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Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah, is a Malaysian paradise of gleaming beaches, jungle-blanketed hills, and turquoise waters. A duty-free haven, Langkawi lures travelers looking for everything from shopping and bar-hopping to laid-back beaches and luxurious retreats. Whether you want to encounter crocodiles, ride a cable car, snorkel among tropical fish in a secluded sea cave, or sip cocktails with your toes in the sand, there are things to do in Langkawi for travelers of every stripe.
Langkawi's most popular beach town, bustling Pentai Cenang lies just south of the island's main airport, and offers plenty of flight lanes for jet skiers and parasailers just offshore. Fine white sands stretch for more than a mile down the island's southwest coast, lined with restaurants and cafés that offer live music, cultural performances, and almost any style of meal or refreshment you'd want.
Home to the islands' main ferry terminal and commercial center, Kuah is best known for its vast array of duty-free stores. With plenty of hotels, boats, and easy road access to the rest of the island, the city is positioned as an ideal jumping-off point for the roaming adventurer.
Ideal for when you want to get away from the crowds, this retreat features a few gorgeous resorts amid the wilderness of Langkawi's western coast. Between the private beaches and chalets that make up most of the area's development, Padang Matsirat features some of the island's highest mountains, traced with wilderness trails and some of the jungle's most gorgeous sights.
With close to 100 islands clustered together in the Straits of Malacca, Langkawi has a landscape packed with extremes. The alluvial plains of the main island are surrounded by steep mountain ridges, while the shores alternate between wide sandy beaches and sheer coastal cliffs. Plenty of motorbikes or paddleboats are available to rent when you want to go exploring by land or sea.
If you're looking to admire the view from the roof of the island, the Langkawi Sky Bridge gives you an incredible walkway between the mountaintops. For some sea-level fun, Datai Bay has easy access to the jungle, water, and resorts that include a golf course and a nature park that features the tallest waterfall around.
A visit to Langkawi isn't really complete if you haven't spent some time on the sea. Just how you do it is an open question: you can zip between the islands on a jet ski, paddle upriver on a kayaking tour, take a more laid-back outing with some open-water fishing, or relax in style with a cocktail cruise and some terrific views of the sunset.
If you're after a look at the local fauna, have a guide take you into the forest to find eagles, monkeys, and bat-filled caves, or find a safe place to meet the crocodiles at the island's favorite wildlife exhibits. Or, venture into the country for a rainforest hike or a bicycle ride for a ground-level look at the sights. For a little more altitude, board a helicopter and get a look at the vivid rice fields from the air, or take a ride on the longest cable car in Malaysia to take in the views from atop Mat Chinchang Hill.