Situated on Thailand’s gulf coast, Ko Phangan is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and most popular islands. A natural delight with thick jungle and gorgeous beaches, the Full Moon Party is the obvious draw but there’s also much more to see and do here – here’s the best of what it has to offer.
It’s impossible to mention this island without including the party that almost literally put it on the map. Whilst it was once a mostly undeveloped island, an intrepid bunch of travelers set out to create the beach party of a life time in the 1980s and the place hasn’t been the same since. Despite its humble beginnings, the Full Moon Party is today one of the main reasons people head to Thailand in the first place, and each party sees thousands of revelers gather on Haad Rin beach for a night of hedonistic, unabashed pleasure. A once in a life time experience, it’s one that shouldn’t be missed, and is even worth timing your travels around the lunar calendar for.
Koh Phangan might seem like a bit of a “farang” haven now, but the Thong Sala Night Market still has that air of authenticity that night markets tend to carry. Friendly locals wait proudly besides their freshly produced Thai dishes, which are bound to be much more delicious than those that you’ll find on Khao San Road, and prices tend to be much cheaper than those in restaurants. From pad Thai and fried ice cream, to pizza and sushi — not to mention plenty of veggie options — there are enough choices here to keep anybody happy, this is a real must-visit on the island.
Contrary to popular belief, the beaches on Ko Phangan aren’t just for partying. Ko Phangan isn’t short on gorgeous beaches and, whilst some are more difficult to get to than others, they’re well worth the effort. Haad Rin, the location of the Full Moon Party, can get pretty busy but there are plenty of quieter and more secluded beaches to enjoy. Wai Nam beach, which is Thai for swimming, is on the eastern side of the island and is a white-sanded, green-watered spot that’s perfect for beach-bum days with the occasional paddle in the sea. Bottle beach is perhaps the most beautiful beach on the island, with its powdery-soft sand and crystal clear waters, and is worth braving the treacherous scooter journey to. With a large number of different beaches offering different vibes and experiences, the only way to find your favourite is to visit them all.
Whether you’re missing home, looking for a familiar experience or simply after some good grub, Ko Phangan’s a top spot for brunch. There’s a thriving cafe and coffee shop culture on the island, with plenty of places offering western brunch favourites such as avocado on toast and pancakes, as well as classic Thai dishes too. For those who are serious about their beans, Bubba’s Coffee Bar and Dots Coffee provide a range of different brew methods and coffee options, whilst Karma Kafe and The Canteen will have you sorted for lunch. Go on, treat yourself.
Whilst nearby Koh Tao might be better known for its diving exploits, Ko Phangan isn’t too shabby either, and excursions often take in some of the same sights as well. Thailand’s clear seas, cheap prices and rich marine life make it a great place for both seasoned and newbie divers to explore. There’s a wide range of dive shops on the island, each with well-trained and experienced staff from a variety of different countries, so you’re bound to meet somebody who speaks your language — in every sense of the phrase. Beauty isn’t just skin deep; in Thailand, the beauty extends well below the waves, and Ko Phangan is a great place to experience it.
Koh Phangan isn’t a huge island, and it’s more than possible to rent a motorbike for the day to explore the surroundings and fully appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. Motorbikes not for you? Then put on your comfy shoes and get trekking. Ko Phangan is a treasure trove of natural wonders, from dramatic waterfalls to near-hidden beaches, and exploring on foot is a great way to build up a sense of accomplishment and appreciation of the island — not to mention burning off last night’s pad Thai and fried ice cream. Feeling a little more adventurous? Opt to kayak around the bays instead. However you choose to explore the island, enjoy it — who knows when you’ll be back.
Ko Phangan is the perfect place to get into shape, whether it’s mentally or physically. Not only can you explore the island as mentioned above, there are a number of places dedicated to your spiritual and physical wellbeing on the island too. There’s no better place than Thailand to learn about Muay Thai, but there are also a number of yoga places, spas and wellness centres to take advantage of too. The Sanctuary offers a number of wellness, detox and yoga sessions to get your mind and body into shape, and is one of the best known wellness spots in the country. If you’re looking for something a little more high-octane and fun, check out The Crazy Challenge, an assault course on water that’s bound to produce memories you’ll never forget.