Best Beaches or Beyond the Full Moon Party
Koh Phangan is an island southeast of Thailand famous for the Full Moon and Half Moon Parties. Apart from the nightlife and the backpackers crowds, that spend weeks and months here, the island has a hippie feeling, relaxed beaches and accommodation choices from budget to luxury, it is touristic but not spoiled. This subjective (of course!) post includes 5 (+1 Bonus!) of my favourite Koh Phangan beaches along with photos and other tips to enjoy them as much as possible!
1. Mae Haad Beach and Ko Ma Islet
Ko Ma is a tiny green islet (northwest of Koh Phangan) connected by a narrow sandy stretch with the mainland. It takes 5-10 minutes to cross this trail on foot but be prepared as the path is full of broken corals that may hurt your feet! The surrounding beach is nice and in general the place is very unique. We found the least shallow waters here but you need to watch your steps as there are some black sea cucumbers at the bottom.
There are 2 resorts in between you (the main road!) and this beach but do not be discouraged! Thai law requires free-for-everyone access to any beach so you cross the resorts via the public paths to reach the sea without having to buy anything! Thanks Thailand!
2. Haad Salad
I call this type of beaches «the everyday beach». What does it mean? It is the easily accessible one but, at the same time, not full of people or over developed. It has few places to eat/ drink without worrying or paying your salary off. It is the first beach that pops into your mind when you need a close by and relaxed place with some facilities. Salad beach is the perfect candidate for this list! With its soft sand and the pleasant waters is also a decent choice for a no-hassle day next to the sea.
3. Haad Rin Beaches : Nok and Haad Seekantang (Leela)
Haad Rin is the most famous village in Koh Phangan as the Full moon party takes place here. The Nok beach is the main one for the party so it is definitely more touristic and crowdy. It is considered dirty after the monthly party but the local community makes efforts to return it in an acceptable level of cleanliness as soon as possible. On the other hand, Leela is very quiet with no loud music / jet skis etc. Both have shallow and warm waters and white powder type sand!
4. Thong Nai Pan Yai
Thong Nai Pan Yai beach is considered the most beautiful beach of the island by many people so it was the first one we visited (actually the second one as the first was a bit disappointing!). Personally, I liked it but not that much! It is surrounded by palm trees and has a beautiful landscape but it is quite busy. Accessible by land (the road is fairly new) with lots of restaurants / bars / hotels around, it may turns to a very touristic place in few years time as it is very easy to get there- a motorbike needs just a 20-30 minutes drive.
5. Haad Khuat (Bottle Beach 1 & 2)
Quite difficult to be reached by land as the path that leads to the beach is very steep – almost impossible to walk on open shoes, even hiking shoes do not help that much! The problem is that only jeeps or suitable motorcycles can take you there so even if you have rented as a scooter (as we did) it’s unlikely for the poor thing to drive you downhill! There is a small “parking” space where people leave their scooters half of the way (good news: the first kilometre up to this point can be done by your scooter!) and then you have only 2km ahead (bad news: this is the steepest part of the path!). However, there are some friendly locals that may carry you on their truck for free on their way up or down but you have to be lucky – we must have been so exhausted and desperate under the hot sun in the middle of the jungle because it happened to us too!
To be frank, there is a second option ( much easier!) if your mentality is not that «adventurous» ! From Ao Chaloklum Bay , a fishing village north of the island (where Dimitris gives information so you can’t miss it ), or from the previous Thong Nai Pan Yai beach you just catch a boat taxi – the ticket price is expensive for the Thai standards though!
5+1. Haad Son (Secret Beach and Sunset-friendly photo spot!)
The bonus one that unfortunately it’s not that secret anymore… However, it is still very beautiful and you can enjoy a great, mesmerizing sunset here as it is located west of the island. The white soft sand has amazing «waves» but the tide affects the water so much so you may have to walk A LOT to swim properly (not uncommon for Thai beaches though). Accessible by land easily and just 2-3 bars/ restaurants around- not spoiled yet but throughout high season can get overcrowded because of its small size.
Well…did I mention about the sunset?!
There are many more beaches but these are my favourite ones for the different reasons I wrote! Fortunately, contrast to what’s expected, the island keeps its character; there are so many things to do and experience in Koh Phangan beyond the Full and Half Moon parties! I know that the “party reputation” puts some visitors off but it shouldn’t as the island is special and has so much to offer! And if you can’t stand…the party animals just skip these days! For me the biggest problem is the bars with the young Thai girls waiting for (mostly) white older men – leave the girls alone FFS!