If you’re craving a trip that fuses both shimmering Thai beaches and lush jungles, oodles of culture and the taste-bud-tingling cuisine that the Land of Smiles is known for, plus a (not-so-)healthy dose of partying on the side, then be sure to read on for our ultimate Koh Lanta 3 day itinerary.
This dog-legged shaped isle on the side of the Andaman Sea is often hailed as one of the best all-rounder options in the south. It’s got long, glistening beaches for those who simply want to laze their days away. It’s got a central spine of mountains that hosts wild forests and waterfalls. It’s got immersive port towns inhabited by the sea gypsy peoples of old.
On top of all that, connecting up with our Koh Lanta 3 day itinerary shouldn’t be too much of a chore. You can get to this isle by boat from Krabi and Phuket, which both have airports with connecting flights over from Bangkok. You can also arrive by road – Lanta is one of the few rocks in the Andaman that’s got a direct highway and car-ferry link to the mainland.
Where to stay for our Koh Lanta 3 day itinerary?
Good question. We actually recommend going for a single base on the more popular western coastline of the island. In particular, the resort area of Long Beach is perfect, offering a balance of great places to eat, vibey nightlife spots, and excellent hotels. It’s also well-located for reaching all quarters of Koh Lanta by taxi or scooter.
Our hotel picks in the area would be:
- Long Beach Chalet ($$$) – One of the best seafront options on Long Beach, this hotel artfully mixes the bungalow vibes of south Thailand with a few boutique touches.
- Tropicana Lanta Resort ($$) – A lovely hotel just outside of the main Long Beach town in a serene part of the isle. The outdoor bathrooms are a real experience when it’s raining. The pool is fantastic and peaceful.
- Baan Laanta@Lanta ($-$$) – These cheap and cheerful pads are very highly rated, well located, and take care of all the basics.
Day 1: Old Town, the rugged east coast, and sunsets to die for
Welcome to Koh Lanta! We’ll start by hopping across to the eastern side of the island to see the cultural side of things and the central highlands. Most people opt to do that on a scooter that they’ve rented. Others will choose taxis. It’s also possible to cycle, but be ready for some hefty climbs and fast descents that will push the hamstrings to the limit, since you have to cross a mountain to get from shore to shore.
Anyway, the first port of call is enthralling Old Town. This is the original sea gypsy settlement of the island, with a history that goes back hundreds of years. Its main street is fringed by crooked cabins made from wood and corrugated iron. Many are built on stilts above the muddy banks, with decks that gaze across the Andaman straits back towards the karst ranges on the Thai mainland.
Hit the Old Town Walking Street. It’s a 500-meter-long strip of artisan shops, boutique coffee outlets, and tempting restaurants. Get your souvenirs there; everything from incense sticks to tie-dye tees, handcrafted plates to wicker baskets is sold in the various stalls.
Grab some lunch, too – we particularly love Shine Talay for their sauteed Andaman crabs and tofu options and Di Farina Pizza Bar, which actually offers some very good renditions of the Italian classic on a deck perched above the water.
After lunch, make time to explore the rest of the east coast going south of Old Town. It’s the wildest and most rugged part of the isle, where banana plantations abut untamed jungles and little fishing shacks hide in the coves. If you manage to make it all the way down south, there’s Pirate Beach, a rocky inlet hidden under the cliffs that looks like somewhere buccaneers might hide.
Return to your hotel on the western shoreline for the evening and quickly get to Relax Beach. It’s appropriately named, because it’s a cracking spot to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset, which shimmers red and pink and orange across the whole Andaman Sea as the Phi Phi islands are silhouetted on the horizon.
Day 2: Island hopping in the Andaman Sea
One of the great things about Koh Lanta is that it’s perfectly placed to launch further adventures throughout the Thai Andaman region. Organized tours leave from both the main port at Ban Saladan and from lovely Old Town (which you will have already visited on day one of our Koh Lanta 3 day itinerary).
We highly recommend joining a planned day trip for this one. It just makes things super simple. You’ll be staying over on the western side of the island, which means you’ll need a transfer to the boat to get started. That’s usually included in a tour, as is a drop off back at your hotel at the end of the day. Tours will also include all your boat transport (typically on a traditional longtail) and – usually – lunch.
We’d also highly recommend picking the Four Islands Tour. This is the most common option for island hoppers looking to see the remote rocks that string through the southern Andaman Sea. As the name implies, it involves pitstops at four separate islands, each of which has its own unique vibe, character, and set of attractions. Here’s how it usually unfolds…
- Stop one: Koh Chuek – There’s usually 40 minutes designated for snorkeling on Koh Chuek, a tiny isle that’s little more than a bluff of limestone rock that lurches straight from the sea. The boatmen usually know the nooks and crannies here that have the best coral viewing and wildlife at various tides. Sightings of rainbowfish, moray eels, and even sea turtles aren’t uncommon.
- Stop two: Koh Mook – This is probably our favorite stop on the Four Islands Tour. Koh Mook is a rustic isle of fishing folk that’s known for the incredible gold-sand stretch of Garnet Beach on its western coast. You’ll land there and then be whisked off to the epic Emerald Cave, where you can hop off the boat and swim through a tunnel to discover a hidden beach behind the karst cliffs.
- Stop three: Koh Kradan – Koh Kradan is a long, thin island that looks like a tadpole swimming through the Andaman. Because it’s a touch less rugged than other spots in the region, it offers up long stretches of gorgeous white sand lapped by turquoise water. Groups stop here to have lunch under the sea pineapple trees.
- Stop four: Koh Ngai – The final stop is on the jet-setter isle of Koh Ngai. Taken over by one or two very fancy resorts, it’s usually just for the monied crowd. But boats on the tour pull in, usually so you can check out the amazing snorkeling at the reefs just off the main beach on the east coast.
In all, the day will last around 10-11 hours, with a drop-off back at your stay on the western side of Lanta scheduled for about 7pm.
Day 3: The fantastic west-coast beaches and nightlife
The finale of our Koh Lanta 3 day itinerary comes with the piece de resistance of Koh Lanta as a whole: The west coast. This is the region that steals the show. It’s essentially one long montage of paradise beach after paradise beach, so pack your towels and bathers because we’ll be ending with a good dose of sunshine and saltwater.
The plan is to travel all the way to the south of the island and work your way up. You can opt to hit every single beach we list here if you want, but that does mean being disciplined with time (something like 30 minutes on each is a good idea). Alternatively, pick one or two and settle in for a longer, more relaxing session.
Before we get to the beaches, though, there is one adventurous pursuit you might want to add on. Cue the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, which spans the southern side of the isle. Head there before you start your sand hopping to trek wild jungle paths to the Khlong Chak Waterfall. It takes about 40 minutes there and back and means having a swim in cold a highland stream to wake up.
Now, onto the coast, south to north…
- Bamboo Beach – A seriously, seriously stunning bay with talcum-white sand and azure waters. This is the southernmost beach of the Lanta west coast.
- Nui Bay – One of our personal favs; a gleaming run of 200 meters of white sand that’s well protected from the winds. Reach it on the uneven zigzag paths that come down from the north side.
- Kantiang Bay – Famed as the honeymoon spot of choice on Lanta, Kantiang is a wide scythe of white sand that’s got enough room for everyone. If you’re hungry, check out Cliff Sunset Restaurant on the rocks to the south.
- Klong Nin – There’s a big gap between Kantiang and Klong Nin, the next beach worthy of a pitstop up the west shore. Upcoming, it’s a great option for families, with a shallow shelf and safe paddling. Best at high tide.
- Secret Beach – Shh! It’s a secret. Well…not any more since someone added it to Google Maps. Either way, this one’s probably our overall top beach on the island. Set down a dirt track about 300 meters from the main road, it’s a curve of yellowish powder under coconut palms. It’s also known as Bamboo Beach. A shack in the middle sells pad Thai and cold beer.
- Long Beach – Finish up at Long Beach. Buzzy, lively, and spacious, there’s room for all and the sunsets are excellent. It also puts you in a prime position to hit the nightlife that comes next.
Yep, we’ll dust off our Koh Lanta trip with a hit of island nightlife. What’s great is that Lanta strikes a fine balance between the out-and-out hedonism of, say, Koh Phangan, and the chilled vibes of smaller islands.
Begin at everyone’s favorite Joker Bar on the main road heading south of long beach. Then tuk-tuk down to Klong Khong Beach, which is the party hub of the island. At the time of writing, Mushroom Bar and Fin’s Stoned Bar lead the way there.