Koh Lanta is a small island in Thailand, which has beautiful uncrowded beaches, historic towns, waterfalls and jungles. Despite it’s beauty Koh Lanta is known for being relatively quiet compared to hotspots like Koh Samui and Phi Phi Islands, which are bursting at the seams with tourists in peak season. So you could imagine how quiet Koh Lanta was when I visited during low season! It was a quiet island getaway but there was still plenty of adventures in store for us.
I was on the island for 3 full days and rented a moped for $6 USD and spent one day cruising down the lower part of the west coast and then checked out the north and eastern sides of the island. Driving a moped on Koh Lanta felt safe and the average speed was much lower than many other places in south east Asia.
I have split up the things to do on Koh Lanta into an East and West section as you may want to do a road trip like I did and visit several of these spots in one day!
Things to do in Koh Lanta on the East Coast
1. Visit Koh Lanta Old Town
This turned out to be a little hard to find as I drove past it twice but once I found this authentic Thai fishing village nestled against the shore of the ocean I was glad I persisted. Beautiful wooden houses on stilts line the shore as far as the eye can see, many of which double as restaurants. The area is noted as having a number of high quality local cuisine and also internationally influenced cafe’s and restaurants. I was on tour with my mother who was visiting from Australia and we decided to try the very last restaurant on the right hand side of the bay. It was bright red and had chairs and tables out on the deck in the sun looking back towards the rest of the village. The cafe was called Caouthchow Restaurant Glacier and an incredibly nice French man was the chef, server and resident of this awesome house/restaurant. In south east Asia you can never be sure what to expect to come out on your plate and I am the furthest thing from a food critic. However, I can tell you that this was definitely a great dish that a lot of time and effort went into. I had a feta cheese salad and my mother had a shrimp pasta. There were only four options on the menu but this was a one man show and all of the ingredients were fresh, which I actually prefer. This is something I wish more places would do instead of having 40 options and therefore lots of frozen or preserved stock. We relaxed on the deck enjoying the view of the bay and the relaxed ambience this place provided.
2. Take a break at Sunshine Hill Viewpoint
Along the journey there are many cliffside cafes and eateries with stunning views of the ocean. Each time we saw a cafe with a view we stopped off and bought a bottle of water or a coffee and took a few photos and took in the scenery. Sunshine Hill Viewpoint was my favorite on Koh Lanta as the water below had amazing colors. Blue became green and orange became blue in a mixture of tones washing around in the ocean below.
3. Explore Saladan Market
Like all good islands in Asia there is never too far to travel to find the nearest market. Saladan Market is right on the water, a fisherman’s village with many of the shops and restaurants on stilts perched over the water. Saladan is right next to the ferry so all visitors pass through the area at some stage and it is very popular with tourists. However, there are a lot of local stores like banks and offices. My suggestion would be on a night you are craving some seafood head into Saladan and pick one of the many restaurants over the water and enjoy some fresh catch while you listen to the water ebbing and flowing beneath you.
Things to do in Koh Lanta on the West Coast
4. Enjoy the view at Diamond Cliff Restaurant
A stop-off on our way to the National Park we thought this cool bar would have a great view. It didn’t disappoint. Although the weather was a little choppy on this day I can imagine this beach is prime in the high season when the water is calm and the sun is shining. This bar/restaurant had a natural look with all of the furniture, ceilings, and walls made of varnished branches and trunks. It felt like we were in a treehouse overlooking the cliffs and ocean.
5. Hang out with the monkeys
Keep an eye on your gear as you stop along the way down the coast. The closer you get to the National park more and more monkeys begin to hover along the sides of the road. Once at the office of the National park to pay the entrance fee a monkey leaped down off of the roof and onto the moped. Not wasting any time he began lifting up all of the seats looking for food and at one stage grabbed my bag and tried to wrestle it away from me. Monkey 0 – Jackson 1. Don’t feed the monkeys or tease them and keep your valuables safely in your bag, which you need to be holding.
6. Why Not Visit Why Not beach bar?
Sorry that was confusing. Just before Klong Chak Waterfall a small bay covered in rocks and palms was a great rest stop from driving on the moped. It is easy to find beautiful beaches and I am certain we drove past so many amazing spots but you can’t see them all. This was one was cool because the whole shore was made up of rocks and the Why Not bar was right on the shore with a relaxing viewpoint of the entire bay.
7. Relax in Koh Lanta National park
The National park is a at the most southern point of the island and has diverse scenery and activities. The nature walk takes about 1.5 hours and leads you through different types of trees, plants and of course lots of monkeys and wildlife. The beaches on either side of the lighthouse are great in peak season with calmer waters but were a reminder of what beaches look like in winter when we visited. Waves were rolling in ferociously and the water was turbid and unwelcoming. There are beautiful pathways lined by coconut trees and lots of different things to explore in the National park. I could have hung out here all day. As you can see by the photos this is one of my favorite things to do on Koh Lanta.
8. Koh Lanta Lighthouse
The focal point of the National park is the Koh Lanta lighthouse, which sits atop a cliff on the southern most point of Koh Lanta. A mini trek up the cliff takes only a few minutes and has great views of the bays on either side. The remnants of an older lighthouse sits atop the steep cliffs. This spot was pretty dramatic, especially as a storm rolled in as I was taking some photos out on the cliffs.
9. Klong Chak waterfall
We went Koh Lanta waterfall hunting and found the Klong Chak waterfall hidden in the jungle. After passing an elephant tour area you begin walking through a small jungle that gradually thickens as you trek deeper and deeper. Eventually you will be walking alongside a stream until you have no other choice than to actually walk in the stream towards the waterfall. During the peak season there may not be as much water. The waterfall was really impressive with a strong flow that almost knocked me over as I stood beneath it. The red sand and crystal clear water in the pool at the bottom of the falls looked spectacular. This seems like one of the most accessible yet adventurous things to do on Koh Lanta.
10. Klong Chak Cave
Just away from the path to the waterfall is the Klong Chak Cave, which was absolutely fascinating. The tree roots have grown through the rocky cliff and seem to be holding the entire cave together. This was like a natural over under shot and blew my mind. Definitely like a scene from the jungle book. I felt nervous inside the cave but definitely recommend this detour if you are visiting the Klong Chak Waterfalls.
Exploring with a moped allows freedom to stop and view all the way along the coast. It also provides the opportunity to discover unexpected sights and adventures.
Where to Stay on Koh Lanta
For our three nights in Koh Lanta we enjoyed the luxury of the Crown Lanta Resort. If you are looking for a relaxing, tranquil experience this is your spot. Our villa overlooked the ocean and despite the stormy weather we were able to enjoy the views from the lounge chairs on the balcony. The seafood buffet was on another level. Lobster, Mussels, Shrimp and Squid barbecued before our eyes was the highlight of the dinner. If you enjoy the beach there are plenty of shores to explore around the resort but if you prefer to hang by the pool there were multiple, luxurious swimming pools with swim-up bars. The staff were extremely helpful and booked us mopeds for the day and even organized our tricky multiple transit transfer to Langkawi. Both of these photos were taken at the Reggae Bar at Crown Lanta Resort where we enjoyed the sunset each night!