Bottle Beach is arguably Koh Phangan’s most stunning beach. Forget the pulsing bars of Haad Rin and the Full Moon Party strips on the south coast of the island, because this one’s all about escaping the crowds. It’s got some serious looks, too – we’re talking cotton-white powder and those stopping coconut palms that The Land of Smiles is known for.
Days on Bottle Beach are about exactly what you might expect. They’re about lazing under the shade of palm fronds on sugar-soft sands, for snorkeling over pockets of sea reeds and coral in turquoise waters, and sipping cold Chang beers as the light gulf waves lap against the shore. You can also do a little bit of trekking up here, not to mention bag a hotel on Bottle Beach for a night of stargazing and morning mango sticky rice on the shore.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about visiting Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan. First off, we’ll show you how to reach this secret Shangri-La (clue: It’s not the easiest place to get to on the island). We’ll also reveal some of the top things to do once you get there, a few of the top Bottle Beach restaurants, and detail the adventurous Chaloklum to Bottle Beach hike (a jungle and coast adventure like no other). Let’s get started…
How to get to Bottle Beach Koh Phangan
Part of the allure of Bottle Beach is precisely down to the fact that it’s not so easy to find. Being isolated up on the northern edge of Koh Phangan has helped to keep the crowds and the partiers, not to mention the sprawling hotel resorts, at bay. On the flip side, that means it’s not going to be a walk in the park when it’s your turn to get in. In fact, it’s more of a walk in the jungle. Or a wavy boat over the swells. Or a hardy 4X4 songthaew. Whichever you prefer…
Option 1: Longtail boat (the best option)
The most popular option by far is to take the longtail boat to Bottle Beach Koh Phangan. These classic Thai water taxis start at Chaloklum Beach (a little to the west of Bottle Beach itself). Look for them on the main pier in the town – there’s a big sign saying ‘Taxi Boat’. You can’t miss it.
There’s not much haggling to be had on the price. The standard, going rate for a trip in the longtail to Bottle Beach is 150 THB per person each way, though you might be able to score a little discount if you’re willing to book a return or are traveling as a big group. The ride takes 15-20 minutes.
It’s usually a pretty chilled affair, with lovely views of the totally unspoiled jungles on the north coast. However, you can get some choppy waves in the rainy season (August-November is worst). Also be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen. Some of the boats have a shade cover but most don’t. You’ll be dropped off at the west end of Bottle Beach. Remember the spot because that’s where return boats leave from later in the day.
Option 2: Chaloklum to Bottle Beach hike (the jungle hike)
There are two main trekking paths from the town of Chaloklum (where you also collect the taxi boat) to Bottle Beach. The most popular and the easiest is the so-called jungle hike. It actually starts in the little beach town of Haad Khom Beach, which is 30 minutes’ walk or a short 5-minute taxi from Chaloklum. There’s a little lay by there where people leave their scooters to begin the hike.
Strangely, the trailhead is marked by a big sign advertising the taxi boat from Chaloklum. Unless you’re already super tired then ignore it and push on through to the path. That carries on with blue and yellow markers (the same colors as the Ukrainian flag) through 2.5km of pretty thick forest.
It takes around an hour to complete and includes a few open meadows that are exposed to the sun. They’re fun because they offer rare views of the sparkling Thai Gulf below. However, the vast majority of the jungle trek lives up to its name: It’s through dense woodland and on rough undergrowth. Our advice? Wear good hiking shoes, bring the bug spray, and start early!
Option 3: Chaloklum to Bottle Beach hike (the coastal hike)
The coastal hike to Chaloklum starts in exactly the same spot as the jungle hike. Now, you won’t want to get these two confused, because the coastal option is a whole load longer and more challenging than its woodland compadre. To ensure you get the one you’re after, keep an eye out for the plastic bottle markers – they are much more common on the coast route.
Despite its name, this way to Bottle Beach actually passes through large tracts of jungle. That said, there are moments where the whole thing opens up to reveal the sea and you do get to hike through stunning pockets of coconut palms that sway in the salty breezes.
Generally speaking, the views on the coastal path are much better. The downside is that it takes longer – up to two hours is normal. Oh, and there are some parts that the locals will tell you are ‘dangerous’. They’re referring to a few steep boulder sections that are heavily exposed. You’ll need to watch your footing, but it’s hardly the high Dolomites!
Option 4: Taxi to Bottle Beach Koh Phangan:
The final way to get to Bottle Beach is by 4X4 taxi from Baan Tai. (You’ll need a 4WD because of the terrible road conditions – the paths this far north in Koh Phangan are not in the best state.) Taxis depart from Thongsala pier, and only leave when they have three or four passengers. You can choose to privately hire a taxi, but expect to pay around 1000 THB. The cost of sharing a taxi is roughly 250 baht each. You’ll need to make sure the driver is going on the hard track road to Bottle Beach directly, and not to the port at Chaloklum to connect with the boat taxis.
How long should you stay at Bottle Beach Koh Phangan?
Most folk who come to Bottle Beach are day visitors. They whiz in on the taxi boats and whiz out just a couple of hours later. The hardcore hikers who opt to hike in and out on the same day usually stay for the shortest period of time. They have a whole 2.5km of path to make on the way back, after all!
The good news is that there are some hotels on the beach for those who want to enjoy this slice of Koh Phangan heaven without having to rush back to catch a water taxi. Just remember: The truth is that there is actually very little to do on Bottle Beach. That’s kinda’ the draw, though, right? Still, we’re not the sort who can while away whole weeks with our Kindle in a hammock. So, we wouldn’t recommend staying any longer than two nights in total.
Top things to do on Bottle Beach Koh Phangan
We’re not going to lie – there’s actually not loads to do in this corner of Koh Phangan. The Full Moon Parties of the south coast are a distant memory. The yoga sessions of the hippy west shore are far away. In fact, kicking it with a good book and your snorkeling gear is pretty much the vibe, with a touch of hiking thrown in for good measure…
Bottle Beach snorkeling
Snorkeling is a popular activity on Bottle Beach due to the excellent coral and incredibly clear waters. If you want to go snorkeling, head to the rocky end of the beach on the eastern end – the opposite to where the boats pull in.
Remember to bring your own snorkeling equipment as it can be challenging to find rental gear on the beach. We advise to also wear reef shoes, as there can sometimes be sea urchins lurking on the reef. You definitely do not want to be stepping on one of those bad boys this far away from the nearest town!
Hike to the Bottle Beach viewpoint
A popular activity at Bottle Beach is hiking up to the famous Bottle Beach viewpoint. The peak boasts panoramic views of the island’s untouched northern coastline, with Bottle Beach itself unfolding in a shimmering dash of pure white sand below.
You can start the trail behind the Bottle Beach 2 resort. From there, it leads deep into the thick jungle and involves a small amount of scrambling and climbing over dusty rocks. Suitable footwear is a must. Also don’t leave the strong bug spray behind (we usually go with one that has DEET for this sort of activity).
The path is super simple to follow and it’s virtually impossible to get lost. The overall hike time is around 45 minutes, so we would recommend setting off before 5pm to avoid coming back in the dark. The final reward is a huge granite boulder that pokes over the coast mountain, offering 180-degree panoramas of the bay and the forests and the Thai gulf.
Bottle Beach isn’t hailed as one of the best beaches on Koh Phangan for nothing. It cranks the chill factor to 11 with its swaying coconut palms and soft sands. For us, a trip here is all about soothing the chakras. It’s especially good if you’re still feeling the effects of an all-night Full Moon party. Tip: Our favourite place to laze is at the west end of the bay by the big boulders. They expose some secluded little sunbathing spots at low tide and do a great impression of the Seychelles.
Where to stay on Bottle Beach Koh Phangan
There are four main accommodation options to choose from when staying on Bottle Beach. Only four? Well…yep – the beauty of this northern portion of Koh Phangan is that it’s really undeveloped. That means very few bungalows and whatnot, but lots of nature and way smaller crowds. If that’s what you came for then be sure to check out…
- Bottle Beach 1 Resort – One of the closest bungalow resorts to the shimmering white sands of Bottle Beach, Resort 1 boasts a swimming pool, en suite bathrooms, air-conditioning and free WiFi (though it’s not the fastest!). (400-1000 THB/night)
- Bottle Beach 2 Bungalows – The resort of choice for long-stay visitors, Bottle Beach 2 is a bungalow resort with a good community vibe. There are common spaces to chill in and rooms that have large porches with swinging hammocks. (500-1200 THB/night)
- Smile Bungalows Bottle Beach – Hidden in the jungles just behind Bottle Beach Koh Phangan, the stays here are immersed in nature and offer a real get-away-from-it-all vibe. (400+ THB/night)
- Haad Khuad Resort – Haad Khuad is built like a hotel and comes up as the most modern of all the resorts in Bottle Beach. It has large suites that open onto private terraces. The bathrooms are more 21st-century than any in the area. (500-1400 THB/night)