An oh-so-cool Jack Sparrow look-alike warmly welcomed us off the beach and into the Reggae Bar on Klong Dao Beach; the chilled-out hippy vibe immediately transporting us back to our pre-kids backpacker days. Before we could make ourselves comfy amongst the mats and cushions spread over the floorboards and order our Happy Hour Chang, Mr Sparrow had brought out a big bag of toys for the kids. Genius! Watching the boys play happily in the sand, we clinked Changs with our old mates who had joined us from Sydney, sat back on our cushions and breathed in that fresh sea air before catching up on the past 5 years. What a fantastic idea Ko Lanta was for two young families to meet for a holiday!
After a couple of days in Bangkok (check out our one day itinerary for kids in Bangkok post), our group family holiday to Ko Lanta was all about keeping it easy. We wanted to kick back with our old besties (who also have two boys aged 2 and 4), let the kids play freely on the beach and in the pool, and soak up some tropical sunshine. However, despite visiting after the supposed rainy season, the weather was grey and drizzly for our entire week stay! For many, this would result in a disaster holiday. But we had awesome company and the drizzle by no means put the kids off playing in the sand and jumping in the waves.
Klaong Dao Beach
We based ourselves at Klaong Dao Beach, on the north east coastline of Ko Lanta. Here the sea is warm and shallow with very gentle waves, perfect for little ones. The sand offers a range of consistency for various sand building projects, and there are small rocks to explore.
A string of colourful restaurants and bars, which are all kid-friendly, hug the curved bay as far as the eye can see . Some even have slides and hoppers to play on, and they all offer kid-friendly food on the menu (pancakes, fried rice, omelette, fries, pasta).
Where we stayed
Banana Beach Resort at the Southern tip of Klaong Dao Beach was perfect for our two families. We had two Sea View rooms next to each other with a double bed, bunk beds for the kids, ensuite and a large adjoining balcony. Rooms were basic, but clean, and there is also a fridge and kettle.
The staff are absolutely wonderful! So polite and friendly, and were always on hand to answer questions or sort something out for us.
There is also a restaurant on site, overlooking the beach, serving the usual dishes. But the big hit with the boys was of course the pool. There’s a separate kids pool with a slide, although be weary that this pool was too deep for our 2yo to stand up in, our 4yo was fine.
If a parent can get a free moment away from the kids, we thoroughly recommend popping for a massage next door. A 60 minute thai massage costs THB400, although if that’s a bit hard core, they also offer Swedish and I thoroughly recommend the facial and head massage (THB600 for 60mins).
If you’re looking for accommodation a bit more upmarket however, but still family friendly, our friends at our3kidsvtheworld.com have a great review of the Crown Lanta Resort & Spa, which sits at the Northern end of Klang Dao Beach.
Away from Klong Dao Beach
If you’ve chilled out enough on the beach and need to get out and explore, it’s worth flagging down a tuk-tuk to take you to Sala Dan. Wander the markets and treat yourselves to some ‘authentic’ t-shirts, local jewellery or sarong, before heading to the Pier for a seafood dinner over the water as the sun sets (not that we got to see a single sunset, due to the drizzle and grey!) Alternatively, visit Lanta Old Town on the East Coast with it’s traditional Thai wooden houses fused with a distinctly Chinese influence. Enjoy a drink in one of the cool bars and then walk along the Pier to enjoy the breathtaking views out to the island.
One of the things you must do is take a speed boat tour out to explore the outlying islands. We went on the 4 Islands Tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours for a day of snorkelling, tropical beach fun and a visit to Emerald Cave, Ko Mook, which involved swimming 80 metres through a dark tunnel to reach a pristine lagoon. Blog post to come.
There are also lots of opportunities to go Elephant riding in Ko Lanta. Please stay away from these tours. The elephants are not at all well looked after and this type of tourism should not be supported. We took the 8 hour round trip to Phang Nga Elephant Park, an ethical elephant sanctuary run by a family who have been caring for elephants for 150 years. These elephants have been rescued from logging or circus acts, or have been born into the family. Elephants are sensitive, emotional creatures and the Mahouts (carers) understand each and every one of them, catering individually to their needs. The Mahouts are like elephant whisperers, welfare is paramount and elephants are encouraged through positive reinforcement. We were able to meet the elephants, feed them bananas and even help with their bath time. Blog post to come.
Getting to Ko Lanta
We took a direct flight with AirAsia from Bangkok to Krabi. A private minibus then drove us direct to Banana Beach Resort (1.5-2 hours). Booked through Banana Beach Resort, the private minibus cost THB2500 and also included the 10 minute car ferry across from the mainland to Ko Lanta. Alternatively, there are ferries connecting Ko Phi Phi and Phuket. Click here for further information on ferries to Ko Lanta, including times, costs and bookings.
Disclaimer: We were offered discounted hotel rates at Banana Beach Resort. The boat tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours and the visit to Phang Nga Elephant sanctuary were free. However the opinions and words are all my own, based on our own experiences. Hotel photos used in this post are courtesy of Banana Beach Resort.
Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet.