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Inside: Why the tranquil Thai island of Koh Lanta is the ultimate relaxing escape. Plus! How to get there and where to stay.
Last winter, my husband Dave and I had such an incredible trip to Thailand and the Philippines that we just had to continue the tradition again this year.
On that trip, we visited the beautiful island of Boracay in the Philippines and Thailand’s sublime Krabi province.
This time, we’re heading to the same countries, but different destinations. We’ll venture further out in the Philippines to the tiny fishing village of El Nido on the remote island of Palawan.
But first, our love for the Krabi province drew us back to this gorgeous part of Thailand. This time, we’ll explore more nearby Thai islands in the hopes of finding a new island paradise.
We chose two new islands to visit – Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. And today it’s time to kick off our 16-day journey on the island of Koh Lanta.
Where is Koh Lanta?
Situated on the Andaman Coast in the south of Krabi province, Koh Lanta was originally settled by a nomadic clan of sea gypsies more than 500 years ago.
Later, Muslim communities from Malaysia and Indonesia arrived. And today the island still remains 95% Muslim lending it a more conservative culture than other parts of Thailand.
While most visitors head straight for popular Lanta Yai, Koh Lanta is actually an archipelago of more than 50 islands, many of those uninhabited.
Koh Lanta has emerged slowly on the tourism scene. In fact, the island was just connected to the mainland’s electricity network in 1996. Phone lines were finally installed in 2001.
Stretching nearly 20 miles and boasting 11 white sand beaches, Lanta Yai is the main tourist destination in the archipelago. It’s also where most hotels and tourist facilities are located.
For this reason, we chose Lanta Yai for our stay.
How to get to Koh Lanta
Despite its worthy natural assets, getting to Koh Lanta involves a bit of work.
I researched the island for a summer trip a few years ago and learned that it’s especially difficult to access during the summer rainy season.
In the summer months, speedboat and passenger ferry services are limited. A car ferry allows vehicle traffic to reach the island, but it often doesn’t run due to inclement weather.
However, in the winter high-season months (from November – April) it’s easy to reach the island by speedboat or scheduled ferry service.
The Express Transfer
The easiest way to reach Koh Lanta is to schedule an express transfer that includes a minivan pick-up at Krabi airport and a speedboat transfer. The speedboat trip takes as little as 15-minutes and is the fastest way to reach the island from Krabi’s private speedboat pier.
Of course, the easiest and fastest way is also the most expensive at 2045 baht (about $65 US) per person.
The Krabi-Koh Lanta Passenger Ferry
You can also easily take a taxi from the Krabi airport to the pier in Krabi town (350 baht/$11 US) which takes about 30 minutes. From there, catch one of the frequent passenger ferries for 400 baht ($13 US). The ferry journey takes about 2 hours and ferries can be crowded during the high season.
Keep in mind that Thai ferries often run on “Thai time” so actual schedules are typically just a guideline.
Koh Lanta flights
Koh Lanta can be reached from 3 different airports – Phuket, Krabi, and Trang. Krabi is by far the closest at 40 miles away.
We flew into Krabi with Air Asia and elected to try the airline’s “Island Transfer” service. This includes a shuttle from the airport to the pier in Ao Nang (a 45-minute drive) and a ticket for the 2 1/2-hour ferry journey to the Saladan Pier in Koh Lanta.
Overall, I’d say it was a fairly seamless way to reach the island.
Where to Stay on Koh Lanta?
Our 40-hour journey from Atlanta included 3 flight connections, an overnight in the Bangkok airport, and a rough, crowded ferry ride. Needless to say, we arrived in Koh Lanta exhausted.
Luckily, our driver is waiting and we are quickly whisked away to the sanctuary of our resort.
After extensive research, I narrowed it down to two choices for our stay: the Lanta Castaway Resort and the Pimalai Resort & Spa. Both have the island’s top reviews. The Lanta Castaway Resort is a more affordable, low-key resort with individual bungalows. While Pimilai is Koh Lanta’s most luxurious resort with top-notch amenities and service.
Ultimately, I went with the more affordable option and selected the Lanta Castaway Resort on Long Beach for our 3-night stay. And I’m so glad I did! It turned out to be an excellent choice.
Situated in the northwest corner of Koh Lanta, the Lanta Castaway Resort has adorable, well-appointed bungalows nestled into a lush tropical landscape. It also happens to occupy a prime location on Koh Lanta’s best beach – beautiful Long Beach.
We settle into our lovely bungalow, take long-overdue showers, and head out for a walk down the beach.
Long Beach, Koh Lanta
As the name suggests, Long Beach is a wide expanse of white sand stretching for nearly two miles with calm, clear turquoise seas. It is absolutely gorgeous and, unlike most Thai beaches, it is practically empty.
We manage to stay awake just long enough to celebrate our first night in Thailand with sunset cocktails and a foot massage (that’s Thailand 101).
It’s the perfect beginning to an exceptionally relaxing few days on Koh Lanta.
Lazy Days on Koh Lanta
Since we passed out from jetlag by 8pm last night, this morning we are wide awake at 4:00am. Unfortunately, sunrise isn’t until 6-ish. We stay in bed until the first light of dawn and then head down to the beach for a sunrise walk.
It quickly becomes our daily routine on the island and there’s truly no better way to start the day.
After our walk, we return to the hotel for breakfast. Then we select two prime beachfront lounge chairs to spend our day enjoying the view.
We finish the day with massages on the beach, dinner with our toes in the sand, and another perfect sunset.
Exploring Koh Lanta
We had grand intentions to explore more of Koh Lanta, honestly, we did.
But the island’s relaxed vibe has a tendency to encourage just that, relaxation. So that’s primarily how we spend our 3 days.
Thoroughly embracing the Thai culture of beach, massage, sunset…repeat.
Though, if you’re feeling more ambitious, there are plenty of snorkeling day trips, village tours, or boat rides through the mangroves available:
On our final day, we do manage to tear ourselves away from Long Beach. There are no taxis on Koh Lanta and the easiest way to get around the island is definitely to rent your own car.
But since it’s our last day on the island, we keep it simple and hop in a tuk-tuk for the ride north to Klong Dao Beach. It’s a lovely beach, but a little more crowded than Long Beach.
We linger long enough for lunch but after a short visit, we’re confident we made the right choice with the solitude of Long Beach.
Is Koh Lanta boring?
Definitely not! Koh Lanta is the perfect destination in Thailand for families or couples looking to disconnect. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy – snorkeling, island-hopping, etc.
Or you can do nothing at all and truly relax (our choice!).
Which begs the question…
Is Koh Lanta a party island?
If you’re looking for a party island in Thailand, there are dozens of them. But Koh Lanta is not one. However, the island does host a few full moon parties but they’re not quite as crazy as those you’ll find on other Thai islands.
The bottom line? If you’re looking to avoid the party scene, Koh Lanta is an excellent choice.
Is Koh Lanta cheap?
Like most Thai islands (with the possible exception of Koh Samui and Phuket) Koh Lanta is a very inexpensive destination to visit.
For example, our beautiful bungalow at the Lanta Castaway Beach Resort was well under $100 US/night…in HIGH season. And there are plenty of accommodation choices that are even cheaper than that.
All too soon it’s time to say goodbye to the tranquil island of Koh Lanta and continue our journey to our next Thai island stop.
We’ve heard nightmare stories about the 3-hour speedboat ride to Koh Lipe we have booked for tomorrow. I’m definitely not looking forward to it, but from Koh Lanta, it’s the only reasonable way to reach our next destination.
So wish us luck!
Next stop…the tiny island of Koh Lipe!