Should you really be going to Koh Phangan if you’re looking for peace and are not interested in the parties? The question makes sense, but the answer is a definite ‘yes!’. Koh Phangan is indeed known as a party island, but if you’re not into all that, no need to worry. There’s enough island for everyone, more than enough to do and to see, and plenty beaches where you can spend your days relaxing.
It would be a shame to be scared off by Koh Phangan’s reputation, because it doesn’t deserve that. We spend a full month on the island at the end of 2022, and collected a ton of info. Let us help you with this Koh Phangan travel guide where we share our best tips!
Koh Phangan travel guide for non party goers
How to get to Koh Phangan?
Because we wanted to get to the island as soon as possible and weren’t interested in spending time in Bangkok, we flew out the same day we arrived in Thailand. The flight from BKK to Koh Samui takes an hours, and a bus will then take you to the ferry. The ride to Koh Phangan takes about a half hour. You could also choose, if you’re already in Bangkok, to take the bus to Surat Thani (9 to 10 hours) and take the boat (2 hours) from there. But wherever you’re coming from, 12.Go will help you find the fastest options.
Where should I book my hotel?
The ferry will most likely drop you off in Thong Sala, the biggest and busiest town on the island. Here you will find the nightly food market, shops boutiques and a lot of restaurants and bars. The most important rule of thumb is this one: the further south, the busier it will get. The northern side, and also the northwest are just perfect.
All the way south is where you will find Haad Rin, where the monthly full moon parties are held, and also where the cheapest backpacker accommodations are, including matching bar scene.
We chose the stay in the area around the Phaeng Noi waterfall, a residential area, which made it quiet and beautifully positioned in the jungle. It’s right in the middle between Thong Sala and the beaches and villages along the west coast, from Zen Beach to Mae Haad. All the way up north you’ll find Chaloklum with a pretty beach, a quiet atmosphere and nice restaurants. Getting to Thong Sala from here by scooter (yes, you need one), will take you about half an hour.
So many beaches to choose from! These are our favorite and best tips for Koh Phangan beaches:
- Haad Khom. Our most favorite beach. You arrive through a small street with run down bungalows and all of a sudden you’ll step down to a gorgeous sand beach with boulders and palmtrees. There is only one cafe, where the super sweet owner will make you healthy smoothies and lunches.
- Mae Haad. Known for the fact that during low tide, a sand bank appears on which you can walk to the uninhabited island of Koh Ma. Very photogenic, yet we never found it too busy, in december even. At Wang Sai Resort you will find comfy seats and a good lunch.
- Zen Beach. It’s a great relaxing spot by day, and there are tress for some necessary shade. At night it is a meeting spot for yogi’s, musicians and dancers to socialize. The sunset here is awesome.
- Thong Nai Pan Yai. It’s a bit of a drive to get here, but so worth it! There are only a few small resorts at this long stretch of sand, and there isn’t much else to do. Absolute peace and quiet, with a beautiful view.
- Hin Kong Beach. Not a big beach and also not the most beautiful, but fun nonetheless. A large sand bank will show up here as well during low tide, and you’ll be able to walk quite far out to get a good view of the Koh Phangan coastline.
You can snorkel on Koh Phangan! While Koh Tao might be more famous for its underwater world, you could be quite lucky on Koh Phangan. There are 3 known places to snorkel:
- Haad Khom; at about 30 meters from shore there is a small reef where, if you’re extra lucky, there are sometimes turtles. The owner of the cafe can tell you if it’s a good day or not, and not many people show up here.
- Mae Haad; from the sand bank to Koh Ma you’ll walk right into the reef. It’s a big one, and full of colorful fishes. We had not expected much from this spot, but were pleasantly surprised.
- Secret Beach; of course not much of a secret, but still a cute beach. From beach bar Koh Raham (all the way in the back by the hammocks) you can get into the water and swim to the platform where it is full of fish.
Spirituality and temples
If you’re open to it, you’ll get smacked in the face left and right with yoga, healing circles for both men and women, spiritual workshops and tantra on Koh Phangan. There’s something for everyone and a retreat for every preference. Could you still take ‘normal’ yoga classes? Certainly.
The Orion Healing Centre is the biggest, and you can just come in for any type of yoga you practice. Do you actually want a bit more they offer detoxes, cleansings or fasting programmes. Orion is in a quiet corner by the sea.
At Phanganist you will find a list with all yoga centers to find out which one suits you the most and the agendas for all sorts of retreats.
Meditation reatreats are also widely available, just like herbal sauna’s and steam rooms, should you like an extra bit of heat. The best one is Wat Pho steam sauna, situated in the jungle with monks.
Temples are usually not the first thing you think of for Koh Phangan, but there are quite a few nice complexes. There aren’t a lot of tourists there, but know that, like everywhere else, covered knees and shoulders are appreciated. Don’t go in in your cutoffs, even if it is Koh Phangan. These are the best temples:
- The Chinese Temple of Goddess of Mercy; the most ‘famous’ one on the island. it lies beautifully against the hills and gives you a view over the jungle.
- Wat Rat Charoen; just outside Thong Sala. A lot of small markets and events are held here
- Wat Samai Kongka; with colorful mosaic tiles
- Wat Phu Khao Noi; Koh Phangan’s oldest temple
Where to eat?
- Somtam J Mam. A few minutes off Police Road, an authentic Thai restaurant where everything is good. Small portions, so good for sharing
- Next to it is a restaurant without a name, where the food is just as good, but the owners a but friendlier
- Madam Saak Thong in Chaloklum
- Ying Ying’s Kitchen for the best pad thai’s
- Phantip evening market in Thong Sala
- Seoul Vibe; great Korean which we regretted we only tried on the last day
- Charlie’s; beautiful location on the beach. Not cheap, but good service and food.
- Coco Locco; Italian owners, and you’ll taste it.
- Pura Vida Cafe; for your avocado and salmon toast and good smoothies.
- Kaif; for tapas and salads
- Papa Kuuk; fancy dining with good wines
- Outlaws Saloon; excellent steaks and burgers
- The Jam Bar; open o. Thursday and Sunday evenings for live music.
- King Kong Bar; on Hin Kon Road, beautiful bar with the best cocktails
- 420; great views with a smoke and a drink
- Secret Mountain; the cocktails are okay, but you come for the view. For 50 baht you can use the pool all day
- Milky Bay Resort; good cocktails, good location and seaside pool
- Three Monkey Bar
Can we go even quieter?
Yes. On the east coast you will find the small town of Buri Rasa. The vibes here are a bit more resort-like, with mostly couples and families. No clubs and busy bars, but a nice beach and a cute street with a few boutiques and small restaurants. At Buri Rasa Resort you can get onto Thong Nai Pan beach.
It’s a bit of a drive on a long, windy road because you can’t cross Koh Phangan, but have to drive around the jungle. Keep this in mind if you’re planning to go out and do things.
Our hotel selection
→ Buri Rasa is a beautiful resort on Thong Nai Pan Noi. It has beautiful, large rooms, swimming pool and a beach bar. The staff is the absolute sweetest.
→ For a smaller budget, Phangan Utopia Resort lies by Mae Haad and has gorgeous views over the bay. For around $30 you’ve got yourself a room with breakfast.
→ Our favorite was the Zama Resort. Private bungalows start at around $40 and have a sea view or pool view. You can check out the sunset from the garden or right from Chao Beach. We loved the people and the setting.
But what about all those parties? Yup, they’re there. There is another one every week, but because they’re fairly concentrated to the south side of the island, you wouldn’t know they’re there if you’re not also staying there. While it does get busy on Koh Phangan around every full moon party, most party-goers situate themselves around Haad Rin, and there is a big exodus from the island 2 days after each party.
Know before you go!
→ Are you not convinced and want to try something else? Read our blog on Thailand’s most relaxing island: Koh Mak.
Any Koh Phangan tips we missed? Let us know!