Koh Phangan Thailand is known for its full moon parties and incredible diving spots, but there’s so much more to this infamous island! You should know there is a wild side to this tropical destination AND also a beautiful calm one… As a traveler, you just need to know where to go! After our own visit, we put together a Koh Phangan travel guide with beaches, the best things to do, and much more. So join us as we give you the need to know before visiting this unique Thai island!
1. Koh Phangan Thailand Full Moon Party
We have to start off this Koh Phangan travel guide with what the island’s calling card is! Every month at full moon, thousands of tourists ascend on Koh Phangan for Thailand’s biggest party. Beach bars turn into a full-fledged club scene and people go very wild.
If you’re heading to Koh Phangan to party then you should know the full moon epicenter is in the south of the island! Here is where you’ll find the most happening beach bars, hostels, and bungalows to stay in.
The official full moon party festivities are held on Haad Rin Beach. If you’re visiting specifically for full moon pick a hotel as close as possible to that beach and plan ahead.
In peak months up to 30,000 travelers descend on the island filling up the good accommodations quickly. Don’t worry, we’ll have some hotel recommendations at the end of our Koh Phangan travel guide!
2. Relaxing in the North
Even if you’re not into the full moon party on Koh Phangan there is a completely different vibe on the northwest coast. Specifically in the beach towns running north from the pier all the way to Chaloklum Beach, you will find a more relaxing and laid-back lifestyle!
Instead of a wild party scene, this area is filled with fun cafes and local restaurants. We really enjoyed staying along this coast during our time in Koh Phangan Thailand.
Now, this does come with a small warning. If you aren’t interested in the full moon party it’s best to do a quick search and try to plan your visit at a different time of the month.
While the northern part of the island is much quieter there’s still is a massive influx of tourists at this time. Just know it definitely gives the island a very different feel as a whole!
3. Koh Phangan Beaches
It should be no surprise that another reason people travel to this epic island is the Koh Phangan beaches! You can find them all over, but the best are on the west and northern coast. Many beaches have their own little town with hotels and restaurants to enjoy, too.
One thing to watch out for is the tides on the west coast. Koh Phangan actually had one of the most drastic tides we saw while traveling in Thailand. This means at certain points in the day the water was so far out at the beach you couldn’t really swim. It didn’t bother us, but plan to make the most of high tide and get in the water!
All the Koh Phangan beaches are very accessible but our absolute favorite was not so easy to get to. In fact, Bottle Beach is so secluded you’ll need to take a boat or do a jungle hike in. Still, we promise however you decide to get here will be worth the trip. Don’t miss out on Bottle Beach!
3. Hip Cafes & Co-Working Spaces
Like any Thai island, Koh Phangan has its share of tasty local food. Plan to eat it all and a whole lot of it… However, there was something else that caught our eye!
While exploring we came across a bunch of unique vegetarian and vegan cafes. Many offer delicious smoothie bowls, salads, Western & Thai specialties, and other healthy options.
The fun style and decor of these places reminded us of Bali and some even have scenic views from the cliffs. A lot of these cafes and restaurants are located in the northwest region of Koh Phangan Thailand we already mentioned. They are also a great place for remote workers and it’s common to see people with their laptops out working the day away.
Cafes to Check Out in Koh Phangan Thailand
- What’s Cup!
- Pura Vida Cafe
- Art Cafe
- Karma Cafe
- Pure Vegan Heaven
4. Night Markets on Koh Phangan
Another awesome thing to experience on Koh Phangan is the night market! This is also where we ate a ton of local Thai food and even tried some things we’d hadn’t before. There are several around Koh Phangan but the most famous is the Phantip Night Food Market.
If you’ve never been to a night market in Thailand it’s an experience not to be missed. There is so much wild and amazing food, as well as clothing and souvenirs to bring back home with you.
5. Koh Phangan Thailand National Park
For nature lovers heading to Koh Phangan, there’s no better place to visit than Than Sadet National Park! Since it takes up around a 1/3rd of the island you’ll know doubt find yourself there at some point. Than Sadet is filled with hikes, jungle beaches, and even beautiful waterfalls.
Khao Ra hike takes about 3 hours round trip and is known as one of the best things to do in Koh Phangan. It includes stunning views of the island and even a swim at the bottom of the Khao Ra waterfall. If you love jungle hikes and waterfalls plan for at least a day or two of exploring this area of Koh Phangan Thailand.
6. Between Koh Tao and Koh Samui
Koh Phangan is set between the massive Koh Samui and the much smaller island Koh Tao. This means it’s 2nd in line if you’re taking the ferry from the mainland and easily accessible from the other two islands.
It takes about 1.5 hours from Donsak Pier to get to Koh Phangan Thailand by speedboat. We recommend making a 10 to 14 day itinerary and seeing all three of these islands if possible! Here is the ferry times to give you an idea of how easy it is to travel between Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.
Koh Phangan → Koh Samui 30 Minutes
Koh Phangan → Koh Tao 1.5 Hours
7. Arriving on Koh Phangan Thailand
While on the subject of the ferry, let’s talk about what you need to know when arriving on the island. For Thailand standards, Koh Phangan actually has a good size ferry port. However, when you get off expect to be bombarded with taxi drivers offering to whisk you all over the island. So what is the easiest way to get to your hotel?
Private Transfer: Arrange a driver before you get to Koh Phangan. This can be nice if you have a lot of luggage or don’t want to negotiate when getting off the ferry. From our experience, the private transfers typically run 50-100 baht more than if you negotiate with a driver at the pier.
Shared Taxi: All around Koh Phangan you will see these large colorful trucks taking travelers and their bags around. They are more like covered pick-up trucks than tuk tuks, but they offer the same service. For 150 baht per person, you can catch one the way you are going as they move around the island. Just don’t be surprised when they pull over to pick up other passengers along the way!
Motorbike Rental: There is only one way on and off the island which means when leaving you’ll end up back at the ferry pier. A super popular option (if you don’t have too much luggage) is to rent a motorbike when you arrive at the port. Depending on how far your hotel is, the cost of the motorbike will actually save you money on transfers if you plan to rent one anyway!
8. Happy Shakes
There are happy shakes, happy pizza, and just about happy everything on Koh Phangan! If you don’t know what “happy” means in Thailand already, then oh do we have a surprise for you.
This is a code word for the addition of psychedelic mushrooms so avoid these at all costs if that’s not what you’re into! Obviously, your day might become quite interesting if you order a happy shake by accident.
They are particularly popular around the full moon party areas and can be seen on signs at many bars and restaurants.
9. Legend of Koh Phangan, Yoga, & Meditation
The story goes that Koh Phangan Thailand is set upon a deposit of large crystals which exude healing properties around the island. This has led to a movement since the 1980’s of ex-pats and travelers looking to let go, practice yoga, and deep meditation.
So while the full moon parties get much of the attention on Koh Phangan, know that many people head here for spiritual reasons! The activities range from free yoga classes and retreats to full-on luxury healing centers. It’s these small areas of peacefulness that even can make you forget you’re on a party island in the first place!
10. Epic Koh Phangan Thailand Sunsets
The last thing you should know in our Koh Phangan travel guide is that there’s one time of day you can’t miss. Like many of the Thai islands, the sunsets on Koh Phangan are like something out of a movie.
We loved hitting happy hour at the Koh Phangan beaches as most of the bars have super unique designs and seats. This was the perfect time to grab an ice-cold beer and watch as the colors change out over the sea.
Where to Stay in Koh Phangan Thailand
It’s common for travelers to think that Koh Phangan is a small cute island where everything is within walking distance. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Don’t make the mistake other people have of staying in the north and having to take an hour transfer each way to get to the full moon party. The good news is whatever style location you’re looking for Koh Phangan probably has it!
Here are some of our recommendations for where to stay below.
Luxury Resort – The Cabin Beach Resort – Beautiful modern rooms that mix wood with an island vibe. The property is on Leela Beach in the south of the island. When staying here make sure to splurge and get an ocean view room, or have the ultimate holiday and get a suite with a private pool!
Fun Vacation – Zama Resort Koh Phangan – This hotel is upscale but with a laid-back feel. The bungalows are stacked into the hillside and the sea view rooms are amazing! We spent three nights at Zama and didn’t want to leave. The onsite restaurant is fantastic and they have a great poolside happy hour as well.
Remote Stay – Smile Bungalow Bottle Beach – If you’re looking for something different you can stay on one of the most popular (and remote) beaches on the island! Disconnect and enjoy island life from your small bungalow just steps from the water the best beach on Koh Phangan.
Budget-Friendly – Benjamin’s Hut – This family-run hotel is so popular it’s often sold out! Cute bungalows on the beach and in one of our favorite areas of Koh Phangan. Benjamin’s hut is just down the street from many fun cafes, restaurants, and beach bars.
Full Moon – Little Paradise – If you’re visiting Koh Phangan for the full moon party you’ll want to be on Haad Rin Beach near all the action. Little Paradise is THE spot if you plan to join in on the festivities.
For more places to stay in Koh Phangan Thailand you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions about this guide or want to share your own favorite things to do on Koh Phangan Thailand? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
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