Finding the Perfect Balance: Our Guide to Koh Lanta

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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.

If you rent a motorbike make sure your travel insurance covers you as accidents do happen. Read more about how to buy travel insurance and our recommended policies True Traveller and World Nomads.

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) [Update May 2014: 200 baht] 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.

Update May 2014: We’ve now found some great vegetarian-friendly restaurants on Koh Lanta. Read our updated Koh Lanta guide for more details. We still love the restaurants below. 

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.

To find cheaper accommodation on Koh Lanta, search on, which has bungalows from just $6 a night!

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, train 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.

Koh Lanta Guide Update

We returned to Koh Lanta in April-May 2014, two years after we wrote this guide. We still love the island and the advice above holds true. Read about even more things to do and eat in our Koh Lanta guide update, which features the wonderful Oasis Yoga studio, a snorkelling trip to Koh Rok with Freedom Adventures, lots of delicious restaurants, and a video of all our highlights.

Resources for Planning a Trip to Koh Lanta

  • To find accommodation look on for hotels and guesthouses and Airbnb for rooms and apartments (get $35 off your first stay here).
  • For flights to Krabi (the nearest airport to Koh Lanta) look on, which offers a lot of flexibility to help you find the cheap deals (choose a date range to find the cheapest day to fly). Skyscanner is another good site to check
  • Budget airlines in Asia charge for checking in luggage. To avoid these fees, pack light and travel with just carry-on luggage. My book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, shows you how.
  • For advice on travelling by train in Thailand (nearest station at Krabi), see The Man in Seat 61.
  • Lonely Planet Thailand is my favourite guidebook and was updated in 2016 (I buy the Kindle version). 
  • Travelfish is a great online travel guide to Southeast Asia. 
  • Don’t forget travel insurance—the best we’ve found is True Traveller (UK/EU citizens) and World Nomads(worldwide). Read more about how to buy travel insurance.
  • To track your travel expenses use our iOS app Trail Wallet, which will help you stay on budget and know how much you’re spending in both Thai baht and your home currency.

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

Are you planning a trip? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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

  1. Hi Erin. Grey reticle on Koh Lanta. We re a family of 5 likely visiting koh Lanta for 3 weeks in November as part of our 12-month tour (3 months europe, 1 month Thailand, 1 month US, 7 months Costa Rica) looking to rent a villa on PR very close to a beach. I’d love to kite surf but most important is the kids to have fun – ages are 2, 9, and 26. Is there a beat beach to look at? Thanks! Scott

  2. What an incredible article!! I really enjoyed reading all the wonderful advice you offered about Koh Lanta, very helpful! I just visited Koh Lanta recently and loved it and hope to come back soon! I didn’t know it also has excellent diving, good to know. And the photos of Emerald Cave on here look lovely, would love to check it out next time I’m here. It’s definitely a lesser known island in Thaiand, but so worth seeing in every way! Thanks again for the insightful article. Cheers! Blossom

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  4. Hey you two, nice guide, thanks. I’m planning a vacation as a present for my girlfriend, and i’m thinking about Koh Lanta. It just looks perfect, one thing missing perhaps, are there any shops where she can nurse her shopping-gene?
    Also I see that you have experience with the La Laanta Hideaway, I’v got at nice offer for this resort, any comments on what villa to choose?

    • There are shops selling clothes and souvenirs. We’re not shoppers so I don’t have any recommendations. We actually stayed with Lanta Hideaways which is a different company, so we haven’t stayed at La Laanta.

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  6. Hi guys – loved reading this. We’re headed to Krabi area and were hoping to get a little surfing in while we are there and Koh Lanta is supposed to have some. Have you seen any surf shops while you were there? I read that one of the main surf shops closed so wasn’t sure if there were others…

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  9. Hi, i’ve read some of your posts and congratulations for your neverendingvoyage.
    But i also wanted to ask you a few questions: as a digital nomad, just like you guys, i’m looking at the possibilty of renting a flat/condo/apt for a month with some good/solid wifi.
    Is that possible in march without spending a fortune?
    Thanks for every tip and keep up the good work!

  10. Hi Erin, thanks for a great blog. Im very much wanting to go to Koh Lanta now!!! Ill be with my daughter (11years old going on 16;-) in Hong Kong this christmas, with two weeks to spare from the 26th-10th Jan before having to face reality again and return home to very chilly Copenhagen… your blog has inspired me so much, its great.

    I am just concerned at the price of good clean and cheap accomodation…that it might break my budget, which would be sad as Im there with my daughter and Id like to have some legroom in there to afford dives, good food and activities..etc..
    Ive travelled a little bit in India, which I get the impression is quite a bit cheaper- at least when it comes to accomodation and infrastructure/travel.. So, please can you help and advise me? Im wondering if you have stayed at some low-budget beach huts not completely isolated, but where you can get a descent nights sleep and where people dont come to booze and party allnight through…or maybe youve heard of some places that suit me, and what the price range is during these festive days in the high season??

    As I said above, Id prefer to spend money on exploring the island and activities, snorkling, scooter and/or bikes, day trips, good food and so on, rather than on expensive hotels. Ideally you know of somewhere far enough away from the late night bar scene, but where my daughter still will be able to meet other kids around her age, on, or very close to, a beach where you can find activities… Im a single parent, (calm but social 🙂 so Id like to meet other grown ups that like to relax but also like to be social, so its ok if theres somewhere more lively nearby to meet people, variety of restaurants and scene, yet where wed be able to withdraw back to the accomodation easily…

    I have never been to Thailand, the most exotic Ive visited, was Goa. Beach huts with their own restaurant in a cool laid back atmosphere… which were between 1000 and 2500 Indian Roupees/night (about 500-1250 Thai Baht). The lovely places mentioned here appear to be way out of my budget especially in the high season (on pimalia was advertised at about 200 UK pounds/night(?)).

    Ive seen a few comments on the internet that indicate that its possible to find clean beach hut accomodation for around 400-800 Baht in Thailand even in the very touristy places…, but I havent been able to find an actual list of accomodation at that rate for Koh Lanta during christmas/newyear high season.. Please help 🙂

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  12. Loving your blog – it’s full of so many great tips. My husband and I are living in Chiang Mai right now and have used it as our unofficial guide for our travels in SE Asia.

    I was wondering if you can recommend a particular motorbike rental place on Koh Lanta? I’ve heard lots of bad stories about motorbike rental places in Phangan ripping folks off, but I’m not sure there are spots in Koh Lanta to avoid or not.

    • We don’t worry about it. The first time we used a restaurant around the corner from Sai Naam apartments and last time we used a hairdresser that was next door. We haven’t heard of any problems and didn’t have any ourselves. Have a great trip!

  13. Spent a month this last winter in a fantastic rental house not far from Lanta Town. Strongly recommend _against_ a scooter! We got a good deal on a small car for a month and were glad we did! Saw many tourists who had scooter accidents. Unless you are young and indestructible we suggest a small car for longer stays . Potholes cannot be seen at night and you don’t want to visit the small hospital!

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  16. Hi,
    I’m 5 months pregnant & my husband & I are looking to do a ‘babymoon’ to Thailand from mid to end of May. We’ve done the west coast & so really want to do the east coast & Koh Lanta sounds amazing. (We’re thinking of doing 2 nights in Bangkok, 3 in Krabi & 6 in Koh Lanta). My only concern is that, with it being low season, lots of restaurants will be closed & we might not get as much time to kick back & lie on the beach & swim in the sea because of the weather. How much of an issue is this? Are most of the restaurants on the beaches open still? I see you went for longer than a week, so the odd rainy day wouldn’t impact a big part of your trip – if you’re only going to be in Koh Lanta for a week, could the weather ‘ruin’ it?
    Thanks, in advance!

    • It’s difficult to say but I think you should be fine as long as you don’t mind it being quiet. Most restaurants are closed now but there are still enough open (including our new favourites Mays on Long Beach and Kwans on Klong Khong beach, although they are both on the road not the beach). You’ll have more choice the further north you stay.

      It’s hard to predict the weather but right now it rarely rains during the day (only at night and not every day) but it does get cloudy most afternoons. It stays hot and the sea is really warm so you can always swim.

  17. First trip to SE Asia coming up this summer (yahoo!). Found very reasonable places in both Krabi or Koh Lanta for a 5-6 day stay there. Sounds like Lanta is a great spot. Just wondering if staying in Krabi proper is a better location for trips to the islands, snorkeling, etc. I don’t need a crazy social scene with bars – I just didn’t want my small group to feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. The whole “are we missing out on something?” syndrome. 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    • There are still plenty of trips you can do from Koh Lanta so I don’t think you’ll feel like you are missing out. From May to October it’s low season though so things are definitely quieter, some restaurants close, and less trips are running. You can get some great deals on accommodation though.

  18. 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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  20. 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!!!

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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…

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  25. 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.

    • 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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  27. 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!

    • Hi Court
      We just returned to Koh Lanta (April 2014) and took another trip with Freedom Adventures (a group charter to Koh Rok) and we still found them great. The snorkelling gear seemed quite new and our only issue was not having quite enough vegetarian food. There was so much fruit that it wasn’t a real issue though. The other boat trips we saw were very crowded speedboats so Freedom Adventures are still our first choice.

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  29. 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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  31. 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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  36. 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!

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

  38. 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!

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