Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, about 19 miles off the mainland coast of northwestern peninsular Malaysia. The islands are a part of Malaysia's Kedah state, but are adjacent to the Thai border. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi (Langkawi Island) with a population of some 45,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba.
Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies in winter when the eastern provinces are flooded. Coupled with natural white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and craggy mountain peaks—but hampered by inaccessibility—the island was at one time touted as "Malaysia's best-kept secret."
Langkawi is a tax-free zone, so normally cheap Malaysian shopping is even cheaper here. Langkawi is great for dozens of outdoor activities as well, such as bird watching, scuba diving, jungle trekking or exploring the mangrove forests on a cruise ship or kayak.