An Insider’s Guide to Koh Lanta, Thailand
Whether you’re seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, thrilling water sports, cultural encounters, or delectable cuisine, Koh Lanta has it all. Its unspoiled beauty, warm ambiance, and a wide variety of activities make it a highly underrated destination in southern Thailand.
Population: ~34,000 (2022)
Tourist Arrivals: ~300,000 (2019)
Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
Time Zone: Indochina Time (ICT), UTC+7
Length of Trip: 2-4 days.
Trip Type: relaxation / adventure.
Our Experience: We spent a total of 7 days in Koh Lanta during 2022.
Disclaimer: Before planning your trip, it’s essential to check for any travel restrictions, visa requirements, and other relevant information, as these might change over time.
Koh Lanta is ideal for:
The island isn’t ideal for:
With a backdrop of lush green hills and swaying palm trees, Koh Lanta offers an authentic tropical experience that feels like a step back in time. The island’s raw beauty, unmarred by commercialization, sets the stage for a serene retreat. Chic beachfront bungalows and eco-friendly resorts blend seamlessly with nature, embracing guests in a sense of rustic luxury.
The timeless charm of Koh Lanta is a testament to its untouched nature, free from the mass tourism that often plagues popular Thai islands. Here, you’ll discover a true escape, a hidden gem where the pace of life remains unhurried, inviting you to revel in every moment of your stay.
The top three beaches on Koh Lanta offer a unique charm – whether you prefer the seclusion of Bamboo Beach, the vibrant atmosphere of Long Beach, or the laidback vibes of Klong Dao Beach, the island’s idyllic coastline promises to leave an unforgettable mark on your tropical getaway.
Bamboo Beach: Had Mai Phai, also known as Bamboo Beach, epitomizes the secluded beauty that Koh Lanta is renowned for. Tucked away on the southern tip of the island, this crescent-shaped bay boasts powdery white sand and inviting turquoise waters. Its remote location ensures an undisturbed escape, making it an ideal spot for those seeking a sense of solitude.
Surrounded by lush vegetation and limestone cliffs, Bamboo Beach provides a picturesque setting for sunbathing or beachcombing, while embracing the calmness of nature. Snorkelers can explore the underwater wonders just offshore, while sunsets cast a magical glow, painting the sky with hues of pink and orange, adding to the unspoiled beauty of this hidden paradise.
Klong Dao Beach: This beach boasts a harmonious blend of relaxation and liveliness, making it a versatile and inviting destination for all types of travelers. Located on the northern coast of Koh Lanta, Klong Dao Beach offers a wide expanse of soft sand, perfect for lazy beach days or volleyball. Additionally, the gentle slope of the shoreline, makes it a prime spot for swimming.
When the sun dips below the horizon, beachside bars come alive with live music and fire shows, creating a delightful ambiance for those seeking a vibrant evening scene.
Long Beach: Phra Ae, also known as Long Beach, stretches along the western coast of Koh Lanta and stands out as one of the island’s most popular beaches. The beach’s name originates from its impressive length, offering ample space for leisurely strolls and various activities. With its soft sand and shallow waters, it’s a favorite destination for families and sun worshippers.
Long Beach also offers an array of beachfront bars and restaurants, making it a hub for socializing. As the day transitions into night, the beach transforms into a lively scene with cultural performances, creating a memorable evening experience for travelers.
From water activities to encounters with rescued elephants, Koh Lanta unfolds a world of diverse experiences for travelers. Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural immersion, or peaceful retreats, this island has something for everyone.
Snorkeling & Diving: The island’s crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs make it a snorkeling and diving paradise. Rent snorkeling gear or join a guided dive tour to discover the underwater wonders of Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and Koh Haa. Marvel at the colorful marine life, encounter manta rays, and explore submerged caves, creating unforgettable memories beneath the sea.
Island Hopping: Go on an island-hopping adventure to explore the surrounding archipelago. Take a boat tour to nearby islands such as Koh Rok, where you can go snorkeling, discover hidden lagoons, and relax on untouched beaches. These excursions offer a chance to witness the diverse marine life and breathtaking landscapes that make this region a tropical paradise.
Fishing Trips: For a more hands-on experience, join a fishing trip where you can learn traditional fishing techniques from skilled local fishermen. Cast your line into the Andaman Sea and try your luck at catching some of the region’s abundant marine species.
Relax on Beaches: The island’s pristine beaches are perfect for unwinding. Whether it’s Bamboo Beach, Klong Dao Beach, or Long Beach, each offers a serene escape where you can bask in the sun, take leisurely walks, or simply read a book while listening to the gentle lapping of waves.
Sunset at Laem Tanod: Laem Tanod, also known as Tanod Cape, is a scenic viewpoint on the southern tip of Mu Ko Lanta National Park. Trek through a short trail to reach the cape and its iconic lighthouse, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Andaman Sea and neighboring islands. During sunset, the sky transforms into a canvas of vivid hues, offering the chance to take Instagram-worthy photos.
Following Giants: Take an ethical and responsible journey to an elephant sanctuary on Koh Lanta. Interact with these gentle giants in a caring environment that prioritizes their well-being and conservation. Observe and learn about their natural behaviors, feed them, and even bathe them in a river, fostering a meaningful connection that’s devoid of harmful practices.
Visit Old Town: Head to Koh Lanta’s Old Town, located on the east coast, for a taste of the island’s history and cultural heritage. The quaint town’s wooden houses, built on stilts along the waterfront, exude an old-world charm. Wander through historic streets, visit local shops, and eat fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants, immersing yourself in the town’s maritime past.
Koh Lanta’s culinary scene is a delightful blend of Thai and international flavors that cater to all palates. While exploring the island, be sure to indulge in the following:
Pizzerias: Surprisingly, Koh Lanta is home to excellent pizzerias with wood-fired ovens, offering delicious thin-crust pizzas topped with local and imported ingredients. Treat yourself to a slice while watching the sunset over the Andaman Sea. Our top recommendation is Sole Mare Italian Pizzeria & Restaurant.
Beachfront Dining: Many restaurants and cafes along the beachfront offer a unique dining experience with unobstructed sea views. Feast on a variety of Thai and international dishes while feeling the sea breeze against your skin. We highly recommend visiting French Bakery.
Fresh Seafood: The island’s coastal location ensures an abundance of fresh seafood. Head to the local markets or restaurants to savor grilled fish, succulent prawns, and fresh crab dishes.
Thai Street Food: Sample the mouthwatering street food available at various markets and stalls. Try dishes like Pad Thai, Som Tum (green papaya salad), and Gaeng Som (sour and spicy fish curry) for an authentic local experience.
Vegetarian & Vegan Options: Koh Lanta caters well to vegetarian and vegan travelers with a range of plant-based eateries and dishes. Relish vegan curries, fresh salads, and fruit smoothies while supporting eco-conscious and sustainable dining.
Tropical Fruits: The island’s tropical climate produces an abundance of exotic fruits. Treat yourself to fresh coconuts, mangosteen, and dragon fruit, indulging in their juicy sweetness.
Coffee in Old Town: The historic Old Town on the east coast of Koh Lanta is known for its charming cafes. Enjoy a freshly brewed cup of locally-sourced beans while soaking in the soothing ambiance and enjoying picturesque views of the distant islands. Our top recommendation is Lantas Cafe.
Whether you prefer a lively atmosphere with plenty of amenities or a peaceful and serene escape, Koh Lanta’s diverse accommodations offer something that suits every budget.
Long Beach (Phra Ae): As a highly popular area, Long Beach offers a wide variety of accommodations to suit different budgets. Travelers can find luxurious beachfront resorts, mid-range hotels, and budget-friendly bungalows, all within walking distance to the beach. The beach itself stretches for several kilometers, providing ample space for relaxation and water activities. Long Beach is also known for its lively atmosphere, with beach bars, restaurants, and shops lining the shore, making it a fantastic choice for those seeking a mix of convenience and social scene.
Klong Dao Beach: Situated near Long Beach, Klong Dao Beach is another excellent area for travelers of all budgets. It features a long stretch of sandy coastline, dotted with beachfront resorts and mid-range hotels. The beach’s gentle slope and shallow waters make it a family-friendly destination, while its relaxed ambiance appeals to those seeking a peaceful escape. Klong Dao Beach offers a great balance between tranquility and amenities, making it a favorite among both couples and families.
Kantiang Bay: For a more secluded and upscale experience, Kantiang Bay is an excellent choice. Nestled at the southern end of the island, this area boasts luxurious beachfront resorts with stunning views of the Andaman Sea. Kantiang Bay’s laid-back atmosphere creates the perfect setting for romantic getaways. Although the accommodation options here tend to be on the higher end, the luxury and natural beauty make it worth the splurge.
Old Town (Koh Lanta Yai): For a unique and cultural experience, consider staying in Koh Lanta’s Old Town on the east coast. This historic fishing village offers charming and traditional wooden houses built on stilts above the water. Accommodations here include boutique guesthouses and cozy lodges, providing a glimpse into the island’s maritime heritage. The peaceful atmosphere and stunning views of the sea create an authentic and memorable stay.
Bamboo Beach (Had Mai Phai): For travelers seeking a truly secluded and off-the-beaten-path experience, Bamboo Beach is an ideal choice. Located on the southern tip of Koh Lanta, this isolated area is surrounded by jungle-clad cliffs. There are only a few rustic guesthouses available here, providing an opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in nature.
Getting around Koh Lanta is an adventure in itself, as the island offers a mix of well-maintained roads and some challenging areas. The west side of the island, especially near the popular beaches, is under perpetual construction and has a fair amount of potholes, making travel by car or motorbike a bit more demanding. In stark contrast, the east side of the island has smooth roads and a significantly more enjoyable driving experience.
To explore the island conveniently and make the most of your trip, renting some type of vehicle is essential. Below are the best options for getting around the island:
Car Rental: Renting a car is an excellent choice for families or groups looking for comfort and convenience. Cars provide ample space and are suitable for navigating the less developed roads on the west side of the island. Having a car also allows you to venture into the interior of Koh Lanta, discovering less-visited attractions. We recommend that you book a car well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Insider Tip: Book from a reliable operator on the mainland and take the car ferry over.
Motorbike Rental: Motorbikes are a popular and cost-effective option for solo travelers or couples seeking more flexibility and freedom. With motorbikes, you can easily maneuver through traffic and explore the island at your own pace. However, if you are not experienced in riding motorbikes, it’s essential to exercise caution and wear a helmet. For newbies, we recommend sticking to the island’s well-maintained roads on the east side – otherwise, you’ll need to navigate slowly on the west side to avoid its rough patches.
Tuk-Tuks and Songthaews: Tuk-tuks and songthaews (shared pick-up trucks) are available for shorter trips or when you prefer to leave the driving to someone else. They are commonly found around popular tourist areas and can be hailed easily. These transportation options are suitable for short distances, but for more extensive explorations, renting a vehicle offers more flexibility.
The best time to visit Koh Lanta is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this period, the weather is relatively mild, with lower humidity and little rainfall. The peak season from December to February attracts a higher number of tourists, making it ideal for those who enjoy a bustling atmosphere. The months of November and March offer a more laid-back vibe with fewer crowds, making it a good time for travelers seeking a quieter retreat.
We recommend that you avoid visiting during the monsoon season from May to October, as heavy rainfall and occasional storms limit outdoor activities and boat services. The island experiences a low season during this period, with many accommodations and businesses closing temporarily. While some travelers may find the allure of empty beaches and discounted rates during the rainy season enticing, it’s important to consider that the weather can be unpredictable and certain outdoor attractions won’t be available.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Koh Lanta depends on your individual preferences. If you’re seeking a balance between good weather and fewer crowds, then you might consider the shoulder months of November and March, while those who enjoy a lively atmosphere can opt for the peak season from December to February. Regardless of the season, Koh Lanta’s charm and natural beauty remain constant, providing a pleasant experience all-year-round.
Koh Lanta’s history is as intriguing as its landscapes, with tales of ancient civilizations and maritime trading routes shaping its past. Archaeological evidence suggests that the island was inhabited as far back as the prehistoric era, with primitive tools and pottery unearthed by researchers.
During the Sukhothai period in the 13th century, Koh Lanta was part of the Srivijaya Empire, a powerful maritime kingdom that played a pivotal role in Southeast Asian trade and culture. The island’s strategic location along important trade routes allowed it to flourish as a hub for maritime commerce, connecting mainland Thailand to neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
As time passed, the island came under the influence of various Thai kingdoms, including Ayutthaya and Thonburi, contributing to its integration into the broader Thai realm. The local communities predominantly relied on fishing and agriculture to sustain their livelihoods, and the island’s abundant natural resources, including fertile land and diverse marine life, supported the growth of these industries.
In the late 20th century, Koh Lanta’s transformation from a relatively isolated fishing community to a sought-after tourist destination began. As Thailand’s tourism industry flourished, travelers discovered the island’s pristine beaches and clear waters, drawing attention to its raw beauty.
After exploring the raw beauty of Koh Lanta, you can continue your journey to some nearby destinations. Below are some places that we recommend visiting:
Trang: Located due south of Koh Lanta, Trang is an off-the-beaten-path province known for its paradisiacal islands. Go island-hopping across Koh Mook, Koh Kradan, and Koh Libong, each of which boast crystalline waters, limestone cliffs, and underwater caves waiting to be explored.
Koh Ngai: Just a short boat ride from Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai is a tranquil island paradise with powdery white beaches and emerald waters. Enjoy snorkeling in coral reefs, to take a leisurely stroll along the serene beaches, and soak in the laid-back ambiance of this peaceful island.
Koh Lipe: Venturing further south towards Malaysia, Koh Lipe is another island worth considering. With its mesmerizing turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, and lively Walking Street filled with restaurants and bars, Koh Lipe offers a perfect blend of beauty and entertainment.
Khanom Beach: Located on the mainland, a few hours’ drive northeas, Khanom Beach is a hidden gem known for its secluded shores and pink dolphins that play in the Gulf of Thailand. Relax on the quiet beaches or take a longtail boat tour to spot these rare dolphins in the wild.
Koh Lanta is worth every moment of your time. This stunning island in Thailand’s Andaman Sea offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, laid-back vibes, and diverse attractions. It’s rustic charm, picturesque beaches, and crystal-clear waters create an idyllic paradise that feels like a hidden gem without the crowds of more popular destinations.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation on tranquil beaches, indulging in delicious local cuisine, exploring the lush rainforests, or embarking on thrilling water activities, Koh Lanta caters to a variety of interests. The island’s friendly locals and welcoming atmosphere add to the overall experience, making it an excellent destination for solo travelers, couples, families, and digital nomads.
For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of more touristy areas, Koh Lanta offers a more authentic and unspoiled experience.
Koh Lanta is better than Krabi for those seeking an island experience that’s free of mass tourism. While Krabi is renowned for its stunning limestone cliffs and bustling beach towns, it can get crowded and busy with tourists, especially during peak seasons. On the other hand, Koh Lanta retains a laid-back ambiance and offers a quieter and less commercialized atmosphere.
Koh Lanta’s beaches are far less crowded than the ones in Krabi, allowing travelers to enjoy a sense of solitude and serenity. The island’s natural beauty is equally captivating, with lush rainforests, picturesque bays, and vibrant marine life that can be explored through snorkeling and diving excursions. Moreover, Koh Lanta has retained much of its traditional charm, and you can still witness the local fishing villages and experience authentic Thai culture.
Koh Lanta is not a party island in the same vein as some other popular destinations in Thailand. Unlike places like Phuket or Koh Phi Phi, which are known for their nightlife and wild party scenes, Koh Lanta offers a more peaceful atmosphere. The island attracts a more laid-back crowd in general, including families, couples, and travelers seeking a tranquil retreat.
While there are some beach bars and restaurants that offer evening entertainment, the overall nightlife on Koh Lanta is relatively subdued. Travelers can enjoy a leisurely dinner by the sea, watch stunning sunsets, and engage in low-key socializing without the loud partying and raucous nightlife typical of party islands.
Koh Lanta strikes a balance between being a popular tourist destination and retaining its authentic charm. While the island attracts a fair number of visitors, especially during the high season, it manages to maintain a less touristy vibe compared to some other well-known Thai destinations.
The beaches and attractions are not usually overcrowded, and there’s an ample sense of “space” that allows travelers to enjoy a more relaxed experience. Koh Lanta’s local communities, traditional fishing villages, and the island’s commitment to sustainable tourism contribute to its authenticity and make it a preferred choice for travelers seeking a genuine Thai island experience without feeling overwhelmed by tourist crowds.
Koh Lanta can vary in terms of cost depending on one’s preferences and budget. Compared to some of the more popular tourist hotspots in Thailand, the island is generally considered to be more affordable. Accommodation options range from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts, offering choices for all types of travelers.
Food and dining options also cater to various budgets, with local street food stalls offering delicious and inexpensive Thai dishes, while beachfront restaurants offer pricy international fare.
Activities such as snorkeling, diving, and island-hopping tours tend to be reasonably priced, providing great value for the experiences offered.
Overall, Koh Lanta strikes a good balance between affordability and quality, making it a favorable destination for travelers looking to enjoy a tropical paradise without breaking their piggy bank.
Koh Lanta’s nightlife is more laid-back and subdued compared to some other popular party destinations in Thailand. While the island offers a few beach bars and restaurants that provide evening entertainment, the nightlife scene is not as intense as places like Phuket or Koh Phi Phi. Travelers looking for wild parties and bustling nightclubs may find Koh Lanta’s nightlife to be relatively low-key.
However, the island’s nightlife does have its own charm. Many beachfront bars offer a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a cocktail or cold beer while watching the sunset over the Andaman Sea. Some establishments host live music or fire shows, creating a pleasant and social ambiance.
The best way to get to Koh Lanta depends on your starting location and travel preferences. Generally, the most convenient option is to fly into Krabi International Airport (KBV) or Phuket International Airport (HKT) as both airports have good flight connections from major cities in Thailand and other countries. From there, you can take a taxi or minivan to one of the two main piers in Krabi (Klong Jilad Pier or Ao Nang Pier) and then catch a ferry to Koh Lanta. The ferry ride takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, and there are multiple daily departures during the high season.
If you are already in Thailand and prefer a more scenic route, you can also take a combination of buses and ferries from major cities like Bangkok, Krabi, or Phuket to reach Koh Lanta. Alternatively, some travelers opt for private transfers or car rentals to have more flexibility and comfort during their journey.
Keep in mind that the availability of transportation options may vary depending on the season, so it’s essential to plan your trip and book your tickets in advance, especially during the high season (November to April) when the island is in high demand amongst tourists.
Yes, you can drive to Koh Lanta. If you choose to travel by car or motorbike, the journey from the mainland to the island will take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. You’ll head south until you reach Hua Hin Pier, where you’ll need to take a car ferry to reach the Lanta Islands.
Car ferries operate continuously from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM (from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM during the low season). The transfer from the mainland to Lanta Noi usually takes around 25 minutes. Once you arrive at Lanta Noi, you can easily drive to Lanta Yai by crossing a bridge that connects both islands.