Just off Thailand’s southwest coast, Koh Lanta is an island of lovely western-facing beaches, mostly backed by beach bungalows and virgin rainforest. For years it was a favourite with the backpacker crowd, but there’s now a growing selection of upmarket resorts and it's getting busier every year. The beachfront restaurants and bars are all fairy-lit at night, with bonfires out front and a very mellow atmosphere. Stop at one of the seafood BBQs, choose a fish and have it grilled in front of you then served with an ice-cold beer.
Located off the coast of Trang, Ko Kradan is one of the most isolated islands in this province. There's not much to do except lie on the beach, but that's the whole point. And when you see the pristine white sand lapped by turquoise waters, you won't want to do anything else. Reminiscent of Alex Garland's The Beach, this heavenly island offers dreamy sunsets and an unspoilt vibe reminiscent of the Thailand of yesteryear.
Like other islands in this province, Koh Lanta has long, white-sand beaches and excellent diving. Its Marine National Park is especially beautiful. Enjoy 2 of Thailand's best dive sites, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, where dazzling fringing reefs, manta ray, leopard sharks, and (if you're really lucky) whale sharks await. A great place to take your underwater camera!
For those who would rather stay closer to the surface, flipper through shallow waters and see bright corals, lionfish, parrot fish and sea turtles. The Lanta Marine National Park features a number of small protected islands where there’s a vast coral reef.
Both islands have centres offering excursions.
Kayaking is a great way to reach secluded beaches and hidden coves - we particularly enjoyed exploring the caves and mangroves on Koh Lanta's east side.
Fishing enthusiasts should go out on a longtail boat and fish for barracuda, sailfish, dorado, tuna and wahoo.
Head to the Emerald Cave, just off the coast of Koh Kradan. Reachable only by boat, it's wide enough for boats to pass through at low tide, although many visitors prefer to swim into the darkness and on through to a shaded valley between 2 cliffs, with a white-sand beach (approx 80m). The sun's reflection in the water creates a beautiful green, emerald and turquoise spectrum at the entrance, hence the name.
On Koh Lanta, the Khao Mai Kaew Cave chambers house impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Some are just big enough to crawl into, others have a pool and pungent cave bats. Take a torch if you have one!
Hike through the virgin rainforest of Koh Kradan; 70% of island’s area is mountain and tropical rain forest; the coast is fringed by coral reef with soft coral and sea fan in the south. Walk through rain forest to Sunset beach on the east side of island, stick to the paths to preserve the habitat and avoid the native fauna. Alternatively, go by elephant.