Earlier this year we spent a week in Thailand. Now, the last time we were in Thailand we were younger, without the family responsibilities. We spent a few wonderful weeks travelling around from Koh Samui to Chaing Mai into the jungle, then to Bangkok. I recall, after we had been booked into a seedy hotel by mistake, we headed for a night out with new friends on Khao San Road, infamous for its nightlife and being a backpacker playground. We had a great night sitting roadside, drinking buckets and being disgraceful. But that was then, these days it is all about family travel and keeping things ‘sensible’…to a degree. So, we thought we would spend four days in Ko Lanta.
Ko Lanta is an island in the province of Krabi. Part of a group of islands that make up the 52-island Mu Ko Lanta National Park, it is an island that is yet to see the full hit of tourism and offers a quiet alternative to busy Krabi Town. It was only recently that a bridge was opened to join Ko Lanta with the mainland. The usual form of transport is via ferry and getting there is relatively simple. Once you have landed in Krabi, grab a taxi to take you across on the ferry, it runs throughout the day so the wait is never too long.
When you get to Ko Lanta you will notice how small and easy it is to navigate. This isand is known for its long stretches of white beaches and range of accommodation options. Where you stay is up to you, depending on what you want to do.
SaltyBug’s Guide to Ko Lanta
We stayed at the Kaw Kwang Beach Resort. That is up near Klong Dao Beach and close to the main shopping precinct which takes a short tuk-tuk ride to get to. The beach up that end is not powdery and soft. The tide is out a lot of the time so it is not really a good swimming beach and the sand is muddy and thick so it is not really a great beach for kids to build sandcastles on. The location is nice though, and the accommodation is basic but suitable. The sunsets are gorgeous and you can walk right down the beach. The resort restaurant was decent, there is a swimming pool, a bar to kick back at and relax at sunset, and a shaded grassy area with exercise equipment, beach chairs and swings hanging from tree branches.
If you want the sandy beaches then head further down the island and my pick is the amazingly gorgeous and fabulous Diamond Cliff Resort and beach. No we did not stay there – it was booked out by the time we got ourselves organised. But we did have lunch and spent a good few hours on the beach. Built onto the side of the mountain, this rustic resort has a gorgeous eclectic magical feel to it with little steps going up, going down and walkways going around and around. Unobstructed views of crystal waters will blow your mind and the food is absolutely gorgeous. When you are ready, walk down the steep steps to the powdery white sandy beach and perfect, crispy aquamarine waters. Small waves lap the shore in this protected part of the island and it is a great beach for families. There is not much shade though, so consider bringing a beach tent or umbrella. We did not want to leave it was just so perfect.
There are a few places you can stay down this way so you get the gorgeous beaches. It is further from the main strip but you won’t be short on bars and restaurants that pepper the coastline. There are a host of Airbnb’s available as well as backpacker hostels. So really, it is up to you on your style of travel.
What to Do
There are a few things to do on Ko Lanta. There are island hopping tours you can do, spending the day snorkelling and exploring. In Krabi Province, you are surrounded by magical islands and coral reefs. We did a four-island tour by speedboat. You will get saturated though so take waterproof covers for all your valuables. The kids loved the speed boat, they loved going fast and watching the water spray everywhere.
The tour we took included going into the Emerald Cave. Now, I am a bit iffy with enclosed spaces and if water is involved then I almost need to break out the meds. Having the children with me created all sorts of panic, however, we did it and it was gorgeous. The Emerald Cave is a beach hidden inside a mountain. You have to swim through the darkness a short way to get to it *enter Jaws music here*.
Advice for Island Hopping Tours: Life jackets are provided but my advice to people travelling with small children is to take your own swim vests. That way you know they will fit and will be safe. We also took the kids own snorkelling gear so it fit them.
Hire a car and drive
For one day we hired a car and just drove around the island. It is super easy to hire a car or a bike, and getting around is even easier. The island is not big and there really are not a lot of road taking options so getting lost is very difficult. Taking our time driving down the coast, we stopped where we wanted to have a look at the incredible coastline. We drove all the way down and checked out the National Marine Park with the lighthouse where we watched a rather large monkey steal someone’s shopping bag before heading off again.
Hang out in Old Town
We drove into Old Town and had a walk around. This place is great. Full of little shops and local life, there is a wonderful atmosphere here. Check out Malee Malee, a lovely shop with hand made crafts and really good coffee. You can eat at a restaurant on the water and swing yourself in large wooden swings while you wait for your meal to arrive. It really is worth spending time down here.
For us, Thai food is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. We love the fresh, rich flavours of spice and we relish getting our fill of street food when we are in Thailand. Here are a few we checked out in Ko Lanta:
Walking Street: In Ko Lanta there is a street called Walking Street. It is just off the main road, down the end near the water. In the evening, vendors selling a full range of products line this street. Makeshift seating is set up and sun-kissed people meander around drinking a cold beer or a cocktail as they decide on what to eat next. The vibe is awesome and the food is really good with a wide selection.
Thai Cat: This is a large family-oriented restaurant bang on the beach. You sit under trees filled with colourful lights, and let the sand squidge between your toes. Chilled out music plays and kids run around excited as the water laps the shore. There is a BBQ where you order fresh seafood or choose from an enormous menu. The service is quick and efficient.
Rock Beach Bar Restaurant: This place is up on the point and overlooks the rocky reef. You sit outside with the wind in your hair sipping a cocktail and watching the sunset. It is gorgeous. There are swings and hammocks all around you can hang out in too. The children played and explored rock pools while we kicked back with a few drinks. The food was wonderful too.
A bit about responsible travel
There are some tourist attractions on Ko Lanta that involve snakes, monkeys and elephants. I urge all travellers to think very carefully before supporting any business that uses animals as a vehicle, to entertain, dance or fight. The exploitation of animals is huge in Asia and it is our responsibility as travellers to say ‘no, we will not support this’. There are so many other things to see – naturally. You can trek to the waterfall, and you should be able to take a bike if not an off-road vehicle. There is also an animal shelter you can visit and you can go to the mangrove forest to see monkeys in the wild.
If you are planning a trip to Thailand, I urge you to visit the lesser known Ko Lanta. It is without a doubt one of my favourite places in Thailand, free from the craziness of touristy areas, and a place of incredible natural beauty.