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Shaped like a protruding finger as it runs along the Andaman coast of south-central Thailand, Koh Lanta covers all the tropes of a tropical paradise.
Mangroves and rickety fishing shacks converge around Ban Saladan – the port on its northern shoreline. Sandbanks and rocky headlands roll south from that, past sea-front hotel resorts with infinity pools poking out from coconut groves.
Then come long, sandy beaches coloured golden-white. Finally, mountains blanketed in the jungle, cut by gurgling waterfalls, and inhabited by cheeky macaques dominate around the remote bays of the south.
Returnees to Koh Lanta (and there are lots of them) often say that it is the most perfectly balanced Thai island of them all. That might be biased. But it also might be a nod to the chilled-out bars of Long Beach, the thumping nightlife of backpacker-favourite Klong Khong, and the honeymoon coves around Kantiang. You can decide for yourself.
Where exactly is Koh Lanta?
Koh Lanta is in the very heart of the Andaman region.
That’s the western side of Thailand, a hop over the mainland karst mountains from the famous gulf isles of Samui and Phangan.
The island itself juts out from a small headland across a narrow strait just south of Krabi town. It looks directly westwards to the Phi Phis, Phuket and the full width of the Indian Ocean.
Top Things do in Koh Lanta.
Lanta hasn’t garnered a reputation for being one of the most versatile islands in all of Thailand’s green-blue sea for nothing.
There are things here to entertain families, party-mad backpackers, R&R-searching retirees, and adventure-hungry folk alike. Oh, and there are more stunning beaches than you can shake your plate of pad Thai at!
Cycle down to Kantiang Bay.
The stuff of travel brochures and postcards, Kantiang Bay, is a gleaming scythe of white sand that rolls on between jungle-covered hills. It’s not the most accessible spot on Lanta to get to. Right at the south of the island, it’s a 40-minute drive down from the pier in Ban Saladan. But the remoteness is half of the charm.
The beach is never full, lending a Robinson Crusoe vibe to the palm jungles and the bamboo eateries that cling to its cliffs. The water can be a little wavy, but the sand is soft and powdery.
The only town in the area is tiny little Kantiang itself. A few spring-roll touts and noodle hawkers converge on some seafood bistros there, while the surrounding hills are filled with hotels that are perfect for honeymooners in search of real Lanta luxury.
Laze on Long Beach.
Long Beach is up there with the most popular resort areas on all of Koh Lanta. Just as its name implies, it’s got oodles of room. It runs up the west coast for over 2.5 miles. The whole way, it’s an uninterrupted run of yellow sand backed by coast pines and hotels.
The new wave breaker in concrete on the southern end of Long Beach is terribly ugly, but the sea is clear and calm for swimming. What’s more, the sunset shows from the beer bars over the small stream are some of the very best in Thailand. To see for yourself, head to Korner Bar or the Nautilus Resort for around 6 pm.
Seek out Secret Beach.
The truth is, Secret Beach isn’t really a secret anymore. There’s now even a large sign pointing sand lovers in its direction on the main north-south roadway.
That said, it still gets far fewer visitors than its nearby compadres. You’ll trek down a dusty track lined by slender palm trees to arrive. Then, you’ll enjoy a full inlet of sloping sand that’s beaming white and gold. The water here has a few rocks in it, but that adds to the draw for snorkellers.
There’s also a single on-beach shack run by a local family. They do great pad Thai noodles and mango juices for just 60 THB a pop!
Hike to Khlong Chak Waterfall.
Deep in the southern wilds of Koh Lanta, where the jungles take over the hills, the Khlong Chak Waterfall beckons adventurers and explorers. It can only be reached on paths through the forest.
There are several routes to take, but they all lead to the base of the cataract, which gushes in the wet season but is just a light trickle in the drier months between December and April.
The road in takes you past a particularly unsavoury elephant camp. They’re not well-rated and certainly don’t look like a real sanctuary. From there, you hop the river and delve through the jungles for around 30 minutes to the splash pools. Some people swim; others just sit and enjoy the cooling spray next to the waterfall.
Party in Klong Khong.
Klong Khong is the liveliest and most hedonistic corner of Koh Lanta. You’ll find it stretched along a tidal bay just south of Long Beach. The sands here aren’t the prettiest, which means the accommodation tends to cost less.
That’s brought a backpacker following, and with them, pumping bars. There are several to have on the radar: Mushroom Bar (a psychedelic reggae mashup), Freedom Bar (hosting regular themed party nights), and Roots Hill Bar (not much more than a shack on a hillside).
To start the evening, a few other establishments are worth a mention. In Long Beach, you won’t find anywhere more welcoming than Joker Bar. The owner is always smiling, his dog’s lovely, and you’ve got a cheap beer with great vibes. Up the hill and inland is Fusion Bar. They host jungle parties once a week.
How to get to Koh Lanta.
The closest arrival point from the air is Krabi Airport. It sits just to the north and gets both long-haul charter flights from Russia and Europe, along with short-haul domestic and regional connections.
For anyone coming in via Bangkok, there are upwards of 10 direct hops to the Thai capital each day. They can get you in from large BKK, or smaller DMK, taking 1.5 hours in the air. Arriving at Phuket Airport is also easy. That gets a few more global services from Western Europe and Middle Eastern hubs.
Lanta is a well-connected island that’s served by both ferry and – strangely – road. From Krabi’s arrivals terminal, it’s possible to get a direct taxi transfer for around 3000 THB. Alternatively, you can hop in the shared minivan, which costs about 500 THB per person, plus a little extra if you’re carrying large bags.
The ferry link goes several times each day from Krabi pier. You can book it with door-to-door transfers from your hotel or the airport for around the 400 THB mark, though it’s always worth haggling. The boat link from Phuket costs more, but you can choose to get high-speed ferries straight across Andaman Bay to Lanta. They’re a wobbly ride but take just 1.5 hours from pier to pier.
Best Places to stay in Koh Lanta.
Ban Suan Rim Klong ($-$$)
No-frills bungalows on the roadside behind the beach await at low-cost to midrange Baan Suan Rim Klong. They open onto a central garden and enjoy access to a private pool. They might be necessary, but they’re comfortable and come with air conditioning. What’s more, the location is perfect for exploring both Secret Beach and the buzzy nightlife area of Klong Khong.
Green Pepper ($$)
Escape the energy of the beach by going inland a little from Long Beach town. The ride is about 10 minutes in a tuk-tuk from the shore. Then, you’re lost in lush gardens filled with hibiscus flowers and ferns. Welcome to Green Pepper, a relaxed and family-owned B&B with around ten luxurious rooms. The people are very welcoming and filled with top tips on things to see and places to go. Breakfast is extra but lovely, with poke bowls and Thai omelettes up for grabs.
Calling all honeymooners – The Houben Hotel is a 5-star doozy of an accommodation choice that’ll have you feeling like royalty. Its sea-view suites have standalone bathtubs and breezy decking areas that gaze straight out over the Andaman Sea. There’s also a glimmering pool right by the beachfront. Interiors are sleek, modern, and appointed with loads of tech. What’s more, stunning Kantiang Bay is just around the corner.
If you have anything to add to this ultimate guide to Koh Lanta, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Feel free to share your tips on the top things to do, places to stay, the best eateries, and anything in between.
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