Photo: Down time at the beach.

Eat and meet

While you'll find good eating right across Langkawi, the widest range of options is, not surprisingly in the busier tourist areas. The one exception is Kuah, which, despite the low number of hotels, has dome great eating. You'll find plenty of international cuisine in Pantai Cenang and Tengah, less so elsewhere.

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Pantai Cenang

Due to the high density of restaurants crammed up in nearly every corner of this popular beach, there shouldn’t be a big problem when it comes to finding something to eat whenever you feel hungry. Most beach resorts or motels have their own restaurants usually found on the beachfront. But for more specialised dining, the main road is the best choice.

The selection of restaurants and cafe’s in Pantai Cenang have in recent years become more diverse and international, with something suitable for most taste buds as well as budgets. There are quite a few popular places to get inexpensive Malay food as well as a ready supply of roadside stands, but for variation here are a few suggestions.

A bit more intimate with the same laidback ambience is Artisan’s Pizza. Pizza, sandwiches, salads, and even chicken chop attract the budget minded to this small open-air cafe. Their prices start at 14 ringgit and they also do guesthouse pizza delivery -- just call (04) 9551232. They are open from 09:30-02:00 daily.

On the opposite side of Jalan Pantai Cenang is 3 Amigos. With the faux mission decor and saloon door entrance, the only thing missing is a hitching post. The Mexican-style cuisine is close enough to pass as authentic and the slightly higher end prices are offset by the generous serving sizes.

For a bit more upscale dining, the modestly priced Brassiere has a pool table in addition to candlelit white tablecloth dining. Their 16:00 to 18:00 happy hour and occasional live music attract an assortment of diners to the Mediterranean-style eatery. Located directly on the beach it’s perfect for a romantic sundowner.

At the end of this particular dead-end stretch of beach, The Cliff Restaurant and Bar looms ahead. The only on-the-actual-water restaurant in Pantai Cenang, their ambience belies the casual dining that it embraces. With the surf splashing beneath the building it’s well worth the slightly higher end prices for a few special Instagram moments.

Opposite Underwater World is the tasty local Malay eatery, Harum Aroman Cafe, which has a rather extensive and inexpensive buffet-style spread available throughout the day.

Back on the main road past Underwater World, The English Tea Room and Coffee Shop serves up traditional English Tea and imported coffees. The British flag and various other European knick-knacks offer travellers a taste of home (if they happen to be European). With free WiFi and a selection of fresh baked goods, it’s not a bad place for flash packer networking. They open daily at 08:00 for the early birds, which is worth noting since few other places open before 10:00.

On the next block are Red Tomato and Red Sky Restaurant and Bar, both serving a good balance between local fusion and Western cuisine, but each with very unique menu selections.

Across the street, you’ll find Islanddish Seafood Restaurant, and for those looking for Asian fare or specialty fresh seafood dishes, this is the place. They also stay open quite late. The friendly staff will definitely make solo travellers not feel so solo.

And as luck would have it, Debbie’s Place Irish Pub is farther on down the main drag towards the end. You can’t miss the green Shamrock sign nor the daily drink specials posted by the entrance of the open-air restaurant (aka pub). Debbie herself is usually on-site to welcome guests with a cold Guinness.

Around the corner as Pantai Cenang becomes Pantai Tengah, Istanbul Kabob and Seafood Restaurant (formally known as the Hungry Monkey Cafe) is the place to go for excellent Turkish food. Portions are generous and the fun interior decor makes it well worth stopping in. The owner has an appreciation for American and Turkish movie stars, so the walls are covered with movie memorabilia.

As you head from there towards the beach again, Sugar has claimed the previous location of the old Lighthouse to become a trendy open-air lunch and dinner venue. Salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes are the highlight along with tropical cocktails and front row seats to the colourful Pantai Cenang/Tengah water sports madness. Open from 12:00 till 16:00 for lunch there is a wide selection of sandwiches, salads and pastas plus daily specials. After 16:00 the dinner menu is available, with Malay tapas such as satay, beef rendang, pulut kuding and grilled lamb on sweet potato chips. Combine this with a bar serving signature cocktails such as a Thirsty Mermaid or Bee Sting while you relax with your feet in the sand and Sugar is a place above the rest.

Artisan’s Pizza: Jalan Pantai Cenang. T: (04) 955 1232. Open daily 09:30-02:00
Debbie’s Place Irish Pub: Jalan Pantai Cenang. T: (04) 955 9700 Open daily 17:30 until late
English Tea Room: Jalan Pantai Cenang. T: (01) 3491 2343. Open daily 08:00–17:00
Islanddish Seafood Restaurant: Jalan Pantai Cenang. Open daily 11:00-23:00
Istanbul Kabob and Seafood Restaurant: Jalan Pantai Tengah, Pantai Cenang/Pantai Tengah. T: (04) 955 2100 / 3100. Open Tues-Sun 09:00-23:30
Red Tomato: No. 5 Casa Fina Avenue, across from McDonald’s. T: (04) 955 4055 Open daily 09:00-22:30
Red Sky Restaurant and Bar: No. 6, Casa Fina Avenue, next to Red Tomato. T: (04) 955 8734; (04) 955 8736. Open Wed-Sun 11:00-02:00
Sugar Pantai Cenang/ Pantai Tengah, across from Charlie’s Motel. T: (04) 955 3928, (04) 955 1010. Open Tues-Sun 12:00–00:00
The Brasserie: 27 A Jalan Pantai Cenang (on the beach next to Tomato Nasi Kandar). T: (04) 955 1927. Open daily 12:00-24:00
The Cliff Restaurant & Bar: Lot 63 & 40, Jalan Pantai Chenang, (Behind Underwater World). T: (04) 953 3228, F: (04) 955 3227. Open daily 11:00-23:00

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Popular attractions in Langkawi

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Langkawi.

Pantai Tengah

As Pantai Tengah slowly develops, restaurants and cafes have become a patchwork quilt of old and new favourites. At the unofficial beginning of Pantai Tengah at the T-junction intersection of Jalans Pantai Tengah and Cenang, there is an assortment of eateries, pubs, restaurants and even a karaoke bar along the main road of Jalan Teluk Baru.

Relocated from their previous Cenang location, the popular 24-hour hotspot Tomato Nasi Kandar, or Nasi Kandar Tomato (depending on how you read the sign) is located left from the T-junction just pass the Favhotel. Serving North Indian as well as Malay cuisine, the popularity of this insanely inexpensive venue started from day one.

On the corner as you cross into Pantai Tengah is Thein-Thein Lai Seafood & Hawker Centre. The slightly chaotic looking interior may be off-putting to some, but their tasty Thai dishes are authentic and inexpensive.

A few doors down is Chillout Bistro, a rustic and ramshackle interior giving this open-air bar an eclectic atmosphere. This is also the sports fanatics in Pantai Tengah go-to place for catching televised sports events. Board games, a pool table, darts and the occasional live band keep this Sports Bar hopping.

Nearby, La Chocolatine reigns quietly as the only French patisserie and bistro in Langkawi. Reasonably priced with pastries made on-site by an actual French pastry chef, it can call like a siren. In addition, the quiche, fresh-made pastas and French specialties set this eatery apart from the norm.

If you are looking for Italian cuisine, further down the road it doesn’t get more authentic than L’Osteria. A casual but upscale interior combined with an extensive menu of antipasto, pastas, pizza and mains that include a fantastic ossa bucca makes this restaurant excel over other Italian restaurants in Langkawi. L’Osteria also has a very good selection of Italian wines to round out that wonderful meal.

Opposite Tropical Resort and Alun Alun Spa you’ll find Sun Mall and for brunch eats, the open air Sun Cafe is a favourite of local expats and tourists alike.

And the Pantai Tengah entertainment trifecta award goes to the Sunba Complex and adjacent Sun Coffee Shop and Sun Karaoke, making up the rest of the enterprising ’Sun’ group family. Sunba itself is a late-night bar that attracts a very late night crowd, including the local end-of-shift crowd as well as many locals and expats. It’s easy to party late into the night in the often shoulder-to-shoulder crowds dancing to the live band. Sunba rarely gets going before midnight so plan on coming late and staying to the wee hours of the morning. Sun Coffee Shop and its comfortable free WiFi zone is a cosy spot to surf the net undisturbed. But for more public displays of musical affection, Sun Karaoke is available for private parties or not-so-private parties and is one of just two such venues in Langkawi.

Right around the corner, and slightly off the main road is Budaba. A mix of couches and mismatched chairs gives this local dive bar a relaxed garage sale ambience. Throw in a few Buddhas, some eclectic decor, a selection of pub eats and you’ll find yourself ordering another round for your friends and staying longer than intended.

On the same small dirt side road leading to La Pari-Pari is fatCupid. This newer addition to the Pantai Tengah restaurant scene is an open-air bar and restaurant overlooking the pool and grounds of La Pari-Pari boutique hotel. The owners relocated here from Kuala Lumpur and brought with them a fresh spin on Western dishes as well as excellent Malay food.

Think North Indian and tandoori-style cooking and you have Sagar. Located between Frangipani Resort and Sun Spa, Sagar is set in a lush garden setting surrounded by traditional Malay pavilions and ponds and the ambiance can only be exceeded by their cuisine. The list of dishes is extensive but some of the must-try favourites are the tiger prawn masala and the murg tika masala.

The sign for Fat Mum Seafood Restaurant sits prominently on Jalan Teluk Baru, yet the restaurant is set back off the road in an open-air, two-storey building. Fat Mum’s has continually served up some of the best Chinese food on the island. You’ll find Mum herself cooking and ruling over the busy kitchen. Even when the restaurant is packed you’ll find that Mum and her staff can get the food out fast. The beer is cold and the prices are very reasonable, making this a long popular eatery.

We aren’t sure where Mexico and Italy meet in the culinary world but it seems to make sense at La Bamba. Located at the end of the road from Zackry Guesthouse, the rustic wood interior with a central bar seems a bit like the coast of Mexico. Their South-of-the-border menu includes nachos, salads, tacos, burritos, beef and chicken dishes. More in the mood for Italian? They also have selections of pastas and pizzas. They have a kids’ menu too plus a full bar and are open for lunch and dinner with prices ranging from 25 to 35 ringgit. Guests staying at Zackry’s get a 15% discount.

Sheela’s Restaurant and Bar proudly claims a 50-50 menu selection of Western and Malay dishes to honour the owners’ German and Malaysian heritage. The surrounding greenery also reflects Sheela’s passion for gardening. Although considered ’Western’, this restaurant is halal so it’s popular with locals as well as expats seeking some good old-fashioned comfort food, like steak and potatoes.

One of the more recent arrivals to the Tengah eating scene is Maya Seafood Thai/Malay Cuisine. The menu leans more towards Thai specialties than Malay with such dishes as mango salad, satay, tom yam and pad thai. Their seafood dishes, such as grilled tiger prawns, mussels, crab, shrimp and lobster are all affordable crowd pleasers.

The retro beach feel of Troppo Co. is right at home in this less developed beach area. Their coffee, Western breakfasts and delicious sandwiches have raised the bar not only here but on the rest of the island. It’s not only a standout visually but may also have dibs on claims of the largest loaves of bread made in Langkawi.

Another distinct local eatery is The Cactus, located directly across from Holiday Villa Resort & Spa. They serve traditional English breakfasts in addition to other Western breakfast favourites such as French toast and pancakes and local favourite roti canai. They also have freshly squeezed fruit juices at three ringgit for a small glass or eight ringgit for an extra large glass.

Directly behind The Cactus is One Love, a reggae music ’venue’ that has a genuine island feel that you’d expect in the Caribbean. There’s often live music starting much later in the evening featuring both local and off-island musicians playing variations of reggae for the enthusiastic locals as well as visiting travellers.

And at the very end of the main thoroughfare as Pantai Tengah becomes Porto Awana is an actual disco, complete with a DJ, live house bands, flashing lights and a late night party scene. Eagle Rock Cafe and its modern club interior has plenty of room for those late night dance crowds. Whether there’s a live band or the spin-doctor is centre stage, this favourite local nightspot could be at home in Penang or KL.

Eagle Rock Cafe: Block 5, Ground Floor, Resorts World Langkawi, Tanjung Malai. T: (04) 955 3181 F: (04) 955 2181. Open daily 16:00-04:00.
fatCupid: 2273 Jalan Teluk Baru (just down from Budaba, adjacent to La Pari-Pari). T: (04) 955 1010. Open Tue-Sun 09:00-22:30
L’Osteria: Lot 2863 (No. 8 Sun Mall) Jalan Teluk Baru. T: (01) 2494 9235 Open Tue-Sun 11:00-23:00
La Choclatine: 3 Jalan Teluk Baru. T: (04) 955 8891. Open daily 09:00-21:00
Nasi Kandar Tomato: Jalan Pantai Tengah. Open: Always
Sagar: Jalan Teluk Baru, between Frangipani Resort and Sun Spa. T: (04) 955 6616 Open daily 11:00-23:00
Sun Cafe (Sun Mall): Jalan Teluk Baru. T: (04) 955 6200 F: (04) 955 9200.
Sungroup (Sun Cafe, Sunba, Sun Coffee, Sun Karaoke): Jalan Teluk Baru. T: (04) 955 6200 F: (04) 955 9200.
The Cactus T: (012) 477 3098. Open daily 08:00-13:00 (for breakfast) and 16:00-23:00 (dinner)

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Datai and Tanjung Rhu

Aside from the two resorts there are few dining opportunities at Datai. At the junction of Jalan Teluk Yu and Jalan Datai though you’ll find two local restaurants and the occasional roadside stand. Your closest dining options here are either in Telaga Harbour or across the north coast road to Kampung (village) Padang Lelang at the beginning of Tanjung Rhu.

In Tanjung Rhu however, outside of the two five-star hotels there are a few dining options in the area. Teratak Padi Seafood is on the inland side of the Padang Lalang roundabout on Jalan Ulu Melaka. Open until 03:00 this is a popular restaurant and hang out for the locals until the wee hours. They serve a variety of seafood, vegetables, rice and noodle dishes in buffet style.

There are also a few small nondescript Chinese and Thai/Malay restaurants scattered around this small community that offer local fare at very reasonable prices. If you’re in the area on a Friday night, check out the weekly night market just off the roundabout. You’ll find lots of local delicacies all prepared on the spot and dirt-cheap.

As you head towards the resorts along Jalan Tanjung Rhu, parallel to the vast expanse of beach, follow towards the end of the road past the Tanjung Rhu Resort guard station. You will find a small cluster of souvenir shops and restaurants at the public access to the beach. On the right and end seaside, you’ll find Restaurant Asli. Tasty and reasonably priced Thai/Malay seafood is served up here, with whole fish and prawns starting at six ringgit per 100 grams, and rice and noodle dishes starting at four ringgit. You do have to pass through the Tanjung Rhu Resort guard station to get there but don’t let that intimidate you.

Restaurant Asli: On the beach at the end of Jalan Tanjung Rhu, past Tanjung Rhu Resort
Teratak Padi Seafood: At the Padang Lalang round about on Jalan Ulu Melaka

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If your budget allows and a little waterfront dining is in order, towards the end of the road from Jetty point, Charlie’s Place at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club serves Western and Malay dishes in an open-air restaurant overlooking the busy harbour. The long bar is almost always buzzing in the evenings, filled with sailors and marine workers from all over the world. Though a bit more expensive the ambience is worth a leisurely lunch or dinner with its great views and of course watching the sunset over the harbour.

In the opposite direction from the ferry terminal, Pekan Rabu (complex) is a newer development next to the main mosque. You can find Thai, Chinese, pizza, Malay and Western restaurants here; Artisan’s Pizza, Mafioso Steakhouse and Kuah Town Seafood to name a few.

Directly across the busy main street, tucked away in the small strip of shops and ’economy’ motels is Ray’s. The sign denotes what awaits you inside. Simply put, Ray’s has the look and feel of a seedy waterfront dive. Prices are cheap and Ray herself serves the limited menu that she often cooks on a whim. Ray’s also attracts an eclectic clientele thanks to its pool table and dartboard.

Down the road and an easy walk under a shady awning of trees is Langkawi Fair Shopping Mall. There are a few restaurants here, but notably Arts Cafe, a small joint offering coffee, Asian-fusion tapas, sandwiches and desserts surrounded by walls adorned with local artwork.

As you head out of Kuah on Jalan Kelibang, near the main countdown traffic light and overlooking the bay, is Restoran Trimula Mesra Thai BBQ Seafood, serving tasty Thai food and fresh seafood. Just next-door is the expatriates hangout The Pier Restaurant and Bar. This sweet little place has a feeling of old colonial charm, hosting a big dark wooden bar selling cheap beers and inexpensive eats. Along with that cheap beer, their big screen TV and free internet keep the cruising sailors happy with BBC updates and email access.

Further up the main road, opposite a small inlet are several Malay and Chinese seafood stalls, but one of the standouts is Wonderland. This popular Chinese seafood restaurant has stood the test of time and fed many a local, tourist and expat. The fact that their toilets are inconveniently located across the street doesn’t seem to deter even the older crowd.

On the other side of the now four-lane Jalan Kelibang in the shop block haven of Langkawi Mall is Chicken Joe’s Langkawi Hainanese Cafe. The authentic version of this chicken dish is from an old family recipe and a one-of-a-kind meal in Langkawi. Add a bowl of tasty vegetable broth and rice and it’s a great meal for only six ringgit. Nearby Shark Fing Restaurant also has some tantalising authentic budget fare of chicken, beef and seafood dishes -- and contrary to the name, they do not serve Shark Fin soup.

Charlie’s Place: Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Jalan Dato Syed Omar. T: (04) 966 4078, F: (04) 966 5078. Open daily 09:00-17:00
Chicken Joe’s: 133, Langkawi Mall, Jalan Kelibang, Kuah. Open daily 09:00-16:30 & 18:30-22:30
Mafioso Restaurant: No. 49, Ground Floor, Bandar Baru Baron, Kuah. T: (04) 966 9990. Open: Thu-Tue (closed Wed) 07:30-10:30, 12:00-15:00, 15:30-18:00, 18:30-23:30
Restoran Trimula Mesra Thai BBQ Seafood: 105/106 Persiaran Mutiara 2. T: (012) 457 1280; (012) 468 8788
Restaurant Shark Fing: 267 Langkawi Mall, Jalan Kelibang. T: (04) 966 1672. Open daily.
The Pier Restaurant: 107 Persiaran Mutiara 2. T: (017) 425 6490. Open daily 11:00-23:00
The Art Cafe: Langkawi Fair Mall. T: (04) 966 2188. Open daily 11:00-21:00

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Langkawi? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

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