- Accommodation: Lanta Pearl Beach Resort – We found the Lanta Pearl online and booked it ahead of time via email. Michael, the owner, gave us a 200 baht/night discount since it was nearing the beginning of the low season. So it ended up being 500 baht/night per bungalow. Each bungalow had 2 twin beds pushed together and had their own private outdoor bathroom. We were staying in the older bungalows, but it looked like they had recently renovated about half of them. The rooms were great for what we needed and I liked the outdoor shower, even though it was cold water only. The toilet and sink are outside too, which is a little tricky if it’s raining, but luckily it didn’t rain much when we were there. The resort has a good restaurant and bar and we ate most of our breakfasts there. It’s also a great location, just a short 5 minute walk to Long Beach. I thought it was a great deal and I would definitely stay there again. Plus, the family that runs it is so nice. The women can be a little shy at first (some of them also don’t speak english), but they love talking to guests so if you start talking to them they’ll definitely engage with you.
- Thai Cat – Our favorite restaurant on Long Beach, it’s located at the very northern part of the beach. I think we ate lunch and dinner here almost every night! They have a fresh seafood BBQ selection every night and best of all the people who work here are so friendly. They let us sit in their cabanas all day, even after we were long finished eating lunch. I’m sure that isn’t possible to do during the high season when it’s really crowded, but it was pretty slow during the day when we were there.
- Somewhere Else – We had breakfast and lunch here one day. The food was good and they have large cabanas where you can eat and relax while staring at the beautiful beach and ocean.
- Suza Hut – Good place to get iced coffee & smoothies.
After doing a lot of research it seemed like the best way to get to Koh Lanta (without flying) was to take a bus from Bangkok to Krabi Town and then transfer to a mini-van for the 4 hour drive to Koh Lanta. I was confused about the mini-van part – wasn’t Koh Lanta an island? – but you end up taking 2 car ferries to get to there. I was also confused about the difference between Krabi and Krabi Town, but I learned that Krabi is the name for the entire region while Krabi Town is just the name of the main city within the area of Krabi.
We ended up having to go to the South Bus Station (all buses headed to Krabi leave from this station) to buy our tickets a day in advance because we were afraid they’d be sold out if we waited to purchase them the same day. It took us nearly 45 minute one-way to get to the bus station because of all the traffic. Buying the bus tickets was very confusing because the signs were all in Thai and we couldn’t differentiate between the various bus companies. We’d heard from multiple people to make sure you take a government bus because there are some very sketchy private bus companies. I guess people have reported their things stolen in the middle of the night while they were sleeping.
I’m still confused by which buses are operated by private companies opposed to government ones, but there were only a few options for buses going to Krabi so we didn’t have much of a selection anyways. We finally went with what we thought were government buses, but the VIP seats were sold out so we went with the next best class of service, which I think was about 600 baht/ticket. It was an overnight bus that left around 5pm and arrived in Krabi 12 hours later. At first they did the usual blasting of TV shows throughout the bus, but this time the speakers were broken so it made the worst scratching noise. After about 20 minutes of this loud hissing sound, they finally gave up and turned the TVs off so we were able to sleep. The seats were fine, but every seat reclined so far that the person in front of you was basically laying in your lap. Although that’s the case with most buses in SEA so we were pretty used to that by then. It’s worth noting that you can most likely buy bus tickets to Krabi (and elsewhere) through your hostel so you don’t have to make the trek to the bus station in advance. We were still staying with my mom at that point, so that’s why we had to go to the station, but I’m sure hostels can set you up with mini-vans or buses making that trip.
We arrived at a small bus terminal in Krabi Town early in the morning around 5am. At the same bus terminal you can buy tickets for mini-vans headed to Koh Lanta. There may be other ways to get there but this was definitely the easiest option. While we were at the bus station we decided to buy our return tickets to Bangkok for a week later. We feared that with the Songkran holiday approaching it might be difficult to get bus tickets. So we bought VIP seats for an overnight bus ride from Krabi Town to Bangkok for approximately 1,000 baht/each. Bus tickets in Thailand are more expensive than in neighboring countries, but you can always take one of the lesser classes if you don’t want to spend so much.
The mini-van dropped us off at our hotel, which worked out well. We stayed at the Lanta Pearl Resort , which is located on Long Beach, the stretch of sand that runs down the entire western coast of the island. It’s not the most beautiful beach in Thailand, but it’s still really pretty and the water is so warm. We loved the chill vibe of Long Beach and since there are no big resorts on Lanta, only smaller guesthouses and boutique hotels, it keeps the hoards out. It doesn’t have a big party scene (at least when we were there) so you should head to Phi Phi or Phuket if you’re looking for nightlife. However, if you’re just looking to relax, read and sleep, this is your island! We didn’t even see any of the other beaches on the island because we were so content just hanging out on Long Beach every day. We got an hour long back massage on the beach every day for 300 baht/each and we basically lounged around in various restaurant cabanas every day, going for a swim intermittently. One day we literally hopped from beach café to beach café, ordering smoothies, iced coffee, and snacks all day long. It was paradise!
Green Boat Tour – Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Leh & Bamboo Island
Since Jul needed to catch a flight from Phuket to Bangkok the following day, we tried to figure out the most efficient way to get there, while still seeing some of the other islands in between Koh Lanta and Phuket. Fortunately the guy at Lanta Pearl suggested we combine a day trip to Phi Phi with a ferry ride to Phuket. He signed us up for the Green Boat Tour, which worked out perfectly. A speed boat picked us up in the morning on the beach. The boat was pretty cramped with people (about 30-40) but the scenery was so beautiful that it didn’t matter. We started off the day at Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. (Phi Phi Leh is the small island and Phi Phi Don is the big island. When people say Phi Phi they are usually referring to the large island). Maya Bay is truly a spectacular beach, but there were WAY too many people there. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in high season. Apparently you can camp there at night, which might be a cool thing to do if I ever come back. Then we went snorkeling at Monkey Beach. I didn’t see any big fish but that’s probably because there were hundreds of people all trying to snorkel in the same area. We also kept getting stung by these invisible small jellyfish-like creatures, so that wasn’t too enjoyable. I know there are great snorkeling and dive spots around there, but it’s probably best to go with a snorkeling/dive tour to find the less crowded coves.
After Phi Phi Leh we went to Bamboo Island, which is probably the most beautiful tropical island I have ever seen. Even standing on the beach I had to keep pinching myself that this was a real place. Now I finally understood why people are always raving about Thai beaches! It honestly looked like one of the pre-loaded photos you see on computer screen savers. There are no places to stay on the island, although you can camp there, but I think it requires a permit. We ate lunch and then headed to Phi Phi Don. I’m sure Phi Phi is beautiful, but it was hard to look past the hoards of backpackers all wearing their beer laos and 7 Eleven tanks. I think Phi Phi is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place. Some people say that it used to the most beautiful island in Thailand, until unchecked development and rowdy tourists moved in. Despite this other people still find it charming with fun nightlife and beautiful beaches – so I guess it just depends on what you’re looking for. We honestly spent very little time there so I can’t give you my thoughts on it.
From Phi Phi we said goodbye to the Green Boat Tour and took a ferry to Phuket (we bought the ferry ticket through Lanta Pearl the day before). The Green Boat Tour is usually a round-trip excursion, but we just hopped off in Phi Phi because we wanted to take an onward ferry to Phuket. If you’re strapped for time but you still want to see Maya Bay etc, then I definitely recommend doing a small boat tour. I’m not sure if it would even be enjoyable during the high season because of the crowds, but we had a great time!