Even though we’ve taken many trips to Krabi Province, it took us nearly three years to finally visit Koh Lanta. Big names in that area of the Andaman Sea include Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, but we ended up gravitating towards the island that’s not on travelers’ radars as often. As it turned out, there are a great mix of things to do in Koh Lanta without the overcrowding usually experienced on the more popular islands. Count us in!
Our first impressions of the island was that it’s a one size fits all kind of place. There are cheap bungalows and quality resorts to fit any budget. We found that Koh Lanta was motorbike friendly and easy to navigate on its wide, flat, properly paved roads. It was easier than the challenging hills of Koh Chang and safer to drive on than crowded roads of Koh Samui. There were also motorcycle taxis (with sidecars) to take you places.
There were plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars along the main road and on the side streets that kept us full and entertained. There were several secluded beaches if we wanted to have some peace and quiet, but on the flip side there were a lot of outdoorsy things to do in Koh Lanta and the surrounding nearby islands, too.
Beach and Water Activities
The entire west side of the island has beach after beach after beach. Some are quiet stretches such as Nui Bay Beach and Bamboo Bay Beach and are perfect for sunbathing or having a peaceful moment. Although we could have lounged on the sand for the week, we took the opportunity to check out some of the local activities unique to the area.
Snorkeling at Koh Rok
We’ve been snorkeling several times but our latest and favorite place to snorkel in Thailand so far has been off Koh Rok. We’ve heard it had some of the best snorkeling in the Andaman Sea so we decided to give it a whirl. We saw plenty of colorful fish species and cool textured coral at three different reefs. The water was very clear and warm, too. Our snorkeling company, Opal Speedboat, definitely knew where the good spots were.
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The island is actually two sister islands, Koh Rok Nai and Koh Rok Nok. We had lunch on Koh Rok Nai (there’s a ranger station and a camping area, too) and the landscape is what you’d see on a postcard. You know, turquoise waters and blinding white sand? We would love to go back there again just to experience more of that.
Emerald Cave at Koh Muk
Another unique place to visit is the Emerald Cave. Accessible only by boat, we jumped into the water and swam towards the cave. The entrance was a bright emerald-green color that slowly darkened as we swam through the cave. It’s about a two or three minutes swim but you need a flashlight (provided by a tour guide) because at one point it turns pitch black! Then it opens up into a small lagoon and beach area surrounded by towering cliffs, which is inside the island.
Both full day activities (the Four Island Hop during which you see the Emerald Cave and snorkeling at Koh Rok) can be arranged through Opal Speedboat for 1,700 baht per person. The price includes lunch, equipment, and hotel pickup.
Walk a Dog on the Beach
A very popular activity on Koh Lanta, and one that we regularly saw signs for scattered along the island’s main road, is spending time with cats and dogs at the Lanta Animal Welfare. Founded by the same woman who runs the well-known Time for Lime Cooking School, this a safe place for the island’s rescued strays and abandoned cats and dogs.
The Lanta Animal Welfare is open from 9:30am to 5pm daily. All animals are immediately available for adoption. If you can’t make that big of a commitment, you can spend an hour of your day and cuddle with a cat or take a dog for a walk on the beach. Come between 9:30am to 11am and again from 3pm to 5pm to volunteer walk. All services are completely free but donations are appreciated.
These are best found by strolling along the beach and dropping in on a no-name shop. We ate at El Greco Greek Taverna on Klong Khong Beach and there was a massage shop right beside it. There was another massage shop beside Mr. Wee’s Pizzeria on Long Beach. Mind you that they run on the “expensive” side (averaging 350 baht compared to 200 or 250 baht for non-beach side massages) but to be fair, you’re paying for the novelty of the experience… and the view!
There were other water sports and beachy things to do that we saw pamphlets for but didn’t have the chance to do them ourselves:
- Stand up paddle board yoga with Jessica Fiebig on Klong Nin Beach
- Deep sea fishing
- Sailing and catamaran tours with Lanta Sailing
- Sea and mangrove kayaking with Lanta Eco Tour
- Scuba diving with Scubafish, Anti Gravity Divers, and Andaman Dive Adventure Lanta
Restaurants on Koh Lanta
There are plenty of tiny family owned restaurants and cafés on the island and there are some bigger places serving up western fare like pizza and burgers. We ate at our resort half the time, but when we did eat on the island the only restaurant on Koh Lanta that really wow’ed us was a Greek place called El Greco Greek Taverna.
The two of us ate lunch there after first hearing about it from our friend Alana from Paper Planes Blog. We enjoyed the attentive service by the friendly owners (something we sorely miss since moving to Thailand) and the
huge GINORMOUS, delicious portions. Try the mousaka and the soulvaki and make sure to come hungry.
In fact, we liked El Greco so much that we went there a second time a week later with our 25+ person group from the Yacht Week Thailand. They were able to accommodate our group within an hours notice and we think it’s fair to say that everyone was blown away by the generous quantity and quality of their meals.
Happy Hour Sunset Cocktails
Koh Lanta is a tall, narrow island with plenty of west coast waterfront property. We came across two fabulous albeit upscale places to enjoy cocktails and watch the sunset. Both spots were right on the beach but on opposite ends of the island. Of course, there are about a million options to choose from to watch the sunset, but these two caught our eye while we were scouting things out and we’re glad we went.
Rak Talae Beach Bar
Our first stop was Rak Talae Beach Bar at Pimalai Resort situated on Katiang Bay Beach near the southern tip of the island. Thanks to a recommendation made to us on Facebook, we decided to scope it out. It was a bit of a challenge (the guard in front of the resort at first would not let us in, and then front desk staff members and even the server asked us what room we were in, to which we replied, “We are visiting friends.”)
Nonetheless, we managed to snag a table and enjoyed the perfect tropical drink called a Coconut Dream. It was served up in a young green coconut and made with vodka, Malibu rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice, and lime. It was expensive (385! baht per specialty drink) but the Happy Hour deal of buy one get one from 5pm to 6:30pm sweetened the deal. Make sure to dress nicely!
Another awesome viewpoint was the Reggae Bar at Crown Lanta. A short ride from the front desk in a little buggy took us to a stunning place overlooking a rocky private beach. Full of smooth stones of various sizes, it made for a very pretty spot to catch the sunset. There are four different areas to enjoy drinks: right on the beach with Thai style woven mats and pillows, thatched-roof pavilions, deck side tables, and even tree houses! Happy Hour is available everyday from 6:30pm to 7:30pm and drinks are half price (full price run around 220 baht per mixed drink).
Visit Old Town
Old Town is very small, but if you are on the island for more than just a few days and have some time to spare, it’s worth swinging by and walking through the town’s old-time wooden Thai shophouses.
While meandering down the short strip of restaurants, we stopped by a small smoothie stand not far from Pintos. Here the lady proudly makes fruit smoothies with a variety of liquors. For 100 baht each we had a pineapple mojito with Bacardi and were quite happy! It was certainly an unexpected treat and a good way to cool off from the midday heat.
Iced Beverages at Caoutchouc
On the other end of Old Town, quite literally at the end of road, we enjoyed fresh fruit smoothies at Caoutchouc. This French owned café stretches over the water and gave us an unobstructed view of the nearby coastal town and small fishing boats coming in and out of the local piers. It was nice to chill there with the company of the resident cat.
Koh Lanta’s party scene isn’t on the same level as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan but it still has a good night life. Bar hopping opportunities are definitely available and we’d argue the best (er, safest) method is to choose one of the more commercialized beaches and walk along them to explore the bars. This beats taking a motorbike at night especially because the roads are not well lit after dark. The best beaches to go bar hopping are areas of Long Beach, Klong Khong Beach, and Kantiang Bay Beach.
Why Not Bar
Why Not Bar is a large outdoor bar with a restaurant and tables and bar that spill out onto Kantiang Beach. Big jellyfish lanterns and lighting were strung around for ultracool ambiance. And of course, it isn’t a beach party without some fire dancing!
Pangea Beach Bar
Pangea Beach Bar is small beach bar on Long Beach but had plenty of very attentive bartenders that knew how to pour a proper drink for around 150 baht a pop. They also serve up infamous buckets if you’re ready for it! Live DJs play alternative and underground music on Tuesdays and Sundays.
We later found out that Klapa Klum Bar has DJs playing dance music on Wednesdays and Korner Bar is the place to be on Saturdays if you like late night dancing. Both of these bars are on Klong Khong Beach. Funky Monkey on Long Beach is good to go to on Friday nights if you like karaoke.
Where to Stay in Koh Lanta
There are plenty of accommodations on Koh Lanta ranging from bungalows to hi-so resorts. It’s worth mentioning that during the slow season (May through October) it’s possible to find places at half the price as peak tourist season. That’s when we prefer to do our traveling in the south and suggest you do the same for the best deals!
We stayed at the Crown Lanta Resort & Spa, a four star resort with a private beach, on-site spa, a delicious complimentary Western breakfast and gorgeous rooms. We liked that it was one of the first resorts on the island after getting off the ferry in Saladan. Also, we rented a motorbike through Crown Lanta to explore the island with and it was a breeze to do. If you’re looking for a place with comfort and great quality, read about our experience at the resort.
If we were to pick a budget-friendly two star bungalow, we’d probably opt for the Raven Blue Hotel or the Andawa Lanta House. Past guests have raved about the how clean and comfortable the rooms are and how great the staff are.
Other Things to Do in Koh Lanta
We weren’t on Koh Lanta long enough to do everything there is to do, but we did run into the Editor in Chief of the Koh Lanta Pocket Guide, Mr. Pete at Why Not Bar. He gave us a free copy of the guide which included tons of helpful tips and things to do in Koh Lanta such as:
- Thai cooking school with Time for Lime
- Cave exploring at Khao Mai Kaew, Talabeng, and Tiger Caves
- Yoga at Oasis Yoga and Thai boxing class at Lanta Gym
- Paintball and indoor rock climbing (bouldering) at Lanta Paintball
- Trekking, waterfall, and sunset viewpoint at Mu Ko Lanta National Park
- Browse through local Thai markets
- Take a scenic motorbike route around the island
- Shopping at Ban Saladan
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