The Datai

Langkawi, Malaysia Book from

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, pre-loaded iPods, exclusive Plantation 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
  • A new Ernie-Els-designed golf course promises to be one of the most dramatic in Asia

Lows

  • Steep footpaths and steps lead from the main hotel rooms to the beach, but there are electric buggies to whisk you around
  • The villas are built into the forest, and some have commented they can be dark and damp in the rainy season
  • 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
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Resort
  • 72 rooms, 53 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 Datai has 14 glorious, butler-serviced Beach Villas, a range of smart suites and rooms-with-a-view up in the main building; freestanding villas for 2-3 in the rainforest; and 2 Pool Suites (let in pairs) betwixt jungle and sea.

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 (the latter tend to be larger and higher) and are beautifully designed with impressive, jungly ornaments, high ceilings and hardwood floors. They have kingsize beds, a daybed and a sumptuous bathroom. Corner Suites and End 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, dining area and kitchen. 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. Superior 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. Four Pool Villas also have a small private plunge pool, a Jacuzzi and a daybed on their raised terraces. Some have commented that the villas can be a little dark - and damp - in the rainy season, but, when we visited in March, we found them snug, with good interior lighting. Close the blinds at night as buggies pass by your entrance door.

If you're coming as a family or as a group, try to book 2 (or all 4) of the Pool Suites, which enjoy the best of both worlds: beach and rainforest. A short, levelish stroll from the Andaman Sea, they have a Malaysian village feel, with each pair of suites sharing a sheltered walkway to a kitchen and a separate, long-windowed, high-ceilinged living room and dining pavilion. A 15m pool - shared by all 4 suites - is shaded by the high canopy of the rainforest, so you won’t miss out on the wildlife.

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, 2 loos back-to-back (but with a wall between), 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 (most are flatscreen), WiFi, preloaded iPods and docks. You also get exclusive Plantation 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, minibars with complimentary goodies, or full kitchens.

Features include:

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

Eating

The food is out of this world. Breakfasts which melt into brunch are sociable affairs, with long buffet tables spread with shots of detox juices, champagne, dosa, roti channai, plates of pomelo and mango, patisseries, custards, sushi and rice porridge as well as quiches and freshly cooked eggs (but don’t expect any pork bacon).

The Datai and Pools Suites have private kitchens, and the Beach Villas have a butler's kitchen, so these rooms are great for private dining. There’s 24-hour room service as well as 5 dining venues to choose from, all with vegetarian options, and they’re so good that you really have to try them all.

At The Dining Room in the main building, you’ll find local seafood such as crab cakes served on lemongrass, grilled prawns in sweet and sour sauce, or fresh lobster stir-fried with sweet Thai basil and served in its shell. Or western dishes like chicken stuffed with foie gras, truffles and mushrooms that just explode with flavour. Side salads might be carrot, mango and beans on a bed of banana flowers, and you can round off with a basket of coconut cakes and a clay pot of jasmine tea, or a melt-in-the-mouth passion fruit soufflé washed down with the best of European wines.

Built on stilts among the tree canopy, the speciality 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).

The Datai’s signature restaurant is Gulai House, which offers delicious Malaysian food such as Chicken Capitan, laksa and Indian curries in an open-air, "kampong-style" setting. Set your own level of spiciness if you like your food ‘pedas’.

For sociable evenings by the shore, The Beach Club offers alfresco themed dinners (not as tacky as that sounds), buffets of fresh seafood and salads and BBQ’s nearly every night.

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 a range of snacks (try the Datai burger), 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 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. A hand-written guidebook in your room will help you identify them
  • Early morning nature walks are run by local conservationists Jungle Walla. 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 3 signed hiking trails for independent explorers, lasting from 45 minutes to 2 hours, one of them posted with poems for inspiration
  • The bay is fabulous for swimming and snorkelling (watch out in jellyfish season!); 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 Ernie Els 18-hole championship golf course within the grounds - golf lessons and buggies available
  • Chill out at the 4-pavilion spa, with a wide array of massages (Balinese, hot stone...), mineral scrubs, Ayurvedic oil therapies and beauty treatments
  • 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.

Children under 12 stay for free when using existing beds, and children under 2 are free in a baby cot. Only one bed or baby cot is permitted per room.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Superior and Pool Villas are big enough for extra beds and cots (the latter also has a private pool), or, better still, the Datai Suite has 2 bedrooms and space for a baby cot. Older families might want to book a pair of the 4 Pool Suites, where you’ll get 2 separate suites with shared a living pavilion and pool, or the stilted 4-bedroom Villa Hutan Datai which has a garden, huge private pool and masses of space

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

Creche/Kid's Club:

Kids Lab facility complete with marine biologist

Children's meals:

  • Mild curries and fresh fish suppers served at the laid-back Beach Club
  • Mango lassi for breakfast

Kids Activities on site:

  • Guided nature walks through the trees
  • 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: 30 minutes
  • Shops: 30 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for The Datai