When someone shouts Thailand, the first thing that pops to mind is the beautiful Phi Phi Islands and the famous Maya Bay. However, making the decision to skip Phi Phi was the best decision we made. Read on to find out why, and why you should definitely go out of your way to travel Koh Lanta in 2020.
Just remember this is our personal opinion, but I’m sure a lot of people will agree! We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic if you’ve been to Koh Lanta or other Thai islands – drop a comment below!
Koh Lanta vs. Koh Phi Phi
The first week of our trip started in Phuket. Over the following 3 weeks we made our way across the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand to explore, Krabi, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao which were each beautiful in their own way. We’d had our hearts set on the Phi Phi islands as out last stop – everyone’s dream destination! We’d wanted to go here for years after seeing the most breathtaking photos online, and knowing it held the famous Maya Bay from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach.
Our hearts were telling us to go to Phi Phi, but a little voice in the back of our heads were telling us to stay the hell away. We knew it was going to be a huge tourist trap and quite frankly we really didn’t fancy sharing the beach with a million other people. In addition, some last minute research taught us Maya Bay had actually been permanently closed due to mass tourism sadly destroying the beach and marine life. This was the final straw for us, as well as seeing a few live Instagram stories from people, who were complaining about the island and how awful it was. Our mind was made up.
We made the sad, yet easy decision to book Koh Lanta instead, and we’re very glad we did so! We hadn’t heard much about Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai, which were the three islands we were torn between. They were all far from what we knew, and all seemed very isolated according to reviews. We settled on Koh Lanta and were taken back by the calmness of the island, and the long stretch of tranquil beach full of palm trees, restaurants and bars. It was a little paradise.
Why Koh Lanta is better than other Thai islands
We enjoyed the vibrancy of Phuket, the buzz of Krabi, the partying in Koh Phangan and the adventure of diving in Koh Tao – but there was just something about Koh Lanta that we loved more. Was it because of less tourists? More than likely.
Out of all of the Southeast Asia destinations we visited, this was one of the two places that had hardly any tourists (the other being Erawan Falls near Bangkok). Everywhere was shockingly quiet and life seemed to be lived at a much slower pace compared to the other Thai islands. Locals actually seemed a lot more friendly too! Less stress and pressure I guess?
Relaxed and calm atmosphere
This may be due to there being less people, but you could literally feel the calm and relaxation vibes in the air. From the hotels and staff, to the beach and local shops. Everyone was just enjoying the peace and sunshine on the island, and more often than not, taking a nap.
There are beautiful sights to see and hikes to be had, which we will share more about in the next section. Despite being a lesser known island, Koh Lanta still has some great places to explore which was good news for us! Just make sure you don’t try to cycle around in the 30 degree heat like we did… it wasn’t long before we head back to the hotel to grab a scooter! #rookiemistake
Live more like a local
The fact Koh Lanta is quieter means it’s less developed, meaning more smaller local run businesses. This is a great experience living amongst a place like this, to really get a feel about how the locals live and live their day-today lives. Similar to other places, we just love how petrol is in glass bottles on the side of the road, and having to tap on the owners shop window to wake them up from a nap. Petrol please! There is of course the odd 7-Eleven for your trusted favourite buys, but these are a lot harder to come by compared to the rest of Asia where you’ll find one on every corner!
Quiet roads for driving
Call us crazy, but this was the first and only place we decided to rent a scooter to get around in Asia. It just felt so safe and quiet, so the perfect place for us to get to grips with one. From observation, we knew the roads were never busy here, even the main road that runs all the way across the island. There was almost no one else on the road! (This was in November of course, other months may vary) – we absolutely loved cruising up and down the silent hills with amazing extensive views of the ocean and sunset.
Probably our favourite beach we visited, or at least up there with My Khe Beach in Da Nang, Vietnam. It honestly felt like paradise, with white sand and clear waters, we spent hours and hours snorkelling on our own accord. But it wasn’t the sea and sand that initially took us by suprise, but the long stretch of beautiful, rustic restaurants and bars as far as the eye could see. The several Reggae shack bars playing tunes also give that amazing Caribbean atmosphere. Enjoy a delicious Pad Thai, a game of pool and watch the sunset blissfully over the water horizon.
Things you must see
Khlong Chak Waterfall
We loved exploring the island at our own pace on a scooter, and mostly fell in love with our jungle adventure to the Khlong Chak Waterfall. We had read up on the experience on Jackson Groves‘ blog, and after seeing his amazing photos we just knew we had to see it for ourselves!
Prepare for a 30 minute trek through the slightly pathed jungle and shin deep water – but don’t worry, the stream is crystal clear and personally, this made the trek even more magical. We wore our hiking shoes which was the perfect choice, just prepare to get them soaked through! That’s all part of the fun though… isn’t it? There’s even an impressive, deep cave on the way, so be sure to not miss the path veering off to the left about half way.
The waterfall itself was pretty impressive with a glamorous log in front of it, perfect for posing for Instagram! Yes, we did this, along with a bunch of other people in the queue – it got a little busy around lunchtime, so is definitely a spot to get to sooner rather than later. Enjoy rinsing off the heat in this stunning, picturesque waterfall.
Koh Lanta National Park
We squeezed this stop in straight after the trek to the waterfall, which turned out to be the perfect spot for another great Thai sunset. You can find plenty of rugged hills, rainforests and even a quiet beach. When we say quiet, we must boast how this beach was COMPLETELY empty at sunset.. the most hidden gem if we ever saw one, and the sand was so finely white.
This part of the park in general was very quiet which provided us a lovely, chilled climb to the southern-most-point of the island. There you’ll find and old, broken, white lighthouse which gives the place a lovely quirk. From here, you’ll be able to see the white rocky beach to the left, adjacent to the fine sandy beach to your right – it’s crazy how the two are so close yet so different.
TIP: you’ll notice just behind the lighthouse there is a slight path through the bush. We followed this through to be greeted with a set of old stone stairs, stood there alone above the crashing waves. It was remarkable. This spot is amazing and offers even better views and photo opportunities. Please be careful if you make the decision to follow this path, as it can be dangerous!
The most amazing budget resort
Khum Laanta Resort
We couldn’t have picked a better place to stay, and to be honest had everything we needed at the Khum Laanta Resort and wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else. The resort was very small and personal with only about 10-15 rooms and apartments. They were pleasantly spaced out and decorated, all surrounding the lovely, clean swimming pool.
Not only was the resort a short 2 minute walk to the beach, but the staff were extremely friendly, funny and helpful, who make the best pancakes ever! They definitely had good old giggle when they warned us about cycling in the heat, and we returned back on the bikes only 30 minutes after hiring them, dripping in sweat haha! I think we made their day – they did warn us.
This stay was definitely a nice treat for us while backpacking, yet still managing to stay within budget. We have already recommended this Resort to @paigemcguiness who loves it just as much, and we hope you do too!
We’d love to hear if you’ve been to Koh Lanta and what you thought about the island, especially compared to others if you’ve been. Let us know in a comment below if you agree with this post 🙂