Ko Larn (or Ko Lan) is an island in the Bay of Bangkok off the coast of Pattaya. If you are familiar enough with Thailand then that geographical description alone would probably put you off visiting. If you aren’t familiar, the Bay of Bangkok is not famous for its water quality, and Pattaya is a popular seaside city near Bangkok. Koh Larn is not only a popular beach break for Bangkokians, but its also a beach break for Pattayans. Koh Larn is in Bang Lamung district, which encompasses Pattaya City, so technically Koh Larn a staycation destination for Pattayans (for when you need a beach break from your beach city).
Despite its local popularity, I was not aware of Koh Larn until I researched the closest beaches to Bangkok. It turns out that even though it’s not the closest island to Bangkok, it’s the quickest island break near Bangkok.
I visited Pattaya to ride the slow train from Bangkok to Pattaya before the high-speed train to Pattaya arrives. While I was in Pattaya I figured I should add another koh to my collection of visited islands in Thailand.
There are speed boats and ferries that leave from the Bali Hai pier at the end of Walking St in Pattaya. One of the factors that makes Ko Larn a quick break from Bangkok is that there is a minivan station next to the pier. Vans arrive here directly from Bangkok, so there is minimal friction in going from van to boat.
[Minivans to Bangkok at Bali Hai pier in Pattaya (search for vans to Bali Hai pier).]
I was there during peak season so they were just sending speed boats as fast as they could fill them. The speed boat takes 15 minutes to cover the 7 km journey to the island.
[Speed boats at Bali Hai Pier in Pattaya.]
The speed boats arrive at Koh Larn at Na Baan pier on the coast facing Pattaya.
[Na Baan pier.]
I did no research for this trip so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it might have been a basic tourist island with minimal infrastructure (perhaps I was dreaming about Koh Kradan or Ko Ngai). I was surprised to find an actual township with 7-Elevens and supermarkets.
There is even a wat with orange-robed monks wandering about.
[Wat Mai Samraan.]
The island is roughly four kilometres long and two kilometres wide. It’s a small island in the grand scheme of things (definitely not large enough to make the largest islands in Thailand list), but it was larger than I anticipated. I stopped at a cafe to load Google Maps to my phone and make a plan. The main beaches are on the other side of the island. Tawaen Beach is 2 km from the pier and 30 minutes by foot according to Google Maps, so I picked that as my target.
[Coffee at One Million Cafe.]
I walked through the town, which was also more normal than I though it would be. I was expecting it to be all tourist shops.
Outside the town there is a road that goes up a hill. Even though 30 minutes is not long by standards, it is a dry and exposed island in the interior.
Near the other side of the island there is a viewpoint that looks out to the sea. There were many people here that had stopped their bikes to have a look.
I after seeing the beach I could see why this was a traffic stopper. I was not expecting such a spectacular view from here. Who knew that water in the Bay of Bangkok could look so blue and the sand so white.
One thing I did expect was the beach to be crowded. The rows of chairs and umbrellas reminded me of those crowded beaches you see in Italy.
[Tawaen Beach (I waited for a moment when people weren’t in shot).]
I did a lap of the beach, dodging multiple photo shoots along the way.
And of course there are jet skis here as well.
[Jet skis at Tawaen Beach.]
Tawaen beach is lined with food vendors. Day trippers come here to have BBQ by the beach.
The beach even has a Cafe Amazon, which is like the Starbucks of Thailand.
There are hotels on Koh Larn., though most people visit as a day trip and stay in Pattaya. The cheapest places (such as guesthouses) are near the pier, while there are some mid-range hotels and resorts at the beaches.
There are motorcycle services, songthaews, and golf cart rentals. Fares are clearly listed for locations around the island so no need to worry about haggling.
The beach wasn’t long enough to satisfy my walking needs and I couldn’t be bothered walking to the other beaches, so I walked back to the pier.
Koh Larn was a surprise for me. It has a nice beach and I liked the town vibe. It’s just too bad it is too small and too close to Bangkok and Pattaya. If it was anywhere else in Thailand it would probably be famous as an island with few visitors. Being so close to Pattaya and Bangkok means there is always going to be crowds here.
Since my visit to the island it has only gotten busier. There was a record-breaking day of 24,513 tourist arrivals on December 30 2023, so it is safe to say that tourism is back.
This was my first new island visit of 2023. I was to visit another new island, but first I had to go to Hat Yai in the deep south. Rather than pass through I stayed for two days to have a look around. My notes on Hat Yai are coming up next.