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Langkawi's official name is 'Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah', and this island (and its 98 surrounding smaller isles) lives up to its reputation. It's a favourite with local mainlanders as well as international travellers for its white-sand beaches and lush green interior. Malaysia is a truly multicultural nation, so the food is always a highlight. Visit vibrant night markets for freshly cooked treats like nasi lemak (coconut rice), pisang goreng (fried bananas) and keropok lekor (fish crackers).
You can stay in Langkawi hostels with barrel-shaped rooms made from massive upcycled pipes, classic Malaysian-style lodges or futuristic capsule beds. To meet other travellers, go for spaces with regular live music events or a place near the Thursday night market on Jalan Bohor Tempoyak. Rooms with air con will cool you off after days out exploring the island, and lots of hostels in Langkawi have both mixed and female-only dorms. Seeking thrills? Try a Langkawi hostel with parasailing and kayaking adventures.
For beach life with a bit of bustle, Pantai Cenang is the perfect pick. It's got coffee shops, restaurants and duty-free outlets within walking distance of a sandy shore by the Andaman Sea. At night, travellers gather for chilled beers in the bars lining the strip. Pantai Tengah is a touch quieter – it's Langkawi's longest beach, with island-hopping and jet-skiing opportunities. Kuah is the main town on the island and has convenient access to the port if you're arriving by ferry. There are no beaches here, but there's plenty of Malaysian history on offer.
A 15-minute trip over verdant rainforest on the Langkawi Cable Car will take you to the peak of Mat Cincang Mountain, one of the island's top attractions. From 708m up, you can see all the way across the sea to Sumatra. Boat tours around islands or trips to the jungle and mangroves are ideal to check out the local nature. For something even more adventurous, head about 30km off the main island by boat to Pulau Payar Marine Park to go snorkelling with black-tip sharks.
The easiest way to get around Langkawi is to rent a motorbike or take taxis. If you're flying to the island, you'll arrive at Langkawi Airport, about a 15-minute drive from Pantai Cenang and 20 minutes to Kuah. Ferries arrive at Kuah Jetty from Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis on the Malaysian mainland. For offshore trips during your stay, you can charter a boat or join an organised tour.