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Koh Phangan Thailand is mostly famous for the Full Moon Parties, but this tropical island is more than just a party place! Relaxed lifestyle, amazing nature on land, vibrant corals reefs with good snorkeling under the sea, and great Thai food wait for you on this heavenly destination. This guide shows you the best snorkel beaches and gives you some what-to-do tips!
Koh Phangan Thailand things to know
The island of Ko Phangan has developed a lot over the years. Electricity, road access, transportation and internet became more reliable than before, but the island kept its idyllic style and 90% of the land is still rainforest. Due to its topography, the population is living in coastal cities. The mountainous interior is hardly inaccessible. More than half the island is designated as a national park, the flora is very diverse. It is also considered a spiritual place, with numerous Buddhist temples and a thriving spa, retreat, meditation industry.
Ko Pha Ngan has been a longtime favorite of the past kings of Thailand. Rama V -also known as Chulalongkorn- visited the island 14 times during his reign, and it is still one of the favorite places to relax of the King Family.
Koh Phangan beaches are wide, therefore not too crowded. The sea temperature is between 28-30 Celsius all year round offering ideal conditions for water activities and snorkeling in Koh Phangan. It’s difficult to decide which beaches are the most beautiful ones. Some people like the popular ones with facilities available, while others prefer the secret spots. In this guide, we will show you the best Koh Phangan snorkeling beaches.
Best time to visit Koh Phangan
There are two seasons in Southern Thailand: wet and dry. Despite the different seasons, the temperature tends to remain fairly constant year-round. The weather conditions are determined by the monsoons.
September and November are the wettest months. The dry season runs from February to April, although there is some rain year-round. Usually, the rain lasts only couple of hours a day, which makes your Thailand holiday enjoyable even in the rainy season.
The most crowded months are December, February, March, and August, but January and July can also be busy due to the European holiday seasons. Consider arriving in April, May or June: there are fewer tourists and the accommodation prices are lower. To get to the island, there is regular ferry service from the nearby Tao and Samui. Should you arrive from Bangkok, the easiest way is to book a bus and ferry combo ticket.
Tip: However Phangan also has some nice coral reefs, but if you want to see superb marine life, make sure to spend some days exploring Koh Tao snorkel beaches too! If your itinerary doesn’t allow this, you can also book a full-day Tao and Nangyuan snorkeling tour departing from Phangan! Read our complete Thailand snorkeling guide too where we feature the country’s Top 10 snorkel spots!
Where to stay in Koh Phangan
Accommodation is generally very affordable in Thailand. In Koh Phangan, you find a wide variety of accommodation from hostels through traditional bungalows to luxury resorts. If you would like to stay close to the best snorkel spots and prefer quiet areas, choose accommodation around the Mae Haad Beach (our recommendations are the Koh Ma Beach Resort and Maehaad Bay Resort) or in Haad Salad (check out the Villa Cha-Cha). These areas are not too busy but have some supermarkets and good restaurants around, perfect for romantic getaways or family trips.
If you want nightlife, then Haad Rin is your place to stay where something is always going on and also Fullmoon parties happening. A great place not only for backpackers but also for families who enjoy going and eating out.
Snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
The real snorkeling/diving paradise is definitely the neighboring Koh Tao which is the best place to see whale shark in Thailand but snorkeling in Koh Phangan has also a lot to offer with shallow coral gardens and interesting marine life around.
The name Ko Pha Ngan comes from the word “ngan”; meaning “sand bar”, because there are many sandbars around the island. It means that the underwater visibility often gets bad around Koh Phangan Thailand. Swimming is affected by tides at all Koh Phangan beaches, 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 the west and north-west part of the islands, here is our list with the best Koh Phangan snorkeling beaches:
Koh Ma Island and Mae Haad Beach
Koh Ma offers the best snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand. This small island is joined to Mae Haad beach by a sandbar and often walkable at low tide. The water is relatively shallow, although you need to be lucky to enjoy great visibility. The conditions are not good during the windy season, but on calm sunny days, it is easy to spend 2-3 hours in the water while swimming over colorful corals, observing fish and other sea creatures.
To reach the reef, you need to get over a very shallow sandy area that is full of seaweed and sea cucumbers. Here you will see big shoals of fish, blue spotted rays can and smaller sea creatures like nudibranch or Spanish dancer.
One of the prettiest beaches of the island. Haad Salad is a long, sandy beach on the west coast, perfect place to spend the day and enjoy a colorful sunset. The coral reef starts at 80-100 meters off the coast offering superb snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand. Different type of soft and hard corals can be found here. Typical fish to see: angelfish, damselfish, butterflyfish. The water is very shallow at low tide so you need to walk a lot to reach deeper water. Pay attention to the dead corals in the sand not to cut yourself. The best swimming conditions are between November and April during the high tide months.
A well-maintained gentle beach with fine sand and line of coconut trees. Haad Yao Beach has a long reef about 400 meters offshore. Snorkeling is easy, the water is shallow. Getting into the water is a bit difficult during low tide months, you need to walk a long distance from the 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 a great place to relax and perfect for snorkeling in Koh Phangan. 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. Easy water access through the sandy beach, the maximum depth is 12 meters. Except to see here different soft corals, spotted stingrays and nudibranch.
Haad Thong Lang
Located between Haad Mae Had and Ao Chaloklum on the north. Haad Thong Lang is often called the Golden Deserted beach. It is one of the few undeveloped secret beaches. Almost no one comes here except people from the nearby private residences. This small bay with a pretty coral reef is suitable for swimming and snorkeling in the high-tide season. The beach is surrounded on both sides by massive cliffs, the sand is mixed with corals and stones (wear a flip-flop or beach shoes to avoid cutting yourself). An ideal place for privacy seekers.
Popular spot for snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand due to the extensive living coral reef that protects the bay from the incoming seas. This little, usually very quiet beach on the east side of Chaloklum Bay has a few huts and restaurant around. A great place for families and for those who want to get away from the hoards. During the low-tide season, it can be difficult to swim to the outer reef.
What to do in Koh Phangan Thailand
On this relatively big island, everyone can find the perfect activity to spend the holiday actively but relaxing. There are not only amazing beaches but also tropical jungle to go for a hike as well as interesting spiritual places to visit. Here are some ideas what places to visit:
Waterfalls in Koh Phangan Thailand
There are several waterfalls to discover in Koh Phangan Thailand. The 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 to the sea at Waterfall Beach on the southeast).
Don’t miss out visiting Koh Phangan viewpoints to enjoy a breathtaking view and stunning sunsets. The highest spot of the island is Khao Ra (627 m). You can hire a guide at the base of the trail (approx. 500 baht) to make sure to not getting lost in the jungle.
If you love 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 viewpoint was the 360 Bar with an incredible view to Koh Ma islands. 360 Bar is worth a visit during the day too, but make sure to come back to watch sunset and enjoy chill-out music.
Thong Sala Night Market
The Thong Sala Market is an experience you shouldn’t miss if you are a gourmand! It is located in the parking lot in front of the 7 Eleven in the center of Thong Sala. You will find a wide assortment of street food like grilled fish, meat, pizza, kebab, sushi, pad Thai etc… Also tasty fresh fruits and fruit shakes! The prices are low, the quality is great. The Thong Sala Night Market is open every day from 16:00 till late.
Yoga and retreat
People often come to Thailand to escape from the stressful life, daily routine and find retreat on the 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 session or sign up for a complete yoga retreat to fill yourself up with new energy!
Koh Phangan temples
You find more than 20 temples around the island that all welcome well-behaved visitors. When visiting them, please respect the culture, cover your shoulders, wear a sarong, remove your headwear and shoes.
The most popular temples to visit:
- Wat Phu Khao Noi: the 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: this one has the most interesting story of all! The temple exists because of the faith of Mrs. Malawan who dreamt about the Chinese Buddha. The Buddha told her to build a firelight for the people. At that time, in 1990, the island was without electricity. She went to Bangkok to raise fund to build the temple.