One of our favorite islands, as it has distinct area that are all different, and is big enough to return to year after year without the full blown over development of Phuket or the pure party feel of Koh Phi Phi. There is a real mix of Muslim-Thai, Chinese-Thai and Urak Lawoi (Sea Gypsies) that all seem to live in harmony. The West coast of the island is nearly one continuous beach where all the hotels, bars and restaurants are located. While the East coast is sparsely populated and is manly mangroves, with just the Old Town and the Urak Lawoi village of Sang Kha U.
Visitors arrive at Baan Saladan, the largest settlement on the island, either via the Sri Lanta Bridge from Ko Lanta Noi and the car ferry connecting to Hua Hin Pier on the mainland, 70 km south of Krabi town. There are rumours of a second bridge connecting it to the mainland but there is no sign of construction as of early 2020. Alternatively, visitors can take one of the various ferries or speedboats that service the island.
There are two roads that run the length of the island, one serving the West and the other the East, with three cross over roads linking them. The main west-coast road is being widened and, as yet, is not completed so beware of major construction. It begins in Saladan and runs directly south past Khlong Dao, Phra Ae (Long Beach), it continues south past Relax Bay and Khlong Khong . At Khlong Nin the road narrows as you head towards Kantiang Beach, it gets steeper towards Khlong Jak, finally reaching the island’s far southern tip – the Mu Koh Lanta National Park. While the East coast road, which has far less traffic, runs past the Mangroves before the turn for the old town and ends just past Sang Kha U village. Unfortunately, there is no cross-over road in the south of the island.
Koh Lanta was discovered by Scandinavian backpackers in the 1980s, and there is still a large Scandinavian presence today. However, you will meet different people from all over the world on Lanta, from back-packers to high end luxury travellers. Lanta has a large yoga scene and Saladan has numerous diving schools, whilst snorkelling around Lanta is nothing special there are lots of day trips to nearby Koh Mok, Koh Kradan and Koh Ngai for better snorkelling opportunities.
We have not stayed at all the beaches on Lanta as yet but have visited them so below we will cover where we have stayed where we intend to stay in the future, and where we have only just visited.
Saladan, is a small town but has its fair share of shops, banks, dive operators, travel agencies and pharmacies, there is also an interesting night market. One of Saladan’s biggest attractions is its choice of restaurants. We stayed here in December at the Twin Bay resort, which was situated outside Saladan on Kho Kwang Beach. Dining if you are craving western food then you get a great burger at the Fat Pig, and we have also had wonderful fresh grilled fish at Laanta Seafood restaurant. We had heard great things about the “Table” but it was closed when we looked in 2019 we heard they have returned to Sweden. We did discover a great little seafood restaurant, Kaw Kwang Seafood, which has a great view great service and great fresh seafood, couldn’t ask for more, well they give you a free Tuk Tuk home after your dinner. It was so good we dined here twice.
Kho Kwang Beach lacks restaurants and bars as it is mostly resorts however the friendly bar sells good Thai food, and is great for sunsets. The Frog is probably the best restaurant in Saladan it has a beautiful walled garden, excellent service, food and a great wine list, definitely worth a visit, especially the nights it has live music
Klong Dao Beach, is the most developed beach on Koh Lanta, but it is far from being over-developed and still preserves a relaxed atmosphere it is the most family orientated beach on the island even though it does have accommodation to suit all budgets.
Phra Ae (Long Beach) and Relax Beach, We are not actually sure where Long Beach ends and Relax Beach begins or are they just an extension of each other so we just grouped them together, Long Beach’s resorts, bars and restaurants are scattered all along the length of the beach and set back amongst the trees, which gives a beautiful sense of space along the beach which gently slopes towards the sea and the water gets deep quickly creating the perfect place to swim. The bars on the beach also provide the perfect location for watching the amazing sunsets, which do make for spectacular viewing. The beach seems rather empty of bars during the day, as they are set back in the trees but just before the sunsets they seem to appear if by magic all along the beach. Long beach has a good choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. We stayed at Lazy Days Bungalows & Restaurant which is at the Sothern end of relax beach. It consists of just nine beach bungalows and a small beach front restaurant and is run by a very friendly Swedish family. The bungalows are of a very high standard and have everything to ensure you are well looked after, the restaurant has got it just perfect, lunch is fresh salads and wraps where the evening is fresh Thai with local high quality meat, fish and vegetables even if you are not staying it is definitely well worth a visit for either lunch or dinner. We have also stayed in a beach front villa at Long Beach Chalet Resort, which again was an excellent resort, “But why do they put a bath on the terrace”. The local Lyms bar and restaurant has excellent locally sourced food and also a great place for sundowners. One restaurant that is worth visiting is at the Layana Resort even though for reasons only know to them you need to have trousers to get into the main restaurant, “its Koh Lanta so really” but the staff were very polite and we eat in one of the other restaurants in the resort and the food was excellent. You can also get good Thai food all along the beach and there are plenty of bars for an evening drink.
Khlong Khong Beach is another beach we have only visited, it looks a bit less developed and more peaceful than the neighbouring beaches. The beach has a small collection of bars and resorts, but there does seem to be some beautiful private villas for rent, definitely one we will look to stay at in the future.
Khlong Nin and Coconut Bay – We have rented a villa at Coconut Bay Villas, the villa was great, modern with its own pool but felt a little out of the way. At night you needed a tuk tuk to go anywhere. There is a small tourist office with motorbike rental at the entrance on the main road. There is also a nice friendly Swedish restaurant/ bar on-site that we did eat at once and the food was nice (but in Thailand not sure how often you want to eat Swedish). You could cross the sand bank and use the beach bar and restaurant at the Moonlight Bay Resort next door. We did however have great grilled fish at the Shanti Shanti Beach House which was walking distance just down the hill, take a torch with you for the walk back. If you are missing the Premier League Bobby Big Boys restaurant and bar shows all the games live. We did like Khlong Nin as it had a village feel to it and returned in January 2019 booking into the Andalay Boutique Resort. We had a beach front Talay View room, the room was spacious and well laid out with a small terrace, the resort had a nice swimming pool, the staff were excellent and the beach BBQ was also great. Tourist desk at reception will arrange transfers etc. Klong Nin has ATM’s, Pharmacy, a Seven Eleven and lots of tourist offices with motorbike rental. The south of the island is easily reachable as is the Old Town. The Viewtop restaurant on the way to the old Town is worth stopping at for the view alone. The beach has a good selection of bars and restaurants. A few we would recommend are Roi Thai, Otto’s, Cook Kai and the Blue Moon.
The Southern Beaches – Kantiang Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, the Pimalai Resort and Houben Resorts ensure their high end clientele are well provided for. Further south Klong Jak and Bamboo Bay beaches are also spectacular, but there is not a lot of accommodation available unless you really want that away from it all feeling. For us they are great for a day visit to have a beer or lunch in one of the beach bars – You’ll have the beach nearly all to yourself for the afternoon.
The Old Town – We love the old town, it is like stepping back in time, and we still visit every time we are on Lanta. It has some lovely specialty shops that sell handmade local products, from jewellery and curry pastes to one shop that only sells hammocks. On the way to the old town on the main road you will see a sign for “Silver Jewellery” the designer is Swedish and the jeweller is a local, you can pick up some one off designed pieces and they are cheap. We have stayed overnight in the old town at the now closed “Mango House” but the town is really a daytime place as it was closed up by 9pm. This may have changed a little as last year there was a new bar opened “Tel’s Old Town Cowboy Bar” that was advertising live music on weekend nights. Sunday is market day and it does get busy, there are lots of restaurants on stilts offering Thai food and fresh seafood. Our favourite is the Pinto Restaurant, Grandad was on “front of house duties”, well he was at the entrance on his white plastic chair. How could we resist, when we asked what type of fresh fish was on the menu, he replied “Good Fish” and he wasn’t wrong, I would have to say it was the best seafood we had on Lanta.
So, our overall assessment of Koh Lanta, we love it! It is big enough to visit year after year but far from being over-developed, it caters to all budgets and tastes and we are still finding something new every visit. There is also something nice about revisiting restaurants and bars that you have enjoyed before to discover that you enjoyed them the second time just as much.