Close your eyes for a second and think hammocks, cocktails, fresh seafood, delicious Thai cuisine, beach shacks, long sandy beaches, nature, beautiful locals and affordable accommodation. That my friends is Koh Lanta, one of Thailand’s best kept secrets.
The island is a total of 30 km from North to South and has a width of only 6 km. It is the perfect destination for families, backpackers, honeymooners, or solo travellers. The island is rustic yet developed, busy but peaceful and you’ll have no trouble finding space to relax on one of the many amazing beaches.
We’ve compiled a list of our personal ‘bests’ in Koh Lanta. So you best get packing and see for yourself 🙂
The Best Time To Go to Koh Lanta
November – April is when skies are sunny, the rain is at ease and all of the businesses are up and running. During the rest of the year, May – October, many hotels, restaurants, shop owners and bars close due to the lack of tourists. Only in the last 5 years has the island been open year round. If you visit during May-October, expect very quiet, rainy days but some killer hotel deals. We were here at the start of November and it was perfect.
The Best Amount of Time to Spend on Koh Lanta
Ideally, in a perfect world, pack your bags and stay from November – April. There are so many amazing places to eat, beaches to visit and best of all, seriously good WiFi. Koh Lanta has become a very popular place for digital nomads to set up shop due to the availability of WiFi and of course, the beach as your office. However, realistically, for a vacation, no less than 5 days. We spent days 9.
The Best Place to Stay on Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is broken up into 7 areas, all of which are primarily on the west side of the Island and all within very close proximity to each other. It only takes 35 mins to go from north to south. Here is a brief rundown (our top picks in bold).
- Baan Saladan – The port area & the most touristic area. Many markets, souvenir stores and accommodation options, along with some of the best seafood restaurants.
- Haad Khlong Dao – The first beach. Mid-range accommodation catering mainly to families and older people.
- Haad Phra Ae – Also known as Long Beach. This beach (surprise surprise) is the longest of them all and has a significant amount of restaurants, accommodation and is one of the most ‘developed’. The beach here is wide, long & clean making it a perfect place to spend your time.
- Haad Khlong Khlong – This area attracts yogis, hippies and backpackers but unfortunately the beach is very rocky making it difficult for swimming at times. Plenty of bars and hostels.
- Haad Khlong Nin – (where we stayed) This was our favourite area (even after we explored all the others). It is centrally located between both the North and the South, making it ideal to visit the whole island. It was peaceful, there were countless restaurants, awesome beach shacks and plenty of space on the beach.
- Far South (Koh Lanta National Park) – The further south, lesser the facilities, especially accommodation. The beaches are much more secluded and quiet with Bamboo Bay being one of the nicest beaches in the south. Entrance to the National Park is 200 baht ($6 USD). Note; There is only one beach you can swim at in there.
- Old Town – The Old Town is located on the east side of the island and is the most culturally diverse area of Koh Lanta. There is one main street with shops & waterfront restaurants, but due to the lack of beaches, you won’t find many tourists staying here.
See here for a detailed run-down of every area on Koh Lanta.
The Best Restaurants on Koh Lanta
How could we choose just one…
- Yangs (Khlong Nin) – European food focusing mainly on meats and side dishes. Well worth the little extra cost.
- Drunken Sailor (Kantaing Bay) – Relaxed, decently priced Western and Thai dishes. Amazing curries.
- Pad Thai Rock n Roll (Kantaing Bay) – The place to get Pad Thai on Koh Lanta! They do have other dishes available.
- Mays Kitchen (Long Beach) – Local Thai cuisine with very affordable pricing and adorable staff.
- Bobby Big Boys (Khlong Nin) – Bobby really loves his customers and makes a strong effort to run a good shop. Thai food with large portions.
- Jai-Dee (Khlong Nin) – Our go to spot. Cute beach shack on the beach, very affordable prices. Our ‘work days’ were spent here.
- Kunda Vegetarian (Khlong Khong) – The first and only 100% vegetarian restaurant on the Island. Well worth the visit even if you aren’t vegetarian!
- Shanti Shanti (Khlong Nin) – Awesome croissants, fruit salads, coffee and delicious (massive) burgers. Small menu but it means the dishes are made to perfection.
- Red Snapper (Long Beach) – A regular favourite on Koh Lanta and great for a break from Thai food.
- Ling Hui – aka Fat Monkey (Klong Dao) – Burgers and brownies. Need we say more.
This list went from just the ‘best’ to almost every restaurant we ate at. They were all SO good.
The Best Seafood in Koh Lanta
Seafood is SO fresh in Thailand. There are many different seafood restaurants but the restaurants lining the Baan Saladan waterfront are some of the best & cheapest. Our top pick was Kaw Kwang Seafood. Perfect for a sunset dinner.
The Best Ice Cream & Desserts
Two Scoops Gelato & Desserts. Hands Down. There is not even a discussion about this. We drove every day at least 12 km to get our desserts here and it was worth it every time. The gelato is made very fresh with a decent selection of flavours and the owner was extremely friendly, including giving Jacob some tips of how to open his own ice cream store (no I am not joking). We had ice cream sandwiches, brownies, a banoffee pie, carrot cake and all sorts of ice cream.
The Best Beach
“Same same but different”. This is a regular saying that people use when referencing certain aspects of Thailand and in terms of the beaches, we couldn’t agree more. If we had to choose, our 3 favourite beaches were Haad Phra Ae (also known as Long Beach, shown above), Khlong Nin and the small bay of Nui Bay Beach (shown below, in the south). These beaches were beautiful and clean with plenty of room to lay out, places to eat, clean water, accessible and the best part, none of them had too many, if at all crowds.
To make up your own mind, see Koh Lanta Beaches for a comprehensive guide to the beaches on Koh Lanta.
The Best Day Trip from Koh Lanta
The 4 island day trip is one of Koh Lanta’s best selling excursions. You can opt for a speed boat or a long tail boat. For 6 hours you visit 4 different islands, swim through the famous Emerald cave (a volcano-like mountain with a hidden beach inside), snorkel and enjoy a buffet lunch on the beach.
Without the headlamp the guide was using in front of us, we couldn’t see a thing. Waves were pushing us forward and backwards, some people were squealing but it wasn’t long before until we reached the light at the end of the tunnel, where an emerald green secret beach awaited us.
Cost 1000-1500 baht for the speed boat ($30- $45 USD) or 600-800 baht ($18 – $24) for the long tail boat. The only difference is the speed of the boat. Make sure your bargain the price before accepting!
Note: the 4 islands you visit will change depending on the weather and the visibility of the water but every time you will visit the famous Koh Mook (Emerald Cave).
The Best Way to Get Around Koh Lanta
A moped, silly! Renting a moped for the day will cost 200 baht ($6 USD). They require your passport for security but apart from that, there are barely any restrictions. We were supposed to rent our moped for only 2 days but we ended up with it for 6. It is the fastest, most affordable way to get yourself around the island and the best chance you have at experiencing some of our favourite places scattered all over!
If you’re not comfortable on a moped, many tuk-tuks do roam the island but you will end up paying a whole lot more and seeing a whole lot less. The roads are decent and it’s almost impossible to get lost so do yourself a favour and learn to ride one, but don’t forget a helmet (your insurance will thank us later).
The Best Sunset in Koh Lanta
Every one of them! The colours! If we had to choose our favourite sunset moment, it was during our regular cocktails at Majestic Bar located on Khlong Nin Beach. We captured one of our favourite photos here. We stayed on this island for 9 nights and didn’t miss a single one. We loved the sunsets so much, we made a separate post, just to share the pics!
The Best Place to Watch Sunset (apart from the beach)
There isn’t a bad place to view the sunset, unless of course, you are on the east side of the island (whoops). We stuck mainly to the beach shacks located along the beach but for a higher view, we booked a table to watch the sunset from Noon Sunset View Point. This restaurant is perched high on the cliff in the south of the Island and offers breathtaking views of the sunsets plus an extensive cocktail and dinner menu.
The Best Coffee
Jacob is somewhat of a coffee snob, I mean, he just loves his coffee so he is one happy boy when he gets a good one. Shanti Shanti in Khlong Nin offers the best coffee on the island along with the BEST chocolate croissants you may possibly ever eat. We arrived there most morning on the dot as it opened and waited patiently for our morning treats. They also take #2 for the best ice cream. Mmm salted caramel.
The Best Cocktail Bar
Majestic Bar takes our number 1 along with Trip Advisor, for a reason. This beach shack is located directly on Khlong Nin beach and has 44 different cocktails to choose from. During sunset, they have happy hour drinks for 100 baht ($3 USD). You’ll find many beach chairs available along the with reggae music, front row seats for sunset and a very friendly owner.
The Best Mojito on Koh Lanta
Time for Lime has the best mojito. There was something different about it and the way it was made. It was smooth, not sugary and just down right delicious. Grab it during happy hour (3:30pm -6:30pm) and pay 120 baht ($3.25 USD).
Time For Lime is also a very popular place to undergo a Thai Cooking Class. It’s a fun, funky unique class with the beach as your backdrop. For us, it was too expensive (2000 baht, $60 USD pp) but they have extremely high reviews.
The Best Place to Party in Koh Lanta
Unlike some of Thailand’s other Islands, Koh Lanta is fairly relaxed in terms of partying. Partying is definitely focused more towards sunset cocktails, live music and catching up with friends rather than loud music, fire shows and buckets till the wee hours. You’ll find many signs advertising parties along the side of the road as many bars have specific parties on certain nights of the week.
The closest thing to a party that we went too was at Mushroom Bar located on Khlong Khong beach. This party is primarily on Sunday nights. The bar is covered in fluorescent paint, had a DJ, joints & ‘happy shakes’ available (Don’t forget, Thai laws on drugs are extremely harsh so be careful if you choose to get involved in this). For live music, our top pick is Why Not Bar in the Kantiang Village.
See Koh Lanta NightLife Guide for the most popular bars for nightlife on Koh Lanta.
Should you go to Koh Lanta? The Best Answer is…
Yes! Koh Lanta is high up there with one of our favourite islands. I’m so glad that even after all these years, it still feels relatively “untouched”. Life on Koh Lanta is slow, relaxed and authentic and that is what makes it so beautiful.
Married days survived; 618