town is quite famous for its enriched duty-free stores selling every possible piece of electronic equipment, tobacco, confectionaries as well as perfumes.
If you are after a good coffee then check out the local Starbucks@Jetty Point, just off the main ferry station. Few meters for the station you can also find Saloma Nasi Lemak, a good street restaurant with very reasonable prices and a fantastic nasi lemak. They are both great spots to wait for the ferry.
If you have time for just one shop then head down to the HiG Duty-Free Complex. You can find basically everything, all in a single building.
Where to stay in Langkawi with family
Travelling with kids may be challenging sometimes. Here below two options that will answer the famous question of where to stay in Langkawi with family. They are both 15-20minutes from the airport, organised for children and with a kid-club so that you can have some chilled out time too.
One of the most amazing resorts in Langkawi for families with kids is the Ritz-Carlton Langkawi. This place has the ultimate kids club with multiple pools and different areas for toddlers and teens. Activities are organised to keep everyone busy for the whole day.
It’s a great spot also for sunset. The breakfast is great and the pancakes to die for. The Ritz-Carlton is located in the Pantai Kok area and you would need a taxi or a Grab to reach anything outside the resort.
Check availability at the Ritz-Carlton
If you prefer to stay closer to the restaurant area of Pantai Cenang then the best place to stay is the Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort, located right at the end of town, still walking distance from the centre.
Its position is perfect because it has the own private beach and it’s far enough from the happening and nightlife, which could be too loud, especially for kids.
The Meritus Pelangi has also the Kiki kids club which is great if you want to have some quiet time. Moreover, there are two swimming pools and a water area inspired by the dinosaur era, super cool for small children. There is also the possibility to do some mini golf, archery or rent a bike to explore the town.
Check prices at the Meritus Pelangi
Most of the Hotels in the Pantai Tengah areas are also very quiet and still 5 minutes by taxi to Pantai Cenang. They do not offer however activities for children or kids-clubs.
Most happening area in Langkawi
The most happening area in Langkawi is without any doubt Pantai Cenang.
This is also where you will find a great selection of restaurants and cafes, for any budget.
Unmissable is the cocktail time at the beach on sunset. It seems that all the travellers in Langkawi have suddenly agreed to get together for a drink. It’s a good fun, with several places having live music too.
The Cliff is a popular spot with tourists, and not only. Great cocktails and an awesome spot for sunset. You can also have dinner here.
The Yellow Beach Cafe is another great bar for sunset, with good live music too. Very relaxed and obviously busy at sunset time
But honestly, most of the bars at the beach are great for a sunset drink. Just have a walk and see which one looks better in the night.
If you want to enjoy both worlds, the nightlife and a quiet sleep, then you should check the Casa Fina which comes at an amazingly good value price. This is a chalet style accommodation, well maintained and with a good service too.
Check the great value at Casa Fina
What to do in Langkawi
Surely you will not get bored in the island, there are so many things to do in Langkawi, beside the beach and the great restaurants and cafes
The Langkawi Sky Bridge is a wonderfully engineered elevated walk through the lush green on the peak of the highest mountain of the island. The view is unique and the cable car to reach it is a good fun.
Pulau Dayang is an island blessed with a very unique fresh-water lake, the Lake of Pregnant Maiden, and a good sandy beach located in the southernmost side of the island. It’s an easy day trip organised by most of the travel agencies.
The Kilim Geoforest Park is a unique nature experience, consisting of three river estuaries that you can cruise through the mangrove forest. The eagles feeding session is really impressive. The tour goes through a bat cave and an area inhabited by swimming monkeys, very unusual.
Pulau Payar is a tiny island one hour from Langkawi. It should be done only on a good clear day otherwise the snorkelling will not be great with the waves all around. There is also the possibility to do some diving.
If you are in Kuah, spare half an hour for a visit to the Eagle Square, not too far from the ferry station, with the humungous 12m tall sculpture of an eagle in a flight position placed on an elevated platform. It’s a good spot also to seat, relax and watch the busy port.
Other attractions of Langkawi:
- Crocodile Adventureland
- Satang Island Turtle Conservation tour
- Wat Koh Wanararm, a Buddhist Temple in Kuah
- Laman Padi Langkawi, an open-air museum exploring the production of the rice in Malaysia and the world. Besides the exhibition, you can also walk through the rice fields and get your feet wet
For more things to do, including the best location for travel photography, have a look at these other activities in Langkawi.
Arriving in the Island
There are two possible ways to travel to Langkawi:
- by water, directly to the Kuah harbour from Penang, Perlis and Tamalang.
- by aeroplane, at the Langkawi International Airport. There are connections to several cities as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and Subang.
A trip I like to suggest is the Langkawi-Penang loop. You fly to Langkawi, take a boat to Penang, famous for it amazing cuisine, one of the best in Asia, and fly out from there.
Moving around the island
The region sadly lacks any means of public transportation.
You can, however, decide to:
- rent a scooter, an easy and cheap option. Roads are mostly straight unless you venture to the centre of the island
- rent a car, a more expensive option, although much safer
- take a taxi. If you book it for a day then agree on a fee before starting the trip.
- book a Grab through the app, as easy as Uber.
Most of the resorts also offer trips to the airport, sometimes complimentary, Pantai Cenang and Kuah.
2 thoughts on “Best places to stay in Langkawi 2020 [top areas with FREE map]”
Indeed. Looking forward to be back when things get back to normal