Koh Phangan Thailand is mostly known about 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 to the best snorkel beaches and gives you some what-to-do tips!
- 1 Koh Phangan Thailand things to know
- 2 Snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
- 3 What to do in Koh Phangan Thailand
Koh Phangan Thailand things to know
This lovely island has developed a lot over the years. Electricity, road access, transportation, internet became more reliable than before. But the island kept its idyllic style. 90% of the land still remains rainforest. Ko Pha Ngan has been a longtime favorite of past kings of Thailand. Rama V, or Chulalongkorn, visited it 14 times during his reign, and it is still one of the favorite places to relax of the King Family. Due to its topography, the population is living in coastal cities. The mountainous interior is hardly inaccessible. More than half the island designated as a national park, the flora is very diverse. It is also considered a spiritual place, with numerous Buddhist temples, thriving spa, retreat, and meditation industry. Koh Phangan beaches are wide, therefore not too crowded. 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! The sea temperature is between 28-30 Co all year round making the conditions ideal for water activities and snorkeling in Koh Phangan. 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 different seasons, the temperature tends to remain fairly constant year round. Weather conditions are determined by monsoons. The wettest months are September and November. The dry season runs 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 your Thailand holiday enjoyable even in the rainy season. The weather became pretty unpredictable due to climate changes, so forecasts are not 100% sure anymore. Most crowded months: December, February, March, and August, January and July can also be busy sometimes. Consider arriving in April, May, June: there are fewer tourists, accommodation prices are lower.
Tip: Since Koh Phangan is the neighbor island of Koh Tao meaning same climate, read our Koh Tao beaches post and get a detailed description on the weather in the Gulf of Thailand as well as tips on snorkeling!
Where to stay in Koh Phangan
Accommodation is generally very affordable in Thailand. On the island, you have a wide variety to choose 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 in Haad Salad or Haad Yao. 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. Great place for backpackers or if you are traveling with friends.
Snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
The real snorkeling/diving paradise is definitely the neighboring Koh Tao which is the is the best spot 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 offshore. It means 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 west, north-west part of the islands, here is our list with the best Koh Phangan snorkeling beaches!
Koh Ma Island and Mae Haad Beach – Best snorkeling in Koh Phangan Thailand
The best place to go snorkeling is Koh Ma, a small island that is joined to Mae Haad beach by a sandbar and often walkable at low tide. Water is relatively shallow, although you need to be lucky to enjoy great visibility, conditions are not good during the 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 reef area. Big 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. 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 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 corals in the sand not to cut yourself. Best swimming is between November and April during high tide months.
Well maintained gentle beach with fine sand and line of coconut trees. Haad Yao Beach has a long reef about 400 meters off shore. Snorkeling is easy, the water is shallow. Getting into the water is a 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 a great place to relax and 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. Water starts shallow, max depth is 12 meters. Except to see here different soft corals, spotted stingrays, nudibranch.
Haad Thong Lang
Located between Haad Mae Had and Ao Chaloklum beaches on the north. Haad Thong Lang is often called Golden Deserted beach, one of the few undeveloped beaches. Almost no one comes here except people from the nearby private residences. 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 in Koh Phangan Thailand 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. An ideal place 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 to do in Koh Phangan Thailand
On this relatively big island, everyone can find the perfect activity to spend holidays 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 more ideas what places to visit.
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 to the sea at Waterfall Beach on the southeast).
Don’t miss out visiting Koh Phangan viewpoints to enjoy breathtaking view and stunning sunsets. 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 get 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’re gourmand (located in the parking lot in front of 7 Eleven in the center of Thong Sala). You’ll find a wide assortment of street food like grilled fish, meat, pizza, kebab, sushi, pad Thai etc… Also tasty fresh fruits and fruit shake! 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 a 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 session or stay at a yoga retreat, fill yourself up with new energy!
Koh Phangan temples
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: 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: 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, the island was largely without electricity at that time) She went back to Bangkok, raised the fund and built the temple