Koh Lanta: A Paradise Without the Crowds
Even though Koh Lanta lacks the picturesque, powdery white sands of its more iconic neighbors, the island more than makes up for it with unruly tangles of jungle and a low-key vibe seldom found on more frequented shores.
On most days, you’ll only be sharing one of Koh Lanta’s sublime beaches with a couple of tourists and some locals foraging for shellfish – there’s little here to intrude on the inherent tranquility.
If you want to get away from it all, few places are as perfect as Bamboo Beach – it’s a striking bay on the southwest side of Koh Lanta Yai overlooking the warm waters of the Andaman Sea.
Framed by jungle-draped hills and crystal clear waters, this is a place where monitor lizards still outnumber humans.
While Bamboo Beach may be on the petite side and its sand is more amber in color than postcard-perfect white, its seclusion more than makes up for its shortcomings.
This off-the-beaten-path bay isn’t the easiest to reach, but the reward is a peaceful and pristine beach experience, far from the crowds. It’s also home to the most dramatic sunsets on the island.
As daylight ticks by, you’ll get to see the warm rays of golden hour gradually fading until the magenta haze of dusk overtakes the sky.
Situated on the east coast, Koh Lanta’s Old Town is a traditional fisherman community where you can hire a long-tail boat for 2,000 baht (~$54) per day.
While most people tend to rent a boat and go on a snorkeling tour, we opted to go fishing with some of the locals.
Since the channel between Koh Lanta and Koh Por is a calm body of water that’s rich with marine life, it’s an excellent spot for fishing year-round.
With small pieces of squid as bait, we mostly caught small grouper fish and Moray eels (which we’d immediately release) with the occasional hook of a red croaker. To our surprise, we actually caught more fish here than we did in The Maldives!
In a stroke of dumb luck, we even managed to catch a bamboo shark. However… given our moral concerns on the overfishing of sharks in Thailand plus knowing how vital bamboo sharks are to a coral reef’s ecosystem, we decided to let the poor little bugger go back home. `
As our fish count started to resemble a John Wick movie, our guide recommended that we take a short break to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Little did we know, our guide meant that statement literally. He proceeded to pull a red croaker out of the kill bucket, descale it with a sharp knife, then filet it with the finesse of sous chef.
His goal was simple: to prepare freshly-caught sashimi for us.
Disclaimer: we don’t recommend trying freshly-caught sashimi on a Thai long-tail boat – it’s not in any way, shape, or form… sanitary. It may be delicious, but it’s not clean – kinda like Thai street food.
Sashimi that melts like butter in your mouth – that’s the best way we can describe it.
After an action-packed morning of fishing, we enjoyed a delicious lunch on Koh Por. A local family which runs Malee Home Stay, grilled up some of our day’s catch and also served us a heaping portion of steamed crabs and gaeng som pla, along with fresh cuts of juicy watermelon and pineapple. We happily filled our bellies with all this deliciousness.
Once the two of us finished our lunch for six, we rolled our way back to the long-tail boat.
We still had more time left to fish, but given how stuffed we were, we called it for the day and high-tailed it back to Koh Lanta Yai.
As we walked a long Old Town’s pier towards the parking lot, we came across some locals catch net fishing from an unusual height. We had seen this style of fishing before in Thale Noi, Chiang Khan, and Laos from boats, but never from the height of a pier. It was fascinating to watch until our eyes became fixated on a dilapidated shipwreck in the water’s low tide.
Exhausted from a long day on the water, we drove back to the west coast and decided to chill on Koh Lanta’s most popular beach – Phra Ae aka Long Beach. For being such a popular beach, it was rather empty until both locals and tourists gathered on the shore in the moments before sunset.
Sunsets on Long Beach are something truly special – it’s a time when you get to watch the sky flare into magenta, scarlet and saffron as the strength of the sun dims past the horizon.
With grand plans to hike to Mu Koh Lanta’s lighthouse and explore some of the offbeat places nearby, the karma from our previous day’s fishing massacre got the better of us. We ended up with a flat tire on a rural road with no spare in trunk.
Turns out, the cheap bastards we rented the car from replaced the new tires with expired ones – the flat occurred from a side-wall failure since the tire was just way too damn ancient (meaning, I didn’t run over anything).
To make matters worse, the tire popped on a Sunday so every mechanic shop on Koh Lanta was closed for the day. So we had wait until Monday morning to purchase a new tire.
Fortunately, the kind and generous owner of our hotel (Mo Lanta House), picked us up after we hitchhiked to the nearest town with cell service. He even drove us the next day to the best mechanic shop on the island, Linglong, where we bought a new tire for 1,500 baht.
Unfortunately… by the time we got a tire replacement, our stay on Koh Lanta was coming to an abrupt end. So we decided to grab a quick lunch at Sam Pee Nong, then head off to the car ferry as we needed to get back to Krabi’s mainland ASAP.
Our next adventure at Khao Sok National Park was awaiting us…
With its picturesque coastline, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes, Koh Lanta offers a tranquil escape from Thailand’s bustling tourist destinations. Whether you seek relaxation on palm-fringed shores or yearn for thrilling adventures in the sea, this idyllic island has something for everyone.
Koh Lanta’s unspoiled beaches, such as Bamboo Beach and Klong Dao Beach, provide a serene haven for sun-seekers, offering soft white sands and turquoise waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Beyond the beaches, Koh Lanta also boasts verdant jungles and lush mangrove forests, inviting adventurous travelers to hike, kayak, or embark on eco-tours to immerse themselves in the island’s natural wonders.
From exploring caves to witnessing breathtaking sunsets, Koh Lanta’s authentic charm and captivating landscapes, make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a slice of paradise in Thailand.
Koh Lanta offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Below are some of the best areas to stay on the island:
Long Beach: Located on the west coast of Koh Lanta, Long Beach is a popular choice for many travelers. It offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxurious resorts. Long Beach is known for its beautiful sandy shoreline, stunning sunsets, and a vibrant atmosphere with restaurants, bars, and shops within walking distance.
Klong Dao Beach: Situated just north of Long Beach, Klong Dao Beach is another fantastic option for accommodation. This long stretch of sandy beach is dotted with resorts and hotels catering to various budgets. Klong Dao Beach is well-suited for families and those seeking a peaceful and relaxed ambiance. It provides a tranquil atmosphere, calm waters, and a good selection of dining options.
Klong Khong Beach: If you prefer a more laid-back and bohemian vibe, Klong Khong Beach is worth considering. This area offers a mix of budget accommodations, beachfront bungalows, and cozy guesthouses. Klong Khong Beach is known for its chilled-out atmosphere, live music venues, and beach bars where you can unwind and enjoy the island’s relaxed nightlife.
Kantiang Bay: For those seeking a quieter and more secluded experience, Kantiang Bay is an excellent choice. This picturesque bay is located on the southern part of Koh Lanta and is surrounded by stunning cliffs and lush greenery. The bay offers a handful of boutique resorts and luxury villas, providing a tranquil and upscale retreat with beautiful views and a serene atmosphere.
Old Town: If you want to experience the authentic charm of Koh Lanta, consider staying in Old Town. Situated on the east coast, Old Town showcases the island’s traditional wooden houses, fishing boats, and local culture. It offers a more rustic and off-the-beaten-path experience, with charming guesthouses, waterfront restaurants, and a glimpse into the island’s history and local way of life.
These are just a few of the top areas to stay on Koh Lanta, each offering its own unique charm and ambiance. Out top recommendation is Long Beach since it offers the most diverse set of hotels, resorts, and resorts. Plus, its beach is most “walkable” on the island.
Koh Lanta is home to several stunning beaches, but the top 3 beaches that we highly recommended are: Bamboo Beach, Long Beach, and Kantiang Bay.
Bamboo Beach: Also known as Ao Mai Phai, Bamboo Beach is a hidden gem on the southern tip of Koh Lanta. It offers a serene and secluded atmosphere, with powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Surrounded by lush greenery, this beach is perfect for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.
Long Beach (Phra Ae Beach): Long Beach, also called Phra Ae Beach, is one of the most popular and longest beaches on Koh Lanta. With its wide stretch of soft sand, palm trees, and shallow waters, it’s an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and beach activities. Long Beach offers a range of accommodations, restaurants, and bars, making it a convenient and lively choice for visitors. The beach also provides stunning views of the sunset.
Kantiang Bay: Located on the southern part of Koh Lanta, Kantiang Bay is a picturesque and secluded bay with breathtaking natural surroundings. The beach boasts powdery sand, clear waters, and a tranquil atmosphere. Kantiang Bay is less crowded compared to other beaches, offering a peaceful retreat for those looking to unwind. It is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the scenic beauty of the surrounding cliffs and lush greenery.
These three beaches, Bamboo Beach, Long Beach, and Kantiang Bay, showcase the diverse beauty and appeal of Koh Lanta’s coastal areas. Whether you’re seeking solitude, vibrant nightlife, or a mix of adventure and relaxation, these beaches will offer you a memorable experience.
The best time to visit Koh Lanta is during the dry season, which generally spans from November to April. This period offers the most favorable weather conditions, with warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, and minimal rainfall. The peak tourist season on Koh Lanta falls within this dry season, especially during December and January when many travelers flock to the island to escape colder climates.
Below is a breakdown of the seasons on Koh Lanta:
Dry Season (November to April): This period experiences pleasant weather with lower humidity, making it ideal for beach activities, swimming, and outdoor exploration. The sea is generally calm, allowing for enjoyable snorkeling and diving experiences. However, note that December and January are the busiest months, and accommodation prices may be higher during this time. Booking in advance is recommended.
Green Season (May to October): The green season, also known as the rainy season or monsoon season, sees increased rainfall and occasional storms. While the rainfall can be intermittent and not constant, it’s worth considering that some businesses and tourist activities may have reduced availability during this time. However, the island is less crowded, and accommodation rates tend to be lower. If you don’t mind occasional showers and prefer a more serene and budget-friendly experience, visiting during the green season can be rewarding.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Koh Lanta depends on your preferences and priorities. If you prioritize good weather and vibrant tourist atmosphere, the dry season is recommended. However, if you prefer fewer crowds, lower prices, and don’t mind occasional rainfall, the green season can offer unique charms and a more tranquil experience.
We highly recommend that you rent a car or motorbike in mainland Krabi before arriving on the island. That way, you can take the Koh Lanta Car Ferry service at Hua Hin Pier to cross over – tickets cost 23 baht per person plus 90 baht per vehicle. The ferry runs from 6:00am till 10:00pm without set departure times – expect to queue until the ferry is full enough to cross.
If you’re also interested in how to get to mainland Krabi, check out 12go for multiple options.
You’ll need a vehicle to get around the island – either a motorbike or car as the island isn’t “walkable.” The roads on the north- and east-side of Koh Lanta Yai are well-kept and smooth to drive on. As for the westside of Koh Lanta Yai (where all of the main beaches and hotels are) it’s a pot-holed nightmare.
When it comes to gasoline, there’s a normal PT station in Sala Dan and there are also a ton of roadside shops in every town that sell watered-down gasohol 95 for 40 baht per liter (expect it to be ~50% water) in emptied out Hong Thong bottles – Thai recycling at its finest.
Koh Lanta offers a variety of dining options, including some excellent pizzerias where you can indulge in some cheesy deliciousness. Below were the best pizzerias we ate at while on Koh Lanta:
Sole Mare: Located in Sala Dan, Sole Mare is is a charming Italian restaurant that serves authentic wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant is known for its friendly service and ambiance. The pizzas are made to perfection, with a thin and crispy crust and a variety of toppings to choose from. Sole Mare is hands-down the best pizza on Koh Lanta – a bold claim that we’ll stand by, no matter the cost.
Le Colibri: Situated in Long Beach, Le Colibri is a well-established French restaurant known for its diverse menu, including delectable wood-fired pizzas. With a laid-back atmosphere, this restaurant offers a great dining experience along with delicious pizzas that combine quality ingredients and flavors.
French Bakery: Found in Klong Nin, French Bakery is a casual restaurant that offers a wide range of pizza options. From classic Margherita to unique flavor combinations, they cater to different tastes and preferences. With its relaxed beachfront setting and affordable prices, French Bakery is a go-to spot for satisfying pizza cravings.
These are the best pizzerias on Koh Lanta that we loved and that also receive positive reviews from visitors. Each offers its own unique ambiance and flavors, ensuring a delightful pizza experience during your stay on the island.
Tip #1: The best food on Koh Lanta is at the French-owned restaurants of Le Colibri and the tongue-in-cheek French Bakery. The pizza at both places are among the best in Thailand.
Tip #2: The best coffee on Koh Lanta is at Lantas Cafe, which is near the Old Town’s pier. The owners of the cafe are very friendly and the place has a great view over the bay. If you decide to visit Old Town, be sure to stop by for some coffee here. (see the pic below)
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