Lots of interesting accommodations on Phra Ae – cheap, mid-range & top end

True beachfront accommodations on Phra Ae Beach include a core of comfortable, 3-star bungalow resorts, just a couple of 4- and 5-star choices plus a good mix of budget bungalows. Then, at the bottom end, there’s a surprising number of super cheap huts in the old backpacker style. Recent developments on Phra Ae mimic those on all Lanta beaches; progressively upmarket, with cheap bungalows being taken over, bit-by-bit, for redevelopment into 3-star family bungalows or boutique resorts for couples.

Both families and couples seeking good value, 3-star comforts have the widest range of choices here on Phra Ae Beach.

But backpackers and others seeking budget rooms, either air-com or fan, still have quite a few more years on Lanta. In 2010 I predicted that several of Phra Ae’s old, cheap establishments would be gone within a few years. Some old bungalow establishments were then seen crumbling and not being repaired. Owners confirmed that they were waiting for, or currently negotiating the sale of their land to new developers. Yet come 2016, I found those predictions ill-founded, with most of the old bungalows still right there, with plenty of customers. With land prices skyrocketing, the process of gentrification has slowed on Lanta’s beaches, and most new hotels have been build well away from the beach. As our aerial photos and videos show, quite a bit of beach land remains vacant on Phra Ae. The many new establishments simply cannot afford it, thus spurring the growth of new guesthouses along the back road.

Also, in 2010 it had seemed as if the backpacking crowd was ready to give up on Koh Lanta, considering it ‘too developed’. Many young travellers were moving on to ‘new’, less-developed islands along the Andaman coast, including Koh Jum , also in Krabi province, and the beautiful, natural beaches of Koh Phayam further up the Andaman coast. However, the number of people seen in the cheap bungalows in January 2016 debunked my predictions and testified to Koh Lanta’s on-going appeal and durability as a backpacker destination.

It’s interesting to note, too, just how many of today’s 3-star visitors were once backpackers who saw Lanta in the 1980s or 90s. Now, with more money in their pockets, sometimes with children in tow, they appreciate Lanta's evolution and new comforts like air-conditioning and swimming pools.

If a room by the beach is your desire, do beware when booking, and check our beach maps carefully. They were up-to-date in 2016. There are now many more non-beachfront hotels and guesthouses in Phra Ae than there are true beachfront ones – and you can be sure many of their websites will neglect to tell you that it’s a hot, dusty walk from their rooms to the beach.

another Lanta beach morphing from backpacker to family-friendly

Phra Ae Beach has discovered that the best thing after a backpacker is a family. One look at the swimming pools here shows how Phra Ae is morphing itself straight from backpacker haven to children's heaven. About half of the resorts here now have new swimming pools, and most of those have sections for kids, or separate, dedicated children's pools.

Phra Ae is following the lead of its big sister to the north, Klong Dao Beach , though Phra Ae does not have the super wide and exceptionally kid-friendly sand and water that Klong Dao does. On Phra Ae the sand is much narrower, the beach steeper and the water a bit deeper – particularly at the north end. But Phra Ae is still an attractive beach for children, especially those beyond the toddler stage who are beginning to swim.

The hotels here are not big enough to run full children’s clubs or provide full-time staff for children’s activities, so a good degree of parental oversight is still needed. But a nice swimming beach, lots of soft sand, a swimming pool and attentive hotel staff all help keep little ones engaged, and bring them to exhaustion by day’s end.

When selecting a family hotel do check two things carefully: the swimming pool and the ocean bottom in front of the resort. The pools tells how conscious of children the hotel owner are: do they have dedicated children's pools or sectioned-off, shallow areas? And while most of this beach has a sandy bottom that is safe for children, some of the southern sectors are quite rocky and less suited to little ones.

See the best of family accommodations across all island beaches at Koh Lanta’s Top 10 Family-friendly beach hotels.

better quality true beachfront resorts on Phra Ae Beach

Phra Ae Beach is second only to Klong Dao for the number 3-star, mid-quality resorts on offer. But the number of stars claimed by each hotel does not reflect the full reality. A couple on this beach that claim 3-stars have no swimming pool, while one claiming the same star ranking has beautiful rooms that beat out even 4-star establishments – but again, with no swimming pool. It’s thus critical that prospective visitors check each hotel carefully – but only do so after having first assessed the beaches to decide which one matches your holiday dreams and needs. For a comparison of the different beach here see Koh Lanta’s Top 8 Beaches Compared .

Lanta Casuarina Beach Resort lies close to the middle of the beach where it has few neighbours save a large, and rare public park. The beach is thick with casuarina trees that droop long, pine-like needles in the wind. Casuarina BR is built with traditional Thai architectural lines and is one of the most modern resorts on this beach. It has one of the largest swimming pools in the area, with the almost mandatory young children’s section. It also has a large open lawn that's great for children in the morning and evenings when the heat is down. Perhaps the only drawback in this peaceful, somewhat isolated resort is the lack of big trees and shade by the beach.

Relax Bay Resort takes the prize for being the most natural, or eco-friendly resort on Phra Ae Beach. This is so well hidden in its private forest that our aerial photos show little but trees with only tiny glimpses of rooftops breaking the dense canopy. The resorts beach-side massage sala is one of the few things visible. Though Relax Bay is in Phra Ae’s rocky zone, it has an exceptionally pretty little beach with a sandy bottom clear of rocks. The resort restaurant is also immersed in the forest, while offering great views of beach, water and sunset. When the tide is high Relax Bay’s little beach becomes a private swimming cove of great natural beauty, and certainly one of the most beautiful spots on Lanta.

Nakara Long Beach is another good quality, 3-star resort in the quiet mid zone of the beach. Nakara swallowed its immediate neighbour, Lanta Long Beach Resort, some years ago. And today, despite that the latter is run as part of Nakara, the two still look like separate establishments. Many years later in2016 there was still a sign out in front of Long Beach with the old name. Confusing? Indeed, and it sometimes spreads to on-line sites that still list them as separate hotels. Nakara enjoys lots of internal space, and empty casuarina forests on both sides, giving it a special sense of privacy that’s not easily found on Lanta’s three main beaches. Nakara has gone all out to attract families with a separate children's pool that includes a toddlers area. This relatively new, modern resort will mellow and cool down year-by-year as its trees grow and begin to provide more needed shade.

Good Days Lanta is an especially spacious beach hotel facing one of the widest and most interesting parts of this beach. Between the hotel and the ocean a small estuary empties out over the sand. Though virtually dry at low tide, this stream breaks the monotony of a straight beach, and provides space for children to run, play and explore. Good Days has a reasonable size swimming pool with a small kids’ section.

Sayang Beach Resort changed its name from Bungalows to Resort. It’s definitely appropriate, for their original simple bungalows have been replaced with flash, modern chalets with the normal range of 3-star comforts and facilities. The transformation in quality is complete, though happily they did not fill their land with rooms, choosing instead to preserve their beautiful gardens and trees. Compliments to them. This enjoys a prime spot on the nicest part of Phra Ae Beach. It does not, however, have a swimming pool.

Looking for a real hideaway beach hotel on Lanta? See our selection of Koh Lanta’s Top 6 Hideaway Beachfront Resorts. Or, if boutique beach accommodations are your forte, see our recommendations on Koh Lanta’s Top 6 Boutique Beachfront Resorts.

just two resorts on the 4-star and 5-star range on Phra Ae Beach

As if to display that it can compete with all other beaches on this island, and cater to all levels, Phra Ae offers just one beachfront resort in both the 4- and 5-star categories.

Layana Resort & Spa is the only 5-star resort on this beach, and only one of three on all of Lanta claiming top star rating. The other two are the now-famous Pimalai Resort and Cha-Da Beach Resort on Klong Dao Beach. It’s also one of two resorts here that don’t allow children. Layana is tucked away in privacy among the big casuarina trees that provide most of the shade along this beach. Modern and well-designed, this is another good choice for couples seeking real peace and quiet, with all luxuries and comforts, on a pretty and quiet beach.

Lanta Sands Resort is the only 4-star aspirant on this beach, with spacious, modern chalets spread through tropical gardens, and a small hotel block to the back. There are two medium-sized swimming pools, one serving only the rear hotel building. The block of rooms to the back is nowhere near as attractive as the front zone, though no doubt cheaper.

Lanta Sand is well set-up for children, with lots of space and its two pools having shallow sectors for little ones. It also enjoys the best part of Phra Ae Beach, and has lots of shady space along the beachfront. This hotel could be a good choice for both families and couples looking for real comforts by a good beach with some fun and relaxation in the nearby beach bars and restaurants.

See all of the top-end, luxury resorts on this island at Koh Lanta’s Top 7 Luxury Beachfront Resorts.

Looking for cheap bungalows on Phra Ae Beach? No problem!

As mentioned above, in 2016 I was surprised to see how many of the cheapie bungalows had resisted the temptation to sell out to developers. The number of budget accommodations was still surprisingly high, and there is no indication that the backpacker style of accommodation will disappear from this island for many years..

Finding cheap bungalows is indeed very easy. Even in high season you can just turn up at the door and find an empty room at any number of establishments. Phoning or e-mailing in advance gives more assurances, of course, while only some of the budget beach hotels can be booked online.

Among the better-known budget bungalows at the top end of Phra Ae these names stand out: Seapearl Lanta Cottage has simple wood and bamboo bungalows spread through a wide coconut garden. Blue Sky Bungalows has a line of basic fan bungalows running back from its restaurant by the beach. Funky Fish Bungalows is best-known for its night party scene, though it too offers simple accommodations. Somewhere Else Bungalows blends in with the bar scene of neighbour Funky Fish to help create the most active music and party scene at the northern end of the beach. New Ozone is indeed one of the newer establishments here, and offers some of the most modern accommodations built in natural materials. It is built in an exceptionally spacious coconut garden.

The bottom end of the beach holds another gathering of simple and cheap bungalows, among them: Sanctuary Bungalows has small huts with woven bamboo walls over a concrete floor, set in a garden of bamboo and coconut palms. Thai House Beach Resort offers elevated platforms overlooking the beach where guests recline on cushions to enjoy the sunset and relaxing beach views. Nautilus Right on the Beach has two lines of substantial bungalows facing a spacious central garden, with pleasant massage ‘sala’ overlooking the beach. Lanta Marina Resort has two lines of A-frame thatched bungalows facing wide open, central lawns. Some shady trees would help here.

by John Everingham