Tips for Koh Phangan


Step one: arrival

If coming from Bangkok, you can buy sleeper/ferry combined tickets to Koh Phangan via Koh Samui at the train station.

From Koh Samui, ferries go to Koh Phangan from two ports – the main one, Nathon Peir, takes you to Thong Sala on Phangan (the main town on the island). There is also a smaller pier at Big Buddha beach which docks at Haad Rin. This is a shorter route and will put you immediately in the land of the Full Moon Party, if that’s where you want to be. It’s also cheaper at 200 baht per person.

From Haad Rin port, minivans and taxis will take you other parts of the island for approximately 200 baht per person. You could also hire a motorbike and take yourself. Bikes will cost 150-200 baht per day. The risks of hiring a motorbike/scooter are well documented and these factors (such as helmets, licences, leaving your passport as security and the dangers of scams to get money for non-existent scratches) should be considered.

You can also fly to Koh Samui from Bangkok and other destinations in South East Asia, and get the ferry from there. Check out Skyscanner for the best deals.

Step two: sleeping

Haad Salad is bay with a nice beach in the northwest of the island. There are some fancy resorts at the southern end of the bay and simpler accommodation at the northern end. The beach disappears at the northern end during high tide. At low tide, the bay is nice for swimming and the water generally clear and calm (unless there has been a storm and a lot of debris). There is a small coral reef in the bay which you can swim/snorkel to.

Smile Beach Resort – set back from the beach but with easy access, the resort has nice garden bungalows at 400 baht per night for a double with fan and ensuite. The garden is pleasant and the sound of frogs will rock you to sleep. The restaurant has good food and is amongst the cheapest in town. Unfortunately, wifi is not included, is unlikely to reach the bungalow, and reports are that it’s not very good. You can pick up a signal from Haad Salad Villa (if you can get the password), which would be enough to check email.

Haad Salad Villa – on the beach with direct access, bungalows are 400 baht for a double with fan. They smell a bit musty for being closed up though. Average wifi, but good enough for email.

Hadd Salad Beach Resort – we paid 5000 baht for a week, making this one 715 baht per day for a double with ensuite and air conditioning. Nice resort with direct access the beach with sun loungers. There is also a swimming pool, massage pavilion. Rooms are cleaned every day and a small bottle of water per person is put in the fridge.  Wifi is okay with routers all around the resort and if the power goes off, they have a generator.

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Mae Haad is another beach and bay in the northwest of the island, only three kilometres from Haad Salad. The beach is wider, cleaner and quieter and the water was cleaner than Haad Salad during the rains. Mae Haad is connected to Koh Maa by a sandbar where some good snorkelling can be done. One of my favourite spots on Koh Phangan.

Wang Sai Gardens – peaceful garden bungalows with a track to Wang Sai Waterfall running through it. Double bungalow with ensuite and fan for 400 baht, 500 baht gets you hot water and 1000 baht gets you air conditioning. The wifi in the restaurant was okay and the rooms reasonably clean. You might be sharing with a lizard.

Island View Cabana – beach side resort with a large restaurant (pretty much the only restaurant open during low season), with a beach bar and good vibe in the day time. Double bungalow with hot water and ensuite for 500 baht, more for air conditioning or a beach view. Rooms smelled a little musty and closed up.

Check out the offerings at Hostelworld here:

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Thong Sala is the main town on Koh Phangan were you’ll find lots of sleeping options and other amenities.

Beck’s Beach Resort – on the edge of town, double bungalow with fan and ensuite are as low as 300 baht per night but there are only a few rooms at this price so you’ll more likely be in a 500 baht room with hot water. The 500 baht room seemed to be really well sealed from mosquitoes and insects and is a bit bigger. The resort is well taken care of, has direct beach access and myna birds who will talk to you in English and Thai.

Check out the offerings at Hostelworld here:

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Step three: eat stuff

Options in Haad Salad are limited. Try the food at Smile Beach Resort and Big Mama’s, down the lane behind Haad Salad Beach Resort. Pick up cheap fruit from the market on the main road and groceries from the many minimarts.

Options in Mae Haad are equally limited. In low season, the only options is the beach restaurant at Island View Cabana. There are also minimarts.

In Thong Sala some of the best and cheapest food is at the covered night market (also open during the day). The market hall has stalls along the walls and there are street vendors in the parking lot. The later you go, the more street vendor options you have. Fresh juices are awesome there too.

Step four: do stuff

Haad Salad Yoga – at the top of the hill is a simple yoga retreat that accepts drop-ins. Hatha Yoga in the afternoon is 300 baht for 1.5 hours. It will take 20 minutes to walk there but get there early if you want a spot at the back as classes get full. Peaceful setting overlooking the mountain.

Snorkelling – most resorts rent snokels. It’s cheapest at Island View Cabana at Mae Haad where you can get a snorkel, mask and fins for 80 baht per hour. The snorkelling is better there too with reefs around Koh Maa.

Get a massage – on the beach a Thai massage starts at 200 baht for an hour, 250 baht for a one hour foot massage, going up to 450 baht for a coconut oil massage.

Diving – there are quite a few dive operators around the island, most offering trips out to Sail Rock. The prices are mostly the same, 2500 for certified divers and 3000 for absolute beginners for a one day trip.

Hire a kayak – most resorts hire kayaks. Beck’s does it for 100 baht per hour and she’s pretty generous on the hour. If you hire it regularly like we did, it’s 100 baht no matter how long you’re gone (within reason).

Hire a motorbike/scooter – 150 baht per day. Get a recommendation from your hotel or resort. It’s common practice to leave your passport as security. Fuel is between 40 and 50 baht for a whisky bottle full from the side of the road. Note all scratches carefully as we’ve heard many complaints about having to pay between 1000 baht and 10 000 baht for damage to the bike. Take photographs of the bike before you head off.

Hike to Bottle Beach – Free! There is a walking track between Haad Khom (at the western end of Ban Chalok) to Bottle Beach. It’s a reasonably strenuous hike on a trail that is not always clearly marked. It’s up and down hills and the terrain can be a bit rough so make sure you wear proper shoes (at least trainers) and take lots of water. The walk should take about 1.5 hours, maybe longer if you stop to rest. Bottle Beach itself if lovely and secluded and nice for a swim (deep bay). You can walk back or get a long tail boat, which will probably cost 150 baht per person.

Step five: move on

You can do the reverse journey to Koh Samui/Bangkok or head to Bangkok via Koh Tao and Champorn (on the main land). Ferries to Koh Tao and Koh Samui leave from the pier at Thong Sala. The fast ferry to Koh Tao costs 500 baht per person. In the wet season, the crossing can be a bit rough.


These tips are based on my own experiences in October/November 2013. If you have questions, pop them in the comments box and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you have updates, comments or different experiences, I’d love to hear from you too.

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