Koh Lanta Travel Guide

There is actually not one, but two Koh Lanta islands: Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai, but people often speak of Koh Lanta to refer to the big sister, Koh Lanta Yai, where most of the beaches and almost all tourist infrastructure is located. Koh Lanta Yai is a beautiful medium-sized island –6 km wide and 30 km long– quite easily accessible from Krabi in about 2-3 hours, but somehow has so far managed to avoid mass tourism, which prefers destinations like Krabi, Phuket or Koh Samui, that can be accessed even more comfortably. All of the 9 main beaches in Koh Lanta Yai are located along the west coast, and even though some of them area really beautiful they don’t exactly fit the idyllic postcard image of a tropical beach, and this is another reason why the island remains less developed and quieter than others. And that’s good news for us! At the same time, Koh Lanta has good infrastructures and offers all kinds of activities, hotels and tourist servicies to the visitor.Β  The island is rather mountainous, but far from reaching the level of other Thai islands such as Koh Chang. Koh Lanta Yai has two main roads, one running along the west coast, where almost all of the beaches and most resorts and hotels are located, and another running mostly inland near the east coast, through a quieter area that retains the local atmosphere, and links with the two main towns in the island: Lanta Old Town and the fishing village of Sang Ga U, inhabited by the Chao Lei, also known as Sea Gypsies. Three large cultural groups coexist on the island: Muslims, Buddhists and Chao Lei, who were probably the first ones to settle in Koh Lanta.

In Koh Lanta there are still many local inhabitants who maintain their usual lifestyle and do not make a living from tourismΒ  -many of them Muslims-, so it doesn’t feel like just another Thai tourist beach destination, but an island with its own culture and character that continues to belong largely to locals, who during the high season share it with the tourists.

ℹ️ Top Things to Do in Koh Lanta

Mu Koh Lanta National Park

Koh Lanta National ParkMu Koh Lanta National Park includes not only the southernmost tip of the island, but a number of smaller islands in the surrounding area, including gorgeous Koh Rok 40 km southwest. The entrance fee is 400 THB/adult and 200 THB/child. But f you’re not taking a boat trip, the only area of the National Park you’ll see is the rather small one in Koh Lanta, and this is the reason why some find the entrance fee way too expensive. But if you’re not on a tight budget, the visit is really worth it. Basically you’ll enjoy the beautiful views from Laem Tha Naoad, a white rocky headland on top of which rises Koh Lanta’s lighthouse, swim in the crystal-clear waters of untouched Haad Tha Naoad beach, and explore a 2 km long hiking trail through the forest, in company of fearless monkeys. Getting to the Park couldn’t be any easier: just follow south the western coastal road until its end. The Park is open daily from 08:00 to 17:00, and you can even stay the night if you wish so, by renting out a tent (250 THB/night) or a fan bungalow with private bathroom (1,500 THB/night).

Boat trip to the 4 Islands

Boat trip to 4 IslandsThe 4 Islands full day boat trip is undoubtedly the most recommended tour you can do from Koh Lanta, and arguably one of the coolest things you can do in the whole country. This tour takes you to visit 4 small islands in the vicinity of Koh Lanta, with some of the best beaches in all of Thailand: Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and Koh Chuek, overall offering white sand beaches and crystal clear waters great for swimming and snorkelling among colorful coral reefs and lots of fishes. The main highlight is the hidden beach of Koh Mook, in a lagoon only accessible by swimming through an 80-meter sea cave (Emerald Cave), that rarely fails to leave speechless first-time visitors. Don’t miss it!

Boat trip to Koh Phi Phi

Boat trip to Phi Phi IslandsWhat to say about Phi Phi that you don’t already know? The Phi Phi Islands are probably the most famous in Thailand and perhaps even Southeast Asia, largely due to the incredible Maya Bay. In the small Phi Phi archipelago there are two main islands: Phi Phi Don -the biggest one, where all hotels and infrastructures are- and Phi Phi Leh. One of the highlights at Phi Phi Don is the viewpoint from which you see most of the island and the surrounding sea, while the main attraction at Phi Phi Leh is, of course, Maya Bay, even though nowadays is temporarily offlimits due to a conservation program, and it can only been enjoyed from the boat at a certain distance… But there’s plenty more to enjoy in the Phi Phi islands, and overall is a very rewarding boat trip from Koh Lanta.

Diving & Snorkeling

Koh Lanta is a good destination for diving, with a good selection of local dive companies and many good diving spots in the surrounding area. For the experienced, one of the best ranked dive sites in the area -about 60 km soutwest from Lanta- are the pinnacles of Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock), down to 50 and 70 metres deep respectively. A dive day trip there usually costs 4,000 THB/person. Koh Haa -the ‘5 Islands’- 25 km southwest from Koh Lanta, is another of the best dive areas, a paradise for underwater photographers where you will find all kinds of marine life in fairly clear waters. A dive day trip there usually costs between 3,000 and 3,500 THB/person. Koh Rok is another good ‘spot’, as well as Phi Phi and Koh Kradan islands, which can also be easily reached from Koh Lanta.

Baan Koh Lanta ‘Old Town’

Baan Koh Lanta Old TownBaan Koh Lanta, simply refered to as ‘Old Town’ among the travellers, is a small town with nice red heritage wooden houses, especially charming and photogenic in the last hours of the afternoon. This is the main settlement of the island, in the sleepy east coast, and it has been inhabited for centuries, originally by the Chao Lei “Sea Gypsies”, later by Muslims from the Malay peninsula, and finally by Southern Chinese during the 19th century. While strolling around you will find the Community Museum, where Khun Tam, a former high school teacher from Trang who worked for 45 years on the island, will explain his interesting history. A few km further south you’ll find the Chao Lei village of Sang Ga U, which was heavily damaged by the 2004 tsunami, and many families moved to new concrete houses on high ground.

Mangrove Forest

When you itch for a break from the beaches, you can drive to the northeastern coast and visit the mangrove forest area of Thung Yee Pheng. You can either stop by just for a short stroll along the wooden walkway that leads into the mangrove forest, or spend a few hours exploring the maze of streams, on board of a longtail boat (500 THB/2 hour cruise) or paddling on a kayak (500 THB/up to 3 hours). Thung Yee Pheng Mangrove Forest is located off the main road that follows the east coast, midway between Saladan and Old Town, but if coming from the west coast -as most do- you can take the road that cuts across the island from Haad Phra Ae beach, and take a turn left at the end. The admission is 20 THB/person.

🏨 Where to stay in Koh Lanta

Best Areas & Beaches in Koh Lanta:

Almost all of the accommodation in Koh Lanta is found along its west coast, especially at Khlong Dao and Phra Ae, the two most popular beaches in the island.

Haad Phra Ae (Long Beach)

South Coast, Koh Pha NganBest for: Travelers of all budgets looking for a nice beach with all kind of tourist services.

Accommodation available: all kinds, from hostels and cheap bungalows up to 5 star Resorts.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Beautiful beach, the longest and most popular in the island, but not crowded.
βœ”οΈ Lots of hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, shops and tour agencies.
βœ”οΈ A good balance between lively and quiet.

Khlong Dao

East Coast, Koh Pha NganBest for: travelers of all budgets looking for a nice beach with all kind of tourist services.

Accommodation available: mostly mid-range resorts but there’s all kinds, from cheap hostels and bungalows up to 4 star Resorts.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Beautiful wide beach, good for sunbathing, and shallow waters ideal if travelling with small kids.
βœ”οΈ Well equipped with all necessary torist services.
βœ”οΈ Conveniently close to the arrival/departure pier.

Khlong Khong

Full Moon party IconBest for:Β  Backpackers and party lovers.

Accommodation available: Mainly cheap hostels and bungalows, up to 4 star Resorts.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Main party beach, with loud beach bars.
βœ”οΈ Nice beach, even though at low tide it’s rather stony.
βœ”οΈ Most lively nightlife area in all of the island.

Khlong Nin

south coast koh samui icon

Best for: All kinds of tourists.

Accommodation available: mainly unexpensive bungalow Resorts, and up to 4 star Resorts.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Central location right in the middle of west coast, along which all of the beaches are located.
βœ”οΈ One of the most popular spots to enjoy the sunset.
βœ”οΈ Beautiful beach, good both for swimming and sunbathing.

Far South

West Coast Icon, Koh Pha NganBest for: nature lovers and travelers looking for quietness in a less touristy area.

Accommodation available: all kinds, from cheap bungalows up to a luxury 5 star Resort.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Beaches and bays you can find here: Ao Ba Kantiang, Haad Khlong Jak, Ao Maipai.
βœ”οΈ All of them are really beautiful and less developed than the beaches up north.
βœ”οΈ Ao Ba Kantiang has mainly upscale accommodation, including the 5 star Pimalai Resort.

βœ”οΈ Haad Khlong Jak may be the best option for backpackers looking for nature and quietness rather than partying.

πŸ–οΈ Best beaches in Koh Lanta

We’ve been to all of them, these are the best:

1️⃣ Ao Kantiang

Kantiang Bay is a really beautiful long sandy beach, protected by large headlands and backlined by rugged forest. It’s a rather secluded beach located in the south of the west coast, and it’s great for swimming, even though one of it’s ends is rocky. Stop to have a drink in one of the restaurants next to the coastal road, with amazing views over Kantiang beach. Accommodation options are on the upscale side, including the luxurious 5 star Pimalai Resort.

2️⃣ Khlong Dao

Khlong Dao Beach, Koh LantaNorthern Khlong Dao is a long beach that stretches for three and a half km, and is indeed one of the most popular in Koh Lanta. Being one of the main tourist spots in the island, there are many beachside resorts, and many restaurants, bars and shops just a short walk from the sand. The sandy shallow waters make it an ideal option for families travelling with small kids, and there’s many trees in the back offering welcomed shelter from the sun.

3️⃣ Khlong Khong

Khlong Khong, is a beautiful 3 km long beach in the middle of the west coast. Swimming is only good at high tide, since low tide uncovers a rather shallow and rocky beach, but what makes Khlong Khong very popular is mainly its backpacker-friendly atmosphere, with unexpensive basic cheap bungalows, all kinds of eateries, and many beach bars that from the evening onwards turn this beach into the island’s main party area, even though rather in the chill-out side.

4️⃣ Haad Phra Ae (Long Beach)

Long Beach Koh LantaPretty Haad Phra Ae is also known by the English name ‘Long Beach’, and it is indeed the longest in the island, which allows it to never be crowded even though it is maybe the most popular beach in Koh Lanta. The wide sandy stretch in the north is perfect for swimming even at low tide, while the south is narrower and quite rocky, even though very photogenic. Most of the accommodation on the beach front are luxury resorts and hotels, with some cheaper bungalows and beach huts, but they are quite spread out, so even in high season it’s not difficult to find a quiet spot on the sand.

5️⃣ Khlong Nin

Khlong Nin Beach, Koh LantaKhlong Nin is especially renowned as one of the best beaches -if not the best- for enjoying the sunset in Koh Lanta, and this is the reason why there are many colourful beach bars and restaurants offering seating on the sand every evening. But Khlong Nin is pretty as well during the rest of the day, and good both for swimming and sunbathing. There are just a few accommodation options on the beachfront, but there are quite more a bit further inland.

6️⃣ Haad Nui

Haad Nui Beach, Koh LantaHaad Nui beach stands out for being completely different from the long sandy beaches that abound in most of Koh Lanta’s west coast. Surprisingly, this short yet wide sand beach surrounded by rocky slopes that reach far out into an amazing turquoise crystal-clear water, usually gets few visitors, due only to its southern location away from the most popular beaches in the north. Don’t miss the beautiful views from the Diamond Cliff Beach Resort.

7️⃣ Haad Khlong Jak

Haad Khlong Jak is beautiful and quiet, a great option if you want to relax on the beach with few people around. The clear and deep enough waters make it good for swimming and even snorkelling, but there’s really nothing else going on. When you have enough of the beach and feel the itch to move on, you can take a jungle hike to visit Khlong Jak waterfall and a nearby cave. It’s a short hike, and nevermind the sweat when a rewarding cool splash in the sea awaits your return.

8️⃣ Ao Mai Pai

Ao Mai Pai -Bamboo bay- is the southernmost beach before entering the National Park, a secluded and gorgeous white stretch of sand surrounded by thick jungle, perfect if you relax in a lonely and quiet natural paradise setting. Haad Mai Pai beach is broken up by quite a few rocks that protrude from the jungle, giving the place a somehow wild and remote atmosphere.

9️⃣ Relax Beach

Relax Beach is located in a small bay next to much more popular Long Beach, and is a pretty and quiet beach perfect for chilling, sunbathing on the soft sand and swimming in crystal clear water. Even though it’s Thai name is Haad Baan Phraklom, it’s widely known by its English name ‘Relax Beach’, borrowed from one of the oldest hotels, the Relax Bay Resort. Well, the name makes clear there’s not much more to do at Relax Bay, other than hanging out in one of the hippie-style beach bars or having a massage on the beach, but you’re always close to Long Beach if you need anything else.

πŸ”Ÿ Haad Tha Naoad

Beautiful Haad Tha Naoad is the beach found inside Mu Koh Lanta’s National Park area, in the southern tip of the island. On one of its ends there’s a white rocky headland -Laem Tha Naoad-, on top of which rises Koh Lanta’s lighthouse, whixh offers amazing views over one of the prettiest beaches in the island. As part of the National Park, it is very clean and untouched… but at the same time this piece of paradise comes at the price of a 400 THB entrance fee. Make the most out of it and explore the 2 km long hiking forest trail, where no doubt you’ll have the company a bunch of fearless monkeys.

✈️ Getting to Koh Lanta

From Bangkok, you can get there by combining plane or bus with boat:

Plane + boat

➑️ Easiest, fastest but most expensive option: fly to Krabi (KBV), the closest airport, about 70 km north of Koh Lanta.

➑️ At Krabi airport there are shared minibuses to Koh Lanta, departing hourly from 07:00 to 15:00, for 400 THB inlcuding the ferry. By private taxi expect to pay 2,300 THB.
➑️ To make things easier, you can buy a combined ticket with the low cost airlines Air Asia or Nok Air, including the flight to Krabi + minibus transfer to the pier + boat to the island.

Bus + boat

➑️ From Bangkok’s Sai Tai Mai bus terminal, you can take a bus to Krabi. The journey takes 12-14 hours, the ticket costs between 600 and 1,000 THB.
➑️ From Krabi bus station there are hourly minibus departures to Koh Lanta from 07:00 to 17:00. The trip takes about 2 hours, price 250 THB.

➑️ Car ferries to Koh Lanta depart from Hua Hin Pier in Khlong Thom district, about 70 km south of Krabi town.

Boat

➑️ Koh Lanta is connected by ferries and speedboats to other islands and some mainland piers in the Andaman Sea.
➑️ Most of them run only in high season, from 1st November to 30th March, but ferries connecting with Koh Phi Phi and Phuket operate year round.
➑️ All public ferries and speedboats use Saladan Pier on Koh Lanta.

πŸš‡ Where to go next?

Most common destinations after Koh Lanta:

Koh Lipe, the Maldives of Thailand

Speed Boat

Krabi, the Base of the Andaman

A ferry or speed boat

Koh Phi Phi, the Most Famous Island

Ferry or Speed boat