KO LANTA IN BRIEF
WHY GO: Ko Lanta is one of Thailand’s most charming islands; it is beautiful and peaceful, yet large enough that one doesn’t get easily bored. Ko Lanta’s beaches are long and secluded, and the sunsets memorable.
WHY NOT: Ko Lanta might be too quiet to some, especially when it comes to nightlife. Ko Lanta also lacks the perfect turquoise color of the sea that smaller islands have.
FAMILIES: Ko Lanta is one of Thailand’s most celebrated family destinations. The island is both peaceful and large enough that you won’t easily get bored. The most popular beach for families is Klong Dao.
BACKPACKERS: Ko Lanta’s guesthouses are some of the coziests and traveler friendly in the country. Khlong Khong Beach is the most backpacker-orientated beach on Ko Lanta.
BEACH BUNGALOWS: Ko Lanta still has a plenty of cheap and cozy bungalow resorts right by the beach. You will find bungalow operations from most price categories.
DIVING: Don’t even bother to try to snorkel on Ko Lanta’s own waters, there is nothing to see, but the diving trips will take you to some of Thailand’s best diving spots, the most famous being the far-away underwater double pinnacles Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. Ko Rok and Ko Ha are also great spots for both divers and snorkelers.
Ko Lanta may well be the best island in Thailand; it is certainly one of our favorites. The entire west side of the island is like a ribbon of beautiful beaches. The long beaches never seem to be congested even if there are numerous guesthouses. The main road runs far off the beaches, what adds to the peaceful atmosphere. Hotels and guesthouses are right on the beach, and you can find something for all budgets.
Ko Lanta is a great place to laze around, but it has enough of activities to keep you entertained. The island fits well both the backpackers and the families.
One great aspect of the island is that Koh Lanta has not yet sold its whole soul to tourism. The atmosphere is still very local apart the main beach areas.
While the beaches are on the island’s west side the east side is covered by mangrove forests and fruit plantations. Jungle-covered hills dominate the middle of the island. Sex tourism is non-existent, as well as the overzealous vendors who you might encounter in some other beach destinations. Nobody is going to bother you here.
Ko Lanta’s Villages: Saladan and Lanta Old Town
Ko Lanta’s main hub is port settlement Saladan, where all the boats go ashore. Saladan has a few ramshackle streets with restaurants, small shops and some cheap guesthouses. Most of the dive shops have their main office in Saladan. Shared pick-up taxis known as songthaews take people from Saladan to the beaches.
Ko Lanta’s beaches are on the western side of the island, and the main draw to visit the eastern side is the charming Lanta Old Town with its teak wood houses and old time feeling. Lanta Old Town has some nice restaurants, a few guesthouses, and a fascinating hammock shop Hammock House – be sure to visit that one!
Ko Lanta’s Best Beaches
Ko Lanta has a number of beaches, which all have a their own atmosphere. The sand is mostly grayish white and not the softest you can find, but pretty nice still. Between the better known beaches mentioned below you can also find a few deserted beaches.
Klong Dao – Ko Lanta’s Best Beach for Families
The three-kilometers long Klong Dao is Ko Lanta’s most popular beach, especially among the families. Klong Dao’s waterline is shallow and safe for kids to swim. Klong Dao has enough restaurants to keep you satisfied.
Phra Ae – Something for Everyone
Five kilometers long Phra Ae, also known as Long Beach, is Ko Lanta’s longest beach. Phra Ae’s beach vibe varies along the way: you will find everything from luxury hotels to simple backpackers’ huts on the long beach, whereas Phra Ae’s middle part is almost deserted.
The sea drops off fast, and Phra Ae is good for swimming but not so for small children.
Phra Ae’s norther end is lined up with many popular and long-lived restaurants such as Sood’s Second Home Suza Hut, Mr. Wee Pizzeria, Funky Fish and Thai Cat. Small scale beach parties can be found at the Pirate’s Bar.
Check out discounted prices for Phra Ae’s resorts.
Klong Khong – Ko Lanta’s Best Beach for Backpackers
Backpackers will feel at home on Klong Khong that has some of the cheapest and most inviting guesthouses in Ko Lanta. The beach is a bit rocky at low tide, what has kept the more expensive hotels at bay.
While visiting Klong Khong drop by the Bee Bee Bungalows’ waterfront restaurant, which is a haven for chilling out. The food is good, too, with some surprise items on the menu such as German Police Potatoes.
Another nice place to stay or dine in Klong Dao is the Fisherman’s Cottage.
Klong Nin – Not as Good as Ko Lanta’s Other Beaches
Klong Nin Ko Lanta is located roughly in the middle of Ko Lanta’s western coast. The long and straight beach deepens rapidly. To be honest, Klong Nin is Ko Lanta’s least inviting beach as a road runs just next to the beach.
However, the central location is good for those, who plan to spend most of their time exploring the rest of the island, especially if one can find a good deal on the guesthouses and hotels in Klong Nin.
Kantiang – Ko Lanta’s Luxury Beach
Stunning, crescent-shaped Kantiang is the island’s luxury beach, home of the famed Pimalai Resort and Spa, located on the hills overlooking the bay.
Kantiang Beach has also one mid-range option, Baan Laanta Resort, which has spacious bungalows located mainly on the overlooking slopes.
On the road passing by Kantiang you can find some nice restaurants like the elegant but relaxed Drunken sailor, which serves burgers skillfully made with a touch of Thainess. Their food can even be enjoyed by chilling out on a hammock.
Ko Lanta’s Quiet Beaches: Klong Jark and Mai Pai
After Kantiang the road deteriorates, and the beaches become even more secluded and beautiful. Klong Jark and Mai Pai are wonderful beaches with just a handful of guesthouses. You can also find two small deserted beaches between the bigger beaches, if your keep your eyes open.
Klong Jark has a few nice guesthouses such as Anda Lanta Resort, which comes with a small swimming pool. Even more beautiful is the wide Mai Pai Beach, home to only one resort, the fabulous La Laanta.
LaLaanta Hideaway Resort is run by a Singaporean group of friends, who created a hostel of such a kind they would actually like to live in: stylish but affordable, welcoming but not too posh. La Laanta has beautiful rooms, and a swimming pool.
Mai Pai Beach doesn’t have any other options for restaurants, but luckily the one in the hotel does food so delicious that you will feel entirely satisfied. La Laanta might just be the most adorable hotel in all of Thailand.
Ko Lanta’s Sights and Activities
The best activity to do in Ko Lanta is to rent a scooter and explore the island looking for the beach of your dreams. Ko Lanta’s roads are mostly in a good condition, and there’s not too much traffic, so it’s pretty safe to drive around.
On the southern tip of Ko Lanta you’ll find the protected Mu Ko Lanta National Park. There’s a small entrance fee to the park. You can enjoy a beautiful deserted beach, or hike on the national park’s steep jungle trails. You are almost sure to spot some monkeys!
Another great activity is to explore by kayak the mangrove forests, which cover most of the east side of the island.
There’s also several island hopping day trips you can do from Ko Lanta. The most popular is Four Islands Tour, which takes to the small and beautiful Trang islands (Ko Ngai, Ko Mook and Ko Kradan). Unfortunately these tours are very popular, and the group sizes can be big.
Our favorite island trip from Ko Lanta is, however, a trip to the deserted Ko Rok Island, which is surrounded by coral reefs.
Ko Lanta is also a good base for diving. Day trips take you both to Ko Ha Islands and the underwater pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, which count among Thailand’s best dive sites.
Ko Lanta’s Restaurants
Ko Lanta has a fair share of restaurants both on the beach side and along the road that passes by the beaches.
One restaurant that you should definitely visit is Red Snapper, which is located on the roadside at the southern end of Long Beach. Red Snapper serves delicious tapas style plates in an atmospheric garden environment. Great place for a date!
Nightlife in Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta is not exactly a party destination, even if you can find some beach bars here and there. The vibe is mellow, and most nights end early.
Ko Lanta’s Hotels and Guesthouses
Ko Lanta has hotels and guesthouses for all tastes for luxury accommodation to cheap beach side bungalows. The best part is that most of the accommodation is located right by the beach, and there’s not a single high rice hotel monstrosity on sight.
Check out the discounted rates for Ko Lanta’s hotels and guesthouses.
How to Get to Ko Lanta?
Ko Lanta is so close to the mainland that you don’t need to take a boat to get in. Minibuses from Krabi and Trang get to the island by crossing two small channels of water via short ferry rides. Bridges are under construction making the travel even more straight forward when they are finished. Both Krabi and Trang have airports; Trang is also connected to Bangkok by railway.
The distance from Krabi and Trang is about the same, but Krabi has more frequent minibus service to Ko Lanta making it a bit more convenient jumping off point.
During the tourist season from November to the end of May Ko Lanta can also be accessed by boat from Phuket (via Koh Phi Phi) and Krabi. Boat ride from Krabi Town’s pier takes three hours and costs about the same as the minibus ride.
The passenger boat from Krabi to Ko Lanta passes by the very easy-going Ko Jum. During high season, you can also take a boat south to Ko Ngai or the other Trang Islands, even all the way down to Ko Lipe on the Malaysian border.
Transportation on Ko Lanta
You can explore the island with several means of transport. The most convenient way to move around Ko Lanta is to rent a scooter. Ko Lanta’s roads are in good condition, and the traffic scarce, so the risk of getting to a accident is small. Other options are to hire a songthaew taxi or a tuktuk.
Best Time to Travel to Ko Lanta?
The only time Ko Lanta gets really busy is the peak season between Christmas and the New Year. During the rest of the year the island is rather peaceful.
Ko Lanta is less than ideal during the monsoon season from late May to late October; the waves are strong and Ko Lanta’s beaches almost deserted.
Good to Know about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta’s residents still follow a very traditional way of life. Respect the local culture and avoid sunbathing topless on the beach or moving around in the residential areas on your swimming suit.
Ko Lanta has a very simple local hospital. Better health care facilities can be found on Krabi a few hours away.