Everything you need to know about the paradise island that is Koh Lanta in Thailand, including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat and what to do!
You may not have heard of the Thai island, Koh Lanta. But you will have definitely heard of its sister islands on the west coast of Thailand – Phi Phi and Phuket. Koh Lanta is nothing like it’s hedonistic neighbours; it is a tranquil, luscious island further south, just across from Krabi on the mainland.
When we were doing our research on which Thai islands to explore on our 3 week trip to Southeast Asia we were limited to islands on the west due to weather and the time of year (January). To be honest, although there are some incredibly luxurious hotels on Phuket we didn’t want crowded resorts and we definitely didn’t want to stay on the ultra crowded and almost destroyed Phi Phi. We wanted full-on relax time as this was the last leg of our trip and we wanted to chill before heading back to London. Our friends had been to Koh Lanta and raved about it, and on further research we decided it was the Thai island for us!
The reason it’s not quite as discovered as its neighbours? It’s as simple as it just takes a bit longer to get here. Which I am so very happy about!
Because of the slower pace on Koh Lanta it attracts more of the over 30 crowd and there are lots of families as the beaches are perfect for children: the beaches are long and the waters clear and shallow. But there were many travellers in their twenties on the island who were using it as a place to recharge after partying on nearby islands. This is definitely a place where you come to relax.
Pretty much everything you need to eat, drink, stay and play is on the west coast of the island. There is one road that follows the coast all the way from the top to the bottom of the island. So it’s hard to get lost!
There is such a good vibe on Koh Lanta. It’s probably the closest I have got to being on a paradise island. And here’s what you need to know before you visit!
Where to eat and drink on Koh Lanta
Food is obviously the most important part of any trip I take! And we found some gems on Koh Lanta.
As I mentioned pretty much everything on the island is located on the west coast with the exception of Koh Lanta Old Town which lies on the east of the island. Most of the restaurants, cafes, bars and beach shacks lie just off the main road. This is why it’s a great idea to hire a scooter to get around (more on this below)!
We found places dotted around but there were a few mains ‘hubs’ where there were a collection of places to eat and drink, meaning you could easily camp out in the area for the day or night. You’ll find bars that line the white sandy beaches with bamboo chairs and tables dotted along the sand.
Our first hotel (The Layana, find out more below!) was located right in the middle of the beautiful Long Beach. Tides Restaurant is located on the beach front. This chic spot serves both Thai and international dishes to a very high standard. The candle lit beach is out in front of you, making it a very romantic spot. Though I must point out, this is an adults only resort.
Red Snapper serves a changing European menu with tapas dishes and also wine by the glass. A rarity on the island. This is a great option if you are looking for a night off from Thai food.
Shanti Shanti serve a very small but delicious menu of french food. Note there are two restaurants on the island called Shanti Shanti and are not linked. Make sure to go to the one on Klongnin Beach! Also, I defintiely recommend booking as there are only about 7 tables and it’s always full! We were so lucky on the night we went that a table became available in 20 minutes. The burgers and pasta here are really very good. It’s super cute in here too. We didn’t make it here for breakfast but heard they do great croissants.
Around Ba-Kantiang Bay
Two of my favourite spots were on Kantiang beach: Same Same But Different for great Thai food and fresh fish and Why Not bar for drinks.
Same Same But Different is a beautiful driftwood style spot just down from the luxurious Pimalai Resort. We discovered this paradise spot whilst exploring the south of the island on our scooter. We ordered lots of fish as we felt like a light lunch and it was all perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. We sipped of freshly squeezed juices, looking out to sea. I remember that lunch very fondly indeed.
Why Not Bar is a beach-front bar that comes alive in the evening with live music and fire shows. I love these kind of bars because it’s good vibes only and it gets everyone up and dancing and chatting to each other. This is probably as lively as it gets on the island. A traveller sat in the audience got up with the band an did some of the most awesome covers including some Pharrell. Every single person was up and dancing. Honestly it’s a night I’ll never forget. This is what travelling is about for me, these moments.
Things to do on Koh Lanta
Rent a scooter
The first thing you should do once you arrive on Koh Lanta after a quick dip in the sea is hire a scooter! I think this is one of the top things to do on Koh Lanta. We only got one for our last two days and I wish we’d had it the whole time. We rented it through our hotel and it was super cheap, costing about £5 a day.
It only takes about 35 minutes to go from the north of the island to the south. If you’re not comfortable on a moped, many tuk-tuks do roam the island but you will end up paying a whole lot more and seeing a whole lot less. The roads are decent and it’s almost impossible to get lost.
If you’re on Koh Lanta, the likelihood is that you came for the stunning beaches! The beaches are long and wide with soft white sand. Long Beach is probably the best on the island. But the other beaches are just as good though some a little rocky in places. But go and explore and find your favourite!
You can kayak through the mangrove forests between the two Lanta islands (Noi and Yai). It’s home to all sorts of wonderful wildlife, and you can quietly observe it all! Or kayak to the limestone caves at Koh Talabeng.
Diving and snorkelling
The diving here is amazing. There is incredible visibility, coral outcrops and so much marine life. Only an hour and a half from Koh Lanta is Ko Haa. This collapsed volcanic island has over 10 different dive sites, where you can see turtles, octopus and barracuda to name a few.
Hin Daeng is a little further out at about 2 hours, but it’s likely you’ll spot manta ray and if you’re lucky a whale shark.
There is also the popular 4 island tour you will see offered everywhere. This day trip takes you to Koh Muk, Ngai, Kradan, Cheuak and Waen where you will get to explore stunning beaches and snorkelling spots.
Where to stay in Koh Lanta
We spent 5 nights on the island two nights at The Layana Resort and Spa and three nights at The Sri Lanta Resort. This was because The Layana only had a room for our first 2 nights on the island as we only organised this trip 8 weeks before we travelled and you can imagine how popular the island is over Christmas and New Year! But actually it meant we saw more of the island so I’m really glad we did this.
I think the best area to stay in Koh Lanta is along Long Beach or Klongnin Beach. Although if you are looking for pure luxury on Koh Lanta, apart from The Layana, The Pimalai right at the south of the island is a wonderful hotel. It’s further away from most things which is why we decided against it. Though in hindsight, if you have a scooter it wouldn’t affect you much at all.
The Layana Resort and Spa
This luxury hotel on Long Beach has a string of top hotel awards under it’s belt and you can see why. This is an adult-only beach front resort with two pools, an incredible spa and great restaurant. The reason we stayed here is because a colleague of mine has been coming here for years and highly recommended it. The ocean view villas book up over a year in advance so we realise how lucky we were to get a room!
The rooms are understated and so comfortable, surrounded by pretty gardens filled with flowers. If you stay here you have to use the spa. Only a few years old it’s the most tranquil spot to enjoy a luxurious treatment. You’ll want one every day of your stay!
The breakfast here is also an epic feast. Yes, it has the usual suspects like eggs, pastries, bread, hams and fruit, but they also create the most amazing juices and shots. There are lots of healthy options here.
It’s the staff and service though that really made it for us. This is what sets a hotel apart, in my opinion. The staff remember your favourite drinks and are there for any questions you may have. We did have a little blip where we had booked to play tennis, which was a short taxi ride away, and when we arrived the courts had been double booked. It was a little annoying just because we would have chosen a different activity that morning. But the hotel Manager, came and personally spoke to us to apologise and dealt with it all very well. I highly recommend The Layana!
The Sri Lanta Resort
Having come from The Layana, you definitely realise this is a 4 star hotel! Sri Lanta is located on the slightly rockier Klongnin Beach. The majority of the villas are set just across the road from the beach in the hillside and are designed to reflect more traditional Thai living with rustic furniture. There are a few beachside villas too though.
We stayed in The Myth, which are the newer, more contemporary rooms. The rooms had simple but comfortable furnishings and our rooms were at the very top of the hill! It probably took 5 minutes to walk from the pool. It definitely worked the thighs! If you can afford to I would recommend booking the Beach Houses as they are much closer to everything.
There is a lovely pool on the beach and gardens where you can play a variety of games like babmington or just chill on one of the loungers.
Their main restaurant and bar is right on the beach too. On our first night at the hotel we enjoyed great Thai curries and cocktails as we watched the sun go down. Everyone was much closer to our age here so it felt a bit more livelier. Which I liked.
How to get to Koh Lanta
As I mentioned it takes a little longer to get to Koh Lanta from the UK than it does other Thai islands. But it’s really not that bad at all.
There are three main options to get to Koh Lanta.
- The quickest and most expensive option – an express transfer which includes a minivan and speedboat transfer. Once at Krabi airport it’s only about 1.5 hours to the island as you will make a short drive to catch your speedboat. If you decide on this option it is probably best to book through your hotel.
- The mid-range option – book a private mini-van to the island. This will take about two and a half hours as you drive to a further point where you get onto short but very slow car ferry to Koh Lanta.
- The cheapest and slowest option – get on a public minivan taxi which go every hour or so. These go the same route as the private vans, but you have to wait for an available seat and they get crammed full of people and luggage, believe me! Also, once on Koh Lanta you will then make a stop at everyones accommodation so it can take more like 4 hours to get to your destination!
On the way we opted for option 3 and regretted it massively – it’s honestly so squished on the vans, we had no legroom whatsoever and our driver made personal stops too! It took forever. On the way home we opted for option 1! This was because it was very kindly paid for by The Layana due to the little mishap. It was a much better way to travel though, I think it usually costs about $200 for two, but I think it would be totally worth it!
Do you have a favourite Thai island? Where do you consider to be a paradise island!?
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