The Ultimate Guide to the top beaches, best hotels, resorts, bungalows and things to do in Koh Lanta, Thailand
In this guide, you’ll find a list of things to do in Koh Lanta, Thailand. We’ll tell you how much you can spend and you’ll find some useful suggestions on the best beaches, resorts and hotels, basically all you need to know where to stay in Koh Lanta and how to spend an amazing holiday. This is our Koh Lanta guide.
LATEST UPDATE: October 2015
While in Thailand, we were looking for a charming island and we found it. We were dreaming about a spot nested between a rainforest and a sea and we got it. We wished to avoid the “get-a-bucket-of vodka-and-dance-all-night” zones and we succeeded.
Thailand has a big array of islands to offer with some of the best beaches in South-East Asia and a bit of research needs to be done before you choose a place that will meet your expectations and your budget.
Many blog posts and positive reviews were leading us to Koh Lanta in Thailand, and after we were unbelievably lucky to find a lovely accommodation in Klong Nin Beach thanks to a friend’s suggestion, we can say now that we have found our digital nomad beach paradise. So let’s start with our Koh Lanta tips.
There are plenty of things to do in Koh Lanta. First of all there are eleven beaches and the farther south you go, the more serene they are. We arrived to Klong Nin beach in the middle of March, which was the end of the high season, but there was already a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere.
What is the budget?
We stayed in Klong Nin, for us the best beach in Koh Lanta, for 10 days and spent in total 17,401 THB/$ 539 which included:
Lodging: 3000 THB/$ 93
This was really a bargain! We stayed in a newly opened guesthouse, Caipi where the work is actually still in progress. Apart from the super fast internet connection and welcoming hosts, Maurizio and Ja, we also tasted some delicious home-made Italian meals in their bar/restaurant.
You can find some really nice, clean and budget friendly rooms, bungalows and hotels in Koh Lanta, with range from $6 for a dorm bed to a splurging luxury sea front room with air-conditioning for $100-200. For more details, please check the sections below to find the best hotels in Koh Lanta.
We’ve done a big research for you to make your booking easier. We do our bookings through HotelsCombined. We use this website all the time and it’s really great for booking hotels. We have find some amazing deals up to 80% discount. Hope you find our list of the best budget, mid-range and luxury hotels on Koh Lanta useful.
- tuk-tuk from Ban Saladan to Klong Nin: 200 THB/$ 6. We managed to bargain from a usual price of 150 THB/$ 4.6 per person to 100TBH/$ 3
- ferry from Krabi to Koh Lanta: 700 THB/$ 21
- ferry from Koh Lanta to Krabi: 800 THB/$ 24, with a discount of 100 THB/$ 3
Renting a scooter & gasoline for 2 days: 700 THB/$ 21
Food: 8048 THB/$ 250
Yes, we splurged a bit this time, but would you resist dining on a beach with a stunning sunset on your birthday? We couldn’t. And we enjoyed it there so much that we did it again two more times.
Snorkelling: 2900 THB/$ 89. With a small discount of 100 THB/$ 3
Miscellaneous: 1053 THB/$ 32
Whether you go to Koh Lanta to relax on the beach or to spend an active time on the island, you will be not be disappointed either way. We found Klong Nin a fabulous place to combine our work, regeneration and unexpectedly, to tackle our old fears (check out #3 and #9 below).
So, now that you have decided to visit and enjoy Koh Lanta beaches, what to do in this paradise? Let’s start with our Koh Lanta guide.
1. Have a walk on Klong Nin beach
We already mentioned that this beach was for us the best place to stay in Koh Lanta. Whether you decide to do it early in the morning, in the late afternoon or to catch a beautiful sunset, Klong Nin beach in Koh Lanta is a fantastic place for a stroll. It is 1.5 km long, with a few rocks at both ends and soft sand throughout the whole area. No perpetual boat engine noise, no night or early morning karaoke. Just you, sea waves, birds and the sound of laughter of random kids playing on the shore. This is simply one of the best Koh Lanta activities you can do in the island.
Where to stay on Klong Nin Beach
2. Visit the local food market
It is located in the village of Klong Nin, and you can either walk there (about 10-15 minutes from the main junction in Klong Nin) or take a scooter (about 2-3 minutes) and ride south. You’ll not only find fresh fruits and veggies, but also a variety of home made meals and snacks. Locals are the main customers here, but you might bump into a few foreigners, too. The market is open on Tuesdays and Fridays.
3. Rent a scooter
This is the best way to explore the whole island. The roads are fine, only in the very south they are more hilly and curvy, but still manageable. The average price to rent is 250 THB/$ 7.7 per day, but it can be negotiable if you rent it for more days. The only downside of this fun is that you will have to leave your passport with them; there is no other way to negotiate with them unless you’re staying in a hotel or a resort where they also rent motorbikes and will not ask you for any documents.
We rented a scooter at a tour desk of the Pakgasri Guesthouse twice after having gotten good references from other travellers.
Gianni rode the scooter for the first time again after more than 20 years and I am really happy he had the courage to give it a try. Apart from that, he made my birthday very special, as we were suddenly able to move freely around the island without caring about the transport too much.
4. Relax on the beaches in the south
Once you are staying on Klong Nin beach and you rent a scooter or pay a tuk-tuk for half-day trip (around 500 THB/$ 15), we highly recommend visiting beaches in the south. Not only they are quieter, but the forest you drive through is also an awesome background for your road trip.
Ba Kantiang Bay Beach
The first stop after Klong Nin beach. It is a 1 km-long, white sand beach with a few beachfront restaurants and the famous Drunken Sailors coffee shop. The place is surrounded by beautiful, natural hills, a lush forest and cliffs.
Where to stay on Ba Kantiang Bay Beach
Nui Bay Beach
One of our most favourite beaches. It is not easily accessible and you need to take a steep footpath (about 100 m) down to the beach. What you will find there is really a breath-taking scene. The beach has an incredibly private feeling, nested between the forest and cliffs, with only one bar on the beach.
Ao Klong Jark Beach aka Waterfall Bay Beach
Located in the south from Nui Bay Beach. It is a calm beach with a few restaurants and resorts, but we didn’t find it as charming as Nui Bay Beach. This beach is pretty unspoiled and that’s the reason why you’ll find only one resort here (for now) and two restaurants.
Bamboo Bay Beach
After Waterfall Bay beach you will find a road that splits. To arrive to Bamboo Bay beach, take the steeper one on the right. Since this is the last beach in the south of Koh Lanta and not very developed for tourism, you will barely find anyone around.
Where to stay on Waterfall Bay and Bamboo Bay Beach
5. Visit the National Park
If you go further south from Bamboo Bay Beach, or if you just turn left when heading south from Waterfall Bay Beach, you will arrive to a national park area. The entrance fee is 200 THB/$ 6 and the park is open till 6 pm. If you enter later you don’t pay anything, but if you go there only to see a stunning sunset with a lighthouse, you will most probably miss it. Do not be surprised if you are joined by curious, hungry, wild monkeys.
The area covers 134 km2 and consists of a few islands that you can visit if you take a ‘4 islands hopping tour’ or if you go snorkelling to remote islands of Koh Lanta.
6. Visit Lanta Old Town
This town was a former business centre of the island until 50 years ago, when the ferries in the north started to operate. Merchants trading in the area were mostly from China or Arabic countries and you can still witness their impact in this small, community-like town. The place is considered a cultural highlight of the whole island and features one Buddhist temple and a Chinese temple. Some of the big festivals in Koh Lanta take place here.
We came to the Old Town at the hottest part of the day, around 2 pm when the whole town was sleepy and undisturbed. Now and then locals would quickly dart from one shop to another with an umbrella protecting them from the harsh sun.
The town gives you a different feeling compared to busy streets of some villages in the north, and you’ll find destroyed, empty huts or abandoned guesthouses and hotels available for rent.
If you plan to explore eastern islands like Koh Nui, Koh Por, Koh Talabeng, Koh Kam or Koh Bubu, Old Town is the right place from which to take an organised tour or a private long tail boat. Just go to the end of the main pier and arrange it with locals there.
The majority of these islands are deserted and uninhabited (so far), so if you wish to experience more tranquil parts of the Koh Lanta archipelago, here you have a chance to explore them.
For more information about the Old Town and the eastern islands, visit their homepage.
In case you are looking for a cheaper accommodation, Old Town offers some inexpensive seafront B&B. For a coffee or a refreshing juice, visit Caoutchouc, a French seafront cafe and restaurant far from the main road. To get there, turn right when approaching the main pier of the Old Town and drive till the end of the road, passing the abandoned huts and hotels.
Where to stay in Old Town Koh Lanta
7. Spend some time at Lanta Animal Welfare
It has somehow come naturally for us to care more about animals after our experience with the rescued elephants. We read about the welfare before so since we were pretty close to it, we visited it on our day trip to northern beaches of Koh Lanta.
Lanta Animal Welfare is a nonprofit sanctuary that cares and sterilises stray dogs and cats in Koh Lanta and its suburb. The stories of the animals here are really sad. Lots of cats at LAW were abandoned by the hotels’ owners during the low season when there were no customers to feed them and cuddle them. Dogs were left to survive on their own after the builders finished their work on building hotels, where the dogs used to be night guards.
Here you can take a free, 45-minute educational tour every hour, walk a dog or two, cuddle with cats and kittens that will be happy to see you. And if you fall in love with any of these cuties, you can also adopt them. Lanta Animal Welfare thrives thanks to the volunteers, donators and visitors who care and support them financially.
8. Explore the beaches in the north and head to the east
Going north from Klong Nin, you will find busier beaches compared to the south, but they are still worth the visit. The main road is full of guesthouses, local restaurants or food stalls, massage shops and hotels. The area is definitely more crowded than Klong Nin or the southern part of the island. They are all very close to each other so a half-day on a scooter is enough to see them all.
Klong Khong Beach
This beach is nearly 3 km long, with beachfront bars, restaurants and bungalows. Since the beach is pretty long, you will definitely find your spot for tranquility.
Where to stay on Klong Khong Beach
Long Beach (Phra Ae)
As the name implies, this busy beach is stretched over a 4 km area with some relaxing spots on the sides. We found the beach a bit packed, but it was still a lovely place to stop when you are exploring the north of the island.
Where to stay on Long Beach Koh Lanta
Klong Dao Beach
This is the most developed and the most crowded beach of Koh Lanta. Its 3km stretch is full of restaurants, bungalows and resorts. Definitely good choice for families, since the water is quite shallow, but we cannot recommend it if you wish to escape civilisation and avoid more expensive dining.
Where to stay on Klong Dao Beach
If you continue north, you will arrive in Ban Saladan, the main pier of Koh Lanta.
If you prefer to explore untouched villages, lush, tropical nature, rubber and palm plantations, we suggest visiting Koh Lanta Noi in the north.
To get there, you drive from Ban Saladan to the north, direction to a car ferry port. The fee for a ferry is 3 THB/$ 0.09 per motorbike and 2 THB/$ 0.06 per person. It takes about 10 minutes to cross the river and arrive to an almost deserted area of the island!
Just follow the main road from the pier in Koh Lanta Noi (direction to Koh Lanta Noi Sub District Administration Organisation). After a few minutes you will see a seashore on your right behind a beautiful pine forest. You can park your motorbike on the path near the forest and then walk a hundred meters to the beach. We came upon this secluded place with no one else around and found clear, shallow water and a wonderful view. The only signs of civilisation were the seafront restaurants of Ban Saladan in the distance.
We went to the east coast twice for a half a day each and were very impressed by the simple, tiny villages with no tourist agencies and no big chain stores. Do not expect any bars, guesthouses or food stalls here.
Going more to the south from the Old Town, you will find the Sand Ga U village, where some Sea Gypsies still live.
Although the place is mentioned in a few guidebooks, do not take it for a tourist attraction. Unlike the long-neck hill tribes near Chiang Mai, there is nobody waiting for you to show you their disappearing culture and sell you an overpriced souvenir. The community is living their own life, they make a living mainly with fishing, and follow their rituals and ceremonies. Please, do respect this when visiting the village.
We went there by motorbike, but it is better if you leave your scooter on the top of the hill and walk down. We honestly felt we were disturbing someone’s private and highly protected daily routines, and we even did not think for a second to take out our cameras to take a single picture of the place or people. On the flip side, it is a nice experience if you respect their privacy and do not intrude too much.
Note: If you decide to visit the north beaches, there are plenty of stalls on the road selling gasoline, so no worries about having to push your bike back to town. For the eastern part of the island, make sure you have enough gasoline in the tank.
9. Snorkelling in Koh Lanta
We have discovered a new world! An alluring, underwater world with new colours and shapes! When we took the plunge for the first time, we were stoked by the pure beauty we saw. We both had been dreaming about snorkelling and diving, so it was an extraordinary moment. So far, snorkelling has been one of our ultimate trip highlights.
Koh Lanta is a great place where you can book a half-day tour and visit some neighbouring islands like Kho Rok, part of the national park. You can either get off the boat and swim or relax at the blindingly white beach, or you can stay on the speedboat that will take you to a snorkelling paradise place where you can explore the world under the sea for 40-60 minutes. After a break on the beach you’ll go for the second round of diving, also for about 45 minutes.
These kind of trips usually include buffet lunch on the beach, drinking water, fresh fruits and the snorkelling equipment.
You can book the tour in your hotel or any local tour desk that is a part of any guesthouse. Check out more leaflets before booking the trip, as there are also cheaper packages that might include fewer islands to visit, but with the same snorkelling places and an almost identical lunch menu. We booked ours at the same Pakgasri Guesthouse where we rented a scooter.
- DO take a motion sickness pill for this trip. The speed boat trip from Koh Lanta to Ko Rok island takes almost one hour, the waves can be really wild and the fumes from the boat engines does not help the whole bumpy adventure.
- Bring your waterproof bag. You will really need it in case you carry a camera with you. After our kayaking trip in Laos we can confirm again that purchasing a dry bag back in Europe was a very good choice. You will find these kinds of bags in any Koh Lanta store with summer clothes and sea equipment.
10. Go jogging
One of the reasons why we love Klong Nin beach so much is because of its long, soft, sandy shore that is perfect for practicing jogging. From our experience, in the evening you might be accompanied by some playful dogs that are too sleepy in the morning to follow you.
11. Practice yoga
If you love yoga and if you enjoy practicing it outdoors, then Klong Nin is the right place for your morning asanas! The view is marvellous and you will never have enough of the sea waves, cliffs in the distance and a few boats far on the horizon. It’s calm and totally quiet; the earlier you come, the better, but even when we practiced yoga later in the morning around 9 the beach was almost empty. So, don’t forget to bring your yoga mat.
12. Splurge with a dinner on the beach
There are plenty of beachfront restaurants in Klong Nin. You can pick one with a romantic, hippie or extravagant feeling, yet all of them offer an amazing view. There are options for fresh, grilled seafood dishes, Thai cuisine or even English fish and chips or Italian spaghetti.
To have a very good grilled fish we can recommend Rickey’s Place or Beach Side restaurant. If you prefer more western food, go for Otto Bar & Grill, where they serve great fish and chips, salmon salad, hummus and ribs. The cook is British and he does his job really well. Be ready to pay around 600-900 THB/$ 18-27 for a dinner for two. If you happen to be celebrating a special day, you might be interested in visiting The Cave, a restaurant in the very southernmost corner of Klong Nin beach where to enter, you go through a small cave.
13. Have a massage
If you are on a budget, you might prefer to go for a Thai massage in one of massage shops on the left side of the main junction. Here you pay 250 THB/$ 7.7 per one hour massage. If your wallet allows you, go for a massage on the beach where you’ll pay about 400 THB/$ 12. You can find a few massage shops at the south end of the beach.
14. Do not miss an open-air concert on the beach
Rasta Baby bar is one of the most unique, independent places on the island. Apart from the bar and a few rooms for rent, they sell hand-made leather products. Once per week they throw a beach concert of reggae music for free. Just grab what you like to drink at the bar and have a seat or dance on the beach and enjoy the music. We were very lucky to stay on Klong Nin when Job2Do had a concert there!
15. Go for street food!
You should pay your visit to a food stall called ‘MAMA’s’! It happened to be the first place that we visited regularly without being annoyed ordering the ‘same-same’ dish – papaya salad (40 THB/$ 1.2), pad thai (60-80 THB/$ 1.8-2.5) and roasted chicken (50-70 THB/$ 1.5-2.1 per piece). Apart from that, the food was always good and we were probably also won over by the genuine and cheerful Mama Sukanya, the owner of the stall and a massage shop, where she offers Thai massages.
Opposite the only 7/11 store in Klong Nin village, you will find a Muslim family’s small stall selling sweet gyoza with peanuts, tamarind (5 THB/$ 0.15 per piece or fried bananas with sesame (10 THB/$ 0.30 per pack of 7-9 pieces), which were our favourite, almost addicting snacks!
Do not miss the fruit stall opposite Caipi bar and next to the Lanta Mansion, where they sell great, fresh pineapple, watermelon, mango and fresh coconut!
How To Get To Koh Lanta, Thailand
Ferry from Krabi to Koh Lanta
It costs 400 THB/$ 12 per person and takes about two hours. In case you take a ferry from Krabi, a songthaew will take you from your guesthouse in Krabi to the pier. But you will need to take a tuk-tuk to give you a lift to Klong Nin anyway. Take the one with a driver in a green vest, as they are the official tuk-tuk drivers with licenses. To get to Klong Nin it will cost you 100-150 THB/$ 3-4.6 per head.
The price for one way ticket depends a lot on the season. Expect to pay between $20-40 per person and it takes 3-4 hours.
Bear in mind that a speedboat might be a faster option, yet not so friendly to your stomach.
Minivan from Phuket to Koh Lanta
The route takes about 5-6 hours and a one way ticket will cost you about $13.
OR, you can fly from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur by AirAsia to Krabi, or from Singapore to Krabi by Tiger Airways.
You will need to arrive to Koh Lanta first: either by passenger ferry from Krabi for 400 THB/$ 12 per person that takes about two hours or by boat or minivan from Phuket or Phi Phi Island. You can also take a minivan or a plane from Krabi or Bangkok, but the ferry offers a more spectacular view and might be friendlier to your motion-sensitive stomach.
In case you take a ferry from Krabi, a songthaew will take you from your guesthouse in Krabi to the pier. But you will need to take a tuk-tuk to give you a lift to Klong Nin anyway. Take the one with a driver in a green vest, as they are the official tuk-tuk drivers with licenses. To get to Klong Nin it will cost you 100-150 THB/$ 3-4.6 per head.
On Klong Nin we had an unforgettable time and it’s a place we wish to return one day. For now, we’ll hold on to our memories of flying eagles above our heads, listening to the birds in the late afternoon near the sea and watching the sun going down while digging our bare feet into the warm sand.
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What is your favourite beach in Thailand or elsewhere in the world and why?