Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
While Thailand is famous for its beaches and outdoor activities, neighboring Langkawi Island — located in Malaysia — just might be Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret.
Langkawi enjoys a casual vibe, and its beachfront is so impressive that it was recently listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
Technically an archipelago, Langkawi is home to 99 islands, of which only three are developed. Langkawi, located on some of the oldest landmass in Asia, features a biodiversity that is so diverse and unique, it was Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO-designated Geopark.
Two area parks provide visitors with the opportunity to see wildlife in its natural setting. World-class diving and snorkeling can be found at the Pulau Payar Marine Park, while a boat ride through the miles of virgin mangrove forests in the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is a great way to see snakes, bats and even wild eagles in action.
Getting There:Although few buildings in Langkawi rise taller than the local coconut trees, the community supports a cruise port, a ferry terminal and an international airport with frequent service to Kuala Lumpur via Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and Silk Air.
What to Do:Panorama Langkawi & Oriental VillageAn approximately 1.4-mile cable car ride takes visitors some 2,323 feet above sea level and features stunning area views stretching beyond Langkawi’s islands all the way to Thailand. The ride traverses angles up to 42 degrees, making it one of the steepest cable car rides in the world. At the base of Panorama Langkawi, Oriental Village is home to a charming variety of shops and restaurants. www.panoramalangkawi.com
Where to Stay:The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & SpaThe first resort in Langkawi to implement environmentally friendly policies, the Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa is home to 1,200 feet of soft golden sand beach. Both secluded and within easy walking distance of area restaurants, bars and shops, the resort features 118 bungalow-style rooms, villas and suites and an on-site restaurant that serves an excellent selection of Malay and international specialties. www.frangipanilangkawi.com
Where to Eat:Babylon MatLoungeIf Langkawi had hipsters, Babylon MatLounge is where they would hang out. Best described as Gidget meets Bob Marley, the restaurant/bar is set directly on the beach and largely constructed from recycled and found materials. While Babylon offers table seating, mat seating on the beach is the way to go. By day, this is a casual place to grab a bite to eat. At night, locals and visitors come here to chill out, while a famous local reggae band plays live music five nights a week. www.facebook.com/babylonmatlounge
Where to Relax:Alun Alun SpaLangkawi is teeming with day spas, and the hardest decision your clients may have to make is where to go to relax. With three area locations, Alun Alun Spa is perfect for upscale clients who want mid-level pricing. The delightfully appointed spa draws from Balinese, Malay and Thai influences and offers a staggering line-up of treatments. Alun Alun has a location near most major area hotels and provides free transportation to and from them. www.alunalunspa.com