WEST ROUTE (Route #1)
Koh Lanta Island is a long thin island running north through south. The west coast (or sunset coast) faces the Andaman Sea with a string of beautiful white-sand beaches that host the island's resorts.
Halfway down the koh Lanta Island, the paved road turns from the west and crosses the mountains to the east coast. This beautiful drive takes you through rice paddies, rubber tree plantations and jungle and though a number of small Muslim villages .
The turnoff right to Mai Kaeo Caves can be found opposite the small mosque in the small village after school.
Just before dropping to the eastern plateau the road sweeps round a bend to a view site with a spectacular view of the sea between Ko Lanta and the mainland, with its scattering of tiny tropical islands. The view includes many tiny islands with the Thai mainland as back drop. Binoculars can be borrowed from the restaurant if you stop for a soft drink or meal.
Colorful local fishing Boats can be viewed close-up on many beaches. See them in large groups on the southern end of Klong Dao Beach or next to the paved road between Klong Kong beach and the National Park turnoff.
The east coast is less developed and offers glimpses of life before tourism. It faces the mainland and has a coastline largely consisting of mangrove with some yellow sand beaches in the south.
Follow the road south towards Koh Lanta Village, you'll see rice paddies and prawn farms.
Turn off left to beautiful old Koh Lanta Village when you reach the main Police Station (on right). If you continue you'll pass the Buddhist Temple and the Hospital before coming to the Sea Gypsy Village.
The Sea Gypsy Villlge at the southern end of the east coast offers a glimpse of these ancient people, many who continue a nomadic existence on the sea. The village consists of small houses where these people live private lives. Please respect their privacy and be sensitive about where you point your camera. If you're lucky you'll see their unique fishing cages, rigid constructions of about 1x2x3 meters with an entrance gate. They are taken to places where tides concentrate fish, swum down to the ocean bottom and tied to rocks to keep them from being swept away (all without diving equipment!).
EAST ROUTE (Rote #2)
For an alternate route where the paved road swings left to the view site hill, continue straight on with an unpaved road that follows the coast northwards. You can turn left over the mountains after 8 km (to Long Beach) or continue on the road till Ban Saladan. This scenic route offers views of rural island life with small villages, farms and prawn farms next to raw jungle.
The waterfall reduces to a small shower in the dry season, but the fresh water pool is great for a cool dip, Continue your walk back past the road and follow the stream to Klong Jark beach – one of Koh Lanta Island 's prettiest small beaches.
Enjoy a walk through the jungle to the waterfall near Klong Jark beach in the south. The 45 minutes walk is not strenuous and follows a small stream. Guides can be had for a small fee at the café where the road fords a stream.
For something out of the sun, take a hike to the popular Mai Kaeo Caves. Turn right off the paved road just after the mosque till you see the parking place. A guide from the family owning the land will walk you up through rubber tree plantation and jungle over rope bridges to the cave entry.
The caves consist of a series of spectacular chambers with rock stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations. It involves some climbing up and down of rope ladders but is not too strenuous. When you spot people with muddy clothes and big smiles, they're just back from the caves!
Another choice for underground adventure is the recently discovered Tiger Cave. Find it off the national park road to the left.
The Koh Lanta island National Marine Park is at the southern tip of the island at the end of a spectacular coastal drive. The park offers picnic areas with toilets & showers, a nice beach, and a really interesting one-hour walk through unspoiled jungle (starts at the HQ building). A small lighthouse on the southern point is a popular photo-shot. Take your own food for picnics – cold drinks are usually available.