The gem of Thailand, Koh Phangan
The island is located in the gulf of Thailand just 20 kilometers north of Koh Samui. The name Phangan comes from the Thai word “Ngan” (sandbar) which surrounds the island and protects the white sand beaches and beautiful coral reef that lies just off shore.
For many years Koh Phangan was inhabited only by local families of Chinese fishermen that settled here about 200 years ago. Then in the early 1980’s wandering back packers discovered the island. Word of the island’s unspoiled beauty quickly spread and more and more travelers made Koh Phangan a must see during their travels.
Today Koh Phangan hosts the world famous Full Moon Party. Every full moon night close to 10,000 people gather together on Haad Rin Beach to celebrate and have an unforgettable night.
In addition to the Full Moon Party Koh Phangan offers activities for all types of vacationers. Lay back and relax on one of the island’s many white sand beaches. Or for the more active types lace up your hiking shoes and venture up into the coconut covered hills and look out at the spectacular postcard views below. Looking for a way to get around? Well, grab a map and tour the island on a bicycle, motor bike or 4-wheeler which are all for rent by the day. Or take a more traditional approach and climb aboard a mighty elephant for a tour through the jungle.
Whatever your tropical desire you’ll find it on Koh Phangan.
Haad Yao which means "Long Beach" is picture postcard material. It is a one kilometer beach that has sunset views and beautiful vistas. Many consider it the "perfect" beach with its white sand and swaying coconut palms. Haad Yao has developed over the years in harmony with its beautiful surroundings, retaining its natural splendor and laid back feeling that drew the first travelers here. It is a perfect place for the more “relaxed” traveler or those traveling with families.
Haad Thian is a small secluded beach with only one resort. Here the sand is courser mixed with coral deposits. It is fairly close to the reef for snorkeling. The water is shallow before the reef making swimming conditions best in high tidal season unless you venture over the reef.
Haad Son is one of the region's most undeveloped and secluded bays. The shoreline is approximately 600 meters long and there is very little on it except for tall shady coconut palms and acres of white sand. With just one resort Had Son beach provides the perfect getaway for those trying to avoid crowds of people. It is fairly shallow before the coral reef so the best swimming here is when the tides are at their highest in November to April.
Haad Salad is a beautiful and secluded beach good for swimming in high tidal seasons (November to April) with a reef about 150metres offshore that is a well-known dive site.
Mae Haad has sunset views over Koh Ma. The waters and coral reef that surround it are designated as a National Marine Park and are rich in sea life such as sea turtles and reef sharks. The beach can be a bit rough from large amounts of coral so bring your water shoes. There is a sand bar that you can walk across to reach the neighboring island of Koh Ma. The best time to visit Mae Haad as with all beaches on this side of the island, is between the months of Dec-Mar. The rest of the year the sea level is quite low and swimming is not as good but it is still possible to enjoy snorkeling during the whole year.
Laem Sri Thanu is the rocky peninsula that lies between Hin Kong and Sri Thanu. It extends way out from the coast closer to the coral reef offering year round snorkeling. The small beaches that line its coast are a good spot for beach fishing. The water in this area is only deep enough to handle small squid fishing and long tail boats which keeps the mood there tranquil.
Ao Hin Kong is a 2 kilometer coconut lined beach that is still mostly undeveloped. There are several bungalows operations mainly renting to long term vacationers. The coral reef lies about 300 meters off the beach and the bay is only good for swimming in high tide season (November to March). This area is a popular place with the locals who go searching for clams when the tide is out.
Ao Wok Tum area is mostly undeveloped coconut tree lined beaches which give the place a real untouched feel. Most of the bay is undeveloped and a great place for catching a sunset in solitude.
Ao Naiwok is a continualtion of Wok Tum that extends to the main town of Thong Sala. There are a number of resorts along the beach but the bay is fairly shallow making swimming best in high tidal season (November to April).
Ao Ban Tai is the first section of the long beach after the town of Thong Sala. The sunset views out to Koh Samui are often spectacular as the setting sun dances across the water. There are many bungalow resorts all down this stretch of beach that offer beach front accommodations with amazing views.
Ao Ban Kai is the continuation of Ban Tai and runs up to the hills of Haad Rin Just like Ban Tai views out to Koh Samui are often spectacular as the setting sun dances across the water. Numerous coconut palms populate the lowland plains of the area.
Haad Rin Nai is split in two halves by a small rocky foothill. The southern section is accessed from the pier side of Haad Rin town and the northern section can be reached from the main road at the bottom of the Haad Rin hills. Both sections of the beach are similar with sunset views, long stretches of white sand and coconut palms along the coastline. Some steep cliffs break up the coastline and the absence of a coral reef on the east coast allows for swimming most of the year.
Haad Rin Nok is one of the most beautiful beaches on Koh Phangan. Its broad shoreline gently curves to form a perfect cove flanked by smooth volcanic peninsulas with the sun rising right in the middle of the bay. The beach is over one kilometer in length and is mainly populated by nightclubs, restaurants and bungalows. This beach is home of the world famous Full Moon Party. The sea shelf drops off fairly sharply and it is possible to swim all year round. However, there is no major living coral reef so snorkeling is a bit dull. The waves can get pretty big in the bay but are too dangerous to surf as they break on the rocks at either side of the beach.
Haad Yuan is one of three small, white sand beaches that are grouped together on this stretch of the east coast. There is a decent drop off and the absence of a coral reef allows for year round swimming in these secluded bays. Access is only possible by boat or mountain path but you need to be an experienced hiker for this option.
Haad Tien is one of three small, white sand beaches that are grouped together on this stretch of the east coast. There is a decent drop off and the absence of a coral reef allows for year round swimming in these secluded bays. Access is only possible by boat or mountain path but you need to be an experienced hiker for this option.
Haad Wai Nam Tien is one of three small, white sand beaches that are grouped together on this stretch of the east coast. There is a decent drop off and the absence of a coral reef allows for year round swimming in these secluded bays. Access is only possible by boat or mountain path but you need to be an experienced hiker for this option.
Haad Thong Reng is the smaller of the two Thaan Sadet area beaches that form a picturesque double bay. The swimming is good and a bit quieter than Haad Sadet.
Haad Sadet is a fairly small beach at the bottom of the river valley flanked by steep green hills. The sand is white and huge boulders crown the peninsulas that surround the cove. The sea is deep enough for year round swimming.
Thaan Sadet means "river visited by Royals" and it is the place where King Churalongkorn, The Great Rama V came to many times to walk up the wondrous waterfalls and bath in its pools.
Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai are twin coves that form a scenic double bay and are the most popular beaches on the east side of the island. Both beaches are the image of paradise with softly curved white sand bays surrounded by mountains covered in rich tropical rainforest. The surrounding mountains make these beaches fairly inaccessible with a steep dirt road the only overland option Another way to get to there is by boat from Haad Rin or Chaloklum. There is no coral reef on the east coast of the island and it is possible to swim at both beaches all year round.
Haad Kwhuat is better known as Bottle Beach and is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Here you will find mostly long term visitors since this beach is not easily reached. You will need to take a taxi boat from Chaloklum. Keep in mind that if the weather turns bad you can be stranded here for a day or two as the boats can only navigate the seas here when they are calm. There is a two and a half kilometer mountain path from Haad Khom that can be navigated on foot and caution should also be taken when traveling this path in wet weather.
Haad Khom is a pretty little beach on the west side of Chaloklum popular with long term visitors looking to get away from the crowds. It is best to take dirt bike or 4WD vehicle as the dirt road is a bit rough. You can also take a boat taxi from Chaloklum. Haad Khom is a popular spot for snorkeling due to the extensive living coral reef that protects the bay.
Ao Chaloklum is a two and a half kilometer beach with the main village of Chaloklum right in the center. This place is still primarily a fishing village and the fishing trade dominates the mid-section of the beach where the village is located. At either side of the village there are some nice stretches of beach good for swimming when the tides are high (December to March).
Haad Thong Lang or "Golden Deserted Beach" is exactly that. It has a shallow coral bay with a coral reef that creates a beautiful lagoon in high tidal seasons. Over the reef there is good snorkeling and is a great beach for a day visit if you are looking for a bit of true island isolation.