Island Hopping in Langkawi

Although we usually think of Langkawi as one island off the west coast of Malaysia, Pulau Langkawi is just one out of 99 islands in the Langkawi Archipelago. And out of these almost 100 islands in the chain, just four are inhabited.

Yes, the most beautiful, unspoiled destinations in this tourist hotspot aren’t on the “mainland” itself but scattered to the south, east and west; tiny specks of paradise in the Andaman Sea, covered in mangrove jungle and fringed by coral reefs.

Seeing Langkawi’s natural beauty at its best means heading out on a boat and visiting the offshore islands, so it’s little wonder that island hopping tours are some of the most popular activities Langkawi has to offer.

So, which destinations should be on your list of “must-visits” on an island hopping tour of Langkawi? Let’s do some exploring!

Dayang Bunting Island

This island is the most frequented by island-hopping tours, home to the beautiful Dayang Bunting Lake (Pregnant Maiden Lake, named after a local folk tale), the largest freshwater lake in Langkawi. It’s a short hike through dense rainforest to reach the lake, which is surrounded by forested limestone hills. The lake is perfect for a refreshing swim, and there are also small peddle boats for hire. Despite its popularity, Dayang Bunting retains a sense of wild, relatively untouched nature.

Singa Besar Island

This amazing wildlife sanctuary is another standard stop on a half-day island hop. Its thick coastal jungles are home to monkeys, mousedeer, hornbills, giant monitor lizards and peacocks. Every day, local boatmen put on an eagle feeding “show” for the tourists, tossing chicken bits into the water so the huge birds swoop in low enough for sharp-shooting photographers to snap close-up pictures.

Overnight camping is permitted on Singa Besar, but you must obtain prior permission from the Malaysian Fisheries Department.

Beras Besar Island

Usually the last stop on a standard half-day tour, this postcard perfect coral-fringed island has a palm-tree lined beach with blindingly white sand and far clearer water than what you’ll find around mainland Langkawi. A little shop sells cold drinks and rents out masks and snorkels. The small beach can get quite crowded at times, so to see it at its best, pick a tour that heads there early in the morning.

Pulau Payar Marine Park

This protected marine park is a series of small four emerald green islands. Located 30km south-east of Kuah (around a 45 minute boat ride), they’re usually visited by boats heading out on snorkelling and diving excursions. The islands of Paya, Kaca, Lembu and Segantang have some of the healthiest coral and most abundant fishlife in the archipelago. The park caters well for day visitors with restrooms, barbecue pits and shaded picnic areas with great views over the shallow inshore reefs.

Pulau Tuba

Not too many island hopping tours have Pulau Tuba on their itinerary, but it’s easy enough to go there yourself by arranging a ride with one of the local boatmen at Marble Jetty in Kuah. Tuba is less than 20 minute rides away. Providing a unique cultural experience for visitors, Tuba is one of Langkawi’s few inhabited islands. It’s home to a handful of small fishing and farming settlements where villagers still live a relatively traditional way of life. Inland Tuba is covered in lushly forested hills, rich in wildlife. There are several hiking tracks leading deep into the jungle, including the challenging trail to the Gua Wang Buloh caves, where the locals are said to have hidden from Japanese invaders during WWII.

For an authentic rural Malay experience, you can join a homestay program, staying in the local community and partaking in activities like fishing, cooking and handicraft making.