Koh Phangan has more than thirty beaches, some remote little island hideaways accessible by boat, others bustling tourist playgrounds with great facilities. The west coast of the island hosts a coral reef, making the beaches great for snorkeling, while the east coast is less developed with wonderful jungle trails between the stretches of sand. Start at Had Rin, the most famous spot in the far south, and work clockwise round the beaches to find the best spots. There is so much to see and do on Koh Phangan, you could easily while away a week or more cruising from one stunning location to another.
One of the main entry-ports and the home of the Full-moon Party, located on the southern tip of the island, Had Rin is a bustling little tourist town even when its not full moon. Had Rin is actally a small peninsuala. The north, or Had Rin Nok (sunrise beach) is the party beach, and the South, or Had Rin Nai (sunset beach), is where ferries from Samui arrive, and also has a little shopping strip with cool boutiques and bars. The road from Had Rin Nai towards Ban Tai has numerous little resorts and restaraunts, while the party beach is lined with big bars that have a lively scene all month long.
Recommended hotel: Phangan Buri (077375481) - considered to be one of the most luxurious and scenic resorts in Haad Rin, with all the mod cons. For the grown-up raver. Great restaurant and spa.
Recommended budget hotel: Venus Resort, situated on the hill at the quieter far end of Had Rin Nok, this friendly budget bungalow resort is very popular and reasonable, with stunning views over the bay at sunrise.
Recommended Nightspot: Bamboozle: funky fusion bar & restaurant serving delish organic salads pizzas, tapas and Mexican. With live music & garden. On the road from the pier toward sunset beach, nr the clinic.
The island capital and main ferry-port, in the southwest of Koh Phangan is a lively little market town which maintains its local atmosphere and has many useful amenities, including banks and exchange booths, police station, clinic, and a hospital. It is a fine place to explore for an afternoon, or perhaps stay overnight to catch an early ferry. Tongsala is also the best place to head if you are on the island during a Thai Festival - half the population of Phangan congregate there on the annual Sonkran and Loy Kratong festivals.
Reccomended hang-out: A's Coffe Shop (next to Krung Thai Bank), a hotbed of local gossip & lore. And good coffee. Plus the attached guesthouse, the Buakao Inn claims to try to “have the most comfortable beds of any hotel anywhere in the world” A challenge.
Reccomended resort: Milky Bay (077238566) A nice mid-range resort, nice décor, swimming pool, family suites available
Reccomended nightspot: Amsterdam Bar: (077238447) great spot for a sundowner, on the shore over looking the marine park.
Ban Tai is the middle section of this long stretch of coastline, and has a marina where one can charter boats for excursions. This is also where the popular half moon and black moon parties are held. See local posters for party info. Ban Charu is a nice quiet stretch of beach popular for those catching an early ferry from Tongsala, and has an abundance of high-quality accommodation: First Villa, and Orawan, both recommended with a range of rates and facilities.
The beaches stretching north from here can be shallow and rocky for much of the year, so not always ideal for swimming, but with little harbours, a lovely reef and great resorts, this quiet little section of the island is still worth checking out. These include Ao Nai Wok, Plaaylaem, and Wok Tum. Chao & See Natau Ao Nai Wok is where the beach begins just north of Thongsala in the west of the island. It is convienient for Thongsala, and onward travel, and there are some nice guesthouses around. Wok Tum in the north-west of the island is good for fishing & has a small market town with tasty cheap street vendor food and cheap farang eateries. Ao Sri Thanu is a fairly large bay and is generally a good place to swim. The bay is used as the local harbour for small fishing boats
Recommended Resorts: Amsterdam Bar & Stone Resort (Wok Tum) great views, laid-back ambience. Must be something in the air! Cookies: (Ao Plaay Laem) Lovely boulder-strewn resort of long standing popularity. Budget rates.
Sri Thanu, Chao Phao & Had Som, the three small beaches between wok tum and Haad Yao, offer far better swimming conditions and relative seclusion.
A beautiful long white sand beach fringed by a vibrant coral reef, just north of Had Chao Phao on the western part of the island. The beach has been popular for some time and is well developed with both budget and high-end accommodation and a wide selection of bars and restaurants.
Had Yao is a good base from which to explore the surrounding beaches, check out the marine-life in the coral reef that stretches along much of the west coast, or go inland to Laem Son lake and Wang Sai waterfall.
Nightspots: There are plenty of cool bars on the beach itself, and the large Eagle Pub built into the rocks at the Southern end is a good spot to hang out with a well-stocked bar, tasty steaks on the menu and DJs getting the party going later on. Slightly further afield, the Hin Kong Club is a huge well-established palace of fun.
Places to stay: There are still some real island-style thatched huts for very low rates available on Had Yao. For something mid-priced Dream Hill Resort, just 5 minutes off the beach, is a small family-run bungalow resort with lovely little wooden chalets perched on a hill overlooking the bay.
Located on the Northwestern tip of the island are a string of small lovely bays. The reef is around 150 metres offshore and therefore swimming is only good in the season from Nov-April, but the sea provides great snorkeling, and some of the best diving on Koh Phangan.
Had Salad is an idyllic cove with several high-end resorts. Mae Had is a lovely wide sandy beach joined to Koh Ma by a sand spit. There is also a small village and a variety of resorts, restaurants and bars.
Reccomended Resorts: Green Papaya (Had Salad) is a great little family friendly resort with a wonderful restaurant. Reggae Village (Haad Salad) nice budget operation with good facilities.
Koh Ma, connected by a sandy causeway, is an excellent snorkeling spot, hosts the Koh Ma dive resort, and has protected status as a National Marine Park.
Chaloklum Bay is a really large and lively beach with a good variety of resorts and restaraunts, and a fishing village. In the deep middle waters of the large curved bay is a tiny fishing harbour where the locals land their daily catch. Swimming is still great to either side.
Chaloklum Beach Resort is a larger, well run operation with helpful staff and a great beachfront swimming pool wheras Rose Villa is at the budet end of the spectrum, but comfy and scenic with huts right on the beach
There are plenty of things to do in the area if you fancy a day away from the beach. Local tour operators can advise on routes up to various viewpoints, and there is a lovely Chinese Temple on the hill overlooking the bay, as well as an elephant camp where rides can be arranged.
There is also a small dive school operating on the beach, Chaloklum Diving (077374025)
Accessible by boat from Chaloklum, this lovely bay has won a place in the hearts of many an adventurous soul, and has a fair few long-termers lazing away days in the idyllic setting.
Recommended Hang-Out: Bottle Beach 1 Resort is one of the nicest family owned and operated resorts on the bay. Right on the beach, with a backdrop of natural forest and scenic mountains. Decent accomodation, friendly service and good restaurant.
In the North-east of the island, this beautiful curving bay is becoming popular with 'those in the know' as a wonderful spot to hang out for a few days, weeks, or even years. The beach is clean and the sea is great for swimming most of the year. There are some really lovely little restaraunts and a cool crowd of European and Thai's running resorts and bars on the beach.
Tong Nai Pan is currently home to two 5-star resorts (Santhiya & Panviman) and a third is under construction. The area still manages to retain its laid-back island ambience, and there are some rustic little beach huts clinging to the cliff (star huts at the far north end) that will only set you back a few hundred baht. One of the best places to eat, drink, and meet the locals, is the cryptically named Flip-Flop Pharmacy, which hosts some really great parties and also serves delicious Thai, Western and Burmese food. Set back from the beach, there is a tiny village with an ATM, pharmacy, general store and funky tribal jewelry and tattoo shop. Don't miss the 'Handsome Burger' stall for truly delicious grub and the self-publicist Mr. Handsome himself has become something of a ledgend. Also highly recommended in the village is Luna Lounge, a chic & friendly wine-bar with yummy menu and great tunes. Tong Ta Pan Resort has lovely wooden bungalows in manicured gardens overlooking the stunning bay.
In the North-East of the island, the beautiful beach of Thong Nai Pan Yai is far longer, and quieter than Noi. It has no village, and has less of a bohemian vibe, and also less nightlife, so perfect for getting away from it all. There are plenty of jungle hikes that can be arranged from Yai and the area also boasts great rock climbing. Dolphin bungalows at the far southern end of the beach is the coolest spot with the most relaxing atmosphere on Thong Nai Pan Yai. The wooden huts are nestled in a dense tropical garden. Dolphin also has the most well regarded restaurant on the beach. Central cottages also has some nice rooms right on the beach. To get there you can arrange a long-tail boat from Had Rin, or a taxi along the bumpy road from Tongsala, which takes around 45 mins. Whilst a bit uncomfortable, the overland journey through the interior of the island takes you through some wonderful landscape of thickly forested hills.
Just South Of the Tong Nai Pan Bays, this much more isolated little beach is where the islands famous waterfall meets the sea. The sand is white, the sea is deep and crystal clear, and the surrounding jungle all combine to create a picture perfect setting. Nothing to do but kick back and unwind. Accessible by dirt-road, or boat.
Recommended Spot: Mai Pen Rai Bungalows: lovely little wooden bungalows, creative layout and bohemian feel. Very reasonable prices.
Both Beaches are only accessible by boat, and have a fair amount of laid-back long-term visitors lending an alternative vibe to the area.
Had Tien is a tiny little cove, with rough sand but beautiful jungly-green backdrop. It is mentionable mainly for the Sanctuary, a fasting yoga and wellness centre that has become a focal point for many long term world travelers as a spot to rest their road-weary legs for a month or two and therefore the beach has a unique, fun and creative atmosphere. The restaurant at The Sanctuary is wonderful if you like super-healthy fare, and expect to be entertained by anything from poetry reading, belly-dancing or crochet workshops.
There are also a few very cheap rooms available walking up the hill away from the beach. Check out the Friday night partys at Guys Bar…Day-glo hippy mayhem.
Had Yuan is a larger bay between Had Tien and Had Rin, with a few good resorts, restaurants and bars, which also caters for long-term visitors. The walk over the headland between Had Yuan and Tien is a fairly easy and enjoyable hike.