Our Guide to Koh Lanta, the Happiest Place on Earth

Koh Lanta is Beautiful

A Beautiful Koh Lanta Sunset

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!

Enjoying Some Solitude in Koh Lanta.

Enjoying Some Solitude in Koh Lanta.

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!

Don't Worry, Even Though Koh Lanta Hasn't Been Overdeveloped, There Is Still a Beachside Tree Swing!

Don’t Worry, Even Though Koh Lanta Hasn’t Been Overdeveloped, There Is Still a Beachside Tree Swing!

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!

Welcome to Lanta Old Town! The Motorbike Trip to Get There Is at Least Half the Fun of Going!

Welcome to Lanta Old Town! The Motorbike Trip to Get There Is at Least Half the Fun of Going.

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.

Beachcombing at Long Beach on a Rainy Day.

Beach Combing at Long Beach on a Rainy Day.

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.

Koh Lanta, the Island with a Relaxed Mushroom and Weed Culture.

Koh Lanta, the Island with a Relaxed Mushroom and Weed Culture.

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!

Blue Moon Bar, Where You Can Sit at a Table and Have a Meal with Your Toes in the Sand!

Blue Moon Bar, Where You Can Sit at a Table and Have a Meal with Your Toes in the Sand!

Sunset Drinks at Blue Moon Bar

Sunset Drinks at Blue Moon Bar.

Order a Beer, Smoothie, or Fresh Coconut and Settle down for an Afternoon of Sunshine!

Order a Beer, Smoothie, or Fresh Coconut and Settle Down for an Afternoon of Sunshine!

Blue Moon Bar, One of the Best Spots in Koh Lanta to Lay on the Beach.

Blue Moon Bar, One of the Best Spots in Koh Lanta to Lay on the Beach.

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:

Veggies at the Local Market

Veggies at the Local Market

I Never Got the Courage to Buy Fresh Meet at the Local Markets in Thailand, Do You See Why?

I Never Got the Courage to Buy Fresh Meet at the Local Markets in Thailand, Do You See Why?

Big Bags of Chilis at the Local Market

Big Bags of Chilis at the Local Market

The Shrimp Looked so Good I Almost Wanted to Eat It Raw!

The Shrimp Looked so Good I Almost Wanted to Eat It Raw!

Sunset Cocktails

All of Koh Lanta’s beaches are on the west coast. Find yourself a bar, order up a cocktail, and enjoy the beautiful sunset:

Picasso on Klong Dao Has Happy Hour Cocktails until 6pm, Perfect Timing to Catch the Sunset.

Picasso on Klong Dao Has Happy Hour Cocktails until 6pm, Perfect Timing to Catch the Sunset.

If You're Lucky, You'll See Some Sunset Acrobatics on the Beach.

If You’re Lucky, You’ll See Some Sunset Acrobatics on the Beach.

Hammock House

Hammock House Is in Lanta Old Town

Hammock House Is in Lanta Old Town

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:

Hammocks Make Great Souvenirs!

Hammocks Make Great Souvenirs!

Do You See Kevin in This Photo? We Were Excited They Had a Huskies Colors Hammock!

Do you see Kevin in this photo? We were excited they had a Purple and Gold Huskies colors hammock! This one is made out of parachute material.

If you’re lucky, you might just catch the cat napping in a hammock of his own:

A Cat Hammock!

A Cat Hammock!

Relax and Enjoy the Sun and the Sand

There are some talented people lurking around Koh Lanta. Check out some of these sand creations:

There Are Some Seriously Talented Sand Masters Lurking around Koh Lanta.

There Are Some Seriously Talented Sand Masters Lurking around Koh Lanta.

Who Built This?! The Sand Whisperer?

Who Built This?! The Sand Whisperer? The text in the background says “Merry Christmas”.

Beach combing is exciting here, where tourists are probably outnumbered by hermit crabs:

Hermit Crab Tracks Are Everywhere on Koh Lanta's Beaches!

Hermit Crab Tracks Are Everywhere on Koh Lanta’s Beaches!

We Enjoyed Bamboo Bay, Where We Were the ONLY People on the Entire Beach.

We Enjoyed Bamboo Bay, Where We Were the ONLY People on the Entire Beach.

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.

A Delicious Coconut at the Indian Bar

A Delicious Coconut at the Indian Bar

Getting Around

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:

The Lanta Biker Map

Out Guide to Koh Lanta, the Lanta Biker Map

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:

Tuk Tuks Are a Fun Way to Get around Koh Lanta, but Are Definitely More Expensive than Motorbiking.

Tuk Tuks Are a Fun Way to Get around Koh Lanta, too.

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:

Our Ocean View Room in the Ananda Lanta Resort

Our Ocean View Room in the Ananda Lanta Resort

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:

I Love Me an Infinity Pool!

I Love Me an Infinity Pool!

Getting There

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!

Have I Convinced You to Move to Koh Lanta? Here's a House for Rent Just a Few Minutes Walk from Long Beach!

Have I Convinced You to Move to Koh Lanta? Here’s a House for Rent Just a Few Minutes Walk from Long Beach!

3 thoughts on “Our Guide to Koh Lanta, the Happiest Place on Earth

  1. Good info! I am heading to Koh Lanta for 6 days with my hubby coming up in January for our honeymoon. We are spending time in Ao Nang and then Koh Phi Phi so we will be coming to Koh Lanta by boat. Very excited! Thanks for the tips

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