The island of Koh Pha-ngan is the second largest island of the popular Samui archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand. It is primarily known worldwide for the famous Full Moon Party on the beach of Haad Rin, where several thousand visitors flock every full moon night. However, the beautiful island has so much more to offer that makes a trip there worthwhile.
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General information about the island and how to get there
Koh Phangan (or Koh Phangan, as it is usually called) covers an area of 125 km², which makes it only slightly smaller than the much better-known island of Koh Samui, which is about 12 kilometres away. Koh Pha-ngan is the fifth largest island in Thailand. The capital of Koh Pha-ngan, Thongsala, is located in the west and houses everything travellers need for a stay: Here, scooters can be rented, bathing suits bought, markets visited, art objects purchased and letters posted at the post office. In addition, most ferries and boats call at Thongsala.
Best time to visit Koh Pha-ngan
Thebest time to travel to the island is from the end of December to the end of August, as it is driest here with only occasional showers. From December to March, you can expect temperatures of up to 30 degrees, after which 33 degrees a day is quite normal. As there are heavy downpours from October to December, not even the boat connections to the island are guaranteed.
Journey to Koh Pha-ngan
Those arriving from all kinds of areas in Thailand travel by train or bus at best to "Surat Thani" and from there by ferry to the island. Trains stop at Surat Thani Railway Station, which is just under a kilometre outside the provincial capital. After arrival, guides show the way to the buses that go to the pier. Those who do not yet have a ticket for the crossing to Koh Pha-ngan can buy tickets at one of the travel agencies at the station.
The trip to Koh Pha-ngan takes about 3.5 hoursby speedboat. With the high-speed ferry, catamaran of "Lomprayah" it takes about 20 minutes from Koh Samui. This catamaran is also the fastest way from Koh Tao or the mainland from Chumphon and Don Sak - but you pay the most for it. The boat from "Songserm" is much cheaper, but it is also smaller and not as comfortable. Important: Keep an eye on the relevant timetables.
The most beautiful beaches of Koh Pha-ngan
The Hat Mae Haad Beach
On the north-western coast of Koh Phangan lies this cosy beach with its fine, white sand. At low tide, Hat Mae Haad offers the possibility to walk across a sandbank to the nearby island of Koh Ma. If you don't just want to relax, but go on a little island discovery tour, you shouldn't miss this experience.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
Thong Nai Pan Noi in the northeast is located in a tranquil bay where you can find some extremely luxurious accommodation and cheerful beach bars and restaurants. Even in the evening, it is still a wonderful place to relax or party with a few drinks and good music in a cosy setting.
Haad Khuat Beach
This beach, also called "Bottle Beach", can only be reached by one of the traditional longtail boats from Thong Nai Pan Noi beach or via a difficult trail. However, the trip is worth it, because there you are rewarded with almost untouched sand and complete seclusion.
Hat Yao (Long Beach)
Hat Yao is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. However, you will usually meet a lot of other travellers here as well. In addition to bathing fun, there are also some entertainment and shopping opportunities here, which provide variety, especially in the evening.
The sandy beach on the south coast of the island has lost some of its good reputation, especially due to the notorious full moon parties. But when there's no party going on, it's a great place to swim or watch torch jugglers perform their tricks in the evening. Lonely backpackers will have no problem finding their own kind at Hat Rin in no time.
Get healthy and stay healthy on Koh Pha-ngan
Koh Pha-ngan is known by many travellers who visit the island again and again for the possibilities to increase one's health and to give body and mind a cleansing. Many therefore stay longer on the island or even spend their entire holiday on Koh Pha-ngan, surrounded by yoga, healing and good food. All those who have similar plans are advised to also think about things that you might not normally think about as an ordinary backpacker.
It is therefore worthwhile to consider taking out health insurance abroad, or at least to find out in advance about the most important points concerning this topic. This insurance covers outpatient and inpatient treatment and reimburses many costs for medicines and other aids.
And especially when it comes to quick transports from the island to the mainland or even back home, such insurance can be quite useful. Because even with the recommended vaccinations, you are sometimes simply powerless against some things, such as severe intestinal infections.
Mostly, however, the stays on Koh Pha-ngan are fortunately free of complaints and travellers report all-round balancing experiences, for example in one of the yoga centres north of Thongsala. Various centres near Sri Thanu Beach offer yoga courses as well as various meditation classes. In Wat Khao Tam temple, the Americans Rosemary & Steve Weissman's also offer, for example, an experiential, multi-day silent meditation that is very popular.
Like almost everywhere in Thailand, there are of course numerous massage parlours on the island. Some of the masseurs and masseuses working on the island do not spare their guests, but the often painful massages are so popular precisely for this reason and because of the relaxation and effect that follow. Healing" or "healing massages" can also be availed of on the island.
Such massages are carried out by "Susu", a friendly and open-minded Thai who senses where the problem areas are in the body and then treats them extensively. She also gives tips on a healthier diet and lifestyle, from visitor to visitor. You can reach her via an inconspicuous dirt road that leads to the Moon Light Resort next to the school in Ban Tai.
The Full Moon Party
As already mentioned, besides the numerous possibilities to cleanse body and soul, the island is also known for its party culture. And this has even been the case since the mid-80s, when the first backpackers partied on Hat Rin beach under the full moon. Since then, the impressive atmosphere on full moon nights has attracted more and more party pilgrims every year, who enjoy the time together with alcohol, music and neon colours.
The Full Moon Party is considered Thailand's biggest open-air event and attracts up to 30,000 party-goers in the right season and under the right circumstances. Of course, you have to like that and the now almost exclusively electronic music. Since the event is now designed for the masses, there are also over 10 professional music systems operated by local and international DJs. It always starts in the late afternoon of the full moon evening and you can dance until the morning hours of the following day.
If you want to experience the party on the island, you have to book early! Accommodation is best not at Hat Rin itself, but somewhere else on the island. Taxis and taxi boats then run all night, so it should not be a problem to reach the party quickly and get back. By the way, the minimum booking duration during the Full Moon Party period is at least three to five days at many resorts and bungalows on Koh Pha-ngan.
Sights on the island
Chinese Temple Kuan Yin
The Chinese temple Kuan Yin is found on the road north from Thong Sala to Chaloklum. The curved roofs and bright colours are beautiful and an impressive example of China's influence in Thailand. Seven different buildings together form the temple complex, some of which offer a magnificent view over Chaloklum Bay.
Temple Wat Pho
The temple Wat Pho is also worth a visit. Not only is the temple itself beautiful to look at, it also has a traditional steam sauna that can be visited. It is also famous among health-conscious people for its cheap and good massages. Not far from Wat Pho is also the island's largest tree, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the temple. At 14 metres, the tropical rubber tree that looks over the landscape here is an extremely popular photo motif.
Even in the dry season, few tourists go to Phaeng Waterfall - which is completely incomprehensible. At the upper end of the magnificent waterfall, small pools invite you to take a refreshing plunge into the cool water.
Khao Raist, the highest mountain on the island
A climb up Khao Raist, the highest mountain on the island, takes a lot of energy. After all, it's hot and it takes almost two hours to get up there, even at a fast pace. And then you have to come back down again. However, the panoramic view over "Chalok Lam" compensates for the effort. Afterwards, it's best to regain your strength with delicious Thai food or in one of the countless hammocks scattered around the island!