Thailand has become a popular destination for first-timers to Asia, culture enthusiasts, and hedonistic beachgoers. It is often the first stop, or at least a prominent one, on a Southeast Asia trip, and it has a little something for everyone. From the jungles you can trek and elephants you can wash (at humane animal sanctuaries) in the north, to the world-famous beaches in the south like Koh Lipe, and the abundant choices for street food and unique delicacies in Bangkok, it’s hard to find yourself bored in Thailand.
People often stick to the Bangkok, Chiang Mai, maybe Koh Tao for diving, or Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, and head over to Koh Phi Phi and Phuket when they’re ready to party and lay on the beach all day. I’m not saying those places aren’t worth a visit in their own right, but Thailand is also one of those countries where it’s worth it to get off the usual tourist trail. It’s also easy to do so with its infrastructure for tourism.
Nestled just next to Thailand’s party island of Koh Phi Phi, on the Andaman Coast, you’ll find a serene and beautiful island by the name of Koh Lanta. It’s often overlooked by travelers because it’s still not overly well known, but rest assured that Koh Lanta offers a vast amount of choices, whether you’re looking for parties, culture, authentic cuisine, jungle treks, beaches, good snorkel, and dive spots, or even a digital nomad base.
There are a ton of things to do in Koh Lanta to keep you busy and your cameras snapping away with its beauty. It’s one of those magical islands that really does have it all, and it has a much calmer and peaceful atmosphere than the more touristy islands that neighbor it.
Now that I’ve convinced you why you should go Koh Lanta, let me take you through my favorite things to do in Koh Lanta. This is just an overview but should get you exploring all of the best gems that Koh Lanta has to offer in no time.
Things to do in Koh Lanta Thailand
1. Experience one of Koh Lanta’s chill beach parties
Koh Lanta may not be known as a party place like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are, but I actually enjoyed the parties on Koh Lanta much more than the other islands that were full of obnoxiously drunk 18-20-year-old lads. Koh Lanta’s party atmosphere is more a mix of ages, with better music, and not quite as hectic as the notorious ‘party islands’.
The best places to have a drink and a dance in Koh Lanta include the chill Tuesday beach party at Pangea Beach Bar, Freedom Bar, and the Day-Glo friendly half moon parties at Mushroom Bar. The latter also has a fire show once the party gets started.
2. Rent a scooter (or bike) and explore the navigable roads
With Koh Lanta’s wide and relatively flat roads, it’s a favorite island for new scooter drivers to get out on the road. With the exception of a few large hills around the island, Koh Lanta is seen as a good place to rent a scooter because of its calm navigable streets, by Thailand standards, that is. Keep in mind that it’s still always a good idea to get insurance no matter how easy the roads seem to drive.
If driving a scooter doesn’t sound appealing to you, renting a bicycle can also be a good option, because, again, it’s a fairly flat island. With that said, you probably won’t be able to get to as many places as you would on a scooter because Koh Lanta is actually a fairly large island. And it can be harder to find bike rental places as opposed to scooters.
Whichever way you choose to get around, I do recommend spending at least one day with your own wheels, to simply explore the untamed nature of Koh Lanta and get off the main roads. There are plenty of spots to discover on your own, and at your own leisure, that will give you a different feel for the island and its local life.
*ALWAYS wear a helmet not only is it the law in Thailand but it would be foolish not to. We have lived in Southeast Asia for over 2 years and have seen too many people’s holidays ruined by road rash from motorbike accidents. Even if you are the best scooter driver in the world that doesn’t mean your invincible because you’re sharing the road with millions of people. For some reason, people come to Thailand and think they can drive a motorbike even though they never have before…don’t be foolish. Always carry your International Drivers permit and drivers license as well, the Thai Police often pull over tourists and ask for this information, if you don’t have it you’ll most likely get a ticket or have to pay a bribe (carry small bills).
3. Visit the Best Beaches in Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is blessed with some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches, and many of them are not overcrowded. It’s an adventure to try and make it to as many as you can to see their unique allure for yourself.
The best beaches in Koh Lanta:
Para Ae (Long Beach)
The largest and one of the most popular beaches on Koh Lanta, Long Beach is fairly developed with plenty of bars and restaurants to eat at along its shores. This is also is one of the best places to stay in Koh Lanta because it’s central and where a lot of the action takes place.
- Recommended Long Beach Koh Lanta Hotel: Crown Lanta Resort 4.5 star hotel under $100 a night
In the south, you’ll find another popular beach at Kantiang Bay. It’s where you can have a cocktail on the beach and listen to live music at Why Not Bar.
- Recommended Kantiang Bay Hotel: Pimalai Resort & Spa 5 star hotel with the most gorgeous infinity pool ever
If you’re looking for a social atmosphere, Klong Khong is seen as the party beach on the island. During the day, it’s attractive in its own right with sun-soaked sand, swaying palm trees, and friendly locals.
Perhaps one of the most stunning beaches in Koh Lanta, Bamboo Bay is surrounded by sheer cliff faces and a lack of people with its out-of-the-way location. If you want to get away from it all and just enjoy a beautiful place mostly to yourself, this beach is it.
- Recommended Bamboo Bay Hotel: Bamboo Bay Resort unique & simple property located right on the beach super cheap
4. Watch the sunset on the beach in Koh Lanta
One of the best things to do in Koh Lanta is watching the sunset on the beach. It seems to be an island-wide event most nights, and Koh Lanta is known to have some of the most stunning sunsets in all of Thailand.
Bring a blanket, maybe a beer or two, and head over to Long Beach or Klong Khong to watch the sunset with a group of other strangers. And don’t worry if storm clouds roll in while you’re waiting for the sun to go down, they sometimes create the most impressive display of colors in the sky. It’s best to stay around another ten minutes after the sun has set as sometimes the colors really pop then.
5. Take an outdoor yoga class in Koh Lanta
If you’re looking to partake in some exercise while you’re in Koh Lanta, yoga is a popular activity on the island. Oasis Yoga Studio, located on Klong Dao Beach, has talented instructors, clean facilities, and an outdoor studio so you can hear the ocean while you’re doing your sun salutations.
Just be prepared to sweat because Koh Lanta can get very hot during the day. Their classes are basically an organic version of hot yoga. Drop-in yoga classes in Koh Lanta start at 400 baht ($13 USD).
6. Do a Boat Trip to the Emerald Cave
Although Koh Lanta has plenty to offer on land, there are remarkable places just off the coast that are worth a day trip to go see. There are numerous boat tours you can jump on that go to a few of these interesting spots, including a personal favorite, Emerald Cave on Koh Mook.
Emerald Cave is an experience in itself. You have to swim through a dark sea cave for a good 5-10 minutes before you reach the other side that leads to a beautiful beach with emerald-hued water.
Take a speedboat or the traditional longboat, if you want the true Thailand experience. These boat tours usually take you to a few stunning snorkel spots as well, so you can try and spot tropical fish in the clear turquoise water before the day is out.
7. Volunteer at Lanta Animal Welfare Center
You may be surprised to know that the most popular things to do in Koh Lanta, according to Trip Advisor, is volunteering at Lanta Animal Welfare Center.
It’s not hard to see why when you arrive at the center and take a tour of their facilities. There are so many animals on the island that are in need of love and attention, and the center makes it easy for tourists to stop by for an afternoon, or however much time you have, to say hello and give back.
There are many ways you can help out at the shelter, including taking dogs for walks, making monetary donations, long-term volunteering, or becoming a flight volunteer (offering to transport an animal on your flight home). If you’re flying home to one of the cities where a previous guest lives and finally has the paperwork ready to welcome their dog/cat you can help reunite them. This won’t cost anything to you, the center will take care of all the cost and attach the animal to your ticket home. EDITOR NOTE: Every time we’ve been flying back to the USA there wasn’t any pets going to Chicago or Milwaukee so we are yet to be flight volunteers.
8. Take a Cooking Class at Time for Lime
There’s a mix of cuisine on Koh Lanta, including high-quality Thai food and Thai fusion. Time for Lime is a restaurant and cooking school on Klong Dao that’s well-known for their Lime-focused cocktails, delicious food, and easy-to-follow cooking classes.
The school offers Thai cooking and cocktail classes in an open-air beachfront kitchen in the afternoon and evening. And even if you just go there for one of their famous cocktails, a percentage of profits go to Lanta Animal Welfare Center, so you’ll be supporting a good cause while enjoying a cocktail on the beach at sunset.
9. Explore Koh Lanta National Park
In addition to all of the classes and beaches, Koh Lanta is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Mu Koh Lanta National Park, on the south edge of the island, offers hiking trails, long stretches of deserted beaches, and cheeky monkeys, all for the cost of a 200 baht entry fee.
One of the more popular things to do in the park is to climb up to the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the island. It’s seen as one of the best viewpoints on Koh Lanta. Bring a picnic and enjoy an uncrowded national park mostly to yourself, especially if you go in the morning. Just make sure you don’t leave your food unattended or the monkeys will be feasting on your lunch.
10. Hike through the jungle to Khlong Chak Waterfall
If the national park wasn’t enough for you, there are a few other good hikes around the island that will get you right into the heart of nature. One of those is the short trek through the jungle to Khlong Chak Waterfall, off the main road and inland from Khlong Chak Beach. A quick search on Google Maps will give you an idea of where to find the waterfall, and signs on the way will direct you to the specific trail.
You’ll need some form of transportation, preferably a scooter to get there, and it’s much more impressive to see during the wet season, but it’s still worth a visit no matter what time of year you’re on the island. The waterfall is next to a bat cave that you can explore before heading back to civilization.
Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger, entrepreneur, and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013.
When she’s not writing, she’s probably sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or finding daily doses of beauty around the world and planning her next adventure. She’s currently based in Europe.
You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.
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