At the southern end of Krabi province is a string of large islands separated by narrow mangrove-lined channels. The southern-most of these is Lanta Yai, or "Big Lanta". While the island is somewhat popular, it is not nearly as developed as the other destinations around Krabi, and still retains some rural southern charm. Aside from the charms of the island itself, there are some fantastic diving opportunities around some of the smaller islets in the seas around Lanta.
Lanta is actually the closest jumping-off point for the South Andaman's best dive site, Hing Daeng and Hin Muang. You can easily reach the site in a day trip from Koh Lanta, although the best "avoid the crowds" option is to do an overnight live-aboard, which will also usually take in Koh Ha.
There are plenty of accommodations in all classes on Koh Lanta, from modest guesthouses to some truly world-class five star resorts. There are also some pleasant places to eat and drink, as well as some interesting land-side sights to fill your decompression time before flights. See the Thailand for Visitors guide to Koh Lanta for ideas.
The most direct way to get to Koh Lanta is to fly into Krabi Airport and transfer overland to Koh Lanta. Although "overland", the trip will still involve two short ferry crossings. You can plan on it taking around two hours, depending on where on Lanta Yai you're staying and how long you have to wait for the ferries. A taxi (private car) transfer will set you back about 2,300 Baht (about US$ 75), while a van (shared taxi) will cost about 800 Baht (US$ 26). Check with your hotel, since some of the more luxe resorts may include free transfers with the room.
You can also reach Koh Lanta by boat from Krabi town or Phi Phi Don Island. The boat isn't really any faster, and in the rainy season from June to September the seas can be quite rough.
Ferries from Ao Nang, Krabi Town, Phi Phi and Phuket (via Phi Phi) all dock at the pier in Saladan, on the northern tip of Lanta. You will need to take a taxi from here to your hotel, and there are always plenty of them on hand waiting for each boat.
Hotels and Resorts
Lanta's long southwest-facing coast is home to many resorts. Some are rather isolated, while others are closer to restaurants and shops - such as there are. Note that many shops and restarants, as well as a few of the smaller resorts, close in the low season, from May to September.
The very 'measured' pace of Lanta's development has left it with no real center, so there's really no 'better' place to stay, although if you are diving, the northern end of the island will put you closer to all the dive shops and the docks where the boats depart. This narrows down your search area to Klong Dao, Kaw Kwang, or Saladan.
Below is a small selection of the resorts available on Lanta Yai island. If a villa is more your style, the check out the list of villas for rent at Amazing Lanta. Villas are great for families and small groups, especially for extended stays. Most of them have self-catering facilities, and the prices of places on Lanta are quite reasonabale.
There are around a dozen or so dive shops on Koh Lanta Yai. Most of them are in Saladan town although there are a few shops spread around the island. Some big resorts have their own dive shops, or branches of the big operators. Below is a selection of dive shops that have been recommended by frequent divers in the area.
- Go Dive Lanta
- Thai-owned (a rarity among dive shops in Thailand) dive operator that comes very highly recommended from trusted friends. Offers daily dive trips to the area sites.
- Lanta Diver
- Five-star PADI IDC with three boats. Very popular with Scandinavian travelers, but all languages are spoken.
- Blue Planet Divers
- Another 5-star PADI IDC operating their own boat for day trips to the local dive sites.
Saladan village is now more or less the commercial center of the island. It's where the ferries from Phi-Phi and other parts of Krabi dock, as well as where most dive boats depart. There's not much to the town, but there are a few small hotels and guesthouses where you can stay if you want to be close to the dive boats, and of course this is where most of the island's dive shops are located.