Koh Lanta is a not so explored charming island in South Thailand with a relaxing atmosphere and with some of the most beautiful beaches of the country. In the past, it used to be a haven for backpackers, although it currently attracts all sort of tourists, particularly Swedish, who end up moving with the whole family most of the times.
Unlike the rest of Thailand, the majority of the Lanta’s population are Muslims descending from Malaysian fishermen who settled down in there about a century ago. For this reason, forget the noodles with pig meet and be ready for the sound of the mosques five times a day. But do not worry about the strict religious rules as the island is free from fundamentalists and the local population live together rather well with foreigners, parties and bars.
Koh Lanta is special because it combines the Muslim hospitality and the Thai kindness with the paradisiacal atmosphere typical of South East Asia. Lanta also has a lively culture as a result of receiving many immigrants, such as the Chinese and even sea gypsies.
As Koh Lanta is still little touristy explored, it is easy to discover unknown places and deserted beaches. In our case, it was love at first sight. We went there to spend a couple of days only and ended up staying for the whole month! Travellers who enjoy seeing less known places, be in touch with local population, delicious food, fair prices and rustic atmosphere, Koh Lanta most definitely ought to be in your itinerary!
Top things to do in Koh Lanta
Spend the day at Nui Bay: hidden and mostly deserted, this is our favourite Koh Lanta beach.
Koh Lanta Diving: the island offers one of the best diving spots in the country without being overcrowded.
Tiger Cave: a small cave which has merged with native trees. The one hour trekking also takes you to a waterfall which lacks in water during the dry season.
Koh Lanta National Park: we did not go to the Koh Lanta National Park as we heard the beaches from there have nothing special. Nevertheless, here it is a tip of one of Koh Lanta’s top tourist destinations. Entrance fee: 200 Baht (US$ 6).
Koh Lanta Old Town: There is where everything began. It is the oldest part of Koh Lanta, although slightly left aside nowadays. Yet, it is worth a visit to meet the residents and eat in one of the restaurants with its delicious local food.
Ban Saladan Village Koh Lanta: It is the most tourist and commercial area of the island. There, you will find many food stalls, restaurants, travel agencies, souvenir stores and the main pier. By the way, that’s where most locals go fishing in Koh Lanta.
Snorkelling tours in Koh Lanta: As there are many paradisiacal little islands near Koh Lanta, such as Koh Rok and Koh Mook, a snorkelling tour is one of the best activities to enjoy during your time over there. You can opt for a snorkelling trip to a single island or you can do the popular Four Island Tour. Here below there are three options of snorkelling trips in Koh Lanta we recommend:
KoHub: This is not a very common tip, though for some, such as us, who fall in love easily with the place and instantly want to extend the staying, Koh Lanta has a working place for digital nomads called KohHub.
Be a volunteer at the Lanta Animal Welfare: The NGO takes care of abandoned cats and dogs. You can help taking the animals for an hour walk.
What NOT to do in Koh Lanta: An elephant trekking! Let us all agree that this is one of the cruellest practices in South East Asia fomented by tourist. Stay away from tours involving these big boys – unless is just washing them! They are really mistreated. For further information access this post here.
– Klong Khong: It has a chilled out atmosphere and the best bars in Koh Lanta. The bars have a relaxing vibe with cushions by the sand and candles all around. The beach, however, is not the best as there are many rocks in it. Nevertheless, Klong Khong offers one of the best sunsets in Koh Lanta. Have a look on Klong Khing hotel deals in here.
– Kaw Kwang: A calm beach with bars and hotels and nice swimming pools facing the sea. It is also a good area for snorkelling.
During our month in Koh Lanta, we stayed at Hutyee Boat Bungalow, a family run accommodation who welcomes all of their guests as if they were part of the family too. We loved it and can’t recommend it any better. It is practically by Long Beach, it has a kitchen and an area for barbecue as well as comfy bungalows. You can check their availability in here or call them on: +66 83 633 9723.
How to get to Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is an island – in fact, three islands – and it has no airport. The three islands line up vertically on the map. The first two islands of Koh Lanta are very wild and has little infrastructure, thus where you really want to go is the the last island. Hence, your way over there will undoubtedly involve bridges and ferries.
The closest big cities are Krabi and Phuket. From there, you can either take a bus or a boat to Koh Lanta.
From Krabi to Koh Lanta
– By road: You have a few options here. You can either rent a private minivan or a car from Krabi airport or your hotel, take the public van or hitchhike – just as we did. As we mentioned, the way to Lanta involves a ferry and two bridges. As the ferry can only support as many vehicles, be ready to face a queue. If you rent a private minivan, you won’t have to worry about driving and just enjoy the way. It normally fits 6 people and the price is fixed, regardless of how many people goes. Both hiring a car or a private mini van will incur on paying for the ferry, but it’s cheap, just about 2 US$. As for public van, it’s normally crowded and hot, but nevertheless an option.
If you are more adventurous and decide to hitchhike, it’s without a doubt the funniest and cheapest way! Thai people are extremely helpful and hitchhiking around the country is super easy. In Southern Thailand particularly is even simpler as many people drive pick-ups and you just have to jump at the back of the car and enjoy the ride! Then, you skip the queue at the ferry as well as paying it – for the whole journey, in that sense.
– By boat: Ferry is surely the fastest and nicest way to arrive in Lanta, although it won’t be an option if you are there from around May to October. At this time, the sea is rather rough. There are boats leaving from many places, such as Krabi Town, the Passenger Pier and even Ao Nang (check this company here for fares and time-table). It normally takes about 2 hours, a part from Ao Nang, which will involve a free pick-up service to Nopparat Thara Pier, from where the boats depart. The price is normally 400 Baht (US$13). Another option is the Speed Boat, which normally includes a pick-up from your hotel to the pier, a 10-15min – instead of 2 hours – boat ride as well as a drop-off to your hotel. It’s the fastest and most expensive too. It’s up to your pocket.
From Phuket to Koh Lanta
By road: Well, that’s tricky. Both Koh Lanta and Phuket are islands, although Phuket has a bridge connecting to the main land. A straight line from Phuket to Koh Lanta would get you a 90 kilometres distance (or 56 miles), but the actual journey is about 240 kilometres (or 150 miles), about three times longer. Because of that, many tourists decided to go by boat, not meaning is worry-free too. The methods are the same as from Krabi, just that it would take about 5-6 hours travel.
By boat: The problem here is the sea. During high season, the sea is more predictable, therefore you can take either a public ferry, a high speed ferry or a speedboat. There are many points of departure, just bear in mind that delays or not having the boat at all might happen. The standard ferry will be the cheapest and the longest, with a stop over in Koh Phi Phi of about one hour. A great option here is to plan yourself a day or two in Phi Phi before continuing to Koh Lanta so not to spend at least 5 hours on a boat. Otherwise, a speedboat or a high speed ferry might be your option, taking no more than 2 hours. Both will cost you roughly the same. If you like the idea, check here the farefor a Speedboat from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lanta.
To go to Krabi or Phuket from abroad and other parts of Thailand:
– Airplane: Flights from AirAsia and NokAir are cheap and relatively comfortable, if you are either travelling from mainland Thailand of abroad.
– Bus: The journey from Bangkok to Krabi, for instance, takes about 12h and costs about 800 Baht (US$23). Buses leave from either Southern Bus Station or the famous Khaosan Road.
*You can check and reserve boat, bus and flight tickets here.
How to get around in Koh Lanta
There are two ways to get around in the island: Taxi or scooter. The price for a taxi ride varies between 50 and 200 Baht (1.5 to 7 US$) depending on the route. Renting a scooter is much more convenient as it gives you freedom to reach hidden places. The price for 24h renting is about 200 Baht (7US$) and petrol costs 45 Baht/L (1.2 US$/L).
We hope this Koh Lanta Guide helps you to enjoy the best of the island. If you have any doubts, comments or suggestions, get in touch with us via email or drop us a line on the comments below. Safe travels, Fernanda and Tiago.
*Article originally written in April 2016. Updated on January 2019.