Ah, Koh Lanta. We arrived there in mid-November utterly exhausted after five weeks in India and it’s exactly what we were looking for – a Thai island that was developed enough to have good WiFi but that was underdeveloped enough to feel laid-back and secluded. We weren’t looking for a Koh Samui or a Phuket – we were purposely avoiding islands like that. We wanted a Thai paradise; not to hang out with backpackers who are just in town to get trashed and do questionable things.
I want a villa by the beach in Koh Lanta and my life will be complete #THAILAND
— Scribble Snap Travel (@ScribbleSnap) November 29, 2014
Enter Koh Lanta. An island with incredible natural beauty, few big resorts, great cafés and bars (of the ‘let’s kick back and drink coconuts’ variety – not the ‘let’s down it’ variety), delicious seafood and friendly locals. It’s the perfect island for those who are looking to relax somewhere that feels like it’s away from the rest of the world, but who cannot live without basic mod cons such as hot showers and WiFi. The island is more popular with families and couples than party going backpackers. Although we’re told you can still party if you know where to look, we saw no evidence of that while we were there.
The island is 6km wide and 30km long. It boasts stunning white sandy beaches, while the middle of Koh Lanta features hilltops that are covered with an impenetrable rainforest. While there’s little in the way of sightseeing, most visitors like to snorkel or dive at the nearby small islands, which have coral reefs and a rich underwater life.
Culture of the island
A melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and sea gypsies live in Koh Lanta. From what we could see, there’s no religious tension, and everyone lives in harmony.
Popular areas with tourists
The west side of the island is dotted with bungalows, small hotels and resorts. The further south you go, the more secluded the beaches get. The main areas where tourists stay are:
Kantiang Bay – located towards the south of the west coast, this is one of the quietest bays on the island. Most accommodation here is on the hillside (with amazing views to boot) or on the beach. Nightlife is laid-back.
Khlong Nin Beach – this beach is approximately 1.5km long. There are both basic beach huts and 3 to 4 star accommodation.
Khlong Khong Beach – this is where we stayed. The beach itself isn’t the greatest for swimming, as there are a lot of rocks, but you can find a few swimmable spots if you look. The vibe is ultra friendly and ultra laid back – we loved it! This area is less developed than others on the island, making it one of the cheaper options for accommodation. The bars down by the beach are great.
Long Beach – a 4km stretch of sandy white beach, here you’ll find a combination of larger hotels as well as family-run resorts offering bamboo huts. It’s popular with all groups: families, young couples, backpackers. Loads of restaurant options and weekly parties.
Khlong Dao Beach – this is the busiest bay on the island, and accommodation on the beach is in the mid-price range, so those on a budget will have to look to Khlong Dao road, which is just a short walk to the shore. No partying, but plenty of food options. This is ideal for families with young children.
Koh Lanta is best for...Couples, young families, diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, beach bums
Things to do
Kick back and watch the sunset with a coconut
If you follow us on Instagram or like our Facebook page you’ll know that we’ve raved about Koh Lanta’s sunsets over and over again. They’re simply breathtaking; every evening we were treated to beauty that only Mother Nature can deliver. So make sure you head down to a bar, get a hammock, order a coconut and enjoy the show. Our favourite spot for this was the Kati Kala bar and restaurant on Khlong Khong beach (part of the Coco Lanta bungalows). They have the best coconuts and loads of deckchairs/floor seating/hammocks to choose from.
Just saw a tuk-tuk driver chilling in a hammock that he’s hung in the aforementioned tuk-tuk. Love this place. #KohLanta
— Scribble Snap Travel (@ScribbleSnap) November 29, 2014
Take a cookery class
We love taking cookery classes when we get to a new country. You can learn a lot about a culture through its food, and it’s also a great way of learning more about the most popular dishes, so that you know what to order when you eat out. We didn’t get to do one in Koh Lanta, but it’s a popular activity on the island.
We heard good things about Kwan’s Cookery, a place at which we ate at regularly, but we never had the chance to do the class. It costs approximately $9 and you also pay for the dish that you cook. Kwan, the owner and chef, is SUCH a character that I’m sure her class would be a lot of fun to do. The Danish couple that was staying in the room next to ours did the class and had only good things to say about it (see the where to eat section for more details on Kwan’s).
Go diving or snorkelling
Koh Lanta is the closest island to Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Koh Haa sites that are popular with divers. The first two are considered to be among the best diving sites in the world, and offer 200 hard corals and 108 reef fish. We didn’t dive while on the island, but Wikitravel offers a great guide to diving in the area, as well as Thailand as a whole.
There’s plenty to do for snorkelling enthusiasts, too. We’ve heard great things about Freedom Adventures, which offers a one-day snorkelling tour of four islands (known as the Four Islands Tour). The highlight of the tour is swimming into the Emerald Cave using only a torch. After swimming 80 metres through a tunnel, you finally emerge into a hidden lagoon in the centre of the island, which is surrounded by jungle and cliffs.
We really wish we had done this trip and will definitely book with them the next time we’re in Koh Lanta.
Visit the old town
Located on the east coast of the island, Koh Lanta’s old town was once a major port for trade. Today it mainly consists of a charming (albeit short) street, along which you’ll find houses on wooden stilts over the water.
It’s still a fishing village for the locals, while tourists come to soak up the laid-back atmosphere, get a bit of a taste of the local culture, and enjoy one of the many seafood restaurants that line the shore. We recommend you go there one late afternoon, enjoy the walk, and then eat dinner at Apsara (see the where to eat section for further details).
Have barbecued seafood by the beach
We were staying in Khlong Khong, and every evening most of the restaurants that line the beach offer some form of barbecued fish. This usually consists of whatever you choice of fish is, baked potatoes or corn on the cob, and salad for around $10. We can recommend Kati Kala Bar and Restaurant (at Coco Lanta Resort) – the fish was cooked to perfection and came with a Thai serving sauce.
Spend the day at a secluded beach
Koh Lanta offers many beautiful beaches, and the best part is that they’re never crowded. Take your pick of one of them and head there for the day with no agenda other than to rest and enjoy (see below for our pick of the best beaches).
I got through three books while in Koh Lanta and Ankit got through one, as detailed in our month four in review post. Koh Lanta is the perfect place in which to completely unwind and enjoy life at a much slower pace than what you’re probably used to. So make sure you load your Kindle or raid the bookshop before you get there and be prepared to spend hours with a good read.
Get a massage
This isn’t an activity that’s reserved for Koh Lanta; everywhere in Thailand you’ll get great massages at ridiculously cheap prices. Take an afternoon out to get one done by the beach.
Visit the Mu Ko Lanta National Park
The park is right at the end of the road to the south of the island and offers a beach, a lighthouse, a hiking trail and a camping area. We didn’t attempt to do the hiking trail, but I’ve read that it’s pretty underwhelming. If you visit, stick to swimming in the sea and taking photos of the lighthouse. At 200 TBH per person, we’re still not too sure if it’s worth the trip or not, but the drive there gives you glimpses of the rainforest as well as stunning views of the coastline.
Give a kitten a cuddle
Lanta Animal Welfare was set up to care for the island’s stray dogs and cats. Visitors are welcome to pop along, take a dog for a walk or give a kitten a cuddle. Click here for more information.
We tried to see as many beaches as we could while we were there, and our main aim was to find the most secluded spot on the island. Unfortunately we never had a beach to ourselves, however our favourite one was Nui Beach. This small stretch of powdery sand is difficult to find if you’re not looking for it, and we just happened to discover it while we were on our travels. We had to hike for about five minutes through the jungle to get to it, but it was so. bloody. worth. it.
There were only four other people and us. Blissful.
Our second favourite beach was the slightly more famous Bamboo Bay, which is one of the last beaches you find as you travel south to the national park. Just as beautiful, but not as deserted.
Where to stay
During our two weeks in Koh Lanta we stayed at Pinky Bungalow on Khlong Khong Beach. We had found this place on Agoda, and after reading a lot of great reviews and liking the look of the pictures, we booked it. Thankfully, we weren’t disappointed.
Owned by Mama Nong, the ‘resort’ has a mixture of bungalows and rooms. We had booked a bungalow, but due to our dates changing because of Ankit’s visa woes, we were given a room. Initially, I had wanted to swap back to a bungalow when one became available, but once we saw the room we loved it and didn’t change (subsequently, we also stayed in a bungalow for one night, but the rooms are so much nicer as they’re brand new!).
The room was massive, came with a super comfy bed (as well as a third, single bed, as it was a family room), a TV, a fridge, AC, free bottled water, shower and washroom. Our room was right next to the pool, which we mainly had to ourselves and was really well-maintained. In fact, the beauty of this place is that it’s all really well looked after, from the rooms to the landscaping.
Breakfast was also included and decent, and the owner helped with booking our minivan ride back to Krabi and booking a motorbike for us. It’s also just a five-minute walk away from the beach, and Pinky also has a restaurant serving decent food. We’d definitely stay here again and recommend Pinky to anyone who’s looking for a good place at a good price.
Location: Khlong Khong Beach.
For further information and bookings: Check out their page on Agoda here.
Where to eat
Apsara (old town)
Apsara was our favourite restaurant in Koh Lanta. Located in the old town in a house that’s partly on wooden stilts over the sea, the eating area at the back offers weathered chairs and a very romantic feel. There’s even one table on a small pier, which is probably be the most romantic seat in the house – best VIP table in town! Sadly we never got to try it, though, as we only went for lunch so it was way too hot.
Seafood is their speciality. We recommend the shrimp hotpot with glass noodles and the spicy glass noodle salad with vegetables and tofu. Remarkably fresh ingredients that were packed with flavour.
Location: on the main road of the old town.
Drunken Sailors (Kantiang Bay)
We simply loved this place! Drunken Sailors did both great, filling Western breakfasts (their omelette and baked beans as well as their French toast come highly recommended) and delicious Thai food (the chicken stir fried in red curry paste was out of this world). The atmosphere is also ultra laid back with loads of bean bags and hammocks thrown in for good measure, the staff are ultra friendly, and the coffee is the best we had on the island.
Location: Kantiang Bay
Kwan’s Cookery (Khlong Kong)
This restaurant (which is also the cookery school we mentioned above) is located in Khlong Khong along the road, and as it was a two-minute walk away from our room, we ate there quite a lot. They do brilliant Thai food at extremely reasonable prices. Ankit was obsessed with the fruit curry – a Kwan speciality – and ordered it at least three times. Their Pad Thai is among the best I’ve ever had, and their papaya salad is also worth shouting about. Kwan and her partner do a great job running this place, and it’s definitely worth the drive there even if you’re not staying near Khlong Khong.
Location: Khlong Khong
Kati Kala (Coco Lanta Resort, Khlong Kong)
This is where we had delicious barbecued fish for under $10 one evening. Every night they fire up the barbecue and display the day’s catch on ice. The lovely lady who runs the barbecue talks you through what each one is and how much it costs – they have everything from various whole fish, to squid, prawns and even chicken skewers. Each fish comes with baked potato, salad and a Thai dressing. Highly recommended – it was utterly delicious.
Location: Khlong Khong
Kunda Anti Pop Café (Khlong Khong)
While neither of us is a vegetarian, we both love veggie food, so much so that we keep discussing turning green. Hence, we generally like to check out any good vegetarian offerings that are in the vicinity. Enter Kunda, the only solely vegetarian café on the island. Their food is good, but our only issue with it is that there’s just too much garlic – and we love the stuff!
So our suggestion to you is to try things like the pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil and the carrot salad, but to ask them to ease up on the garlic. Their tomato soup, crepes and chocolate cake are also tasty. The ‘secret garden’ area at the back is complete with hammocks and floor seating. Nice place that’s best for a filling lunch.
Location: Khlong Kong
Greek Taverna El Greco
If you’re tired of Thai food and are looking for a taste of the Med, Greek Taverna El Greco serves up decent Greek food by Khlong Khong beach. Think souvlaki, moussaka and ouzo – there has to be ouzo. The Greek salad was our favourite thing on the menu – it tasted just like it does back home. And I should know because I’m Greek.
Location: Khlong Khong
How to get there and around
There are a variety of ways to get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok. You can fly to Krabi with a low-cost carrier such as Air Asia, and flights start at around $35 if you book early enough or spot one of their deals. Then from Krabi, you can get a minibus transfer for roughly $9, which takes approximately 3 – 4 hours. Not the fastest of options, but it’s the cheapest, and as long as your Kindle is fully charged you’re good to go (you can also fly to Phuket, but we didn’t explore this option).
There’s also a speedboat service from Krabi to Koh Lanta, but that was more expensive – you can check in Krabi for prices once you arrive.
There are also buses that run from Bangkok to Koh Lanta (comes with a free minibus tranfser to the island) which is an even cheaper option, however, we didn’t fancy travelling for 12 hours on a bus. If you opt for this, stick with the public buses, as private companies have a bad reputation in Thailand for being reckless, and there’s even reports of items being stolen from passengers’ luggage.
We rented a motorbike through our hotel for $8 per day. They just needed the driver’s passport and away we went. It’s relatively easy to drive around if you’re experienced with motorbikes like Ankit is, but you still need to be incredibly careful of other drivers, potholes in the road and dodgy breaks.
Another option is to take a tuk-tuk everywhere that you go. You’ll find them hanging around waiting for customers in most touristy areas.
Best time of year to visit
High season starts from November and runs until April. Over the summer months there’s a lot of rain, so most of the island’s hotels and restaurants tend to shut down. We were there in November and it was the perfect time, as the peak season hadn’t set in yet. Yes, it rained a little but it was worth enduring the occasional shower if it meant there being less people around!
ATMs are readily available all over the island, so no need to worry about running out of cash.
The island is safe, but as always, be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.