Koh Pha-ngan is a name synonymous with fun in Southeast Asia. After all, this small island town turns into the world’s most famous international party once a month. The Full Moon party is just the tip of the iceberg for Koh-Phangan.
We’ll cover all the pertinent information one needs to know for their first experience in Koh Pha-ngan. We’ll review the best beaches, the best places to stay, the coolest things to do and identify some great restaurants around the island.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter when you visit. Full Moon party or not, incredible times can be found on every nook and corner of this island. You just have to know where to look.
Southern Thailand is famous for having some of the world’s best beaches. Koh Pha-ngan is famous for having some of Southern Thailand’s most beautiful beaches. You do the math.
With more than 30 beaches to name, you’re always relatively close to the beach. Here is a list of the most pristine stretches of sand that Koh Pha-ngan has to offer.
The most popular beach is Haad Rin. The area has a cliff on both sides of the beach. It’s a popular place to spend the day sunbathing, riding jet-skis, and grabbing a delicious bite to eat. This beach is a popular departure point for the many boat taxis that take tourists around the island.
This crescent-shaped bay is extraordinarily well-maintained given its status as the party beach of the entire island. Koh Pha-ngan makes a tremendous amount of money every month thanks to the Full Moon party. Crowds of 20,000+ often leave this beach destroyed. In order to preserve the environment, the city has employed tons of workers to keep things clean.
Haad Yuan Beach is just a hop and skip away from Haad Rin. This area is significantly less crowded than Haad Rin. You can reach this beach by taking a short boat taxi or hiking for two hours through the jungle. The trailhead that leads you to this beach can be found near Haad Rin.
While certainly challenging to reach, this remote beach still offers a variety of bungalows and bars. This is normally a quiet beach away from the commotion of Haad Rin. However, once a week this quiet and calm beach turns into something crazy. Weekly parties are held on Haad Yuan and they even host the occasional music festival.
Bottle Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Koh Pha-ngan. This slice of heaven is significantly more remote than Haad Yuan (or any of the other beaches in town). You can only reach this beach by rough dirt road or boat taxi from Chaloklum.
Bottle Beach (also called Haad Khuad) gets its name from the bottle shape its bay resembles. This area is incredible, isolated, and filled with some of the friendliest Thai people in the entire world.
This small town doesn’t offer a wide variety of bars or restaurants, but the few in town pack a flavorful and spicy punch. The curries available are akin to a country grandma’s cooking. You don’t need a lot of establishments to enjoy Bottle Beach – that’s the beauty of the place.
If you need adventure or excitement, scuba options are available just past the bay. A nude beach is directly West (about 1 km) of Bottle Beach. An overlooked point is accessible by an hour-long hike. This bird’s eye view is the perfect way to see Bottle Beach’s distinct shape.
Salad Beach is another famous Koh Pha-ngan beach. As the island becomes more and more popular each year, only a handful of beaches retain their quiet and peaceful nature. Salad Beach and Bottle Beach certainly fit that bill.
In addition to a blue-green cove and the shade of giant palm trees, Salad Beach is right beside a cooking school, a ton of affordable restaurants, and a luxury yoga retreat. This beach is one of the best that the West side of the island has to offer.
One of the most unique beaches in the world in Mae Haad. This beach features a long peninsula that reaches out to become the hilly island of Koh Ma. This narrow stretch of sand divides a national marine park on both sides. This is one of the most picturesque places in Thailand as you can be laying on the beach with the ocean both in front of you and behind you.
Thong Nai Pan is a great spot for jaw-droppingly impressive sunrises. This beach is technically composed of two smaller beaches – Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi. The reefs present at these beaches are ideal for snorkeling. There’s even a waterfall that’s hiking distance from this beach.
After all, you can reach all the same great snorkeling points from Koh Pha-ngan. Plus you have the added benefit of great access to a wide array of giant parties. The Full Moon party on Haad Rin certainly takes the cake as Koh Pha-ngan’s biggest shindig.
In an attempt to capitalize on the infamous namesake of the Full Moon event, the island has started the Half Moon party, the Quarter Moon party, a Black Moon party, and a Shiva Moon party. If you visit the island for a month, it may be the only time in your life that you ever truly know the cycle of the moon.
In addition to these moon-related soirees, one can also enjoy the waterfall parties, jungle parties, and slip-n-slide parties. There is always something happening every second night on the island – guaranteed.
If you’re upset about missing a specific party, don’t fret. It’s rather difficult to distinguish the psytrance jungle rave from the deep techno waterfall party anyway. Expect to drink mixed drinks from a bucket (not a joke) and cover yourself in neon paint while there.
Food in Koh Pha-ngan
The islands of southern Thailand offer some of the best places to eat in the country. Koh Pha-ngan knows that people need good restaurants when they spend all day drinking or basking in the hot Thai sun. This city delivers from a culinary perspective.
Near Haad Rin, one can have a view with their meal at The Rock Bar & Restaurant.
The famous Paprika restaurant is a great place for authentic Israeli food. They even ship all their ingredients like hummus and falafel directly from Israel.
The Masons Arms is a strange architectural sight on the Thai island of Koh Pha-ngan. If you’re a Londoner who feels homesick, this is the perfect place for you. Fish & Chips are a must try here.
Other great food options include Ando Loco Restaurant, Nira’s Home Bakery, Crave, Jumpahom, The World’s End, Again & Again, and Mama’s Schnitzel Chicken Sandwich. If you’re looking for something slightly more upscale, we recommend Valentino Restaurant and Wine Bar.
Just shy of 90% of Ko Pha-ngan consists of tropical forest. Around half of that forestland is actually a protected national park. The majority of this national park is not open to exploration. Any attempts to traverse through this jungle without a trail will ultimately result in some serious danger – to the hiker and to the surrounding environment.
However, there are plenty of trails available for those interested. The Nam Tok Phaeng waterfall sits inside this national park. Just 20 minutes beyond this waterfall is the Domsila Viewpoint. This is one of the most popular trailheads on the island and rightfully so. Bring water otherwise you’ll regret it!
Forestry isn’t the only part of Koh Pha-ngan protected by governmental decree. The nearby Ang Thong National Marine park is one of a kind. The name literally translates to ‘Bowl of Gold’. Here you will find over 30 islands jetting out of the sea surrounded by some of the prettiest coral gardens Thailand has to offer.
If you want to reach Ang Thong National Marine Park, we recommend you find a willing boat taxi to guide you to the best spots around the park. Again, it’s absolutely vital that you pack water and bring sunscreen!
Best Places to Stay
There are countless incredible places to stay in Koh Pha-ngan. Some visitors even choose to stay on Koh Samui and take a ferry to visit the island. We can point you in the right direction regardless of your budget.
Two of the most charming places to stay in Koh Pha-ngan are Haad Khuad Resort and Rin Beach Resort.
For just $80/night, Rin Beach Resort offers a giant wooden boat situated on land right beside the beach. It is the perfect accommodation for those afraid of rare monsoons. This resort is in close proximity to Haad Rin Beach and has an incredible view of the sunset each night.
If you’re after isolation, Haad Khuad Resort offers bungalows right on the beach shore so you can wake up with the sunrise on the horizon. This area (Bottle Beach) can only truly be accessed by a boat taxi from Chaloklum. The occasional offroad loving local might be willing to take you on the one dirt road but expect a dangerous ride.
Haad Khuad Resort is not exactly a resort. It’s better than that. A resort relies on their own accommodations and amenities to please the guests, whereas Haad Khuad simply lets the beauty of the surrounding area fill in the gaps that other resorts are missing.
If you’re after a bizarre and cheap experience, look no further than the Cats in Space Hostel. The peculiar murals in your hostel bedroom will certainly be a confusing sight to wake up with, but they make for a great photo opportunity.
Some people are willing to spend more money for a more luxurious experience. If that fits your bill, we recommend Le Palais Hotel. This resort is stylized after the ruins of Angkor Wat and truth be told, it is honestly indistinguishable for that world wonder. It has taken over 20 years to build this architecturally impressive masterpiece besides the beach.
Those of you who prefer to walk around barefoot will appreciate and enjoy the Eco Bungalow in Koh Pha-ngan. This room is found on the West coast of the island and offers a feeling of being in the jungle (while still maintaining a certain degree of comfort and luxury).
Salad Buri Resort, West Coast Beach Resort, Golden Hill Resort, and Loyfa Natural Resort are all beautiful options on the West coast of Koh Pha-ngan. You’ll notice that every year, more and more resorts pop up on the island. It’s only a matter of time until the island is overrun with them. Until then, demand has warranted the ever-increasing supply.
Other Worthwhile Activities
Beaches aren’t the only worthwhile activity on this island. Over the past 15 years, a ton of new businesses, bars, and natural landmarks have opened or become accessible to the public. For example, The Challenge Phangan recently started its operations. This park is like summer camp for drunk adults.
If you’re after nature, look into either the Wangsai waterfall or the Than Prawet waterfall. Wangsai is known to be more full during the wet season (but then again, that’s the case with all waterfalls in Thailand). You can access either waterfall at no charge and there is even a nice bar on the island.
Yang Na Yai Tree is another gem in the southern half of the island. It’s the biggest tree in Thailand and really is impressively large. Any other past trees of this size have been cut due to logging industry so this behemoth stands alone in Koh Pha-ngan.
Many visitors imply that it’s not worth seeing on its own so if you come to visit, stop off at the nearby Wat Pho and enjoy the small sauna. One can find several spas and saunas around the island. They’re a great way to detox after a long night out.
The above activities just begin to scratch the surface of what Koh Pha-ngan has to offer. While surfing options aren’t abundant on the island, there are plenty of other board-related sports available. The waves don’t justify bringing a surfboard. Though, the calm waters are certainly perfect for kayaks, paddleboards, and wakeboards.
You can also navigate the nearby archipelago via longboat. Tourists can enjoy (or even participate) in Muay Thai matches. For those that are lovers and not fighters, yoga and meditation retreats are aplenty on the island. Orion Healing is one of the most highly rated yoga retreats in Thailand.
Things to Know Before Visiting
Not to beat a dead horse, but let us remind you – the Full Moon party is Koh Pha-ngan’s most popular event. As such, one can expect to pay a much higher premium during this time of the month. Most hotels apply a policy enforcing a minimum number of nightly stays. Food, alcohol, and accommodations will all be pricier.
However, those that visit any other time of the month will find themselves with a near-private island. Without a crowd of 40,000 raucous partygoers, this island turns into a small and charming city. Accommodations are much easier to come by and prices are significantly more reasonable.
Just an hour away, Koh Tao has been a popular island destination for many years. However, tourists are beginning to visit in smaller numbers after the local police department has botched the investigations of several tourist-related murders. On a small island that runs like the ‘Thai tourist mafioso’, this can be a genuine fear.
It’s important to always keep your wits about you as a traveler late at night. Thailand is generally a rather safe country. Most people are opting for the safer option – which is to avoid Koh Tao. In its place, many tourists are beginning to see Koh Pha-ngan as a better alternative. If you have to choose between the two, we recommend Koh Pha-ngan.
All in all, Koh Pha-ngan offers something for every type of traveler. If you’re after a good time, look no further than Koh Pha-ngan. Some travelers like to avoid popular spots in search of a more authentic experience. We understand this.
However, there are specific reasons that everyone enjoys Koh Pha-ngan. The beauty of this island is that you can have your cake and eat it, too. You’ll certainly need something cake-like to eat at 4 am after the Full Moon party. Your hangover depends on it.
How do you get to Koh Pha-ngan from Bangkok?
There are two different ways to visit Koh Pha-ngan from Bangkok. The first option is to travel by plane to Koh Samui. From this island, you can purchase a cheap ferry ticket. The second option involves taking an 8-12 hour bus trip from Bangkok to Surat Thani. From there, you will ride a ferry for 3 hours to Koh Phangan.
What are the best islands in Thailand?
Southern Thailand is world-renowned for the beauty of their islands. The most popular islands include Phi Phi islands, Koh Pha-ngan, Koh Samui, Ko Chang, Ko Samet, Similan Islands, Koh Lanta, and Koh Lipe.