Ko Pha Ngan is an island in southeast Thailand off of the coast of Koh Samui island that’s famous for its monthly Full Moon Party. The party is a wild night-long celebration, which is tied to the lunar calendar and draws travelers from all over to the southeastern peninsula, Haad Rin. The north coast has quieter, white-sand beaches including Hat Khuat and Hat Thian. The trendy bohemian Secret Beach is on the south western portion of the island. This island is a forgotten peaceful island apart from the full moon parties.
How to get there
The fastest and most direct way to Koh Phangan is to fly to the island of Koh Samui and then take a ferry ride to Koh Phangan. Most likely you will need to fly first to Bangkok Airport, then fly to Koh Samui, but there are some flights that fly direct to Koh Samui. You can also for cheaper options catch an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then do the bus and ferry ticket process described below if you want to save on a flight ticket cost. See the trains schedule and cost here. There is an even longer and cheaper option of taking the bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then doing the bus and ferry combo ticket however, the train and bus costs are not that much different and it seems unnecessary to take the bus route.
The cheapest way to get to the island is if you fly or get a bus to Surat Thani. From Surat Thani you can book a cheap bus and ferry combo transportation ticket. This takes much longer than direct flights onto the islands but if you have the time and need a cheaper option this is the one. The ticket flight cost between Bangkok and Surat Thani is only around $25usd per person as opposed to the cost of flights getting straight to Koh Samui island costing around $150usd per person on average.
There is not a need to book your bus/ferry tickets beforehand. Once in the Surat Thani airport, you can go to the ferry kiosk and get a ticket for Koh Phangan. You’ll be given a ticket for a bus ride and a ticket for the ferry that will cost around 500 Baht (around $14). The trip from the airport including bus and ferry will take around 5 hours. The bus ride to Donsak Pier (1.5 hours) and ferry boat ride (around 2.5 hours). Waiting at the ferry dock will be many song taos and taxis to get to your hotel. However, options are limited on the island and depending on the time of day it may be best to pre-arrange your transfer to where you are staying. Click here to book the bus ferry ticket combo.
When to visit
This island is a tropical monsoon climate meaning there is a very dry and very wet season on the island. The dry season is December to March with the least amount of rainfall if you are looking for sunny skies and beach time. This is also the peak tourist season which means it is the most busy with people and things are more expensive and book out faster. From April until autumn monsoons there are tropical downpours even while still being warm and the rain doesn’t last long with sun coming out after. September-mid November are the monsoon rains and season that is probably least pleasant to visit the island but also is the cheapest and lowest tourist season and cost.
The full moon party occurs every month one time and you can check here for a full list of Full Moon party dates. This is a very busy and packed time of the month which makes it difficult to rent a bike or find any accommodation. The ferries are packed near party times of the month but pretty quiet and clear outside of those times. We made the mistake of going accidentally during a full moon party and so we could not rent a bike or get around the island much at all. The song taos overcharge to get around the island as the only public transit especially during full moon parties.
Things to do
Secret Beach is connected to another beach called Haad son that are one quiet cove about a 30 minute song tao away from the pier on the western coast. Koh Raham is a bohemian trendy beach restaurant on the edge of Secret Beach cove. This restaurant and bar is the coolest jungle vibes with swings over the turquoise water and a pier at the end to jump and swim in the ocean. Secret Beach has its own local restaurant and bar as well that sells budget and pretty good food and drinks that are cheaper than Koh Raham. This whole stretch is my favorite spot on the island. This beach gets packed in the afternoon but is empty and quiet in the morning. There are such beautiful and intricate small shells you can find beach combing on this stretch. This is definitely one of the gems of the island and is best to visit not on a full moon party weekend to get the tranquility of the island. Since secret beach is right next to the main full moon party beach set on the island the most people will probably be in this area on those weekends. We unfortunately visited the island on the full moon party weekend and it was very crowded. They were sold out of motorbikes and it was very difficult to get around the island.
Mae Haad Beach/Island Overlook
This is one of the most famous beaches on the island. If you have seen a picture of the island this is probably one of them. This is definitely one of the more empty beaches that is the furthest northern tip on the island. When the tide is low this beach becomes magic because you can walk to Ko Ma island across the sandbar. This area is known for its snorkeling where you can see schools of fish, corals and anemone. There is a shallow stretch of the water with painful sharp stones and you must swim over this before you walk or make sure to wear water shoes. This beach is known for people stepping on sea urchins and you need to be careful. This is some of the best snorkeling on the island and the most peaceful beaches to enjoy.
Khao Ra Mountain Peak Hike
This is the highest peak inland on the island sitting at a bit over 2000 feet high. The hike to the top takes around 1-2 hours depending on your fitness and half of that downhill. The trailhead can be found at Khao Ra Retreat & Guesthouse where you can park your motorbike and start hiking. There is a small path between the bungalows. Follow the dirt road uphill and cross the water basin. Walk along the water to the right until you see a sign. There is one main small path through the jungle from here on that should be simple to follow. There are a couple signs along the way to assure you that you are on the right path. There are prayer flags strung at the top and views of Chalok Lam Bay that are beautiful. Khao Ra Bungalows have a delicious local restaurant with killer views of the jungle and is a great place to rest post hike and get some drinks and grub. The location can be found below for the trailhead.
Secret Mountain Overlook
Secret Mountain is a beautiful outdoor terrace restaurant and overlook of the island. This is the perfect spot to come for sunrise and sunset over the island. This is definitely one of the most popular spots to watch the sunset in the evening and have some drinks. There is a pool and a long wooden terrace that stretches out with pillows and tables hanging high above the jungle with the most killer view. This spot is only a 10 minute drive north inland from the main ferry port which is convenient and a quiet hide away that most tourists and the crowds don’t know about.
Phaeng waterfall is a lush green jungle hike between the trees to a small waterfall in the inland jungle of the island. The best part of the waterfall is actually the viewpoint of the island. There is a pool big enough to swim in and cool off but the falls are pretty small in the dry season and not worth visiting. This is a great hike during the dry season for a view but don’t come for the waterfall of you will be disappointed and unable to swim in the pool at the bottum. We made the mistake of visiting waterfalls on the island in dry season and there was not much to see or do there. This waterfall trailhead is only about a 15 minute drive from the main pier. The parking fee is 20 baht and there is no entrance fee other than that. This is supposed to be the most tall and beautiful waterfall on the island. If you visit in rainy season it will be otherwise try for the Khao Ra mountain hike.
Hanging Palm Tree
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This is a natural island landmark that is a fun photo opportunity. There is an old palm tree that is bent from storms and wind almost horizontal to the ground out over the water. You can climb out and sit on it over the ocean. The palm is about a 10 minute drive north west from the ferry pier. Hunting for the horizontal palms on the beach around the island is an adventure. There are several but one main one that you can even find marked in google maps.
Visit Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park
The national marine park reserve is a floating paradise of jungle and emerald pools on its own island in the ocean untouched by man. The beauty can be seen for a day trip paying for a boat tour. There is great snorkeling around this park and is great for a day trip adventure when you are staying on one of the islands in the gulf area. This is a grouping of 42 beautiful limestone islands. This is something in our short weekend visit we did not get to do yet. Definitely keeping this on the list for our next visit.
How to get there: There are many boat tours and companies that you can reserve coming off Koh Phangan island or Koh Samui to tour the park. Speed boats only take 45 minutes to get to the islands and are seen as safer than other boat options and the slow boats take 2 hours to get there as well. You can book group or private tours depending on your budget and vision. Safari Boat is one of the best known and recommended tour companies that has daily boats that leave from the two main islands piers (Samui and Phangan).
Cost: Group tours per person start at 1600 baht including kayaking and private charters are 26000 baht. See tours and booking info here. They do 1 day tours that are from 8am-5pm you arrive back on the island you left from.
National Park Fee: Not included in the boat tours is the national park entrance fee which is 300 baht per person (foreigner). Be prepared with cash on your boat tour to have this on hand for when you disembark onto the island. See more information on the island and national park here.
Day trip/overnight to Ko Tao
Ko Tao is the small and quiet private island you can easily visit from Koh Phangan. This island is smaller and less visited and touristy than Samui and Koh Phangan. This island is hardest to get to in this area and so it is definitely not as visited. You must factor into your trip the ferries to get there that don’t run often but if you do this island is a paradise getaway. I think this is one of the empty islands left in southern Thailand that is not overrun. We have yet to make it to this island and it is on the bucket list still to do in southern Thailand. If you are looking for a smaller, private and quiet island that is not touristy then this is your option.
How to get there: There is no airport, or trains or buses that go to the island. This is one of the only islands that you can only get to by boat and have to travel through two other islands to get there. The best way to get there is from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan islands. You can fly into Koh Samui and then take ferries to Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao.
There are three boats which operate between these two islands and Koh Tao. They are Lomprayah Catamaran, Seatran Discovery and Songserm Express.
Cost: 1200 baht or $38usd per person roundtrip (from Koh Samui to Ko tao)
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I have listed above my favorite beach on the island called Secret Beach. There are several beautiful and remote beaches on the island and wanted to share a few others as well to check out. Secret Beach is one of the most cool bohemian style beaches on the island with a nice quiet cove for swimming and a small sandbar. Haad Yao beach is on the other side of the secret beach cove with the penninsula between of the Koh Raham bohemian restaurant. This beach is gorgeous and larger and less populated than Secret Beach. Secret beach gets crowded because of the full moon party and all the people staying there on weekends for the party. Maehaad beach is one of the most popular beaches because it connects to Ko Ma island at low tide. This is one of the most famous pictures of the island when it is low tide and walking over to explore the other small island. Malibu and Chaloklum beach are more beautiful remote beaches on the northern coast of the island that is a good distance from the pier and the more popular east coast from the party scene. They are better for relaxation and escaping the tourists. Bottle Beach is one of the most remote beaches on the island to the east of Chaloklum beach. It is a smaller sand strip but a beautiful turquoise bay that is remote with no restaurants or buildings on the beach. Ao Thong Nai Pan and Haad Thong Ren are beaches on the eastern coast with restaurants, hotels and stores that are more developed with access to resources. The eastern coast beaches are definitely the farthest from the pier and the more developed town side of the island.
What to eat
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✔️Because we concern about the worldwide situation now, we comply with Thai Government to temporally closed Beach Coconuts Bowls from 18-31 March . . ✔️You can order your bowls to Take Away everyday, sending a message to us with your order and hour to pick it up . . 📸 Pic by @jaaaaasmin__ . . #smoothiebowl #vegan #veganfood #eatclean #cleaneats #kohphangan #kohsamui #healthyfood #foodporn #trendy #youngliving #kohtao #thailand #travellife #blogger #travellers #worldwide #variety #innovation
Beach Coconut Bowls is a boho trendy cafe that serves delicious acai bowls and smoothies as a natural food and organic health food restaurant on the island near the pier. Alfa Cafe is a charming cozy little coffee shop near Thong Sala Pier. Pirates bar is a popular place on Zen beach where the big full moon party is held annually. Locco’s Pizza bar is pretty popular in the Secret Beach area as well as Koh Raham bohemian beach bar restaurant. Secret Mountain is a killer restaurant with an overlook view in the lush jungle central part of the island.
Where to stay
Anantara Rasananda Villas
This 5 star luxury resort sits isolated on the northeastern tip of the island the farthest away you can get from the pier and main downtown area. The hotel sits on a private stretch of beach with lots of water activities on Tong Nai Pan Noi Beach. The villas have private pools and terraces and is a great place for luxury travelers and couples. The rooms start at around $250USD/night, see more details here.
Haad Son Resort
This is a nice mid range bungalow option that sits on Secret beach and the tropical bohemian beach bar and hangout. The area where this hotel is was one of our favorite beaches and spots on the island. There are budget bungalows starting at $30usd per night and nicer bungalows you can rent for $115usd per night, see booking options here. This hotel is all about location, location, location. This is one of the most quiet nice private beaches on the island. Just make sure you don’t stay here during a full moon party unless it is intentional. This is close in to where the festivities happen and is packed with people. There are also Secret Beach Bungalows, on this same beach as simple small huts that are a great budget option for $20usd/night, see here.
There are many budget bungalow options on the island. The bungalows are a fun local experience in a simple hut with a wet bathroom inside. They are not very air tight and many bugs come in and out. But they are like a fun way to camp and still be connected to nature and simplify in Thailand. If you are ok with some bugs and a wet bathroom then this is the budget spot for you. There is Wattana Resort near the beautiful Malibu and Choklum beaches on the north end of the island. This is a great location and close to Mae Haad Beach as well the famous beach when the tide is low you can see ko Ma island. The bungalows start at $20usd/night. Koh Ma Beach Resort has nicer more modern bungalows on Mae Haad Beach for $40usd/night starting.