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Hotel review: the Datai Langkawi (Malaysia)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (April 16, 2014): Hotel review: The Datai Langkawi (Malaysia).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: The Datai Langkawi, Jalan Teluk Datai, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
  • Hotel website: The Datai Langkawi
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

Nestled in the heart of an ancient rainforest above a gorgeous bay, the Datai Langkawi is a captivating destination resort that blends smoothly with its natural surroundings. Situated on the beautiful island of Langkawi, each room, suite and villa enjoys the embrace of the lush rainforest and some offer stunning views from private verandas of the breathtaking Andaman Sea. Reconnect with nature, rekindle your spirit and reignite your soul in this serene natural haven.

The Datai Langkawi features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most luxurious rainforest lodges and the world’s best family hotels.

In this review (more info and photos below my slideshow & youtube clip):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Comparison with other Langkawi luxury hotels (Four Seasons)
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The Datai Langkawi enjoys a spectacular rainforest setting. The main facilities are embedded in the jungle on a hillside above a long curl of sand in the relatively isolated north-west corner of Langkawi island. The resort’s jungle surrounds plays host to a wealth of wildlife, some of which are endemic to the area. You may well spot dusky leaf monkeys, tokay geckos or Sunda flying lemurs during your stay (especially at dusk or dawn).
  • A ten minute walk through the lush private grounds (or a ride on one of the hotel’s buggies) will bring you down to the satellite facilities at the spectacular beach of Datai Bay. The long beach is wide and composed of soft, grey sand. It is shared with another hotel (the Andaman hotel), but feels very exclusive and private as nobody else can access it.
  • The resort architecture is absolutely gorgeous and the facilities are all extremely well maintained, despite this being a quite isolated location in the midst of the jungle.
  • The Datai Langkawi features 124 well-appointed rooms & suites, with a location in the jungle or along the beach (choose your accommodation according to your preference). The hotel has 44 deluxe rooms, 10 premium rooms, 40 villas, 4 pool suites, 12 suites and 14 beach villas. All rooms & villas have individually controlled air conditioning, ceiling fans, satellite TV, DVD player, hairdryers, international direct dial telephones and personal safes. Room furniture is heavy and solid and the beds are very comfortable with excellent quiet air-conditioning or ceiling fans to keep the temperature cool.
  • Some very nice, additional room features are the complimentary mini bar and a daily replenished fruit bowl. I also received a bottle of champagne upon arrival in the room, but I am not sure whether this is standard complimentary practise or whether it was part of the hotel package that I had booked.
  • The resort has a two pools: a stunning adults only pool which is higher up in the jungle near the main facilities & a smaller pool down by Datai Bay almost beachfront which caters to families with children. Both pools are heated and surrounded by very comfy sun loungers & oversized towels. Just when you think you are far too hot you are supplied with an ice-cold flannel & surprised by a sorbet or mini cocktail to keep you refreshed.
  • Service is excellent (albeit a little slow at times), and both staff and management will do whatever they can to make your stay as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
  • The hotel has four restaurants on site. Elevated in the forest, in an open-air setting, you can enjoy the authentic Thai cuisine at The Pavilion. For Malaysian and Western cuisine look out for The Dining Room or enjoy the alfresco dining at The Beach Club. For the authentic Malay and Indian cuisine, enjoy the open-air Gulai House. The Thai was my favourite, closely followed by the Gulai House, in the canopy of the forest. Breakfast (more of a brunch) is also another culinary experience offering both Asian & continental cuisine.
  • Room rates are very reasonable for a luxury resort of this kind (almost half of those at the Four Seasons Langkawi, albeit the difference in guest experience is marginal).
  • The Datai also features an exclusive 18-hole Championship golf course, a full-service spa, two tennis courts, and a health club. The small but beautiful spa is located in the rainforest (only female therapists) and I advise to book treatments in advance to avoid disappointment.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
  • Although the resort has a beautiful beach, its real habitat is the rainforest. Few rooms & villas have open views of the sea, as most look into the beautiful jungle.
  • WiFi is complimentary but it was a hit and miss during my stay. Download speed is disappointingly slow when the hotel is busy.
  • At certain times of the year, jellyfish are the in the waters around Langkawi and they may cause serious health and safety issues. The watersports staff flags for ocean conditions.
  • The resort used to be part of the GHM Hotels & Resorts portfolio, but ownership/management changed in 2013. Some guest’s reviews on the internet complained about a decline in service and maintenance. While I cannot compare the hotel with how it was managed under the GHM brand, I found the overall service to be excellent albeit a little slow from time to time. I experienced one serious let-down at the signature restaurant Gulai House, where my entree and the one of my travel compagnon were not served at the same time (but with a 15 minute interval between them) and no apologies or explanation was offered.
  • Some guests posted reviews on the internet that the rooms feel (out)dated, but I do not agree (my room was excellent, albeit it may have been an updated one). In any case, the resort will revamp its rooms this year (2014), so it should not be any issue anymore in the near future.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: excellent: 8,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best hotel deal at a luxury resort like The Datai Langkawi.
  • Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities (upgrade, daily breakfast, one Balinese Massage for two, early check-in and late check-out) when you book your stay with Virtuoso.
  • Book a hotel room near the main building if you want to have a rainforest experience and/or be close to main facilities, or, alternatively, book a beach villa when you want to stay on the beach.
  • If you book a rainforest room, request one at the higher (second) floor, so that you have a more open view of the jungle and more daylight into your room.
  • If you love Thai food, do not miss the culinary experience at the Pavilion. The curry Massaman was the best ever!
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER LUXURY HOTELS ON LANGKAWI

The Four Seasons (read my review here) and the Datai are hands down the best hotels in Langkawi. Comparing them would be unfair since they both offer a totally different experience, more focused on the rainforest at the Datai and on the beach and Andaman Sea at the Four Seasons. Nevertheless, you may want to take into consideration the following facts when you do not know what resort to choose:

  • The Datai is less expensive as compared to the Four Seasons, while the overall experience in terms of service, food and luxury is marginally different (my room rate at the Four Seasons was twice as expensive as the Datai for the lowest room category).
  • The colour of the sand at the Datai’s beach is a tad less white as compared to the white sand at the Four Seasons Hotel (which is my favorite beach in Langkawi, also from an aesthetical point of view).
  • The jungle surroundings of the Datai are way more impressive than those at the Four Seasons, with the added spectacle of wildlife.
  • The rooms of the Four Seasons are larger and more luxurious (especially the bathrooms), but they feel less authentic.
  • Service at the Four Seasons is (slightly) superior to the Datai.

In summary, when travelling to Langkawi, I would recommend to stay a few nights at both resorts to take in the best from the rainforest (Datai) and beach (Four Seasons).


BEST TIME TO VISIT

Langkawi has one of the more stable climates for an island in Malaysia. Located on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the Malaccan Straits, it is shielded from major winds and storms by the mainland on one side and Sumatra on the other. This makes Langkawi suitable to be visited all-year-round, with never too drastic weather. The rainy season is from September until mid November, during which time on average, there are about two hours of rain per day.  Note that an hour of this precipitation usually comes during the night-time. Even during rainy season, the mornings are usually filled with sunshine, with the rain coming during overcast afternoons. The mid-season (neither dry nor rainy) is from mid April until August. The mornings are again sunny, but the afternoons can be overcast. The dry season is from mid November until mid April, during which time there is very little rain.


HOW TO GET THERE

The following airlines (click here for direct links to their websites) serve the small Langkawi airport (a 20 minute drive from the resort):

  • Malaysian Airlines: via Kuala Lumpur
  • Malindo Air: via Kuala Lumpur, Penang
  • Fire Fly: via Kuala Lumpur, Penang
  • Silkair: via Singapore
  • Tigerair: via Singapore
  • Air Asia: via Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuching, Singapore

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

HOTEL BAR AND LOUNGE

HOTEL BAR AND LOUNGE

WALKWAYS TO ROOMS

WALKWAYS TO ROOMS

HOTEL WING

HOTEL WING

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

ADULT POOL

POOL LOUNGERS

POOL LOUNGERS

JUNGLE WALKWAY TO BEACH

JUNGLE WALKWAY TO BEACH

STAIRS TO BEACH

STAIRS TO BEACH

DATAI BAY BEACH

DATAI BAY BEACH

DATAI BAY BEACH

DATAI BAY BEACH

FAMILY POOL

FAMILY POOL

BEACH RESTAURANT

BEACH RESTAURANT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

THE PAVILION THAI RESTAURANT

THE PAVILION THAI RESTAURANT

HOTEL AT NIGHT

HOTEL AT NIGHT

DINING ROOM AT NIGHT

DINING ROOM AT NIGHT

BEDROOM

BEDROOM

BEDROOM

BEDROOM

BEDROOM SITTING AREA

BEDROOM SITTING AREA

WELCOME LETTER

WELCOME LETTER

WELCOME LETTER, CHAMPAGNE, FRUIT PLATTER

WELCOME LETTER, CHAMPAGNE, FRUIT PLATTER

WILDLIFE ON TERRACE

WILDLIFE ON TERRACE

BALCONY

BALCONY

TOILETRIES

TOILETRIES

BATHROOM

BATHROOM

BATHROOM

BATHROOM

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET

BREAKFAST BUFFET


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