Koh Larn island is an island just off the coast of Pattaya. It’s extremely important to the identity of Pattaya as a true beach town, because without it you’d be stuck with the very subpar beaches of Pattaya and Jomtien. It’s very easy to get to and from Koh Larn from Pattaya and the island has plenty to offer. The beaches are gorgeous and you can have a true exotic Thailand island experience. There are nicer beaches in Thailand than Koh Larn, but they’re basically a plane ride away from Bangkok or Pattaya. It’s what gives Pattaya the “best of both worlds” factor and my overall opinion of Pattaya wouldn’t be the same without it. Koh Larn is also the ideal place to bring a girl who you actually like on Coral Island.
Getting to Koh Larn:
The picture above should give you a good idea of Ko Larn’s proximity to Pattaya, it doesn’t take more than an hour to get there no matter how you go which makes it a convenient small island.
The picture above should give you a good idea of Koh Larn’s proximity to Pattaya, it doesn’t take more than an hour to get there no matter how you go.
1) If you go to Bali Hai Pier and you walk to the very end of the Pier you will see the ferries which leave every half hour or hour during the day. The price of the ferry is 30 baht. It really is a great deal! Some of the ferries drop you off in the town where there are no beaches, and the rest drop you off Twaen Beach. It takes about 40 minutes to the town and an extra 10 minutes if it’s go to the Twaen Beach dock. They pack the ferries with people, busy season or not, but it’s an easy enough ride. I prefer when it takes me to the town instead of the beach (will explain shortly), but it really doesn’t matter much.
2) Speed Boat - I don’t really see the need to take a speed boat out there. It’s easy enough to find them if you do, they leave from the same pier as the ferries, but they dock closer insland. The rates for the speed boat depend on how many people are in a group. It’s about 2,000 baht each way depending on how you negotiate and it’s typical for a group of 7 or so people to go. So you can figure on spending 300 baht each way which is 10 times the cost of the ferry. Look it’s still not a lot of money, $20 USD both ways or $40 if you’re with a girl, but once again I really don’t see the point. If you already have a group of 6+ people then it makes sense. But if you go alone or with a girlfriend, you’ll have to wait until others show up and a group of 6-8 is ready to go. In my experience it can take a half hour or more of waiting around until the boat takes off. And when you get on the boat some get a bit sea sick while it’s stationary for a few minutes prior to leaving the dock. If you have a group of people or you want to go on the speed boat for the fun of it then I can understand, otherwise it’s not worth it.
* Go directly to the ferries or to the speed boats to pay your fare. There are peddlers all over Pattaya who will sell you tickets at a markup. Don’t take a full size boat unless it’s one of the 30 baht ferries discussed above. There is another boat service that costs 150 baht each way per person and it is a nicer boat, however they lie about the time it takes to get you to the pier. In fact it actually takes these boats longer to get you to where you’re going than the 30 baht ferries because they can’t dock at the main piers and instead have to shuffle you to the sand using other small boats. The process is time consuming and annoying. And because they don’t have a fleet of boats if you buy round trip you’re stuck having to wait for the few times per day they actually do pickups.
Twaen Beach- The most popular beach on Koh Larn is Twaen Beach and this is the beach that the main ferries dock at. It has a fairly large coast line and it would take you about 15 minutes to walk from end to end. It’s an impressive looking beach and depending on the weather the water is usually crystal clear. You can sit anywhere you like for between 50-100 baht. Every place you sit has full service; they’ll bring you a menu for drinks and food. The prices are pretty consistent throughout the island if you’re sitting on the beach, figure about double the price of what a restaurant in Pattaya would charge for a Thai dish or a beer. The issue with Twaen beach is that it’s very crowded, especially on weekends and during the busy season. Sometimes there are hundreds of people in the water, and if you’re a swimmer you could find it tough to find space for a good swim. There are a lot of little shops bordering the beach and plenty of seafood restaurants off the sand. It is not far from Devil's den.
Tien Beach – Not the easiest to find if you’re on a motor bike, Tien Beach is pretty small, but has impressive beaches none the less. During the low season and on a weekday this beach can be pretty dead which is a good thing. Otherwise, the secret is out on this beach and because of its small size it easily fills up with people. It’s worth a stop if you’re checking the entire island out and it’s worth spending the day on a very quiet day, but if it’s busy I’d pass.
Samae Beach – Easily my favorite beach on the island, Samae Beach is large enough to accommodate a thousand or more people on the beach, but because it’s more of a pain in the ass to get to than Twaen Beach it usually never fills up even on busy days. If you’re a swimmer, this is easily the best beach for you. There are also just enough shops and restaurants to get by with and there is an excellent hotel at one end of the beach called Xanadu; the only place worth staying for the night on the island.
Others – There are a couple of other little beaches, but none really worth mentioning specifically. You can check them out and take a dip if you’re exploring the island.
Things to Do:
1) Rent a Motorbike and explore the island. Koh Larn is the perfect size, it’s just big enough to have plenty to do and plenty to see, but not large enough where you could get lost or waste too much time getting around. I rent a motorbike every time I go there and it’s an easy process. From the town there are plenty of places offering motorbike rentals. Here’s how it works, if you’re white they charge you 300 baht, if you’re Asian they charge you 200 baht. IF you’re white and you say song loy baht (200) before they quote you then they’ll honor the price. You can drive around the entire island in 20 minutes or so, but there are so many places to stop and check out the views and take pictures. BE CAREFUL. If you’re not very used to driving a motorbike Koh Larn is not a good place to get practice. The hills are not easy to deal with for beginner drivers. My recommendation is to let your Thai girl drive unless you really know what you’re doing.
2) Jet Ski - They’ll quote you 1,000 B during busy season for a half hour and as long as they’re not very busy you can talk them down to 800, or even as low as 600 during the low season. Koh Larn has nicer waters to drive around in than Pattaya, obviously, and it’s a much safer transaction. With all of the jet ski scams in Pattaya where people basically get robbed, I personally haven’t heard of people getting scammed on Koh Larn.
3) Visit the Large Buddhist Statue at the top of the island. So the largest statue is actually half way up the highest peak of the island and you can just drive up to it and walk right up and stand beside it. There are nice views looking towards Pattaya from this statue. And most people probably don’t know that this is an amazing view come night time as Pattaya lights up. But passing this first large statue (right behind Twaen Beach) and going up the dirt road you’ll come to a small Buddhist Temple where the road stops. If you want to check out the temple, go for it, just make sure you’re fully clothed and make sure to give a donation. The monks there speak a little English and they’re very friendly. From the Buddhist Temple there is a huge flight of steps to the top point and the 2nd large Buddhist Statue. The steps are uneven so be careful. IT’s very steep so it’s quite the cardio workout to get to the top. The views at the very top are insane, but it’s not a great place for pictures because there are lots of little tree branches getting in the way of your shot. IT’s a great way to work up a sweat before hitting the beaches! There are other view points on the island as well; you’ll find them by driving around.
4) IF you want to go for a hike/climb you can actually find a nice path in the trees just behing Twaen Beach and you can climb all the way to to the road that leads to the Budhist Temple. IF you combine this climb with the stairs from the Temple it’s a nice little journey up and down – a great workout and you’re rewarded with some excellent views.
5) Snorkeling – If it’s a clear day out and you’re a decent swimmer there is some pretty good snorkeling on Koh Larn. IT’s nothing like what you’ll find in Southern Thailand, not even close. But it’s good enough for enjoyment and it doesn’t really cost much.
6) Helmet Dive - If you want to kick things up a notch you can spend 500-700 baht per person to walk amongst the fish. If you want to do this any motorbike taxi driver on the island will get you to the boat that’s docked in the water and offers the service. Of course the motorbike taxi drivers make their commission by charging you as much as they can get. You can get them down to 500 baht per person, but some might not think it’s worth their time to set you up for the token commission they get at that price. Anyhow, the helmet dive is unique. People freak out when they first go in the water with the helmet because it does feel unnatural. But as long as you relax I promise that you get used to the way it feels after about 3 minutes. You’ll stay down there for just shy of 30 all together, usually with a group of people. You walk around a nice chunk of coral with a variety of fish that hang out waiting for the bread that you and countless others will feed them. It’s worth doing once.
7) Banana Boat - The main two beaches have banana boats pulled by a jet ski. They’re not as fun as a jet ski, seriously just rent a jet ski.
8) Para Sailing - I only see them going up before noon, so get to Koh Larn early if you want to do this. It’s fun, it doesn’t last very long, and it’s inexpensive (300 baht). Find any motorbike taxi driver and they’ll set you up. Also worth doing, once.
As I mentioned before, the only place worth staying at in Koh Larn Coral island is Xanadu, which is located at the end of Samae Beach. It has a few family-friendly attractions. You can’t possibly miss it because it’s overly colorful. But the rooms are 2,500 baht if you pay when you get there. But with taxes and a discount you save about 300 baht if you book through the link I provided through Agoda. The rooms are nice, clean, new, and comfortable, and they have new TV’s. You can use their chairs on the beach for free if you’re staying at the hotel which will save you a couple of hundred baht a day. I recommend a one night stay there with a girl where you can get two days of beach before heading back to Pattaya. One night is nice, but since there isn’t a ton to do on the island after 6PM, one night is also enough.
There are some guest houses and bungalows as cheap as 1,200 baht a day during busy season but they’re not on the beach and they don’t have the best rooms. IT’s worth spending a few extra buck to stay at the Xanadu because you’re on the beach and you get a nice room.
Remember, there is no nightlife and no girls on Koh Larn. It’s strictly BYO.