For those who love a good beach holiday, Langkawi is often not the top destination of choice. The Malaysian island resort is the lesser cousin of Southeast Asia’s myriad of beach destinations.
Known as the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is a duty-free (more about that later) island, especially popular with domestic tourists and Middle East visitors.
I had the chance to stay at the Meritus Pelangi Resort. Promoted as the ‘resort nearest to the airport’, the 35-acre resort is situation right at the northern tip of Pantai Cenang, or Cenang Beach.
The resort is about a 10-minute drive away from Langkawi International Airport or half away from Kuah Jetty.
Whichever way you arrive, there are few transportation options:
- Taxi: You could grab a taxi from the airport taxi counter or right from the jetty. From the airport, the trip should cost no more than RM20 if you have four people or less. Pay more if you have more people. The trip costs RM30 from the jetty, agree on a price with the driver before you board.
- Book a hotel airport transfer. Of course, this is the most expensive (RM20 per person, per way from the airport) for a shared shuttle. Not recommended unless you intend to splurge. Call hotel to book.
- If you are coming from the airport, hire a car. There is no need to pre-book a car online, as there are plenty of car rental counters calling out to you the moment you step into the baggage claim hall. At time of writing (Sep 2016), a manual compact car can be hired from about RM110 per day, excluding insurance and fuel.
The resort has 355 rooms. There are essentially four room types – The standard rooms (with either garden, lake, pool or beach views, all 46.5sqm), family rooms (55sqm), junior suites (separate bed & living rooms, 73.4sqm) and full suites (97sqm). As with most resorts, room views are a premium so a beach view will be the most expensive, followed by the pool view, lake view and garden view.
We booked for a garden terrace (the cheapest of all rooms) but was upgraded to the lake view upon check-in. I almost never paid for views but that’s my preference. If you must wake up to the sound of waves and the smell of the sea every day, be prepared to shell out RM300 more a night as compared to a same room facing the garden.
The standard rooms are somewhat similar – either 8 or 12 rooms in a terrace building, half on the ground floor and half on the second floor.
Sorry to disappoint foodies, but the resort offers a rather limited range of dining options. This is not a major problem, given that the resort is within walking distance to dozens of restaurants and eateries along Cenang Beach. (There are plenty of good food there, but i’ll leave it for another time).
The main dining area is Spice Restaurant, serving up all-day dining from breakfast, lunch to dinner. Breakfast is at RM75 nett, but there is usually a discount if you book it as an add-on along with your room. When I was there, Spice was also serving up Thai and Middle Eastern themed buffet dinners, priced at RM120 nett per person.
Spice restaurant’s breakfast features an international spread, from the standard Western fare of pancakes, waffles, sausages and eggs, to Asian dishes such as Chinese congee, dim sum, chicken curry and beef rendang.
As with most Malaysian hotels, the local food such as Char Kuey Teow, Nasi Lemak and soup noodles (cooked to order) were much tastier. So rule of thumb is – always go for Asian in Asia.
For lunch and dinner, guests may also try the beachfront restaurant Cba. Located next to the Horizon Pool, the restaurant and bar provides a lovely view of the Straits of Malacca.
Most important point about Cba: happy hour is 4-7pm daily,with half pint beers (Carlsberg) going for RM4 nett.
Apart from that, Cba serves up light bites during the day from noon onwards. After 7pm, it offers a range of main courses that comes with a buffet spread of appetizers and desserts.
We had the seafood paella (RM120) and a tenderloin (RM128). The paella was rather well done in my opinion, with the rice cooked just right (not overly cooked) and a generous serving of seafood such as scallops, mussels and prawns.
The tenderloin on the other hand was not as satisfying. We ordered it medium rare, but it came a little too overcooked, with the middle only slightly pink. The beef ended up a little too tough for our liking.
Other main courses included pastas and pizzas. Overall, the food is a little overpriced but with the free flow of appetizers and desserts, it is rather acceptable for a resort. Couple that with a live band, it’s really a rather great place to be at to watch the sunset over a beer.
The resort is worthy of its five stars in this respect: It has more than your usual facilities. Take a look at the resort map below – Chalet 1 is on the left (marked by the big yellow 1) and Chalet 51 is on the right.
The resort has two swimming pools – the Horizon Pool at the centre of the resort, and the Cascade Pool towards one end of the resort.
The Horizon Pool is a little more underwhelming, but popular with guests who simply want to lounge by the pool.
The Cascade Pool is a little more fun – it has water slides for children, a little man-made rock structure with a mini watermall, as well as a poolside bar. Those who don’t want to get wet can lounge by the deck chairs that line the pool, or sip on a drink during the afternoon happy hours from 7pm to 9pm.
The resort also has a fairly well-equipped gym. Located at block 1, the gym is a glass enclosed air-conditioned chalet.
The resort also has a sea sports centre, Naam. Located near Chalet 2 by the beach, the centre offers a suite of sea activities and sports, such as banana boat, parasailing, water ski jets.
For those who are not such big fans of heading out to sea, the resort has a leisure centre located in the middle of the compound. There is a squash court and a table tennis table for your workout, and an assortment of recreational games such as darts, carrom, bacarra. Bicycles are also available for rental at RM50 per day.
The leisure centre also features a steam room and sauna, but access is divided by gender. Ladies have the use of these facilities from 7am to 3pm, while men get to use them from 3pm to 11pm.
There is also a Meritus Club Room right next to the lobby. Meritus Pelangi only offers Club access to guests staying in suites, but Club access can be added on to your room booking for a small daily fee of RM137 per person. Alternatively, this can be bought at the door. Club access includes breakfast which can be taken either at the club or at Spice Restaurant, afternoon snacks and cocktails in the evening.
How does it add up?
This is definitely a decent property: there’s nothing to complain when you get RM4 half-pint beers in a resort!
While the property is pretty aged (we will get to that later), it still has the requisite elements of a good beach holiday for friends, couples or the family – good kids-friendly pools, great location, a splatter of offerings for dining, plenty of space for kids to roam and luscious green all over.
Overall service is rather good too – personalised check in with a welcome drink and towel upon check in, and buggy services for all guests around the resorts. We ordered room service too, and this came sooner than the usual 30 minutes.
What I really liked to have fixed will be upgrade of some facilities, such as the leisure centre where the age of the property really shows. At the time of writing, there are some renovations done at the property, so I do believe this is being progressive being carried out. Another area for improvement is the state of the air-conditioning in the room – given the tropical nature of Malaysia, rooms take a lot longer to cool and this can be rather uncomfortable.
The stay was fully paid for by me.