Koh Phangan has become synonymous with wild Full Moon Parties, but this tropical island is much more than just partying! Relaxed lifestyle, long sandy beaches, great thai food and excellent snorkeling! Let us guide you to the best beaches, explore Koh Phangan Thailand together!
Koh Phangan Thailand – the island itself
Koh Phangan has improved a lot over the years – electricity, road access, transport links, internet etc… But the island kept its idyllic style. 90% of the island still remains rainforest, beaches are wide, not too crowded. Sea temperature between 28-30 C o all year round. Due to its topography, the population is living in coastal cities. The mountainous interior is hardly inaccessible. More than half the island designated as national park on Ko Pha Ngan, flora very diverse. It is also considered a spiritual place, with numerous Buddhist temples, thriving spa, retreat, and meditation industry. Koh Phangan offers plenty of beaches. It’s not easy to find out which are the most beautiful ones. Some people like popular beaches with facilities available, others prefer secret spots. Best is if you rent a motorbike, visit as many as possible, then decide which one you like the most! In our post, of course we are focusing on snorkeling beaches! Ko Phangan has been a longtime favorite of past kings of Thailand. Rama V, or Chulalongkorn, visited Ko Pha Ngan 14 times during his reign. On the day when we went snorkeling at Koh Ma, we were kindly asked by Thai policemen to leave the water, because the King arrived on his boat! What an honor!
Best time to visit Koh Phangan
There are two seasons in Southern Thailand: wet and dry. Despite of different seasons the temperature on Koh Phangan Thailand tends to remain fairly constant year round. Weather conditions are determined by monsoons. Wettest months are September and November. Dry season tends to be from February to April, although there is some rain year-round. You’ll find rain may only last couple of hours a day, which makes it manageable. Weather became pretty unpredictable due to climate changes, so forecasts are not 100% sure anymore. Since Koh Phangan is the neighbor island of Koh Tao, read our Koh Tao beaches post and get more info about weather in Gulf of Thailand! Most crowded months: December, February, March and August, January and July can also be busy sometimes. Consider arriving in April, May, June: there are less tourists, prices are lower.
Snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
Of course our favorite activity is spending time on the beaches while exploring the best snorkeling places! It was the same in Koh Phangan too, so now we share our experience with you regarding snorkeling in Koh Phangan!
Good to know: The real snorkeling/diving paradise is definitely Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, but still there are some spots with great corals and marine life in Koh Phangan too. The name Ko Pha Ngan comes from the word “ngan”; meaning “sand bar”, because there are many sand bars offshore. It means visibility generally pretty bad around Koh Phangan Thailand. Swimming is effected by tides at all beaches on Phangan, in the lower tidal season (March to November) you will have to wait until the daily high tide arrives to swim to the outer reef. At some beaches you need to walk longer distance from shore to get deep enough for swimming. Corals can be found on west, north-west part of the islands, here is a list where to go to do some snorkeling:
Koh Ma Island and Mae Haad Beach – Best snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
The best place to go snorkeling on Koh Phangan is around Koh Ma, a small island that is joined to Mae Haad beach by a sandbar that is often walkable at low tide. Water is relatively shallow, although you need to be lucky to enjoy great visibility, conditions are not good during windy season. It is easy to spend 2-3 hours in the water on nice sunny days, while swimming over colorful corals, observing fish and other sea creatures. After getting over the very shallow section full of sand, seaweed and sea cucumbers, you can reach the coral area. Bigger shoals of fish, parrotfish and blue spotted rays can be seen, as well as smaller sea creatures like nudibranch or Spanish dancer.
One of the prettiest and most spoiled beach on the island. Haad Salad is long, sandy beach on the west coast, perfect place to spend the day and enjoy colorful sunset. Corals can be found 80-100 meters of the coast offering great snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand. Different type of soft and hard corals can be found here. Typical fish to see here: angelfish, damselfish, butterflyfish. The water is very shallow at low tide times so you need to walk a lot to reach deeper water. Also pay attention to dead coral can be found in the sand not to cut yourself. Best swimming is between Nov and April during high tide months.
Well maintained gentle beach with fine sand and line of coconut trees. Haad Yao has a long reef about 400 meters off shore. Snorkeling is easy, water shallow. Which makes getting to the water bit difficult during low tide months, you need to walk longer distance from shore to get deep enough for swimming. Porcupine, squirrel fish, parrot fish, fusiliers and also blue spotted rays to see here.
Haad Chao Pao
This 500 meter long beach offers great place to relax and snorkeling. Chao Pao is home to rich coral reef that lies about 100 meters from shore. The reef runs all the way up to Koh Ma. Water starts shallow, max depth is 12 meters. What to see: different soft corals, spotted sting rays, nudibranch.
Haad Thong Lang
Located between Haad Mae Had and Ao Chaloklum beaches on north. Often called Golden Deserted beach, one of the few undeveloped beaches (on the day we went, we were the only visitors). Almost no one lives there except a private residence. Small bay with coral reef, highly suitable for swimming and snorkeling in high tide season. Beach is surrounded on both sides by massive cliffs, sand is mixed with corals and stones (wear flip-flop or beach shoes). Ideal beach for privacy seekers.
Popular spot for snorkeling due to the extensive living coral reef that protects the bay from the incoming seas. Pretty little, usually very quiet beach on east side of Chaloklum Bay, with few huts and restaurant around. Ideal for families and for those who want to get away from the hoards. During low tide season it could be difficult to swim to the outer reef.
What (else) to do in Koh Phangan Thailand
Phangan is a relatively big island so everyone will find the perfect activity to spend holidays actively but relaxing. You find not only amazing beaches but as tropical jungle to go for a hike. Here are some more ideas/places to consider:
Waterfalls in Koh Phangan Thailand
There are several waterfalls to discover in Koh Phangan Thailand. Best ones: Than Sadet Waterfall (off the road to Thong Nai Pan beach) and Paradise Waterfall, located off the road to Chaloklum Bay. Also it is worth to visit Than Prawet Waterfall and Than Praphet (this leads directly in the sea at Waterfall Beach on the southeast).
The landscape of Koh Phangan offers a good choice of visiting viewpoints, enjoying great view and stunning sunsets. Highest spot of the island is Khao Ra (627 m). You can hire guide at the base of the trail (approx. 500 baht) to make sure to not get lost in the jungle. If you are addicted to sunsets, head to the west part of the island. Haad Son, Haad Chao Phao, Haad Salad, Haad Mae Haad, Koh Ma beaches are great to enjoy spectacular sunsets. Our favorite view point was the 360 Bar with incredible view to Koh Ma. 360 Bar is worth a visit during the day too, but make sure to come back to watch sunset and enjoy chill out music.
Dining at Thong Sala Night Market
The Market is an experience you shouldn’t miss if you’re gourmand (located in parking lot in front of 7- Eleven in the center of Thong Sala). You’ll find wide assortment of street food like grilled fish, meat, pizza, kebab, sushi, pad Thai etc… Also tasty fresh fruits and fruit shakes! Prices are low, quality is great, we went there almost every evening. Open every day from 16:00 till late.
Yoga and retreat
People often come to Thailand to escape from stressful life, daily routine and find retreat on peaceful islands. Yoga centers are trendy in Koh Phangan Thailand. Most popular ones: Orion Healing Centre and Agama Yoga Retreat in Sri Thanu, Blooming Lotus Yoga in Haad Rin. Book a single sessions or stay at a yoga retreat, fill yourself up with new energy!
History and spiritualism: temples in Koh Phangan
Temples all welcome well behaved visitors (you find more than 20 around the island). When visiting temples, please respect the culture, cover your shoulders, wear not too short shorts, no headwear and no shoes in the temples. Most popular temples to visit:
- Wat Phu Khao Noi: oldest temple on the island, ancient buildings, great view
- Wat Pho: monks operate traditional herbal steam sauna here
- Jade Buddha: located close to Phaeng Waterfall
- Chinese Temple: story of the temple is really interesting, it exists because of the faith of Mrs Malawan who dreamt about the Chinese Buddha. The Buddha told her to build firelight for the people (this was in 1990, Koh Phangan was largely without electricity at that time) She went back to Bangkok, raised the fund and built the temple
What we liked the most on Koh Phangan Thailand
- pretty island with good quality roads, big enough so not crowded
- real jungle feeling
- no beach entrance fees
- underwater visibility could be better
- few garbage bin at the beaches, people leave rubbish behind