Often cited as one of the main reasons people choose to visit Thailand in the first place, no visit to this island is complete without taking in the delights of the Full Moon Party. Originally a small gathering, it’s since grown into one of the most famous parties in the world, welcoming thousands each month to dance and drink on the shores of Haad Rin beach. It shouldn’t be missed.
Bangkok might be a little too hot, and Chiang Mai can get a little chilly at night, but on Koh Phangan it’s paradise all year round. Whilst there might be the occasional spattering of rain in the wet season, it only serves to bring on the rainbows, and the rest of your time will be spent in the glorious sunshine. With a cooling sea breeze and palm trees for shade, the island has you covered if you’re feeling a little too hot — not to mention the invitingly-clear seas that are perfect for a swim.
An island off the coast of Thailand might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of third wave coffee culture, but that will all change once you sample the delights of Koh Phangan’s cafes and coffee shops. Spots like Bubba’s and Dots offer some of the best coffee outside of Bangkok, whilst there are plenty of places serving serving Western brunch favourites like avocado on toast. Come for the beaches, and stay for the beans and brunches.
If you thought Koh Phangan was great on the surface, wait until you get below the waves. Koh Phangan and its nearby surroundings offer some great diving experiences, from wreck diving to night dives, and the costs are more than reasonable. Colourful fish, coral and exotic marine life such as whale sharks and stingrays can all be spotted on dives, and there are dive schools on the island that can get you certified and in the water in no time. Not a fan of diving? Not to worry — there’s plenty to see whilst snorkeling, too.
Whilst it’s perfectly fine to slum it in hostels during your travels throughout the country, it’s important to treat yourself once in a while, and Koh Phangan has the perfect hotels to do just that. Koh Phangan boasts a number of top-quality hotels with enviable amenities such as beach-side rooms, dramatic pools and indulgent spas, and the prices can be surprisingly low — particularly in low season. Go on, treat yourself — you deserve it.
Night markets are a great place to get a feel and a taste of local culture; whilst the Thong Sala night market might be popular with tourists, it’s also a great place to get to know locals and their culture. The seafood dishes are extremely fresh and mouth-wateringly delicious on the island, whilst there’s also the chance to tuck into some regional delicacies you might not have tried in Bangkok or the north. Located by the pier, ditch your bags on arrival and dig in.
Unlike the smaller Koh Phi Phi island, Koh Phangan is bigger and therefore, has motorbikes and scooters on its roads that are available to rent. Costing as little as 150 baht per day, riding one is easy and the best way to explore every inch of the island. The island will be your oyster, and you can access incredible views of the island, while having a sense of independence on your travels and visiting places that would leave you a sweaty mess should you attempt to walk from your hotel.
A hilly island with a tonne of natural features such as mountains, jungles and waterfalls, Koh Phangan is the perfect place for a spot of a trekking, and possibly making up for the excesses of the nightly parties. The eastern coast of the island has a number of well-established trekking routes, whilst the Phaeng and Than Sadet waterfalls showcase the natural splendour of the island perfectly.
Whilst Haad Rin beach might be known for its high-octane parties, there are plenty of beaches to just relax and sunbathe your days away on. Despite being well known, Bottle Beach never feels too crowded, ensuring there’s plenty of space to enjoy views of the cerulean sea and to feel the powdery-soft white sand between your toes. Other beaches such as Haad Yao and Haad Salad are also great for whiling away the days, whilst the aforementioned Haad Rin is perfect for those wanting a bit more action.
It’s easy to fall in love with Koh Phangan, and it can be hard to leave it, but it’s worth it to go on a boat trip to explore the seas surrounding the island. From the chance to swim and snorkel in open water, to partaking in a spot of kayaking or trekking, boat trips are a great way to see a little more of the place that you love, and can help you fully appreciate the beauty of the island.
Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and there are plenty of opportunities to practice your moves on the island. Whilst the idea of starting a martial art might seem a little daunting, it needn’t be. Gyms such as Diamond Muay Thai are extremely welcoming to newbies and more experienced fighters. They do their best to keep you at ease and enjoying yourself. If in the end it’s not for you, at least you ticked it off the list — and you’ll have an interesting dinner party story.