Let me invite you to the paradise island of Koh Lanta!
What if I told you this island is perfect for travellers to Thailand who want to stay away from crazy parties?
Ko(h) Lanta is one of Thailand’s largest islands. It has resisted rapid tourist development like no other island in the country. Probably because it’s not so convenient to get there, as you have to use 2 ferries! It’s actually an easy hurdle to overcome with the current transport infrastructure. Be aware, though, that new roads and bridges are currently being constructed and they’ll make Koh Lanta much easier to access, even for the comfort-loving tourists.
Koh Lanta is laid-back and full of wonderful and welcoming people. Tourists have already discovered it but fortunately the size of the island helps to spread the visitors evenly. When you sit on any Koh Lanta beach, you almost feel alone.
What to do on Koh Lanta
Some people say Koh Lanta is boring. I can’t identify with that statement but it’s definitely true that the pace is calmer there making it an ideal place for relaxation. Still, though, I came up with 20 things to do in Koh Lanta! Yes, twenty!
Let’s dive right in and leave the practical info for afterwards:
Ok, I know. You don’t want to work on vacation. That’s totally fine. But if you’re a bit nomadic or need a few days to get some work out of the way, there’s no better place for it than Koh Lanta’s coworking space KoHub.
There are many seating options in KoHub. Either you can stay cool in an air-conditioned room, or you can just sit outside on the porch with fans, which make the heat quite bearable. I sat at a nice desk outside and enjoyed watching monitor lizards and other creatures crawl by. To be honest, I was never as productive as in KoHub!
2. Go to the beach(es)!
If you choose to stay around Long Beach, you’re going to have one loooong beach for yourself! However, the further south you go (on the western side), the more pristine the beaches will be.
So hop on a scooter and ride down! Look at this paradise location we found for swimming. 🙂
This was Ao Mai Pai beach. You can just ride and stop whenever you see an enticing beach spot. Go explore and if you love it, stay for a while! It’s as easy as that.
There are in total 9-11 beaches, all along the Western coast. Don’t bother searching for beaches on the Eastern coast, though.
3. Eat like a king
Oftentimes restaurants in paradise don’t have to try hard as they are going to be full anyway. Right? Well, on Koh Lanta, they still try! And it’s all delicious. I had all sorts of great meals like fried rice (served in a pineapple, anyone?), fresh catch, massaman and other curries, plates with chicken… Delicious, mouthwatering, savory food..
Among the restaurants on Long Beach that we tried and liked are e.g.:
- iRie: owned by Germans, but delicious everything! Lots of cocktails and vegetarian options, their mango & sticky rice is out of this world
- N and N: a restaurant right on the Long Beach, wonderful fried rice
- Papaya: great local restaurant, try the spicy papaya salad or basically anything on the small but delicious menu
- Sayang resort: towards the (northernmost) end of Long Beach, this is where fresh catch is served and prepared right in front of you
Or Shanti Shanti right by the road from Khlong Khong to Khlong Nin – for the best fried rice in a pineapple, and delicious fresh fish.
If you absolutely love the food and there are not enough good Thai restaurants for you at home, you can learn to cook proper Thai food while in Koh Lanta. The courses at Time for Lime feature several options – your partner can even join you after the cooking is done and enjoy your freshly prepared food. This option is called the lazy partner 🙂
4. Get addicted to fresh coconuts
Cause it’s just so easy to! They are available everywhere, in all restaurants and bars. You just can’t escape. Don’t fight it, though. You’ll do yourself good having a fresh coconut every day. Just watching the often fragile-looking Thai ladies expertly chop with the big chopping knives is quite a sight! Have your camera ready 😉
Massages, of course! Isn’t that what you came to Thailand for? There are massage salons on literally every corner. Some even feature a sea view! The price is more or less the same everywhere – expect to pay 300-400 THB. I’ve heard the best massages are at the Dreamy Spa. Choose between a traditional Thai massage, or a common oil massage.
6. Have some street food
If you saw my post on Bangkok street food, you know that I’m a big advocate of street food in Thailand. Guess what – there’s some great street food on Koh Lanta as well.
You can either ride up to Ban Saladan, a city where ferries depart from. You’re going to have food stalls lined up all along the main road. There are also street stalls in front of 7 Eleven store close to Phra Ae beach, and then there are markets just by the road between Khlong Dao and Long Beach. There are probably a few more spots that we haven’t noticed.
7. Explore cities
What cities? Yes, true, there is no metropolis waiting for you. Which is good, right? You have two main options: Visit the sleepy Old Town or the bustling port city of Ban Saladan. I liked the Old Town better, a few nice restaurants, shops with souvenirs, and lots of local houses on the outskirts. It was easy to ride around and see how the locals live.
8. Work out
Being as laid back of an island as Koh Lanta is, there’s only one gym 🙂 But it’s a good one! It comes in handy when e.g. there’s smog/haze from fires in Indonesia (true story), you want to work out, but don’t want to run outside and breathe in the bad air. The fitness centre charges per visit, weekly or monthly. Yoga, cross fit or Muay Thai classes are also available and charged on a per class basis. See the Lanta Gym site.
9. Muay Thai
Do you like to watch Thai fighters? Or perhaps you even want to join in? It’s actually easy to take Muay Thai training, and I think there are even visas based on that. If you just want to go see a Muay Thai performance, you should ask around. There are a few events from time to time but regular performances are on only during the high season. There are 3 boxing stadiums – in Long Beach area, Phra Ae and Khlong Dao. Book a spot via your hotel.
10. See some wildlife
What sort of fauna resides on Koh Lanta Island? All kinds! Lovely geckos that eat bugs and annoying mosquitoes. Super-slow monitor lizards, which are supposed to be poisonous but you’d have to really provoke them to be bitten. Cheeky monkeys who you shouldn’t try to make friends with – take that photo and run away! I’ve even heard a story about how somebody got bitten! You can see a fun comic of the whole story.
Apparently, there’s also something like a ‘monkey school’ on Koh Lanta. I cannot report on that, as I haven’t visited it. I’m not sure how monkeys are treated there. Similarly, it’s possible to go elephant trekking, but I urge you to be an ethical traveller and avoid this type of activity. Hopefully these practices will soon disappear from Koh Lanta.
11. Go for a hike.. in the forest!
Seeing monkeys and hiking can be even done in one go. You’ll need to drive the western coast to the southernmost tip of the island. There you’ll find Koh Lanta’s National Park. Once you pay the entrance fee (200 THB per person + 20 THB for parking), you’ll ride through a few groups of monkeys. Don’t get off the scooter, though! After you have safely parked on the monkey-less parking lot, you’ll be free to enjoy the hike in the forest, which takes about an hour from start to finish. Just one crucial piece of advice – wear a good bug spray!
As the National park area lies on Koh Lanta’s southernmost tip, you’ll find a lighthouse there. For those needing a soak, a little empty beach is available as well.
Do we have any serious divers reading this post? Well, take note! Whale sharks can be spotted at times in several locations around Ko Lanta. There are diving schools on every corner and you can easily do your PADI course here.
13. Go on boat trips
Most hotels and hostels on the island have formed partnerships with various tour operators. You can choose from several destinations with 2 daytrips being the most popular:
- 4 Island Tour with a visit to the Emerald Cave
- Koh Rok trip
The Emerald Cave on Koh Mook island is really incredible and well worth it, just the crowds of tourists make it slightly less enjoyable. If you have a waterproof camera/phone case, it’ll come in handy!
You can choose from 2 types of boats: speedboat or a long tail boat. Both have several advantages and disadvantages:
+ faster, rather new snorkeling equipment
– more expensive, more people on board
Long tail boat
+ traditional means of transport among Thai islands, cheaper, less people on board
– slower, noisier, older snorkeling equipment
The choice is ultimately yours. We took the speedboat to Koh Rok and the long tail boat to the 4 islands. Be aware that if you take the speedboat trip to the 4 islands and the Emerald Cave, you’re going to be with a larger group of people. To get into the cave with so many tourists you’ll all have to form a ‘snake’ to get in and out. So just be aware of that when deciding 🙂
14. Hang out with locals
If you enjoy Thai hospitality and like going to places where Thai people go, you should have a dinner at Mr. Green’s. It’s an affordable outdoor restaurant near Long Beach usually packed with locals. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to strike up a conversation or two, but you’ll be among locals, that’s for sure.
15. See spooky places
If you come to this resort in the low season, like we did, you’re going to encounter an abandoned place of a diverse ‘style’. You’ll face caged monkeys, bored ‘staff’ who can barely serve anything, and a shabby but somehow beautiful pier. Welcome to Lanta Sang Kha Ao Nature Resort & Spa. I’ve never seen anything like it. With bungalows in the shape of boats named after world cities to tree and cave houses, statues of dinosaurs, goddesses, deer and others… Did I mention a live peacock and quails? We felt like the place was haunted. It didn’t help that our scooter got a flat tire while trying to get out of there!
But I’ll definitely go check it out again when I’m next in Koh Lanta. If you go, let me know what’s the current status! I found old TripAdvisor reviews and some people even praised the beauty and tranquility of the place. It’s actually quite remote and you’ll need at least a scooter to get back to civilization.
16. Encounter sea gypsies
There are a few spots along the eastern shore, where the sea gypsies live. They mostly live in a village in the southeast of Koh Lanta, dubbed ‘Sea Gypsy village’ or Sang Ga U. However, bear in mind they are no tourist attraction. These are people who live off of the sea and lead their harsh lives without any need of meeting tourists. If you choose to go to their village, keep the camera away and behave in the most respectful manner.
Our scooter happened to get a flat tire when riding away from the spooky resort. Helpful locals navigated us towards the sea village and we spent quite a while there, with a guy who helped us change our tire. It was an incredible experience to be among the people, and we were extremely lucky because we were invited. Still, we didn’t wander around and take many photos as it’s a big no-no.
17. Help animals
If you love animals, you’ll be thrilled about all the possibilities of helping them in Koh Lanta. There’s an animal shelter near Phra-Ae Beach. It’s called Lanta Animal Welfare Center and it’s run by a Norwegian guy. You can help by donating money or your time. Just go there, take a few dogs out for a walk, cuddle some kitties and spend time talking to the volunteers. Or eat at the adjacent restaurant! All profits go straight to the welfare center.
The shelter closes around 5pm every day.
18. Help the environment
Environment-conscious travellers have many ways how to contribute to keeping the island clean. I’m not really sure how it works, but at almost any time of the day there are people walking on the beach and collecting trash. Just help out and join them!
Koh Lanta has joined in an initiative called Trash Hero. You can help by just buying a reusable metal water bottle, which you can refill for free at the many spots your maps shows you. You’ll help Koh Lanta reduce mountains of plastic just by doing a simple little deed.
19. Learn Thai
Ok, speaking Thai is perhaps not for everybody, but it’s definitely fun! Any Thai heart will melt a little bit more if you master a few sentences. Plus, if you’re staying longer, it might be really handy. There are even 1-year education visas, which I find pretty neat!
20. Fire shows!
Once you walk on the beach at night, you’ll notice all the signs inviting you to fire shows. I encourage you to go check one out! They are fun to watch and make for great long exposure photography. Grab a drink in one hand, your camera in the other (on a tripod, preferably), and watch the night away. It’s pretty impressive.
How to get to Koh Lanta
Getting there is the hardest part, and in the end is no big deal. Fly into Phuket or Krabi and share a minivan with fellow travellers. This way, you won’t have to worry about getting from the mainland to Koh Lanta. The minivans just take the normal route that includes two ferry rides.
Minivans can be booked at the airport (easy if you arrive before 3 pm) or online in advance.
The safest bet is to have your hotel in Koh Lanta send a private minivan. The ride takes about 2 hours, if you don’t have to wait for the ferry too long. We paid 2,500 THB for a ride like that.
Getting around Koh Lanta
Rent a scooter and have some fun riding up and down the winding roads! They get wild especially the more to the South you go. Of course, don’t forget to wear a helmet! Not only for your own safety, but you also don’t want to deal with local police..
Renting a scooter can cost you anything from 200 THB up per day. Try to rent at trustworthy places where they’d have all the insurance.
Tuk tuks are plentiful, and they’re the funny type where the passengers sit next to the driver instead of behind him (or her).
Where to stay on Koh Lanta
There’s a wide selection of places to stay in Koh Lanta. Most of them are just a few steps away from the beach. If you come in the low season, you won’t even need to book too long in advance.
If you want a quiet and serene place to stay, check out the Escape Cabins. We stayed in one of their Koh Lanta bungalows for 2 weeks and loved it tremendously. The owner is a lovely Japanese lady and the place is managed really well.
(Disclaimer: I was given a discount to stay at Escape Cabins. Still, I only recommend what I love!)
That’s all, folks! I hope you’ll enjoy Koh Lanta as much as I did. If I can help with any further advice, just let me know. If you have a stopover in Bangkok on your way to Koh Lanta, check out this post on where to have the best street food in Bangkok.
Have you been to Koh Lanta? What other Thai island did you fall for?
For you, fellow pinners, here are pinnable images!