The Datai Langkawi was one of my most highly-regarded beach resorts in Malaysia before it had a complete overhaul. I can’t wait to return this weekend to check out the new look and am eager to see if it still holds the original charm I so fondly remember.
The Datai Langkawi Location
Located on the eastern side of the island, The Datai benefits from a generously green and private position on one of the most beautiful bays in the world – confirmed by National Geographic with Datai Bay making it into their Top 10 Beaches list. The rainforest is one of the oldest on the planet (10 million candles needed for that cake), and the Rainforest Villa in which we stay is one of 32 of its kind integrated into the forest (there are rooms and beach villas too but this visit we’re focusing on the Rainforest Villas).
Villas at The Datai Langkawi
Raised on stilts, the recently redesigned Rainforest Villa offers a generous 123 square metres of luxury accommodation. Separated into a sleeping and living area, bathroom and outdoor patio, the room has more than enough space to keep hubby and me happy. The two most important things – bedding and shower – fit the bill of this luxurious stay offering a dream-inducing mattress and pillows and an instant hot-water, high-pressured shower. The bathtub has flat edges – perfect for coffee cups, laptops, books and glasses of wine – and bath salts add just a little more comfort. Those things ticked off, the rest is extra – and extras indeed there are!
The mini-bar (excepting alcohol) is included in the room rate. Coconut water, local beer, soft drinks and locally-made choccies are welcome nibbles. Tea (Ronnefeldt) and coffee (an espresso machine by Café Richards), provide the expected but what gets us most excited is the bottled water. Seems a small thing right, but here they bottle their own!
The team at The Datai took the goal of eliminating single-use plastic so seriously that they built their own water-bottling plant! By using reusable glass bottles, they have prevented 100s of plastic throwaways daily from ending up in landfill (or worse, the ocean). I was wondering if the coffee pods could go too. As a coffee snob, I think better flavours are given by a French press anyway. Apparently, though there is pressure from guests to have the pods stay. If you are one such guest, kindly Google coffee pods and their impact on the earth along with the wonders of a French press for extracting the full body of the beans. Either way, The Datai has their very own plastic shredder and glass crusher, breaking what waste they do have into smaller pieces and then upcycling it into things such as construction materials. Currently, the resort has completed 80% of their zero-waste goal with the target of being 100% zero-waste by June this year!
Efforts to reduce their impact on the earth go further into the bathroom with minimally-wrapped toiletries in bio-degradable packaging, organic soap, hair care and body cream, and they even have bamboo toothbrushes. Shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are in stylish ceramic refillable containers, and you should know that the black and grey water is dealt with on-site in the most sustainable way possible. It’s naturally treated passing through several processes and comes out so clean that it’s almost drinkable (it’s not, instead it’s filtered through the gardens and onto the swampland).
It would be tempting to stay in our jungle hideaway – nibbling, soaking, sleeping, observing nature from our verandah – but biodiversity and guides to help us discover it await.
Activities – The Datai Langkawi
The commitment the team at The Datai has made to sustainability goes beyond solely providing a few in-room adaptations, they show dedication in their hiring too with several resident marine biologists and naturalists actively caring for the surrounds and educating guests through beach walks, jungle treks, mangroves kayaking and explorations of the permaculture garden. Besides astounding flora diversity, you might chance upon a python, a monkey or two and if lucky the great majestic hornbill. There’s even a 15-metre high, 20-metre long canopy walk allowing you to get up close and personal with the canopy of an established strangling fig tree. It is truly a celebration of the biodiversity of our planet.
Non-motorized water sports are included in the stay as well as access to a well-equipped gym with inspiring views out to the sea. Regular group fitness classes are scheduled along with yoga, but many prefer a brisk walk around the shaded hilly slopes of the resort at dawn, or dusk run along the beach. An adults-only pool sits high on the gradient levelling up with the rainforest’s emergent layer. A family-friendly pool lines up with the forest floor, separated from the sea by the beach and a green patch, making a popular spot for all.
For the ultimate relaxation experience, however, a session in The Spa is unforgettable. Spa villas are enclosed by jungle, and their open-walled backs reach out towards a small creek. The packages here are distinctive with organic products often handmade from the fruits of the forest itself and healing wisdom from local and regional cultures making the therapies a truly Malaysian experience. Going beyond relaxation, the spa offers manicures and pedicures done by an in-house podiatrist (!) – you can’t get much fancier than that. For more details, read a more comprehensive review of The Datai Spa here.
Dining – The Datai Langkawi
No resort of this calibre keeps a stellar reputation without some memorable dining experiences, and The Datai has not one but four restaurants guaranteed to make an impression. The first and a must-visit even if you’re not staying at the resort is The Gulai House – serving Malaysian food in a traditional open-walled home in the middle of the forest. The Dining Room is known for its fine European cuisine, and the renovations have added a well-stocked walk-in wine cellar that I highly recommend taking a tour of before dinner. The Beach Club offers casual dining by the sea and if you’re lucky you’ll get adorable dusky-leaf monkeys joining you for dinner (their favourite leaf is found in the gardens adjoining the restaurant). Lastly, you can have a tasty Thai meal in a beautiful treehouse setting in the rainforest’s canopy, The Pavilion. Full articles on each of the restaurants found in the title links.
Most rooms include breakfast and a table by the pool is an absolute delight. The Dining Room doors collapse into the walls opening up the indoors to the out. Some prefer an air-conditioned table indoors, but most are seated on the patio marvelling at some of the tallest trees in the world reaching sky-high above the deck. Butterflies and birds float by along with the occasional squirrel. We caught hornbills roosting in nearby trees too!
A compact a la carte brekkie menu is backed up by a quality buffet and two live cooking stations – one for eggs and the other for things such as pancakes and waffles. Part of the spread is an impressive range of baked goods thanks to pastry chef, Saiid Hazar and his team. Dairy-free, gluten-free and a whole seductive section of buttery pastries catch many an eye.
Fresh fruit, including cut-to-order mango slices and peeled lychees, gets the day off to a healthy start along with mini chia puddings, Greek yoghurt and small pots of Bircher muesli. Nuts, dried fruits and cereals continue my plant-based theme.
Of course, noodles and curries give local flavour, but for the morning, we’re all about comfort… which means, coffee. Lots of coffee. Tea by Ronnefeldt, juices and even bubbly are more thirst quenchers. It would be easy to spend hours here (and we do).
The Datai Langkawi Review
My memory of The Datai Langkawi four years back was one of absolute beauty and an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the natural environment. My opinion hasn’t changed towards the physical appeal of the setting and facilities but what has become profoundly evident is that this is a resort for Malaysia to be proud of. Their efforts in sustainability (which go way beyond the few initiatives I’ve mentioned here) are something to aspire to.
Reasons to visit The Datai Langkawi: incredibly beautiful natural surrounds; spacious rooms with mini-bar included, luscious organic bath products and dream-inducing bedding; excellent dining options; expert staff; serious efforts towards sustainability that are well-worth supporting.