Lanta, beach by beach

Koh Lanta has many untouched beaches

Koh Lanta has many untouched beaches

By Andrew Bond

Just ninety minutes by ferry from Krabi town is an altogether different Thailand beach experience. One free of noisy longtail boats and jetskis, where tuk tuk touts are conspicuous by their absence and even the row upon row of beach loungers are missing. Fewer people get the privilege of enjoying Koh Lanta’s lovely beaches and their Thailand beach holiday is richer for it.

Koh Lanta is a 45km long island that sits in the Andaman sea south of Phuket and Phi Phi, within easy reach of Krabi airport, or a longer ferry ride from Phuket via Phi Phi island. Its beaches are unspoilt, nor overdeveloped and they offer the visitor a complete tropical beach experience, with little else to do than beachcoming, sun lounging and sitting around for hours in the cool shallow waters.

But just which beach do you choose? All of them are lined with resorts that empty straight onto the sand, and you never get the sense of crowdedness. Here’s a guide to each of the West coast beaches

Klong Dao: is the island’s loveliest and most convenient, just a few minutes ride from the island’s modest touristy centre of Saladan where the ferry arrives. It’s a lengthy sweeping bay with good swimming waters and home to the poshest resorts. But all development on this island is generally sensitive to environmental impact and is low-rise, blending in with the tropical vegetation. Here you can find affordable bungalows or hole up in an exclusive villa. Stroll along the beach at any time of day and you’ll feel you have it all to yourself, after dusk however you’ll find enough restaurants or bars to experience an atmosphere.

Phra Ae: is the next beach along, around a rocky headland. This one runs for miles with a large chunk in the middle that remains undeveloped. Like Klong Dao it is lined with lofty casuarinas trees, affording shade. Though there are stretches with ramshackle bars and bungalows, the North end is comfortable and it’s great for an early morning jog. A pubic access point is found towards the southern reach.

Kan Tiang bay is never crowded

Kan Tiang bay is never crowded

Klong Kong: is less perfect by design, a narrow beach that stretches over several miles in a wavy motion so that your bungalow here might be part of what seems to be a exclusive little bay shared by half a dozen other resorts. At low tide the beach isn’t very swimmable, with its coral heads everywhere, so this beach is more down market, but it is one of the few on the island fronted by a thick grove of coconut palms.

Klong Nin: sits half way down the west coast, some way beyond Klong Kong, and is less remarkable than the others but will still impress most overseas visitors. The road runs close the beach sandwiching rustic restaurants and bars, and making it an ideal place to stop for lunch while exploring the island. It also has a nice village feel to it.

Kan Tiang Bay: is a gorgeous hideaway nearer the south of the island, home to some upscale villas and modest resorts alike. Rocky headlands either side of this deep crescent of a beach provide some great views, and you’ll never feel crowded here even in the high season. But it is a bit far from everything else.

Nui Beach: has just two resorts on it but you can’t help wanting to be there. It’s a small piece of paradise which you chance upon as you ride over a hill on you way to Kan Tiang bay in the south. Stay here if you want nothing more than a beach and a room, all other distraction like diving and tours are missing.

Klong Jark beach: is similar to Nui with a few more choices but not quite as perfect. All the same, those looking for cheap paradise will feel quite satisfied. It’s right near the southern end, where the paved road has run out (the dirt road is in bad nick in places), so you’re stuck here, but there is elephant trekking and lovely walk to Klong Jark waterfall. Budget travellers will get the best value here.

Lanta is not a large island like Phuket, it’s possible to travel from one end to the other on a rented scooter in half an hour. At the southern tip is the National Park, which has thoughtfully paved their section of the road since it does rise and fall along a spectacular cliff-lined coast, affording some great views. There’s a booth near the beach at the end of the road, charging you 200 baht. But the fee is hardly worth it to see the decrepit lighthouse and undeveloped beach which isn’t any better than the other island beaches.

If you’ve had a enough of beaches for the day then ride over to the east side of the island on your rented moped. Two roads traverse the mild hills that spine the island, and you’ll discover a very different Lanta which has hardly seen any of the tourism development experienced on the west coast. Here you can wander the elongated fisherman village and pick out a sea facing restaurant for some fresh seafood. Venture further south and you’ll come upon the Chao Lay (sea gypsy) settlement which is century-of-civilisation away from your plush resort. They do, however, have the best views of the remarkable Krabi karst coastline on the whole of Lanta island.

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