The beaches of Ko Lanta

The beaches of Ko Lanta

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More on Ko Lanta

Ko Lanta’s beaches include miles-long sandy expanses and smaller bays of jaw-dropping beauty, including a few with little or no development. Read on for the full rundown on 17 of these soft khaki stretches.

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Ao Koh Kwang
A side road from the centre of Saladan takes you onto Ao Koh Kwang, Lanta’s only north-facing beach. High tide hides most of the beach, but at low tide you’ll find wide stretches of silt that make for opportunities to meet the crabs. The beach extends to the east all the way to the stilted houses of Baan Saladan and hosts a few places to stay, though none are too memorable.

Ao Koh Kwang: Moody and muddy with plenty of crabs. : David Luekens.
Ao Koh Kwang: Moody and muddy with plenty of crabs. Photo: David Luekens

Haad Khlong Dao
Nearly three-km-long Khlong Dao beach was the first to develop on Lanta and it still has stacks of mid- to large-sized concrete resorts that fill up with package tourists and families in peak season. At high tide the crescent-shaped beach narrows to almost nothing, especially to the north where erosion has advanced up to the casuarina trees. But low tide reveals a carpet of sand as wide as at least three football fields placed side by side, attracting walkers, joggers, and players of soccer, volleyball and badminton, to name a few.

Look to the southern corner of Haad Khlong Dao for some of the coolest bars and eateries, including The Asylum and Time For Lime. Both of these also offer budget rooms and the latter runs Lanta’s most popular cooking school. Costa Lanta and Twin Bay are two good resorts on the beach’s sleepier northern end, up near Ao Koh Kwang and Saladan. Eateries, shops and budget lodgings stack the main drag straight through Khlong Dao. Don’t expect it to be pretty away from the beach.

Khlong Dao happy hour starts at 4pm... : David Luekens.
Khlong Dao happy hour starts at 4pm... Photo: David Luekens

Haad Phra Ae (Long Beach)
Stretching for more than three km, Ko Lanta’s longest beach also goes by the name Long Beach—who would have guessed? It has a steeper drop off the beach than Khlong Dao, making parts of it ripe for a swim at any time. The northern end hosts a couple of decent midrange resorts along with the hippie-backpacker village that grew up around the Funky Fish, Somewhere Else and other long-standing bungalow joints and bars.

Most of the centre of Phra Ae beach is quieter due to the presence of a few large resorts, including the excellent Long Beach Chalet. Further south and not far beyond a beachfront public park is a lagoon fed by a khlong that is barely noticeable at low tide but deepens to more than a metre at high tide, making it tricky to cross when high tide falls after dark. Near the khlong lies a second cluster of budget to flashpacker lodgings that grew up around another long-standing backpacker haunt, Sanctuary.

Phra Ae light show. : David Luekens.
Phra Ae light show. Photo: David Luekens

Relax Beach
We were told that the local name for this beach is Haad Baan Phruklom, though nowadays most use the name that honours one of the original places to stay: Relax Bay Resort. Further south you’ll find a couple of old bungalows and bars; Sea Culture is worth a drink, if not a stay. Popular with SUPsters, the beach has the look and feel of a miniature Haad Phra Ae.

Bamboo Beach
Not to be confused with Ao Maipai (Bamboo Bay), this tiny beach lies almost forgotten beyond a field where cows graze. To find it, look for the bovines and a dirt lane branching from the main drag a tad south of Chaw Ka Cher Tropicana Resort in the sparsely settled area north of Khlong Khong. Hint: an even more secret beach might exist beyond a headland from the first.

Beach bars and pesky footprints in the sand at Khlong Khong. : David Luekens.
Beach bars and pesky footprints in the sand at Khlong Khong. Photo: David Luekens

Haad Khlong Khong
This beach stretches for around three km but does not have the crescent shape of Haad Khlong Dao and Haad Phra Ae, giving it a less cohesive look and feel. It’s the scraggliest of Ko Lanta’s “big four” beaches, with darker and grainier tan sand backed by casuarinas and a whole lot of reggae bars.

Khlong Khong beach is perhaps best known for the bar scene—there is always a party somewhere—and Bee Bee Bungalows is one of our favourite budget spots on Lanta. The main drag in Khlong Khong village was being widened at time of writing, but you’ll still find plenty of eateries, travel offices, tattoo parlours and long-stay rooms away from the beach.

Khlong Tob: Where boats mingle with sun-baking bodies. : David Luekens.
Khlong Tob: Where boats mingle with sun-baking bodies. Photo: David Luekens

Haad Khlong Tob
The first beach that we consider part of southern Ko Lanta is Khlong Tob, a placement based as much on vibe as geography. Located roughly at the centre of the west coast, the beach has minimal development and is backed by Baan Khlong Tob, a traditional village of Muslim islanders. Try the street food before watching the longtail boats offload their catch at this local-style beach.

Haad Khlong Nin
Set a wee smidge south of Haad Khlong Tob is Haad Khlong Nin, a two-km beach and the furthest south of the “big four.” It strikes a balance between liveliness and tranquility, and we like the location that’s ideal for launching day trips to all parts of the island. An inland lane cuts to Tham Mai Kaew, the most impressive cave on Lanta.

May need to walk faster. On Khlong Nin. : David Luekens.
May need to walk faster. On Khlong Nin. Photo: David Luekens

Khlong Nin beach runs south in a straight line and often appears empty despite the many lodgings located here. Sri Lanta is a slick midranger to the north, while Baan Rim Lay’s homely beachfront apartments are great for families. A lot of solo travellers stay at Horizon, better known for a beach bar that is one of a few to host live music on the regular in Khlong Nin.

Nui Beach
Not to be confused with Ao Nui, this small beach is protected by a steep hill hosting only one trace of civilisation: Diamond Cliff Restaurant, which is popular as a sundowner venue. Have a drink there to access a stairway down to the beach, or look for public access via a trail a little further south.

Haad Khlong Hin
This beach is an unsung star because the few people who do visit tend to stick close to Lanta Coral and a couple of other resorts at the northern end, where the namesake boulders make the beach seem small and confined. Skirt the rocks and huff it south along the shore to find well over a km of fine sand backed by nothing but coconut and palm trees. You might see cows.

Looking over the roofs from Ao Ba Kantiang. : David Luekens.
Looking over the roofs from Ao Ba Kantiang. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Ba Kantiang
Back in the mid 2000s, the London Sunday Times helped to cement Ko Lanta’s global reputation by naming this wide and sheltered beach as one of the best in the world. Most of the accommodation leans upscale, from Mediterranean-themed midrange rooms at Phra Nang Lanta to villas at Pimalai Resort that fetch a cool 30,000 baht per night. Most visitors stop by on a day trip, when the freestanding restaurants overlooking the bay’s northern end are pretty much irresistible. Bring a camera.

Ao Nui
A tumble down a short trail takes to you to Ao Nui, a small beach of dramatic beauty. A short yet wide stripe of sand meets slopes of rock that reach far out into clear aquamarine water. It’s fairly popular as a day trip destination and a lone beach shack bar keeps the travellers satiated in high season.

Hidden away Ao Nui. : David Luekens.
Hidden away Ao Nui. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Khlong Jak
We think this beach is the most beautiful on Ko Lanta, featuring sand so fine that your feet will not forget it. A canal empties into the centre of the beach after flowing through the thick jungle beyond, where a trail runs to the small waterfall that gives the beach its name. We love how this far-flung place has remained a backpacker haven, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Klong Jark Bungalows and Last Beach Resort.

Ao Maipai
The last place with privately run accommodation in the southwest of Ko Lanta is Coconut Bay, where a herd of cows nonchalantly hoofed over the sand when we last visited. All three places to stay are solid, with Baan Phu Lae and La Laanta Hideaway standing as two of the better options on the far southern beaches. The beach is quite long and broken up by quite a few rocks, which join the jungle to give Ao Maipai a wild and remote atmosphere.

Khlong Jak: It doesn’t get much better than this. : David Luekens.
Khlong Jak: It doesn’t get much better than this. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Tanod
Ko Lanta’s only south-facing beach is entirely controlled by Mu Ko Lanta National Park. Boasting some of the finest scenery on the island, the “Lighthouse Bay” is worth a visit if you can stomach the 400-baht ticket.

Reviewed by

David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.

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Mu Ko Lanta National Park
Mu Ko Lanta National Park

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Diving

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Lanta Old Town
Lanta Old Town

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Thung Yee Pheng Mangrove Forest
Thung Yee Pheng Mangrove Forest

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