It’s been over four years since I first visited this amazing island, but Koh Lanta still remains my favourite part of Thailand. This amazing place stole my heart at the beginning of my solo travels and just a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to return and take my parents on their first visit to Asia. It was such a lovely experience to finally show them where I started my solo traveling adventure, for them to finally see why I had raved so much about the country. There’s something about Thailand that holds a certain magic for me, and for so many others who have visited. The land of the smiles welcomes you with open arms whether it’s your first, third, or thirtieth visit, and each time has a whole new experience awaiting you.
Why visit Koh Lanta?
For those who don’t know, Koh Lanta is one of the most south-westerly islands dotted around the bottom of the country. Just 60-90 minutes ferry ride from neighbouring party island, Koh Phi Phi, and a 2.5 hour minibus ride from Krabi Airport – it’s easily accessible. And yet, so few travelers seem to make it down here, even during peak season, Koh Lanta always remains somewhat quieter than the other islands. Herein lies the island’s charm – expect only those who really want to be there and none of the party vibes of the other islands. If you’re the kind of traveler who craves buckets and full moon parties, save yourself the journey. But if you’re interested in beautiful nature, peace and quiet, gorgeous deserted beaches and an endless supply of fresh coconuts – this will be right up your street.
25 best things to do in Koh Lanta
Stay in a beachfront bungalow
One of my favourite traveling experiences will always be going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the waves outside my little beach hut. Constant sandy toes and salty hair that smelt like the ocean and that first feeling of real freedom. I can’t recommend it enough – I stayed in both Lanta Palm Beach Resort and Blue Wave Koh Lanta (which doesn’t have a website but is great if you fancy just turning up!) Both times I had a bungalow overlooking the ocean for budget-friendly prices whether you’re backpacking or on holiday.
Eat authentic local food
The food on Koh Lanta is fantastic with such a broad range to suit all tastes, but don’t forget to indulge your taste-buds with some real, authentic Thai food. It doesn’t always have to be sunset bars on the beach, you’ll actually find the best local food at the restaurants on the main streets. Check out Green Restaurant and Krua Kritsana Restaurant on the main road behind Long Beach for true Thai flavour.
Spend your nights at the reggae bars
When I first went to Koh Lanta, I actually stayed in a little hut by a reggae bar (Blue Wave Ko Lanta) and it was amazing. The people who ran the place were the best, the music was perfection for beach life and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed in my life. The island is littered with reggae bars that will give you the full island life experience.
Take a boat trip
If you fancy testing your sea legs, how better to explore the area than with a boat trip? There are two main boat trips from Koh Lanta – the 4 Islands and Koh Rok. Both involve snorkeling and a full day of activities but if you only have time for one, I would recommend the 4 Islands. It takes you to four different island stops, the first a paradise beach, followed by a snorkeling spot, these followed by lunch on another beautiful island with more snorkeling, and a final stop at the Emerald Cave where you swim through a dark cave to find a secret beach. The official price is 1500bt per adult but if you barter with the travel agents, you can get the price down as low as 1000bt (£24 per person). These prices are for the Pattesia Speedboat Tour.
Other boat trips available from Koh Lanta include Koh Rok which involves several snorkeling spots and lunch. Or head to Phi Phi and Bamboo Island for a trip with several other snorkeling spots including the famous Maya Bay (The Beach). Speak to a travel agent to find out about the various options, including longtail boat vs speedboat, and current pricing.
Koh Lanta National Park
Don’t make the mistake of going to Koh Lanta and not visiting the National Park. It’s a stunning southerly tip of the island that is well worth the drive for an afternoon exploring, walking up to the lighthouse, enjoying the beach, monkey-spotting and jungle walks. If you fancy a little day-trip but don’t want to go on a boat tour, this is a great way to explore the island at your own pace. It costs 300bt (£7) per person and a small amount for the vehicle to enter the national park, tuk tuks can’t drive here due to the roads but to hire a taxi and driver for the day will cost you between 1000-1500bt (£25-30) depending on where you are staying. (All pics in post taken at National Park)
Go snorkeling or diving
With the shallow waters surrounding the Thai islands and endless coral, tropical fish and amazing underwater scenes, it’s a great place to snorkel or learn to dive. There are dive schools everywhere, so if you’re interested in learning, just ask at your hotel or at a nearby travel agent to find out what is available.
Horse riding on the beach
Close by where we stayed there were riding stables with some beautiful horses that were available for riding on the beach. If you love horse riding, what better place to do it than on the beach at sunset?
Visit Koh Lanta old town
Step back in time when you visit Lanta Old Town and get a taste of what life was like with the traditional Thai houses and beautiful streets. This is a great place to spend the afternoon shopping and dining by the water.
Sunset cocktails on the beach
On the west coast of the island, there are countless sunset bars worth checking out. Two I can recommend are Sans Sunset Bar (Long Beach) which has a perfect view of the sunset, half price cocktails at happy hour and amazing food (try the hot plates!) plus a fire show every night. Down in Relax Bay, there is Fusion Bar which has cocktails and a great fire show every night.
Check out the markets
From the night markets at Walking Street with an abundance of food, clothes and gifts to buy, to the more authentic weekend markets near Long Beach. There’s plenty to choose from if you fancy picking up presents or even just some delicious fresh fruit.
Enjoy live music every evening
A lot of the local bars have live music in the evenings – it’s worth looking out for signs as you drive around. I recommend Irie Restaurant and Bar for evening entertainment and good cocktails.
Watch or train in Muay Thai
There’s only one gym on the island, but 2/3 places where you can go and watch Muay Thai live. If you’re into it, or fancy doing something different, you can book tickets to go and see a live match or even book in for a training session. This was one of my favourite things I did when I was first traveling Thailand.
Hire a scooter and explore Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is the perfect place to learn to ride a scooter, the roads are quite and big so a lot less intimidating than other parts of the country. There are so many tiny deserted beaches to explore and beautiful spots to find. Taxi and tuk tuk costs can quickly add up, so this is definitely a place where I recommend getting a scooter.
Visit the waterfalls and caves
The island has a waterfall, a viewpoint and two caves – the Tiger Cave and Mai Kaeo Cave – to explore. But be careful to do your research before you go – the waterfall is beautiful but completely dries up in dry season! Ask the locals to know if it’s worth a visit.
Get a massage on the beach
My favourite massage of all time was still the first one I had in Koh Lanta – the sun was setting over the ocean as the smell of coconut oil mixed with the warm breeze. True paradise. Get a beach massage, you won’t regret it.
Eat amazing vegetarian and vegan food
I was so impressed to return to Koh Lanta and find some incredible vegan and vegetarian restaurants – it can be difficult to find a range of vegan food when you travel but Koh Lanta has it down to a tee! I’ll be writing a full blog post on the best vegan/veggie and general restaurant guide to the island so watch out for that!
Relax on the beaches
My favourite beach is without doubt Long Beach – after visiting a lot of beaches around the island it’s the best place to stay with great access to all other areas. The beach is huge so it never feels crowded and it has the best sunset views of the island. Definitely get out and explore the other beaches and areas, but it’s lovely to stay at Long Beach.
Support a good cause
Koh Lanta has the cutest, friendliest animals from beach dogs to kittens that come to make friends in the streets. If you’re an animal over like me, it’s bliss to make so many animal friends during your trip. If you watn to go one step further, visit Lanta Animal Welfare to meet the animals, cuddle the kittys, walk the dogs and help out.
DON’T do elephant trekking
I’m sad to see that despite it being over four years since my first visit, Koh Lanta still offers an elephant trekking trip. While it’s easy to want to do all the trips and to see these amazing creatures – remember to travel responsibly. If we continue to spend money on these things, they were continue to be an industry. Vote with your money and actively choose not to take part in riding elephants during your trip.
Take a boat to Malaysia
I was amazed to realise that you can actually visit Malaysian island Langkawi from Koh Lanta. It does take around 8 hours for the boat there, but the island is meant to be beautiful and great for snorkeling and diving.
Join a beach clean-up
I was so happy to see a real change in environmental attitudes in Thailand and this is clear from the signs warning against use of single use plastics, and those advertising beach clean ups! If you want to help support sustainability on the island, join the Sunday beach clean-ups.
Celebrate Songkran or other Thai festivals
I was lucky enough to be in Thailand during Songkran and I can tell you that it was epic! Even in Koh Lanta, spirits are high as the main street fills with people with water guns, buckets, hoses and determined to soak you! Always check before you travel if there are any celebrations taking place during your stay.
Sunrise or sunset yoga
What a perfect way to start and end your day – with yoga on the beach, overlooking the ocean.
Watch a fire show
So many of the beach bars host fire shows in the evenings, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Again, look for the signs to find out the times and check out a few different ones during your trip – there are so many wacky, crazy and spectacular ones to see!
Get to know the locals and practice your Thai
The locals in Koh Lanta are so friendly and welcoming, they’re always keen for a chat and to get to know you. Take the time to talk with them, practice your Thai and ask about their culture – trust me, you’ll get a whole new experience.
Have you been to Koh Lanta – what was your favourite thing to do? Would you like to visit Thailand?