Ko Lanta is often described as Phuket 20 years ago. It has certainly retained a lot of its charm and character and is still relatively undeveloped. To get to the island by road it is a one hour drive from Krabi airport and then two separate ferries take you onto the island itself so the journey is around two hours.
From the south of Phuket it is around 40 nautical miles to the north end of Lanta, passing the island of Ko Phi Phi on the way which is itself around 15 nautical miles from Lanta. There are around a dozen small beaches and longer stretches of sand along the west coast of Ko Lanta, some of which are very shallow and rocky so we shall concentrate on the main seven beaches.
The beaches can be grouped into three sections, north, middle and south. Starting from the north of the island the first large beach you will see is Klong Dao. This is the largest settlement on the west coast with lots of bungalow resorts, dive schools, restaurants, bakeries and bars. It is possible to find most basic provisions in the small town of Saladan, actually the biggest town on the island where the ferry arrives, behind the beach. Most of the resorts on this beach have swimming pools, which visitors to the resort can use.
Heading to the south of this anchorage there is a large outcrop of rocky reef between this beach and the next beach, Phra Ae or Long Beach which also has a wide choice of bars and restaurants. Long Beach is one of Ko Lanta’s trendiest beaches, with a mix of boutique resorts and basic bungalows and is more popular with young people.
The beaches in the middle of Ko Lanta, Klong Kong and Klong Nin are less spectacular in terms of length and quality of sand, but are nonetheless nice places to relax and swim. Klong Kong has a large concentration of cheap bungalows, and there are several small and friendly beach bars along its length, but not much off the beach, on the main road. The beach here is sloping white sand, but there are large reefs at the north and south of the beach which must be avoided and several rocky patches in the sea in the centre of the beach which make going ashore at low tide difficult.
Klong Nin is a long, steeply shelving sandy beach with rocks at either. The waves can be quite steep as you approach the beach. It has the most backpacker style bungalows and bars on Ko Lanta and there is also a small village with a supermarket, cafes and bars on the main road.
The southern four beaches are far more relaxed and only Kantiang Bay could be described as developed as this is where the proper road ends. It has a full range of resorts and bars. Ashore at the south end of the bay is the 5 star Pimalai resort and spa. You can dine in the excellent restaurant but hotel guests will of course have priority. Do not tie your dinghy to the floating pontoon as it is strictly private. At the northern end of the bay is the popular “Why Not Bar” which has live music and fire dancing shows in the evenings and the Baan Lanta resort and spa which has a good restaurant with nightly fresh seafood BBQ. There is also a tour agent who can organize elephant treks and Scubafish dive centre to organize dive trips.
The last three bays on the island are the quietest. Ao Nui bay is uninhabited and only accessible by sea, the centre bay, Klong Jak beach, has several bungalow developments and a river flowing into the sea. The southern beach known as Bamboo Bay has a few basic beach bars.
If you are visiting Ko Lanta in the southwest season then the only anchorage available is on the east coast off the main jetty at old Lanta town. At the end of this jetty you’ll find the charming Mango House with free showers, self service laundry, take away deli foods and wine and a restaurant and bar. Between Mango house and the main jetty is “Fresh Restaurant” which is built on stilts overlooking the bay and has excellent food at very reasonable prices. There is also a small supermarket behind it on the main road. North of Mango house is the excellent “Beautiful restaurant”. There are often stalls selling fresh produce but they will all be closed by 7pm.