Most visitors who arrive in Koh Lanta come for the glorious beaches and an opportunity to relax on one of the most beautiful islands in Southeast Asia. Another reason is for the excellent diving on offer, for both beginners and experts alike. However, there is much more to Koh Lanta including numerous waterfalls and caves, a national marine park and excellent spas, all waiting for you to explore and enjoy.
The primary attraction on Koh Lanta is the beachlife, and you needn’t feel guilty here if all you do all week is relax on the lovely white sand. It’s a holiday island, but unlike Phuket there is no traffic congestion, excessive noise, raunchy bars, tuk-tuks or crowds. There isn’t a barrage of attractions and activities in Koh Lanta that you feel you must complete to make your stay worthwhile. Almost every resort fronts a gorgeous piece of beach, and the sights are limited to natural scenery and a general sense of tropical paradise.
Attractions in Koh Lanta
Pra Ae Beach
This beach lies just south of Klong Dao and is sometimes referred to as Long Beach. The bay is a spectacular crescent shape and stretches for four kilometres across the northern end of Koh Lanta. It offers excellent swimming in a picture postcard setting. Many of the island’s resorts are located here and you can stroll for miles and pick a restaurant to have a long lazy lunch.
The majority of Koh Lanta’s residents are Muslims who have, over the years, mixed with other races living on the island such as Buddhists and sea gypsies. A lot of the population is made up of subsistence farmers, some working on plantations and a few making a living from the sea. Ban Sangkha-U is a small, old world fishing village in the southeast of the island and a great place for exploring to immerse yourself in an unique Thai culture. Similar to the rest of the island, there are very few cars in the village and the roads are unpaved. Sangkha-U is on the opposite side to the beaches and resorts and offers an an unspoilt glimpse into island life.
Khao Mai Keow Caves
Situated in the south of Koh Lanta, these caves are spectacular and consist of numerous chambers with stalactites, stalagmites and fascinating rock formations. The entrance to the caves sits on privately owned land and a guide will take you there via a rubber tree plantation, jungle and over a series of rope bridges. Open: daylight hours.
Sea Gypsy Village
Just south of the Baan Koh Lanta town lies the Sea Gypsy Village, on the east side of Koh Lanta. Here you can catch a glimpse of what life was like years before commercialisation. The people here live a nomadic existence at sea and their way of life hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. The community is very welcoming to tourists, but please be respectful and ask for permission before photographing residents.
Koh Lanta National Marine Park
The Koh Lanta National Marine Park is at the southernmost tip of Koh Lanta and is the culmination of an awe-inspiring coastal drive.
The park offers picnic areas with toilets and showers, a glorious white powder beach and a captivating trek through unspoilt jungle which commences at the park’s headquarters. For picture postcard snaps of the coast, head to a small lighthouse at the southern point. Light refreshments are available throughout the park. Open: mid-November to mid-May.
Kan Tiang Beach
If it is total seclusion and being surrounded by mountains you are after, then Kan Tiang Beach is for you. The beach is 18kms south of Baan Saladan village and is one of the most beautiful coves on Koh Lanta, boasting white sand and blue water. It takes a bit of effort to reach and is on the seldom-visited east coast with views of the mainland, but once there you will not be disturbed.
Activities in Koh Lanta
Diving: the Andaman Sea was recently voted the best area for scuba diving in Southeast Asia. The dive areas of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, just off Koh Lanta, featured in the world’s top 10 sites in International Dive Magazine. Koh Lanta is a scuba enthusiast’s heaven and basing yourself here opens up unforgettable diving spots such as Koh Ha, Shark Point, King Cruiser Wreck, Anemone Reef, Hin Bida and Koh Bida, to mention but a few.
Elephant trekking: elephants play a sacred and integral part in Thai culture, and by trekking with these gentle and loving animals you will see why. Morning starts are strongly advised as the best time for a Koh Lanta elephant trek. Sumate Lanta Yai Safari is Koh Lanta’s best established and most animal-friendly elephant trek on the island. All prices include pick up and drop off at your resort or guesthouse. Their office can be found close to the village of Phra Ae.
Speed boat tours: Lanta Garden Hill Speed Boat (tel: +66 75 684 042) can tailor trips to suit your needs, whether you want to go island-hopping or enjoy a nautical candlelight dinner. Trips cost upwards of 3,000 baht. A more affordable option is a long tail boat trip. They can be found at the pier in Ban Koh Lanta’s old town. Prices vary according to what you want to see and do, but bunching together to hire one of these vessels to take you to Koh Muk, Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai, Koh Chuek or Koh Phi Phi for a great day of snorkelling should keep the cost low.
Sea kayaking: the eastern side of Koh Lanta is home to a dense mangrove forest. Canoeing along the 30km canal is a great opportunity to take in the truly magnificent wilderness and wildlife. Exploring the array of sea caves and getting up close to the limestone outcrops by kayak is also an option and a full daytrip should cost no more than 1,000 baht with Rapu Sea Kayaking, including lunch. Trips leave from Hua Hin Pier.