Introduction – Why go to Koh Pha Ngan?
Koh Pha Ngan is famous for its full moon parties that draw throngs of people from all over the world, but it has so much more to offer than a huge drunk fest followed by passing out on the beach. As far as Thai islands go, it is the fifth largest island at about 168 square kilometers and about 70% of it is covered in lush mountain jungle. If the land here isn’t a jungle, it’s a beach or coconut grove. It rests between Koh Samui and Koh Tao.
Coconut harvesting and fishing are still part of the local way of life on the island, but tourism is the main source of income now. The local population used to be mostly Muslim, but now it is predominantly Buddhist because of the large number of Thai people from the mainland looking for work in the tourism industry. There are also a fair number of workers from Myanmar these days.
When the island first got the attention of tourists, they were mostly backpackers, but times have changed and now the island attracts backpackers on a budget, and families and package tourists as well, who prefer a more resort style of accommodation.
I couldn’t write an introduction to Koh Pha Ngan without mentioning the infamous Full Moon Parties that occur every month. Thousands of people come for these legendary parties and while I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, I recommend making sure your belongings are secured in your lodging and keeping your wits about you at the party. Meeting people from all over world is fun in itself. If your visit doesn’t coincide with the full moon, don’t worry. There’s also Half Moon Party and Dark Moon Party, and other parties that are bound to coincide with your visit.
Parties aren’t all this island has to offer. There are lots of activities such as diving, snorkeling, watersports, and yoga. The beaches on the south end of the island have shallow waters due to the reef and proximity to Koh Samui, so they are great for families with small kids. Just because there are a lot of parties here doesn’t mean there aren’t places you can go to get away from the party atmosphere.
The variety of restaurants and accommodation here appeal to just about everyone, and so do the white sand beaches and turquoise waters.
When to Go
Peak Season – December to February
High season in Koh Pha Ngan is December to February, roughly, and this is considered the “dry” season with temperatures averaging around 30 degrees Celsius. This time of year, the weather is ideal, making this the most popular time to visit Koh Pha Ngan. This is Thailand’s winter, technically, so the temps are lower, even though they are still hot, but humidity is low.
This is peak season, so prices are also at their peak. You’ll want to book early because hotels will fill up quickly.
Hot Season – March to June
During February and March, Koh Pha Ngan gets a bit of rain, prices are lower, but the rain is still not a deterrent to visiting. This is actually a good time to visit Koh Pha Ngan because of lower tourist numbers and lower prices if you can handle the 40 degree Celsius temperatures.
April and May are Thailand’s summer season, so during these two months, temperatures reach about 40 degrees Celsius and there’s no rain to provide a bit of relief. The pace of life on the island slows down during these months, and prices are somewhat cheaper, but there will still be plenty of tourists to meet up with.
Pre-monsoon Season – July to September
This season is still hot with some rain, but the monsoons and daily showers haven’t arrived yet. Things start to cool off in September. This is also summer holiday time in Europe, so accommodation tends to book up with European holiday makers, even though this isn’t peak season. Hotel prices are very reasonable during this time and it is actually a great time to visit the island.
Monsoon Season – October to November, possibly into December
Weather on Koh Pha Ngan is actually pretty good during this time, but rain is definitely arriving. Temperatures range from 27 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius. While there is more rain than in the other months, it usually doesn’t rain every day. There are still plenty of nice hot days when you can work on your tan, but it might be a good idea to keep an umbrella with you when you go out.
This is the best time to come price wise because accommodation will be at its cheapest and tourist numbers at their lowest.
to Get There
From Bangkok, fly to Koh Samui (south of Koh Pha Ngan) or to Surat Thani Int Airport (west of Koh Pha Ngan on the mainland). You can also take a bus to Surat Thani from Bangkok, or a sleeper train.
From Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways offer flights to Koh Samui. Bangkok Airways offers more flights, making it easier to get a ferry connection.
Seatran Discovery has three ferries a day (maybe more) from Big Buddha pier to Thong Sala Pier and Haad Rin Queen Ferry goes directly to Haad Rin.
Songserm Express leaves from Nathan Pier several times a day. Lomprayah leaves from Mae Nam pier to Thong Sala pier three times a day.
All ferries take only about 30 minutes to reach Koh Pha Ngan.
From Koh Tao
Songserm, Lomprayah, or Seatran have numerous ferries a day to Koh Pha Ngan. They depart from the only pier on Koh Tao, Mae Haad, and they arrive at Thong Sala Pier. The last ferry from Koh Tao departs at 15:00. Ferries take about 1.5 hours.
From Surat Thani
Nok Air and Air Asia offer flights from Bangkok. Nok Air has a connection at Chumphon Railway Station in Surat Thani with Lamprayah Catamaran. Thai Airways also flies to Surat Thani.
Air Asia also has ferry connections in two locations, both with Seatran Discovery. One connection from Surat Thani and another from Nakhon Si Thammarat.
From Surat Thani, Lomprayah, a high-speed ferry, leaves at 9:00am, 11:10am, and 14:30. It takes about 3 hours and costs around 16 USD. Lomprayah also runs from Surat Thani Train Station at 8:30am and costs about 17 USD.
From Surat Thani Airport, take a mini-bus taxi to the pier. Ferries leave at 8:15am (6 – 6.5 hours), 8:29am (4h), 8:30am (5h), and there are many more throughout the day. Cost is around 15 – 20 USD depending on departure time and which ferry company you choose.
Best Things to Do on Koh Pha Ngan
#1. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
While neighboring Koh Tao is a haven for divers, it might actually be a better idea to depart from Koh Pha Ngan. You will likely end up in a smaller group with smaller crowds under water. Diving may be better on Koh Tao, but there are some good sites around Koh Pha Ngan as well. The dive sites here are mostly off the west coast of the island. A small island called Ko Ma is connected by a sandbar, and is the most popular dive site here.
You can also dive at Haad Salad, Chao Phao, and Haad Yao. South of Thong Sala is Ko Tae Nok which also sees a fair number of divers. Between Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan is Sail Rock, which attracts a lot of divers from Koh Tao. It can get pretty crowded, but that’s because it is a great dive sight and also worth visiting from Koh Pha Ngan.
It’s recommended that you check out the dive shops in person after arriving on the island and see which one suits your needs the best. Most of the dive shops are in Chaloklam, but there are others on other beaches as well.
Koh Pha Ngan is mostly mountainous, which makes for some great viewpoints that provide great photo opportunities. Some viewpoints have facilities, and others have nothing but a view. One does have a swimming pool, but it’s the exception, not the rule. To get to any of the viewpoints, you’ll need either a scooter or a car. On the west coast, it’s best to go before sunset, and the early birds can head to the viewpoints on the east side for sunrise.
Stone Bar and Amsterdam Bar are located on the small hill behind PLaay Laem beach on the southwest corner of the island. Amsterdam Bar is the busiest because it has a pool! It attracts a lively, young party crowd.
Sabai Bar is on the hillside behind Haad Salad. They sell Thai food and have live music some evenings. With cushions and pillows, and hammocks, it’s a great place to hang out and watch the sunset.
Tree House Bar has views of Mae Haad and a relaxing atmosphere with cushions and hammocks where you can watch the sunset. It’s a challenge to get up here even for experienced scooter drivers, so don’t attempt it if you’re a novice.
Thong Nai Pan Yai on the southern end of the island has a great viewpoint here with no services, just a view, but it is a great one. From here you can see Pan Yai and Pan Noi.
There are a number of places on Koh Pha Ngan where you can learn and practice yoga. Yogis from all over come here to learn and practice. There are several great places on the island to do just this.
The Yoga Retreat sits on a hillside about one kilometer from Haad Salad. They offer week long or month long retreats, and there are three classes on offer that allow drop ins for 300 baht.
Orion Healing Centre is located in Seethanu and has several classes a day. They have yoga packages, and they also offer training classes for those who want to become instructors. Detox courses are available as well. A drop-in course is 400 baht.
The Sanctuary on Haad Thian has three yoga classes a day. Drop ins are 350 baht.
Haad Thian, Why Nam, and Haad Yuan are three beaches on the east coast of the island that are very popular for yoga.
#4. Thai Cooking Classes
Every Thai island has a cooking class or two, and Koh Pha Ngan is no exception. There are two that come highly recommended.
C&M Cooking Class teaches popular Thai dishes while having fun. Classes include several different Thai dishes you will learn to cook from Cherry, a friendly and fun-loving host. Cherry can accommodate food allergies or other special dietary needs. It’s located at 84/4 Moo 8, Sri Thanu.
My Wok and Me is another popular cooking class on the island. It’s located in Thong Sala and classes here include a trip to the local market to buy fresh ingredients. They have a newly designed school kitchen and three English speaking chefs.
#5. Muay Thai Camp
Kobra Muay Thai Boxing and Training Stadium is located in Baan Tai and is ranked as Koh Pha Ngan’s top gym for Muay Thai enthusiasts. It’s located on the border of Thong Sala and Baan Tai. The owner is Kongpipop who is a former champion. They offer classes for beginners all the way to advanced. Once students complete their training, they have a chance to try out their skills in the ring at the gym.
Kobra also has accommodation with a variety of training packages. The rooms are single for 4000 baht/month or double for 5000 baht/month with fans, or an air-conditioned room for 8000 baht per month. These rates don’t include training packages. Check out their website for more information on packages.
If you have your own accommodation and are just looking to train at the gym, rates for one-on-one training are 800 baht/hour, 1x daily/wk for 4500 baht, and 1x daily/month for 18000 baht. They also offer group training sessions. Check their website for more rates.
Phangan Muay Thai is also highly recommended. This gym Is opposite the Tesco Lotus side entrance in Thong Sala. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 20:30 and on Sunday from noon to 18:00. They have Muay Thai training classes every day except Sundays from 8:00 – 10:00 and 16:00 – 18:00. They have proper weightlifting facilities as well. Contact them for prices.
Diamond Muay Thai caters to all levels of students and is located in the mountains, just a couple minutes walk from Nai Wok Beach on the west coast. Trainers are professional fighters. They offer train and stay packages as well as individual sessions. Lesson start at 8:00am and run all day and each session lasts two hours. Your “First Time Taster” is just 300 baht. After that, 1 session/day is 400 baht and 2 sessions/day is 600 baht. Weekly rates are 1x/daily 2000 baht and 2x/daily 3000 baht. Monthly rates are 1x/daily 7000 baht and 2x/daily 10,000 baht.
Accommodation ranges from basic gym hut, basic gym hut with ensuite, or if you want air conditioning, you can get a single, twin, or triple room to share. Check their website for train and stay package pricing. They also offer fitness and yoga classes and Muay Thai for kids on Saturdays.
#6. Full Moon Party
When the Full Moon Party first started many years ago, it was a chance for locals and foreigners to mix and mingle and have some fun on the beach, drinking, eating, and dancing. It happened every month, on the night of the full moon, and still does. But the party is no longer a relaxed affair where people get together and hang out just having fun. It has exploded in recent years to a major event, every month, attracting thousands of people from all over the world, mostly young backpacker types looking to party.
Unfortunately, the behavior of the foreigners makes many locals disinterested in going, and they stay away. Some people are not so well behaved, drinking too much, doing drugs, and causing problems. The locals really aren’t that interested in the Full Moon Party anymore because of these negative behaviors.
Another issue on the island during the party is theft. While people are partying, their hotel rooms and bungalows are frequently broken into. You should rent lodging that has a safe in the room, and most hotels do, but if this is not in your budget, just don’t bring valuables to the island. Don’t leave your things in a position to be stolen.
The issue of garbage left behind on the once pristine beaches of the island is also becoming more and more of a problem. People are in no state to really be aware of where their cups and bottles end up at the end of the night. It’s a problem locals are left to deal with the day after, and it’s becoming more and more of a problem, and very destructive. However, within a day, the beaches are clean and welcoming again thanks to industrious people leading the clean up efforts.
Locals see it as positive in one way. It’s a way to make a lot of money on alcohol and food, which is good for business. Understandably so. They should profit from so many foreigners coming to visit the island. But if people get out of control and become destructive, then locals begin to decline participating in the Full Moon Party, close up for the evening, and avoid the chaos.
Even with these negatives, the Full Moon Party continues for a reason. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone, and the party has become legendary. There are ways to be smart and still have a good time without having to worry about your belongings or your physical well-being. Secure your belongings before going to the party. This means choosing your accommodation on the island carefully. Just don’t bring valuables that you can’t replace. Leave them at home.
Also, drink in moderation with your friends, meet some new people, make some new friends, and avoid any illegal activity. Not all illegal activity is overlooked and a run-in with police does not make for a good time. If you are trying to avoid the party, the north end of the island doesn’t really participate and there are plenty of restaurants and accommodation there. The Full Moon Party is mostly on Haad Rin, so if you’re staying north of here, you can still have a peaceful night’s sleep.
Best Places to Eat in Koh Pha Ngan
Because it is easy to get around the island, no matter where you’re staying or what beach you’re visiting for the day, it’s easy to head to another part of the island for lunch or dinner, or hit up your favorite breakfast spot, even though it may not be in your neighborhood. Here’s a sampling of some good places to eat from every side of the island.
#1. Khanom Jeen Khun Khon – $
This non-descript shop in Thong Sala will satisfy your craving for the strong, vibrant flavors of traditional Thai food. For 40 baht, they serve up Asian eggplant with pork belly and khanom jeen (rice noodles with curry) in large portions that you’re sure to crave later on. It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside. You’ll see the big cooking pots and trays of curries along the footpath and inside, you’ll see lots of photos of King Rama V.
#2. Pantip Night Market – $
Also, located in Thong Sala, the Pantip Night Market has so much tasty, inexpensive food on offer you won’t know where to begin. The rows of stalls serve up international dishes like pizza and even kebabs, but the best thing here is the Thai finger foods. Also, highly recommended is the gaeng som tai (spicy and sour orange curry). If you like it less spicy, try a massaman curry with chicken legs and potatoes. There are numerous stalls here to choose from and I dare say, you can’t go wrong if you choose Thai food here.
#3. Sweet Café $$
I love a pick-me-up of coffee and something sweet in the afternoons, and this German breakfast spot and bakery in Thong Sala is just the place for that. They serve a truly international breakfast with choices from about ten different countries, and the coffee and pastries are fresh and smell heavenly. It’s located north of Nira’s and prices range from about 125 to 300 baht. Get some homemade baked goods to take with you for later!
#4. Romanzo Tropicale $$ – $$$
As much as I love Thai food, sometimes I need a break from the local cuisine if I’m staying in the same place for a while. This Italian eatery located right on Hin Kong Beach serves authentic pizzas that taste like they are straight from Napoli. They have a new pizza oven. Even the pasta is handmade! They also have a full bar, free wifi, and takeout, but be aware, they take cash only. Vegetarian options are also available. I also recommend that you don’t skip dessert here. Have something sweet while you enjoy the gorgeous sunset.
#5. The World’s End $$ – $$$
Located at the northern end of the island in Chaloklam, The World’s End is a great place for breakfast and has a reputation for having the best coffee on the island. They have hearty breakfasts, sandwiches and wraps. The falafel wrap is highly recommended. They are located at the east end of Chaloklam on the side of the road opposite the pier. The open plan design keeps the indoors cool without air conditioning. Vegetarian options are available. Serves breakfast, lunch, and is open until 16:00.
#6. Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar $$ – $$$
You will find Fisherman’s Restaurant on the southern end of the island on the beach in the middle of Baan Tai village. This upscale (for an island) eatery has fresh seafood dishes prepared by a local chef. The Thai salad with green mango, lemongrass, and spicy Thai chilies is fresh and green and prepares your palate for all the goodness that will come next. They also serve an amazing sour orange curry in the Southern Thai style that makes me want to go there right now! Candlelit tables add to the atmosphere. They have a full bar, free wifi, but be aware, they are a cash only restaurant. Serves lunch and dinner.
#7. Luna Lounge Thong Nai Pan Noi $$ – $$$
Luna Lounge comes highly recommended for French and European food, as well as Thai. It’s on the east coast and has a funky, laid-back atmosphere. They serve dinner only, opening at 18:00, and focus on quality food with fresh ingredients. They have a full bar and wine selections from all over the world, free wifi, and can accommodate large groups. They also have set menu options which are a great value. The chef is French and frequently comes out to greet the guests. The red snapper is divine, and don’t pass on the chocolate mousse to share (or not) for dessert.
How to Get Around Koh Pha Ngan
Koh Pha Ngan is small and easy to navigate, but always be aware of others on the road and the fact that locals don’t exactly follow the traffic rules. Many roads are still not paved, and roads through the center can be hilly, slippery after a rain, and have blind curves that are especially dangerous on a motorbike or at night.
Motorbikes (scooters) are by far the most popular transport option on the island. If you’re not an experienced motorbike driver, it is advisable to get one with automatic gears. Be aware that all people on a motorbike must wear a helmet. It is the law and you could be fined if you do not wear a helmet. Rentals run about 200 baht a day, and larger bikes can cost from 300 to 700 baht per day. Foreigners will be asked to leave their passports as a deposit.
Some shops charge a lot of money for every little scratch. Make sure to document any previous damage or marks before taking the bike.
Disclaimer: If you don’t have previous experience driving a scooter, we do not recommend this mode of transport. Accidents can happen easily and there is no insurance provided, nor is there a proper hospital on the island. Serious injuries require going to the mainland.
You can find songthaews on most areas of the island and cost about 100 baht per ride. They seat about ten people. You can hop on and off as you wish and you can flag them down anywhere on the road. This is an excellent transport system on the island and probably the safest, especially if you are not accustomed to driving a motorbike or a car in unfamiliar territory.
Longtail boats are located at all of the beaches on the island and are a great way to get around. You can also find those beautiful hidden spots around the island and get some great views as the boat circles the island. They work like taxis in that you can pay by the journey, or you can rent one for a day. Just be sure to negotiate your price beforehand.
Where to Stay in Koh Pha Ngan
Here are my recommendations for budget accommodation for less than $50 a night. Prices are for peak season which is December to February.
Phangan Guest House
This budget option gets great reviews online and has some amenities that make it a great value for the money. Even those on a backpacker budget can stay in a private room here. It’s located in Thong Sala, 1.2km from the pier. The Thongsala Walking Street is about 1 km away. They offer free wifi and free parking. There is an onsite restaurant serving up some good Thai grub as well and breakfast is included!
A bed in a 4-bed or 6-bed mixed dorm room is around $14 a night, and they are rumored to be very comfy. A bed in the 10-bed dorm room is even cheaper. For a standard double with air conditioning and ensuite bath, you’ll pay about $55 a night. These rooms are lovely and simple and a great value. This clean and well-appointed hotel may not be on the beach, but the friendly owner and the amenities (free breakfast!) make this an excellent budget choice.
Longtail Beach Resort
Located at the edge of Thong Nai Pan Yai, you can walk right out on to the beach and into the turquoise waters. The bungalows and restaurant are built of local bamboo and wood in the traditional Southern Thai style. Each bungalow has a private balcony set in the lush gardens of the resort. There are older bungalows available, and the new phase of building includes a pool, spa, and another smaller bar and lounge area. The setting here is lush and green and just beautiful. Each bungalow has a thatched roof and feels quintessentially Thai.
You can choose fan bungalows or those with air conditioning, and there are numerous sizes of bungalows, too many to name here. You can check their website for bungalow types and pricing, but here’s an idea of what it costs during high season. A standard bungalow with fan is is $21 a night, and with A/C it is only $27 a night. A garden hut is about the same price. All bungalows have ensuite bathrooms. They also have free wifi and safety deposit boxes.
Goodtime Beach Backpackers
This fantastic budget hostel is located on Charm Beach and is run by the Goodtime Adventure crew. Beachfront bungalows have been transformed into spacious dorm rooms. Each bungalow has a large porch and a pointed roof, making them traditionally Thai. All dorms are mixed gender, have air conditioning, and bathrooms with hot showers. There is also a restaurant and bar that plays reggae after dark and is a great place to hang out and chat without having to talk over thumping dance music.
Goodtime Beach Backpackers is about 10 minutes walking from Thong Sala. A bed in a dorm room during high season is about $6 a night, or $10 a night if you want beachfront. A private fan bungalow with ensuite is just $20 a night, with A/C is $50 a night.
Midrange hotels and bungalows are plentiful on the island. For $50 to $100 a night, you can have air conditioning and quite a few luxuries at your accommodation on Koh Pha Ngan. Here are my recommendations for midrange accommodations.
This resort overlooks the water from the center of Chaloklum, a traditional fishing village on the northern side of the island. It’s a departure from the traditional bungalows in that it is designed from a traditional trader’s house. There are two floors to this U-shaped building and small pool in the center is a great place to relax. There isn’t a restaurant on the property, but just outside the resort is some of the best food on the island in this charming village, far from the Full Moon Party. The staff are friendly and helpful and can recommend great restaurants.
The décor is fresh and modern, and rooms have free wifi, cable TV, and air conditioning. Ocean view rooms on the 2nd floor are worth the extra money. They also have great sunset views from the roof, so get some beers or wine at 7-11 and head up to the roof. Room rates for a standard double garden view during high season are $55 a night, pool view superior doubles are $70 a night, and ocean view doubles are $85 a night.
Malibu Beach Bungalows
Set on stunning Malibu Beach, this secluded little getaway is perfect for those that want to relax and enjoy the island without any hassle in the evenings. Malibu Beach is separate from the rest of the island by a tidal estuary, giving this place a different vibe from most resorts on the island. The restaurant is surrounded by trees and has plenty of shaded seating, and there are even hammocks for relaxing around the property. The pool is large and perfect for sun lounging.
There are two main options in terms of rooms here. Large beach bungalows with a traditional rattan and wood design with either a fan or A/C option are quite charming – and round. The bathrooms are spacious, polished concrete and updated. There are four different bungalow types. Type A with fan and hot shower is $38 a night, Type B with A/C and hot shower is $70 a night, Type C with A/C, hot shower and room for three is $110 a night, and Type G with A/C, hot shower, and double or twin beds is $97 a night. All room prices are during peak season and include breakfast.
There is certainly no shortage of luxury accommodation on Koh Pha Ngan. Here are my recommendations for high-end accommodation starting above $100 a night.
Sunset Beach Club Hotel & Spa
This hotel is just steps away from Haad Rin Beach and has an infinity pool that overlooks the sea. Enjoy beautiful views of the sunset from the pool or the beach. There’s also a spa and it’s just one kilometer from the Full Moon Party. The restaurant serves Thai cuisine as well as international and there’s a bar area serving up snacks and cocktails. The atmosphere by the pool is relaxed and calling your name. They also offer an airport shuttle from Koh Samui, but check to see if there is a charge for this.
Guest rooms are beautifully decorated in a traditional Thai style and have air conditioning, a seating area, TV, safety deposit box, and the best part is a private balcony overlooking the sea. Free wifi is available in all common areas and in the rooms. A deluxe family room is about $140 – $150 a night during high season, and a deluxe suite is about $180 a night. Rooms are very spacious. There are other more expensive suites available as well.
Chantaramas Resort & Spa
Just a 3 minute walk from Baan Kai, you’ll find paradise at this resort. The spacious rooms are modern, yet traditionally Thai, and the beachfront pool and Thai restaurant means you’ll actually want to spend some time at your hotel. It’s a 30 minute ferry ride from Koh Samui and well worth it. This resort also offers a business center and a gorgeous spa. The tropical landscape here and gorgeous views of the sea mean you’ll never doubt you’re in paradise here. They also have free wifi in public areas and in the rooms.
The beautifully furnished rooms here offer garden or sea views, air conditioning, and stunning wood furnishings and floors. You won’t believe the spacious bathrooms with huge bathtubs. A deluxe double room is about $160 a night during peak season, and a supreme double with a spa bathtub is $250 a night. There are also private pool villas if you’re really in the mood to splurge at $370 a night, but wow, are they amazing. During low season, rates are greatly reduced.
Best Place to stay in Koh Pha Ngan
Le Divine Comedie
This boutique hotel in Baan Tai is truly unique. When you see the rooms, you’ll believe it. They are hand-crafted with molded concrete, modern and comfortable, with platform beds. The heart of the resort is the infinity pool which overlooks Koh Samui. You can enjoy great food at the restaurant which serves both Thai and international cuisines made with local produce.
Amenities include much more than a stunning pool and a great restaurant. There is a bar and lounge, modern fitness center, free wifi throughout public areas and in the rooms, free parking, safety deposit box, concierge service, and breakfast is included in the price. And it’s an adult only property.
Prices here are for peak season, but during low season this place is a steal. A deluxe double room with a terrace is $106 a night, but a private bungalow is only $125 a night for two people. They also have Superior doubles with a terrace, and standard doubles with a balcony for even less. This boutique resort is a great value.
Koh Pha Ngan Area Guide
Koh Pha Ngan can basically be divided into north, south, east, and west. The island is a ring of beaches with a mountainous jungle in the center.
The north coast is about as far as you can get from the Full Moon Party. Bottle Beach here attracts a lot of backpackers. The charming fishing village of Chaloklam is in the north, but fishing isn’t the only industry here. This is the hub of Koh Pha Ngam’s diving industry. Chaloklam Beach doesn’t attract many tourists. It’s a little bit hidden and quite tranquil.
The southern part of the island contains the capital of Ao Thong Sala, as well as Ban Kai, Haad Rin, and Haad Saikantang. The beaches here face Koh Samui and they are sheltered by an offshore reef, which makes the water here very shallow. There’s a variety of accommodation here such as bungalows and small hotels. You can walk pretty much the entire length of the beaches on the south.
The east coast of Koh Pha Ngan runs from Haad Rin up to the twin bays called Thong Nai Pan Noi and Yai. The east offers seclusion and privacy on the beaches. There is a sharp drop off in the water, so the swimming is better here. You can find all manner of accommodation here ranging from fan bungalows and “rustic” shacks near Than Sadet, and all the luxury you can dream of in the hotels on Thong Nai Pan Noi.
Similar to the east coast, the west has lots of small bays and secluded little beaches. There are some great budget options for accommodation near Thong Sala. The beaches are now pretty well connected to Thong Sala by road. There’s some new development here to prove it.
Surrounding Areas to Visit
Koh Pha Ngan is a close neighbor to Koh Samui, and several other islands and dive spots as well. Surrounding islands and the mainland are just a short boat ride away. Here are some nearby places that are definitely worth exploring if you’re using Koh Pha Ngan as a home base for your holiday.
Koh Samui is larger than Koh Pha Ngan and offers more activities. It is the nearest neighbor, and some might say it is now overdeveloped, but for the day tripper, it has a lot to offer. Depending on your length of stay on Koh Pha Ngan, you might even make several day trips to Koh Samui because it is that close.
On the island, there are mummified monks in a temple, stunning waterfalls, and of course, a Big Buddha. Every island of any size has one, right? There are some famous rock formations called Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks (Grandma and Grandpa Rocks) that you just have to see. I’m not going to tell you why. They are not just any ole rocks and you’ll see why immediately!
There’s so much more to do and see here like Wat Khunaram, Ladyboy Cabaret Show, Secret Bhuddha Garden, Snake Farm, spas and restaurants, watersports, anything you can dream of on vacation is here on Koh Samui.
Ang Thong Marine National Park is a tropical paradise of 42 tiny islands. There’s limestone mountains, white-sand beaches, jungles with waterfalls, and coves to discover. It’s a protected area, alive with flora and fauna that will amaze you. You can snorkel, dive, and go sailing here and also relax on the beaches. Please remember that if you pack it in, you should pack it out. You can stay here in modest bungalows if it sounds like a day trip just won’t be enough, but it is so close to Koh Pha Ngan that you could easily return for a second day trip.
Just 45 kilometers away is Koh Tao, a smaller, quieter neighbor with lots to offer in the way of diving, snorkeling, and even rock climbing. There are frequent ferries to Koh Tao. Day trippers can come early for diving tours with one of the numerous dive companies here. There’s also rock climbing, cooking classes, yoga classes, and quiet beaches that don’t experience the crowds of Koh Pha Ngan.
Chumphon Pinnacle – This incredible dive site is just a few kilometers northwest of Koh Tao and is not to be missed. Most divers agree it is the best dive site in the region. It is a huge pinnacle of granite and several smaller ones surrounding it. Dive depth here ranges from 14 to 36 meters. Divers can spot giant groupers, barracudas, whale sharks, bat fish, bull sharks, and much more. Visibility is excellent here, between 20 and 30 meters.
Koh Pha Ngan Beaches
Koh Pha Ngan has a beach for everyone, even families with kids and people who don’t want to party at the Full Moon Party. The island is popular with all ages because it has something for everyone.
#1. Malibu Beach
Malibu is a stunning beach located on the north end of the island in Chaloklum. It’s a bit more popular than it used to be, but during the off season, you can still be alone here if that’s what you desire. The white sand and palm trees are beach perfection, and there’s a small reggae bar that plays music most of the time. Its best feature is the view of the mountains. During low tide, the water is super shallow, so it’s fine for cooling off, but not for swimming.
#2 Leela Beach
Also known as Haad Seekantang, this beach is in the southeast in the village of Haad Rin. There are signs leading the way, making this beach easy to find. It’s pretty secluded, but there are a few resorts here and some bungalows. The clear water and white sand make for a picturesque setting, but the water is quite shallow here due to the reef. For swimming, you’ll need to go out past the reef. At this beach, you’ll be rewarded with excellent views of Koh Samui.
#3 Haad Rin Nok
This is where the Full Moon Party happens. After the party, it is less than desirable due to rubbish, but within a day or two, it is cleaned up and ready for sun lounging and swimming again. It’s located on the east coast of the island in the village of Haad Rin and has what is probably the whitest and finest sand on the island. There are longtail boats anchored here at one end, and there are loads of restaurants and beachfront bars here.
#4 Thong Nai Pan Yai
This beach is on the northeast coast of the island and is actually two beaches, Pan Yai and Pan Noi, in the village of Baan Kai. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get here by motorbike on the new street. Pan Noi is smaller, there are lots of luxury resorts, and the beach can get quite crowded. The bigger beach, Pan Yai, is actually not crowded at all, but there are also restaurants and bars here. You’ll need to go a few meters off shore to really swim.
#5 Bottle Beach
Also known as Haad Khuat, it is best reached by longtail boat. It’s never really crowded and it is ideal for swimming since it gets deep enough after just a short distance off shore. It’s on the north side of the island just east of Chaloklum Bay.
#6 Haad Mae Haad and Koh Ma
There are a lot of visitors to this beach on the northwest coast, but it’s so long, it never really looks crowded. It has bungalows, massage shops, and restaurants right on the beach. The sand is rougher than on other parts of the island and the water isn’t too deep, but it’s still good for swimming a few meters out. You can even snorkel here. But its best feature is the view and access to Koh Ma. You can get to Koh Ma by walking over a sandbank and it’s a beautiful walk around this tiny island. You’ll be rewarded with a view Koh Pha Ngan.
#7 Haad Salad
Located in the village by the same name on the northwest coast of the island, it’s not too big and it’s not usually crowded. There are a few resorts here taking advantage of the crystal clear water and fine sand. There are also some restaurants where you can enjoy a peaceful meal while admiring the beautiful views.
#8 Ao Ban Tai and Ao Ban Khai
These two long beaches on the southwest coast provide a great view of Koh Samui and exceptional sunset views. If you want a peaceful, more relaxed place to stay even though you’re attending the Full Moon Party, these beaches are a good option. You can take a songthaew to the party and return here to peace and quiet. Both of these beaches are ideal for a sunset stroll.
#9 Haad Yao or Long Beach
Haad Yao is located on the northwest coast in a postcard-worthy bay. You can get here by motorbike or songthaew from Thong Sala. There are several hotels, bungalows and resorts here. Some accommodation is right on the beach and some is set back on the hillside. There are hammocks here and Thai massage is also available. It’s got a social vibe because of the cool bars, but it’s not noisy or crowded.
General Tips for Koh Pha Ngan Travel
Responsible and Respectful Tourism
Koh Pha Ngan is suffering from the effects of negative tourism due to the Full Moon Parties and other parties that seem to draw flocks of tourists unaware of the negative effects they are having on the island. While staying on the island, please be aware of things you can do to reduce your impact on the island. Recycling efforts are starting to pay off, and some hotels are promoting eco-friendly practices, so consider looking into this when booking your accommodation.
Responsible and Respectful Driving
Be aware that there is a helmet law on Koh Pha Ngan, so always wear a helmet when riding a motorbike. If you aren’t an experienced motorbike driver, you should be aware of potholes that can throw you off your bike. You can be fined for not wearing a helmet, and while you will see Thais not wearing them, you should. The police will stop you if you aren’t wearing a helmet and you’ll likely have to pay a fine, and it is for your own safety.
Renting a car is also an option, and with a 4×4 you can access any road on the rather mountainous island. Many of them are still dirt roads. There’s not a lot of traffic on the roads, but still be cautious and on the main road. Be sure to always watch for motorbikes. They will squeeze into any open spaces in traffic.
Most hotels and resorts now offer free wifi, even in the rooms. Lots of cafes on the island have fairly reliable and fast wifi for free. Internet speed on the island is reasonable, and certainly sufficient for checking email, but it’s not always reliable. Loss of power and internet service disruptions are as common as you’d expect on an island. If you need fast, reliable internet for work, see the coworking options below.
Coworking/Digital Nomads/Expat Living
Koh Pha Ngan is home to three coworking spaces with an ever-growing population of digital nomads gravitating to the island for a little fun in the sun when they’re not at their computers. Here’s some information about each one to help you decide if coworking on this fun Thai island is right for you.
Beachfront coworking is what beachub is all about. You will have a view of the sea no matter where you choose to work at beachub. They have a clean, modern, supercool place to get your digital vibe on. They also partner with Karma Café, serving organic, gourmet cuisine and fresh juices and drinks to keep your mental energy strong. It is located on the northwest part of the island on Moo 8.
Founded by three westerners with a vision, they know how to cater to digital nomads from around the world to meet their needs. They have a variety of pricing options. Daily is 400 baht, weekly is 1800 baht, and the Full Mont(hl)y (get it?) is 5400 baht. No matter which pricing option works for you, a beachfront desk, speedy wifi, and beach access and a shower are included.
At Koh Space you will have access to a brand new conference room, laptop work space, and an outdoor space in the garden to relax and get some sun. It’s near the beach if you need a walk to clear your mind. There is also a lounge space where you can take a break with other digital nomads and have free water or coffee.
They are open six days a week from 10:00am to 21:00. Closed on Sundays. If you need an appointment outside these working hours, that can be arranged.
They offer various accommodation options with a minimum of five nights stay. All rooms have wifi and include a Koh Space membership. Room types are studio apartment with private bath and king size bed, double room with shared bathroom, and a single room with shared bath. Certain times of year there is a 10 night stay. Rooms are listed on Airbnb.com and run from 34 USD to 21 USD a night.
A weekly pass is 1300 baht and monthly is 3900 baht. You can pay with PayPal.
Focus is located on the northern coast of Koh Pha Ngan in Moo 7. It is a coworking space. The owner’s vision is not one of making money but of providing a sustainable place for others with a love of all things digital. The environment here encourages creativity and collaboration.
Facilities here include fibre optic Internet connection, air conditioning, a variety of seating options to suit a variety of backs and bums, free coffee and tea, Thai inspired décor, and lots of great food at nearby restaurants. The location is interesting too. Focus is located in the local fishing village called Chaloklum at the north end of the island. It is as far from the Full Moon Party as possible.
Pricing is daily 350 baht, weekly 1500 baht, and monthly 5000 baht. Spaces are limited. Longer term arrangements are preferable and will receive priority.
There are several expats living on Koh Pha Ngan, mostly working in the diving industry, or working as restaurant owners. Some expats have chosen Koh Pha Ngan as their retirement home. Living on a resort island has advantages, like good services for expats, and disadvantages, like possibly growing weary of tourists or being treated like one even though you are an expat. Learning a bit of the Thai language can go a long way towards making island life easier on Koh Pha Ngan.
The islands in the Gulf of Thailand are some of the most expensive in the country for expats, but when compared to the cost of living in their home country, most expats find it very inexpensive to live on the island, even if they are retired. Renting a place, or even buying one, on the island can be a fairly simple process. There are many online real estate websites to help foreigners find a home that is right for them.
Many expats are aware that Koh Pha Ngan has many advantages over its overdeveloped and more expensive neighbor, Koh Samui. More villas and developments are being built to cater to expats who are looking to stay on the island for the long term. Getting away from the beaches and renting property on the hillside can greatly decrease monthly rents, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a great view from the hillside.
Koh Pha Ngan is an easy place for foreigners to live with an increasing number of imported goods, excellent services and infrastructure, many international restaurants, excellent communication and internet services. There are two hospitals on the island, but one is really more like a clinic. First Western Hospital is licensed and fully equipped, but anything serious will likely require you to go to the mainland.
A Budget for Every Traveler
For a backpacker or budget traveler, a budget of $25 per day will get you a great dorm room or even a fan bungalow and some great local food, and transport on the island. Some of the best food on the island will fill you up for about 50 baht per meal. You’ll pay more for beachfront restaurants. Songthaews are around 120 baht per ride, more if you’re going to destinations that are more difficult to access.
A midrange traveler can get by on $50 per day including accommodation with air conditioning if you’re willing to sacrifice being beachfront, and some upscale restaurant meals, including drinks. If you steer clear of the beer buckets and get yourself some beers at the convenience store, you’ll keep your costs down and you can spend your money elsewhere.
There’s no shortage of luxury accommodation on Koh Pha Ngan, and as with other Thai islands, it is incredibly cheap during low season. Even during high/peak season, you can pay about $120 to $250 per night and get a beautiful, luxurious room that feels like true indulgence.
The good news is, even for luxury travelers, accommodation is really the only big money you will spend. Upscale dining on the island can still be inexpensive and feel indulgent.