Koh Lanta Vacation

Insider’s Guide to Koh Lanta

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(Post written by Pete Saville)

Koh Lanta is a large island about 30 kms long and 6 kms wide off the coast of the Andaman sea in Southern Thailand. It is accessible by car, ferry or private speedboat from Krabi. What makes Koh Lanta special is that it hasn’t suffered from the over development like most other Thai islands. It is much quieter (forget bright neon signs and raucous full-moon parties), and has a very “local” feel, and an island that has a little bit for everyone.

Honeymooners will be able to find quiet, secluded beaches, even in high-season, with some of the best sunsets on the planet. Families will find Lanta a great place to relax without the crowds and racy bars – and very affordable from accommodations to activities to dining out. Parties are still around in the high-season but very low-key compared to other island destinations – expect a full-moon party here to be a few dozen people around a campfire with acoustic guitars or gentle reggae music, rather than tens of thousands of drunks swarming the beach to deafening techno and house music like those of Koh Pha Ngan on the gulf of Thailand. 

Koh Lanta - Thailand Family Vacation

Honeymoon in Thailand



Those who prefer luxury won’t be disappointed as Koh Lanta boasts several luxury villa-style accommodations equipped with private pools. Among the top dogs on the island are The Pimalai and Layana Resort & Spa, while plenty low and moderately priced resorts are also available that cater to everyone from honeymooners to backpackers to families.

As for culture, the island is majority Muslim rather than Buddhist, and also comprises of a community of animist sea-gypsies on the south-eastern tip. These communities get along in complete harmony and makes the island more unique compared to the overwhelmingly Buddhist culture on the mainland and other Thai islands. And because of its Muslim roots, Lanta develops very slowly where heritage remains well preserved, largely shielded from the influences of the outside world. Its relaxed pace, laid back atmosphere and friendly people make Koh Lanta a perfect escape from today’s hustle and bustle while offering visitors a healthy dose of culture.

The array of activities available on Koh Lanta will appeal to those looking for a relaxing holiday, a little bit of adventure and everyone in between. Diving, fishing and snorkelling trips off the coast to numerous smaller islands are widely-available and very affordable. There are also opportunities to ride elephants, explore the island on a scooter or  drop-in at one of the full moon parties if you happen to be around at that time.

Beaches

Of course, the beach is always going to be one of the main attractions for anyone coming to Koh Lanta! The beaches here generally do not offer snorkeling off the coast, but are nonetheless very beautiful.  A constant 29C sea temperature year round makes the island perfect for swimming and paddling, and it’s rarely overcrowded even in high-season. In the low season (May – October) you may even have entire beaches to yourself if you don’t mind the occasional monsoon shower! While there are countless little coves and secluded beaches around the island, here are some of my personal favorites:

Koh Lanta, Thailand's Great Vacation Spot

Great Beach Vacation, Koh Lanta Thailand



Phra Ae/Long Beach is a 4km stretch of white sand beach, with plenty of natural shade from palm trees that line the shores. The beach has plenty of quaint thatched roof restaurants and laidback bars, and is arguably the best place to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean in the evening as it ducks below Koh Phi Phi on the horizon before disappearing into the night sky. As for accommodations, they range from a few high-end resorts to a plethora of smaller, family-owned bungalow type accommodations ranging from basic fan bamboo huts to rustic bungalows with a fridge, television and air-conditioning, suitable for just about everyone from honeymooners, to families to the young backpacker.

Khlong Khong Beach is slightly further south with similar accommodations to Long Beach. Khlong Kong has a generally quieter feel – few more high-end resorts and some low-key beach parties in high season. As for the beach itself, Khlong Khong is much more rocky especially during low tide and not as good for swimming compared to Long Beach, though you can still find decent spots between areas of rock to enjoy a nice dip.

Klong Nin Beach is another 6km south. It is rocky on the northern and southern parts of the beach but fine for swimming in the middle. The accommodation here has more 3 or 4 star resort type options, with plenty of dining opportunities on the beach in the evening. Compared to others, Klong Nin is probably the better beach for families with children and those who prefer a bit more luxury.

Kantiang Bay is yet further south, and is very quiet. It is a 1km white sand beach that has a stunning mountainous rain forest backdrop. It’s home to the island’s most luxurious Pimilai Resort and only a sprinkling of other small villas and guesthouses on the slopes of the mountain behind and on the beach. Its seclusion and scenic beauty make it ideal for honeymooners to enjoy a pampering and romantic escape. 

Activities

Aside from the beaches, there are numerous activities to keep you active and inspired. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling trips can be arranged to places such as the “Eastern Islands” off the east coast of Lanta Island.  Koh Bubu, Koh Kam and Koh Talabeng are uninhabited limestone islands that have underground caves where you can snorkel or kayak through. Additionally, there are several dive sites such as Koh Haa, Koh Bida, Koh Ngai offer excellent snorkeling and coral reef dives.

Riding around the island on a scooter is one of the most fun and rewarding activities, and an experience not to be missed. Venture out to secluded beaches and bays for a picnic or a refreshing swim; ride through the mountainous rain forest stopping at the amazing “viewpoint cafe” that boasts spectacular views of all the eastern limestone islands off the coast, akin to a miniature-sized version of Halong Bay in Vietnam; stretch your legs and head to Ao Klong Jark waterfall and take a one-hour hike through the jungle to the waterfall.

Great Thai Food on Koh Lanta

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Sights and Culture

Though there aren’t many landmarks or historical sights on Lanta, one of the more popular sights on the island is the lighthouse located in its southern-most tip. Here, you can also visit a nearby Sea-Gypsy village, one of several Thai-Muslim fishing communities where their primitive homes are built on stilts. Though intriguing, it is, however, important to note that the sea gypsies are not really a “tourist attraction” as these folks have endured social exclusion and hardships in past decades; thus one must exercise a great amount of respect for their unique customs and culture. In other words, don’t just race in and start snapping photos like they are a tourist exhibit. Treat the locals respectfully like anywhere else in the world and you will have a rewarding cultural experience.

Dining Out

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Koh Lanta has some fantastic options for seafood. “Cook Kai” is my favourite. Located off “Long Beach” in a hut-style setting with a friendly staff, you get to pick your own lobsters or crabs from the tank and have your dishes prepared exactly the way you love.

 “Time for Lime” – in the far north on the tiny, rocky beach of “Klong Dao” is my other favourite spot: It offers a 5-course ‘Thai Tapas’ set-menu, different each night, and absolutely delicious. Expect everything from the local specialty Masamam curry to fusion-dishes such as chocolate, coconut and nutmeg with sticky rice. For those interested in some hands-on experience, the restaurant also offers a very popular Thai cooking course. The icing on the cake here is Time For Lime is part of the local charity “Lanta Animal Welfare”, which has done a fantastic job over the past ten years dealing with stray animals. Its efforts have made locals infinitely more aware of animal health and care. You can pop into the “Lanta Animal Welfare” centre itself and take one of the dogs for a walk on the beach or spend time cuddling the many cats who are waiting to be adopted.  

Koh Lanta really does have something for everyone, and so much of it remains unspoiled and undeveloped. And with so much to do, you can easily spend weeks experiencing one new thing after another without ever feeling remotely bored! Just get here soon before it gets overdeveloped or overrun by swarming tourists.


For ideas on traveling to Koh Lanta and Thailand, check out our Thailand Tours for some amazing vacation experiences.

Comments (1)

  1. Ashley Wood July 23, 2016 at 11:06 am

    An interesting and beguiling piece. It is definitely on my destination list now.