The wonderful beaches of Koh Phangan

the yacht crew enjoy these little hieaways

the yacht crew enjoy these little hieaways

Samui Island’s near neighbour, Koh Phangan, boasts a fabulous collection of beaches that provides something for all tastes. Party destination extraordinaire

Haad Rin, home of the world-renowned full-moon parties, is the best known of the beaches, but is by no means the only one.

A trip around the island’s shoreline will lead visitors to beaches epitomising tropical heaven with golden sands framed by softly swaying palms and balmy waves breaking on them. Once away from the busier southern beaches, there are less people and sunbathers and swimmers can almost imagine they are the first people to set foot in paradise.   

Haad Rin’s two main beaches are either side of a headland on the south coast of Koh Phangan. The larger of the two is Haad Rin Nok, which most Western visitors call Sunrise Beach. This beach is the full-moon party venue and epicentre of the island’s nightlife. The Cactus Bar still tends to draw the largest crowds with a heady mix of cheap drinks, top tunes and fire shows every evening.

The Vinyl Club is another longstanding establishment where the island’s psy-trance keeps dancers on the spacious floor right into the small hours. Paradise Bungalows staged the first full-moon party three decades ago. Although the resort has been revamped and is a bucolic spot most of the time, on party nights it comes alive again. 

Haad Rin Nai (Sunset Beach) is smaller and more peaceful than Sunrise Beach. A number of resorts are situated close to Sunset and are peaceful yet give easy access to eateries at Chicken Corner and the nightlife at Sunrise. Vimarn Samut Resort is one of these options and a chic structure set amid pictorial gardens with direct beach access.

Situated on the northwest coast, the long stretch of sands at Haad Mae Had is another excellent choice for relaxing or enjoying water-sports. The Royal Orchid Resort is among the accommodation venues here and offers a range of different bungalows just yards from the beach.

Most of the resorts in and around Haad Mae Had feature onsite eateries where delights such as spicy tom yam gung prawn soup, papaya salad, green curries and fresh fruit shakes are on the menu. At low tide a small sand causeway leading out from the beach is exposed. People can walk across this to the Angthong National Park island of Koh Ma.

The clear waters surrounding Koh Ma are ideal for snorkelling and shallow dives. Species such as angelfish and stingrays are common sightings as they gently meander around coral and anemones. The Dive Inn maintains a service outlet at the Island View Cabana Resort from which staff organise dives and PADI dive training.

Across the other side of a headland from Haad Mae Had, the bay at Ao Chaloklum has some pleasant beaches which stretch out on either side of a fishing village in the centre of it. Chaloklum Village has a thriving fishing community and gaily painted squid boats crossing the bay are a pleasing sight while enjoying a leisurely swim. The bay’s accommodation choices cover the whole spectrum from the economical Rose Villa to the sumptuous Dee Dee Retreat.

Bottle Beach, or Had Kuat as it is known to the islanders, is farther along the north coast and is a throwback to the Thailand of old with a picturesque village and almost no modern development. The beach slopes down steeply into the sea which makes it one of the few places on Koh Phangan where people can swim at any time of the day.

Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai are twin beaches divided by a cape on the east coast. The white sands of these remote beaches boast a stunning backdrop of verdant foliage and lofty rocks perfect for budding climbers. Sunrises to die for and bucolic resorts such as the Anantara Rasananda are two of the draws enticing holidaymakers into choosing this exotic location.

Continuing south on the east coast, Than Sadet and Thong Reng are adjoining beaches with a hill demarcating the boundary between them. The beaches here are almost always deserted and the waters offer year-round swimming. The area behind the beaches is thick jungle crisscrossed by trekking trails. Due to their inaccessibility, the beaches are primarily frequented by backpackers and long-stay tourists.    

one of Phangan's sweeter beaches

one of Phangan's sweeter beaches

Back on the west coast, Haad Salad is the next beach of note down from Haad Mae Had. This beach can get quite busy and there are several chic accommodation options to choose from. Haadlad Prestige Resort is one of these and offers guests accommodation with all the comforts required for a pampered holiday.

During the November to April high season the sea at Haad Salad is deep enough to swim in, but for the rest of the year it is shallow. Just 150 metres offshore, a coral reef provides divers and snorkelers with glimpses of diverse marine species and colourful coral.

A couple of beaches southwards, Haad Yao is said to be the jewel in the crown of Koh Phangan’s beaches. The sands stretch for almost 1,000 metres and offer amazing sunsets. Rustic bungalows and contemporary resorts along the beach offer something for all budgets. Salad Buri Resort is a great choice for a splurge.

The west coast has lots more beaches which include Ao Hin Kong, Ao Nai Wok, Ao Baan Khai and Ao Baan Tai. Hin Kong is totally undeveloped and has just a couple of basic bungalow resorts adjacent to it. Nai Wok and Baan Khai are either side of the town of Thong Sala and its ferry port. The scenic village at the back of Baan Tai is the boarding port for coastal cruises. 

About the Author

Andrew Bond is a travel writer who has been living in Thailand and writing about the region for more than 10 years, contributing to numerous local magazines and major web travel brands. He travels around South East Asia by tuk-tuk, bicycle, cyclo, jeepney, taxi, moto, elephant or foot in search of new smells, sounds, sights, and atmosphere. Share your travel bits with him on Google +

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