Welcome to our Koh Phangan Guide 2020!
Koh Phangan is Thailand’s fifth biggest island, located in the southeast just 12km north of Koh Samui. The paradise island is notorious amongst backpackers for its extremely popular full moon parties which take place every month on Haad Rin Beach.
Koh Phangan is home to over 12,000 residents; however, during the Full Moon period there can be anywhere from 10,000 – 30,000 people occupying the small island. Visitors from all across the globe travel to the crescent-shaped beach, Haad Rin, to celebrate the night of the full moon.
Besides from the island’s vibrant nightlife, there exists another more hidden side to Koh Phangan. White sand beaches, hanging palm trees, picturesque views, clifftop bars, and friendly locals. Unfortunately, this is a side to the island that most travelers fail to experience. Either they arrive for the full moon party and then leave the following day – or they stay for a few days, but fail to uncover the islands true magic.
Koh Phangan is remarkably unique because of its focus on eco-tourism. Commercial development has been slow, and the respect for the island still persists. Despite its infamous full moon party, the island is still reasonably quiet. The opposite is true for its neighboring island, Koh Samui, which is commonly referred to as a “concrete jungle”. Ko Phangan is one of Thailand’s best-hidden secrets.
We have spent years of our life living on Koh Phangan and have put together this Koh Phangan guide to help new visitors who are planning to visit the beautiful island. So join us, as we share with you some of the island’s best-kept secrets.
Where is Koh Phangan?
Koh Phangan is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, located just 12km north of Koh Samui. Located in the southeast province of Surat Thani, Koh Phangan is part of the group of islands that make up the Samui Archipelago.
Is Koh Phangan Expensive?
Koh Phangan is more expensive than Thailand’s mainland, but is still a popular destination for budget travellers. The average cost of living in Koh Phangan is ฿1,000 per day; which includes food, accommodation, and transport expenses.
You can save money by staying in hostels and guesthouses and eating from local restaurants and street stalls. The most affordable way of getting around the island is by scooter which will set you back roughly ฿200 a day. The longer you stay, the better rates you will secure.
A local meal will cost you between ฿50 to ฿60 baht ($1.60 – $1.90). Eating from a tourist restaurant will cost upwards of ฿100.
How to get to Koh Phangan
Koh Samui – Koh Phangan
There is no airport on Koh Phangan, meaning the only way to get to the island is by boat. The closest airport is 12km away on the island of Koh Samui. The fastest and most preferred way of getting to Koh Phangan is by flying into Koh Samui and catching a ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.
The duration of the ferry ride is roughly 45 minutes using the Songserm service, or a quick 30 minutes with Lomprayah high-speed ferry service. You can purchase boat tickets from the airport departure lounge, which includes a free shuttle service to the pier.
Surat Thani – Koh Phangan
Flying directly to Koh Samui is by far the quickest way of reaching the island, but also the most expensive. If you’re traveling on a budget, then a cheaper alternative is to fly to Surat Thani. Once you have arrived at Surat Thani airport, you can take a coach to the main ferry port; Don Sak, which is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) by road.
When you reach Don Sak pier, you can ride a ferry directly over to the island. Tickets can be purchased at the airport and include both the coach and ferry. The overall journey time from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan is around 4 hours (depending on if you travel by high-speed ferry or slow boat).
How to get around Koh Phangan
There are numerous ways to get around Koh Phangan. Local taxis, motorbike taxis, bicycles, cars, and by foot are all viable means of travel. Our personal recommendation and by far the cheapest way of travel is scooter hire. The standard day rate for scooter rental is between 200-250 baht, which you can easily spend on just a single taxi ride. The longer you rent, the better day rates you will receive. Scooter rental shops can be found throughout the island.
If you decide to hire a scooter, it is important to wear a helmet at all times. Not only are accidents extremely common on the island, but the Thai police can also issue fines up to 1,000 baht for motorists who are not wearing a helmet. This usually only occurs around the Thong Sala town area.
If you’re not planning on hiring a scooter then we would recommend staying within walking distance of the beaches, restaurants, and other tourist hotspots. The best areas to stay if you are not hiring a scooter are either Thong Sala or Haad Rin area.
Best time to visit Koh Phangan
The best time to visit Koh Phangan is between late December to March, during the dry season. These months are considered the peak tourist season, where the weather is usually hot but not too humid. Typically, most people flock to the island during these times.
Between December to March, there is little to no rainfall, with temperatures averaging 30ºC. The weather is hot but not too humid – simply perfect for relaxing on one of the islands many fabulous beaches.
The hottest months in Koh Phangan are between April to June, with temperatures reaching over 40ºC. If you can handle the scorching heat, then this could be an excellent time to come as the prices tend to decrease while the peak season is coming to an end.
Avoid traveling to Koh Phangan between October to November, as this is the island’s rainy season. The temperatures drop, and the amount of rainfall is at its highest. However, the reward for visiting during these months is you can bag yourself an unbelievable deal on accommodation prices.
Where to stay in Koh Phangan
Are you looking for where to stay in Koh Phangan? Well, we have listed a few of our personal favorites below on the best places to stay in Koh Phangan. Note, the island is fairly big. There are various areas and beaches throughout the island, so don’t forget to consider the location carefully when choosing a resort.
Luxury: Sunset Hill Boutique
For holiday-goers and travelers who are searching for luxury, then Sunset Hill Boutique is definitely worth considering. Located in Haad Son, you’ll be near the beach and within close proximity to Laem Son Lake.
“Sunset Hill Boutique Resort Koh Phangan – Sunset Viewpoint sits atop a tropical hill overlooking Koh Phangan’s west coast and enjoys panoramic sea views. It offers an outdoor infinity pool, free WiFi throughout and spacious accommodations. The property is located 400 yards from Haad Chao Phao and Secret Beach and a free shuttle service is offered to these locations throughout the day. Thongsala Pier is a 15-minute taxi or motorbike ride away.”
Price per night: ฿2,000
Mid-range: Sea Breeze Resort
Sea Breeze Resort is an ideal choice for travellers who are coming for the full moon party. Located in Haad Rin and within walking distance of the full moon party.
“This boutique resort is located at Haad Rin, 5 minutes walking from the famous Full Moon Party area. It is set within landscaped gardens and offers panoramic views of the Gulf of Thailand. The guestrooms of the Sea Breeze are decorated in contemporary Thai style and feature balconies, TVs and a mini-bar. All rooms are air conditioned.”
Price per night: ฿1,250
Budget: La Casa Tropicana
La Casa Tropicana is a wonderful and an affordable place to stay, located in the heart of Ban Tai.
“La Casa Tropicana is a 14-minute walk from Black Moon Culture, La Casa Tropicana is a beachfront property with breathtaking views of sea and sunset. The lodge boasts a restaurant and complimentary WiFi throughout the property. La Casa Tropicana features dormitory rooms with a personal locker and an en suite bathroom including a hot shower.
Price per night: ฿250
Popular Things to do in Koh Phangan
From awe-inspiring waterfalls to picturesque viewpoints, there is no shortage of things to do in Koh Phangan. There are plenty of things to do free (such as visit the secret mountain), and also exciting activities that you can do for cheap (like the Canopy Zip Line).
Below we have listed some of the best activities you can do in Koh Phangan.
Scuba Diving in Koh Phangan
Most people associate diving with the island of Koh Tao; however, the dive sites in Koh Tao are mostly the same sites you will visit when diving in Koh Phangan. Sail Rock is one of the sites you will visit, which is considered to be the best dive spot in the Gulf of Thailand. The most suitable months for diving are between March and September when the water is clear and the weather conditions are optimal.
If you are more interested in snorkelling, then there are some amazing snorkelling spots around the beaches of Haad Yao and Haad Salad.
Price: ฿1,500 – ฿3,000
Slip N Fly Koh Phangan
Slip N Fly Koh Phangan is a great day out for those looking for something a little different on Koh Phangan. Slip n Fly opening times are restricted, so please make sure to check the opening times on their official website before planning your visit.
Full Moon Party Koh Phangan
Of course, if you are visiting Koh Phangan then the full moon party is a must. Located on the east side of Haad Rin Beach, the Full Moon Party is one of the best parties in Thailand.
Bottle Beach Koh Phangan
Arguably one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan, Bottle Beach. The beach is only accessible by a longtail boat or 4×4 due to the very steep and unpaved road conditions. You can access Bottle Beach via a longtail boat for 150 baht which you can catch from Chaloklum village.
Amsterdam Bar Koh Phangan
If you are looking for a place with great atmosphere to watch the sun go down over the ocean – this is the place! People flock here each afternoon to come and watch the sunset. They also serve a great selection of food and drink.
Koh Phangan Thong Sala Night Market
Whether you’re looking to experience the islands culture, or simply looking for a cheap place to eat, then head down to the popular Thong Sala night market.
Open every night; offering steaming bowls of pad thai to fried scorpions, the night market is a foodie paradise.
Rent A Motorbike And Explore
Renting a motorbike in Koh Phangan is an extremely popular way of travel. Renting a scooter will allow you to explore some of the less-travelled parts of the island, where you will witness some of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights. It takes approximately 45 minutes to ride from the bottom to the top of the island.
Take note: we strongly discourage trying to access Bottle Beach by motorbike. Although it’s possible with a geared bike and an experienced rider, the roads are extremely steep and hilly, and we would not recommend this route to anyone who is inexperienced in riding. We have seen countless amounts of tourists who have got their bikes stuck on route and then had to pay a local to come and rescue them. Please save yourself the time and humiliation and just spend 150 baht for a longtail boat taxi.
Yoga in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a very peaceful island and renown for its hippie vibes. If you’re looking for a way to unwind after a heavy night drinking at the full moon party, then there are plenty of yoga retreats located around the island. Yoga Retreat in Haad Salad is a personal favourite of ours.
And there you have it, guys! We hope you found our Koh Phangan guide useful. Koh Phangan is a magical place and the island has far more to offer than just the Full Moon Party! While there are literally loads more things to do in Koh Phangan, our suggestion is to explore it on your own and find your own little slice of heaven where you can relax and unwind.
More Koh Phangan Guides: