Ko Lanta

The Thai island you've been dreaming about

You know Lanta's runs in a slower gear as your ferry chugs toward the pier and you can peek right into people's living rooms—the main town is built out over the water, and though the buildings have façades on the street side, they lack back walls at the far ends, propped above the water on stilts.

A solid wall of sign-waving Thais stacked three-deep greet each incoming ferry. It looks like a very confused protest rally, but when you get closer you see that the signs are for different resorts up and down Lanta's west coast. There's no public transport on the island, so any hotel with vacancies sends an envoy to collect as many tourists as they can cram into the back of their miniature pickup trucks.

This may seem chaotic, but it works like a well-oiled machine—and well worth it to decompress on the least developed of the major Koh. Calling Lanta less developed is a relative thing. The west coast (at least the northern half) is, indeed, lined with an almost continuous string of bungalow outfits and resorts.

However, these are as yet far from dense enough to dispel the illusion that the softly sanded beaches are shaded by an unbroken line of palm trees, and the single dirt access road that snakes down the island is sufficiently rutted and bumpy to give you the feeling that you're way out in the sticks.

There's little to "do" on Lanta other than relax, sip fruity drinks, endure endless massages, and wander the wide, sparsely populated beach inspecting the tide pools and admiring the swirling patterns left by miniature sand crabs. That means the hotel you choose is a major factor in how pleasant the stay is.

Sleeping & Eating: Relax Bay is aptly named (www.relaxbay.com; bungalows from $30 online Full Story ). The 37 solid, wooden bungalows—set back from a private beach amid idyllic and lush jungle-like gardens—are attractive, with fan-cooled rattan interiors, floors of dark wooden slats, mosquito screens in the windows, and colorful hammocks strung on every front porch. A stream flows though the heart of the property crossed by a bridge arched like a cat's back. The rambling dining area is open on all sides, and the sea breeze gently ruffles the curtains around the massage mats set near the beach. In addition to tables and chairs around the little beach bar, where life revolves around a nightly campfire, someone has hauled an old canopy bed out onto the sand for lazing away the afternoon.

Just a few hundred feet up the beach from Relax Bay is the cheaper, funkier Marina Resort, a hodgepodge of cottages and bungalows run by an intensely friendly woman named Nita (www.lantamarina.com; bungalows from $20 online Full Story ). Her best bungalows—arranged around a U-shaped boardwalk on a lawn above the beach—are made of loosely stacked branches, the wide gaps between them filling the room with a luminous play of light shafts that slice through the gauzy mosquito netting around the beds and play off the ceiling thatch. Nita describes it as traditional Thai construction and a primitive form of air conditioning.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.