Koh Lanta Is the Island Paradise You’ve Been Dreaming Of

Cherish Broker

Bellingham, WA, USA

Whether you’re looking to get away from your daily grind with a vacation to a tropical island paradise or need someplace to recover after a full moon rager on Koh Phangan, Koh Lanta is the destination you’ve been dreaming of. Located in the South of Thailand in the Andaman Sea, it’s the perfect place to chill out and soak up the sun. Here are 8 of the best things to do in Koh Lanta, Thailand:

Explore one of many untouched, pristine beaches

Kantiang Bay Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Anil Varma / Shutterstock.com
Kantiang Bay Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Anil Varma / Shutterstock.com

When you picture a Thai beach, with white sand and blue waters framed by palm trees and clear skies, you’re picturing Koh Lanta, you just don’t know it yet. You can lay out a towel and relax in the sunshine or chill out with a fresh coconut in one of the many beach bars and cafes along the shore. The main tourist Koh Lanta beaches are all located on the western side of the island, so you get unparalleled sunset views every evening too!

Our pick: Kantiang Bay

Stay in a hidden beach bungalow

Lanta Pearl Beach Resort, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Lanta Pearl
Lanta Pearl Beach Resort, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Lanta Pearl

Wondering where to stay in Koh Lanta? If you dream of sleeping in a wooden bungalow on the beach with a hammock out front and the sounds of geckos and crickets lulling you to sleep, you’re in luck. This island is chock-full of bungalows for rent, both on the beach and set back into the jungle for more privacy and quiet. They’re an excellent and super affordable option for budget travelers (cheaper than most Koh Lanta hotels). If you’re looking to relax rather than party, make sure to choose one that’s not right next to one of the rowdy beach bars.

Our pick: Lanta Pearl Beach Resort

Rent a scooter and cruise around the island

Scooter rental in Thailand.
Scooter rental in Thailand.

Of Thailand’s 926 islands, Koh Lanta is the 7th largest. There’s plenty to see and the best way to get it all in is to rent a scooter for the day. It’ll cost you around 250-300 baht. You’ll save money by not taking tuk tuks around the island, which can rack up to a surprising sum if you’re not a shrewd negotiator.

You’ll get some great views of the Andaman Sea and have a fun ride on the winding roads. You might even see some monkeys! One of the island’s most beautiful beaches, Bamboo Beach, is pretty much only accessible by scooter, though the ride is a little frightening, as you have a pretty steep descent into the bay.

Our pick: Lanta Sky Motorbike & Car Rental

Get an authentic Thai massage surrounded by nature

Best massage in Thailand.
Best massage in Thailand.

Massages are perhaps my very favorite thing about Thailand. I got one at least every other day while I was there. No matter where you go, there’s always a massage place nearby and there’s a reason everyone has heard of Thai massage. No, I’m not talking about happy endings.

On Koh Lanta you can get a Thai massage right on the beach. There’s nothing more relaxing than listening to the sounds of the waves on the shore and soft reggae music from nearby restaurants as someone massages away every last bit of stress from your body. 

Our pick: Serenity Massage and Spa

Chill out at one of Koh Lanta’s famous cannabis bars

Cannabis Bar, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Cannabis Bar
Cannabis Bar, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Cannabis Bar

Weed is readily available on the island, with lots of bars including joints on the menus and hosting raging 420 events. It’s safest to only smoke in the establishment you purchased it, as it’s not technically legal in Thailand. The best bar for relaxing with a joint is definitely, and unsurprisingly, Cannabis Bar.

If you’re a more psychedelic traveler, there are a few places on the island where you can get mushroom shakes that’ll make your island experience a bit more magical for a few hours.

While you could go to places like Lighthouse Bar or the aptly named Mushroom Bar, Cannabis Bar has the best shakes and the best atmosphere. Trust me on this. They’ve got a chill vibe, lots to look at, body paint, and good drinks. It’s my favorite place on the island to chill out with friends after the sun’s gone down. At night, they also have one of the best fire shows I saw on the island, which leads into the next part!

Our pick: Cannabis Bar

Feel the heat at a fire show

Fire show, Why Not Bar, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Why Not Bar
Fire show, Why Not Bar, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Credit: Why Not Bar

No matter where you’re at on the beach at night, you’re going to see a fire show. Many of the bars employ flow artists to dazzle travelers with their flaming poi and fire staffs. It’s fun to look down the beach and see them going on at all the different places throughout the night. It’s extra fun if you’ve had one of those shakes and some cheap Thailand eats.

If you discover a sudden passion for poi after seeing a show, some of the restaurants offer classes on the beach. Fire, I’m afraid, is not included in the course.

Our pick: Why Not Bar

Creep through Koh Lanta’s caves

Emerald Cave, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Stephane Bidouze / Shutterstock.com
Emerald Cave, Koh Lanta, Thailand. Stephane Bidouze / Shutterstock.com

If you get antsy after a few days of seaside leisure, you can get down and dirty in some caves. Tham Mai Kaew is a big cave structure that’s easy to get lost in (but one of the best things to do while in Thailand). Tourists aren’t allowed in without one of the local guides, but the trip is definitely worth it if you like adventure. You’ll have to squeeze through narrow passages, scramble up steep rocks, and navigate rickety bamboo ladders.

Tiger Cave is an easier option for the casual cave-goer. You don’t need a guide, although it’s still possible to get lost. It’s on route to Khlong Jak Waterfall, so lots of travelers make a day of visiting the two before heading to the southern beaches.

Our pick: Tham Mai Kaew

Go scuba diving and snorkeling

The best snorkeling in Thailand.
The best snorkeling in Thailand.

The whole of the Andaman Sea is prime snorkeling/scuba diving territory. With its crystalline waters and dazzling array of tropical fish and colorful anemones, it’s the perfect place to get face to face with some sea life.

There are a bunch of different tours you can go on that will take you around the island to the best spots for fairly cheap. If you’ve never gone scuba diving before but want to learn in a tropical paradise, you can take classes or even get scuba certified!

Our pick: Dive and Relax

Side note: Elephant trekking

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Koh Lanta, like many places in Thailand, offers elephant trekking tours. As exciting and exotic as it may sound to explore the jungle on the back of one of nature’s most magnificent creations, I can’t urge you to reconsider strongly enough. With a few notable exceptions, like our fave ethical tourism destination Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary, most elephants in tour companies are badly mistreated. You can check out our article on being an ethical traveler around wildlife here for more info.