Finding the Perfect Balance: Our Guide to Koh Lanta

As much as we loved our time on the quiet Thai islands of Koh Mak and Koh Jum we needed a more developed island to base ourselves to work for a month. Somewhere with good WiFi, a comfortable apartment to rent, and a variety of vegetarian eating options. The problem is we didn’t want too developed – we like our beaches quiet and our islands laid back – so Phuket and Koh Samui didn’t sound like our kind of places. Luckily on Koh Lanta we found the perfect balance.

On Koh Lanta there are plenty of things to do, places to eat and a variety of accommodation options but it’s all quite spread out and doesn’t feel overcrowded. There are no Western chains or highrises, and there are many empty beaches. We loved the jungle covered mountains of the interior and the long golden beaches along the west coast. WiFi is common and we found some great apartments and villas that made comfortable home bases.

These are our tips for Koh Lanta.

Things To Do on Koh Lanta

Hire a Moped

Simon mopeding on Koh LantaWe do love zipping around on a moped and Koh Lanta is a great place for it. It’s quite a large island (27 km long) so having your own transport makes it easy to explore.  The roads are paved (with a few bumpy patches further south), there is no traffic, and it’s hard to get lost when there’s only one road that goes around the island and a couple that cut across it.

It costs around 250 baht ($8) a day to hire an automatic scooter, although we negotiated cheaper rates for longer stays. Many restaurants, hotels and travel agents rent them out so they are easy to find. They don’t ask for a licence or deposit but we did leave a copy of our passport.

There are a couple of petrol stations near the north of the island in Klong Dao and Saladaan and these have the cheapest rates so stock up here when you can. Elsewhere on the island you’ll find informal petrol stations by the side of the road where petrol is stored in whisky bottles at 40 baht ($1.30) each.

If you rent a moped you’ll be able to explore many of our suggestions below but it’s also just fun to drive around enjoying the views and stopping off at quiet beaches.

If you don’t want to hire a motorbike you could rent a bicycle or the local taxi – a tuktuk with a sidecar attached to a motorbike.

Southern Beaches

Kantiang Bay

Kantiang Bay

Koh Lanta’s beaches get quieter the further south you go along the west coast. Our favourites are at the very south – Kantiang Bay, Waterfall Bay (Ao Klong Jark) and Bamboo Bay (Ao Mai Pai). You can combine a trip to Waterfall Bay with a hike to the nearby waterfall.

Bamboo Bay, Koh Lanta

Bamboo Bay

National Park

Beach at National Park, Koh Lanta

Beach at National Park

For another beautiful empty beach keep driving even further south until you reach the end of the road at Koh Lanta’s National Park. There’s a 100 baht ($3.20) entrance fee but you can then hike trails, visit the lighthouse and relax on the beach.

Just watch out for the monkeys though – Simon got attacked by one which was trying to get into our bag in search of food. And please don’t feed the monkeys and encourage this kind of behaviour. If you do get scratched or bitten by a monkey (or dog) you’ll need to get a rabies vaccination straight away and then four more at intervals over the following month.

Old Town

Old Town, Koh Lanta

Old Town

The west coast is where all the beaches are but we also enjoyed visiting the untouristy east coast over the lush green mountains. It’s quiet and peaceful here with a few small settlements of simple bamboo huts and the historic Old Town – a village of teak stilted houses overlooking the sea. There are only a few shops and restaurants so it won’t take long to explore but it makes a good break from the beaches.

Four Islands Boat Tour

Kayaking at Koh Ngai

Kayaking at Koh Ngai

One of our favourite activities on Koh Lanta was taking a day trip to visit the Trang Islands with Freedom Adventures.  We spent the day snorkelling, kayaking and island hopping around the gorgeous limestone islands.

Our snorkelling spot Koh Maa

Our snorkelling spot Koh Maa

The highlight of the day was definitely visiting the Emerald Cave. Swimming through the cave the water really did glow emerald green before it became pitch black. When we reached the other end of the cave we emerged into the sunlight to find a hidden white sandy beach surrounded by limestone cliffs. We’ve never visited anywhere like it.

Emerald Cave, Thailand

Emerald Cave

There are many boat trips to choose from but Freedom Adventures stood out because although their boat was large and comfortable (with a toilet), they limit groups to 10 people (there were only 4 of us) and they also bring kayaks which none of the other operators do. Our guide Ned was friendly and helpful and we had a hot Thai lunch cooked aboard the boat.

A full day boat trip with Freedom Adventures costs 1500 baht ($48) per person including pick up/drop off from your hotel, lunch, fruit, water, soft drinks, kayaks, snorkelling gear and national marine park fees.

Scuba Diving

Our dive spot at Koh Haa

Our dive spot at Koh Haa

Although Koh Lanta isn’t as well known a diving destination at Koh Phi Phi or Koh Tao it has some of the best dive sites in Thailand, and made the perfect place for us to get back underwater after four years without diving.

After our brief refresher course we did two dives at Koh Haa. The visibility was an incredible 30 metres and we were able to fully appreciate the thousands of colourful fish and vibrant corals. A highlight was swimming up through a narrow cavern known as The Chimney. It’s really a magical world underwater and we’d definitely recommend giving scuba diving a try.

Read more about our dive trip with Scubafish here.

Clownfish. Photo by Natasha Lambelin, Liquid Lense

Clownfish. Photo by Natasha Lambelin, Liquid Lense

Watch the Sunset

Kantiang Bay sunset, Koh Lanta

The time the sea turned pink at Kantiang Bay

We saw some truly spectacular sunsets on Koh Lanta and made sunset walks along the beach a daily routine. Our favourite spot was Long Beach.

Sunset at Long Beach, Koh Lanta

Sunset at Long Beach

Cooking Class

We didn’t take a cooking course on Koh Lanta as we’d already done one in Chiang Mai but we would definitely recommend you take a class at some point during your trip to Thailand. It’s a great opportunity to spend the day eating (a lot!) and learn more about Thai food.

Time For Lime are recommended on the island for their cooking classes and you can read more about it here from our friends Dani and Jess, the Globetrotter Girls: Koh Lanta cooking class.

Where To Eat on Koh Lanta

Honestly, after coming from the foodie paradise Chiang Mai we were disappointed with the food on Koh Lanta at first. The problem may have been that we are vegetarian and the island is nowhere near as vegetarian friendly as Chiang Mai so often our only option was a rather bland vegetable stirfry or fried rice. We were also there in the low season and many of the places that were recommended to us were closed.

We did manage to find some good food on Koh Lanta though and these are our top picks.

Drunken Sailors, Kantiang Bay

Tom Yam Vegetable Noodle soup, Drunken Sailors

Tom Yam Vegetable Noodle soup at Drunken Sailors

We love Drunken Sailors and it’s one of those rare finds that manages to do both excellent Western and Thai food. The tom yum vegetable noodle soup, vegetable samosas, veggie burger, and passionfruit shakes are all delicious. We particularly appreciated that they don’t tone the spice down for tourists (although you can ask them to if you want), and that you can order everything vegetarian or vegan. All the Thai dishes are packed full of veggies and you can choose to add meat as an optional extra.

The service is great, the atmosphere relaxed with hammock chairs and beanbags, and there’s WiFi and books to browse or exchange.

Vegetable samosas at Drunken Sailors

Vegetable samosas at Drunken Sailors

Red Snapper, Long Beach

Red Snapper serves tasty fusion tapas in a lovely garden setting. They are one of the few restaurants we found that had a good vegetarian selection and we enjoyed everything we tried from the creative menu including cheese and jalapeño croquettes; roast vegetables in a sundried tomato sauce; chickpea, jalapeño and orange salad; and the tasty bread with garlic butter and olives.

Faim de Loup French Bakery, Long Beach

This is the place to go for bread and baked goods. We were regulars here for their wholemeal loaf and you can even put in an order and pick it up fresh from the oven the next day.

Self Catering

As we stayed in apartments and villas on Koh Lanta we always had access to a kitchen and made the most of it. For Western food (like cheese, muesli and pasta) we shopped at Lanta Mart in Saladaan, but everything else we bought from a large greengrocers in Saladaan – they have a big selection of vegetables, fruit, fresh noodles, tofu and rice.

There are also evening markets on various days around the island where you can pick up fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s in Saladaan on Saturdays, in Old Town on Sundays, and in Klong Dao on Mondays.

Where To Stay on Koh Lanta

We didn’t stay in budget accommodation on Koh Lanta as there are some great deals at nicer places in the low season.

The west coast is lined with beaches and this is where you are likely to stay. We liked Long Beach (Pra Ae) which isn’t as developed as Klong Dao further north but still has plenty of choice of hotels and restaurants. As the beach is 4km long everything is spread out and it’s easy to find a long stretch of sand to yourself. We stayed at the southern end which is particularly quiet.

Sai Naam Residence pool

Sai Naam Residence pool

On Long Beach we stayed in a few different places in the Malee Seaview residential complex where all the apartments and villas are no more than a few minutes walk from the beach (on the beach side of the road).

  • An apartment at Sai Naam where you have access to the gorgeous pool straight from your balcony.
  • A villa with Lanta Hideaways who have 45 villas to choose from.
  • A stunning beachfront villa with private infinity pool and cinema room.

Read our full reviews with video tours in Malee Seaview Part 1 (apartments and villas) and Part 2 (beachfront villa).

Evening at our private infinity pool

Evening at our private infinity pool

For an even quieter beach, although about 30 minutes drive from most of the shops and restaurants, we love Kantiang Bay. It’s very relaxed here and we had an amazing view from our villa at Baan KanTiang See. Read our full review and take a video tour here: Baan KanTiang See villa review.

Baan KanTiang See villa

Baan KanTiang See villa

How To Get to Koh Lanta

First get to Krabi which you can reach by overnight bus or short flight from Bangkok. From Krabi there are morning ferries or minibuses throughout the day to Koh Lanta. Both take about 2-3 hours. The minibuses drop you off at your hotel so they are convenient but cramped and hot if you sit at the back (the A/C didn’t reach us very well).

We’d also recommend a visit to the neighbouring, quiet island of Koh Jum which is an hour away on the ferry to Krabi.

When To Visit Koh Lanta

The high season on Koh Lanta is from November to April and this is when the weather is driest and most people visit. The rainy season (or green season as it’s known here) is from May to October and isn’t a bad time to visit as it’s very quiet and hotels reduce their rates by 50% or more.

We visited in April – May and although the weather was better in April it didn’t rain that much in May. Rain showers usually happened at night and although some days were cloudy there were plenty of gorgeous sunny days. You can get some amazing deals at this time of year so we do recommend it.

Yi Peng T-shirt image

Trail Wallet

Have you been to Koh Lanta? Or found your own perfect Thai island? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

32 thoughts on Finding the Perfect Balance: Our Guide to Koh Lanta

  1. Hey guys, great round up of Koh Lanta! We definitely did not take advantage of all the great things to do here like you did – in fact this seems like paradise. I suppose jet-lag, a bit of Bangkok drama and a scooter accident (!) kept us from seeing just how special Koh Lanta really is. When we go back we will definitely be staying at one of these amazing properties!

    • You did have a rough start to your time in Thailand so that probably didn’t help. It is also great to have a scooter so that you can explore the island fully – maybe next time!

  2. Thanks guys. This was helpful. I plan on landing in Thailand in the fall and would love to check out this island.

  3. Oh wow, this looks absolutely amazing!! This is definitely on the top of my list of places to visit! You guys did a great job on the description. This blog is so helpful! Thanks so much! Beautiful pictures!

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  8. Hah just read this post and was funny to see I commented back in June before our trip even started and now we are in Thailand, on our way to Koh Lanta in a few days! Lots of great info here – I was invited to take 6 cooking classes at the Time for Lime Cooking School and that was the primary reason we’ll be spending a week in Koh Lanta, but it looks like we’ll have plenty to do there!

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  10. I work here in Thailand, and my wife is meeting me in Phuket on Saturday… spending the night there as we are not into the crowds and heading on to Lanta Sunday… The more I read about this place the better it gets, Thanks for the heads up on a few places… I’ll touch back later after our vacation and add a few more comments…

      • What a time, It was nothing but Perfect, A great romantic getaway, I highly recommend the “same same but different restaurant, we stayed at he Amantra resort and spa in a nice little villa on the beach, loved the fact no one was trying to sell us anything. The locals said it was really busy due to the Chinese New Year. I can’t say enough about the place and we can’t wait to go back…

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  12. Great site – I envy you both!

    I just got back from an adventure in Koh Lanta. I do have to tell all your readers that Freedom Adventures is not as good as they once were. We took the Emerald Cave snorkel trip (after an awesome day of diving with Scubafish – highly recommend!), and were exceptionally disappointed. We aren’t travel snobs by any means and enjoy roughing it up. But Freedom Adventures was a joke.

    First of all, if you use them for a tour, bring your own snorkel gear! The ones we used were filled with mold and the masks were nearly all broken. Not a single swimmer could use the equipment. It was disgusting.

    Secondly, due to poor weather, the boat could not go to the Emerald Cave… no worries from us, but I overheard the guide, Ray, talking to the owner on his cell phone, asking if the people on the tour should get refunded. The answer was a resounding no!

    I felt bad for Ray, he was a nice guy, but he really got put in a rough position. His English was really bad (again, no big deal), so he had difficulty explaining anything to us. We just kept floating from location to location. The cook used the same knife to cut into raw chicken as he did the fruit without washing. I know this is pretty common in Thailand, but it was gross to see. Watching him throw food and

    So – to all people going to Ko Lanta and thinking of using Freedom Adventures please think again. Take your 2500 baht elsewhere!

    Otherwise, love the blog. Scootering Ko Lanta is the best!

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  14. Great info, thanks heaps,.
    We are a couple looking to stay Ko Lanta first 2 weeks December, from some reviews I have read Ko Lanta might seem to be teaming with families with small children, not sure if this is true lol.
    Any advice on an option for accommodation that might have less children staying???
    Any help would very much appreciated.
    Cheers
    Steve.

    • When we were there in April/May we didn’t find kids a problem (and they would bother us) but maybe December is different, I don’t know. No other accommodation ideas I’m afraid but maybe more of a boutiquey hotel rather than apartments/villas might attract less families.

    • Steve,

      I highly recommend The Houben. It is a chic boutique hotel with a million dollar view. Best part, they don’t allow children under the age of 12.

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  16. Headed to Ko Lanta in January. Plan to rent a car in Krabi and take it to Lanta as we have rented a villa for a month. Any road issues using a car vs moped?

    • Take a taxi to the island, and rent a bike… it’s the best way to get around if you ask me, Not that there is a whole buunch of road… If you plan on traveling off the island then that would be different, but if your just staying on the island… Do yourself a favor and get a bike or 2…

  17. Thanks for this informative piece! I am travelling to Malaysia with my mother and we have 5 nights that we are hoping to spend in Thailand. We are looking for something relaxing, beach-y and without many tourists. It sounds like Koh Lanta may be the perfect destination!

  18. Good blog! Thumps up!

    Thanks for sharing these information. I am also going to Koh Lanta with my girlfriend over xmas… After reading this, I am more than ready to go…! : )
    Great pics, great advice! Thank you guys!

  19. Great Website! We will be in Koh Lanta in a couple of weeks and appreciate all of your recommendations. I am also really looking forward to the Tom Yom Noodle soup at the Drunken sailor!!!
    Thanks,
    Jodie

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  21. We are headed to Koh Lanta in Nov and I have 2 questions:
    1) Is Pimalai worth the $$ you have to shell out to stay there? It looks lovely, but perhaps a bit isolated?
    2) Does it make sense to go to Ko Phi Phi first, then Koh Lanta, or the other way around?

    Thank you for this excellent info!!

    • Hi Bethany,
      We haven’t stayed at Pimalai so I’m not sure. We definitely recommend Baan Kantiang See though and I think it might be cheaper.

      It depends where you are coming from. We haven’t been to Phi Phi so I don’t know.
      Enjoy Lanta!

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