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Many friends have told me for years that Koh Lanta diving is the best diving in Thailand. For some reason, I never believed them (ups, sorry!) but on my recent trip to the Andaman Sea, I finally took a plunge and gave it a go. And my friends were right – diving in Koh Lanta is an absolute treat!
The Ins & Outs of Koh Lanta Diving
Table of Contents
What makes diving in Koh Lanta so special?
Years ago I did one dive in Koh Lanta and the best part was the curry we got for lunch on the boat and my very first seahorse. Otherwise, it was rather unmemorable. But over the years and so many comments that diving in Koh Lanta was unsurpassed in Thailand, I thought I owed it to the island to give it another chance.
I am glad I did because Koh Lanta diving is really special. The island is not as crowded as Koh Tao and the dive sites, while further out, are quite spectacular. They offer a good mix between macro life and bigger pelagics – we are talking whale sharks, mantas, and even leopard sharks. And at least at the moment, the reefs are in very good conditions including plenty of huge schools of fish and beautiful, healthy corals.
Best time for diving in Koh Lanta
The best dive time in Koh Lanta is the dry season from November to April. In fact, many dive centers close down for the rainy season, and at the very least you will face some choppy water and bad visibility.
During the dry season, you can expect water temperatures around 28 °C degrees and visibility up to 30 m if you get lucky. Mind you, don’t forget: bad vis due to lots of plankton means a better chance for whale sharks and mantas!
Koh Lanta Dive Sites you shouldn’t miss
Hin Daeng & Hin Muang
If you want to go scuba diving in Koh Lanta you cannot miss a trip to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, which some consider the best dive sites in Thailand!
They are two pinnacles in the Andaman Sea that combine the best of both worlds: amazing macro life and big pelagic fish. If you want to see mantas and whale sharks, this is the place to dive in Koh Lanta.
As the pinnacles can get quite a bit of current and dives can be deep you should have at least an AOW. If you only have an OW chat to your dive center beforehand and see if they can make a trip happen for you.
The boat ride to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang is 1,5 hours by speedboat from Koh Lanta. Unfortunately, we had to change our course while en route as the water was getting too choppy (safety first!). At least now I have a good reason to come back.
Koh Haa – The Five Islands
Koh Haa diving offers something for each taste and level – after all, you have a total of five limestone islands and their surrounding dive sites available. The boat ride to Koh Haa in the Koh Lanta Marine National Marine Park takes about 2 hours with a big boat but the journey is very worth it.
All the islands offer something a little different so even if you book a couple of trips you won’t get bored. Beautiful soft corals (reminding me a bit of Koh Lipe), cool critters like Ornate Ghost Pipefish and Harlequin shrimp as well as big schools of reef fish await. Koh Haa 1 also offers a fun swim-through called the fishbowl with a chimney going down, and yes, if you get lucky whale sharks also like to hang out around Koh Haa.
The Bida Islands
When diving the Bida Islands which are part of the Phi Phi National Marine Park you are most likely going to visit Koh Bida Nai, Koh Bida Nok, and Hin Bida.
I was warned that the visibility wouldn’t be great but that the amount of fish and marine life would make more than up for that. On our first dive in Bida Nai, we saw not one but three seahorses, plenty of cool nudis, and so many blue-spotted stingrays. Bida Nok offered great visibility in the shallows, blacktip reef sharks, an octopus, and the biggest schools of yellow fusiliers I have ever seen. And while we didn’t see the leopard shark we hoped for at Hin Bida, we saw enough other cool critters, a Comet Fish, and tiny baby barracudas which made it oh so worth it!
If you are a fan of wrecks you should sign up for a trip to Koh Waen which is an underwater train wreck.
My favorite dive center Koh Lanta
I asked my good friend Lena who lives in Thailand for a dive center in Koh Lanta she would recommend and her answer was swift: Lanta Diver. I booked 3 days of diving with them and did not regret it for a second. Unlike many other dive centers in Koh Lanta, they have their own boats which makes dive trips with them super easy and comfortable.
Depending on the dive sites you will either go with their big boat or a speed boat. While the latter is obviously faster, the big boat is a bit more comfortable and has a compressor on board.
Koh Lanta diving prices with Lanta Divers will depend on how many days you book – the more days you book the cheaper the day rate gets. Keep in mind that you will pay extra for speed boat trips (they will let you know beforehand) and you need to pay a THB 600 marine park fee each day. Each trip includes 2 dives with an optional 3rd dive for an extra fee. You will also get breakfast, lunch, and unlimited soft drinks.
While I brought my own equipment, Lena confirmed that their rental gear is very well maintained. You can also do a variety of PADI courses or even your IDC with Lanta Diver. For regular fun dives, they have an amazing team of dive guides who will show you all the underwater wonders of Koh Lanta – ask for Robbie and Pop, they are incredible!
Note: They don’t offer sidemount tanks but I was able to rent 2 tanks for my set-up. The guys on the boat were amazing with helping me to get in and out of the water.
If you are not a diver (yet) you can also book a tour to go snorkeling in Koh Lanta:
How do you get to Koh Lanta?
Usually, there are various ferries or speedboats which will take you to Koh Lanta, however, at the moment options are somewhat limited. You will need to book a vehicle transfer as the only option to get to Koh Lanta is with the car ferry from the Hua Hin pier on the mainland.
I came from Ao Nang to Koh Lanta with a private minibus and when I left I took a private transfer to Phuket airport. Obviously, this is the most expensive option but also the most comfortable one.
The drive from Koh Lanta to Ao Nang takes about 2,5 hours, from Koh Lanta to Krabi airport about a good hour, and to Phuket airport about 4 hours including a 10-minute ferry ride.
If you prefer to share a minibus to any of these destinations I recommend checking with your dive center in Koh Lanta or your accommodation. I booked my transfers through a contact from Lanta Diver.
Where to stay in Koh Lanta
Like many Thai islands, there are plenty of guesthouses and hotels in Koh Lanta to suit each budget. Two accommodation options that got recommended, again and again, were the Long Beach Chalet and Green Pepper. Both are located en-route for a free transfer if you go diving with Lanta Diver.
Green Pepper – I stayed at Green Pepper, a lovely and cheap (!!) guesthouse a bit inland from the main road. Rooms are beautifully decorated and come with wifi, aircon, and hot water. There are plenty of places to chill in their lush garden as well as a big open-air lounge/ dining room/ reception area. And have I mentioned how cheap it is? I dare say, they could charge quite a bit more but I am happy they don’t!
Long Beach Chalet – As the name implies Long Beach Chalet is on the beach, a big plus if you are planning a Koh Lanta beach holiday. They have a variety of bungalows, a pool, a restaurant often with live music, a massage pavilion on the beach, and plenty of sun loungers around.
I visited my friend who stayed there a few times and really liked the vibe. Mind you, I found them a bit overpriced but still – if you want to stay right at the beach in Koh Lanta they are a great option.
Where to eat in Koh Lanta & other practical tips
The best way to get around in Koh Lanta is with a scooter. If you don’t drive a scooter like me you will need to resort to walking or getting a sidecar taxi. The sidecar taxis on Ko Lanta usually charge THB 100 for any distance on Long Beach and you can usually just flag one down the road. If you are staying at Green Pepper, the owners can give you the contact for their local taxi which charges the same.
When diving in Koh Lanta with Lanta Diver they will include a free transfer if you are diving with them as long as you stay somewhere on the west coast.
There are plenty of restaurants in Koh Lanta and if you are looking for something with great sandwich and salad options I can highly recommend Tuesday Morning, the Backyard, or Fruit Tree Lodge. If you want a really good pizza check out Loco Loro.
At Green Pepper, I quickly realized that getting lunch and dinner was going to be a bit of a mission until I discovered Lanta-Food. The website has teamed up with a variety of restaurants and will deliver to you for only THB 30. I used them twice and they were easy to use and very reliable.
Want to dive somewhere else in Thailand? Check out these posts: