Thailand’s self-proclaimed ‘party island’ may be best known for its full moon parties, but there’s a lot more to beach life here than the beach bars at Haad Rin. In fact, most of Koh Pha Ngan beaches remain unspoilt by commercial tourist development and if you’re looking for a ‘budget travellers’ atmosphere, you’ve chosen the right island because there’s plenty of lovely, rustic, private beaches. You’ll also be stoked to discover you can hire a beachfront bungalow here for less than the price of taxi ride on Samui.
Koh Pha Ngan beaches aren’t all accessible by car, which has saved many of them from over development and ensures that once you get there by boat, you won’t be sharing them with too many other people. Koh Pha Ngan is fairly rugged and hilly, with only two decent roads traversing it from north to south.
In general, the south and west of the island are fairly flat areas and many of the resorts are clustered here – including some comfortable, upmarket places – because they are easy to get to and have good beaches.
There is a sweeping bay at Chaloaklam in the north and two good beaches on the west coast, while Haad Rin (on the south-eastern tip of the island) has a decent beach that packs out during the full moon week. The most secluded beaches on Koh Pha Ngan are found along the east coast; mostly accessible by boat only. See our comprehensive Koh Phangan beaches guide.
Baan Tai and Baan Khaay
Most visitors to Koh Pha Ngan arrive at the ferry terminal at Tong Sala town (in the south), and the further you venture from here the more seclusion and privacy you will to find on the island’s many beaches. A long stretch of sand runs southeast from Tong Sala, past the villages of Baan Tai and Baan Khaay, and on towards Haad Rin. This is a good place to stay if you’re here for the full moon party as Haad Rin seriously packs out. There are numerous, quiet bungalow resorts hidden among the coconut trees that line these southern Koh Pha Ngan beaches, but not all of them have a swimmable beach when the tide is out. See our Baan Tai travel guide.
Haad Rin – Hat Rin
After the full moon parties, Haad Rin is a lovely, uncrowded beach. There is a hilly, and steep, three-kilometre long rollercoaster of a road that continues southeast from Baan Tai to Haad Rin, although songthaews run regularly along this route. Haad Rin was the first of the Koh Phan Ngan beaches to gain notoriety – when the Full Moon parties first began around 20 years ago. These days, this small peninsula is densely populated with bungalows, bars, restaurants, shops, internet cafes and more – which is great if you’re up for a party, yet can be a bit full-on.
Unless you arrive several days before the full moon party, you can forget finding a place to stay; but with plenty of transport available on the party night, you’re better off staying at beaches elsewhere. Haad Rin East includes the Sunrise Beach – a great, swimmable beach lined with coconut trees, bungalows and bars – which hosts the monthly party. Haad Rin West (Sunset Beach) is less appealing and is the site of the ferry pier and some cheaper bungalows. There are also bungalows perched on the hillsides around the peninsula. Unless you’re strictly here for endless partying, you can get a much nicer experience staying elsewhere on the island and just showing up for the full moon party. See our Haad Rin travel guide.
East coast beaches on Koh Pha Ngan
Some of the nicest and most secluded Koh Pha Ngan beaches are found on the inaccessible east coast and these are reached by taking a longtail boat from Haad Rin. Haad Yaun, Haad Thian and Haad Wai Nam are small, but idyllic, beaches with a few sets of bungalows on each and a ‘new age’ atmosphere. Don’t expect a party here, although you’ll have the place mostly to yourself. Haad Sadet is farther north and accessible by a rough road. The cascading Sadet Creek empties out here, which made the area popular with King Rama V more than 100 years ago. Apart from a handful of rustic bungalows sandwiched into this small bay, little has changed since then.
Haad Tong Nai Pan
This larger bay is actually split into two half-moons and can be reached by dirt road over the mountains. You can expect a few more amenities here – small supermarkets, several restaurants and tour companies. It’s one the nicest Koh Phan Ngan beaches and the two bays are great for swimming or relaxing without much disturbance, but don’t offer enough options for lonely backpackers. Like all east coast beaches, it’s reached most easily by longtail boat from Haad Rin – these disturb the peace with their noisy engines. See our Thong Nai Pan travel guide.
If you prefer to experience beach life as the locals do, then Chaloaklam Bay is your best chance, as this is a functioning fishing community stretched out along a sweeping bay. There is a small town and pier in the centre and peaceful resorts spread out to the east. Not all of this beach is suitable for swimming, but it does offer a nice, long sweep of sand and several options to choose from, with a few essentials, like internet cafes and banks. Several professional dive shops have set up here and it is a good base if you’re planning on taking a course or splashing out on a few dives. It’s also easy to get to from Tong Sala. If you’re really looking for seclusion, though, one of the island’s best kept secrets is Haad Khuat (Bottle Beach), which is hidden on the north coast and only really reachable by boat or 4X4. See our Chaloklum Bay travel guide.
The northwest beaches of Koh Pha Ngan
Some of the nicest Koh Pha Ngan beaches are found here; reason why you are likely to find more upmarket places on these Koh Pha Ngan beaches, although there are options to suit all budgets. This is the furthest place from Haad Rin; meaning a journey time of at least an hour to and from the full moon party. Mae Haad is good for casual snorkelling because it faces a small island connected by a sandy bar and has some good reefs. Swimming here can be a little tricky, with coral and stones beneath the water in places.
Haad Salad also has good snorkelling reefs offshore and is great for swimming at high tide. This is a personal favourite of ours, with its mix of peacefulness and good value resorts, providing a nice balanced atmosphere of friendly, considerate people. As you venture south along the hilly road you come upon Haad Yao, which is one of Koh Pha Ngan’s best looking beaches. It boasts a long, white sandy beach with good swimming, though you’ll have to share it with quite a few others as it’s loaded with places to stay, including some pretty upmarket resorts.
A little farther south is Aow Chaophao, which has a similar feel and is good for swimming during high and tides. These beaches are the best beaches on Koh Pha Ngan to kick back on with a few beers and watch the sunset
The western shore
Aow Seethani is a pretty little beach and has several bungalow resorts with a river estuary splitting it into two beaches. It’s also close to the peaceful Laem Son lake, which is a popular place for relaxing away from the beach. Most of this area of the island is relatively flat and full of dense groves of coconut palms. As you head back towards Tong Sala, you pass the pretty sweep of Aow Wogtum, which remains undeveloped because its beaches are shallow and tidal. There are several secluded bungalow resorts hidden among the small private bays on the headland to its south, however. Many have small private beaches and are the most likely place to find a bungalow when the rest of the island is chockablock during the full moon.