Koh Larn, also known as Coral Island, is nestled in the Gulf of Thailand. Located just a mere 7km off the coast of Pattaya Beach. This idyllic island was supposed to offer a serene escape from bustling city life—the perfect getaway from Bangkok.
Koh Larn was close to the city and supposedly had pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, coral reefs and an island without thousands of hotels. It sounded perfect and was part of the reason for my recent trip to Pattaya.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the websites I had looked at regarding Koh Larn, were not updated regularly. Because as I sat by the pool looking into the distance the day before I was due to go, I saw hundreds (I kid you not) of speed boats and ferries speeding back and forth to the oh-so “isolated” beaches of Koh Larn.
My heart sank, but deciding to take it as an omen of popularity, rather than as a day ruined by too much of a tourist footprint, I set my alarm for the following morning and caught the first ferry across to try and miss the rush. It turns out my efforts were futile, as many others had turned up at the pier with the same idea. But when the ferry costs just 30 THB and takes a mere 35 minutes to get across, I couldn’t possibly blame them. After all, I was one of them!
Arriving in Koh Larn I was greeted by row upon row of sun beds. So much so that there wasn’t much of a beach to play on as the sun beds were lined up to the water’s edge! But I didn’t mind so much as the main reason for my visit to Koh Larn was due to its nickname, “Coral Island”. So I spent the day beach hopping with friends, in an attempt to find Nemo.
I started with Twaen Beach, which was known for its picturesque beauty, and whilst it was, it was far too overcrowded. Partially due to its clear waters and charming wooden walkways, but mainly due to its convenient location right by the pier. The constant stream of boats meant the water was too disturbed for fish to settle, so I hopped aboard a songthaew and made my way to Samae Beach.
Samae Beach was beautiful, with its tranquil ambience and breathtaking surroundings. Sure, the rows of sun beds were an eyesore, but there were not nearly as many beds here, and surprisingly not that many people either. Just myself and a handful of others were the only ones leaving our footprints in the soft white sand. I stayed for a short while before my feet began itching to see what the other beaches had to offer. So I walked to the top of the viewpoint to take a look around and then made my way across to Tien Beach.
With market stands, restaurants and a bar, Tien Beach was definitely one of the more populated beaches.
After a day of walking around in the sun, I decided to pull up a sunbed and order a spot of lunch, only to discover that it was 10:30 am. Not one to let time dictate my meals I settled in for a bowl of Tom Yum Goong and watched as the others went for a quick swim. After lunch, I joined them. The waters were clear and warm and it was great to swim around. However, there were no fish or corals, so after drying off with a sun-filled nap, I moved on to the next beach.
Nual Beach was a little different to the other beaches we had visited. Huge hills surrounded the beach, which made for stunning scenery, however, the coarse sand meant walking barefoot was a no-no. So if you’re heading that way I recommend taking flip-flops or jellies. In my post-nap haze, I forgot to take photos. But it was incredibly peaceful.
Next up was Thong Lang Beach. My final beach stop, and the only one in which I saw any corals. Actually, to say corals would be an overstatement, I saw a few plus one sea urchin and an array of different-sized rocks! But navigating around them made for some interesting swimming. However, the waves started to pick up and so I made my way back to the pier to head back to Pattaya.
All in all, I’d say that Koh Larn was not what I was expecting, especially after various Internet sites had built up my interest in finding Nemo. However as with any place, the day is what you make of it and even though the snorkelling was a total wipeout, I still had a great time exploring with friends.
The island is fairly easy to navigate, with songtaews and mopeds taking you around for as little as 40-50 THB per beach and the beaches (although somewhat ruined by umbrellas and sun beds) were just as beautiful as one could hope for. If you’re looking for snorkelling, this isn’t the island for you. But if you’re looking for a relaxing day to escape the city—head straight to Samae with a good book!
How to Get to Koh Larn:
Reaching Koh Larn is relatively easy and there are a few options available. You can get the ferry directly from Pattaya Beach and it will take you around 35 minutes to arrive. You can take a speedboat, which will cost you slightly more but will get you there in 15 minutes. Or if you don’t want to beach hop, and want to navigate around the island—why not take one of many island tours?