Koh Lanta is an incredibly versatile island! In this post, we share the best things to do in Koh Lanta, including cultural experiences, volunteer work, best beaches and exploring the island. Read on for your complete guide to visiting Koh Lanta, Thailand.
This is a guest post from travel blogger and adventurer Mimi McFadden of The Atlas Heart. She lived on Koh Lanta for a while so she’s the perfect person to tell you all about the island!
Koh Lanta, on the Andaman Coast not far from Phuket, is one of Thailand’s less-visited islands — I would still consider it an underrated spot in the country.
Koh Lanta represents the best of Thailand — you get gorgeous beaches and friendly, local culture without having to fight the crowds for space. Koh Lanta is as close to an island paradise as you can get in Thailand!
Though it’s a little off-the-beaten-path, it has just as much to explore as Thailand’s more popular islands: lively rainforests, luxurious white sand beaches, countless waterfalls, friendly locals, and endless gorgeous views.
I never thought of myself as someone who would embrace “island life” with open arms, but Koh Lanta is one of the most beautiful places I’ve lived.
It also has a great balance between the peace and quiet you want from a tropical island, mixed with outdoor adventures and a few busier areas to satisfy those who might get bored with laidback island paradise.
(Don’t miss: Looking for more island inspiration? Make sure to check out Mimi’s travel guide to Koh Chang)→
I got plenty of QBT (Quality Beach Time) on Koh Lanta but also left with some fantastic adventure stories. There’s such a variety of things to do in Koh Lanta that I never felt bored.
I made some incredible memories during my time living on the island and I’m sure you will too, no matter how much time you have there.
Keep reading to discover some of the island’s best kept secrets and a few not-so-secret things you should strongly consider checking out.
14 Things to do in Koh Lanta
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1. Enjoy the best beaches on Koh Lanta
Since you’re visiting an island, you have to check out at least a few of the beaches!
The beaches on Koh Lanta are some of my favorite in all of Thailand. They’re usually very quiet, don’t have huge waves (so swimming isn’t too daunting), and most have some kind of a restaurant or bar to enjoy a beverage or bite to eat while you watch the sunset.
One of the best beaches on the island is Klong Prao. The water is calm and clear and the beach is virtually untouched by people, making it feel like your own private beach. Even so, it still has a cozy beach-side restaurant to enjoy while you watch the sun dip into the water.
A close second favorite is Kai Bae Beach. It has a similar vibe to Klong Prao — tranquil, quiet, calm water, with not too many people.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more lively, head to Lonely Beach. The name doesn’t do it justice! Lonely Beach is actually one of the best party beaches on the island. It’s a great place to hang out if you’re in the mood to meet other travelers.
Last but not least, Bailan Beach is a small stretch of coast with more rocky shores than white sand beaches (in case you were getting bored of that). This is definitely more of an “activity” beach: the surrounding area is absolutely incredible but you probably don’t want to try and swim here.
In your research you might come across White Sand Beach — the largest and most touristy beach on the island. I’d recommended skipping it unless you’re into the touristy vibe.
You won’t get a quiet beach day here as there are a ton of vendors. However, if you’re staying at one of the swanky hotels on the island, this is probably your closest beach.
2. Learn how to ride a scooter
One skill you’ll certainly want to acquire when travelling internationally (especially in Asia) is knowing how to drive a scooter — Koh Lanta is an excellent place to learn! The roads here are quieter than most you’ll find elsewhere in Asia so not as intimidating for beginners.
The ability to successfully drive and navigate while on a scooter opens your travels up to a whole new world of possibilities. You’ll be able to go places on your own (i.e., not having to rely on a taxi or bus) and you visit areas that public transport might not offer.
Start off by renting a scooter for a few hours one day and see where it takes you. Just ask a local or another traveler who knows how to ride (there are plenty in Thailand) for a quick lesson and get used to the feeling of balancing on two wheels.
Learning to ride a scooter is one of the most useful things to do in Koh Lanta and will make a huge difference to how you experience the island.
3. Watch the Sunset on the Beach
A must when you’re staying on any Thai island is to take in a gorgeous sunset while you sip a cocktail beachside. Koh Lanta is no exception.
I experienced some of the most incredible sunsets during my time in Koh Lanta. Especially on Long Beach and Klong Khong, it seems like the whole island comes out to watch the sun go down and the sky light up in a kaleidoscope of colors.
4. Yoga at Oasis Yoga
The best way to fully embrace the tranquility and relaxation of island life? Take a yoga class.
Oasis Yoga offers several different kinds of yoga, including Yin, Vinyasa, and free morning meditation classes. It has a supportive and welcoming environment, even for beginners.
The classes here are all open-air, and thus provide an organic hot yoga of sorts because of the natural humidity on the island. The studio is also right by the beach which makes the whole experience that much more relaxing.
5. Cooking class at Time for Lime
I’ve always believed that the best way to immerse yourself in a new culture is through local food. The cooking classes at Time for Lime are island-renowned on Koh Lanta. It’s by far the most popular place to learn how to cook Thai specialties on the island.
The traditional Thai food you’ll make here has flavors that are out of this world and the cocktails are known to be some of the best on Koh Lanta. Don’t miss trying the lime cocktail which is the house speciality!
6. Volunteer at Lanta Animal Welfare Center
Volunteering at the Lanta Animal Welfare Center is a rewarding and memorable experience which takes you beyond the usual touristy options.
The welfare center was started in 2015 by a Norwegian woman named Junie Kovacs, who has lived in Thailand since 2002. In Thailand, you’ll see a lot of animals in distress and this shelter takes on the difficult job of helping animals in need.
You can commit for a whole day, a week, or longer-term volunteer opportunities, or just visit for an afternoon to walk a dog or two.
However much time you can volunteer, the welfare center appreciates all the help it can get. Plus, you get to hang out with cute animals all day. It’s a win-win!
7. Go hiking at Koh Lanta National Park
Imagine having an endless expanse of turquoise water and silky beaches all to yourself. If that’s your dream, Mu Koh Lanta National Park will make it a reality. Entry is 200 THB (6 USD) per person and it’s 20 THB (less than 1 USD) to rent a motorbike, which makes it easy to zip along the length of the park.
If you want to explore the park by foot, there’s a small hiking trail that takes a little less than an hour to complete. Steps are steep and uneven in the beginning, but they eventually level out until you reach the top. A lighthouse will greet you at the top.
Planning an all-day trip in the National Park? Make sure to bring plenty of food and water! But be careful with your bags — the monkeys are notorious for trying to dig through backpacks for yummy treats.
8. Scuba diving or snorkeling Koh Lanta
Take advantage of the crystalline waters off Koh Lanta by arranging a scuba diving or snorkeling trip!
There are plenty of great diving spots in Koh Lanta, such as Koh Rok Nok or Kaw Kaweng. Trips take 3–4 hours, most often with a speedboat that will take you far out enough into the waters so you can dive comfortably amidst the coral and colorful fishes.
If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the concierge to help you book a trip. You can also go to online tour sites (like The Four Islands or Opal Travel Koh Lanta) to book a trip in advance.
9. Party on the beach
Did you even live it up on your island vacation if you didn’t go to at least one beach party?
While the nightlife vibes of Koh Lanta are markedly different from Bangkok, there is no shortage of hip bars (Funky Monkey, Majestic Bar, Why Not Bar, Mushroom Bar, etc.) and half moon beach parties that will have you partying all night on white sand beaches with a Leo in hand.
Revel in the fact that you have pretty much unlimited access to a dizzying array of cocktails, live music, and fellow travelers who are also looking to have a great time!
10. Swim at Khlong Chak Waterfall
In south Koh Lanta, Khlong Chak Waterfall is best accessed by riding your scooter to the trailhead.
You will then have to hike through the jungle, but it’s a relatively easy and beautiful hike. Not only do you come across a dam filled with emerald-hued water, but you get to make your way through the lush foliage to the sound of bird song.
Once you arrive at the waterfall, you’ll be struck by the contrast between the blue water of the falls and the red sand. You can also check out the nearby Khlong Chak Cave, miraculously held together by massive tree roots.
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11. Enjoy the island landscape from a sea kayak
One of the best ways to enjoy Koh Lanta’s stunning rock formations and caves is to get up close — by sea kayak!
Since this is an all-day trip, book a sea kayaking tour to take care of transportation, equipment, and food. All you have to do is show up in your swimsuit and athletic shoes.
Koh Talabeng and Koh Phee are popular kayaking spots because of the relatively still currents, stalagmites and stalactites, and cool stories associated with them. For example, did you know that Koh Talabeng was a secret hideout spot for ancient pirates?
You’ll hear that and many more tales on a Koh Lanta kayaking tour.
12. Explore the streets of Koh Lanta Old Town
Koh Lanta is home to two main towns. Saladan is the up-and-comer while Old Town is a charmingly preserved relic of Koh Lanta’s past.
The Thai-traditional Old Town is on the central east coast of the island and used to be its commercial and administration center. Now, it’s home to sleepy wooden row houses, Chinese-influenced architecture, and small shops and restaurants by the sea.
While Old Town doesn’t get many visitors, it has enjoyed some of the side effects of Koh Lanta’s tourism boom. You’ll find coffee and fruit shake stalls with English menus, plus you can take boating day tours to the islands south of Koh Lanta from Old Town’s pier.
13. Grab a bite at Saladan Market
If want to experiment with Thai food, Saladan Night Market is an essential destination while you’re in Koh Lanta.
For starters, the vendors sell more skewered food than you can imagine. We’re talking about BBQ chicken, fish, dessert, and meat cuts you might have never heard of before. And the best part is is that these skewers are often made to order, so you can enjoy them sizzling hot!
Cotton candy, clothing, and cheap souvenirs are also readily available at this night market, so even vegetarians will have plenty to check out on a balmy evening.
14. Get a massage on the beach
Is there anything that sounds more relaxing than getting your muscles kneaded and knots worked out while enjoying the sound of gentle waves?
Lucky for you, you can easily spot a selection of masseuses along the coast. Most of them will either offer a Thai massage (much more energetic, great for working out the kinks in your back) and oil massage (better suited for relieving tension and stress from your muscles and tissues).
While massages in Thailand are easily found for an affordable price, the off-season prices — sometimes as much as 50% off — make the prospect of visiting Koh Lanta during that time even more appealing.
Getting to Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is south of the Krabi province on the Andaman Coast. Going from Krabi to Koh Lanta, travelers can reach the island by ferry.
The fastest way to get to Koh Lanta is to take the public passenger ferry from Chao Fa Pier in Krabi Town. However, the passenger ferry is only available in peak season, from November to April.
If you’re visiting Koh Lanta during the off-season, the best choice is to take a taxi or minibus.
A shared taxi or minibus will make multiple stops to fill up with passengers and then go on their own ferries to Koh Lanta. After the ferries land in Koh Lanta, the taxi or minibus will drop you off at your destination. The multiple stops inevitably make the trip longer, but the fares cheaper.
From Phuket, you can take the ferry from Saladan Pier on the islands south end. Powered by 12Go Asia system.
Tips for Visiting Koh Lanta
Budget-conscious? Buy your ferry tickets in person
A lot of travelers like to buy their travel tickets ahead of time to give them peace of mind. However, travel sites often price tickets higher due to the added convenience.
If you want to stick to a tight budget, you can buy your tickets at the ferry port the day of departure to secure a significantly lower fare.
Rent your own transportation
Koh Lanta is a pretty big island, which means it’s a lot more convenient to have your own mode of transportation rather than depending on tuk tuks to get around.
Thankfully, there are a slew of options — including mopeds, bicycles, motorbikes — available for reasonable prices. Just make sure you have travel insurance! No matter how experienced a rider you are, accidents can always happen.
Beware of the monkeys
The monkeys on Koh Lanta are deceptively cute, as many visitors find out (the hard way). It’s tempting to feed cute animals, but don’t feed the monkeys!
These monkeys are aggressive and can attack you or steal your belongings. Plus, if you get bitten or scratched by a monkey, you’ll most likely have to get a course of rabies vaccinations. That’s not anybody’s idea of a fun vacation.
Looking for WiFi? Head to KoHub
There’s a reason why digital nomads love Koh Lanta. The cheap prices, astounding scenery, and fewer tourists make Koh Lanta ideal for a long-term stay.
Koh Lanta has actually invested in its technological infrastructure, and KoHub offers decent WiFi, co-working spaces, and other nomad-friendly amenities. KoHub even offers co-living if you’re looking for something more permanent than a stay at a hostel.
Take your time in Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is blessed with a more laid-back vibe than many of the tourist destinations in Thailand. Take full advantage of that by spending at least a couple of days or even full week in Koh Lanta.
Watch the sunsets. Enjoy a margarita or two. Don’t feel the need to jam-pack your trip to Koh Lanta full of activities in the span of a few days.
Who knows? You might just decide to stay forever.
What to Bring on a Trip to Koh Lanta
Even if you visit Koh Lanta during peak (and dry) season, the island is always subject to mercurial weather. It can be bright and sunny one moment and suddenly a huge rainstorm threatens to wash you away.
However, if you pack appropriately for an island vacation, you should be well-prepared to weather (hah!) the elements.
Swimsuit & towel. It would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of the stunning beaches Koh Lanta is best known for, so make sure to pack a cute swimsuit and travel towel. Even if you don’t swim or wade in the water, you’ll want to chill out on your towel and read a book while absorbing the natural beauty around you.
Bug spray. As with all tropical islands near the equator, the resident mosquitos just love to eat tourists alive. While you might not be able to completely avoid these pests, you can do your best to ward the mosquitos away with a big dose of bug spray.
(Jane got dengue fever in Koh Lanta, so make sure to spray up!)
There are plenty of bug repellent sprays out there, but you want to look for sprays that either contain DEET, picaridin, or plant-derived chemicals, since they tend to be the most effective and long-lasting.
You can find bug spray on Koh Lanta if you don’t want to pack it from home.
Long sleeves. Koh Lanta is a predominantly Muslim island, so more modest clothing is appropriate compared to the rest of Thailand (which is mostly Buddhist).
That’s not to say you can’t show off your bikini bod at the beach, but a little modesty goes a long way when interacting with the locals. Slip on a lightweight long-sleeved beach cover up before you leave the beach.
A cover-up comes with the added bonus of thwarting mosquitos and protecting you from irreversible sun damage. It can also look great in those dreamy Instagram photos you’ll be taking.
Sunscreen. The tropical island life is hot, so make sure you protect your skin by slapping on some UV protection! If you plan on going swimming or hiking, you will want to reapply sunblock more regularly than the recommended 2–4 hours. Especially for kids, a waterproof version is best.
To protect the fragile reefs, make sure to use coral-friendly sunscreen.
Slip-on shoes. The worst part about tropic islands is either inevitably getting sand in your shoes or getting your shoes drenched by the occasional downpour. Remedy this situation by packing a pair of slip-on travel shoes. These can be something as lightweight as espadrilles or as low-maintenance as flip-flops!
Where to Stay in Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta has a huge range of accommodation, from simple friendly hostels, to bamboo beach huts, to ultra-luxurious beachfront properties. Here are a few recommendations for a range of budgets.
Where to Stay in Koh Lanta
- Hostel: Hub of Joys Hostel, comfy social hostel close to Long Beach, rating 9.2/10, $7 dorm bed
- Budget: Lemonade Boutique Inn, homey hostel & hotel 2 mins from beach, 9.1/10, $7 dorm bed, $12 double room
- Budget: Lanta Private Bungalow, stylish bungalow rooms next to the beach, 9.3/10, $19 bungalow
- Mid-range: Long Beach Chalet, resort with beach bungalows & loft rooms, 9.1/10, $34 standard bungalow, $71 sea view villa
- Luxury: Layana Resort & Spa, adults only luxe resort on the beach, 9.5/10, $174 garden pavilion, $338 beach villa
You’re Going to Love Incredible Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is the perfect place to retreat when you want the time and space to truly unwind and feel at ease.
On Koh Lanta, you aren’t surrounded by the frenetic energy of big cities or overwhelmed by the constant party vibes and debauchery you can find on other Thai islands.
Instead, Koh Lanta offers a sanctuary for those who truly want to immerse themselves in the simple, laidback pleasures of traveling. Have a great trip to my favorite island!
About the Author
Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or planning her next adventure in a foreign land.
After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.
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We hope this post helps you figure out what to do in Koh Lanta. Though we were there recently, we didn’t get a chance to do many of the things on Mimi’s list. Don’t make the same mistake we did — get out there and see Koh Lanta!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J
This post was written by a guest author or staff writer for My Five Acres.