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The Ultimate Koh Lanta Travel Guide: Thailand’s Hidden Southern Secret

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ultimate travel guide to koh lanta

Thailand is famous for its raucous nightlife, chaotic capital city, steamy northern jungles, and it’s world-classes beaches.

For relaxation and beach time, most travelers will head to Southern Thailand with it’s myriad of breath taking beaches and hundreds of small islands.

While some of the Islands make constant press with gigantic beach parties (Koh Phangan), movie-famous beach locations (Koh Phi Phi), and sunny expat heaven (Phuket), there’s a few lesser known islands that offer some of the best Island experiences in Thailand: beautiful beaches, stunning jungles, great food and a wide-range of accommodation for all budgets without being overcrowded with tourists.

Koh Lanta is my favorite island in Thailand and one of my favorite places in the country. If you are looking for one of the best places to go in Thailand, I highly recommend you check out Koh Lanta for the slower pace of life, wonderful beaches, and chill, but friendly vibe.

Why Koh Lanta?

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Koh Lanta is a lesser known island of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. As a result, it feels laid-back and low-key and you will never feel the need to rush to anywhere. It has a sort of hippy vibe that will make you never want to wear shoes the entire time you’re there. It’s about 30 kilometers long with a sandy coast the entire length of its west side and a jungle running through the middle.

While Koh Lanta has no shortage of hotels, resorts, bungalows, and restaurants, it has no big city and is still relatively unspoiled. It’s the largest island of an archipelago of about 30 islands that make up Koh Lanta. There are day trips to some of the smaller islands, some of which are worth a visit if you can bring yourself to leave the white sand beaches of the main island. There is more here to do than you might imagine, without the crowds and waits of more well-known islands.

This island only got electricity in 1996 and that laid back ‘pre over-touristed vibe’ that plagues most of the popular Thai Islands now have’ is pleasantly absent.

While Koh Lanta has come a long way since those pre-electricity days, it is still a place to fully relax, unwind, enjoy a good book and some good, authentic Thai food. End your day with a cocktail while watching the sunset from a beach chair after a long day on the beach or experiencing some spectacular diving. More often than not, you may find yourself the only one on a vast beach enjoying that stunning sunset — something you certainly won’t ever experience on most of the Thai islands. For sunset worshipers, Koh Lanta takes the pick with a variety of sunset-perched locations scattered about the island — from sleepy bars on the top of a hill to lonely beaches.

Koh Lanta attracts travelers from all over who are looking to relax and vacation at a slower pace. It also attracts digital nomads who stay for a week, a month, or even longer, so there is actually an expat community on the island as well. The slow pace of the island, little traffic, varied landscape, great activities, and incredible sunsets bring people from all over the world to relax on Koh Lanta’s beaches.

When to Go

High Season

High season in Koh Lanta is in November, as well as February through April, roughly, and this is considered the “dry” season, although rain can still occur. Everything is open as of November 1, and you will want to book your accommodation well ahead of time as hotels will fill up starting in November. Transportation links to the mainland are running full steam ahead.

November to April can see the occasional rain shower, especially in November, but this is traditionally the hot and dry season with calm seas and a variety of water activities available from the island.

Peak season is December and January and prices are at their highest. In February, prices revert back to high season prices and the beaches feel relatively empty. But the temperatures are at their lowest all year in February, all hotels and businesses are open, and the island is still popular, just not nearly as crowded as the previous two months. I think I could celebrate a late Christmas here, and take advantage of the low crowds and cheaper prices, don’t you?

Peak Season

If you are in search of a place to spend Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Koh Lanta is a perfect choice. The best weather on the island is during this time with daytime temperatures around 28 degrees Celsius. If you plan to come during the holiday season, you will want to book your accommodation at least eight months in advance because every hotel will be full. December and January are the most crowded and expensive months to go to Koh Lanta and these months are referred to as peak season. Many hotels will charge a compulsory fee for Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinner whether you want it or not, so be sure to ask at time of booking.

Low (Green) Season

During the low, or green, season, which is May – October, the island of Koh Lanta pretty much shuts down. There are several reasons for this, the number one reason being rain. This is the monsoon season and rains are hard and frequent. The monsoon winds make it difficult to navigate the island and can wash debris onto the beaches.

Also during low season, the seas are very rough and all passenger ferries stop running, although my research shows ticket sales for high speed passenger ferries during the low season. There is still a car ferry that runs. All off-island excursions shut down and non-beach activities are non-existent from May to October. Non-locally owned businesses also close due to the lack of tourists, so restaurant choices are seriously limited.

However, the hotels that do stay open during low season slash prices and it doesn’t rain every day, so if you are looking for a bargain place to relax with no one else on the beach, this might just be it. Bring your books and enjoy some alone or couple’s time on the beach, eat with the locals, and get an incredible deal on 5 Star accommodation.

How Long To Stay

Koh Lanta is one of those islands that time just passes. You can easily spend a full week here without problems. The island is such that after a week, you might want to stay a month…or even move here permanently (a fair amount of expats have already done that!).  It’s a bit of a pain to get to Koh Lanta, depending where you start from. However, we recommend you plan on staying between 5 days to a week at least. It’s not hard to spend a solid 2 weeks here. From personal experience, I recommend about a week. This will give you plenty of time to explore the entire island fully while also venturing to the surrounding areas…and to do so at a relaxed pace.

How to Get There

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Koh Lanta, admittedly, is not the easiest island to reach from within Thailand. However, with a bit of planning, it can be done easily and in a timely manner. It has become a more popular tourist destination in recent years, and developments in transportation reflect that, making it easier to reach than in the past. At the time of research, small high speed ferries were available during low, high, and peak seasons.

For more up-to-date information on ferry, taxi, and minibus travel from Krabi Airport, Krabi Town, or Ao Nang, or other cities within Thailand, or to book tickets, go here: http://12go.asia/en/travel/krabi/koh-lanta

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Option 1: Passenger Ferry

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High/Peak Season

The passenger ferry operates from November to April only. It is the most popular option for transport during High Season and Peak Season. Take a taxi from Krabi Airport to the pier in Krabi Town (app 350 baht) which takes about 15 minutes. You can also take a taxi to the pier in Ao Nang (app 600 baht) which takes about 30 minutes. You can catch the ferry from both locations.

You can get a van + high speed ferry joint ticket from Krabi Airport for 1100 baht during High Season using the link at the top of this post. A high speed ferry is a high speed boat with a more limited capacity than the passenger ferries.

Option 2: Taxi or minibus service from Ao Nang, Krabi Town or Trang 

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High/Peak Season

Both taxi and minibus are also available November to April, but are considerably higher. A taxi will run 2800 baht and a minibus is 3000 baht. But when shared with a taxi or minibus full of people, it is still a reasonable price. A minibus accommodates six people and does not stop to pick up anyone else.

Low Season

During Low Season from May to October, taxi and minibus are your only options from Krabi Town. You can take a taxi or a minibus from Krabi Town or Ao Nang. From Krabi Airport, a taxi will run about 1500 baht per vehicle and will take about 1 hour. A minibus will cost about 1800 baht and can be shared among nine people. It also takes about one hour.

During Low Season, from Ao Nang, you can get a van + ferry combo ticket for 1100 baht on Tigerline Travel. The ferry is a high speed ferry, but this combined transport takes about 6.5 hours, according to the website at the beginning of this section, 12Go.asia. The price is the same during High Season, and departure time is 9:00AM on Tigerline Travel all year.

Disclaimer:

Some carriers are considerably more expensive than others. The justification is that you get what you pay for and that service will be better and more reliable using the more expensive transport. Some provide snacks and some stop at a food court on the road. Use your own judgement when booking and read reviews if available.

From Phuket

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Option 1: Passenger Ferry

High/Peak Season

From November to April, there are two ferry options available. Tigerline Travel offers a direct ferry from Rassada Pier for 1500 baht and it takes 2 hours. Chaokoh Travel Center offers a ferry with a stop at Ton Sai Pier on the island of Koh Phi Phi for 1200 baht, but it takes 5 hours to reach Koh Lanta.

Low Season

From May to October, Chaokoh Travel Center offers the same ferry that it offers in high season at the same price of 1200 baht. Tigerline Travel does not offer ferry options during low season.  

From Bangkok

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Option 1: Flights to Krabi Airpory

This is the recommended option and is the quickest way to get to Krabi so that you can either drive, ride, or take a ferry on to Koh Lanta. Multiple flights on multiple airlines depart for Krabi daily. See From Krabi options for transport information once you arrive at Krabi Airport.

Option 2: Van + Tourist Charter Bus + Ferry

Low/High/Peak Season

This option is offered by Thai Sriram at 1300 baht and takes 20 hours. It departs from Hua Lamphong 12GO Office in Bangkok. This same company offers a tourist charter bus + ferry option for 1200 baht departing from Khao San Thai Sriram and it takes 18 hours.

Best Things to Do in Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta is just developed enough to provide enough activities to keep you entertained during your stay on the island if lazing on the beach all day every day isn’t your thing. We did not list any beaches here as they are mentioned in another part of this guide. Let’s face it, going to the beach on Koh Lanta is a given. With so many great beaches there, it’s just a matter of finding the one that is right for you.

Here’s a list of recommended things to do on Koh Lanta based on recommendations from people who actually went there and did them. These are not listed in any particular order.

#1 Four Islands Boat Tour

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A company called Freedom Adventures offers an amazing boat tour of the Trang Islands. You can spend the day snorkeling, kayaking and island hopping. These beautiful limestone islands are well worth exploring. A definite highlight is a visit to the Emerald Cave which gets its name from the color of the water.

There are many boat tours of the Trang Islands, but our recommendation is Freedom Adventures. Their boats are large and have toilets and they limit groups to 10 or less. But the biggest advantage is that they bring kayaks and none of the other tour operators do that.

A full day boat trip costs 1500 baht (possibly more as this figure is from 2014) and includes pick up/drop off from your hotel, lunch, juice and water, kayaks, snorkeling gear and the national marine park fees.

#2 Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

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Koh Lanta is not a well-known diving location, but that’s one of its biggest advantages. Diving nearf Koh Haa or Koh Rok is spectacular. You can experience thousands of colorful fish and vibrant coral. When the water is clear, which is often, visibility can be up to 30 meters. Another highlight is swimming through The Chimney, a narrow underwater cavern that is pure magic. Find more information about diving and snorkeling under Diving and Snorkeling.

#3 Visit Lanta Animal Welfare

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Lanta Animal Welfare is a great local shelter on the island and you can volunteer to cuddle with the kitties and take the dogs for a walk. These animals really appreciate your attention and time and the shelter appreciates any donations of food, leashes, etc. that you can give, although a donation is not required. Your time is the most important thing you can give.

#4 Visit Mu Koh Lanta National Park

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For a small fee, you can visit the national park at the southern tip of the island. The national park has beautiful beaches, a lighthouse, and a 2km jungle trail that is quite scenic. Beware of the rather aggressive monkeys. They will come after your belongings looking for food, so keep things well hidden in your bag.

#5 Khao Mai Cave

cave1-720x484If you’re looking for a bit of a physical challenge, this should be your top choice on Koh Lanta. A rather strenuous 30 minute hike takes you to the cave and you can explore for about 2 hours. The inside of the cave is wet and can get slippery, so you’ll want to wear proper shoes, not flip flops. It’s about 300 baht to get in with your guide, which is required. A headlamp is also included.

The inside of the cave is stunning, but some spaces are very cramped and at times, you will need to crawl on your knees. The guides speak English well enough. You will want to ask the hotel to arrange transportation to the cave, for about 1200 baht, rather than taking a tuk tuk who may not wait for you. Once you get to the cave, there are pretty much no transportation options.

#6 Cooking Classes

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Thai cuisine is one of the most varied and popular in the world, and cooking classes are in demand all over Thailand. Koh Lanta is no exception and Time for Lime or Spices & Herbs are prepared to teach you to cook like a local and develop your inner Thai chef. Time for Lime is located in Klong Dao and Spices & Herbs is in Kantiang Bay. Most classes start in the afternoon and offer the opportunity to prepare and eat several dishes while sipping refreshing cocktails.

#7 Muay Thai Camp

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If you haven’t participated in a Muay Thai camp while in Thailand, why not give it a go. While Phuket and Bangkok are considered the mecca’s of Muay Thai training for foreigners, Koh Lanta has a few camps that you can combine a nice laid back island lifestyle with some serious fitness training on the side.

Muay Thai Camp is held at Lanta Sport Complex. They welcome students from all backgrounds, including men, women and children. Muay Thai is a form of Thai boxing and it is extremely popular in Thailand. People come from all over the world to train at these camps, but they offer more than boxing. Weight training and Cross Fit are also available.

Muay Thai Camp is located just 100 meters off the main road that runs south on the west coast of the island. The turn off is just opposite of Relax Bay Resort on Long Beach. Turn left off the main road if you are heading south.

Training prices include Muay Thai for 400 THB/Day, Fitness (weight lifting) for 250 THB/Day, and Cross Fit for 400 THB/Day. They can teach beginners with no boxing experience in a private 60 – 90 minute session.

For more information, check out their website.   http://www.lantagym.com/

Best Places to Eat in Lanta

Deciding on the best place to eat is always a personal choice and a matter of opinion. Koh Lanta has its share of “tourist” restaurants that don’t seem very authentic, but it also has great local restaurants with amazing Thai food. We realize that food and food culture are an important aspect of making any trip great, so here are our recommendations of where to eat on Koh Lanta, in no particular order.

#1 Saladan Seafood in Saladan near ferry ports $ – $$

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Saladan Seafood sits on stilts over the water and serves fresh seafood for lunch and dinner. They have outdoor seating, of course, and alcohol is available here. Service is considered average, but the food is why people go here. Tiger prawns, cashew chicken, and beef hot pan come highly recommended. This restaurant is beachfront, not in Krabi Town.

#2 Yang Garden Restaurant on Klong Nin Beach $$- $$$$

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If you’ve been on the island a while and are feeling the need for food that isn’t Asian, there are European and gluten free options available at Yang Garden. They serve dinner in a beautiful atmosphere that some even describe as “romantic.” There is outdoor seating, full bar, and free wifi available, but be warned, this is a cash only establishment. It is owned by a Swedish couple that love Koh Lanta so much they decided to stay. They have definitely filled a niche with this lovely and versatile restaurant. Open Wednesday to Monday (closed every Tuesday) during high/peak seasons from 6:00PM to 10:00PM. No reservation necessary. It is also open during low season, but I am not sure of the times. You can view their menu here: http://yanglanta.com/menu.html

#3 Phad Thai Rock n Roll on Kantiang Bay $ – $$

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This roadside restaurant on Kantiang Bay is owned by the bass player of Koh Phi Phi’s famous band called Made in Thailand. Open from 11:00AM – 4:00PM and 6:00PM to 9:00PM every day. At 9:00PM, the chef has to leave to play in his band at a local bar. The food here, especially phad Thai, has a reputation for being unbeatable and the atmosphere is lively and fun. They do serve alcohol and have outdoor seating and takeout is available.

#4 Krua Kritsana near Long Beach $ – $$

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Located on the main road in Long Beach, this restaurant serves up cheap Thai food that is good and satisfying. They are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night if you’ve been out and about a little longer than you planned. They have outdoor seating and alcohol is served here. Red curry with chicken for 100 baht and chicken tempura for 150 baht won’t break the bank. Large portions will leave you feeling full with money still in your wallet. It’s always busy, and there is a good reason for that.

#5 Living Room Café and Restaurant on South Long Beach $ – $$

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 Serving breakfast, lunch, pastries, cakes, drinks, and most importantly, real coffee, possibly the best coffee in Koh Lanta. Living Room Café has a warm, inviting atmosphere where you’ll want to linger over coffee and something lovely and sweet like a salted caramel chocolate tart. If you find yourself in need of a cake for a special occasion while on the island, this is the place to get it. They bake croissants fresh and the smell is amazing. They also serve crepes, burgers, chicken salad. Great place for lunch. They have takeout, outdoor seating, and free wifi. Open daily from 7:30AM to 5:00PM.

How to Get Around Lanta

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Koh Lanta has no officially organized public transport system. That said, there are very easy ways to get around the island, especially with the completion of a paved road that runs to the end of Ba Kantiang Bay. Note that most resorts, even more secluded ones, are within walking distance of restaurants, bars, and the tours and activities that you can book on the island. Most are designed so that you don’t have to drive or take a taxi during your entire stay if you don’t want to.

All organized tours and activities will provide transport from your hotel to the tour/activity, so keep this in mind. Transport is included in the cost of the tour, so getting around the island might be less expensive than you thought.

Here are some options for getting around the island.

Motorbike Rentals

Motorbikes (scooters) are by far the most popular transport option on the island. A scooter can be rented from your hotel or resort in most cases, and tour agents rent them as well. Be aware that all people on a motorbike must wear a helmet. It is the law and you could be fined if you do not wear a helmet. Rentals run 8 – 10 USD a day, or even less if you are going to be on Koh Lanta a long time.

Tip: rent from a motorbike rental in the main town to save money. Renting a bike from your hotel will cost you 2-3x what you pay if you rent from a local shop.

One of the best places to rent a scooter/motorbike is Lanta Sky, mentioned under car rentals.

Disclaimer: If you don’t have previous experience driving a scooter, we do not recommend this mode of transport. Accidents can happen easily and there is no insurance provided, nor is there a proper hospital on the island.

Car Rentals

Car rentals are popular on the island and can usually be rented from your hotel or resort. There are also tour agents in Saladan where you can rent a car.

Krabi Airport, Phuket Airport, and Trang Airport all have rental cars from the major companies like Hertz, Avis, etc. There isn’t much traffic on the island and only about three main roads. The roads are flat and driving is easy.

You can also rent a car on Koh Lanta from a local rental company. Lanta Sky is a popular choice and also rents motorbikes. It is owned by Mr. Yak and either he or someone on his team will deliver your car to your resort.  There is no website for Lanta Sky that I could find, but the phone number is 087 292 3417.

Taxi

While there is no regulated taxi service on Koh Lanta, there are motorbike and motorbike sidecar taxis around Saladan. They charge per journey. To give you some idea of what it might cost, a ride from Saladon to Phra Ae would be around 50 baht. It’s Thailand, so fares are negotiable, but keep in mind that a few baht will mean more to the driver than it likely does to you, so be reasonable.

To flag a taxi, just stand by the road and look like you need a taxi, and one will stop instantly. At the Koh Lanta shopping area, they cue up to take people home. Taxis can be sparse late at night.

Tuk Tuk is another taxi option. They can be a lot of fun, but keep in mind a ride in one of these is charged per person, so it can get expensive even if you haggle.

Where to Stay in Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta has every type of accommodation you can imagine available to tourists on any type of budget. From inexpensive bungalows on the beach to 5 Star hotels and resorts, you are sure to find the accommodation your heart desires. During the low season of May to October, you can find fantastic deals on all accommodation, including the most expensive resorts.

There is a north and south part of the island, and the west coast of the Koh Lanta has been taken over by tourism for the most part. However, there are more secluded options on the south part of the island if that’s what you desire. Most are within walking distance of small towns with restaurants, even if they are secluded.

These are our recommendations for the best accommodation on the island of Koh Lanta. Just click the link to be taken to each website.

Budget

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Budget accommodation usually means a bamboo bungalow on the beach or a cheap hotel with few amenities. That said, for the budget traveler, the off season in Koh Lanta could mean a beach bungalow for as little as $6 a night, but you might be sleeping on a futon.

Probably one of the best things I love about Koh Lanta is that it’s a very friendly island for the budget traveler. You CAN stay for a few bucks a night right beside the water, if you are willing to forego a few amenities.

Here are our recommendations for budget accommodation, meaning roughly less than $60 a night during high season of November and February through April. All prices are for two people. Prices during December and January may be higher.

Bee Bee Bungalows

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These laid back bungalows are made almost entirely of bamboo and have private bathrooms, cold water showers, and fans, but each one has something unique about it. Some have open lofts with cushions and others actually have enclosed lofts. They all have hammocks. There is no wifi here. This is a truly budget accommodation. These little artistic bungalows are just what I envision when I think of backpacker travel in Asia. These huts are between 600 – 800 baht, or less than $10, depending on the season. They are a steal, if you ask me.

Relax Bay Resort 

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The bungalows here are about 30 sq meters and are right on the beach. They have balconies, private bathrooms with showers, and fans and mosquito nets. The bathrooms are tiled nicely and nicer than a lot of budget accommodation available on the island. It is close to all of the action on the island, but it is secluded and calm. The design is rustic, but the rooms are outfitted with comfortable beds and quaint touches that make it stylish and welcoming. Rooms are $55 a night or more during peak season.

Mango House Seafront Suites

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If you are looking to stay near the water, this is the place. It is actually built over the water on stilts, ideally situated in Sang Kha Ou, and its rustic look on the outside is not indicative of the stylish, comfortable inside, not to mention the modern bathroom fixtures and design combined with a natural, spa like feel. Some rooms also have kitchens available. Free wifi is available in all rooms and common areas. There is also a bar, laundry service, and airport shuttle available. Please check prices with the hotel before booking. It’s close to the Old City and Koh Lanta Temple, and amenities are within walking distance. Rooms are less than $50 a night for two guests from May to October. Rates are considerably higher in high and peak seasons at $77 – $93 a night.

Baan Pakgasri Hideaway – For just less than $50 a night, you get a modern bungalow hideaway on the beach with a balcony. This hotel was built in 2010 and it located on Klong Nin Beach. It has just nine bungalows, each with its own balcony looking over the sea. Some have hot tubs inside where you can view the sunset. This 3-star accommodation provides free wifi in the rooms and all common areas, airport transfer and various transportation services, and a variety of activities you can book if you’re not there to laze on the beach all day. Rooms for two people are about $45 a night during peak season.

Midrange

Midrange hotels and bungalows are very popular on the island. For $60 to $150 a night, you can sleep like a king on Koh Lanta. Here are our recommendations for midrange accommodations on Koh Lanta.

Lazy Days Bungalows

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Lazy Days is a newer bungalow style hotel located on Relax Beach, which is a small beach surrounded by palm trees, reefs, and turquoise water. There are 9 rustic wood and bamboo bungalows and all of them have a beautiful view of the sunset and you can watch the long-tail boats return after a long day fishing at sea. This is a family run resort with a restaurant right on the beach. They pride themselves on personal service. Amenities include free high speed Internet (wifi), restaurant, bar, free parking, free breakfast, and room service. The rooms have air-conditioning and start at about $110 a night.

Crown Lanta Resort & Spa

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Crown Lanta’s spacious and beautifully decorated rooms are calling your name. This 4 Star boutique resort is on 22 hectares of park-like land and has its own private white sand beach as well as access to Klong Dao Beach. There are 83 spacious rooms and villas with a mix of contemporary architecture and relaxed Thai atmosphere. You can relax and refresh in the Infinity Spa, or sit at the Reggae Bar on the beach and watch the island’s best entertainment – the sunset. This boutique resort has privacy while still being located close to all the sights Koh Lanta has to offer. This beachfront property has a pool, fitness center with gym, spa, restaurant and bar, as well as free high speed Internet (wifi). Rooms start at just over $100 a night and they have air-conditioning.

Long Beach Chalet

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This small, family run resort is located within walking distance to a private stretch of beach on Long Beach. These tastefully furnished chalets have modern amenities and comfortable, dare I say “luxurious” beds? The 3 Star resort has 15 rooms, making you feel like you’re at home rather than in a hotel, and you will get the personalized service that comes with a small resort. Amenities include free high speed Internet (wifi), air conditioning in the rooms, restaurant, bar, and a stunning pool with a great view. It also includes free breakfast and this is a pet-friendly resort. Chalets run from $120 to $210 a night.

High

There is certainly no shortage of luxury accommodation on Koh Lanta, even though it is a lesser-known island. But luxury accommodation here doesn’t cost what it does in some places and can end up being a real bargain. Here are our recommendations for high-end accommodation starting above $150 a night.

Rawi Warin Resort & Spa

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This resort was recently awarded Luxury Island Resort Awards and Best Luxury Family Hotel 2011 at World Luxury Awards. Rawi Warin Resort & Spa is a perfect beach resort for honeymooners, families, and divers. It is situated in a peaceful location, and is located away from the crowds in central Koh Lanta, so guests can enjoy easy access to the local attractions such as Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Koh Muk and the Emerald Cave, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Rok. Rawi Warin combines luxury and nature, and ensures guests a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. The property faces the Andaman Sea, offering stunning views, and guestrooms and villas are located right on the beach. The hotel offers free wifi, airport transfer (3400 baht), fitness center, spa, restaurants, and more. This is your destination if you are looking for tranquility, excellent facilities, and genuine hospitality. Rooms are between $150 to $350 a night, but could be considerably lower during low season or if you are a member of certain booking sights.

Layana Resort & Spa

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Ranked as Tripadvisor’s top choice in luxury, it sure seems to live up to its reputation. Layana Resort & Spa is situated in on Phra-Ae Beach, Saladon and has views to die for. It has free wifi, numerous beautiful pools, a fitness center, spa, bar, and restaurant. This property has all the amenities you could want and an environmentally-conscious design results in a simple and elegant Thai atmosphere at every turn. The surroundings are serene, and the adults only policy ensures uninterrupted peace during your vacation here. The resort features 57 luxury guest rooms with various views, 2 terrace suites, 3 ocean deluxe sweets, and all rooms have contemporary Thai décor and large balconies. These rooms are truly luxurious. Prices vary depending on which booking site you use, but they can range from $230 to $1200 a night depending on room choice and season. According to their official website, booking online is significantly cheaper than rack rates.

http://layanaresort.com/index.php

Costa Lanta

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This modern polished concrete resort is Zen-like and inviting. The resort is situated in a coconut-palm garden at the north end of Hat Khlong Dao. The walls, washbasins, and floors are polished concrete, and the minimalist chic cabanas have barn-style doors that open on two sides to maximize the breeze and the views. Amenities include a pool, beachfront bar, and each room has a private terrace. Bathrooms are open-air with a rain shower. Free wifi is available in public areas. You can book water activities here or go for day trips to the surrounding islands. The restaurant serves up authentic Thai dishes and refreshing cocktails. Rooms here start at about $200 a night.

Best Place to stay in Koh Lanta

Pimalai Resort and Spa

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If you can afford it, Pimalai Resort and Spa is not just any 5 Star resort on the island of Koh Lanta, it is the first 5 Star resort and the standard by which all others strive to reach. It is located on Ba Kan Tiang Beach and is situated in a lush, tropical forest with easy access to 900 meters of pristine beach. This is the premier resort on the island. The resort, with its amenities, location, beauty, service, and seclusion, is just the right mix to make your holiday to Koh Lanta perfect.

This beachfront property offers free airport transport, children’s activities, free breakfast, free Internet and wifi, full business center and services for meetings and conferences, shuttle bus service to other parts of the island, and free parking. Perhaps I should say these amenities are included in the room price, given the price of their rooms.

The beautiful, spacious rooms are air conditioned, non-smoking, and sure to make you want to stay in at least one day. The property itself has incredible infinity pools with amazing views, and there are many romantic places on the property where you can watch the sunset in the evenings.

Pimalai’s food, service, and amenities all reflect its well-deserved 5 Star rating. During Low Season, May through October, there are great deals to be found at Pimalai. During High and Peak Seasons, you will need to book well in advance as this highly-desired property fills up fast. Prices are considerably lower during low season at under $200 a night. Could this be your May honeymoon destination?

During high season, a deluxe room is just over $300 a night, but during December and January, rates go up to $550+ a night. These rates are all for a deluxe room. Other rooms are more expensive, but again, it is much cheaper to book online. If you use a travel agent, be sure to find out if they are using the rack rates or online rates.

If you’re looking for a truly luxurious, secluded, relaxing holiday, this is the place.

http://www.pimalai.com/home/

Koh Lanta Area Guide

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The 52 islands of Koh Lanta are surrounded by the Andaman Sea, 70 kilometers south of Krabi Town and east of Phuket, near the southern end of Thailand. The largest of the islands is simply called Koh Lanta Yai (Koh Lanta) and is the most populated and provides a great base with which to travel to the other islands in the area.

The Chao Ley, or Sea Gypsies, along with the Muslim and Chinese locals provide a rich cultural diversity to the island and add flavor and charm to the culture, food, and villages on the island. More and more locals are becoming involved in tourism as a way to earn a living, but many, especially the Chao Ley, still lead a very traditional way of life from fishing, rubber, and prawn farming, and they have no involvement in tourism whatsoever. More about helping to maintain this traditional way of life through responsible tourism is mentioned under General Tips for Koh Lanta Travel.

The island, while small, has a varied landscape which adds interest and allows for a variety of activities on the island. Think of the island as being divided into three sections – West Coast, East Coast, Central/Southern End. Here’s a brief description of each and what you might find interesting there.

West Coast

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Koh Lanta has two main roads, and one of them runs parallel to the beaches on the West Coast, which is essentially one long stretch of beach. Most tourists stay on the West Coast where the beaches and the sunsets are incredible. Most restaurants, shops, and services, as well as hotels and resorts, are located on the West Coast of Koh Lanta. There are four roads that can take you to Koh Lanta’s East Coast, and another main road that runs the length of the East Coast from the midway point of the island.

Saladan is the main town on Koh Lanta and the most populated area with conveniences like supermarkets, petrol stations, doctors, dentists, banks and post offices. A town by Koh Lanta standards is still pretty quiet.

As you move further south along the West Coast accommodation becomes a bit more basic and you will encounter more backpackers. Continue further south and you will find the more boutique and luxury resorts on secluded beaches.

East Coast

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Koh Lanta’s East Coast has a very different vibe from the West Coast and there are far fewer tourists here. There is a more traditional way of life on this side of the island with locals supporting themselves through fishing, farming, and cultivating shrimp. Many little villages dot the East Coast and you might find those interesting to see. More about doing this responsibly under General Tips for Koh Lanta Travel.

Lanta’s Old Town is on the southeast part of the island and is the port for fishing and long-tail boats, but Saladan is now the primary town and harbor. Old Town has some small shops and restaurants and is nice to visit and wander through the few streets there. In March, the Lanta Festival is held here in Old town and it becomes a pedestrian-only zone. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops set up kiosks here and you can hear live music until well into the night.

There is some great shopping to be found on the East Coast, as well as some great restaurants, so be sure to visit when you are on Koh Lanta.

Central/Southern End

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Klong Nin and Kantiang Bay are near the southern end of the island, along with Pimalai Resort. At the far southern end of the island, you will find Mu Koh Lanta National Park and real seclusion with some great accommodation, just not much of it, which could be a good thing.

Some of Koh Lanta’s best natural sights are on the southern end of the island, like the Mu Koh Lanta National Park and waterfalls. The Sea Gypsy’s village is also on the southern end of the island, but they live very traditionally and they and their village are not a tourist attraction. Please do not disturb them. More about this under General Tips for Koh Lanta Travel.

Best Places to See in and around Koh Lanta

Virtually every hotel, resort, and accommodation on the island offers tours that they will book for you and they are pretty much the same price everywhere. Many also offer car and scooter rentals as well if you prefer to venture to some of these places on your own. Tours for the nearby islands can be booked at your accommodation or other booking sites on the island.

Koh Lanta Noi

Koh Lanta Noi is a small and largely forgotten island to the north of Koh Lanta. If you really want to get away from the crowds (there are never really crowds on Koh Lanta…), this is the place to go. This is mainly a service island that people pass through to connect to the piers. There are still a lot of locals living here and you can see some deserted beaches, fishing villages, rubber trees, and some mosques. You can also take a motorbike around the island on a concrete road for some amazing views.

Waterfall

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Ao Klong Jark, or Waterfall Bay, actually has a tiny village consisting mostly of locals who work at a nearby rubber plantation. There is an elephant camp here with a good reputation. You can actually ride an elephant to the only waterfall on the island. If you prefer to walk, it takes about 30-45 minutes each way with some bat caves along the way. It’s a nice walk under the jungle canopy.

Temples & Mosques

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Koh Lanta’s varied ethnic makeup makes for an interesting mix of religions and religious buildings. There are numerous mosques, a Bhuddhist temple just outside Saladan, and a Chinese temple in Old Town. There is also an abandoned Chinese temple on its own on the top of a hill on the west coast. See if you can find it.

Mu Koh Lanta National Park

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At the southern tip, and I mean tip, of Koh Lanta is the only National Park on the island. There are landscaped gardens, two beautiful beaches, and an icon of Koh Lanta, the lighthouse. There is a 90-minute nature trail which takes you deeper into the jungle, but don’t worry. There’s no bushwhacking involved. It’s a paved path and there are signposts along the way, so there are no worries about getting lost.

There is a small entrance fee which goes toward the upkeep of the entire National Park. The best way to get here is to rent a scooter or a car because a tuk tuk cannot make it all the way down here. Also, even if you did take a tuk tuk, the driver probably will not wait for you. You can also book it as part of an island tour.

Sa Pan Yung Hot Water Springs and Emerald Pond

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The hot water springs are on the mainland, not Koh Lanta, and the best way to get here is by booking a tour that includes speed boat and minivan transportation. The tour will take you to the secret location to relax and invigorate your body and spirit in the hot springs. After lunch, you will take a short walk in the jungle to swim in the Emerald Pond before returning to Koh Lanta.

You can book this tour at virtually every hotel and resort in Koh Lanta. It includes lunch, soft drinks and water, transportation to and from your hotel, National Park entrance fees, and an English speaking guide.

Tham Mai Keaw Cave

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Tham Mai Kaew Cave is well off the main island road to the west of Klong Nin. There are signs clearly marking the way. You can only go here with a guided tour for 300 baht per person. It’s a bit adventurous as you squeeze through tight spaces, climb down bamboo ladders, and use ropes to pull yourself up steep slopes. The best feature of this cave is a huge cavern with a pool in the center. Phone ahead or book through a travel agent. You can call (085) 119 0999 or (080) 039 8739 to make reservations.

Tiger Cave

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This cave is smaller and less strenuous than Tham Mai Kaew. It’s located down a dirt road south of Khlong Nin and clearly marked with signs. You can reach this cave after a 30 minute hike through the jungle. Tourists are usually told they can only go with a guide by the people in the office at the trail head, but some tourists reported that they were allowed to go on their own for 150 baht.

Koh Talabeng Island and Cave

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Koh Talabeng is located off the east cost of Koh Lanta Noi. It’s a limestone island and has a few small beaches. Many people like to kayak to the island because of the calm waters. It is on the east coast, not in the open waters of the Andaman, so it can be accessed year round by boat.

There is an intriguing cave here that can be explored and steep cliffs you can explore by foot and rope.

Emerald Cave or Tham Morakot

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The Emerald Cave is a secret lagoon inside the island of Ko Mook and to get there, you have to swim 85m through an underwater tunnel which opens into the secret bay. There are limestone cliffs on all sides of the lagoon. The water is a deep emerald green. There’s a large sandy beach to relax on, and you’ll need it after swimming in darkness for a few seconds through the tunnel.

The Emerald Cave can be visited by booking a 4 Island Tour. Waterproof bags are useful for taking your camera and other items with you as you swim to the cave. You might want to bring a flashlight as well. The guides will give you one, but if the batteries fail, you’ll have a backup.

Eastern Islands

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From Old Town you can visit the Eastern Islands of the Koh Lanta archipelago. They are protected from strong winds and waves, so they can be visited by boat all year. The best way to see them is by an organized long-tail boat tour or you can charter a private long-tail. You will depart from Koh Lanta Old Town pier.

Whether you take a tour or a private long-tail, make sure your guide takes you to Koh Bubu. It is a small island and has only one resort and one restaurant, white sand beaches, and lots of hammocks to laze away an afternoon. There is also a walking trail around the island and you may even spot monkeys and even hornbills.

The Many Beaches

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One of the best reasons to come to Koh Lanta is the many, rather secluded beaches. You might find yourself the ONLY one enjoying a beautiful sunset on a large beach. We cover all the beaches in the next section.

Koh Lanta Beaches

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Most of Koh Lanta’s beaches are located along the entire west coast of the island and they are essentially one long strip of beach. But each one has a slightly different feel and something different to offer each traveler.

To get to any of the beaches from Klong Dao in the northwest to Kantiang Bay in the southwest, you just follow the main road (4245) that runs parallel to the beaches and there will be signs, not to mention views, of where to exit for parking, or if you take public transport, just tell the driver where you want to go. Or, as with most accommodation options on the island, just walk out the door and you will be on a beach, no transportation required.

After Kantiang Bay in the south, driving and navigating become a bit more challenging due to road conditions. I have directions for these beautiful, remote beaches under the description of these beaches. Pimalai Resort is on the south part of the island, but offers transportation from the airport as part of your booking price, so you won’t pay extra.

Klong Dao Beach

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This 3km long white-sand beach is the most popular on Koh Lanta, but it is far from crowded. The water here is calm and the sunsets are unrivalled in Thailand. It has the highest number of upscale resorts and hotels on the island and more services than any other, but it is not overdeveloped and the resorts will not disturb your relaxation time on this beach. The north part of this beach (Kaw Kwang Beach) has excellent snorkeling. It is only 3km from Baan Saladan, the town hub on Koh Lanta where all services are available.

Phra Ae Beach (Long Beach)

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Long Beach is just south of Klong Dao, and this is the closest beach you’re going to find on Koh Lanta that people might call a “party beach.” It’s a long stretch of beautiful white sand with tranquil water and mild tides that makes for a great swimming spot. There are few major hotels on this beach, but some great bungalows and smaller resorts can be found here. The bamboo huts make this beach popular with backpackers. This beach has more nightlife than the others with many restaurants and bars open late.

Klong Khong Beach, Relax Bay, and Klong Tob

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From Long Beach, a small mud track takes you to Relax Bay which is small and inviting with only three resorts, so it feels very secluded. If you walk to the southern tip of Relax Bay, you will find another bay and two more “secret” beaches. Surprise! This will be our little secret.

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Nearby Klong Kong Beach is much bigger with plenty of accommodation for the traveler looking for a good value. It is the rockiest beach on Koh Lanta, but this means there is great snorkeling here. Water shoes are recommended for safety and protecting your feet from the rocks. There are many authentic Thai restaurants here and Western influence hasn’t quite made it to this beach. That’s a good thing.

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Klong Tob is small, close to the main road, and there are only a few resorts here at the end of Klong Tob, which is just south of Klong Khong.

Klong Hin and Klong Nin

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Climb over a hill at the end of Klong Tob and you are at the halfway point of the west coast of Lanta, which is basically one continuous beach. Here at the halfway point you will find Klong Hin and Klong Nin. Swimming in the calm waters here is ideal and resorts, bars, and restaurants are of higher quality and more western than Klong Khong. You can expect to pay a little more, but they are still a great value. This beach has grown recently and now has shopping, supermarkets, ATMs, a pharmacy, and a few other shops near the beach.

Klong Nin is progressing at a rapid rate and may rival Saladan in terms of services, but it is still more secluded and less visited than any beach further north. The quality and beauty of this beach cannot be matched in the northern part of the island.

Ba Kantiang Beach and Kantiang Bay

Kantian Beach is often the furthest most tourists go on the island because the road deteriorates after this point, but this is shame because the southern tip of the island and the national park are worth a visit. This may be the prettiest beach on Lanta and both sides of the bay have small reefs which make for great snorkeling. There are also a few great resorts here, most notably Pimalai, as well as restaurants and bars of high quality. This southernmost beach is very popular throughout the year due to its secluded feel, beauty, and incredible sunsets.

Nui Bay, Khlong Chak (Waterfall Bay), Ao Mai Pai

These small beaches at the southern end of the island are rugged and feel a bit desert-like for anyone willing to travel this far south. Nui Beach may take some time to find, but even in the middle of high season, you’re likely to be the only person there. Klong Jark has a waterfall that is popular with the local people and tourists. Ao Mai Pai has some of the best snorkeling on the island.

How does one get to these remote spots?

Nui Bay – When the main road (4245) ends, turn left onto the road closest to the beach and head south. While this road is certainly navigable, you should slow down and watch for any potholes or rough patches. Puddles often disguise potholes, so approach slowly when you see water. When you reach Diamond Cliff Resort, this is Nui Beach. There is a road leading inland to Tiger Cave if you wish you explore.

Continue further south on this same road and you will reach Drunken Sailors café, Why Not Bar, and the infamous Pimalai Resort.

Khlong Jark (Klong Chak) – Continue south on the coastal road past Pimalai Resort and you will reach Anda Lanta Resort. Here you can turn left onto another rugged road to reach the actual waterfall that is popular with locals and tourists. The beach is here by Anda Lanta Resort and there is also a stunning sunset viewpoint slightly further north.

Ao Mai Pai (Maiphai Bay on Google Maps) – Continue further south on the only road that goes south, and you will reach Bamboo Bay Resort, and a bit further south is Ao Mai Pai and Banboo Beach.

Note: At this point you are very near the southern tip of the island and Mu Koh Lanta National Park. Why not venture a bit further south and pay the small entry fee to see this rugged, beautiful place that would be a welcome change of scenery after a several days on the beach?

Diving and Snorkeling

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Thailand’s west coast has a reputation for great snorkeling and diving because of its clear water and corals and reefs that are in good condition. There are also relatively fewer divers compared to other places in the world. The Andaman Sea off the west coast of Koh Lanta has an incredible array of sea life including some of the creatures that are highly desirable to see during a dive anywhere, like manta rays, turtles, and all kinds of sharks.

The beaches on Koh Lanta are pretty shallow, so they are fine for diving training or snorkeling, but to really have a good diving experience, you need to go out to the reefs further away from the beach. This means hiring a boat, of which there are many for hire on Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta is not only great for beginner divers because of its calm waters, but it also has underwater caverns, caves, and deeper water for the more experienced divers.

The four most popular diving destinations from Koh Lanta are Koh Bida/Phi Phi, Koh Haa, King Cruiser, and Hin Muang. Dive trips leave around 8:00AM and return between 14:00 and 16:00. They include lunch and at least two dive sites.

Snorkeling on Lanta is limited, so take a boat trip to one of the southern islands in this archipelago and you’ll have a much better experience. Tours are offered on speedboats, long-tail boats, and bigger boats, so there are lots of tour options available.

Here’s a great link to more detailed information about diving and snorkeling off Koh Lanta.

http://www.kohlanta-thailand.com/diving.htm  (This link is to a fantastic hotels.com website about Koh Lanta, but check it out and see if you want to use it. Maybe you don’t want to redirect traffic to this site? Parts of it are very general, but the section on snorkeling and diving is excellent and very detailed.)

General Tips for Koh Lanta Travel

Responsible and Respectful Tourism

Sea Gypsy Village

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Koh Lanta is still a developing and relatively unspoiled island, and as a result, the local population here still leads a traditional lifestyle, especially on the southern and eastern coasts of the island. The ethnic population called Chao Ley, or Sea Gypsies, is located on the southeast corner of the island in Sang-ga-u. They lead a very traditional way of life and are not a tourist attraction. Please do not drive through the village and stare at them or try to take pictures, and definitely do not offer them money so they will allow you to take their picture. This offering of money can lead to very negative effects on the local people and their way of life.

East Coast Villages

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The entire East Coast of Koh Lanta has many small villages where the locals lead a traditional way of life and earn money through traditional means. It is fine if you want to ride your motorbike responsibly through the villages and see them and take pictures of the village, go shopping, and eat at restaurants, and even talk to the local people. But keep in mind that they earn a living outside of tourism. Please do not offer them money or other things so they will allow you to take their picture. If they say it is fine to take their picture, then do so, but no money should exchange hands. If they say no, please respect this.

Responsible and Respectful Driving

Be aware that there is a helmet law on Koh Lanta, so always wear a helmet when riding a motorbike. Also be careful when riding through puddles as they often conceal potholes.

There is not much traffic on the island, but there are enough cars that you need to be cautious, especially when driving on the roads that are not as developed as the main road on the West Coast (4245). Be aware of the traffic laws before renting a car.

Internet Cafes

Many hotels and resorts now offer free wifi, even in the rooms. Many internet cafes are scattered around, such as Peak Café on Klong Khong Beach. They also serve food and great coffee.

Internet on Koh Lanta is not always reliable. It is an island, and weather can make internet service unpredictable.

Coworking/Digital Nomads/Expat Living

KoHub Coworking/Digital Workspace for Digital Nomads

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In the past, reliable and fast Internet service on Koh Lanta simply did not exist. Reliably. But that has changed and there is a now a KoHub workspace available for digital nomads. They have an air conditioned room as well as a gorgeous outdoor space in a garden setting with plenty of outlets. There is also a café and a social calendar where digital nomads can find out what’s going on and meet up for social events. Koh Lanta’s entire expat community essentially revolves around KoHub.

My understanding is that they offer day, week, and month passes (150 USD/mo), and Green Season passes for 24,500 baht, or about 800 USD, including modern accommodation at a KoHub facility. The accommodation is clean, modern and minimal. It is certainly a great option for digital nomads and Lanta is giving Chang Mai a run for its money as a digital nomad hub.

KoHub offers the fastest, most reliable internet on the island 100 Mb/s Down and 30 Mb/s Up. Universal plug adapters are installed throughout the KoHub facility. These guys thought of everything.

Weekly and monthly membership prices are not on their website and I only saw one mention of the monthly rate of 150 USD during my research. Package deals that include accommodation are on the website. For weekly and monthly rates, I recommend contacting them.

Here’s a link to more info about KoHub.   http://kohub.org/

Expat Living

While Koh Lanta is still not as populated with expats as other parts of Thailand, there is an expat community there made up of people from all over the world, but predominantly English speaking countries and Europe. It’s a small community, so all of the expats pretty much know each other.

Expat life in Koh Lanta is laid back and inexpensive compared to western countries, but most expats live there as digital nomads, for a few months out of the year, and a few live here year round.

A Budget for Every Traveler: How Much Does Lanta Cost Yo

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Budget

If you’re a backpacker on a tight budget, Koh Lanta is the place for you and you might just end up staying longer than you planned because of all the great activities and inexpensive nightlife. There are bungalows on the beach with “ensuite” bathrooms that rent for just $10 a night, sometimes even less in low season.

Restaurant prices are varied, but if you stick with local Thai cuisine, which will not disappoint, you can easily eat for less than $10 a day. If you are in the mood for something other than Thai occasionally, then you’re going to pay more.

A month’s pass at KoHub for Internet service is 150 USD, or just 5 USD a day.

Scooter rentals range from 8 – 10 USD a day, but if you need a scooter for a longer time, you may be able to negotiate a cheaper rates.

Midrange

A midrange traveler can live like a king in Koh Lanta during low season, and can still have many luxuries during high season. For digital nomads looking to stay for a month or longer, a midrange budget can get you a modern, minimalistic apartment near the sea, two meals a day, and all the internet you need as a package deal from KoHub for around 800 USD for the month.

If you’re a midrange traveler on holiday, the real price difference between you and a budget traveler will be your hotel, and meals if you like to indulge.

Accommodation can run from 40 to 100 USD a night for a midrange traveler, depending on the season. During low season, some 5 Star hotels offer rooms for just over 100 USD. During high season, there are loads of hotels ranging from 40 to 100 USD a night that are good quality, and they have great locations on the beaches.

Restaurants on Koh Lanta, even the most expensive, are still inexpensive compared to western and European countries. For 10 to 30 USD a day, you can indulge in three restaurant meals a day, even in hotels, and have your coffee and alcohol too.

High End/Luxury

Luxury is surprisingly easy to come by on Koh Lanta, and incredibly cheap during low season. For luxury accommodation during high/peak season, you will pay between 150 – 500 USD a night depending on how much luxury you want.

The good news is, even for luxury travelers, accommodation is really the only big money you will spend.

There are restaurants that cater to Western tastes that will cost more than those serving the local Thai cuisine. But probably the most you’ll pay is about 80 USD, and that’s for a family, not per person.

About Author

Ben has been living, training, and fighting in Thailand for the past 3 years. He has fought in a number of different combat arts such as MMA, BJJ, Muay Thai, and Western Boxing. Ben follows the latest fitness and nutrition research and is especially interested in how it can apply to combat sports to improve a fighter's performance in the ring. You can read Ben's full bio page here.

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