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On our trip to Koh Lanta, Thailand, we were mostly content to lazily let the days drift by as we squished sand between our toes. After traveling non-stop for six months, we were craving a little R&R – and no better place to do that than on Koh Lanta. We weren’t actively seeking things to do in Koh Lanta, but when other travelers told us snorkeling Koh Lanta was the best snorkeling in Thailand, we had to see for ourselves.
Snorkeling Koh Lanta
Several large monoliths are scattered in the Andaman Sea just off the coast of Krabi, Koh Lanta. Some are sheer rock, others have small beaches along the edge and a few have navigable caves – and these karst islands are the best places in Koh Lanta for snorkeling. The reef that lies just below the surface is a feasting ground for fish of all shapes, sizes and colors. For sea-loving humans, swimming in the fantastic snorkeling spots is one of the top Koh Lanta things to do. Koh Lanta tours regularly route boats to the small cluster of islands, which are the main attraction for the 4 Island Tour Koh Lanta.
Four Island Tour Koh Lanta
The 4 Island Tour is one of the most popular Koh Lanta activities – and a reason many tourists travel to Koh Lanta. Day trips from Koh Lanta commence at the Old Town Pier where multiple traditional Thai Longtail boats await tourists. The Koh Lanta day trips set off to islands near Koh Lanta for a full day of exploration at sea. Our Koh Lanta island tour stopped at five islands: Koh Maa (no snorkeling), Koh Chuek, Koh Waen, Koh Mook and Koh Ngai.
Thai Longtail Boats
The 70-foot-long, wooden Longtail boats used for the Ko Lanta 4 Island Tour have the shape of a canoe, but are much bigger and have both an engine and a canopy. Our captain, who had thick, wire-rim glasses, wore baggy pants, a faded Sex Pistols t-shirt and a straw farmer’s hat. Our group of 13 tourists – most of whom we recognized from our days on the beach – fit comfortably in the boat. Longtail boats aren’t known for their speed, as the propeller is quite small, but the slow, smooth ride allowed us to relish the changing landscapes.
Islands On the Koh Lanta Four Island Tour
Our boat was one of the last Koh Lanta boat tours to leave the docks. The sky was slightly overcast and we stayed back from the other 4 Islands Koh Lanta tour boats, stopping first at Koh Maa.
Visiting Koh Maa
On our 4 Island Tour from Koh Lanta, Koh Maa was the first karst we approached. At the edge of the island was an old, falling-down shack, but the only sign of life was the colony of bats. Trees grew from crevices in the rocky and bats dangled from the branches. We didn’t get out of the boat – the island isn’t officially part of the Koh Lanta snorkeling tour. Instead we bobbed at the base of the karst, marveling at the gigantic rock and how it plunged into the aqua water.
Snorkeling Koh Chuek
Our first Ko Lanta snorkeling spot was Koh Chuek. We glided up to boats already moored there and before we were even anchored, our captain was shouting, “Go! Get in! Swim!” (I love the informal approach to Koh Lanta excursions: no rules or strict guidelines; just get out and play!) We grabbed masks and snorkel tubes and were the first ones in the water.
The water was murky – possibly from being over-toured by Koh Lanta boat trips, but more likely from the morning’s storm – making it difficult to see the coral that was about 10 feet below us. However, bright yellow fish were everywhere and they weren’t shy as they swam right alongside of us. We explored the edge of the rock and went further away than most of the group, allowing us to get to less crowded spots. We saw heaps of tropical fish and a few large schools that hid on the underside of overhanging rocks.
Koh Waen Snorkeling
Once again, as soon as we tied up near Koh Waen we were instructed to hop out of the boat. The current was stronger here and we drifted along with entire schools of fish. I don’t mean small packs of fish, I mean hundreds, maybe thousands, of fish swimming in unison right alongside us. It was like watching an episode of Nat Geo as the entire school quickly changed direction or were forced to split up to get around us and then reconnect. It was remarkable. Also remarkable was the strength of the current and swimming against it to get back to the boat was a chore (but we didn’t mind the exercise!).
Koh Muk Snorkeling and Caving
Koh Muk (also Mook) is one of the top Koh Lanta attractions. We hopped out of the boat for Koh Mook snorkeling, but then followed our captain into a karst cave for exploration. Named Emerald Cave because of how the water inside the cave glows bright green, we swam a half mile through the cave to an interior karst beach. Nestled in what felt like the bottom of a volcano, the hidden paradise of soft sand, jungle trees and soaring rock felt like an exotic movie set. The oasis was most notably used by pirates as a place to store their treasures and our thoughts drifted to Isla de Muerta from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Koh Ngai was the last island we would visit on our Koh Lanta snorkeling tour. Our crew assembled a lunch on the beach – including rice, curry and pineapple salad (that included pickles, potatoes and tomatoes – so simple, so fresh, so good). We sat in the sand to eat and watched as other boats on Koh Lanta trips came and went in the tropical bliss.
The clear, calm water beckoned us for an after-lunch swim and as we took in our surroundings we were struck by just how beautiful it was. We were swimming in the Andaman Sea – one of the absolute best things to do in Koh Lanta, Thailand – and our day wasn’t over yet!
We hopped back into the boat for a short ride to the end of Koh Ngai for one more snorkeling stop. Little did we know that our captain had saved the best snorkeling Koh Lanta spot for last. The reef was only about 3 feet below water and the visibility was much clearer, allowing us to better see the fish. We found an anemone with several orange and a few black ‘Nemo fish’, an enormous puffer fish, a striped snake-like eel, hordes of radiantly colored fish and even unsightly camouflaged fish. Just like at every other stop, Kris and I were the last ones back in the boat and we wish we could have stayed longer.
Thoughts on Snorkeling Koh Lanta
We really think we lucked out and got on the best 4 Island Tour Koh Lanta! We loved the relaxed style of our captain and the prepared lunch was just different enough to be memorable. The highlights for us were swimming through the cave to the secluded beach and our last snorkeling stop where we saw such a big variety of sea creatures. We probably wouldn’t rank the trip as the Best Snorkeling in Thailand – as we had a better experience in the water on our Koh Chang Snorkeling 4 Islands Tour (although the boat ride to the snorkeling spots was quite rough!). That being said, we highly recommend the 4 Island Tour Koh Lanta as one of the top things to do in Koh Lanta! Don’t spend your time in Koh Lanta snorkeling on the beach by your accommodations! Book a Four Island Tour Koh Lanta for a much better experience.
Koh Lanta Tips:
Our best tips for your Koh Lanta trip!
Beaches in Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta What To Do
Need more ideas of what to do in Koh Lanta? We’ve got you covered!
Tour Koh Lanta – Either rent a motorbike or hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to explore the top places to visit in Koh Lanta.
Koh Rok Snorkeling Tour – Hop on a speedboat for a Koh Rok Tour and a day of snorkeling at Koh Rok Island. Find out more about this Koh Rok Snorkeling Tour!
Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi Tour – Join a tour guide for a Koh Lanta to Phi Phi day trip – one of the top tours from Koh Lanta! Get the details for this Koh Phi Phi Tour!
Koh Lanta Diving – Inquire at tourist agencies about scuba diving Koh Lanta.
Where To Stay in Koh Lanta, Thailand
During our visit to Koh Lanta, we stayed in the Phutara Lanta Resort (which you can read about here). However, when searching for Koh Lanta accommodation there are many hotels to choose from on the island.
Start your search for places to stay in Koh Lanta on Booking.com!
Before You Go
- Don’t forget these essentials when packing for the beach: Sunscreen, Insect Repellent and flip flops! I (Sarah) love these flips by Reef.
- When we took this trip, we didn’t yet have an action camera with waterproof casing – something we totally regret!! We highly recommend buying a GoPro (or similar, less-expensive action camera) so you can capture the sights under the sea!
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!)
- We think travel insurance is essential – especially when traveling in Southeast Asia! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
Want more Thailand travel planning tips? We have detailed blog posts for your visit to Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Phuket and more! Head over to our Travel Planning page for our complete packing list and other travel resources!
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