Waves are distant, crashing on the volcanic rocks below the bamboo booths. As the sun creeps below the horizon, people clink together strong cocktails, facing out to the Andaman Sea. The Reggae Bar on the island of Koh Lanta may play the same dozen songs on repeat, but it’s familiar and fun. It’s cozy, balmy and just the place to feel completely away from it all.
Staff silently creep across the rocks, leaving small tea lights scattered about the craggy beach. Everything was made to be perfect for those experiencing the view, down to the small details. The quiet beauty and pride found in Koh Lanta, Thailand was a common theme of the visit. While white sandy beaches are a bonus, Koh Lanta’s rugged shores, authentic food, philanthropic causes and adventurous tours are all well worth checking out while in Thailand.
Crown Lanta’s Island Welcome
There are a few lovely places to stay in Koh Lanta, but we lucked out with one of the best. On the north side of the island, most of the Crown Lanta Resort is perched on cliffs, overlooking the sea and sky. It’s luxurious without being pretentious, and the perfect place to wile away the hours on the island.
Rooms vary, as some are more condo-style around the gardens while others line the cliffs and boast private infinity pools. Beds are so soft and welcomed after a long day of adventuring around the island. Giant, sunny shower spaces are also a lovely feature, along with generous lounge spaces and plenty of storage.
Staying at the Crown Lanta is a vacation in itself. A highlight was a private Thai cooking class that went over the basics and a few fun dishes. After our food tours in Bangkok and trying lots of mysterious (yet delicious) meals, we were thrilled to re-create some of our favorites. Like the clear soup called Tom Yum Kung – although my assistant kept laughing when I tried to hide the chilies and leave them out! The trick is to have oil super hot for frying and flavor. It led to a few shoot flames and yelps, but no one was harmed in the creation of delicious Thai food.
Happy hour at the Reggae bar is always a good time on site. Also, the giant seafood buffet and floor show held every week at The Peak Restaurant – one of three dining options on property. You can book classic Thai massages at the spa or grab a cold Thai ice tea at the café too. Don’t worry about crowds at the pool, as there’s two to choose from, as well as a private sandy beach.
You can also book out your days with tons of activities on site, and have the front desk reserve some nearby tours as well.
Koh Lanta’s Big and Little Boat Adventures
There are dense mangroves throughout Koh Lanta, which are best experienced by kayak. Take a tuk-tuk to the base of the river and enjoy a full day navigating these gentle waters. A riverboat will take you through dense trees, home to diverse wildlife like monkeys and big lizards. Some might be invited into the boats! Make your way by guide to some of the caves and wind through dark caverns and tiny, remote sandy beaches.
Several tour companies will take you around for the day, booked from the hotel. Most tours are of similar price and offer a hot lunch, as well as cold drinks.
For something more classic, take one of the speedboats over to the Phi Phi Islands. These were made famous from James Bond movies and other flicks being filmed there. You’ll travel in small groups to take photos of each hotspot, and have the chance for a swim at lunch after a homemade curry provided by the crew.
We will say though, these beaches are VERY crowded, even in the off-season. In fact, they recently closed the Maya Beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh for the next several months due to overtourism. So keep this in mind when visiting Thailand’s islands. And to help the impact, consider donating to local conservation projects, not touching any marine life and finding more remote spots to explore (without leaving your litter behind, of course).
Giving Back to the Island
Tons of expats live in Koh Lanta and all over Thailand. This island is a little more off the grid than others, so you have to be really devoted to this lifestyle to stick it out. But we were happy to hear stories of success, including the amazing Lanta Animal Welfare.
In a torrential downpour, we made our way to the sanctuary on the northern end of Koh Lanta in a tuk-tuk. The complex is simple, with a brand-new addition of a cat café. Visitors can drop in anytime, have a cold tea, vegan cake and pet some of the furry friends up for adoption. It helps the cats learn to socialize and be better equipped to handle life with their new forever homes.
After a cat cuddle (there’s a few kittens too), guests are welcome to join a quick tour by head honchos. Many of them are British expats and volunteers. They’ll show you where the dogs are kept, the veterinary stations and talk about the animals. They’ve helped more than 15,000 creatures in distress over the years and support international adoptions – which don’t cost as much as you’d think!
If you stick around long enough they’ll put you to work. We were able to meet one of the ‘packs’ of dogs and take them out for their daily walk. As it was nearing sundown we each were assigned one dog and make the trek to the nearby beach. I wish we could have let them fly free, but they all still seemed to have blast. Well, except the one puppy who flopped down exhausted and had to be carried.
Interested in helping out Lanta Animal Welfare? If you’re on your way to Thailand, you can actually sponsor a dog to fly him home to his adoptive family. They simply need your assistance and it won’t cost you a thing. Shoot them an email about donations, volunteering, adoptions and escort animal flights anytime.
Sit back and relax while feeling the island vibe on Koh Lanta!