Ko Lanta, also spelt Koh Lanta, is a charming island lying just off the coast of Krabi in the south of Thailand. Its long coastline, stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, lush jungle, and magical sunsets make Ko Lanta a true paradise. Add delicious food, chilled-yet-vibrant nightlife, and friendly locals, and you may end up staying on the island longer than you planned.

    Most of the best restaurants, bars and accommodations can be found in Ban Saladan, the island’s capital in the north, and along the entire west coast. The best time to visit Ko Lanta for a beach vacation is in the dry season between December and April.


    The Beaches of Ko Lanta

    Where to enjoy postcard-perfect stretches of sand on Ko Lanta

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    With kilometers of soft sand and warm azur waters, Ko Lanta is a paradise for beach lovers and travelers seeking sun and tranquillity. The best stretches of sand lie along the west coast. Starting in the north, Klong Dao Beach is a wide and long beach near Ban Saladan village, which is the jumping-off point for many tourists arriving on the island. The beach's shallow, rock-free water makes it a popular spot for families with young children.

    Further south lies Phra Ae Beach, also named Long Beach. At 4 km, it's the longest beach on the island, so even when it's crowded, you can find a secluded spot to lay your towel under the shade of the pine trees. It's also a fantastic beach for a sunset stroll. Just 4 km south lies Klong Khong Beach, which is among the more developed neighborhoods on Ko Lanta. It's popular with solo travelers and backpackers seeking laidback bars on the beach. Due to a few rocky spots, bathing here is best at high tides. Klong Nin Beach offers some of the best bathing on the central west coast, plus charming places to toast the sunset.


    Things to do in Ko Lanta

    The island’s top activities and attractions

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    Renting a scooter is a fun way to explore the island’s jungle-clad inland route and find secluded, hard-to-reach beaches. Ride south to Kantiang Bay & Viewpoint and soak up gorgeous views from one of the panoramic restaurants. The beaches here are not overcrowded, and you might have a stretch of sand all to yourself! Ride to the island’s southwestern tip and reach Mu Ko Lanta National Park. For a nominal entrance fee, you can trek through the jungle, relax on empty beaches with crystal-clear water, and visit a scenic lighthouse. 

    Park your scooter and spend a day island hopping. Choose either a high-speed ferry or traditional long-tail and explore some of the most beautiful islands in Thailand. Snorkel in the transparent waters of Koh Cheuk, relax on the quiet beaches of Koh Ngai and swim through the stunning gorgeous Emerald Cave on Koh Mook.


    Ban Saladan

    Explore Ko Lanta’s tourist hub

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    All tourists arriving and leaving the island will pass through Ban Saladan, Ko Lanta's northernmost town. As such, the port town is the island's most commercial area. Although it's the island's capital, don't expect rush-hour, noisy barges or shiny skyscrapers. Ban Saladan is a bustling 2-street village where you can find everything you'll need, such as a mail office, travel agencies, banks to exchange money, and the largest grocery store on the island.

    The town's highlights include the quirky cafés, inexpensive waterfront guesthouses, and seafood restaurants built on stilts over the water. Most scuba diving and snorkeling trips to nearby islands start from Ban Saladan. You can buy equipment and book a tour at over a dozen dive shops around town.


    Lanta Old Town

    What to see and do in Ko Lanta’s original port

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    Lanta Old Town is a charming fishing village on Ko Lanta’s east coast with a rich history and heritage dating back hundreds of years. It was first a sea gypsy settlement and, over the centuries, developed into an important trading port for Arabic and Chinese merchant ships. Until a few decades ago, Lanta Old Town was the island’s main port and commercial center and the only way to access Ko Lanta.  Today, it’s a very slow, laid-back village that offers a more traditional island experience than the beaches and bars on the west coast.

    Get a sense of days gone by and stroll down the main street. See an original hundred-year-old Chinese temple, shop at the Old Town Lanta Street Market, and dine at restaurants set in wooden houses on stilts. History aside, the town also offers scuba diving, island hopping and mangrove exploration tours. And every year in March, the town hosts the 3-day Laanta Lanta Festival featuring authentic local food and traditional entertainment.


    Dining and restaurants in Ko Lanta

    Where and what to eat on Ko Lanta?

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    Ko Lanta offers many places to eat delicious Southern Thai food to suit all budgets, from roadside stalls to Thai canteens to fine-dining restaurants. Many restaurants feature seafood, but you can also find Thai standards. For a romantic dinner on the beach, dress up and head to Rak Talay Restaurant in Kantiang Bay. Or take a seat at The Seven Seas Wine Bar & Restaurant, a fine-dining spot offering an incredible panoramic view over Kantiang Bay from its elevated position.

    Enjoy a traditional and unique dining experience at one of the 20 seafood eateries perched on stilts over the water in Ban Saladan. Lanta Seafood is a popular choice among locals. Try some southern Thai food at Kho Kwang Seafood nearby or rub shoulders with visiting Thais while enjoying fresh snapper at Kung Restaurant. If you’re in the mood for street food, there’s a strip of eateries on the main road in Ban SaladanKhlong Dao and the village of Baan Khlong. You can find a wide variety of typical Thai takeouts, including papaya salad, minced meat salad, BBQ chicken, cheap beer, Thai iced tea, and fresh mango shakes.


    Ko Lanta shopping

    Where to shop on Ko Lanta?

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    The best shopping on Ko Lanta is at the street market that takes place at a different location every night of the week. Vendors sell books, clothes, hammocks, souvenirs, and household items. Local street food will fuel you as you browse each vendor’s wares. The best of these markets is the street market in Ban Saladan on Wednesday evenings. Arrive around 6 pm and watch the market fill up with locals and visitors browsing and using their bargaining skills to get the best deal.

    You can also visit the covered shopping complex of small shops selling clothes, souvenirs, and handicrafts at the Saladan Pier any day. If you’re looking for unique and authentic Thai souvenirs, head to Ko Lanta Old Town. A handful of stores along the main street sell handmade products from local craftspeople. 


    Ko Lanta nightlife

    Where to enjoy an evening out in Ko Lanta?

    • Nightlife

    Ko Lanta’s nightlife scene is very relaxed and reasonably tame. But while it lacks the all-night madness found on other Thai islands, there are still plenty of places to drink and party after the sun goes down. The best Jamaica-style and hippie bars can be found along the west coast. If you’re looking for a chilled evening of cocktails, live music, and fire shows on the beach, Why Not Bar in Kantiang Bay, Freedom Bar in Khlong Khong Beach, and Irie Bar in Long Beach are great choices. 

    For a party vibe, there are 2 longstanding bars in Long Beach to choose from. Pangea Beach Bar is an established spot where local DJs play popular deep house and techno music until sunrise. Every Thursday, The Ozone Bar hosts the ‘Ozone Party’. It’s one of the longest-running party nights on the island and features live DJs, pumping music, and a mesmerizing light show.


    Activities around Ko Lanta

    What to do when you get bored of the sea and sand

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    Ko Lanta offers many fun activities to enjoy when you get tired of hanging out on the beach. Rent a mask and snorkel and explore the magical underwater world. The best snorkel spots are among the coral reefs of Koh Haa and Koh Rok – 2 tiny islets near Ko Lanta. You also can snorkel directly from Klong Dao Beach and Long Beach on Ko Lanta. For an extraordinary experience, book a scuba diving trip and spot manta rays, leopard sharks, and whale sharks.

    Need a break from the sea? Kayak through the mangrove forests on the east coast or hike through the center of the island to explore Khao Mai Kaew Cave. Always wanted to learn how to make curry paste? Sign up for a cooking class and discover the secrets of traditional Thai food. And when you're in the mood for the ultimate 'me-time', let a professional masseuse melt away any tensions with a dreamy Thai massage.


    How to get to Ko Lanta

    Factual travel information

    There are several ways to get to Ko Lanta, depending on where you’re coming from and what matters to you most – time, comfort, or budget. The nearest airport to Ko Lanta is Krabi Airport – 75 km away on mainland Thailand. The airport primarily serves domestic and seasonal flights from Europe, Russia and the Middle East. From the airport, you can hire a private automobile to take you to Ko Lanta. A more budget-friendly way to travel from the airport is a 3- to 4- hour minibus ride.

    The quickest and most scenic mode of transportation is to take a 2-hour ride on a ferry from Chao Fa Pier in Krabi Town. Note that this service stops at the end of April. If you’re traveling from Bangkok, you can fly into Krabi or take a train or overnight bus to Surat Thani and then a minivan to Ko Lanta. Passenger ferries run from Phuket and Koh Phi Phi to Ko Lanta during the high season.

    Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer

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