North Coast Beaches

The north of Koh Phangan has numerous rocky outcrops and some coral reefs great for snorkeling. There are two main beaches in the north of Koh Phangan. They are Chaloklum and Bottle Beach. To the west of Chaloklum there are the small beaches of Haad Thong Lang and Mae Haad. The later is famous because it is the access point for Koh Phangan’s only marine park, Koh Ma


Chaloklum is the biggest bay in the north. It is also the principal village in the area and the centre for the squid fishing industry on the island. It makes for a pleasant 30 minutes walking around Chaloklum Village checking out the bars, restaurants, shops and traditional wooden fisherman’s houses. These houses are built in a Chinese style and are similar to those found in Bophut on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. The village of Chaloklum provides an intriguing blend of working fishing village and tourist centre. These two elements marry excellently on the beachfront where there is the appropriately called Seafood Village. This consists of 4 restaurants on stilts. They serve freshly caught seafood cooked either simply or to Thai recipes.

The beach at Chaloklum is 2.5 km long. In the centre is the fishing boat pier. Here you will find a colorful array of longtail boats as well as dive boats. For those looking for swimming spots, either side of the pier there is clean white sand and ideal swimming conditions. The water gets deep fairly quickly and there isn’t any coral off shore to worry about.

The most spectacular part of Chaloklum beach is to the east of the pier. A river debouches into the sea and has created a sand bank where the beach is cut in two. This is commonly known as Malibu beach. It is a beautiful spot with perfect white sand and stunning views over the ocean.

Just prior to the rainy season in September the wind picks up in Chaloklum. At this time the long bay has ideal conditions for the popular sport of kite boarding.

There are plenty of backpacker places to stay in Chaloklum both on the beach and set back in the village and the surrounding area. We recommend Chaloklum Bay Resort, the boutique Mandalai Hotel and Malibu Bungalows.

Haad Khom

On the headland to the east of Chaloklum beach is a small beach called Haad Khom. It is accessed via a path through a forest starting from the main road in Chaloklum. This path is rough and only suitable for 4 wheel drives and off-road bikes.

Haad Khom is one of the hidden gems in Koh Phangan. It is a beautiful beach that time seems to have forgotten. It has a few low key bungalow resorts with basic accommodation. These are set up for backpackers looking for the old Koh Phangan. Rents can be as little as 400 Thai Baht a day. It is possible to strike up monthly deals for bungalows in Haad Khom.

The beach is off the electricity grid and so the resorts use generators. This makes Haad Khom ideal for those seeking perfect peace and quiet. There are no all-night parties here; and nightlife consists mostly of star gazing.

There is a stretch of coral reef just off Haad Khom that you can swim out to and enjoy snorkeling. Because of the reef Haad Khom is better for swimming during the higher tidal months from December to April.

Haad Khom is one of the few remaining ‘hippy’ beaches left in Koh Phangan, an unashamed throw back to the past and an excellent option for those who just want a cheap bungalow on the beach.

Haad Thong Lang

To the west of Chaloklum beach on the other side of the headland is a small beach called Haad Thong Lang. The name of the beach translates as “Golden Deserted Beach”. This is an apt name as Haad Thong Lang has no accommodation for rent on the beach. A few people live there on and off, but otherwise this small, white sand beach is deserted. You won’t find any shops here so bring your own supplies.

Haad Thong Lang is a picturesque beach with a coral reef just off the coast. It is a shallow reef and good for snorkeling. Swimming is best during the higher tidal months.

This beach is accessed via the main road going between Chaloklum and Mae Haad. The road gets gradually worse and the last part you have to do on foot.

For those looking for a Robinson Crusoe experience, truly cut off from ‘civilization’, Haad Thong Lang is a good option. However, remember that although beaches are technically common land in Thailand, the land adjacent to the beach is not. Ask around before you set up camp and don’t create litter.

Alternatively you can stay at Dee Dee Villa Retreat at the top of the hill. It consists of 2 villas that you can rent either separately or together. There is a communal pool and kitchen.

Mae Haad

Mae Haad is the just west of Haad Thong Lang. It is reached by a road that will take all types of vehicle although caution should be taken on the sharp bends. Mae Haad is noteworthy as it is the beach next to Koh Phangan’s only protected Marine Park called Koh Ma.

Koh Ma is a small island just off the coast that is joined to the mainland by a sandbank. During low tide the sandbank is exposed creating a double beach similar to Nag Yuan in Koh Tao.

Mae Haad is a stunning spot and well worth a visit. You can rent out snorkeling equipment cheaply from Island View Cabana Resort that has a restaurant on the beach. Once you have your equipment walk down the beach until you see a spot where the rocks have been cleared. This is the spot to swim out to the coral reefs.

You can spot all manner of marine life including damselfish, parrot fish and if you are lucky turtles. The reef is about 25 meters off-shore.

Despite being the best snorkeling spot on the island, Mae Haad and Koh Ma are normally quiet places with few visitors. Tour boats arrive in the afternoon, but soon head off. If you want to enjoy a spectacular beach setting and see the local marine fauna Mae Haad is recommended.

If you want to stay in Mae Haad we suggest Koh Ma Beach Resort or Mae Haad Bay Resort


Bottle Beach

Bottle Beach, or as it is called in Thai ‘Haad Khuad’, gets its name because it is shaped like a bottle. This beach is the stuff of travelers’ legends. In the 80s and early 90s backpackers flocked here to enjoy the gorgeous remote beach and smoke away. It’s a place that is hard to leave, and as a consequence people used to stay here for months at a time.

Until 2004 Bottle Beach was only accessible by longtail boat from Thong Nai Pan or Chaloklum. The alternative was a 30-minute trek through the jungle to the main road. Now there is a rough road heading south from the beach over the headland to Thong Nai Pan Noi. Over the next few years the plan is to improve the road and make Bottle Beach part of an island circular road.

Many of the original basic wooden bungalows on Bottle Beach have been replaced by concrete huts with air-con and hot water showers. Bottle Beach 1, Bottle Beach 2, Haad Khuad Resort and Smile Bungalow all have bungalows on the beach. We recommend Haad Khuat Resort and Bottle Beach 1. Both have comfortable and spacious huts on the beach. For those looking for a bit of luxury, Bottle Beach 1 has a swimming pool.

Bottle Beach still has a relaxed vibe. It attracts families, backpackers and flashpackers. There are a few restaurants and bars on the beach but it remains an idyllic spot without a nightlife scene.

The sand is particularly fine at Bottle Beach. The beach is flanked by rocks and the sea gets deep fairly quickly making it good for swimming. There isn’t a coral reef off the coast and so Bottle Beach is ideal for year round swimming. You can spot a few small fish in the sea. For those who love beaches set in a pristine natural environment Bottle Beach is hard to beat.


West Coast Beaches

The West Coast of Koh Phangan has the longest beaches on the island. There are beaches on the west coast that although easily accessible by road are not popular with visitors. This is partly because the west coast has a much greater tidal variation, and so during the low tidal months from May to October beaches such as Sri Thanu, Hin Kong and Wok Tum become muddy sand flats that stretch for a long way. Many of the resorts on the western side of the island make up for this by providing swimming pools. The other distinguishing aspect of the west is the 13 km long coral reef that follows the coast. It starts at Haad Chao Phao and follows the coast up to Koh Ma.
In places such as Haad Salad, Haad Son and Nai Wok the reef is less than 100 meters from the beach, making it close enough to easily swim out to and enjoy snorkelling.

Of all the beaches along the west coast of Koh Phangan, Haad Salad and Haad Yao by far and away the best and most popular. The beaches close to Thongsala such as Nai Wok and Wok Tum tend to attract people who want to be close to Thongsala.

There are plenty of good roads servicing the west of Koh Phangan. They are concreted and mostly flat. This makes getting around the western part of the island easy on motorbike. Haad Yao, Haad Son and Haad Gruad are close enough to be able to walk or bicycle between.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the western coast although not blessed with the best swimming beaches on the island does have the best beaches to enjoy the sunset. Often it is a wondrous spectacle worth catching from a beachfront bar.

Haad Yao

Haad Yao
Haad Yao means ‘long beach’, and it is aptly named as the beach is 1 km long. It is also a wide beach. This means that there is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy sunbathing, beach volleyball and other beaches activities. It also means there is plenty of room for the various beachfront resorts to spread out and give their customers accommodation with a little more privacy.

Haad Yao looks as you imagine a Thai beach should. It has white sand fringed with coconut palms. The sand slopes down gently to the clean turquoise waters. About 400 meters off the coast there is a healthy coral reef system. This provides great snorkelling and diving opportunities nearby. The only downside to having an off-shore coral reef is that corals collect in the sand. Also during the low tidal months from May to October swimmers have to walk a fair distance through shallow waters before they can swim in comfort.

This beach is a good option if you are looking for a beach with a good range of accommodation and a bit of nightlife. You can find old style wooden bungalows starting at around 500 Thai Baht a night in such places as Easy Life Bungalows and you can find resorts with a boutique feel such as See Through Resort . You can also find bigger resorts with swimming pool, restaurant and the feel of a family friendly place such as Haad Yao Bayview Resort. There aren’t any resorts that really hit the high-end luxury bracket, but for the mid to high end Haad Yao provides excellent choice. See our recommendations for Haad Yao accommodation.

There are a number of beachfront bars as well as bars in Haad Yao village that stay open late and that get fairly lively, especially in the high seasons. Bars such as Choc Dee, Apple Bar and Apache Bar have a lively but friendly atmosphere. Rasta Home is an old skool reggae bar that sometimes has live music. As a tip, the bar scene in Haad Yao picks up a few days before the Full Moon Party. It is not a party beach, but it has the best nightlife on the west coast.


Haad Salad

Haad Salad
Haad Salad is at the north end of the west coast. It is just below the marine park at Koh Ma. This beach has a laid back feel and retains much of the charm of a traditional backpacker beach in Koh Phangan.

In local dialect Haad Salad means ‘Pirate Beach’. This is because pirates used to hide in the bay and give chase to unsuspecting cargo vessels coming up the coast.

The pirates have gone but something of the romance of those days remains. Despite being well-connected by roads to the rest of Koh Phangan, Haad Salad has an out-of-the-way feel to it. This is great for those who choose Haad Salad as their holiday destination as its fine white sand beach is never crowded.
Haad Salad
Salad Beach is 600 meters long. It has a handful of bungalow resorts and mid-range resorts along the beach as well as set back from the beach. There is a small village with a few cheap eating options such as Jay Jay Pizza and Reggae Village. While people do go out for a few drinks in the evening during their stay at Haad Salad, it is not a high-energy night life.

As with Haad Yao, Haad Salad has a coral reef just 80 meters off the beach. This is much closer than the Haad Yao reef and so will suit those who don’t want to swim too far to see marine life.

We recommend staying at Salad Beach Resort, Cookies Salad Resort, Haadlad Prestige Resort or Salad Buri Resort. See our recommendations for Haad Salad accommodation.


Haad Gruad

Haad Gruad
Haad Gruad is a small beach located in a cove between Haad Salad and Haad Yao. It is a picturesque spot with fine sand and a coral reef off-shore teaming with marine life.

There are a few budget places to stay such as Lucky Resort. For those who want a few more comforts there is Haad Gruad Beach Resort.
Haad Gruad
Haad Gruad is a less well-known beach in Koh Phangan that provides peace and quiet as well as being well connected to lots of other great beaches.

Haad Thian West

Not to be confused with the Haad Thian on the east. This is a small and idyllic beach just south of Haad Gruad.

The sand is a bit course due to the coral reef close to the shore. Swimming can be difficult during the low tidal months.

Haad Thian West has only one hotel and so guests at Haad Thian Beach Resort normally have the beach to themselves.

Haad Son

Haad Son
Haad Son is a medium-sized beach to the south of the more popular Haad Yao. It is a beautiful beach that has jungle covered hills behind. Until the late 1990s this beach was undeveloped. That changed when Haad Son Resort was built. The resort is set back from the beach at the northern end of the beach.

Haad Son Resort is a good 3 star resort with swimming pool, restaurant and both villas and hotel style rooms. The road access to the resort is up a hill and then down a sharp turning driveway. For many guests there is a far amount of walking up and down to get to and from the beach.
Haad Son
Like many of the beaches on the West Coast, there is a coral reef off the beach to explore. In the case of Haad Son the reef is 70 metres off-shore. And of course, since the beach is west facing, there is a beautiful sunset to enjoy nearly every night of the year.

Haad Chao Phao

Haad Chao Phao
Haad Chao Phao is a long beach to the south of Haad Son. Unlike the beach to the north, there are plenty of accommodation options along the beach and behind.

The gently curving beach has soft sand and is flanked by huge volcanic rocks.

One of the great things about Haad Chao Phao is that there is a deep shelf before the coral reef that creates ideal swimming conditions all year round. The coral reef is 100 meters out to sea, and once crossed there is a vibrant marine life to explore.

The coral reef that follows the western coast line starts at Haad Chao Phao and stretches north all the way up to Koh Ma.
Haad Chao Phao
Despite steady development in Haad Chao Phao the place retains its laid-back feel. Accommodation ranges from the stylish Beyond the Blue Horizon Resort that starts at 2,400 THB to the basic bungalows at Benjamin’s Hut that go for as little as 350 THB a night.

At the northern end of the beach is a funky bar shaped like a boat, called the Pirates Bar. 3 days before the Full Moon Party they hold a free techno / trance party that goes on through the night. It is probably the biggest regular party held on the west coast.


Sri Thanu

Sri Thanu
Sri Thanu is a big bay in the southern section of the west coast. Much of the beach has a large tidal variation and is rarely used by tourists. It is one of the quietest beaches in Koh Phangan. At the northern end of the beach there is a small bridge leading to a better beach that is good for swimming; here you will find a few low-key resorts.

The coastal road goes very close to Sri Thanu beach at points. It is possible to find longer term rental bungalows for those who want to be near the facilities of Thongsala but far from the crowds of the all-night parties.
Sri Thanu
Sri Thanu has a village with a strong Thai feel. There is a market, a few basic food stalls and a couple of bars. It is a pleasant place to soak up a bit of Thai culture.

For those looking for yoga lessons, Agama Yoga has its ‘campus’ in the Sri Thanu area.

Nearby is Laem Son Lake, the biggest lake on the island that is now home to Wipe Out, a fun aquatic course with inflatable obstacles.

UPDATE: Sri Thanu was becoming an important hub for new-age, holistic activity; yoga and veganism; something like you see in Rishikesh in India until two things happened. First, the head swami at Agama was caught in flagrante delicto; and second, covid-19 suffused the globe.


Hin Kong / Wok Tum

Hin Kong
Hin Kong and Wok Tum are set in a large bay just north of Thongsala. As with Sri Thanu these two beaches don’t attract a lot of visitors compared with the more popular west coast beaches of Haad Yao and Haad Salad.

Ao Hin Kong is to the north of the bay and Ao Wok Tum is to the south. There is a seasonal river that divides the two beaches.
Wok Tum
It is a large beach area great for exploring nature. There are mangrove swamps and birds come to feed on the wet flats created by the low tide. Neither Hin Kong nor Wok Tum are good places to go swimming. It is, however, a good place to enjoy a sunset by yourself.

It is also a good place to enjoy live music as Koh Phangan’s best live music venue, Jam Bar, is located on Hin Kong Beach. There are a few mid-range resorts you can stay in. Hin Kong Resort has reasonably priced bungalows and a small pool.


Plaay Laem

Plaay Laem
The beach at Plaay Laem is only accessible by longtail boat or footpath. It is a white sand beach located at the foot of Khao Hin Nok Mountain. It is a striking beach with huge granite boulders scattered around the beach and in the sea. The boulders make it fun to kayak in the bay.

The beach is at the end of a headland that sticks out into the Gulf. This gives it ideal conditions for wind sports. Cookies Bungalows have small sailing boats and windsurfing equipment for hire.
Plaay Laem
There are a couple of places to stay in Plaay Laem offering budget to mid-range accommodation. Since the final part of the route to the beach is via a footpath it tends to be a quiet beach with a remote feel.


Nai Wok

Nai Wok
Nai Wok is a long beach next to Thongsala, ideal for those people who want to be close to the principal town on the island but who prefer a beach setting. It is a beach mostly ignored by first time tourists to Koh Phangan. It is possible to walk from Thongsala to Nai Wok.
Nai Wok
It is a shallow bay and so swimming is best at Nai Wok during the higher tidal months from November to April. There is a coral reef 80 meters off the coast that is good for snorkelling. Off the coast is the fairly big but deserted island called Koh Tae Nai. Many people arriving by boat wonder about this island: well the island covers an area of about 40 meters and for any millionaires reading – it is up for sale, well lease at the bargain price of 17.6 million USD.


History of Koh Phangan

The story of Koh Phangan is a story of the people who have come to settle on the island over the past 3,000 years. Koh Phangan has experienced wave after wave of migration ever since the first people settled here and this has continued in modern times with the large number of tourists who go there now. Establishing the exact times people came is impossible as there little in the way of written records. However, the evidence that they were there is to be found throughout the Ang Thong Archipelago


Homo Sapiens remains (modern humans) dating back to the period of 36,000 to 25,000 BC have been found in Lang Rogrien cave, in Southern Thailand. Other such remains, ancient tools, and cave paintings have been found in most of the Provinces of Southern Thailand suggesting a thriving Stone Age population of early humans had spread out across the Kra of Isthmus long before the start of the Buddhist era. Whilst no archaeological artefacts this old have ever been found on Koh Phangan, there have been some significant finds on the neighbouring Island of Koh Samui.

The most important of those artefacts are the metal drums found on Koh Samui dating from 1,000 BC to 500 BC. These are the earliest definite evidence of human settlement in the Ang Thong Archipelago. The drum has been dated by the design which is uniquely associated with the Don Son culture of Northern Vietnam. The first of the drums was found at Wat Talingping (Koh Samui) in 1977 and is now on display at the Chaiya National Museum on the mainland. Another of these drums was found in Lamai (Koh Samui) in 2000 and is on display at the Lamai Cultural Hall.

An ancient stone axe has also been found on Koh Samui which is evidence that the Semang people of Malaysia visited the islands in the past. They are known to have lived in many parts of Southern Thailand at least 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The Semang are only one of the Negritro ethnic groups in Asia, but the most likely of these to have come to Southern Thailand. The Thai know them as the Mani People. This ethnic group has diminished in number over time but still live in isolated pockets in the Andaman Islands, the Philippines, Mayalsia, Thailand and Indonesia. The Semang people are sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘Pygmies’. Although they are short like the African Pygmy peoples they are a different ethnic group.


The Semang people are the indigenous people of Southern Thailand in local folklore. The Nang Talung Puppet Show, for which the Southern city of Nakhon Si Thammarat is famous, depicts the indigenous peoples of Southern Thailand with characteristics more closely associated with the Semang than the Thai people. Perhaps not conclusive evidence in itself, but it does offer us clues as to the pre-history of Thailand.

The Moken People

Whilst we can’t know for 100% certain that the Semang people where the first to inhabit Koh Phangan, what we do know is that the Moken people have inhabited Koh Phangan for a long period of time. There is a still a community of Moken on Koh Paluay Island in the Ang Thong National Park. The Moken, also known as the Urak Lawoi or Orang Laut, originate in what is now Malayasia and have a unique and partly nomadic seafaring culture. They are sometimes described as ‘sea gypsies’ and the Thai people refer to them as ‘chao ley’ (sea people) or ‘chao nam’ (people of the water). The biggest concentration of the Moken people in modern day Thailand is in Krabi province on the west coast of Thailand. The Moken aren’t formally recognised by the Thai government and their inability to access schools and hospitals has meant that they have maintained their traditional culture and lifestyle rather than becoming part of modern Thai society.

The Moken people have maintained traditional, and inventive, fishing skills. The two they are best known for is spear fishing from their long boats, the fore runner of the Southern Thai ‘Longtail Boat’, and for holding their breath for long periods to collect shellfish and other sea creature from the sea floor.

Another Moken industry is the collection of bird nests for use in birds nest soup. Elaborate bamboo scaffolding is erected to reach the nests in caves. The Moken are known for making death defying ascents up cliff faces to collect this highly valued commodity.

Early Thai Visitors

By the second century AD the Thai people of the central and northern parts of what is now Thailand had created permanent settlements in the south of Thailand, which at that time was heavily forested and difficult to travel to by land. The earliest surviving written records of these settlement comes from Chinese merchants around 1,000 AD. They reported settlements along the eastern seaboard of Thailand, including large settlement in Surat Thai province at P’ai P’an (near Phun Phin where Surat Thani railway station is located) and at the Bandon Bay Tapi River area where most of the ferries to Koh Phangan depart. The earliest evidence that Thai people came to live on Koh Phangan is the Wat Nai temple. Wat Nai temple is a small chedi located near Ban Tai beach. It is believed to be the oldest structure on the island and is around 400 years old. Its not known how long these first monks stayed on the island, although the small size of the Temple suggested that the monks failed to create a permanent community. The island was sparsely inhabited at the time, and many of these inhabitants (such as the Moken) were not Buddhists. Life for these first monks was likely to have been very hard as there would have been few people to give alms.

The Hainan People

Hainan is the Southern most province in China with a sub-tropical climate and a distinctive culture. It comprises several hundred small islands clustered around the large Hainan Island. The migration of the indigenous Li People to Thailand began in the 16th and 17th Centuries as they were slowly pushed out of Hainan by migrating Han Chinese from neighbouring Fujian and Guangdong regions. The Li People finally rebelled against the Qing Government in the middle of the 18th Century. They lost their struggle and the majority of the population migrated. Today the Li People make up less than 15% of the population of Hainan.

The people of Hainan proved to be industrious and free from the oppression of the Chinese state they built thriving and successful communities in central and southern Thailand. In Bangkok they settled in the swampy riverside area in the Sampanthawong district of Bangkok. At the time the Thai people favoured living on boats on the Chao Phraya river and trading in floating markets. The Chinese settled on the land, most famously in Sampeng Lane which is the heart of Bangkok’s modern day China Town. They also created the first large land markets which were at the centre of Siam’s commercial life until industrialisation of the central region in the early Twentieth Century, and the descendants of the early immigrants went onto to build Thailand’s largest companies. There were less opportunities for trade open to the Li People in Koh Phangan and they took up coconut farming, fishing and tin mining. The main tin mining centres were in Thong Nai Pan and near Sri Thanu. On the way into Thong Nai Pan Noi you will see a large excavated area on your right. This is an old tin mine. In Sri Thanu the lake (Leam Som) was a large open cast tin mine.

The Li people integrated into the local Thai culture all over Thailand, and this is true of Koh Phangan which has its own mini China Town areas in Thong Sala and Ban Tai village. There are some excellent examples of Chinese style wooden shop houses. You will find the same style of shop house throughout Thailand: Phuket Town and Bangkok China Town are famous for them. The other major influence the Li people brought to Thailand was their cuisine. Hainanese chicken and rice (Khao Man Gai) is eaten throughout Thailand. In Koh Samui and Koh Phangan the local people eat some unique Hainanese foods which is not common in the rest of Thailand. The most famous of these is Hainanese dried fish. The picture above is taken in a market in modern day Hainan. If you go to the small shops and market stalls of Thong Sala and Ban Tai today you will see the same rings of dried fish hanging from pieces of string. There are lots of ways to cook with them. Fried in oil they can be eaten as a tasty accompaniment for a meal or a salty favouring.

Later Thai Visitors

By the Nineteenth Century Koh Phangan was starting to become well known to Thai people and this was the start of the modern period on immigration of Thai people to the island. Bear in mind that formal government did not come to Koh Phangan until the 1970s and the first permanent police station on the island came in the 1990s. Koh Phangan was a place of wild and natural beauty with settlements confined to the areas around Thong Sala and Ban Tai in the South, Sri Thanu in the West and Thong Nai Pan in the East. The most famous of the early Thai visitors, King Rama V, came as a tourist to visit the waterfalls at Than Sadet and Than Prawes Waterfall in Thong Nai Pan Noi. The King first visited in 1888 and a further 13 times during his reign and left his signature in the rocks at both Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan Noi.

During the reign of King Rama V it was recorded that there were already 300 families living on Koh Phangan. Thai Law has allowed these early immigrants to lay claim to the land on receipt of proof that they have occupied the land for a long period and that this claim is not disputed by their neighbours. Certain families have become very closely associated with certain parts of the island such as Haad Khuat, Thong Nai Pan Noi, and Haad Rin (amongst other areas) and the current owners of much of the land are directly related to this wave of Thai immigrants to Koh Phangan.

The big industry on Koh Phangan for this group of Thai immigrants was coconut farming. Much of the Island was given over to coconut farming and the most prized areas of land were away from the beach areas. Fishing was also an important industry with piers built in Thong Sala and more recently Chaloklum. Sadly the local fishing industry gave way to the larger industrial fishing boats who scour the Gulf of Thailand and catch fish more cheaply. Much of the fish eaten on Koh Phangan is now imported from the mainland, with the exception of a small supply coming from fishing boats operating out of Chaloklum and Thong Sala. Coconut farming is not a massively profitable business and, with the decline of the fishing industry, Koh Phangan was not a wealthy island. The situation was made even worse by the end of the small tin mining industry in the 1970s.

The Japanese

On the 8th December 1941 the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces invaded Southern Thailand. The Japanese came in large numbers and landed in multiple locations along the eastern seaboard of Thailand. One of the initial invasion points was Ban Don in Surat Thani Province. The Thai army and police force briefly attempted to resist the invasion. The Provincial Administration building in Surat Thani was destroyed in the battle. After a few hours the Thai Government ordered the army and police to capitulate. The invading Japanese Armed Forces promised the Thai Government that they would not enter Bangkok and would only use the country as a staging post for invading British controlled Burma and Malaya. The Japanese did not keep this promise and spread out over the country. Koh Phangan was not formally occupied, but Japanese soldiers were stationed there. The main purpose of the soldiers coming to Koh Phangan was as a look out post over the Gulf of Thailand. Soldiers were permanently camped out on the hills above Thong Nai Pan where there are the best vantage points over the Gulf. There are still the remains of a Japanese armoured vehicle in the jungle on the slopes of Khao Ra mountain.

The Japanese occupation carried on until the war ended in 1945 with the surrender of the Japanese following the atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Then Came The Tourists

Tourism on Koh Phangan started on a commercial scale in the 1980s. Foreign tourists started coming to the neighbouring Island of Koh Samui in significant numbers in the 1970s. The first tourist resort on Koh Samui opened in 1974: First Bungalow Beach Resort on the headland in Chaweng. Tourists were visiting Koh Phangan in the 1970s by boat from Koh Samui but there weren’t any resorts or hotels on the island at that time. No doubt some travellers stayed overnight or longer by camping rough, as had King Rama V in 1888. Alex Garland’s apocryphal story ‘The Beach’ has its origins in the tales of these early visitors.

The first resorts were set up on Koh Phangan at the end of the 1970s. The earliest resort was probably Mai Pen Rai Bungalows in Than Sadet. The next resorts to be built on Koh Phangan were in Haad Rin in the early 1980s. Paradise Bungalows might well be the oldest resort in Haad Rin. The tourism industry picked up considerably towards the end of the 1980s with a cluster of resorts being built: Wattana Resort (Chaloklum) in 1985, Phangan Rainbow (Ban Tai) in 1986, Panviman (Thong Nai Pan Noi) in 1987. Other similar resorts followed throughout the 1990s on the back of the growing popularity of the Full Moon Party.

The origins of the Full Moon Party are hotly debated. There are two competing versions of the story. One version is that the first Full Moon Party was held in 1983, when Mr Suti, owner of Paradise Bungalows, held an impromptu birthday party for one of the guests at his resort with a small sound system and bar provided by the resort. The other version of the story comes from Scottish journalist Colin Hinselwood who has written an account of his visit to the first ever Full Moon Party in October 1988. Colin was living in Koh Samui and claims to have visited and partied on the beach with a small group of foreigners for the night. Colin doesn’t explain how he knows that parties had never happened before his visit, and he doesn’t explain why there was a party there in the first place. For this reason, it appears likely that the Full Moon Parties probably started before Colin came to stay the night. Full moon is a significant time in the Thai Buddhist culture and it has been celebrated for centuries. The decision to hold a party on Full Moon night is more likely to have been taken by the Thais.

The latest phase in the development of Koh Phangan is the development of luxury resorts. Panviman in Thong Nai Pan Noi was the first with an upgrade to luxury status in 2005. This coincided with the construction of Santhiya Resort, also in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2005. This was followed by a third luxury resort, Rasananda, in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2009 and then a fourth with Buri Rasa opening in Thong Nai Pan Noi in 2012. Thong Nai Pan Noi is now the centre of the luxury tourist trade in Koh Phangan, with a number of private serviced luxury villas in the hills above the beach. The luxury tourist trade is also expanding to other parts of the island with the completion of the luxury Chantaramas Resort in Ban Tai in 2012 and two further luxury resorts in 2013: The Coast (Haad Rin) and Kupu Kupu (Nai Wok).

Koh Phangan is still a long way from becoming a mass tourism destination in the same way as Phuket or Ao Nang because of the poor infrastructure. It takes a long time to get to Koh Phangan, and the roads are pretty bad in places. The shopping options are limited. The water supply on the island is unpredictable in the dry summer months and the electricity still stops frequently. The next phase in the development of Koh Phangan will involve addressing those issues. Lots of things are happening at the moment. There is a major road building project to create a wide concrete ring road around Koh Phangan. The electrical system is being upgraded and a dam building project in the centre of the island has been approved by the Thai government. Perhaps the most significant of these projects is the plan to build a small airport near the Than Sadet National Park. When Koh Phangan can be reached directly from Bangkok tourism levels are likely to really take off.

Haad Thian West

There are 2 Haad Thian (also spelt ‘Tien’) beaches in Koh Phangan. Both of them are small beaches tucked away in coves and over-shadowed in popularity by more famous beaches nearby. On the south east coast there is Haad Thian East which has a famous yoga / New Age place called the Sanctuary as well as a few bungalow resorts. Haad Thian West is located between the two most popular beaches on the west coast – Haad Yao (to the south) and Haad Salad (to the north). There is one place to stay at Haad Thian West – that is Haad Thian Beach Resort. For those looking for a ‘private beach’ experience, but without the isolation and poor access Haad Thian West is a great holiday option.

Haad Thian West is a 15-minute drive from the main port town of Thongsala. You take the western coastal road and take a left at the junction past the turning for Haad Yao West. This road goes straight to Haad Gruad; to get to Haad Thian West take a left turn.

The beach at Haad Thian West is quite small, about 70 meters across. The white sand is slightly course as it is mixed with coral. A short distance out from the coast is a coral reef. This makes swimming in the sea better during the high tidal months from April to November. During other months the best swimming option is to cross the coral reef and swim in the open sea. One fun activity at Haad Thian West is exploring the corals b snorkelling. For those who want to dive there are several dive shops at Haad Yao and Haad Salad.

Accommodation at Haad Thian West consists of one resort called (not surprisingly) Haad Thian Beach Resort. It is a friendly, family-run resort with a good range of bungalows for rent. A basic bungalow with fan costs just 490 Thai Baht during the low season. There are also basic fan bungalows with two double beds. The ‘superior room’ is a concrete bungalow with air-con, satellite TV, DVD player and hot water. These start at 1,090 Thai Baht. Deluxe rooms are beachfront bungalows with large balconies as well as air-con, hot water shower, satellite TV, DVD player, mini bar and tea and coffee making facilities. These start at 1,690 Thai Baht per night. The same facilities are available in rooms located in an accommodation block. There is also one ocean view room and one family room with sea views.

The resort has a restaurant and bar serving a range of beverages and, of course, delicious home cooked Thai food as well as burgers, sandwiches, pasta and French fries. For sun worshippers there is a medium sized pool next to the beach with sun loungers. Other facilities include a convenience store, table tennis, laundry service, booking centre, internet shop, Wi-Fi, Thai massage and vehicle rental. In short, Haad Thian Beach Resort provides everything needed for a fun and stress-free holiday on a quiet and beautiful beach. Currently, Haad Thien Beach Resort in Koh Phangan (not Koh Tao) is unavailable for online booking with either or Agoda.

And for those who want to explore the small beach of Haad Gruad is just a couple of miles away. There is also the nightlife of nearby Haad Yao to explore and the laid back vibe of Haad Salad experience.

Haad Thian West is not the most beautiful beach in Koh Phangan, but it is one of the most relaxed. It has one resort and so is spared a long row of businesses across the beach. Most evenings there is a fantastic sunset over the ocean. This is a place where you can enjoy nature’s spectacle without interruption.

Haad Rin Beaches


Thongsala Beach

Thongsala is the principal town of Koh Phangan. It is also the main transport hub for the island. There are three piers that take most people on and off the island. Nobody considers staying in Thongsala because of its beach.

And yet to both sides of the main port area there are stretches of white sand beach. You can walk past the Lomprayah Pier east and come to the end of China town where there is a pretty patch of beach.

The beach immediately to the east of Thongsala centre is sometimes called Ao Bang Charu. As far as most visitors to Koh Phangan are concerned, the end of Thongsala is the beginning of Baan Tai.

Popular Resorts in Thongsala: Lime N Soda Beachfront Resort

Baan Tai

ban tai beach

Baan Tai Beach is located on the long stretch of coast line next to the main road that goes from Thongsala to Haad Rin. Many people consider this long sandy strip to be all part of Baan Tai. Other maps mark the beach part near Thongsala as being Ao Bang Charu and the last part before the steep hill that leads to Haad Rin as Bankai. The border with Bankai is a river that flushes out to the sea 200 meters before the 7-11.

Since nobody uses the name Ao Bang Charu we will divide the long southern beach into Baan Tai and Bankai.

The beach at Baan Tai is one of the longest on the island. At low tide it is possible to walk the entire length of the beach.

Baan Tai beach is a sandy beach. Parts near Thongsala have plenty of tree cover behind the beach; other parts are next to the road and not so scenic. While the views of Koh Samui in the distance and the sunsets are impressive the swimming is often not great at Baan Tai: during the lower tidal months from May to October the sea recedes a long way at low tide.

The better Baan Tai resorts have swimming pools. The main draw for this beach is what is becoming known as the ‘party zone’. This refers to the area of Baan Tai, Ban Kai and Haad Rin that hosts a number of big outdoor parties that include the Full Moon Party, the Half Moon Party, the black Moon Party, Jungle Experience, Shiva Moon Party and Rhythm and Sands. During about 10 days around the Full Moon Party there are parties nearly every night. Baan Tai is a great central location for this party scene.

There is a small fishing village at Baan Tai. It has a few bars, restaurants and shops. It is not great for shopping but has a few good bars. There is also a small pier at Baan Tai. Private speed boats and fishing boats use the pier.

Popular resorts in Baan Tai: Milky Bay Resort, Sabaii Bay Resort and First Villa



Bankai starts near the 7-11 on the main Thongsala to Haad Rin road and goes to the rocky headland that marks the start of Haad Rin.

As with Baan Tai, Bankai is a sandy beach that is great for sunbathing but not so good for swimming during the low tidal months.
As with Baan Tai the resorts, hostels and hotels along the beach are geared towards those wanting to attend all night parties. In the jungle behind the beach is the setting for the tech/house Blue and Green Sramanora Waterfall Party.
It is a short walk from Bankai to the main road where there is a selection of shops, restaurants and bars.

Since both Baan Tai and Bankai are so near Haad Rin and Thongsala lots of people rent motorbikes and drive up down the main southern road to do their shopping and dining. Convenience is another major reason why people choose to get a room in this area.

Popular resorts in Bankai: Chantaramas Resort and Spa, Hansa Resort and Morning Star

Haad Rin Beaches

Haad Rin Nok

Haad Rin Nok is also known as Haad Rin Sunrise Beach and the Full Moon Party Beach. This is the best beach on the Haad Rin peninsula and the biggest. It is thus the obvious place to hold the Full Moon Party. The added bonus is that not only does the full moon shine brightly at night above this beach but also at dawn the sun rises over the ocean in a collage of yellows and oranges.

Haad Rin Nok is about 700 meters long. It gently curves around the bay. At the northern end of the beach is a large headland. You can climb up the steps to Mellow Mountain, a favourite bar during the big party, where you can sit and admire the view over the beach.

It is tempting to imagine that the Full Moon Party Beach must be full of trash and debris from the monthly parties. Thanks to teams of cleaners the beach returns back to its unlittered best within hours of the party closing down for another month.

This was the first beach in Koh Phangan to develop a tourist trade in the late 1970s. It is a wonderful beach and an ideal place for tourism to begin in Koh Phangan. The sand and sea is free of corals and the sea bed slopes gently down providing perfect swimming conditions year round.

Back in the day the beachfront at Haad Rin Nok was dominated by cheap bungalow resorts. While there are still a few resorts on this beach such as Palita Lodge, Sunrise Resort and Paradise Bungalows it is very hard to get an actual beachfront bungalow or villa on Haad Rin Nok. The sea view locations are reserved for the dozen or so bars that comprise the party. During the lulls between full moons these places sell food and drink but often offer nothing more than a bare bones service.

Haad Rin Nok is not a beach for snorkeling. There are dive shops in Haad Rin that take people to better sites for diving and snorkeling both around Koh Phangan and farther afield. You can rent kayaks and at your own risk (to your wallet), jet skis.

As would be expected, this beach fills up as the full moon approaches. It is the place to hang out, make friends and relax when you are not damaging your liver.

Popular places to stay: Palita Lodge and Sunrise Resort

Haad Rin Nai

On the other side of the peninsula from Haad Rin Nok is Haad Rin Nai. This is a west-facing beach and is consequently the best place to go in Haad Rin to see the sunset.

Haad Rin Nai or Haad Rin Sunset Beach is smaller and less picturesque than its bigger sister. The beach is about 150 meters long. At the northern end of the beach is a small pier with a regular ferry service to Big Buddha pier on the north coast of the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. The Haad Rin Queen Ferry service uses a boat that holds about 50 people. The boats run at full capacity during the full moon period.

The beach is not much of a spot to sunbathe and swim. The sand is not as fine as on the sunrise beach. Moreover, the inevitable pollution from the ferry service affects parts of this beach.

In contrast to Haad Rin Nok there is plenty of accommodation with sea views on and near Haad Rin Nai. It is a good spot to base yourself for the party as there are plenty of facilities nearby, and it is slightly quieter as the Full Moon Party sound systems are pointing away from this beach.

It takes about 10 minutes to walk between the sunset and sunrise beaches on the Haad Rin peninsula.

Popular Places to stay: Best Western Phanganburi Resort and The Coast Resort

Seekantang Beach

Seekantang Beach is also called Leela Beach. It is a long west facing beach below Haad Rin Nai. The name of this beach is a bit confusing for first time visitors as there is a resort on this beach that is called Sarikantang Resort and Spa.

To get to this beach you have to walk through the centre of Haad Rin Town and take a right at the end of the road and go up the hill. From there follow the signs to Sarikantang Beach Resort.

It is a beautiful white sand beach that stretches for over 500 meters. The northern end of the beach has large resorts while the southern end has more of an old-style Koh Phangan feel.

The beach has fine white sand and is good for swimming all year round. The beach has plenty of tree cover and although it becomes busy during the full moon period, this beach never feels crowded.

The beach is narrow at points. The trees fringing the beach include mangroves. For being so close to the main party beach, Haad Seekantang is a surprisingly pristine and diverse nature spot. As a result, those in the know often prefer staying at this beach when attending the Full Moon Party. It takes only 15 minutes for those lodging at Seekantang to walk to the party and when they have had enough revelry they can go back to a quiet room overlooking a stunning beach.

Popular Resorts: Sarikantang Resort and Spa and Cocohut Village Beach Resort and Spa

East Coast Beaches

The east cost of Koh Phangan is the stuff of dreams. It is a dramatic coastline dominated by a spine of mountains that run up the coast and that break at points to create bays holding magnificent white sand beaches many of which are rarely visited. This area of the island is stunningly beautiful and is quickly developing a reputation for luxury accommodation and pristine natural surroundings. With the construction of Koh Phangan Airport at Than Prapad in the east, this part of Koh Phangan is due to become the new hub for luxury travel in the Samui Archipelago. (The airport never got built. It was a bit of a scandal1)

Unlike the west coast of Koh Phangan, the east doesn’t have any off-shore coral reefs. All the beaches on the east coast are ideal for swimming but offer little for those wanting to do snorkeling. There are a lot of beaches on the east coast but most of them are quite small.

Access to most of the beaches in this region is limited. Only a few taxi drivers will attempt the treacherous roads to these beaches (other than Thong Nai Pan). The Thong Nai Pan Express is a small ferry that runs up and down the coast twice a day. It starts at Thong Nai Pan at 19am and does request stops along the east coast before getting to Haad Rin and heading off to Maenam in Koh Samui. The reverse journey leaves Koh Samui at 12 pm. The ferry doesn’t run between October and January.

Thong Nai Pan

Thong Nai Pan is the largest bay on the east coast. It is a stunning bay surrounded by forested slopes with headlands of giant granite boulders. Until a few years ago Thong Nai Pan was reached via the worst road on the island. Now the road is one of the best on the island and forms the main point of access for most of the east coast beaches.

There are actually three beaches in the Thong Nai Pan. To the south is the larger Thong Nai Pan Yai and to the north is Thong Nai Pan Noi and another small beach next to it that is commonly called ‘Santhiya beach’ although it is open to everyone to visit.

Thong Nai Pan Yai

Thong Nai Pan Yai holds the main village of the area. This consists of a wide selection of bars, restaurants, shops, resorts and travel agents along a main road as well as businesses scattered over the land between the main road and the beach.

It is a wide beach that has fine white sand that gently slopes down to the sea. It is a good beach for swimming as there aren’t any corals in the sea. There is however, a low rock shelf at the southern end of the beach that can be seen during the lower tidal months.

Thong Nai Pan Yai beach has plenty of beachfront facilities. Most of the resorts are beachfront and most of these have sea view restaurants. At the northern end of the beach is a small temple. Dreamland Resort, Starlight Resort and Central Cottage have swimming pools near the beach.

Thong Nai Pan Yai is rated by us as the third best beach in Koh Phangan. It combines stunning natural scenery with a wide range of accommodation, bars and restaurants. It attracts both families and backpackers.

Thong Nai Pan Noi

Ask anybody where to find a 5 star hotel in Koh Phangan and they will reply ‘Thong Nai Pan Noi’. There are 4 luxury resorts in Thong Nai Pan Noi. They are Rasananda, Santhiya, Panviman and Buri Rasa. In terms of comfort, style and facilities these hotels represent the best accommodation on Koh Phangan.

Thong Nai Pan Noi is considered by many to be the best beach in Koh Phangan. It is fine white sand and is fringed with palms. The sea is ideal for swimming all year round. Scattered around the area are huge granite boulders one of which has the initials of King Rama V. Behind the beach are imposing forested slopes. Facing the other way there is the open ocean as well as the opposite beach, Thong Nai Pan Yai.

Despite the development of Thong Nai Pan Noi it is still a beach set in a pristine natural setting. You can see butterflies sporting in the surf and birds of prey circling in the thermals overhead. As you walk around there are plenty of landscaped areas to enjoy spotting tropical flowers.

The village behind the beach has a collection of bars, restaurants, shops and massage places. The small street has a laid-back Bohemian feel that has helped to establish Thong Nai Pan Noi as a firm favourite with visitors over the years.

Than Sadet

Moving south from Thong Nai Pan Yai, the next beach is Haad Sadet, also known as Than Sadet. This is a small beach next to a national park. It is accessed via a very rough road that is being upgraded, or via longtail boat taxi.

The beach is famous for its series of waterfalls that run over 4km. These waterfalls have been visited by three kings of Thailand.

The beach at Than Sadet is a hidden gem. It is great for swimming and relaxing. All the accommodation here is fairly basic and the resorts get their power from generators. This is a beach tucked away from the world, and attracts those wanting a peaceful and non-commercial beach to enjoy.

Haad Thong Reng

Next to Than Sadet beach is Haad Thong Reng. It is reached via a short walk over a rocky headland. It is a very small beach with granite boulders scattered over the beach and in the sea. Those lucky few hanging out on this beach enjoy complete tranquility. There are a few basic bungalows available for rent at Thong Reng Resort.

Haad Nam Tok

Haad Nam Tok is the next beach south from Haad Thong Reng. The name of the beach translates as ‘waterfall beach’ because there is a small waterfall near the beach.

Haad Nam Tok is another perfect beach and at present uninhabited. Someone has built a bar on the beach and it is sometimes used for parties, but otherwise there aren’t any buildings on the beach. It is possible to camp on the beach, but you would have to bring everything with you.

You can get to Haad Nam Tok by longtail taxi boat. There is a road that branches off the main Baan Tai to Thong Nai Pan Road. It is a rough dirt track that goes up and down difficult terrain. You cannot drive all the way to the beach. The last 20 minutes of the journey to Haad Nam Tok is on foot and is down a steep mountain path.

Haad Nam Tok is rarely visited and great for those looking to explore off-the-beaten-track.

UPDATE: From blogger comments I note that a few travellers have mentioned that the rubbish is piling up on Haad Nam Tok Beach.

Haad Yang

Haad Yang is reached by a footpath from the bigger Haad Yao to the south. It is a small and deserted beach in a wide bay flanked by rocks with palm trees behind. This is another beautiful beach on the east coast that is great for swimming.

Haad Yao East

Haad Yao East is overshadowed by the famous Haad Yao on the west coast. Unlike Haad Yao West, Haad Yao is a small beach that doesn’t have a coral reef off-shore.

This beach has fine white sand and good swimming all year round. There is only one resort at Haad Yao East. It has basic bungalows. It seems like there is only ever a handful of backpackers staying at Haad Yao East at any one time.

The footpath that starts at Haad Rin and that goes north through the jungle and then follows the coast goes past Haad Yao East. It is 8 km from Haad Rin to Haad Yao East. You can get the Thong Nai Pan Express to drop you at this beach or get a longtail taxi. A few drivers might attempt the dirt road to this beach.

If you ever fancied owning your own tropical paradise rumor has it that half the beach is up for lease.

Haad Wai Nam

Haad Wai Nam is another tucked away and hard-to-get beach. It is in a beautiful small bay. The sand here is slight rougher than other beaches on the east coast.

Haad Whynam Restaurant and Bungalows is the only business on the beach. They have comfortable wooden bungalows on a hill behind the beach. As with the other east coast beaches, the power comes from generators.

It is a picturesque place and an ideal spot to escape from the world. It is a beach with very little media exposure so few people venture to this beach.

Haad Thian

Haad Thian is one of the longest east coast beaches. It is a wonderful beach with fine white sand and a good range of accommodation.

There is more going on in Haad Thian than the other smaller east coast beaches such as Haad Thong Reng and Haad Wai Nam.

The Sanctuary is a yoga / New Age / detox center on the beach with basic bungalows for those doing courses. This causes a split in the beach visitors between those interested in colonic irrigation and those who just want to lie in the sun and drink cold beer in the evening.

Again the electricity is supplied by generator; and again the only way to Haad Thian is via a footpath from Haad Rin or a longtail boat. The Thong Nai Pan express stops at Haad Thian bay but often a smaller boat goes out to ferry passengers on and off the beach.

Haad Yuan

Haad Yuan is 150 meters long. It is another of the longer eastern beaches. Haad Yuan has fine white sand and is fringed by palms leaning towards the sea.

There is a good range of rooms available. The stand out place is Centara Pariya Resort. This resort has round huts, a swimming pool and a spa. The power for all the resorts is from generators that are usually turned off either at night or for a few hours during the day.

There isn’t much in the way of shops at Haad Yuan but you can find plenty of places to eat and drink. It is a wonderful beach and feels a little bit less remote and less basic than most of the other smaller eastern beaches.

Haad Yuan is a 5 km walk through the jungle from Haad Rin. The alternative is to catch a longtail taxi or the Thong Nai Pan Express to the beach.

To find more information check out this Koh Phangan East Coast blog.

Best Bottle Beach Hotels

Bottle Beach (Haad Khuat) is located in the North East of Koh Phangan, and it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. It’s excellent for swimming, has clean white sand, it’s not built up and the sea is full of fish. This used to be a hippy enclave with only very basic bungalows and no electric. The basic bungalows remain (Bottle Beach 2 Resort and Smile Bungalows) but there are now two better quality hotels which opened up the area to a wider group of visitors, including families. This is a popular place to come to.

Bottle Beach retains its charm because its difficult to get to. There is a road but its not concrete and steep in places. You can do the road in 4×4 car or by motorbike if you are proficient and you take it slowly. You can also arrive by boat either from Haad Rin or Chaloklum. You can also hire a long tail from Thong Nai Pan. If you fancy beach hopping from Thong Nai Pan, go to the guys selling the jet skis on either beach and they can point you in the right direction. Its about 10 minutes by boat from Thong Nai Pan.

By 2015 Bottle Beach will be linked to the rest of the Island by a planned ring road. We advise that you go soon if you want to experience the ‘old school’ charm of Bottle Beach. It won’t be long before this beach becomes more commercial with new high class resorts like neighbouring Thong Nai Pan Noi.

Haad Khuat Resort # 1 Best Resort

Facilities: Restaurant Bar WiFi

Prices: Hotel Sea View Fan Room: 1000 to 1200 THB
Hotel Sea View Air Con Twin Bed Room: 1500 to 1700 THB
Hotel Sea View Air Con King Bed Room: 1,700 to 2,000 THB

In Brief:

The closest thing to a luxury resort in Bottle Beach.

Our Review:

This is a comfortable place to stay. The hotel rooms are large enough and clean with good sea views. This is a small hotel with only 15 hotel rooms and a further 13 bungalows which are less well appointed.

Haad Khuat Resort boasts the best restaurant and bar on Bottle Beach. They also have kayaks which are free to use. As with other Bottle Beach resorts you need to make your own entertainment. This a place to come and relax without slumming it.


Bottle Beach 1 Resort # 2 Best Resort

Facilities: Bar, Restaurant, swimming pool, wifi

Prices: Standard Fan Bungalow: 700 to 900 THB
Standard Beach Front Bungalow: 1100 to 1300 THB
Deluxe Bungalow: 1400 to 1600 THB
Deluxe 2 bed garden bungalow: 1700 to 1900 THB
Deluxe 2 bed beach front bungalow: 2200 to 2400 THB
Deluxe 3 bed beach front bungalow: 3400 to 3600 THB

In Brief:

Large bungalows on, or near, the beach. Not a backpacker resort, but it retains the charm of the classic Thai beach bungalow set up.

Our Review:

We can’t class this as a luxury resort. It is firmly placed in the mid-range. This a family run business and the service isn’t as professional as resorts in more developed resort areas. This said, the place has a ‘homely’ feel to it and if you have a bit of patience with your hosts, you are likely to find it a rewarding experience.

Some of the bungalows are big with two or three beds. This makes Bottle Beach 1 Resort suitable for families and quite a few stay here. Bear in mind you rarely saw families coming to Bottle Beach 10 years ago. Kids will enjoy the pool which is fairly impressive, albeit slightly pointless given that Bottle Beach has clear water and a shallow sloping bay.

The beach front bungalows are the star of the show. Great location right on the sand. Bear in mind they only have fans and cold water. Another quirky thing is that the resort is powered by a generator which is is switched off for maintenance every day between 5 pm and 6 pm. It’s all a bit ‘back to basics’ but do weigh this against the positives. Depending on your preferences you may find this resort ‘heavenly’ or a bit uncomfortable – its all a matter of perspective.


10 Best Beaches

Koh Phangan has 34 beaches. Some are very remote, such as the beautiful Haad Nam Tok which you have to walk to, other such as Ban Tai and Wok Tum are right next to the main town. Some are good for swimming, others are not. However, they all have something to offer. The trick is to pick the one which suits you.

People who know Koh Phangan will all have their own opinion. Most often the one they love the best is the first one they ever visited, and this is where they go back to every time they make it to Koh Phangan. However, for the benefit of the ‘newbie’ we have tried to rank the most accessible of the beaches with four simple metrics rated 0 to 5 (with 5 being the best):

Swimming: how safe, pleasant and easy it is to swim in the sea?
Local Facilities: The range of shops, bars and restaurants bordering the beach
Natural beauty: How beautiful is it when you look back from shoreline?
Tranquility: How peaceful is it? This is about the feel of the beach. How idyllic is the experience of the beach.

We do not claim that one beach is necessarily better than another; however, we hope that our guide helps you to choose the beach that’s best for you – that’s what counts!

#1 Thong Nai Pan Noi

Thong Nai Pan Noi

Location: North East

Swimming: 5 out of 5
Local Facilities: 2 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 5 out of 5
Tranquility: 4 out of 5

Total Score: 16 out of 20

Thong Nai Pan Noi is now considered as the ‘Riviera’ of Koh Phangan. It’s a perfect white sand beach surrounded by steep forested mountain slopes forming a natural amphitheatre. 10 years ago there were only a few bungalow resorts in Thong Nai Pan Noi, now it home to 4 of the best luxury resorts on the Island. The three 5 Star resorts (Rasananda, Santhiya and Panviman) rank alongside the best luxury resorts in more established destinations.

What people really like about Thong Nai Pan Noi is the small village with its independent bar and restaurant scene. Thong Nai Pan Noi used to be a hippy style enclave for travellers in the know and it’s retained some of that Bohemian feel.

This is a really quiet and peaceful destination very suitable for families and older couples. There is enough nightlife to entertain you after dinner, if that’s your thing, but not enough to keep you awake at night. The hotels may be relatively expensive, but if you have the money or you want to enjoy a really special holiday (it is really popular for honeymooners), then this is definitely the place for you.

Luxury Hotel: Santhiya Resort and Spa from 4,000 THB
Mid-Range Hotel: Phuwadee Resort and Spa from 650 THB
Budget Hotel: Sandee Bungalows from 400 THB

#2 Mae Haad

Mae Haad

Location: North West

Swimming: 5 out of 5
Local Facilities: 2 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 4 out of 5
Tranquility: 4 out of 5

Total Score: 15 out of 20

This beach is so beautiful and so quiet it will be many people’s idea of a dream tropical beach destination. This is a laid back destination with a low density of resorts and restaurants spread across a flat grassy square of land stretching a 1km back from the beach. The village is charming and the businesses located there are all independently run. Mostly its Thai food available at low prices, but there are a few passable Western dishes available. There is no real bar culture here, although you can enjoy late night drinks at the beach front resort restaurants. Moreover, the nightlife of Haad Yao is only a few minutes away by taxi or motorbike.

Mae Haad beach is a great place to stay if you like snorkeling. There is small coral reef about 20 metres from the powder fine white sand beach. You can see lots of fish and sea urchins amongst the multi-coloured corals. If you keep an eye out toward the deeper ocean you can see giant shoals of fish including magnificent tiger stripped barracuda. The water around Mae Haad beach and the nearby Koh Ma island is a protected national park and is teeming with sea life. If you still have the energy left after all that swimming there is an impressive waterfall around 2km back from the beach. Head out of the village on the main road and there are signposts pointing toward the right.

For a luxury stay you can book the 4 Star Mae Haad Resort. This resort has only recently opened and the prices are low for a resort of this quality. Like many new hotels they charge cheap prices until they establish themselves. For classic ‘old school’ beach bungalows try Island View Cabana. There aren’t many place left in Thailand where you can find a $10 beach bungalow – this is one of them.

Mid-Range Hotel: Mae Haad Resort from 2,800 THB
Budget Hotel: Island View Cabana from 300 THB

#3 Thong Nai Pan Yai

Thong Nai Pan Yai

Location: North East

Swimming: 4 out of 5
Local Facilities: 3 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 4 out of 5
Tranquility: 3 out of 5

Total Score: 14 out of 20

Thong Nai Pan Yai has a long white sand beach which gently slopes down into the sea making it excellent for swimming. Thong Nai Pan Yai is a lively village cut off from the busier South and West of the Island by a 15km drive over a mountain in the jungle. The drive is an experience in itself.

Thong Nai Pan Yai has much more night life than most of the other really beautiful beaches on the Island. The beach restaurants are really good. We particularly recommend the excellent restaurant at 3 Star Resort Havana which serves Thai food, BBQ and the best Indian food on the Island. For late night drinking try either the Flip-Flop bar or Yai Bar: both are right on the beach front.

There is a really wide range of accommodation in Thong Nai Pan Yai. It’s a lot cheaper than neighbouring 5 Star Thong Nai Pan Noi – you can walk there in 10 minutes anyway and enjoy the beach, which is public. The quality goes from basic bungalows at resorts like Dreamland and Pen’s to fantastic luxury beach houses at Candle Hut. Thong Nai Pan Yai tends to appeal to a wide range of different types of travelers because of the variety of accommodation, which is matched by the variety of food options. Everything from super cheap Thai food at Pa Tong’s restaurant to authentic Italian cooking at the Living Room is available in Thong Nai Pan Yai.

Mid-Range Hotel: Havana Resort from 1,750 THB
Budget Hotel: Starlight Resort from 500 THB

#4 Than Sadet

Than Sadet

Location: North East

Swimming: 4 out of 5
Local Facilities: 1 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 4 out of 5
Tranquility: 5 out of 5

Total Score: 14 out of 20

Than Sadet is a real classic on the traveller’s circuit. It is a perfect beach; laid back but not many facilities (no mobile phone coverage) and hard to get to. To stay at Than Sadet is to step back 20 years in time. Some people love it. To get there you need to either take a taxi boat from Haad Rin pier or one of the 4×4 taxis waiting at the main ferry pier. The trip by car should cost you a few hundred Baht in a shared taxi or 1,000 to 1,500 THB for the whole car depending on the time of year.

Than Sadet beach is set within a national park which surrounds a 4km long run of waterfalls. This is a famous site for Thai people as it has been visited by no fewer than 3 of the Kings of Thailand. They all carved their names in rocks at the side of the main waterfall near the beach. More active visitors will enjoy trekking up the entire length of the waterfall, which has a natural rock pool along the way where you can swim.

There are only a handful of businesses at Than Sadet. The best restaurant and accommodation is provided by Mai Pen Rai Bungalows. They have been there for around 20 years and one of the owners is French, which is reflected in the surprisingly good food on offer. Don’t expect much nightlife, although you are bound to meet some laid back travellers to talk to. This is a friendly place.

Budget Hotel: Mai Pen Rai Bungalows from 380 THB

#5 Haad Yao

Haad Yao

Location: North West

Swimming: 3 out of 5
Local Facilities: 3 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 3 out of 5
Tranquility: 3 out of 5

Total Score: 12 out of 20

Haad Yao is the premier destination on the West Coast. The beach is long, clean and good for swimming. There are also lots of resorts, bars and restaurants. It is also a short and easy journey to the main town of Thongsala. If you stay here you have a really good range of options for sightseeing, eating out, and going to bars and parties.

Haad Yao village is stretched out along a 1km or so of road. There some good restaurants like Felini and Crave, and really good bars like Rasta Home, Apple Bar and Chok Dee. A lot of long stay visitors are attracted to Haad Yao and there is a year round ex-pat community in this area. If you fancy getting to know people try the excellent Masons Arms down the road towards Thong Sala. It’s a recreation English pub serving pints and English style pub grub including great English breakfasts.

There are loads of hotels and bungalow resorts in the area from a mere 475 THB a night at Sandy Bay Bungalows up to 3 Star accommodation at Haad Yao Villa. There is something to suit everyone.

Mid-Range Hotel: Baan Haad Yao from 800 THB
Budget Hotel: Sandy Bay Bungalows from 475 THB

#6 Chaloklum


Location: North

Swimming: 3 out of 5
Local Facilities: 3 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 3 out of 5
Tranquility: 3 out of 5

Total Score: 12 out of 20

Chaloklum is essentially a fishing village and port with some tourist hotels. If you want to experience authentic small town Southern Thai life then this is the place for you.

The beach is clean and good for swimming, although bear in mind this is a working fishing port and there are plenty of boats bringing in the fresh catch daily. The best spot for swimming is west of the pier on the sandbank known as Malibu Beach.

In the village there is a cluster of good fish restaurants capitalizing on the fishing heritage of the area. This is a mini version of Hua Hin. The rears of the restaurants at Chaloklum’s Seafood Village stretch out over the beach on small wooden piers.

Chaloklum is also an activity centre with several PADI 5 Star dive centres, elephant trekking, archery and gyms. It is also close to the hill top Chinese Temple and the excellent snorkeling at Koh Ma and Mae Haad Beach. This makes Chaloklum great for families looking for things to do close by.

Mid-Range Hotel: Chaloklum Bay Resort from 1,500 THB
Budget Hotel: Viva on the Beach from 700 THB

#7 Haad Rin Nok

Haad Rin Nok

Location: South East

Swimming: 3 out of 5
Local Facilities: 4 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 3 out of 5
Tranquility: 1 out of 5

Total Score: 11 out of 20

Haad Rin Nok is where they hold the Full Moon Party. This is what the beach is best known for. However, long before the party first started it was the most popular beach on the Island. It’s set within a beautiful bay surrounded by forested hills. Haad Rin Nok is great for swimming and generally pretty clean when the party is not on.

The town, Haad Rin, has become large and built up on the back of the party. Haad Rin can cater for up to 30,000 people on party nights. It scores badly on the tranquility scale but there isn’t any reason to want to stay here other than for the party.

However, for people who like everything nearby Haad Rin Nok is hard to beat. There is every kind of food you can imagine from Indian food at Om Ganesh to Israeli food at Chaba House. The nightlife is the best on the Island. Haad Rin has the Island’s only proper indoor nightclub, Club 9, and lots of live music venues such as Same Same Bar and Restaurant.

Haad Rin has lots of good accommodation as well. Outside of the week before and after the Full Moon Party hotels and resorts really drop their prices and you can get some very good deals. For those looking for rock bottom prices there are numerous hostels in Haad Rin that offer bed and locker style deals starting at 200 Thai Baht a night

It should be mentioned that there are two beaches in Haad Rin. The biggest a d best is Haad Rin Nok. This is the longer sunrise beach and much better than the smaller sunset beach or Haad Rin Nai which is where the ferry pier is located.

Mid-Range Hotel: Sunrise Resort from 790 THB

#8 Haad Salad

Haad Salad

Location: North West

Swimming: 2 out of 5
Local Facilities: 2 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 3 out of 5
Tranquility: 3 out of 5

Total Score: 10 out of 20

Haad Salad means ‘pirates bay’ in Thai. It’s a tucked away beach and you see why smugglers used to hide out here. Haad Salad is quieter than neighbouring Haad Yao and more family oriented. Haad Salad has a small village with a few shops, bars and restaurants. The beachfront has mostly good quality large resorts like the highly recommended Salad Beach Resort, which is probably the most popular family resort on Koh Phangan.

There is a coral reef just off the coast that is a popular place to go snorkeling. For those who want to learn how to dive and for those qualified divers who want to explore the Gulf of Thailand’s best dive sites there are three dive shops – Pirate Divers, Blue Horizon Divers and The Dive Inn.

There are a couple are independent restaurants, Jang’s Kitchen and Jay Jay pizza, and lots of resorts with sea view restaurants such as the excellent Salad Hut.

What makes Haad Salad popular is the good accommodation, the value for money, accessibility and the family atmosphere.

Mid-Range Hotel: Salad Hut from 1,200 THB
Budget Hotel: Smile Beach from 300 THB

#9 Sri Thanu


Location: North West

Swimming: 2 out of 5
Local Facilities: 2 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 3 out of 5
Tranquility: 3 out of 5

Total Score: 10 out of 20

Sri Thanu is not so much a beach, although it has one; its main draw is the forested peninsula with a cluster of independent resorts. It has great sea views and a really laid backpacker friendly village atmosphere. Things move slowly here.

This low key destination is very close to both Haad Yao and Thong Sala and has some really cool bar venues like Amsterdam Bar and The Jam. The latter is Koh Phangan’s top live music venue. Sri Thanu is a great place to stay if you want to experience something of traditional island culture and you want to escape the crowds. It is also a good place to spot some of the wildlife of Koh Phangan.

Mid-Range Hotel: Loyfa Natural Resort from 640 THB
Budget Hotel: Seethanu Bungalows from 380 THB

#10 Baan Tai


Location: South

Swimming: 1 out of 5
Local Facilities: 5 out of 5
Natural Beauty: 2 out of 5
Tranquility: 2 out of 5

Total Score: 10 out of 20

Baan Tai is the place to stay if you want to be near the best nightlife. You are close to the main town, Thong Sala, you are close to Haad Rin where the Full Moon Party happens, you are close to other parties such as the Half Moon Party, and the Baan Tai road is an ‘entertainment zone’ in its own right.

The food options around Baan Tai are the best on Koh Phangan. Nearby Thong Sala has a food market which has the best street food on the Island. Bantai road itself has lots of inexpensive to mid-priced restaurants. For 24 hour fast food and beer go to the Food Factory. There are three all-you-can-eat hot pan restaurants as well as several noodle shops and small restaurants serving curry and rice dishes. A kebab shop and two excellent fish restaurants: Fish at Thips and the popular Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar are located in Baan Tai. These two fish restaurants are considered by many to be the best restaurants on the Island.

The range of accommodation in Baan Tai is just as big. The best luxurious accommodation is the 5 Star Chantaramas Resort. However, most of the accommodation is mid-range to budget bungalows. For affordable and good quality accommodation you can’t go wrong at Milky Bay Resort, and the slightly cheaper sister resort Lime N Soda. For something out of the ordinary you might try the famous beachfront tree house at Charm Beach Resort. When UK Princess Eugenie came to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party in 2008 she stayed at the lovely and inexpensive Bantai resort Morning Star – This is literally a ‘resort fit for a Princess’!!!

Luxury Hotel: Chantaramas from 2,500 THB
Mid-Range Hotel: Hansa Resort from 1,500 THB
Budget Hotel: A1 Koh Phangan Guest House and Hostel from 340 THB