Divine diving and laid-back island life. Ko Lanta is a group of 50-plus islands in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of southern Thailand. The largest and best-known island —Ko Lanta Yai, often referred to as Ko Lanta —is a wonderful destination for adventurous couples or families. The diving is divine, the snorkeling spectacular, and there’s a wide variety of activities to choose from – authentic Thai cooking classes to kayaking through mangroves, for example.
DIVING IN KO LANTA, THAILAND
Ko Lanta has some of the most diverse diving in the world on its doorstep. The warm green waters of the Andaman hold vividly-colored corals, a wide-array of marine life (from manta rays to tiger tail seahorses), and a large number of sites to roll with the conditions. The topography is varied and stunning, from chimneys and swim-throughs to open ocean pinnacles. Most of the diving is a full-day outing, as the sites are a one- to three-hour trip out to sea
DIVE SHOPS IN KO LANTA, THAILAND
We dove with Scubafish, which has several locations on Ko Lanta, including at Pimalai. This shop knows diving. They keep group sizes small; offer training (kids to beginners to advanced); and non-divers/snorkelers are welcome. They have two comfortable, purpose-built dive boats, which are important in an area with longer travel times. They also walk the talk, from ghost-net clean-ups to good briefings (on sunscreen, reef care, and wildlife interactions).
THINGS TO DO IN KO LANTA, THAILAND
Ko Lanta is laid-back and relaxed. A variety of accommodation peppers the white-sand beaches on the west coast, with its enviable and uninterrupted sunset views. Mangroves and reefs surround the island, while a spine of rainforest plumps out its interior. This is the perfect place to wake up and see where the day takes you, from hiking to waterfalls to kayaking to visiting the over-water village of Old Town.
A traditional Thai cooking class at Pimalai Resort and Spa. This two-hour experience begins with browsing Pimalai’s organic garden for ingredients like sweet basil and lemongrass before preparing a three-course meal for our lunch. It was a fun and insightful glimpse into Thai culture, taught by a patient and encouraging chef. The resulting meal was one of the best of our entire trip.
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN KO LANTA, THAILAND
Pimalai Resort and Spa in Kantiang Bay is something special. This 120-room hotel has two sections: beachside and hillside, set in a 100-acre (40 ha) lush landscape. Pimalai has multiple restaurants, pools, and all the trimmings, but it’s comfortable, not glitzy. And it has soul: Pimalai has set ambitious environmental targets, both for itself and Ko Lanta.
BEST RESTAURANT OR BAR IN KO LANTA, THAILAND
Everyone eventually finds themselves at Drunken Sailors, a kicked-back hangout (with Wi-Fi, a book exchange, hammocks, bean bags, and tables) offering Thai and Western food, and spectacular coffees and fruit shakes.
TRAVEL ADVICE (INSIDER TIP)
Green season (May to October) has periods of stormy weather, but it’s a great time to visit Ko Lanta. There are significantly fewer visitors and hotel prices are a fraction of what they are during the high season. The diving might operate differently, but green season is one of the best times to dive Ko Lanta.
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