We did it! We found the happiest place on earth. After visiting Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Ko Chang, we found the island that will forever hold the torch with us as the best beach destination in Thailand: Koh Lanta. It’s a small island in the Andaman Sea south of Krabi, and it’s a bit of a challenge to get to, which I think keeps the crowds at bay. Koh Lanta has a low-key vibe, not a ton of tourists (even in the high season), amazing food (see my post from last week) and beautiful beaches. It truly is an island paradise – seriously, go book your tickets to visit now!
Koh Lanta is unique because it hasn’t been overdeveloped like so many of Thailand’s other islands. There are building codes that prevent properties on the beach from being more than 1 story tall, which helps avoid the overly resorty feeling. The lush green hills cascading down the center of the island are mostly undeveloped, and whole sections of the island’s coastline are just wild forested areas. It’s amazing!
We spent a lot of time motorbiking around the island, devoting an entire day to beach hopping. There were times when we had entire beaches all to ourselves! Even the more touristy “Lanta Old Town” wasn’t crowded. The island has a National Park on its southern tip, and as you get closer and closer to it, it becomes more common to see monkeys running around in the road!
Because it hasn’t yet been overdeveloped, Koh Lanta’s waters seemed clearer, and the beaches seemed cleaner than others we’ve seen around Thailand. There was far less trash littering the roads and walking paths than we’ve gotten used to, which was such a breath of fresh air. It also seemed like fewer people were burning garbage than on Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
The very best thing about Koh Lanta, however, is the people who live there. Thailand is often called the “Land of Smiles”, and no place lives up to that nickname like Koh Lanta. People on the island are incredibly warm and friendly, are always willing to help you out, and want nothing more than to meet you and say hello. Sadly, this isn’t the case at some of the other more heavily visited islands in Thailand. I’m not certain why this is, but I have a hunch it has to do with the fact that Koh Lanta is a bit lower on the tourist radar. Maybe the locals haven’t had a chance to get tired of all of us tourists yet?
Or maybe they’re all so friendly because it’s so easy to find a Magic Mushroom Shake, or because you can buy a joint at your friendly neighborhood beach bar.
Whatever the reason, we loved our week on Koh Lanta, and highly recommend it to anyone headed to Thailand. We put together this little Guide to Koh Lanta to try to convince you to visit the island we’ve dubbed the Happiest Place on Earth.
Some of Our Favorite Koh Lanta Experiences
Blue Moon Bar
Be sure you visit Blue Moon Bar on Klong Nin beach. You can use their beach mats and lounge chairs as long as you order food or drinks. The Fried Glass Noodles dish is delicious, as is their Papaya Curry!
Visit the local market
The local market is in a different place each day, so you’re bound to be near it at least once during your stay:
All of Koh Lanta’s beaches are on the west coast. Find yourself a bar, order up a cocktail, and enjoy the beautiful sunset:
If you have lots of time, motorbike on over to the Hammock House in Lanta Old Town. We had fun trying out all the hammocks:
If you’re lucky, you might just catch the cat napping in a hammock of his own:
Relax and Enjoy the Sun and the Sand
There are some talented people lurking around Koh Lanta. Check out some of these sand creations:
Beach combing is exciting here, where tourists are probably outnumbered by hermit crabs:
Two Words: Fresh Coconut
I have a two-coconut-per-day quota on beach vacations, and did my best to meet it in Koh Lanta. Almost everyone sells them (for just 40 Baht!), but the best one I had was at the Indian Bar on Klong Dao. YUM.
Motorbike is the most efficient (and most fun!) way to get around Koh Lanta. Thailand must be one of the only countries in the world where you can rent a motor vehicle without proving you have a drivers license and without having any car insurance. If you have the cash, they’ll give you the keys. (They’ll also hold your passport hostage while you have the motorbike, and won’t give it back unless you pay for any damages you might incur during your rental period. This is pretty much standard practice all over Thailand.)
Everyone in Koh Lanta seems to rent out motorbikes, from the barber to the restaurant owners to all the hotels and resorts, and the going rate everywhere is 250 Baht per day. Make sure you’re safe, and be sure you get a helmet when they give you a bike!
We used the Koh Lanta Biker Map to find our way around the island:
When you need gas, it’s cheapest to find a petrol station, but you can buy fuel sold in used whiskey bottles from almost any roadside establishment. The bottle-style purchasing is also a fun way to meet some of the locals – we met a nice guy and his family in a hillside stilt home on our way to Lanta Old Town, and he gave us some fun tips on places to see around the island.
If you don’t want to rent a motorbike, you can always use the local taxis:
It’ll be more expensive, but if you’re not confident motorbiking or if you have luggage with you, it’s well worth the money.
Where to Stay
We spent a few nights at the Ananda Lanta Resort and loved it. At over $50/night, it was definitely a splurge, but who wouldn’t splurge for a balcony with an ocean view:
It’s located very close to the beautiful Klong Dao Beach, is within walking distance of Long Beach, and is near tons of shops and restaurants. Every single staff member we encountered was super friendly, and the front desk folks are happy to help you book tours at very fair prices. They also have a great pool area we used a lot:
If I’ve convinced you to visit Koh Lanta, you first need to get to Bangkok. From there, we recommend booking the flight + island transfer with Nok Air. Nok has some great rates if you watch for hot deals, and you get free checked bags! (PRO TIP: checked baggage is definitely necessary, because you should bring a LOT of sunscreen in with you. It costs an arm and a leg everywhere in Thailand!) Nok flies you from DMK to Trang, busses you to the nearby ferry terminal, then transfer you to Koh Lanta via high speed ferry.
If you’re more adventurous, you can fly into Krabi (Air Asia has some really low fares on the Bangkok to Krabi route, but you have to pay to check your bag) and take a 3+ hour minibus to Koh Lanta. While this option is pretty cheap (the minibus will only run you 300-400 Baht), we’ve grown to hate minibusses. They are always cramped, the aircon never seems to work, and carsickness is almost guaranteed unless you’re in the front of the van.
We Want to Hear From You!
What’s your favorite island? Leave us a comment and let us know!