Destination Guide


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Courtesy Four Seasons Langkawi

An archipelago of 99 islands in Malaysia, which expands to 104 at low tide, Langkawi has been called Bali as it was 30 years ago. With the only UNESCO World Heritage Geopark in Southeast Asia, it is home to incredible wildlife, so provides plenty of adventure for nature lovers as well as beautiful beaches.


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Aerial View - Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, Langkawi, Malaysia

Four Seasons Resort Langkawi

When the Malaysian government set out to build the country’s most luxurious resort (no doubt inspired by the profusion of five-star properties in neighboring Thailand), they spared no expense. They snapped up 48 acres on Langkawi, a lush island a forty-five minute flight from Kuala Lampur, and brought in the Four Seasons and the star hotel designer, Bill Bensley, the man behind the Siam in Bangkok and the Four Seasons Elephant Camp. The Harvard-trained architect and landscape designer took advantage of the property’s natural setting, wedged between limestone cliffs and rainforest on one side and a spectacular mile-long, white-sand beach on the other; he created 91 rooms that are divided between beach villas and houses and Malaysian residences called Melaleucas. All have breezy verandahs, huge windows to take in the Andaman Sea or jungle views and wonderful wood and stone elements that incorporate Malay, Arabic and Asian influences.

Some of the most dramatic displays of this special Moorish-meets-Zen magic greet guests as soon as they enter the property in a series of courtyards. One has a wall hung with dozens of metal lanterns, another features a lotus pond reflecting arched doors and niches. The pathways winding through the resort are made of mosaic stones or railroad ties salvaged from Borneo and are edged with walls of hand-stacked stones and palms near the beach and a lush tangle of greenery closer to the rainforest. The ten Beach Villas, which are ideal for couples, lie to the southern end of the resort near the adults-only pool, where private cabanas with individual plunge pools can be reserved. The ten Beach Houses are nearer the family pool and its clever design of little coves that creates semi-private zones. Each of the Malay-style residences contains four one-bedroom accommodations on two levels. The lower ones have outdoor bathrooms; the upper ones have soaring, thatched ceilings, so both draw fans. All of the rooms feature tropical woods, batik fabrics and Asian artifacts and antiques that create the feeling of a fabulous private home. The bathrooms boast enormous hammam-like tubs with arches and skylights.

But as stunning as its accommodations are, the resort sets itself apart from many of the region’s flop-and-drop retreats because of its emphasis on nature and adventure. Two years after the Four Seasons Langkawi opened, the national park just to its north was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Geo Park, or natural reserve, the only one in Southeast Asia. Guests can be picked up by boat right on the hotel beach and go out with a naturalist to explore the mangroves, which are home to macaque monkeys as well as rare eagles, crabs, snakes and orchids. Other excursions include a trip to the nearby rainforest island of Pulau Langgun; a trek up to the island’s highest peak Gunung Raya; a diving cruise; coastal kayaking or visiting waterfalls. In addition to the off-site excursions, the resort has a water sports center, tennis courts, a kids’ club, gym, spa and multiple restaurants.

The best rooms for families are the ten Beach Houses, which have large decks facing the beach and private plunges in their gardens or the two two-bedroom villas with their own lap pools. Couples should book the massive Beach Villas, which have plunge pools and a private spa treatment room. For the ultimate splurge, request the Royal Villa, which sits at the northern edge of the resort; its series of connected villas front the beach and back up to a massive limestone mountain.

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