It’s the world famous Full Moon Party that lures thousands of backpackers to Koh Phangan each month – to experience what is probably the best beach party on the planet! Smear yourself with multi-coloured glow paint, get a bucket up each arm and dance the night away until the break of dawn! However, although people rarely linger long enough as the hangover subdues to find out, Koh Phangan has a lot more to offer than just partying, with national park, waterfalls and palm fringed deserted beaches, it’s a beautiful natural haven. From yoga and meditation to tree top canopy adventures, Koh Phangan has it all. And if you just want to sun yourself silly on a quiet beach with a good book, well that’s fine too. With something to satisfy almost every need, you may just find this place hard to leave!
Things to do
- Party Like it’s 1999! For over twenty years, the lure of the ‘Full Moon Party’ has enticed revved up travellers each month, who flock to Koh Phangan to experience what remains one of the best parties on earth. There are various stories about the origin of the party, but so one rumour goes, it all started with a group of backpackers playing guitars on the beach for someone’s birthday party. Whoever’s celebration it was, it must have been one cool kinda guy or gal to have left behind such an impressive legacy! Today, up to 30,000 people congregate on Haad Rin Sands for a frenzied concoction of dance, drink and devilishness from dusk until dawn. And, with the added allure of the ‘Half Moon’ and ‘Black Moon’ Parties the island has become even more of a seductive magnet for pleasure seeking travellers the world over. Click here for Full Moon Party dates.
- Get in touch with your spiritual side: Koh Phangan is turning into somewhat of a haven for those wanting to take some time out and find deeper meaning amidst travelling. You’ve heard the old cliché that people go travelling to ‘find themselves;’ and whilst that may be a bit extreme for some, many backpackers do in fact use their ‘time-out’ as a chance to discover more about themselves and reflect on life and just what the hell to do with it! Whether you’re just looking to experiment with yoga or reiki for the first time or are wanting to embark upon a 21-day monastic retreat to immerse yourself in silent meditation, there’s plenty opportunity here for spiritual exploration. Retreats, yoga schools and healing centres are located in some beautiful spots on the island where you can get in touch with your spiritual side in a natural setting.
- Relax and Detox: You know how it goes when you’re travelling in South East Asia, when you’re meeting different people all the time; it’s the social thing to do to go for a beer or two with them that night. Before you know it, you’re drinking every night and wandering around in a constant alcohol fuelled daze! Not only that, all those sleepless overnight bus journeys, early morning wake ups and rowdy hostels, have rendered your weary backpacking bones in jolly good need of a rest! And though you wouldn’t believe you could utter ‘detox’ and ‘recuperation’ in the same breath as ‘Koh Phangan’ this really is a fantastic place to forget about the rest of the world for a while and chill the hell out! Health retreats, spa resorts and detox centres abound on Koh Phangan where you can rejuvenate your body and soul with massages, body treatments, health regimes and stress relief!
- Adventure and water-sports: Like to cram your trip with adventure, extreme sports, activity and more? From trekking through dense jungle to the highest mountain in Koh Phangan, to exploring off the beaten track on a mountain bike, or even competing in a football or volley ball tournament on the beach! There are plenty of things to do on Koh Phangan if you get restless lying on your sun towel all day. Plus, not only are there adventures to be had on the land, there’s plenty of opportunity in the seas that surround Koh Phangan for taking to the waves for an aquatic adventure. There’s wakeboarding or kite-surfing if you fancy some of the more energetic of water sports, or perhaps a boat trip, a spot of fishing or maybe just swimming in the clear, turquoise waters of Koh Phangan.
- Scooter explorations: There’s nothing better than exploring the place you’re in from mountain top to shore; down every track and alley; for me, it’s what travelling’s all about. And in Koh Phangan, hiring a mountain bike or a motorbike is a great way to get to know the place and investigate the further adventure it may have to offer you. Coastal roads, jungle trails, tracks to deserted beaches; Koh Phangan has lots of hidden gems for you to discover. Whilst the shores of Koh Phangan boast unspoiled sands, the interior of the island is mostly covered in jungle and national park. 90% of Koh Phangan is in fact untouched natural rainforest, home to wild monkeys and tropical bird life. Nature lovers can take a footpath off the beaten track, climb the peaks or visit a cascading waterfall, such as Nam Tok Than Sadet. Not only that, there are tonnes of great little restaurants, chill out spots and bars, not too far from the beaten track you’ll want to return to again and again. However, fellow travellers, sorry to sound like a mum here, but it’s gotta be said, when riding a motorbike in Koh Phangan you should drive like one, a mum that is, or even a grandma. The roads can be ‘challenging’ in places, to say the least. So, helmet on, breaks at the ready. You don’t want to spoil the rest of your trip with an impromptu fall.
- Snorkeling, Diving & Ang Thong Marine Park: All around Koh Phangan you will find pristine white sparkly beaches surrounded by coconut trees, some of which are untouched and only accessible by boat. The warm, calm seas offer perfect conditions for snorkelling amongst the abundant marine life and there are many dive schools on the island that will open up the awesome underwater world even further. And if all that still doesn’t satisfy you, not so far from Koh Phangan is the natural wonder, Ang Thong Marine Park, made up of 42 separate islands, one of which is home to a beautiful enclosed salt water lake. On some beaches in the Marine Park you can go ‘Castaway’ and camp out underneath the stars.
For those wanting more specific information about travelling to Koh Phangan or for those looking to stay longer than a few days, the We Love Koh Phangan website provides stacks of invaluable up to date advice and information. This easy to use funky Koh Phangan island guide allows you to book fun packed tours, activities, travel tickets, accommodation and more – all at discounted rates. Backpackers be sure to check out special offers at bars, restaurants and shops!
Great resource – check out the online island guide to Koh Phangan here!
- Bus: At any one of the travel agents in the Khao San Road area you can book an overnight bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then it’s just two hour boat trip to the island. Most tickets booked will include the bus and boat in the overall price. (Around 800 baht) Buses are comfortable and complete with a blanket, though take some warm clothes! Even though it is 100 degrees outside the bus, the AC is turned up to freezing inside!
- Train: Trains go direct from the main Bangkok Train Station (Hua Lamphong) every day to Surat Thani. You can get a sleeper with fan for around 800 baht. Once at Surat Thani Station, you’ll take a songthaew (Big Tuk Tuk) t the pier where it’s a two hour boat trip to teh island.
- Fly: For travellers short on time, you can catch a quick one hour flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui, then it’s a doddle 1 hour boat ride to Koh Phangan.
Where to go next?
- Koh Tao: A beautiful gem of an island just 1 hour ferry from Koh Phangan. Many backpackers learn how to dive here.
- Ang Thong Marine Park: Can be visited in a day from Koh Phangan. Cast your eyes on natural lagoon or camp out.
- Khao Sok National Park: One of the most ancient natural rainforests in Thailand. From Surat Thani it’s a one hour bus journey.
- Penang: It’s only a boat ride to the captivating island of Penang, where you can begin your Malaysian adventure.
- Chumphon: Rarely given the time it deserves on a backpacker trip. National Park, deserted beaches, hot springs – and you’re the only one there! Ssssh.