Last winter, Dave and I had such an incredible time on our trip to Thailand and the Philippines that we decided to continue the tradition again this year. On our last trip, we visited the island of Boracay in the Philippines and Thailand’s Krabi province.
This time we wanted to venture farther out in the Philippines to the tiny fishing village of El Nido on the remote island of Palawan. While in Thailand, our love for the Krabi province led us to explore more nearby islands in the hopes of finding a new island paradise. We chose two islands to visit – Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe – and two weeks ago we began our 16-day journey in Koh Lanta.
A brief history of 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 which are uninhabited. Lanta has emerged slowly on the tourism scene. In fact, the island was just connected to the mainland’s electricity network in 1996 and phone lines weren’t installed until 2001.
Stretching nearly 20 miles and boasting 11 white sand beaches, Lanta Yai is the main tourist destination of the archipelago and where most hotels and tourist facilities can be found. 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’d researched the island for a summer trip a few years earlier and learned that it was especially difficult to access during the rainy summer months of the low season. Speedboat and passenger ferry service is limited and the car ferry that allows vehicle traffic to reach the island often doesn’t run due to inclement weather.
But in the winter high-season months it’s easy to reach the island by speedboat or scheduled ferry service and soon a new bridge connecting Lanta Yai with mainland Lanta Noi (scheduled to open later this month) will make vehicle access a breeze year-round.
Koh Lanta can be reached from 3 different airports – Phuket, Krabi and Trang – with Krabi being the closest at 40 miles away. We flew into Krabi with Air Asia and elected to try the airline’s “Island Transfer” service which includes a shuttle from the airport to the pier in Ao Nang (a 45-minute drive) and a ticket for the 3-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?
After a 40-hour journey from Atlanta including 3 flight connections, an overnight in the Bangkok airport and a rough, crowded ferry ride we arrived in Koh Lanta exhausted. Luckily, our driver was waiting and we were quickly whisked away to the sanctuary of our resort.
After extensive research, I had selected the Lanta Castaway Resort on Long Beach for our 3-night stay. 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 and a prime location on beautiful Long Beach.
After settling into our bungalow we took long-overdue showers before heading out for a walk down the beach. Long Beach has a wide expanse of white sand stretching for nearly two miles and calm, clear turquoise seas. It was absolutely gorgeous and, unlike most Thai beaches, it was practically empty. Paradise.
We managed to stay awake just long enough to celebrate our first night in Thailand with sunset cocktails and a foot massage. It was the perfect beginning to what would be an exceptionally relaxing few days.
Exploring Koh Lanta
Since we passed out from jetlag by 8pm the night before, we were wide awake at 4am our first morning on the island. Unfortunately, sunrise wasn’t until 6-ish so we stayed in bed until the first light of dawn and then headed down to the beach for a sunrise walk that would become our daily routine.
After our walk, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and then selected two prime beachfront lounge chairs to spend our day enjoying the view. We finished our day with massages on the beach, dinner with our toes in the sand and another perfect sunset.
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 spent our 3 days – 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 did manage to tear ourselves away from Long Beach and take a tuk-tuk ride north to Klong Dao Beach. It was a lovely beach, but a little more crowded than ours so after a short visit we were confident we’d made the right choice with the solitude of Long Beach.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the tranquil island of Koh Lanta and continue our journey to our next Thai island stop. We’d heard nightmare stories about the 3-hour speedboat ride ahead and were not looking forward to it. But from Koh Lanta, it was the only reasonable way to reach our next destination.
So wish us luck! Next stop…the tiny island of Koh Lipe!