Most people associate the island of Koh Phangan with being the home of Thailand’s infamous Full Moon parties, and while we did attend one during our visit on the island, there is so much more to this little slice of heaven. Sadly, most people who visit the island are focused on the parties, so they miss out on everything else it has to offer – but hey, that’s great for those of us who like to explore and get away from the touristy areas.
Koh Phangan is situated just across from Koh Samui, accessible from Samui via a 30-minute ferry ride. Our hotel arranged transfer for us for about $15 a person, which included the airport pick-up in Samui, ferry transfer, and pick up on Koh Phangan for transfer to our hotel. Most people opt to stay in Haad Rin (“haad” means “beach” in Thai), which is where the ferry dock is located, and it’s home to the Full Moon parties. We opted to stay on Haad Salad in the northwest corner of the island (about as far from Haad Rin as you can get in both location and vibe), and I would go back a million times and do it the exact same way every time.
ACCOMODATIONS: our hotel on Koh Phangan was AMAZING. We stayed at Salad Buri Resort & Spa in a one-bedroom pool villa. Rates range from $150-250USD/night for the pool villas (depending on the season). For a standard room in the main building, rates start around $40USD/night. The resort is gorgeous – it’s on a relatively private white sand beach, with multiple pools right off of the beach. The main dining area is open air and overlooks the pools and beach. The staff was also absolutely incredible. They were incredibly helpful with recommendations, transportation scheduling, and laundry.
*If you opt to stay in Haad Rin closer to the ferry/Full Moon party, friends of mine stayed at Sarikantang Resort & Spa and raved about it
ACTIVITIES: we spent two days just lounging at the pool and walking along the beach near the resort. After all the activity of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we were looking for a bit of rest and relaxation. For our third day, we hired a driver to take us around the island. He was absolutely incredible and showed us to all the popular local spots that most tourists would never get to see – from waterfalls to temples to remote beaches. The beaches on the northwest side of the island are very rocky – they reminded me of New England beaches in the US. Whereas most people picture the beaches of Krabi and Phuket when they think of Thailand beaches, the beaches on Koh Phagnan were beautiful in such a different way. You can either hire drivers through your hotel or do as we did, which was schedule a driver as soon as we got off the ferry upon arrival at Koh Phangan (and yes, two days later they had remembered and showed up at our hotel right on time). We ended up paying about $50 total (divided by three of us) for the 4-5 hour island tour, so I’d highly recommend doing something like this if you plan to spend time on Koh Phangan. And of course, there’s the Full Moon Party. If you’re in Thailand over one of these events (they happen monthly, though the largest of the year is the November one), it’s quite an experience and worth seeing if you can fit it into your schedule.
If you find your time in Thailand limited and aren’t going just for the full moon party, you’d probably want to spend your time between Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi/Phuket. But, if you have the time to explore the eastern beaches and are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, I’d highly recommend a visit to Haad Salad on Koh Phagnan.
Have you been to Koh Phagnan? Let me know what your favorite activities and places to stay are – I can’t wait to get back and would love to experience something new on the island!