Koh Lanta – Thailand’s Hidden Gem!

Koh Lanta is now my favourite place in Thailand, and I’m about to tell you (and show you) why.

Pretty much everyone we spoke to before we went to Koh Lanta asked us…. “Umm, where is that?” and I’m not gonna lie, that made us even more excited to get there.

With zero expectations, very little prior research, and two weeks booked in a cute little cabin by the beach, we were ready to escape the craziness of Phuket (I’ll go into detail on that another time) and enjoy some peace and quiet on Koh Lanta.

Where is Koh Lanta?

It’s an island in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of south-west Thailand. We reached it by ferry from Phuket but you can also get to it by ferry or by road from Krabi, which I think most people do. Koh Lanta is actually two islands connected by a bridge; the more touristy areas are located on the southern island where you’ll find stunning beaches all along the west coast. The north island is much more rugged with lush forests and hills and home to more locals.

The ferry journey cost us 800 baht each one way (~ £20) and took 4 hours, as it made a stop in Krabi en route. It was a comfortable enough journey with refreshments available on board and the views of the Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nga Bay area are worth the journey alone! Luckily the sea was calm and it was smooth sailing there and also on our return journey – we met others who hadn’t been so lucky!

Our home away from home

Upon arrival in the main port of Sala Dan, the owner of our cabin homestay came to meet us and take us to our new home for the next two weeks. We were delighted to find our very own little bungalow awaiting us and instantly fell in love with it. The place we stayed was called Lanta Andaleaf Bungalows and I would 100% recommend it to anyone travelling or holidaying in Koh Lanta.

The bungalows are fairly basic (no A/C but that’s standard in Koh Lanta) but in a fantastic location one minute walk from the beach, with cheap local restaurants and bars all around. They even rent out scooters at reception, organise transfers and tours, and do laundry which was really convenient and all at a great price.

We had had a few busy weeks travelling a bit around Phuket, socialising and partying and spending a bit too much money, so this was our opportunity to have a ‘workation’ and spend two weeks working in our cabin and relaxing by the beach. And that’s exactly what we did.

We did however, take ourselves off on a few adventures, starting with…

Koh Lanta National Park

Located right at the south of the island, Koh Lanta National Park is without a doubt the number one place to visit, whether you have two days or two weeks – make sure you spend a full day here. The park was a winding ride across country, a great ride and very easy to get to.

Before entering the park there’s a barrier across the road where you have to hop off and buy a ticket, then you’re good to carry on and park in the car park. We arrived mid-morning and there were only a handful of other bikes there (and we didn’t see many other people at all throughout the day). It costs 200 baht per person (£4) to enter the national park and another 20 baht for your vehicle. There’s then a small shop at the entrance where you can buy water and snacks, which you’ll need for the hike if you didn’t bring any.

The hike then begins from the car park, but don’t worry, it’s not a HIKE hike, just a short (steep) incline and then a steady amble through the forest. Signposts along the route show visitors what flora and fauna you might expect to see which is a nice touch and it was well kept. Just as we were beginning to get incredibly (and I mean disgustingly) sweaty, I noticed a circle of blue in the distance. Getting closer and closer, this blue dot became a window of sorts through the trees to the view beyond of the ocean and I will never forget that view!

The view point opens out and looks across the bay to Koh Lanta Lighthouse and the whitest sandiest beach I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. We quickly scrambled down the steps to the beach and took barely any at all getting straight into the sea for a swim. We didn’t expect such a pristine beach (at one point we were the only people on it!) so we hadn’t brought any food, otherwise we’d have stayed there for a good few hours.

After a swim we climbed up to the lighthouse and enjoyed yet more gorgeous views from the very southern tip of Koh Lanta. It was at this moment, beaming from ear to ear, that I said to Joe this is officially my favourite place in Thailand!

I really didn’t think this day could be beaten (and it wasn’t, quite) but Joe suggested another day out on the scooter to the north island, and we were pleasantly surprised!

Koh Lanta North Island

As I mentioned before, the north island is just miles upon miles of mountains and forest. The infrastructure isn’t quite there as it is on the main island, and after a while the road peters off into dirt tracks, but it’s well worth hiring a scooter and exploring this (largely unexplored) area of Koh Lanta. You’ll be surprised by beautiful views across to small surrounding islands, stunning farmland, and authentic rural life.

At one point we were pulling over every 5 minutes to gawp at the views and just soak up the untouched beauty of the landscape. The locals are some of the friendliest we met – one kind lady helped us figure out how to use the fuel pump to fill up our scooter and didn’t expect anything from it, and when we passed by a school the children ran down the road waving at us, it was lovely. 

Scuba Diving at Koh Haa

The third adventure I went on, which Joe unfortunately couldn’t join me on, was a scuba diving trip to the nearby Koh Haa Islands. Joe doesn’t dive but I have my PADI Open Water Certificate, so I went to do a quick refresher and loved it so much that I booked in for a half day of dives at Koh Haa. It was so great to get back in the water as it had been 8.5 years since I last went scuba diving!

I booked my refresher and dive day with Dive & Relax, a highly rated dive shop on Phra Ae Beach, and thoroughly recommend them to anyone who wishes to scuba dive – whether you’ve never done it before and want to give it a go or if you’re already an experienced diver.

Chilled island life at its finest

Koh Lanta really is the ultimate destination in Thailand if you don’t want to party hard or be surrounded by rowdy tourists. There are plenty of beachside bars and restaurants to enjoy and really feel like you’re on holiday, but we didn’t find it too touristy and we didn’t get ripped off. It was just…. quiet, low-key, peaceful. Like we had stumbled upon a hidden gem.

Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’ and Koh Lanta really was just the embodiment of that for us. I know we’ll return one day for another relaxing holiday and I can’t wait.

Extra notes and handy tips for travelling to Koh Lanta

  • It’s one of the cheapest places we’ve come across in Thailand (so far). We’ve been tracking our budget throughout our travels and it cost us around 50% what Phuket cost us. An average day of food for one person would cost 300 baht (£6 for 3 meals, sometimes including Western food or a beer!)
  • There are LOTS of mosquitoes! You’re best using the local bug spray which is most effective and comes in a clear plastic bottle with a pink cap. Bonus is that it smells lovely (unlike deet)!
  • Grab isn’t a thing in Koh Lanta so your two main options for transport are to flag down a tuk-tuk (which in Koh Lanta are motorbikes with a cart on the side!) or hire a scooter for around 250 baht per day (£5). The bonus of hiring a scooter is not only seeing everything at your own pace but also the gasoline is so cheap – we totally filled the tank for £2!
  • If travelling to Koh Lanta by ferry and you’re heading back to the same destination afterwards, don’t book a return ticket. Buy one-way and then when you’re in Koh Lanta, buy your return ticket, it’ll be much cheaper. Our return ferry back to Phuket (on essentially the same boat) cost 500 baht (£12) rather than the 800 (£20) we paid to get there.

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Published by Liv

Travel blogger and digital nomad 🌏

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