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Is This the Most “Thai” Island?

My first impression of Koh Lanta wasn’t a great one. It was also almost entirely my fault.

I had just arrived from Koh Phi Phi, you see, and were surprisingly exhausted given the relatively short speedboat journey. When the persistent woman who literally followed me into the restroom said the songthaew to my hotel would cost 500 baht, I thought it sounded reasonable. Thai island transportation is uniformly a rip-off, after all; the hotel wasn’t terribly close to the pier.

Or was it? Yes, it was, thought I only realized that—and that I had been scammed—after it was too late.

Thankfully, my experience in Koh Lanta quickly improved after this snafu. Is Koh Lanta worth visiting? Absolutely—there’s no question about it.

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Why Koh Lanta Surprised Me

Prior to pretty recently, I didn’t know if Koh Lanta was worth visiting—and frankly, I didn’t care. During my backpacker days, the island had been all the rage among my travel blogging colleagues. Unfortunately, I spent most of that time processing my own childhood and adolescent trauma, and expanding my country count by visiting places I didn’t care about instead of focusing on Thailand, where I’d always felt at home.

Perhaps the fact that I waited until a few days after my 39th birthday to visit Koh Lanta for the first time is part of why it struck me so by surprise. Or maybe it’s just that the island is objectively excellent, in spite of not being as postcard-perfect as Koh Phi Phi, or quite as far off the beaten path as Koh Mook, Koh Kradan or Koh Lipe. Let’s dig in deeper to it, shall we?

My Favorite Things About Koh Lipe

The pace


Once I arrived at my beach hotel after having gotten scammed, I felt pleasantly surprised by everything around me. The pace of life at my beach resort was like the gentle breeze blowing in off the sea: Slow enough not to make a sound, but brisk enough to cool me off a bit. This proved true almost everywhere I went on the island, and in virtually everything I did.

The space


A big factor that makes Koh Lanta worth visiting is how uncrowded and quiet it feels, in all but a few areas. The west coast, for example, stretches over 20 kilometers, over half of which is flat and easily accessible beach. This means that even when every hotel or resort is filled, there’s more than enough space for everyone. The same proves true in restaurants and bars.

The authenticity


As my friend WeiLe and I were exploring Koh Lanta, I remarked to him how Lanta was the “most Thai” island, in some sense. What I meant was not only that the hospitality of the locals seemed to be more natural and less put-on than it did in other places, but also that the island really seemed to operate primarily for said locals. Even as short-term tourists, we were able to experience this, without feeling like it was being modified for or by us.

The crowd


If you have any doubt that Koh Lanta is worth visiting, based on the preceding reasons, I think the fellow humans you meet (other travelers, I mean) will point you in this direction. This is not to say that there aren’t some douchey bros and babes in Lanta—there are everywhere in Thailand. But most of the people I met there were well-traveled, down to earth and great conversationalists.

The beach (kind of)


Are Lanta’s beaches as dramatic as those in Krabi and Koh Phi Phi, or as objective gorgeous as the ones you find in Koh Kradan or Koh Lipe? Absolutely not. But they do stretch for hundreds of meters (in some cases, several kilometers) and featuring clean, golden sand and relatively clear blue-green water. The marriage of these with Lanta’s other many redeeming qualities is a winning combination, as far as I’m concerned.

Where to Stay in Koh Lanta

The vast majority of accommodations in Lanta are along the island’s long, west coast. The good news? Virtually all the towns along the coast feature golden sandy beaches, with awesome views of the Phi Phi islands in the distance. The better news? Since you almost have to rent a motorbike in order to experience Lanta to the fullest, choosing the “right” after to stay is not crucial—you can always ride somewhere else.

I will say that in general, the closer to the center of the coast you are—think properties like Pimalai Resort and Nirvana Beach Resort—the more international the people around you will be; there will also be more restaurants and a better variety of food. The northern part of the coast (Lanta Sand is a great hotel there) is quieter and more local; the southern part stretches into Mu Koh Lanta National Park, which is beautiful but basically deserted.

Other FAQ About Visiting Koh Lanta

Is it worth it to go to Koh Lanta?

Koh Lanta is definitely worth going to—even if you wait 15 years longer than you should, like I did. It pairs great beaches with affordable hotels, a charming old town and a laid-back vibe that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in Thailand. Run, don’t walk!

Which is better, Krabi or Koh Lanta?

Koh Lanta is technically in Krabi! However, if you’re referring to Krabi beaches like Ao Nang and Railay, then it’s really a toss up. On one hand, the dramatic limestone walls in mainland Krabi are iconic and postcard-perfect. On the other hand, Koh Lanta is way more laid back then Ao Nang and Railay, which are packed to the gills throughout the high season.

Is Koh Lanta better than Koh Phi Phi?

In terms of natural beauty, it’s difficult to argue that the rather ordinary beaches of Koh Lanta are more gorgeous than those you find on Koh Phi Phi, with their crystalline water, sugary sands and the limestone karsts that rise above them. On the other hand, as is the case comparing Lanta and Krabi, Lanta’s laid-back vibe gives it a major leg up.

The Bottom Line

Is Koh Lanta worth visiting? Yes, to the extent that I consider it to be the most authentically “Thai” island, even if it might not be my favorite (and certainly not the objective “best”). What Lanta lacks in postcard-perfect beaches, it makes up for in a laid-back vibe and local culture that seems basically unaffected by decades of tourism. While I stayed just a couple of days, I would encourage you to hang out here for as long as you have extra space in your itinerary. Speaking of which, hiring me to plan your trip to Thailand is the best way to make sure you make the most of your time in the Kingdom.


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