Quick Guide to Koh Pha Ngan
Ringed with white sands, the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand lapping against its shores, Koh Phangan is your typically picturesque South-East Asian island - with a twist. You see, this stunning slice of land is where the world-infamous Full Moon parties are thrown.
Since it was 'discovered' by hippy backpackers in the 1980s, the island has attracted travellers looking to party hard in an environment that encourages relaxation. And while the vestiges of this lifestyle remain, it's also becoming more family friendly, with plenty of pockets of peace and quiet for those looking for sand and sun, sans whisky bucket (though we don't see the parties going anywhere anytime soon!).
Away from the buzzing streets of its main towns, the island has plenty to see and do. More than half the island is a national park, and venturing to its inland jungle is well worth the song teaow (converted pickup trucks taking visitors from A to B) fare. Spa and yoga retreats are also popping up around the island, and there are plenty of opportunities for boat trips, snorkelling and watersports.
Fab holidays for:
Sun, sand, parties
Did you know?
You might remember Koh Phangnan from the novel The Beach and its film adaptation.
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Top 5 Things to do in Koh Phangan
Whether you're a hard partier, a sun-seeker or avid snorkeller, you'll find something to do on Thailand's fifth-largest island. Here are a few of our favourite things.
- Full Moon Party
- We couldn't compile a list of things to do on Koh Phangan without including the thing that made it famous in the first place: its Full Moon Parties! Taking place all night until sunrise on the night of the full moon, these epic parties see anywhere from 5,000-30,000 people flock to the island to dance and drink whisky bucket after whisky bucket.
- Thong Sala Night Market
- Balmy nights make the evenings the best time for markets in Thailand - most places you visit will have their own, Koh Phangan included. The Thong Sala Night Market puts food front and centre as street vendors whip up all manners of tasty Thai delicacies. From curries to soups, noodles to sticky rice, the only way you'll go hungry is if you don't like Thai food (don't worry, there's a selection of Western bites as well!).
- See the Underwater World
- Divers and snorkellers will find their happy place in the waters of Kho Phangan. Southwest Pinnacle and Sail Rock are halfway between Koh Phangan and the famous dive island of Koh Tao. Snorkellers are also well served at the beaches of Haad Salad and Haad Ya. Haad Chao Pao also has a vibrant coral reef and Haad Thong Lang is great for escaping crowds.
- Boat Trip
- All visitors to Koh Phangan must start their journey with a boat trip; it's the only way to reach this airport-free island. If that hasn't sated your thirst for marine vessels, there are plenty of day trips to the nearby islands of Ang Thong. These boast great snorkelling, lush forests, viewing points, caves and lagoons. You can also hop onto a traditional longtail boat for a lazy paddle around the island, or hire a kayak for a more DIY experience!
- Chase Waterfalls
- With more waterfalls than you can poke a stick at, to not see one of these majestic cascades of water while on Koh Phangan would be a crime. Thaan Sadet waterfall is the island's most famous, for its streams and pools, giant boulders and rock inscriptions from past Thai kings. Also worth a look are Paradise Waterfall and Thaan Prawet - which tumbles towards the beautiful Thong Nai Pan Noi beach.
When to Visit Koh Phangan
Like the rest of Thailand, Koh Phangan is warm year-round. However, also like the rest of Thailand, the island's year is split into two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. September and November are the wettest months, and crowds reach their peak from December to April. If you're looking for peace, be sure to check out when the Full Moon parties will be held. The quietest months are April, May and June - and thus the cheapest. September and October are also cheap, but there is far less sun!
Where to Stay in Koh Phangan
Where you stay in Koh Phangan depends on what kind of holiday you're after. Haad Rin is where the famous Full Moon Parties are held at least once a month, and is also the main tourist centre of the island. Here you'll find nice beaches (but certainly not the best), bars, and plenty of tourism companies offering tours and the like. This area is the best pick for party animals.
The north of the island is quieter with less-crowded beaches. Here you'll find Thong Nai Pan, Haad Yao and Chaloklum, which are great for those searching for a little luxury. Haad Salad is in the island's north-west, and is quiet and pretty. You'll also find cheap massages and snorkel and kayak equipment for hire.
After a little nightlife, but still want to retreat to the quiet after the party's over? The south-west area is best for this. Spots like Thong Sala, Ban Khai and Ban Tai are central for most of the island's activities, and within easy distance of the parties of Haad Rin.
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How to Get to Koh Phangan
Despite its popularity amongst tourists, Koh Phangan doesn't have its own airport. 'How do I get there?' we hear you shout! Well, there's a couple of ways! The most popular is flying from the UK to Bangkok, then from Bangkok to Koh Samui. An array of airlines fly this route, including AirAsia, Bangkok Airlines and Thai Airways. From Koh Samui, regular ferries service the half-hour journey to Koh Phangan. You can also get there from Surat Thani on the mainland, which is easy to reach from Bangkok. There are also flights from Phuket to Koh Samui, if you want to extend your island holiday!