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.