The Datai

Langkawi, Malaysia Book from Book from £475 per night

Stunning rainforest resort with spa and impeccably stylish rooms and villas - perfect for wildlife-cum-beach holidays by the Andaman Sea
The Datai stands alone on a long stretch of powdery white-sand beach, carefully tucked into 750 hectares of virgin rainforest. Hordes of chattering monkeys swing around the trees, hornbills and squirrels fly through the branches, and giant monitor lizards hide among the strangler figs. But this is no jungle camp; it's arguably the best hotel in Malaysia. Its luxurious rooms, suites and villas have all the comforts of a 5-star resort - silky daybeds, exclusive toiletries - as well as stunning creeper-framed views across the sea.

This is the place to fall in love with Malaysia. There's a wonderful open-air spa, a pristine coral beach with watersports, superb staff who greet you by name, and 2 pools (one for couples and the other for families) surrounded by the sounds of the jungle. Indeed, with a choice of 5 superb eateries on site, plus an 18-hole golf course, you hardly need leave - though we do recommend stirring yourself for the fascinating guided nature walks. A sublime place, with many return guests, so book well ahead.

Highs

  • Private white-sand beach for snorkelling, swimming, beachcombing and sailing - no motorised watersports allowed
  • Beautifully prepared food and delicious drinks in all on-site restaurants and cafes
  • Extremely smart interior design, in both the room and villas, with stunning architecture, clean lines and natural materials
  • Abundant wildlife all around, protected by a hotel-funded conservation programme, and fascinating, complimentary nature walks, led by knowledgeable local naturalists
  • The quiet and fairly traffic-free island of Langkawi is ideal for exploring by mountain bike
  • The Els Club golf course is one of the most dramatic in Asia

Lows

  • The Datai has had a complete makeover since we last visited, so we're yet to personally view the new and improved resort. Note that some ongoing renovation work is still taking place, and therefore this review may not be fully up to date
  • Steep footpaths and steps lead from the main hotel rooms to the beach, but there are electric buggies to whisk you around
  • Not for those fearful of wildlife: there are loud jungle noises, and you may come face to face with inquisitive monkeys, lizards and geckos anywhere on the estate
  • No nightlife hereabouts - Langkawi town (30-40 mins) has a bit of action
  • Seriously pricey, but seriously worth it!

Best time to go

At any time of year you can expect the temperature to be in the 30s C / 90s F, with humidity above 80%. The rainy season runs from July-October, when there is heavy tropical rainfall most afternoons or early in the evening.

Our top tips

The Datai is very casual, but some couples like to dress up a little in the evening. You’re fine with shorts and trainers for the guided walks, but if you intend to do some serious jungle trekking, bring good boots and tight-weave trousers in the rainy season to protect against (harmless) leeches, and talk to the nature guides in advance about being prepared for face-to-face meetings with the rainforest’s permanent residents.

Great for...

Beach
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Family
Spa
  • Luxury Resort
  • 121 rooms, suites and villas
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 121 rooms and villas are divided into 3 categories: Canopy, Rainforest and Beach.

Canopy experience

The hilltop rooms and larger suites in the 4-storey hotel building are perched so high that you feel suspended in the rainforest canopy. Most of the rooms fall into the Deluxe or Premium Room categories and are beautifully designed with impressive, jungly ornaments, high ceilings and hardwood floors. They have kingsize beds, 2 daybeds and a sumptuous bathroom. Canopy Suites are virtually twice the size, with a separate living area, a dining table and a more spacious L-shaped balcony with stupendous views.

Ideal for a family or friends travelling together, the Datai Suite is on its own mezzanine, with 2 double ensuite bedrooms separated by a generous living room and dining area. Surrounded by a gorgeous sandstone balcony, it looks across the Malacca Straits to the islets of southern Thailand.

Rainforest experience

For a completely different experience, try a villa sympathetically built into the jungle. Rainforest Villas have a huge main bedroom with a kingsize bed, a high vaulted ceiling, a cushion-smothered daybed, a small dining table and a desk area. Double doors lead you into a cream terrazzo, party-sized bathroom, with basins and infinity mirrors on either side, a rainfall shower, dressing area and a bath (big enough for 2) from which you can watch the jungle through the hardwood blinds. Outside, you have a veranda with a pair of chairs that are frequently used as vantage points by macaques, sunbirds and even hornbills. Eight Rainforest Pool Villas also have a small private plunge pool, a Jacuzzi and a daybed on their raised terraces.

Beach experience

International superstars, however, might prefer the stunning glass-walled, butler-serviced 1- or 2-bedroom Beach Villas. Hidden in their own gardens behind high fences, these residences are up there with the best Asia has to offer. Glasshouse bathrooms are a temple to bathing, with theatrical egg-shaped baths and a pair of altar-like washbasins. Bed to beach is accomplished in 3 easy moves: topple into pool, float across, open gate. Voila.

Wherever you stay on the estate, you can expect elegant design, comfortable beds, a TV and WiFi. You also get exclusive toiletries, effective air-con, bathrobes and beach sandals you’ll want to take home. Other in-room extras, depending on what category of accommodation you’ve gone for, include binoculars, DVD players, Lavazza coffee machines and minibars with complimentary goodies

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Pre-loaded iPod and Bose docking stations
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served in The Dining Room in the main building. It's a sociable affair, with long buffet tables spread with shots of detox juices, dosa, roti channai, plates of pomelo and mango, patisseries, sushi and rice porridge as well as quiches and freshly cooked eggs (but don’t expect any pork bacon). Come sundown, the restaurant transforms into an adults-only (12+) fine dining venue, with French fare on offer.

Built on stilts among the tree canopy, the signature Thai restaurant, The Pavilion, serves tasty and eye-wateringly authentic dishes. The chef is utterly brilliant: give him fair warning and he’ll cook your catch of the day after a successful day’s fishing, or come up with your off-menu special requests (he prepared the best Mee Krawb for us that we’ve ever tasted).

Other dining options include Gulai House, which serves delicious Malaysian food, or The Beach Club, where you can tuck into pizzas and fresh seafood. Adjoining this is The Beach Bar, the perfect spot for cocktails and canapés at sunset. Perched at the top of the main building, with panoramic views over the jungle to the sea beyond, the relaxing, breeze-cooled Lobby Lounge serves tapas, fantastic cocktails and full afternoon tea.

If you're out and about for the day, ask for a picnic basket brim-full of tempting delicacies - so go easy on breakfast that morning. The staff can also magic up a romantic dinner for 2 on the beach, lit by candles with petals strewn over the sand.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Beach Club
Activity:

Activities

  • Nature lovers will be in paradise here - there are over 200 species of birds, including hornbills, sunbirds, sea eagles and brahminy kites, and wonderful, exotic butterflies, mammals and (benign) reptiles. The dedicated Nature Centre will offer more information
  • Early morning nature walks are run by a resident naturalist. The fascinating (and free) guided tours through the jungle will introduce you to the flora and fauna of the estate. Expect to see colugos, macaques, monitor lizards, giant squirrels and birds galore; hope for flying squirrels, flying snakes, wild boars and dingos
  • Lazy birds might prefer the evening rainforest walks, surrounded by the sounds of owls, cicadas, hornbills and frogs. Sunset prowlers include slow loris, dusky leaf monkeys, civet cats and spider monkeys. Further inland there are clouded leopards, but you won’t see them at this level
  • There are a whole host of hiking trails for independent explorers
  • The bay is fabulous for swimming and snorkelling; or you can book a diving lesson
  • Sail Hobie Cats across the bay or join a day cruise (complete with butler) aboard the Naga Pelangi, the traditional Malay 22m hand-built junk schooner sail boat; or try out windsurfing and paddle-boarding
  • Take one of the kayaks for a paddle along the pristine coastline, with a picnic basket and plenty of water - water sports are complimentary to guests
  • Sign up for a mangrove cruise along the Kilim river aboard a traditional boat; highlights include a bat-cave, million-year-old rock formations and a fish farm
  • Grab a mountain bike and explore the scenic and little-visited northern corner of Langkawi, or play tennis on one of 2 tennis courts
  • There's a beautifully landscaped The Els Club 18-hole championship golf course within the grounds - golf lessons and buggies available
  • Chill out at The Spa, with a wide array of traditional Malaysian ‘Ramuan’ healing rituals
  • Rent a car or take a driver to explore the island: drive up to Gunung Raya for a further glimpse of the hornbills

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife

Kids

Families will find plenty to occupy kids at this tropical delight set on this gently shelving beach with sand crab cities, rockpools, perfect sandcastle sites and soft white sands; the family-friendly pool is just beside the beach. There’s shade for resting under and opportunities to observe the fish-eating monitor lizards and kingfishers, as well as large birds of prey. And of course the nature walks and wonderful jungle will delight older children interested in wildlife. And the staff are charming, local nannies can be hired.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Canopy Deluxe and Premium rooms are ideal for families, each sleeping up to 4 in a kingsize bed and 2 single daybeds. The Rainforest Villas each feature a queensize daybed that could sleep 2 children. There are also some 2-bedroom configurations. Note that no rollaway beds are available.

Babysitting:

Available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots can be arranged on request and Stokke high chairs are available in the main restaurants

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Children's meals are available at all of The Datai's restaurants

Kids Activities on site:

  • Guided nature walks through the trees
  • Nature Centre offering a range of jungle-themed activities
  • Mangrove tours
  • Organised family treks
  • Kayaking
  • Watersports
  • Learn about traditional batik

Families Should Know:

Children under 16 are not allowed to use the upper pool or lobby lounge, but the pool at beach level is perfect for apprentice swimmers and their parents

Distances:

  • Airport: 40 minutes
  • Shops: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Kid Friendly:

Location

The Datai is on the northwest tip of Langkawi, which is the main island of the Langkawi archipelago (99 islands lying off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia), close to the Thai border.

By Air
There are daily domestic flights to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur and from Penang. Flights from Europe usually go via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Click on the links below for a list of airlines.

From the Airport
The hotel will send a car or limousine transfer for the quiet 40-minute drive from Langkawi airport.

Detailed directions will be sent to you after booking through i-escape.

More on getting to Malaysia and getting around.

Airports:

  • Langkawi 30.0 km LGK

Other:

  • Beach 0.1 km
  • Shops 10.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
6/10
Food
10/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

The rooms and overall facilities are very nice. Renovation is not complete, but it did NOT negatively impact our stay. Had some 'issues' in the beginning with our room and those were handled perfectly by management. Overall, a very well-run, high end experience, although Langkawi itself doesn't have a lot to offer (outside of this hotel, or other resorts). Food is not nearly as good as Penang so don't come here after that! Also, the quality of water at the beach varied from day to day....not the fault of the resort, but something to be aware of. Even when on 'cleaner' days it's not nearly as clear and 'pristine' as you'd expect of higher-end destinations.

9/10,

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