In this work, the miscibility between chitin nanocrystals (ChNs) and poly(lactic acid) (PLA) was expected to be improved by surface acetylation of ChN. The reaction of acetic anhydride onto the ChN surface was confirmed by FTIR and 13C NMR, while XRD and TEM proved the crystalline structure and rod-like morphology were maintained. The acetylated ChN (AChN) was incorporated into a PLA matrix by solution blending, and resulted in an increase of tensile strength and Young's modulus and they reached to the maximum value as 45 and 37% higher than neat PLA film, respectively, with the loading level of AChN reaching to 4 wt %. The enhancement could be attributed to that acetylation improved dispersion of AChN in the PLA matrix and interfacial adhesion between AChN and PLA. The performances of the nanocomposites based on PLA and chitin nanocrystals derived from renewable resources have good potential for industrial applications. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 39809.