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Koh Lanta, Thailand Travel Guide | Kantiang Bay & Long Beach

After spending 4 nights exploring Koh Mook and Koh Kradan, which you can read about here), I hopped on a speedboat ferry to spend my last few days in Thailand on Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta was the one island that had been on my original itinerary when I first started to plan this portion of my trip. It's popular with tourists because it's quite large (it's about a 30-40 min drive from one side of the island to the other), but has still maintained a very relaxed and authentic feel. It's definitely more developed, offering plenty of restaurants, street vendors, walking streets, shops, etc., but also has some beautiful beaches for swimming. 

Because Koh Lanta is more developed, it definitely didn't have that castaway island feeling I experienced on the other two islands, but because of where I spent my time, life still felt very relaxed, and I never felt like I had left tropical paradise.

Beach at Long Beach Chalet.

Because this is a more popular destination, there were more ferry options to get there. I booked my ferry from Koh Kradan to Koh Lanta before I left for my trip via 12go.asia.com, and the speedboat ride was about an hour. I arrived at Saladan Pier, and was picked up by my hotel for a complimentary transfer. 

Once on the island, the main mode of transportation is motorbike, and I saw pretty much everyone on a motorbike, including tourists. You can rent motorbikes from places in town, and most will only charge you a very small amount equaling US$8-12/per day max. There are also Tuk Tuk's all over the towns to bring you places. Grab doesn't seem to be available on Koh Lanta just yet.

I never ended up renting a motorbike just because I've heard so many stories about tourists hurting themselves on them. Plus, I never really had a need for one. I stayed at two different locations on the island so I would be able to explore more on foot versus needing to rely on someone to take me around to see different areas.

I chose to split my time on the island between Kantiang Bay and Long Beach. Kantiang Bay was my first stop, which was about a 30-min drive from the pier on the Southern end of the island. I wanted to visit here because I had read that the bay beach was beautiful and the small town was charming with some great restaurants. For the rest of my time, I decided to stay on Long Beach because I'd read that it's, well, the longest beach where you can walk on the shore for about three miles, and many consider this their favorite beach on Koh Lanta. I was so torn between both destinations as a home base during my visit that I decided staying in both was the right call.

I really enjoyed my time in Kantiang Bay, and a lot of that had to do with my hotel. I chose to stay at Alama Sea Village Resort, which was amazing. It was still relatively affordable, but because these were my last fast nights in Thailand, I decided to save the best for last and spend just a bit more on hotels during my time on Koh Lanta. Alama was incredible, and felt like I was staying at a much more luxury hotel than what I actually paid. 

Outdoor relaxation area in my bungalow at Alama Sea Village Resort.

Alama is located right in the town area of Kantiang Bay, and is a 4-5 min (max) walk to the beach, and a 30-second walk to the closest restaurants. Each room is its own bungalow, and they're all very spacious and nicely decorated. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and they also have an infinity pool at the highest part of the resort that overlooks the bay. They provide you with two beach towels and a beach bag to use during your stay as well. 

Breakfast is served at the pool area, so you can enjoy your breakfast (included in the room rate) while overlooking views of the bay, which was so nice every morning. The breakfast buffet was one of the best ones I had during my entire trip, and included made to order eggs, all kinds of fresh fruits, a variety of juices, pancakes, waffles, banana fritters, meats, cereals, yogurt with granola, toast and pastries, etc. It was great, and I stuffed myself every morning. The ladies working at the desk were so friendly, and gave me a welcome drink upon arrival, and always smiled and said hello to me when I came and went. They also offer tour bookings at the front desk, and the prices were very fair, compared to in-town. 

The main attraction is, of course, the beach, which is beautiful, and also where I spent most of my time. Because it was such a short walk from my hotel, I would pop down quite often and walk the shoreline and go for quick dips. The biggest downside to this beach is that there are no shady spots, unless you want to sit really, really far back from the water. When traveling alone, that was hard to do because I wouldn't be able to keep an eye on my bag when I was in the water, so rather than sitting on the beach with a good book, I had to break up my time into shorter more frequent trips throughout the day. That was, of course, my preference because I burn very easily and am a freak about sun exposure.

Kantiang Bay beach area.

Kantiang Bay beach area.

Kantiang Bay beach.

Lots of longtail and tour boats dock here as well, so while there's still plenty of space for swimming in the water, know that you'll be sharing it with quite a few boats.

Koh Lanta National Park is close to Kantiang Bay (about a 15-min drive), and you can arrange a Tuk Tuk or taxi to bring you here if you want to visit. I didn't go during my stay because I had already hiked through a jungle at Chai Lai Orchid, and I also opted to do a different tour during one of my days here. But there is a waterfall you can hike to, climb to an overlook with pretty views, visit Bamboo Beach and a lighthouse, and likely see some monkeys. 

After having so much fun snorkeling on Koh Kradan, I really wanted to do some more. When I arrived at Alama, I saw a brochure at their tour desk for a snorkel tour at Koh Rok. I asked about their pricing, and then looked around town to compare and see if it was a good deal, and ended up booking the tour with them a few mins later. Koh Rok supposedly has some of the best snorkeling in Thailand and I was pretty excited to do this. The tour was through Tin Sea Adventures, and they were wonderful. They picked me up at the hotel, and the boat ride to Koh Rok from Kantiang Bay was only about 30 mins. The tour included three reefs perfect for snorkeling, lunch on Koh Rok island, and snacks/water on the boat. I brought my own snorkel mask, but they provide those, as well as flippers.

Quite sadly and very, very embarrassingly, I had a bit of an incident on the tour and didn't get to experience the whole day as intended. Guys, I don't get sea sick. In fact, the choppier the water, the happier I am. I've loved rocky boat rides since I was a kid and have never had issues out on the water, even in my adult life. On our way to our first snorkel site, one of the kids on the boat started to get sea sick. I looked over at him and felt so bad, and said to myself, "I'm so happy I don't get sick on boats." Then, not two minutes later, did I start to feel super nauseated. I toughed it out at the first and second reefs, determined to get through the day, despite the fact that the waters were rocking my body from side to side as I swam around. But midway through the second reef snorkel, I had to get out of the water, run to the bathroom on the boat, and just got sick over and over. It was awful. I could barely stand up straight and had to sit on the floor of the boat as we made our way to the island for lunch. 

The guys working the tour were so nice about it and held me up while they guided me off the boat to the island. They allowed me to lay around the island during the rest of the tour, and they'd pick me up when they came back to get all the lunch supplies. They also rubbed some kind of salve all over my face and said it would help with the nausea (I still have no idea what it was). 

So, rather than getting to enjoy a nice lunch on the beach and visit the third reef, I laid down on the sand and tried to will myself to feel better while the world felt like it was spinning. After 20 mins or so, I felt completely back to normal, if a little "wavy." I didn't want to risk getting sick again, so I stayed behind on the island when all the other people boarded their boats for the rest of their tours. The upside to this was, I had this amazing island to myself (with a few tour guides who stayed behind to clean up lunch). And Koh Rok was insanely beautiful. It reminded me of Koh Kradan quite a bit once all the people were gone. It had a few beach swings which I sat on for quite a while taking in the views and listening to the waves. And as sad as I was to miss the last reef, I was really okay with the time I spent on Koh Rok by myself.

Regardless of my incident, I loved snorkeling until I got sick. I saw clown fish, pacific blue tangs, a bunch of other colorful guys that I don't know the name of, a starfish and amazing coral everywhere. The only thing I was hoping to see that I didn't was a sea turtle (and I didn't have the courage to ask if they saw any at the third reef because of FOMO). The reefs were maybe two to three feet underneath the water's surface, so it was perfect for snorkeling, and water was incredibly clear. I didn't get any pictures of the fish because my GoPro didn't charge overnight and died as soon as I got in the water (which I was so angry about when I realized that - it was just a day of comical errors). But man, I'm so happy for all the mental pictures I took. I remember how excited I got when I saw my first clown fish. They were much smaller than I thought they would be, and just as cute as I pictured. It was all so amazing (up until I, you know, destroyed the boat bathroom and everyone was looking at me).

The town is very small, but does have quite a few options for shopping, dining and massages. There's also a 7-11 with an ATM, and vendors everywhere offering up the usual Thai food street fare.

The town area of Kantiang Bay.

Next door to Alama is Sabai Spa, and when I was walking home from an early dinner one night, I decided on a whim to get an aloe vera body massage because, despite my best efforts, my skin got a little pink on the snorkeling tour. I popped in and they had a massage table available, so it was meant to be. It was so relaxing, more like a traditional Swedish-style massage us Westerners are used to, but they still incorporated some Thai massage technique as well. And the chilled aloe mixed with the massage oil felt incredible on my skin. I slept pretty well that night.

Drunken Sailors is the popular restaurant in town, and sadly, I never quite made it. But many people rave about it and I wish I'd had time to eat there.

The best meal I had in Kantiang Bay, and possibly all of Koh Lanta, was at Rak Talay restaurant inside the fancy Pimalai Resort and Spa. This resort is right on the beach and is very lux, and well out of my price range. So I decided to visit for lunch instead since this restaurant was overlooking the sea. I walked along the beach until I found it, and when I arrived, they were so nice and friendly, and showed me to a table. A few mins after I was seated and placed my drink order, one of the staff members came over and said a beachfront cabana table opened up just now, and they would be happy to move me if I'd like. I felt bad because I was by myself and asked if it was okay to take up an entire cabana just for me, and they said, "Absolutely, it was meant to be!" Guys, this was such a fun lunch. It's quite literally a cabana on the beach, complete with a ceiling fan for a never-ending breeze and beautiful outdoor sofas and chairs, with the best view of the water right in front of you. They told me to linger as long as I wanted, so I ordered another drink and got some ice cream for dessert and spent about three hours just enjoying my lunch and listening to the waves in the shade. I will never forget that afternoon.

Those tables with the covered top parts are what I got to sit under during lunch. 

For the best sunset view, visit TopView Restaurant & Bar. It's a bit of a steep walk up a dirt road from town, but it's pretty short. Once you're there, you're greeted with stunning views of the bay, and the sun will set right in front of you. They have a full bar and food menu as well, and the tables are all outside overlooking the water. I got a cocktail here while I watched the sun go down, and it was incredible.

View from TopView Restaurant & Bar - you could see the entire bay. 

I also had dinner one night at one of the restaurants on the beach, and I can't remember for the life of me which one it was. But it was also excellent. There are quite a few restaurants on the beach, so you won't be short on options. I got a really great spicy-ish noodle dish here, some fried prawn "straws" and this amazing pineapple cocktail - served in an actual pineapple. I always see cocktails like this in movies and never really thought restaurants actually served them. So whenever I had the opportunity to get one, I did.

I don't remember what this was, exactly, but it was so, so good.

After my time in Kantiang Bay, my hotel arranged a taxi service for me to get back up to Long Beach for my final nights in Thailand. As mentioned before, most people seem to agree that Long Beach is the best beach on Koh Lanta, and I planned it this way so I could spend my last nights here just being lazy, swimming in the sea and not really needing to do anything else but take it all in. Long Beach also offers perfect sunset views on the sea, so I thought this was a great way to end my trip.

I chose to stay at Long Beach Chalet in one of their more budget-friendly rooms. My chalet was beautiful, and I felt like I was staying in a jungle tree house or something. You walk up a set of stairs into a small outdoor entryway, and to the left is your open-air bathroom, and to the right is your bedroom. Your bedroom is also connected to an outdoor balcony with furniture, and at ground level, they have what they call "Chillax" areas, which is your own private outdoor shaded sitting area with a hammock. The resort also has beachfront bungalows if you wanted to splurge on a bit more luxury.

I somehow didn't snap a photo of my chalet here, but mine was right behind all that tropical foliage on the right.

There isn't much to do in Long Beach besides enjoying the beach area and going into town for food. You can arrange tours and such if you wanted, but I had gotten all that out of my system before I arrived, and planned to do absolutely nothing but sit on the beach all day with my kindle. The beach was really beautiful, as expected, and had super soft, powdery white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. There's also isn't as much shade as I would have wanted on the beach, though, so finding a chair in the morning that was in the perfect spot was a bit tricky. And the sand, because most of it was in direct sunlight throughout the day, was insanely hot. I burned my feet walking to the water one day, but at least I finally figured out why I always saw everyone running on the beach into the water (I quickly became one of those people).

Long Beach Chalet had plenty of beach swings.

The sunsets on Long Beach were incredible and I got myself situated right on the shoreline each night, ready to take it in as it set over the sea.

The resort also has an on-site restaurant called Lym's, which is right on the sand. You can order drinks at the bar and take them to your beach chair, or you can dine-in for lunch or dinner. I ate here twice for lunch and the food was very good. Hotels and resorts line the beach, so you can always just go for a walk and pop into another hotel and chose to eat at their restaurant as well.

Crab fried rice at Lym's.
Papaya seafood salad at Lym's. 

The hotel also has a small cafe next door to Lym's called Escape Cafe that serves coffee and ice cream, complete with homemade waffle cones. I ventured over one afternoon and tried their strawberry and passionfruit ice creams and it was pretty tasty. One thing I noticed about ice cream all over Thailand is that it's not as rich and creamy as it is in the States - it's a bit more like a sorbet texture. Every ice cream I had in Thailand was insanely flavorful, though. Passionfruit was my favorite, by far.

For dinner while here, I went back to the same place twice because I was so in love with it. Long Beach Chalet is about an 5-10 min walk to the main town area, depending on how far in you want to go. There will also be Tuk Tuk's available to flag down if you want, but the walk was pretty easy (some of it paved, most of it unpaved, just FYI). I went to a place called Patty's Secret Garden two nights in a row because it was so, so good. The whole restaurant is decorated to feel like you're sitting in a serene garden, even though it's on the main road, and the food was incredible. I got a cocktail both nights (both were great), and I also got the cheesy wontons as an appetizer both nights because after I had them for the first time, I couldn't stop thinking about them. One night for my entree, I got the veggie burger because people online raved about how it was the best veggie burger they'd had in the entire world. I have to agree, it was definitely in my own personal Top 3 list. On my other night, I got a noddle dish that was also very large and delicious. For dessert one night, I got an ice cream dish that was served like a potted plant (with a real plant in it!). It was a little tin flower pot filled with ice cream, with tons of fresh fruits on the bottom, topped with cookie crumbles as the dirt, and some chocolate rocks on top of the crumbles. It was so good. I wanted to order it again my second night, but I was too full.

Cheesy wontons from Patty's Secret Garden.

Really bad photo of my plant dessert from Patty's Secret Garden.

I really enjoyed my time on Koh Lanta quite a bit. There are other areas of the island to explore as well if you have more time, and it's also a great place to plan a whole lot of nothing if that's more your speed. I loved that it still had a casual island feel while also having great restaurants and plenty of hotel options, and it was a great way to end such an amazing time in Thailand. After my time on Koh Lanta, I headed back home, transiting through Singapore (where a cancelled flight left me stranded for 24 hours at the airport). But I eventually found my way back home, and it felt so good to give Josh a big hug, come home to the pups and go through all my photos to remind myself that I actually did all this, and it was truly the trip of a lifetime. 

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