Koh Phangan is my favorite island in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s famous for the full moon party which was one of the first things I learned about Thailand (sadly enough) but it offers so much more. The full moon party is only in the very south of the island and occurs once a month. The rest of the time, there are ton of amazing beaches, fantastic hiking, and delicious food to eat. Koh Phangan has also become a digital nomad hotspot in recent years attracting a lot of long term stay people.
I really liked Koh Phangan and found it to be much more beautiful and relaxing than their western counterparts in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. I spent a week in the island on my trip around Thailand and can definitely recommend visiting!
How to get to Koh Phangan
Getting to Koh Phangan can be a bit of a mission. While the journey is quite frequent and easy to book, it just takes a long time to reach Koh Phangan.
By Ferry from Surat Thani
The first method is to fly into Surat Thani airport and take the bus to the ferry terminal. There are multiple daily flights to Surat Thani from hotspots like Bangkok or Chiang Mai for very cheap on AirAsia. Conversely, you can also take a bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani but this will take 11-12 hours so I don’t recommend this method.
From Surat Thani, you will then take a shuttle transfer to the ferry terminal at Donsak Pier which is about 2 hours away. From the pier, you will then board your ferry which is another 2.5 hour journey. All in all, you can budget about 5 hours from landing at the airport to arriving in the Thong Sala pier of Koh Phangan.
The price for this transfer varies depending on the ferry company you book. You can prebook this transfer online or purchase the tickets directly at the airport where you will find numerous stands for companies selling the transfer. I paid 500 THB for the shuttle and the ferry and prebooked the Koh Phangan transfer on Bookaway. The ferries stop running around 18h so make sure you plan accordingly, otherwise you might have to stay the night in Surat Thani.
By ferry from Koh Samui
The easiest way to get to Koh Phangan is by flying into the island of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is the bigger brother island of Koh Phangan is located just 1h by ferry south. From the airport, it’s a short 10 minute drive to the pier where you have multiple ferry companies running the trip between the two islands.
I took this journey on my way out of Koh Phangan because I didn’t want to repeat the same journey from Surat Thani so I booked flights out of Koh Samui. I paid another 500 THB for this trip which includes the ferry to Koh Samui and the shuttle transfer to the airport.
During high season, I would highly recommend booking these ferries in advance because there’s nothing worse than showing up and being told the ferries are booked for the day!
Best time of year to visit Koh Phangan
The islands in the south enjoy split seasons depending which side of the country you’re on. The Andaman sea to Thailand’s east enjoys the opposite season as the Gulf of Thailand. The best times to visit the Andaman sea (Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Similan islands, Krabi) are between November and April. Conversely, the best time to visit the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Tao) is April to October.
I visited Koh Phangan in the off season months in December but the weather was almost perfect the entire time. Conversely, I’ve had friends that have visited in June and were greeted to torrential down pours day in and day out. While there are “seasons” to visiting Koh Phangan and the Gulf of Thailand, it’s the tropics so you can never have anything guaranteed!
Where to stay in Koh Phangan
There are numerous resorts, private rooms, budget accommodation, bungalows and houses on Koh Phangan. We have stayed in several accommodations as we have also been to the island several times. On average we paid €15-20 per night for both of us for a beachfront bungalow with fan and basic bathroom.
You can get a bed in a hostel for as little as €5 per night. But you can also rent a villa with a pool or stay in one of the luxurious resorts. On Koh Phangan you will find the right accommodation for every budget.
Special accommodations on Koh Phangan:
- Silan Residence Koh Phangan
- The Coast Resort Koh Phangan
- Panviman Koh Phangan
- Zama resort
- The Great Escape Chalets
- Green Papaya Resort
How to get around Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a relatively large island that is mostly unconnected with each other by public transport. There aren’t many options to speak of from what I gathered and the only mode of transport around the island is by scooter, songthaew (local shared taxis) or by private taxi.
The local songthaew taxis leave at designated times throughout the day but mostly connect the main towns of Koh Phangan. Taxis are reasonably priced but you can’t use Grab or any ride hailing apps on the island making them unreliable.
The best method of getting around Koh Phangan is definitely by scooter. You can rent scooters on Koh Phangan pretty much anywhere. The prices will vary depending on the time of year but you can expect to pay between 150 and 250 THB for a basic 125 cc scooter.
Koh Phangan has wide paved roads that make scooter riding very easy and enjoyable. There is hardly any traffic on this island (except during peak times) so you don’t need to deal with the craziness like in Bali, Indonesia for example.
Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan
The Full moon party is famous around the world for being one of the craziest and epic parties in Thailand. This is literally the first thing I knew about Thailand just from word of mouth. It happens on the night of the full moon so almost every month. It is located on Haad Rin Beach which is actually quite beautiful. It is turned into a huge outdoor beach party on the eve of the full moon.
Bars are full of party goers of all ages (mostly younger let’s be honest), sand buckets filled with liquor and mix, and Singha beers on free flow. The party goes to the early morning hours of the day and you can expect to see thousands of people on the beach.
At the party there is mostly electronic music on the ears. Every now and then even internationally known DJ’s come to the island. The party then goes on until sunrise the next day. The Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan usually takes place exactly on the full moon day of the month. From time to time the party is also postponed because of religious days. Book your accommodation accordingly in advance. Depending on the time of year, it can get pretty crowded on the island.
I visited in December 2021 during COVID and this party is of course not happening until further notice!
Best Beaches in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is spoiled with incredible beaches all over the island. I would say the beaches in Koh Phangan are nicer than the ones in Phuket. Perhaps it’s not as beautiful as a Koh Phi Phi Leh but for how easy it is to get to, Koh Phangan offers some of the better beaches in Thailand.
I explored the beautiful Chaloklum Beach and the somewhat hidden Bootle Beach. You can reach it by boat or by scooter on very rough gravel roads (at least that’s how it was back then). We didn’t find the beach that beautiful, there are really nicer beaches. We wouldn’t take the horror path through the jungle again. But this beach also has its beautiful corners.
South of Koh Phangan
In the very south and south-east of the island is the gorgeous Leela Beach and Haad Rin Beach . The sand at Leela Beach is incredibly white, the water crystal clear and turquoise. You’ll be amazed! In the east of the island is Than Sadet Beach . This one is a little gem. The palm trees reach for the sky, the restaurant is cozy and the accommodations are original. The rocks on the left and right as well as the wooden bridge, which leads you over the small arm of the river, are particularly beautiful
Northwest of Koh Phangan beaches
I found the beaches in the northwest of Koh Phangan to be the most beautiful. These all had wide sandy beaches with beautiful palm trees, cliffs, and crystal clear water. During high season however, you can expect these beaches to get quite busy which might make it less enjoyable.
One of my favorite spots is the so-called “Secret Beach” . It is by no means “secret” but simply stunningly beautiful. We particularly liked the rocks in the water, the clear sea, the colors and the peace and quiet. Haad Salad is also a beautiful beach right next to the What’s Cup cafe.
Bottle Beach Viewpoint
For the best views of Koh Phangan with an added hike, visit the Bottle Beach Viewpoint in Koh Phangan’s north. You can drive close to the entrance point with a scooter and then walk another 20 minutes through the bush to the viewpoint. From the viewpoint, you have a stunning view of Bottle Beach and the Gulf of Thailand!
I found the two beaches Thong Nai Pan Yai & Thong Nai Pan Noi very beautiful. These are located in the east of the island and are easily accessible by road. On Noi Beach you will find almost only luxury resorts, while on Yai Beach there are nice and cheaper accommodations. The beaches are beautiful and certainly worth a visit!
Haad Sadet is another very off the beaten path beach on Koh Phangan’s east coast. This beach is very remote so you won’t find the typical crowds here. It is located in the Namtok Than Sadet National Park and you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to enter this park.
The beach itself is quite pretty but it’s probably not as beautiful as the beaches on the west coast. There are some bungalows where you can stay as well as a nudist beach nearby.
Silver Cliff Restaurant viewpoint
My favorite part of this beach is the restaurant on the clifftop. It’s a short walk from the beach but the views here are incredible. I had lunch and coconuts here and it was absolutely stunning.
Best Cafes in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan has seen a huge influx of high quality cafes in recent years. There are now plenty of beautiful, trendy, and digital nomad friendly cafes located all throughout the island. Of course, Koh Phangan’s cafe selection still pales in comparison to Bali’s cafes but you won’t leave disappointed!
Bubba’s coffee is one of the most well known cafes on the island. They serve amazing brunch style food from all over the world as well as make delicious coffee. They have multiple locations on the island but you can expect the same quality everywhere. I came here numerous times for their breakfast items as there isn’t much local Thai dishes to speak of on the island.
You can expect a large crowd at this cafe as it is very popular with tourists and digital nomads alike.
Orion cafe located in the northwest of the island is the perfect place to relax and chill by the beach. It’s located literally in front of the beach and is a very popular spot with the digital nomads. There is ample seating and plush couches for those looking for a comfortable spot to work.
What’s cup is probably my favorite cafe on the island. Located in the northwest of Koh Phangan near to Haad Salat beach, this cafe is the ultimate spot to have coffee and brunch food with a view. Literally, look at this photo below and tell me that you can’t find the meaning of life with this view!
This place gets very busy in the late mornings so make sure to come early for the best tables. The food is also remarkably tasty which makes the view even better. I loved working from here as it was a chilled place after the morning rush and the views were spectacular.
What to eat in Koh Phangan
As with anywhere in Thailand, you’re never far away from amazing delicious food and of course this is the case in Koh Phangan as well. As it is a large island, you’ll find all the Thai classics as well as numerous western style restaurants to mix it up. These are some of the highlights of the restaurants I visited but there are countless more that I didn’t have time to visit!
Phantip Night Market in city center
You can’t go wrong with street markets in Thailand. Literally never.
Phantip night market is the main night market in Koh Phangan. There are a few smaller ones located outside of the main town but definitely stick with this one.
As with any night market, you can expect to find all the delicious options here from cooked food like Pad Thai, Pad see ew, Pad Gra Prao, green curry etc. to street dishes like satays, Thai pancakes, mango sticky rice, fried chicken, and much more.
Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar
This was probably my favorite restaurant on the entire island. It’s a slightly more upscale seafood restaurant located on the beach south of the city center. This restaurant has a beautiful beach in front with numerous Thai style long boats laid out on the beach for tables and lounge seating.
The food itself is absolutely fantastic with some of the strongest and tastiest curries I’ve had in Thailand. Make sure to get the mix seafood curry which was probably one of the best things I’ve eaten all over Thailand. The restaurant also serves fantastic cocktails which is hard to find. Prices are on the higher side but is to be expected with this type of setting.
Make sure to make a reservation before hand!
Siri’s Island Cafe
Located just north of the Thong Sala city center, Siri’s island cafe is the spot to go for delicious Khao Soi. I lived off of Khao Soi in northern Thailand and was really craving these delicious noodles as soon as I had left. Siri is one of the only places on the island that served this delicious noodle soup. The owner was also very friendly.
For delicious Thai food that we all know, visit Pum Pui in the northwest of the island. This restaurant serves all the classics but is one of the best places to do it.
Bann Boontom Somtum & Gallery
Possibly the best authentic Thai restaurant on the island! This place specializes in northeastern isaan cuisine, but has its own unique style. This is really different from most Thai restaurants on the island directed at foreigners and tourists. This was the real deal spicy and delicious Thai flavor that I had not tasted previously.
Make sure to try the various Larb dishes as well as the fried pork!
Visit Koh Tao Island
If you have a few more days, I’d also recommend visiting the island of Koh Tao. It’s world famous for its diving although the corals have seen better days with the onset of climate change. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Koh Tao was known as an absolute factory for open water courses. It was packed with dive schools and the dive and party lifestyle was the way here. It was so overpacked with diving that almost a third of all open water certifications in the world were done in Koh Tao. That is absolutely insane.
The island is much smaller than Koh Phangan and many people prefer this vibe. Koh Tao can be reached by ferry from Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, or Surat Thani. The quickest way to reach Koh Tao from Bangkok is to fly to Koh Samui and take the ferry to Koh Tao.
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