It can be stressful for parents taking a family with young children and teenagers to a luxury resort where the emphasis is more often than not on peaceful surroundings and stylish dining.
To the extent that resorts recognise and try to address the conflict between the needs of families and other guests, it’s usually the families that get the worse deal with certain resort pools being designated adults only. Children dining in high-end resort restaurants is not ideal either. In fact, the more luxurious and sophisticated the resort, the less welcome families tend to be.
The Canadian-based luxury hotel and resort chain Four Seasons has been leading the field in creating relaxed family holiday experiences that cater specifically for families in accommodation styles, dining options and the kinds of guided experiences offered from the resort. I took my family of five to stay at a Four Seasons family beach house in Langkawi, Malaysia overlooking the Andaman Sea. We spread out over 220 square metres of floor space, a private pool, outdoor dining area and an oversized spa tub that got more use than the pool. The options for dining went beyond restaurants to include a private chef to do surf and turf barbecues at the house and campfire dinners on the beach.
Langkawi, about a one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, is an archipelago of 99 islands off the northwest coast of Malaysia. The Four Seasons Resort Langkawi sits on the main island of Pulau Langkawi. Occupying 48 acres on a mile wide stretch of beach, the design of the resort is Malay-inspired with accents that hint at the Arabic, Asian, and Indian cultures that make up the Malaysian people. There are 91 beachfront and garden accommodations, but for families, the family beach houses can’t be beaten.
Kid friendly excursions proved to be just as fascinating for the adults. On the Mangroves and Eagles Safari we were taken out on a private boat with a very enthusiastic local naturalist, winding deep into the Kilim Karst UNESCO Geopark (a 550-million-year-old maze of limestone cliffs and mangroves). We learned about the ecosystem of the mangroves and were also able to get an up-close look at the cheeky macaque monkeys, colourful tree-climbing crabs, bats and dozens of soaring eagles that were swooping for fish. If your family likes keeping busy, there is a comprehensive daily activity schedule with things like yoga, rock climbing, rainforest walks, archery, traditional craft classes, jet skiing, windsurfing, sailing, and volleyball. We did a family cooking class one afternoon, which we all loved, and the kids enjoyed eating the tasty Malaysian meal they had helped prepare.
The Geo Spa at the resort is probably one of the most stunning spas I have ever seen, with its massive backdrop of towering limestone cliffs and six pavilions that seem to float on water. The area has long been revered by the people of Langkawi for its healing properties. The spa takes inspiration from the ancient rocks, pure water, unique light and the indigenous plants. The treatments are split into four categories, Nourishment, Water, Light, and Air. My partner and I enjoyed a couple’s treatment called Raja & Ratu, which in Malay means King & Queen. The two-hour treatment begins with massage focusing on specific chakras to maximise emotional connection and finishes with a traditional blessing. The spa uses the luxurious organic skincare range Ila, which is a blend of pure plant and mineral ingredients produced in harmony with nature and indigenous communities.
The three beachfront restaurants offer delicious options including traditional Malaysian dishes (like local fish infused with coconut and spices), authentic Italian, and a more casual grill with wood fired pizzas and Asian stir-fries. The Rhu Bar is the place to be for a cocktail and pre-dinner mezze plate. The Middle Eastern-inspired outdoor setting is the perfect place to watch the sun go down, and also a great place to head after dinner for a game of pool and one of their specialty malts.