TRAVEL TIPS: 10 GREAT OUTDOOR ADVENTURES TO DO IN LANGKAWI ISLAND
Above all else, Langkawi is a little-disturbed natural island. Once you get past the modern airport-like arrivals jetty shopping-mall full of duty-free shops (!?!) and head off on the road through town, you’re immediately washed by the island’s relaxing laid-back aura, a result of Langkawi’s all pervasive, lush nature. A mere 100 meters after the terminal, you’re already passing through Kuah town’s lovely large Lagenda Park, en route to even more natural splendor. Great things to do in Langkawi await you!
Outside Kuah, wherever you go on Langkawi you’re simply immersed in nature. You’ll pass verdant rice fields, water buffalo and cows grazing. You’ll drive through dense hilly forests and rubber plantations, past beaches and rocky shorelines. You’ll have scenic views of nearly-vertical jungle-clad limestone mountain peaks, sweeping views of bays dotted with fluffy islands, and panoramic marinas.
Langkawi has been designated a UNESCO GeoPark because of its unique geology and flora, including limestone karst islands and mountains, caves, and mangrove forests. It’s famed as a bird-watching mecca, being home to such exotics as Hornbills and drongos with their long trailing tail feathers.
Thankfully, there are many fun ecological ways to immerse yourself in Langkawi’s stunning natural ego systems. They range in price from free to roughly $100 US. Here are 10:
1. Enjoy Langkawi’s pristine beaches– Cenang, Pantai Kok, Tanjung Ru, and narrow roadside beaches.
Many vacationers visit Langkawi solely to relax and chill out on the island’s stunning powdery white tropical beaches. All are still pristine and all but Cenang are barely developed. If you enjoy long sweeping tropical beaches backed by vegetation and palms trees, you’ll find them at Langkawi. So…
Suntan, swim, build a sand castle, read, listen to music, watch sunrises and sunsets, people watch, chat with locals or other travelers, walk, jog, run, meditate, practice yoga, stretch, skip to the loo… If you’re traveling with a frisbee, ball, or hackysack then add those activities to the list of great ways to enjoy Earth’s natural beach paradises.
Cenang is the only really developed beach (perhaps over-developed) where you can do water sports like paragliding, jet skiing, and banana boating. Cenang road has hundreds of shops, souvenir stalls, tour offices, restaurants, bars.. you get the picture. However, one half of the beach is still pristine, sans water sports or souvenir stalls, thanks to a few large 5-star resorts.
Public beaches at Pantai Kok and Tanjung Ru are beautiful, empty stretches of white sand backed by palm trees. Take all the food, snacks, drinks and supplies you’ll need or buy some nearby. No food stalls are at the beaches themselves. Two lovely, but narrow roadside beaches are located beside the airport and on the north coast, just west of the Kraft Complex. Both have one or two food stalls open in evenings.
2. Travel to the peak of Mount Raya
free except for transportation
Gunung Raya, smack in the center of the island, is Langkawi’s highest peak at 881 Meters. A completely uninhabited, undisturbed dense rain forest covers the entire mountain. The 13 km road from the base of Gunung Raya to the peak weaves its way gradually up the mountain, with ever increasing panoramic views over the island and gradually cooler temperatures. En route, you’ll be entirely immersed by rain forest. You could very easily find yourself in the middle of clouds, in a ‘white out’. Most likely, you’ll spot Hornbills and other tropical birds, monkeys, and… cows! Yes, locals bring their cows up along the mountain road to graze on roadside grass, a very peculiar sight in the middle of rain forest.
You can visit Mt. Raya by rental motorbike or car, taxi, bicycle, or even by hiking, if you’re so inclined. Although motorized vehicle is obviously the easiest way to scale the mountain, the engines will drown out the sounds of nature: birds, insects, wind and silence.
If you enjoy cycling and are fit enough, try pedaling up the mountain. The road grade is mostly moderate, with surprisingly many flat sections, so it should only take 1-1.5 hours to reach the summit. Afterward, you’ll get to glide back down hill for 13 kms!
You could also hike up to the peak,which would entail a whole day hike: 3-4 hours up and 2-3 hours back down, depending on how quickly you walk and your fitness level. Take all the food and water you might need since there are no stores, food stalls, or even houses along the road.
Surprisingly, there is a small resort way up there on the peak, so you could stay on the mountain if you’d like! They offer admittance to non-guests to their tower for 10 RM. You could also potentially eat at their restaurant.
If you’re not inside a car, be sure to take a jacket and/or rain coat, especially if it’s a cloudy day.
* This is one of the best things I did independently on Langkawi.
3. Experience Langkawi Cable Car and Sky Bridge
admission: 30 RM adults / 20 RM children ( $10 / $7 US)
Visiting the cable car and sky bridge on Langkawi is an amazing experience. You’ll be whisked up the steepest cable car in the world, with ever increasing panoramic views over Langkawi’s many islands, to the first platform at 625 M. Continue on a second cable car to the higher viewing platforms at 700 M. Then experience the astounding sky bridge, a curved engineering wonder suspended in mid-air between two mountain peaks. (Perhaps not advised for anyone fearing heights )
Read my review for full details of this great adventure.
4. Luxuriate on Sunset Dinner Cocktail Cruises and Daytime Island Hopping Cruises
2012 prices: island hopping: 310 RM ($103 US) / sunset cruises: 250 RM ($83 US)
Langkawi is comprised of 99 jungle-clad islands and islets in the calm Andaman Sea. A fantastic way to enjoy them is to take a cruise through the islands. Two major island cruise operators offer day time island-hopping tours, sunset evening cruises, and privately tailored trips amidst the picturesque islands.
5. Scout for Birds on Guided Bird Watching Tours
2012 price: 200 RM ($67 US)
With over 200 species of resident birds and over 130 migratory birds passing through, Langkawi is becoming increasingly more famous for bird watching. Several experienced local tour guides offer early morning bird-watching outings. Famous birds on Langkawi include 3 species of Hornbills, Drongos, White Bellied Sea Eagles, and Brahminy Kites, among others.
Spend a peaceful and rewarding morning surrounded by rain forest and/or rice fields listening to dozens of different bird calls and spotting raptors, exotic tropical birds, songbirds, and water birds with the help of a keen-visioned, bird-savvy local guide.
Read my guided bird watching tour review
6. Bicycle the island
free with your own bike / rentals: / bike tour: 120 RM ($40 US)
Langkawi’s roads are in great condition and major roads have wide motorbike lanes on either side. Although Langkawi is very mountainous, much of the island is surprisingly flat, as are most of the roads. The total road distance around the entire island is only about 80-100 km, depending on which routes you take. Fit cyclists could complete the route in one day. Others may prefer to take 2-3 days, or even longer, in order to visit beaches, waterfalls, and rain forests. A few homestays are located around the island where you could spend the night during your tour.
You can bring your own bike, rent one on Langkawi, or join a guided bike tour.
7. Boat along the mangrove River system: Kilim River
prices vary significantly among boat operators, ranging from 100 RM/person to 500 RM/boat.
Check around. Prices are higher from Tanjung Ru, cheaper from Kilim. At Cenang Beach, several tour operators make bookings.
Although taking a motorized river boat through the mangroves is not quite as ecological as kayaking, a boat tour will allow you to visit a much larger area, to visit caves, a fish farm, sea eagle habitat, and safe swimming areas. Tours range from 1-6 hours, so how much you see and costs depend a lot on the length of your tour. Again, check around for options.
8. Join early Morning or Nighttime Rain Forest Walks
2012 prices: 120 RM ($40 US)
Several local tour operators offer guided rain forest walks, during which they educate guests about the rain forest flora and fauna. Some Langkawi exotics include the giant squirrel, flying lemur, dusky leaf monkey (langur) and flying lemur, Hornbills and drongos. You’re sure to see monkeys, birds, and other widllife. In evenings, you have a great chance to see the rare flying lemur.
9. Hike and Swim at Waterfalls
free, except for transportation
Langkawi boasts several beautiful waterfalls, located in the lush interior rain forests. Visit one or all of them. Four waterfalls marked on most Langkawi maps are each a short walk from the road, along a jungle path, stone steps, or sidewalk. Telaga Tujuh and Temurun Waterfalls are quite popular with locals Friday through Sunday. If you’d like to join some noisy swimming sessions, those are good times to visit. If you prefer solitude, go on weekdays. Durian Perangin Waterfall andLumbuk Sembilang Waterfall are less visited.
10. Go Kayaking
price: 220 RM adults / 140 RM children ( $73 / $ 47 US at 2012 exchange rates)
Kayak through the mangrove river system at Kilim River, part of Langkawi GeoPark, on a guided tour. Guides will teach you about the birds, monkeys, snakes and other mangrove creatures as well as the mangrove eco-system itself. You might sight Langkawi’s famous Sea Eagles and visit caves. Kayaking is a fantastic, quiet, ecologically-sound way to visit the mangrove rivers.
Alternately, you can rent a sea kayak at Cenang Beach and at several resorts to paddle along Langkawi’s coast or out to nearby islands. Be careful of sea currents between Cenang and the islands.