Koh Phangan, Thailand is definitely one of our favorite places in the world. A small, tropical island situated in the Gulf of Thailand in the southern province of Surat Thani and just kilometers away from its bigger neighbor Koh Samui. In our opinion Phangan has it all, beaches, parties, activities, bars, restaurants and a great atmosphere. It is best known for its monthly Full Moon and Half Moon parties, but it certainly has much more to offer than just these. When you join us on any of our south Thailand tours, you will see Koh Phangan and we always try and give you a taste of all the different sides of the island.
Despite getting some bad press recently due to the Full Moon crowds, Koh Phangan is anything but a tacky, drink fueled, party island. It boasts some of the most alluring beaches in Thailand and arguably has the best vibe of any of the Thai islands, once you get to know it. Here’s a little article we wrote ages ago entitled “The Real Koh Phangan” .
Koh Phangan, Thailand – What we do
Bottle Beach – A small, beautiful, secluded beach to the North of the island which requires either a truck ride through the jungle or a short boat ride to get to. This place really is special, there is nothing there apart from 3 or 4 small resorts and it really is what backpacking in Thailand was like 10 years ago. Staying in basic but cool little beach huts just a stones throw from the crystal clear water we usually have the place almost to ourselves.
During the daytime we can swim in the ocean, play some beach volleyball, chill in a hammock or have a few beers in the restaurant on the beach.
By night, we go for some dinner and a few cocktails on the beach, perhaps even followed up by our own private beach party. We can start a camp fire, watch a fire show, release some Chinese lanterns and even go for a paddle to see the bioluminescence in the sea.
Like Khao Sok, on a clear night here the stars are amazing and there is nothing like waking up to the sound of the waves breaking on the sand.
Island Boat Cruise – We also take you on a boat trip round Koh Phangan for some snorkeling, to check out more beaches, a waterfall and maybe even a bit of a pirate party at sea. Here’s a video combining some clips from a few of our past boat trips/parties and trips to Bottle Beach. Note Wake boarding/water sports are optional extras and not always available.
Muay Thai lesson – We try our hand at the Thai National sport at a local gym with some professional Thai Boxing coaches. You’re sure to get a bit sweaty as we learn the basics of this ancient martial art in a relaxed & fun environment. From beginners to pro’s, everyone is sure to have fun and learn something at the same time. Check out this promotional video for Diamond Muay Thai, the gym we use on the island and read the Tru Review we did on the place aaaaages ago here.
Parties – In the evenings we can hit up many of Phangans bars, restaurants and parties including the famous Haad Rin beach parties. Whilst this is not the only side to the island worth seeing, the party scene is what it is famous for so it would be rude not to check out at least a few of them.
On our Full Moon and Half Moon party tours we spend a little longer on the island and so also visit The Challenge, which is a big inflatable obstacle course on a lake. And Slip n Fly, which is a day time pool party with massive water slides and lots of games, DJs & good times. Here’s a video blog we did on The Challenge and Slip N Fly to give you more of an idea of what to expect.
As the names suggest, we will also take you to one of the big two parties depending on what tour you are on. Check out our short Full Moon Party videos here and here and a Half Moon Party snippet here. Also, have a peek at our Tru Review vilogs of The Challenge and Slip N Fly here.
Any visit to the island would not be complete without a visit to one of the famous sunset bars dotted along the West Coast. Secret mountain and Amsterdam Bar are the main two we visit and both boast cool bars and swimming pools on the side of a mountain with unreal ocean and sun set views. Just our sort of places. Here’s a video blog we did on Amsterdam bar to give you an idea.
Here’s another video of just the extra activities we do on Koh Phangan during the last 4 or 5 days of our Half and Full Moon Party Experience Tours. Watch it here.
Where We Stay…
On our first night on Koh Phangan we stay on Bottle Beach in simple but comfortable beach bungalows. Each one has a double bed, fan, bathroom and balcony and is situated just a stones throw from the clear, blue sea.
The other place we stay is in Baan Tai at our Backpacker resort, Echo Beach (video). It is a cool hostel with a beach bar, private double and triple rooms (shared bathrooms), pool table, buffet breakfast, awesome pre parties and a great atmosphere.
Just 5 minutes ride from the main pier in Thong Sala and the full moon beach in Haad rin and 2 mins from the Half Moon, Jungle party and other events in Baan Tai.
During the 5 day full moon section of the 12, 13 and 23 day trips we stay in the AC dorms here and other times during the 8 and 18 day trips we use the private double or triple rooms.
Koh Phangan Thailand – Fun Facts
The word ‘ngan’ translates as sand bar (there are many around the island). So technically Koh Phangan means “Sand Bar Island”
It’s been a favorite spot for past kings of Thailand: HRH King Rama V visited 14 times during his reign (and loved Than Sadet waterfall), the late, great King Rama 9 also visited several times.
It is home to the notorious full & half-moon parties. Half-moon parties are a week before & a week after Full Moon, held in the jungle in Ban Tai.
Although the island is known for its night life in Haad Rin, it is 90% untouched and remarkably beautiful. It is a shame that many people’s only glimpse of the island is of Haad Rin during Full Moon.
Tong Sala is the main ferry point though there is a smaller pier in Haad Rin which is a more direct route to Koh Samui.
It is roughly 168 sq km (12 by 14 Km approx.) and was inhabited more than 2000 years ago by Muslim gypsies.
The population now is roughly 12,000. It is 15Km from Koh Samui (40 minutes by ferry) and 35Km from Koh Tao (2 hours by ferry).
Haad Rin literally translates to sand fly beach – “Rin” means sand fly and “Haad” means beach. This is because Haad Rin used to have lots of sand flies on it. Thankfully it doesn’t any more though.