Langkawi had the insanely difficult task of being the place I went to immediately after a month in Bali. A mixture of a post-Bali funk and a rough start to the trip left me basically hating Langkawi within just a couple of hours.
I booked a hotel just to chill out for the night after a long day of travel. After an hour in the Uber, we rocked up to the apparently impossible-to-find hotel only to find out that the 24-hour reception they advertised didn’t even bother being there at 9PM. The place was in the middle of nowhere, completely desolate, and getting pretty creepy so I just asked the driver to drop me off in some touristy area so I can figure it out myself.
I saw a long strip of hotels and restaurants and got dropped off at Cenang Beach, left to wander around with at least 50 pounds of gear in the Malaysian heat. I walked through dark alleyways and busy traffic before I eventually settled for the first hotel that actually had people working reception. The people working reception were assholes and the hotel was a shithole but hey, at least I could finally shower!
And shower I did. And leak the entire night, the shower did. The floor of my room was a puddle the next morning and I couldn’t wait to leave and start my Langkawi trip for real. First order of business, I gotta pay for this damn hotel. Almost 11 AM on probably the most touristy road on the island and literally nothing is open. No ATMs, no money changers, no restaurants, literally nothing. What kind of place is this?
Spoiler alert: I eventually started liking Langkawi but those first couple of days were frustrating.
After finally finding an ATM inside a 7-Eleven, I paid for that travesty of a hotel room and walked my merry way over to my new hostel in preparation for dorm life. This is where things started to take a turn for the better. Good people can always make a shitty place tolerable and that’s pretty much what happened.
Langkawi is a cool island but it is also a very confusing island. It is super touristy in the way that goes beyond just crowds of people. The thing was when I went, there weren’t even that many people on the island. Tourists were outnumbered by banana boats, duck boats, jet skis, and whatever other ridiculous tourist money grabs people could think of.
Langkawi was beautiful but every picture I have of the beaches probably has a banana boat hidden somewhere in the background. Did I hate Langkawi? Honestly, no. Was it my favorite place in the world? Far from it. I think Langkawi is worth going to but the experience really needs to be perfect.
First order of business, rent a scooter.
Langkawi will honestly suck worse if you don’t have a scooter. Renting a scooter in Langkawi is practically essential. A scooter allows you a lot of freedom to explore this pretty big island. You won’t be able to walk to all of the attractions, or any of them honestly. Unless you want to be stuck in taxis all day, scoot life is the way to go.
Don’t selfie stick and drive, though.
Things You Need To Do In Langkawi
Langkawi Sky Bridge
I won’t lie, the Langkawi Sky Bridge was way cooler than I expected. After the sketchiest cable car ride I could have ever imagined, I was happy to be on some sort of solid ground again. The views are spectacular. The island is way bigger than you could imagine and it is absolutely stunning. The lush green mountains, clear blue waters and vast ocean in every direction is something you really can’t fathom until you make it to the cable car and sky bridge. Like seriously, the island is underwhelming until you actually get to see it from up here.
The area below feels like an abandoned mini-Universal Studios or something but if you survive the tackiness and get your ticket, you’re in for a pretty rad experience. The whole thing costs about 70 ringgit ($18) but that includes a few other things to do below, as well. I would say it is totally worth it. The sky bridge is like nothing I have ever seen before. The views are stunning, the bridge itself is magnificent, and despite all of the tackiness (including a heart lock bridge), I would say this is something you cannot miss out on while in Langkawi.
Island Hopping Tour in Langkawi
It should take you to four places, depending on what you booked. The whole tour was structured in a very annoying fashion and wasn’t really a tour at all. At least mine wasn’t. You basically pay 25 ringgit for a boat to take you to a bunch of places and then you look at pretty things without knowing what anything is.
The first place is a view of some islands that from a certain perspective, looks like a pregnant lady. You’re in a tiny, covered boat so if you don’t have a good view of it, there’s really no point in even seeing it.
The second place is a cool little island infested by scary monkeys. There’s a lake that you can swim in if you need help getting pregnant. Legend has it, if you drink water from that lake, it will help you become pregnant. In reality, you’ll probably get a bunch of incurable diseases from swallowing water from that lake but I wasn’t really keen on trying it. The scenery is beautiful, the monkeys are scary, and the duck boats are plentiful. Seriously, what is it with Langkawi and duck boats?
The third stop is a place where a bunch of eagles congregate to feed. That was admittedly pretty cool. Too bad you’re only there for a few minutes.
The fourth and final stop is Beras Basah Island so you can chill on the beach for an hour. A lot of old people but it is a good, quiet place for a nap. There’s not much exploring on this island so you really have no choice but to either swim or just sit somewhere for an hour.
It is pretty, but if you’ve been following along with my adventures for a while, you’ll know that I literally cannot tell the difference between a good beach and a bad beach. It is a beach. A beach is a beach. Speaking of beaches…
Best Beaches in Langkawi
Pantai Cenang and the adjacent Pantai Tengah are the most easily accessible beaches on the island. However, easily accessible means that you will have to compete with tons of other tourists, or worse, banana boats. Jetskis, parasailers, kayaks and the like are the name of the game here. But hey, it’s a beach and if you are a person of simple tastes like me, then a beach is a beach.
Pantai Cenang is the most commercialized by far. You are probably staying in this area. It’s one of the better areas to be in just for convenience’s sake. You’ve got a ton of restaurants, grocery stores and accommodation for all your traveling needs. It is also among the more expensive areas, only topped by the resort region up north towards the cable car. If you’re willing to pay a premium to stay in those areas, you will have the better, quieter, more scenic beaches. If not, that’s where that scooter comes in handy.
Tanjung Rhu is probably the most scenic beach on the island. If you happen to be going that way, then you might as well stop there. You can read a more detailed map with pictures of the beaches here.
Things You Can Do If You’re Bored And Have Nothing Better To Do
If you happen to have a lot of time in Langkawi, you are probably going to run out of actual exciting things to do. You don’t always have to force yourself to be adventuring all the time but Langkawi does have quite a few places that fit this bill. You shouldn’t stress if you don’t get a chance to go to these places but if you have nothing better to do…
The McDonald’s, for example, on Pantai Cenang has green tea Mcflurries and honestly, I have never seen those anywhere else in the world so you should try them.
Aside from that, nothing really.
Just kidding. Anyway, here’s some underwhelming activities to do.
Waterfalls in Langkawi
I want to give Langkawi the benefit of the doubt because it just feels like I went at the wrong time for literally everything. Low tourist season so literally it was just so boring all the time. Low water season so the waterfalls were just all lame. People hyped up the waterfalls when I was here so I want to be optimistic and tell you that they are worth going to but I genuinely can’t speak for anyone other than myself. Like I said before, after a month in Bali, Langkawi had huge shoes to fill. The waterfalls in Bali are among the most famous in the world. Langkawi’s? Not so much.
Langkawi Night Market
This was probably the lamest night market I had been to in all of South East Asia. Regardless, the food here is the cheapest you will find on the island. It is greasy, disgusting, and delicious. My mango shake with mango ice cream was to die for. On the other hand, the deep-fried hamburgers would probably actually kill you. There’s not much here worth seeing aside from cheap street food. The other stalls are mostly cheap clothes and cheap electronic accessories.
Can’t forget the squid and cake station.
Langkawi 3D Art Museum
I won’t lie, this was way cooler than I expected. To be fair, I had no expectations. And I have never been to one of these before although apparently they are pretty common in random South East Asian cities. It’s a good thing if you have friends with you because you’ve got a lot of fun photo ops. It comes bundled with your ticket for the Langkawi Cable Car so if you’ve got time to kill before or afterward, you should at least check it out. Every hour, they have a light show in the main room. It was meh but if you happened to be tripping on shrooms or acid it would probably be lit.
This is the highest point of the island and a doozy of an adventure. This was a journey. A journey that resulted in my scooter running out of gas and its battery dying immediately after accomplishing it. The payoff? Very little. We weren’t allowed to enter the place at the top and the view wasn’t anything particularly special.
Most of the fun is scootering up there. You’re winding through curvy, hilly roads and passing monkeys and cool views. I wouldn’t call it a must-do but if you’ve got half a day to kill, it is pretty fun. If you’ve got a good squad, it definitely becomes a fun bonding experience.
That Eagle Statue
There’s an eagle statue that Langkawi is famous for. I only saw it as I was about to hop on the ferry to go to Thailand. It is cool but I don’t understand why people would really go out of their way to see it. The scenery is pretty beautiful and I guess the eagle adds a little bit to it. But it’s just an eagle statue.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
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14 thoughts on “Things To Do In Langkawi, Malaysia For Backpackers”
Malaysia is really nice country. Do you recommend Malaysia for honeymoon?
I can think of better places
I love Langkawi and this article brought up some very nice memories. Thank you for sharing
Thank you for your honesty <3 I always find it refreshing when people express their true experiences. I have found myself in places that just seem underwhelming too… or maybe overwhelming in what seems to be 'negatives.' I think that when you give a place some time, you usually can find ways to enjoy it- I am glad it grew on you. Great post, lovely photos and happy travels! x
haha yeah I am tired of all the blogs making everywhere seem like the best place in the world
Awesome post! I’ve never been to Langkawi so far despite several visits to other places in Malaysia. And your post makes me want to go back there and rent a scooter 🙂 the views from the sky bridge look absolutely fantastic.
the sky bridge was definitely the top highlight of the island!
Fun article! For some reason the squid next to the cake makes me laugh. Skooters sound like fun to explore the area but I don’t think I could do the Langkawi Sky Bridge! Way way to high!
the squid next to the cake may have been the least appetizing thing I’ve seen in a while
Thanks for being honest about your experience, it is a seldom seen thing in travel blogging. I think I could have found a book and one of the spectacular spots in your photos and been bored for quite some time LOL.
haha very true. I can’t stand everyone saying that every place is magnificent and the best place ever. Just gotta let people know what’s really up haha
So the biggest lesson I took from reading your post is to go to Langkawi before going to Bali and I won’t be disappointed. Check!
haha it’s not a bad idea
Honestly, your post is a sort of motivation for backpackers. You have beautifully presented the best things to do in Langkawi, Malaysia. Until now, the thought of visiting it has never crossed my mind. But after reading this post, I realized what I was missing. If luck had it, I will visit it this year only.