You’ve probably not kipped in a 10-million-year-old rainforest before. Change that at The Datai Langkawi on Datai Bay, one of the top 10 beaches in the world, according to Nat Geo. The hotel is totally plugged into its surroundings, from its team of resident naturalists and marine biologists to its nature-immersion experiences, educational Nature Centre and an indigenous-ingredients–championing spa. And all that exploring and discovering is thirsty (and hungry) work, so the hotel handily has four tempting eateries (and two bars) up its sleeve, whether you’re craving Malay flavours, Thai food, French fine dining, a perfect pizza or an ice-cold cocktail.
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £371.18 (MYR1,856), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of MYR10.00 per room per night on check-in and an additional local city tax of MYR5.00 per room per night on check-in.
Rates usually include breakfast (a buffet spread with an egg station and Western and Asian options).
At the hotel's cooking school, The Dapur (it's Malay for 'kitchen'), the resident chefs will guide you on a culinary adventure, from picking fresh herbs in the permaculture garden to enjoying the fruits of your labour with a wine pairing. Classes start from MYR300 a person.
Ask yourself this: are you a David Attenborough or a David Hasselhoff? If the former, opt for a wildlife-surveying Rainforest or Rainforest Pool Villa; if the latter, go for a Beach Villa – and dig out that lipstick-red swimwear.
The Datai Langkawi has a trio of pools: one for adults, one for families (with a prime beachside setting) and one for toddlers.
Rainforests: pretty relaxing as settings go – but that’s no reason not to unwind even further with a spa treatment or two. The Datai’s luxurious spa harnesses ancient ramuan (Malay herbal) rituals; treatments star indigenous ingredients, many sourced from the rainforest. Add a splash of tropical colour to your hands and feet by swinging by the Bastien Gonzalez mani-pedi studio.
Bring something you can comfortably hike around a rainforest in – plus an itsy-bitsy bikini or beachwear for the pool and spa.
There are wheelchair-ramps within the property, and you can be transported around by buggy if needed.
Little Smiths are very welcome. There’s a family-friendly pool, a wading pool and immersive nature activities for the whole family; babysitting can be arranged with 48 hours’ notice.
All ages can come, but the hotel reckons it’s most suited to little Smiths aged six and above.
The two-bedroom Datai Suites are a safe choice; for maximum space, if your budget permits, opt for the Two-Bedroom Villa.
Budding naturalists will love the hotel’s wildlife walks and nature-immersion experiences.
Water-babies are well catered to: there’s a family-friendly pool, plus a wading pool for toddlers. Parents who’ve booked babysitters can escape to the adults-only pool.
High-chairs can be provided.
Book babysitting at least 48 hours in advance.
The Datai Pledge promises to make its business operations sustainable, regenerate the environment and community, conserve coral reefs and marine life, promote sustainable fishing, conserve Langkawi’s wildlife and regenerate the rainforests. Lofty eco goals indeed. A carbon offsetting program is in the works, with initiatives aimed at planting trees, rehabilitating corals and processing waste on site (so that zero goes to landfill). From 2019 to 2020, five artificial reefs were deployed in Datai Bay, 300 coral nubbins transplanted to Datai Bay reef, one hornbill nesting box was installed and over 100 seeds were collected and planted in the Native Tree Nursery.
The hotel has a no-single-use-plastics policy, greywater is used in onsite irrigation (there’s a permaculture garden that grows herbs, spices, fruits and veg) and the hotel works with local producers where possible. A local company provides the organic bathroom amenities, food waste is composted and the onsite Upcycling Centre crushes glass and shreds plastic for reuse, including in guest crafting workshops. In a recent renovation, villas were built around mature trees rather than cutting trees down.
The Datai Langkawi works with local NGO that provides single mothers with a route to economic empowerment via training programmes and buy-back deals; the hotel also sponsors two local schools through Green Growth Asia Foundation. Guests help fund all conservation projects through an optional daily contribution.
Follow your appetite in the direction of Malay, Thai, French or international flavours.
Gym and swimwear are frowned upon throughout; shorts and collarless-shirts are banned in some of the restaurants. Check the specifics with staff before heading out to dinner, to avoid red faces.
The Datai Langkawi has a clutch of tempting restaurants to choose from. Styled in the manner of a traditional Kampong (village) house, open-air Gulai House serves delicious Malaysian cuisine (crabmeat soup, fish curry, naans a-go-go), soundtracked by the chirruping of the local wildlife. You can try traditional seating on the floor; all meals begin with a hand-bathing ceremony. The Pavilion is a Thai treat set on stilts above the rainforest canopy; dine with breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea. You might not expect fine French cuisine in the heart of the forest, but the Dining Room delivers exactly that. The Beach Club serves relaxed international fare – Caprese salads, pizzas, bruschettas and so on – for lunch and dinner. Save room for the ‘coconut surprise’ dessert.
Steps from the sand, The Beach Bar has a clutch of tree-shaded seating and sea-view sunloungers. Open throughout the day, it’s the go-to spot for refreshing post-surf cocktails and sunset-facing pre-dinner drinks. By night, the Lobby Lounge is a view-toting setting for cocktails, wine and champagne; up the ante with a single malt and a cigar.
Breakfast is served until 11am; dinner until 11pm.
Pick from a selection of Malaysian and Western dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Datai Langkawi is on dazzling Datai Bay, in a 28-hectare patch of beachfront rainforest.
Langkawi International Airport is a 40-minute drive from the hotel. Helpful Smith24 can help book your flights, should you wish.
The town of Kuah is closest, an hour away by car; the hotel’s car park is a minute’s walk from the lobby. It’s worth having a car if you want to go exploring; that said, taxis are fairly cheap.
Nautical types could get here by ferry from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi in 45 minutes, from Kuala Kedah to Langkawi in 90 minutes, or from Penang to Langkawi in 180 minutes. Hop over from Thailand on a ferry from Satun or Koh Lipe.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s resident naturalists and marine biologists have devised an exciting line-up of nature experiences, including: butterfly garden walks, a mangrove trail, coral reef explorations, jungle hikes to natural pools and waterfalls, ‘rainforest after dark’ expeditions and more. And make sure to reserve at least a little of your stay to hear some stories from the hotel’s resident naturalist, Irshad Mobarak, a former banker with a passion for flora and fauna.
The resort’s private footpath winds its way to Datai Bay’s milk-white-sand beach, named one of the world’s top 10 beaches by National Geographic (all non-motorised watersports at the hotel are free of charge, so take to the waters). Achy? Make the most of the Datai’s wellness centre, whose facilities include a sauna and steam room. Venture deep into the rainforest, seeking out dusky leaf monkeys, geckos and colugos. Follow the trail that leads to the suspension bridge for eye-widening views.
Hop on theLangkawi Cable Car for more gasp-worthy views that rival the local birdlife’s. On the steepest cable-car ride on earth, you’ll be whooshed up to heights of 708 metres above sea level; wave at Langkawi's second-highest peak: Mt Machinchang.Keen golfers can tee off at the award-winning, 18-hole, par-72 championship Els Club Teluk Datai golf course, five minutes away by car.
Swing by Fat Cupid on Jalan Pantai Tengah Lot for international cuisine served in a minimalist space. The Danna Langkawi hotel in Pantai Kok has a choice of tempting dining options: Straits & Co is styled with colonial elegance, offering Malay flavours, traditional snacks, local and Western desserts, pastries and more.
Staff at the Datai Langkawi can arrange tours to local villages so you can sample street food; don’t miss a trip to one of the fragrant night markets. Have a wallet-friendly seafood feast at Wonderland Food Store, a little, budget restaurant in Kuah Town; begin proceedings with a steaming bowl of seaweed soup.
Toast the good decisions that brought you here at the Andaman hotel’s buzzing Beach Bar, at Jalan Teluk Datai.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rainforest hotel in Kedah and unpacked their beachwear and bug spray, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Datai Langkawi in Malaysia…
Indiana Jones, if you’re reading this, we have a hotel for you: the Datai Langkawi, buried deep in 10-million-year-old Malaysian rainforest. And we know, Dr Jones, that exploring calls for cooling dips, so don’t worry: the hotel is right on the doorstep of Datai Bay, which the nature boffins at National Geographic named among the top 10 beaches in the world (we concur.) Those brainy types would probably feel quite at home here: the Datai Langkawi has a serious Nature Centre and a team of obliging naturalists and marine biologists, headed up by charismatic former banker Irshad Mobarak, who has swapped finance for flora and fauna. Forget temples of doom: you’ll be guided into the rainforest for butterfly walks, coral-reef encounters and waterfall chasing; then after days in the wilderness, you’ll return to the hotel’s fabulous dining and wining delights and a whisper-quiet spa, which harnesses healing Malay herbal medicine. Encounters with evil villains are unlikely; unforgettable wildlife, though, is very likely indeed.