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Checking In: The Datai Langkawi

The Datai Langkawi, set on its own slice of beachfront rainforest, is one of those pioneering sustainable resorts that’s iconic for good reason. At The Datai – hidden within a 10-million year old jungle tumbling right down to the gorgeous Datai Bay – wildlife and wonderful hospitality coexist in a sprawling space designed to let nature take centre stage. Nature so magical, it’s inspired Malaysian legends.  

The Vibe

Effortless, unpretentious eco-conscious luxury – with killer tropical views from every direction. If you’re all about the far-flung and can’t resist a rather chic encounter with the wilderness, The Datai Langkawi should be top of your list. Buckle up for a sophisticated, polished experience that’s been honed to perfection. After all, The Datai is an OG rainforest resort. No need for heavy trekking attire and aggressive bug spray; you’ll do just fine day-to-day hopping between the beach and the jungle in a colourful sarong, and your favourite raffia accessories.

The Rooms

There are 121 rooms, suites, and villas dotted throughout The Datai’s rainforest and beach. That means an epic selection of bases – all beautifully-finished with classic interiors and inviting indoor-outdoor architecture. The Rainforest Collection of villas, all perched on stilts and some with pretty iconic private pools, put you right into the thick of the wildlife action. So close in fact that resident monkeys have been known to pinch the odd piece of swanky swimwear drying on the veranda. Who doesn’t love a bit of Melissa Odabash?

The one and two-bed pool villas of the Beach Collection offer more space and a 24hr butler service – not to mention direct access to the custard cream sands of the Datai Bay for those who like to roll out of bed directly into a bikini (us). 

If neither of those ecosystems are quite what you’re after, there’s also the Canopy Collection of rooms and suites located in the main building of the hotel. Each comes with plenty of space and rousing views across the jungle treetops, out towards the bay: spend long enough on your balcony and you’ll likely get a visit from a hornbill or two.

The Little Extras 

The Datai Langkawi knows how to delight and surprise with the little things: truffles at turndown, hot pink water lilies that magically bloom at night, a resident doctor on hand for your every need. But it’s the resort’s sustainable soul that’s most notable and inspiring. The Datai Pledge, first taken in 2018, set some pretty ambitious eco goals for the resort. Since then, The Datai’s been merrily carbon offsetting, reforesting, rehabilitating coral reefs, and supporting local schools, to name a few of its amazing initiatives. It’s installed hornbill nesting boxes, has a no single-use plastic policy, and works with a local NGO to train single mums, helping them achieve their economic potential. And of course, you can learn all about these projects and more through a series of hands-on experiences delivered by the resort’s team of knowledgeable guides.

The Food + Drink

If you’re travelling to Malaysia, chances are you’re on a bit of a food pilgrimage. In which case, you’ll be pleased to know that The Datai does not fall into the camp of hotels that dumb down their flavours for the Western palate. Here you’ll be in for a real culinary treat worth travelling for. For breakfast, take a seat at the main restaurant for crab omelettes, Andaman lobster Benedicts, and an impressive international buffet featuring some unmissable local favourites. Ditch the pastries in favour of the chewy, flaky, buttery bliss that is roti canai, best served with a little cup of warming fish curry for dipping. Alternatively, find some lighter, more classic fare at the beach club, alongside a mighty fine selection of freshly-blended juices targeting everything from hydration to immunity.

The beach club is also a strong pick for a casual lunch, where sushi rolls and cocktails are served right to your beach bed, if you so wish. Time it right, and you might just catch a complimentary round of passionfruit ice cream cones, too. As for other dining options, you’ll want to check out the traditional-style Gulai House, tucked away in the jungle, for a taste of authentic Malaysian cuisine. Here you’ll taste some of the best caramelised satay out there, and impossibly soft beef rendang that’s seemingly been slow-cooked for eternity. 

Guests can also mix it up by opting for Thai cuisine at The Pavilion, a semi-open air restaurant with views out to Thailand across the Datai Bay. For something higher end, don’t miss out on a memorable evening at the main restaurant where the three Michelin Star trained Chef Chai whips up an impressive degustation menu of contemporary European haute cuisine. Book a table to enjoy a 18:30 sunset. 

As for drinks, stop by the lobby bar after dark for sophisticated tipples in the wonderful company of the endearing tree frogs that call the adjacent lily pond home.

The To-Do List

Boredom does not exist at The Datai Langkawi. Spanning multiple ecosystems, there’s enough to keep you entertained from dawn to dusk, whether you’re after peace or adventure. For a calmer start, rise and shine with a stress-busting Mandi Embun, or forest-bathing ritual in which you’ll inhale and exhale the jungle dew, sip lemongrass tea, and dip in the shallow waters of the Crystal Creak waterfall. Equally, mornings are well spent wildlife-watching, whether simply strolling around the property (sightings practically guaranteed), or led by the resident naturalist guides on one of many nature tours. Don’t be surprised to find yourself walking alongside a kaleidoscope of colourful butterflies, spotting a flying lemur, or being spotted by a troop of gentle dusky leaf monkeys. It’s utterly immersive. 

As for bikini-based activities, if snoozing on the beach isn’t activity enough, you’ve got paddle-boarding, body-boarding and kayaking to name a few, and if the tide’s right, you’ll be able to explore the mangroves too (they’re bug-free). 

And if all that exploring and paddling around has your shoulders aching, you might wish to swing by the spa for a soothing treatment or two. You’ll find it immersed in its tropical surrounds, between the butterfly garden and the little stream that winds its way down to the beach.

What to Pack

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