When it comes to paradise islands, Koh Phangan is certainly up there as one of the best – and most famous. The most well-known thing about this island, apart from its exotic, far-flung beauty and white sand beaches, is the wild Full Moon Party.
A firm favorite on the Southeast Asia backpacking trail, this monthly party has humble origins but has turned into something of a mega event, attracting tens of thousands of people and even international DJs. This all-night party on the sand is a symbol of the hedonism that Koh Phangan, and Thailand, is known for.
But away from the buckets of alcohol and unbridled fun, there is a much more serene, quieter side to Koh Phangan than first meets the eye. There may be countless hostels at the party capital of Haad Rin, where you’ll find the Full Moon Party in full swing each month, but head further to the north and east of the island and the accommodation options begin to reflect a slower, more chilled out pace of life.
Map of Koh Phangan
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Beach bungalows offer up affordable stays right next to the gentle sound of waves; boutique hotels give you the option for budget-friendly luxury on a lesser-visited beach; or you could even base yourself in the main town on the island, Thong Sala.
When it comes to getting around, there are a few interesting hikes on the island, through enticing jungle trails to once-secret, yet still pristine beaches and some lush waterfalls.
A few roads snake through the island; over the hills to reach the northeast, and around the coast to reach the northern beach of Mae Haad. Communal songthaews allow you to get from the port to wherever you’re staying – with your bags in tow – for a budget-friendly price, too.
Haad Rin is quintessential Koh Phangan; it’s here where the infamous, original Full Moon Party takes place. The concept dates back to 1983 when the owners of Paradise Bungalows put on a party to thank the 30 or so travelers who had been staying there. Today, this decadent party attracts crowds of up to 30,000!
Aside from the monthly parties, the beach at Haad Rin is a long stretch of white sand with turquoise water lapping the shore; it is certainly an idyllic spot.
There are many places to stay here, from super affordable hostel beds to boutique hotels with less affordable rooms on offer.
Longboats run in and out of Hat Rin, meaning if you don’t want to navigate the road out of the southeast portion of the island, you can get to other places on Koh Phangan with relative ease.
Quite possibly one of the most stunning beaches on Koh Phangan, Haad Yao does not disappoint. It’s the sort of thing you see on a postcard: a curving stretch of white sand fringed by palm trees.
Of course, there’s plenty on offer in terms of accommodation here. You’ll find places spilling right onto the beach itself as well as guesthouses and hotels further inland. Unless you’re looking for a truly exclusive stay, everything is going to be different shades of budget-friendly.
Facing west, Haad Yao is a beautiful place for sundowners. Next door, just to the south around a small headland, is the not-so-secret Secret Beach, which still offers a more chilled and secluded beachside experience. There are several cafes and restaurants to choose from, as well as a convenient 7-11, too.
South of Haad Yao lies the community that has sprung up around the beach of Srithanu. Named after the nearby Wat Sri Thanu, a small but pretty temple, there’s good snorkeling to be had just off the beach here.
But it’s not all about the beachside fun; you can also head to the nearby Laem Son Lake, where you can relax under the shade of pine trees, rope swing into the lake, or simply spend a while drifting around on an inflatable.
There are plenty of restaurants in Sri Thanu, meaning you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to filling up on tasty food. And when it comes to accommodation, expect Thai style beach huts and bungalows, guesthouses, and hotels, all of which range from very cheap to not so cheap.
Don’t get too excited – this isn’t a beach about regular green leaf salad. This particular salad comes from the Malay word ‘selat’ or ‘strait’ and refers to pirates. There aren’t any pirates here today though; just a beautiful beach, a host of affordable and mid-range accommodation options, as well as bars, restaurants, and cafes nearby.
Stay on the headland to the west for amazing views and a higher quality experience, or opt for a deliciously budget bungalow on the beach itself. There’s also a compact beach on the other side of the headland.
Thanks to its proximity to one of the main roads that runs around the island, it’s easy to get out and see other nearby spots, like Wangsai Waterfall or Mae Haad to the north – home to the amazing Ko Ma, an island connected to Koh Phangan by a sandbar at low tide.
The administrative center of Koh Phangan, Thong Sala is going to be – for most travelers, anyway – the entry and exit point of your visit to this stunning Thai island. All roads on the island lead here, meaning that if you’re circumnavigating Koh Phangan on a motorbike, you’ll most likely have to pass through at least part of Thong Sala.
Naturally, there are a variety of awesome places to stay in this town, most of which are going to be easy on the wallet, with a few posher choices thrown in for good measure. If you are looking for things to do, start with the multitude of restaurants, cafes, and bars in town. You can also check out the abandoned Phangan Navy Ship, beautiful Ao Nai Wok beach to the north, or the larger stretch of sun, sea, and sand to the east.
Located in the Ban Tai district of Koh Phangan, Thong Nai Pan is made up of two beachside communities separated by a headland. In the south is Thong Nai Pan Yai, generally a cheaper and more rustic option with a few mid-range hotels.
Head away from this curving slice of sand and down into town for a fantastic selection of street food every night, handily located right opposite a 7-11. There are a few bars and restaurants to enjoy here, too.
Around the headland to the north is Thong Nai Pan Noi. This beach is the more ‘established’ and less rustic of the two, with numerous restaurants and bars to choose from, as well as a decidedly more comprehensive choice of upscale, but still relatively affordable, accommodation.