Just a 30-minute ferry ride from the major tourist hub of Koh Samui is the home of the famous Full Moon Parties. These are rather wild affairs with people partying until early morning. As such, the island tends to carry a party vibe during all phases of the moon; i.e., all the time. Ironically, the other thing Phangan is known for is wellness programs. There are several resorts on the island that cater to guests seeking to recharge their body and mind and participate in cleansing / detoxification programs. The island is not much smaller than Koh Samui, but far less developed. The topography is mountainous, and traveling around the island can be somewhat of an adventure as the road infrastructure is not modern.
There are more than 20 daily flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui. There are also flights from Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, and internationally from Hong Kong and Singapore. Once on Koh Samui, there are several ferries throughout the day, which take approximately 30 minutes to reach Koh Phangan.
One thing that makes all of the islands in the gulf, including Koh Phangan, attractive is the weather. Many summer travelers (April-November) to Thailand are disappointed to learn it is not the best time to visit popular islands on the west coast, such as Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Phi Phi, due to monsoon season. Despite its proximity to these places, this is not true with Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. Unaffected by the summer monsoons, they enjoy good weather year-round with the exception of October and November.
In recent years, Koh Phangan has seen a dramatic increase in tourism and hotels. There is quite a large selection of accommodation, although far less than Samui. Most hotels are of a lower quality and price category as they cater to a young demographic there to experience the Full Moon Parties. There are however, a select few resorts that meet our standards.
All of the standard beach and watersport activities are available, as well as hiking. In addition, Koh Phangan does have good snorkeling on some of its beaches. A fun thing to do is rent a moped and explore the mountainous terrain and beaches.
Haad Rin – Located on the southeastern corner of the island, this is the sight of the Full Moon Parties. In terms of wow factor, it is really just an average beach, but it is always the center of the action on Phangan.
Thong Nai Pan – This is actually two separate bays on the northeastern side of the island. This area feels more isolated, although there are traces of civilization, restaurants, and nightlife. This is a great area for swimming, canoeing, and snorkeling, and also happens to be where some of the best resorts are as well.
Haad Khom / Bottle Beach – These two beaches on the north shore of the island are ideal for escaping the crowds and enjoying their clear, still water and relaxed atmosphere. This also is a great area for snorkeling and swimming. Provisions are available here, but not in large quantity as it is a relatively undeveloped part of the island.
West Coast Beaches – There are a myriad of beaches along the west coast that are popular spots. Many of these offer a nice package of great sand, snorkeling, and swimming. There is good infrastructure on this side of the island, making it good for those who want to spend some time on the beach but not too far away from a large selection of restaurants and services.