Restaurants in North of Koh Phangan

MAE HAAD

Cafes

Om Bakery
Om Bakery

Thai Restaurants


Island View Cabana
Wang Sai Resort Restaurant
Wang Sai Restaurant

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CHALOKLUM

Bars

Omega Bar
Omega Bar
Cafe Del Mar
Cafe Del Mar

Cafes

North Coast Bakery
North Coast Bakery
World's End Cafe and Bar
The World’s End Cafe and Bar

Seafood

Hai Thong Seafood
Hai Thong
Nong Nook Seafood
Nong Nook Seafood
Seaside Restaurant
Seaside Restaurant
Naang M Seafood
Naang M Seafood
Aun Jai Seafood
Aun Jai Seafood

International Food

Holy Grill
Holy Grill
Panee's Corner
Panee’s Corner

Italian

Cucina Italiana
Cucina Italiana

BOTTLE BEACH

Bars

Little Maybe Bar
Little Maybe Bar

Thai Food


Bottle Beach 1 Resort

Haad Khuat Resort

Smile Bungalows

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Hotels in North of Koh Phangan

Bottle Beach

Budget

Haad Khuat Resort
Haad Khuad Resort 1 star from 400 THB
Traditional beach bungalows and hotel style rooms. Popular resort

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Bottle Beach Resort 1
Bottle Beach 1 Resort 2 star from 700 THB
Family friendly resort with bungalows and pool

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Smile Bungalows
Smile Bungalows 1 star from 380 THB
Basic bungalows on the beach. Friendly staff

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Chaloklum

Budget


Wattana Resort from 2 stars 400 THB
Comfortable beachfront bungalows with restaurant

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Mid Range

Viva on the Beach
Viva on the Beach Hotel from 2 stars 500 THB
Italian owned hotel in the village. Has a guest gym.

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Malibu Beach Bungalows
Malibu Beach Bungalows from 2 stars 1000 THB
Traditional bungalows and best beachfront location

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Buri Tara
Buri Tara Resort and Spa from 3 stars 1,400 THB
Family friendly resort with pool and restaurant

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Mandalai Hotel 3 stars from 2250 THB
Modern boutique hotel with pool in open courtyard

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Chaloklum Bay Resort
Chaloklum Bay Resort 3 stars from 1,800 THB
Well run resort with 30 villas in a garden next to the beach

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Haad Khom

Budget

Coconut Beach Bungalows
Coconut Beach and Garden Bungalows from 300 1 star THB
Newly built spacious bungalows. Resort has restaurant

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Ocean View Resort
Ocean View Resort 1 star from 550 THB
Good range of stylish bungalows with beachfront restaurant

NO ONLINE BOOKING

Haad Thong Lang

Mid Range

Phangan Utopia Resort
Phangan Utopia Resort 3 stars from 990 THB
Friendly hill top resort with good quality bungalows, pool and restaurant

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Mae Haad

Mid Range

Mae Haad Bay Resort
Mae Haad Bay Resort 4 star from 2,300 THB
Big resort with rooms and villas and plenty of facilities

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Island View Cabana
Koh Ma Beach Resort 2 star from 300 THB
Great value beachfront bungalows. Recommended budget option

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Will the Full Moon Party Start Again?


This is a very good question. Such a good one that CNN and the BBC have both run stories on it, seemingly using the same material. And that is no surprise: so much of Thai tourist culture is a copy of something else that succeeded in making money.
If you set up a bar that draws lots of custom for having draught beer, the other bars will reluctantly follow suit. If moped hire becomes popular, before you know it dozens of places are renting out mopeds. If one place gets a plethora of yoga devotees, before you know it other resorts suddenly discover they are in fact on a spiritual journey. There seems to be a dearth of new ideas for making money; better to try something that has already been proved to be successful. And hence the reluctance to move on, or try something different.

Where is this going? Well, my guess is that the Haad Rin monthly parties will continue because it is a veritable cash cow. The organisers have become rich. The landowners in Haad Rin have become rich. The rich can do what they want unless the police step in, and then the police can sometimes have marvellous amnesia and pretend they never had any objections all along.

This is all somewhat guess work. Thailand is the land of the free, and yet it has been several years since they’ve had an election. You can’t use the USA or Europe to understand the political system of the country. There aren’t any locally elected councillors to scrutinize by-laws, no local political parties posting pamphlets and knocking on doors. And then there is the police.

It is instructive to remember the fiasco of Koh Phangan Airport. It is not unreasonable to expect surveys and land purchase agreements to quickly uncover if land is designated as protected national park. However, this was only revealed after Kan Air failed to secure funding partners for the stalled project. It wasn’t the rules that prevented the airport being built, it was a lack of suckers ready to put forward money.

The BBC and CNN interviewed local business owners many of whom would like to see the Full Moon Party better regulated, with more policing, and more concern for the environment. Indeed, many sense that ‘up market’ holds the keys to more tourist dollars. Perhaps a FMP for polite east Asians? They could drink watery beer, wear face masks and go to bed before midnight. They would be less offensive than the fuck bucket brigade. But back in the real world…

Asking people to wear face masks and social distance at a Full Moon Party is ludicrous and would be viewed as a total kill joy for those avid Full Mooners, many of whom regard themselves as immune to the coronavirus. People gather in their masses for the anarchic experience; considering themselves unlikely to get burnt by the fire rope, get raped or drowned in the sea.

And the organisers of the Full Moon Party know this. They have clout on the island. It would take considerable determination for the junta in Bangkok to halt the parties.

It is more likely that the vagaries of fashion, the whim of what is cool to be more of a decisive factor in curbing the excesses of the party. There is always the next ‘in’ place to top the must-do list of young travellers. Just as overnight it seemed that tattoos were the last word in street, so a new unmarked generation will just as quickly leave older generations looking decidedly out-of-touch for having blue inked skin. Don’t expect any local diktat to tone down the party. The only reason the party was put on hold was because the tourists vanished. When they return so will the DJs, buckets, flaming ropes, dealers, night walkers and bucket sellers.

Makro in Koh Phangan

Makro in Koh Phangan

Makro is originally a Dutch shop based around the idea of cash and carry warehouses for retailers who belonged to the Makro Club. Since its modest beginnings in 1968 the idea has caught on around Europe and now in Asia. There is already a successful Makro store in Koh Samui. The Koh Phangan Makro opened in 2014.

With the political upheavals throughout the country and many rice farmers facing financial ruin because of the failed government rice pledging scheme the timing could not be worse you might imagine. However, prices for food stuffs and other items on the island have always been inflated compared to the mainland. This has been due to limited competition and the power of the ferry companies.

The situation changed slightly with the introduction of a medium-sized Tesco Lotus in Thongsala. Although local businesses complained at the time that Tesco Lotus would put other shops out of business it has not been the case.

This formed the backdrop to the opening of the new Makro in Koh Phangan. It has not been met by protest. Rather everyone is keen to visit the store and purchase some bargains.

The shop is on the Bantai road, about 1 km before Thongsala. If you are driving to Thongsala from Bantai (or Haad Rin) you will find Makro on your right hand side.

The original idea of Makro was that only retailers with a Makro card could make purchases. I expect for legal and tax reasons that this is still officially the case. However, the Makro in Koh Samui issues all-comers with a temporary card when they enter the store. The same system has been implemented in Koh Phangan.

Makro in Thailand is a great place to shop for imported products especially food stuffs such as cheese and meat. They also sell a good range of local products and brands.

As the shop is intended for retailers the products tend to come in large sizes. This is also one of the ways the company keeps prices low – by selling in bulk and using less packaging.

If you just want to buy something for your dinner then Makro will not be the place to go. However, if you have rented a private villa in Koh Phangan then you will be able to make a big shop at Makro at the start of your vacation and get great value for money.

Shopping in Koh Phangan just got a little better.

Longtail Boats of Southern Thailand

‘Longtail’ boats, or reua hang yao as they are called in Thai, operate through the Southern Thai islands. The design concept dates back hundreds of years and is closely related to the design style of the boats of the Moken (‘Sea Gypsy’) people who originated further south in what is now Malaysia. There has, though, been one big change to the design in the 20th Century, the introduction of a propeller: before that these crafts were driven by sail or oar.

It takes a lot of practice to master driving a longtail boat. They sit low in the water and can become easily unbalanced. If you take a small longtail boat for a journey the boat operator will normally have to ask you to sit in the front to avoid unbalancing the boat. If the weather is bad then there might also be a need to start bailing out water as the waves splash over the side of the boat. In addition to this, the distinctive propulsion system, a propeller attached by a long metal rod to motorbike or car engine directly without gearing, increases the difficulty in controlling the boat. To steer a longtail, the whole engine has to be turned making controlling the boat a physically demanding activity.

There are, however, benefits to the design. They are extremely manoeuvrable, and because of their shallow profile and semi-submerged propeller (more efficient than a fully submerged engine) they are much more fuel efficient than most other types of boat. They can go very quickly as well if the water is calm. They are also relatively cheap to maintain as they use a motorbike or car engine and avoid the notoriously costly maintenance expenses associated with maintaining purpose built marine engines.

The actual wooden hull of the boat though is relatively expensive to buy. The majority of these boats are made by hand by a dwindling number of master craftsmen who work without drawing and plans. Most of the hand-built boats are made with natural materials as well. The gaps between the planks for instance are typically treated with cotton thread soaked in the resin of the breadfruit tree. However, the high initial outlay of cash on making the boat is offset against the very low ongoing repair costs. There is nothing on these boats that, with basic tools and material, the boat owner can’t repair themselves which is handy if you live in a remote area and you have a small irregular income.

Longtail boats operate off most beaches in Koh Phangan. Because of the better road network on Koh Phangan there are few places on the island where you need to take a longtail boat because you can’t drive and it is too far to walk. Nonetheless, no visit to the islands is complete with taking a longtail trip. It is an exciting ride and an experience of Southern Thailand’s maritime culture and traditional craftsmanship.

Popular longtail trips around Koh Phangan include:

• Thong Nai Pan to Koh Ma
• Haad Rin to Haad Thien and Haad Yuan
• Bottle Beach to Than Sadet

Longtail drivers on Koh Phangan are mostly independent operators and something of a law unto themselves when it comes to pricing. You need to negotiate. As a guide you should never pay more than 1,500 THB for a trip except on the Full Moon Party Night or a journey across to Koh Samui.

The way to find a longtail is simply to go down to the beach and ask. On many beaches, including Thong Nai Pan Noi and Yai, there are one or more booths where drivers sit waiting for custom. At Haad Rin you are likely to be approached by a longtail driver offering you a trip to Haad Yuan. In Bottle Beach or Than Sadet you should ask at your resort.

One last word of advice: you will get wet getting on and off the boats and whilst you are going to your destination. Wear shorts and flip-flops. From October through to mid-December, and in stormy weather, you are ill advised to use longtail boats – on occasion they sink in rough seas.

 

Best Hostels in Haad Rin

Haad Rin is the heart of the action for the party people that come to Koh Phangan. This is where the famous Full Moon Party is held every month. It is a party that attracts all types of people. However, the biggest group are young backpackers on a budget. For those wanting to stay in Haad Rin during the party the best option for the budget traveller is a hostel. Over recent years a number of hostels have appeared in Haad Rin catering for those who just want a bed and a locker to store their possessions. It is the cheapest way to do the Full Moon Party. Moreover, for those staying in Haad Rin there is no entry fee to pay to go to the Full Moon Party.

Below is our list of the best 5 hostels in Haad Rin. We rate the hostels in terms of value for money, amenities offered, atmosphere and reviews. If you have stayed in one of these hostels please use our polls and leave a comment. Your feedback will help your fellow travellers.

#1 Our House

Central Haad Rin on Tommy Street, behind Tommy Resort. Our House is ideally located for backpackers who want to go to the Full Moon Party. The hostel is located in the centre of Haad Rin, just 30 seconds from the beach where the party is held. Our House is behind Tommy Resort on Tommy Street.

It is a fairly big hostel with plenty of dorm beds. There is a 36 bed room, a 12 bed room and a 10 bed room. They all have shared bathroom, lockers, air-con and a hair dryer. A bed costs 200 Thai Baht a night. It doesn’t include a meal. Check in is at 2pm and check out is 10.30am.

The beds are new and there is a good ratio of bathrooms and toilets per guests. These are two important considerations when choosing a hostel. There is also free wifi.

The resort has a bar, restaurant, TV room, lounge, pool table and travel desk. Included in the price is clean bed linen and use of the luggage room. There is a basic kitchen open to guest use.

The bar has discounted drinks for guests staying at the bar; it plays ambient music and shows live sports events.

The minimum stay for the Full Moon Party is 5 nights. During the peak season (Christmas and New Year) the minimum stay is 7 nights.

Our House is our number hostel in Haad Rin as it combines good amenities with a cheap price. It also has mostly good reviews on the various review sites.

CHECK AVAILABILITY OF OUR HOUSE HOSTEL

#2 Fubar Hostel

Fubar Hostel describes itself as ‘designer hostel’ that is ‘European-managed and energy orientated’. It is located just seconds from Haad Rin Sunrise Beach at the southern end of the beach behind Zoom Bar.
This hostel is geared around the Full Moon Party. They put on a boat tour of the island for guests that visits Than Sadet waterfall and goes to the best snorkeling spots. They also have a popular full moon after party with DJs pumping out solid electro and house tunes.

There are 22, 17 and 6 bed dorms. Dorm beds start at just over 200 Thai Baht a night. This includes bed linen, free wifi, secure locker and access to a hair dryer. The 6 bed dorm is in the attic and has a sea view.

There is an extensive and reasonably priced menu at the restaurant / bar. You can get baked potatoes, toasties, baguettes, pasta, pizza, burgers and Thai food. The bar stocks cold bottled beers and spirits as well as soft drinks.

Fubar Hostel also offers a download service for music and movies. One wonders about copyright laws!

Reviews of Fubar Hostel on Hostelbookers are mostly positive. A few people complained about the noise from the bar. This is a party hostel and you shouldn’t stay here if you like to go to bed early and sober. Other negative comments mention the toilets and showers not being cleaned on a regular basis. Also several guests complained about the poor state of the rooms for rent.

While Fubar has attracted a few negative comments we like this hostel because it has loads of character. It is run by a young and energetic cooperative of people who obviously love Koh Phangan and the Full Moon Party. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they encourage guests to become part of the ‘Fu family’.

FUBAR HOSTEL IS CURRENTLY CLOSED

#4 A Phangan Hostel

A Phangan Hostel is near Haad Rin pier near the quieter Haad Rin Nai (Sunset beach). They claim their guests are near the party action but also can get a good night’s sleep.

A Phangan Hostel has dorm beds starting at 190 Thai Baht a night. The price includes air-con, en-suite bathrooms, clean linen and towels, use of the luggage room, secure lockers and free wifi.

Check-in and check-out is 12 noon. The hostel doesn’t have a bar or restaurant, but there are plenty of eating and drinking options nearby. Indeed not having a bar helps to make this a less rowdy hostel as those seeking all-night intoxication and loud music have to go elsewhere.

Few people left any negative feedback about Phangan Hostel. One person complained that the air-con was too good (this is a common problem in Thailand), and another felt there weren’t enough toilets per person. Other guests do mention the hostel location is quieter than other spots in Haad Rin.

This hostel might not stand out immediately as one of the best in Haad Rin but for the price and the chance of an undisturbed sleep it deserves to be included on the list.

CHECK AVAILABILITY FOR A PHANGAN HOSTEL

#3 Gallery Dorm

Gallery Dorm is a small hostel near Haad Rin pier. It has 14 beds in an upstairs dorm. A bed costs just 150 Thai Baht in an air-con room.

Down stairs is a small bar and restaurant that is open 24/7. The hostel is keen to promote itself as ideal for party people and musicians. There are bongos, didgeridoos and guitar for guests’ use. They also have a set of decks and mixer for CD DJs to show off their moves. Guests get discounted prices for food and drink.

This is a small and intimate hostel and might suit people who like to jam late into the night. Not good for those sleeping upstairs.

There is only one toilet for the dorm and there seems to be a security issue with people able to go from the bar into the dorm upstairs. Otherwise, guests have few bad things to say about Gallery Dorm.

We gave Gallery Dorm third spot because it eschews the common ‘ship em and ship em out’ approach of hostels. Gallery Dorm wants to be a place for guests and friends to hang out and discover more about their fellow dorm companions.

GALLERY DORM IS UNAVAILABLE FOR ONLINE BOOKING

#6 Bed and Bar

Bed and Bar is a small hostel in the centre of Haad Rin. They have an 18 bed dorm. Bed prices start at 750 Thai Baht. The price includes air-con, linen and use of the luggage room. They also have safety boxes for guests to put their valuables.

The dorm is upstairs. Downstairs there is a common area with TV and shared computer. There is also free wifi in the hostel.

This is a basic hostel with high bed prices.

CHECK AVAILABILITY OF BED AND BAR HOSTEL

#5 Electro Hostel

Electro Hostel is on Tommy Street in the centre of Haad Rin. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the hostel from Haad Rin pier and just 20 seconds from Sunrise Beach.

It is a new hostel with a 10 bed dorm. The dorm has air-con, and the price includes bed linen and towel. Guests get their own locker and access to free wifi.

There is a common area with TV. There is also a tour desk for booking tours.

Electro Hostel doesn’t have a restaurant. There is, however, a beer garden outside. This is a non-smoking hostel, so those who want a cigarette have to go outside.

A bed in the dorm costs 350 Thai Baht. Check-in time is 2 pm and check-out is 1 pm.

There is a minimum stay requirement of 2 nights.

Electro Hostel makes it to number five of our list of best hostels in Haad Rin for its reasonable price and because it is the ‘best of the rest’.

ELECTRO HOSTEL IS UNAVAILABLE FOR ONLINE BOOKING

#3 Mickey Hostel

Mickey Hostel is a fairly new hostel in Haad Rin with comfortable bunk beds for rent. The hostel has 13 bunk beds that can hold 26 people. The room is air-con and the linen is clean and regularly changed. The hostel is on the main road in centre of Haad Rin.

Although Mickey Hostel costs a bit more than other Haad Rin hostels it does have the advantage of having 4 bathrooms. Other hostels in Haad Rin have 1 bathroom for a dorm. This means one person taking a long shower or admiring him or herself in the mirror can lead to frayed tempers from others waiting to use the toilet.

A bed at Mickey Hostel costs 550 Thai Baht. This includes a locker, free wifi, bed linen and a towel. There is also free tea and coffee available throughout the day.

Mickey Hostel is a simple hostel without bar or restaurant. The reason we like this hostel is that the mattresses are new, and more comfortable than many other mattresses in Haad Rin.

The minimum stay for the full moon party is either 5 or 7 nights depending on the season.

CHECK AVAILABILITY FOR MICKEY HOSTEL

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

Prehistory

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.

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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 Booking.com 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.

Accommodation in Haad Rin

Luxury

The Coast Resort Koh Phangan 4 Star – from 2,800 THB
Haad Rin’s most luxurious and stylish resort.

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Best Western Phanganburi Resort 3 Star – from 2,000 THB
International standard resort. Safe choice.

Mid range

Moonstone Villa 2 Star – from 3,000 THB
1 bedroom villa with sea-view and lounge with sofa bed. Sleeps 4. Steep access.

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Palita Lodge 3 Star – from 1,800 THB
High quality mid range resort on the Full Moon Party beach.

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Phangan Bayshore Resort 3 Star – from 1,560 THB
Large hotel style resort on the Full Moon Party beach.

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Neptune’s Villa Hotel 3 Star – from 1,550 THB
Bungalows and hotel rooms. Good standard accommodation 5 minutes away from the Full Moon Party.

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Sea Breeze Resort 3 Star – from 1,500 THB
Good quality bungalows with fantastic hill top views.

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Sarikantang Resort & Spa 3 Star – from 1,400 THB
One of Haad Rin’s best resorts. Two pools and a beach bar. High standard accommodation. 10 minute walk to the Full Moon Party beach.

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Cocohut Village Beach Resort 3 Star – from 1,400 THB
Great resort with a variety of room types from wooden bungalows to pool villas. Full range of facilities.

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Rin Beach Resort 3 Star – from 1,100 THB
Good quality resort. Rooms range from basic to luxury.

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Hillside Bungalows 2 Star – from 1,050 THB
Basic rooms in a quieter location. 10 minute walk to Full Moon Party.

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Delight Resort 3 Star – from 1,020 THB
Hotel rooms of varying quality in a town centre location with good restaurant on site. 3 minute walk to the Full Moon Party.

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Blue Marine Resort 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Friendly resort in a peaceful beach side setting. Range of accommodation available.

Sun Beach Resort 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Bungalows in a good location with good facilities, but the rooms are basic. 5 minute walk to the Full Moon Party.

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Moonstone Studio 2 Star – from 1,000 THB
Selection of studio apartments about 20 minutes walk from town centre and Full Moon Party.

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Sunrise Resort 3 Star – from 950 THB
Basic accommodation right on the Full Moon Party beach. Free WiFi.

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Chang Phueak Phangan Resort 3 Star – from 900 THB
Nicely decorated bungalows on the hillside overlooking the Full Moon Party beach.

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Black & White Guesthouse 2 Star – from 900 THB
Comfortable rooms for backpackers with TVs and toilets. In town centre a 5 minute walk from the Full Moon Party.

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Blue Hill Resort 3 Star – from 800 THB
Good quality sea-view bungalows on a steep hillside. 15 minutes from town centre.

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Paradise Bungalows 2 Star – from 800 THB
Basic hotel rooms and concrete bungalows on the Party beach. Really good pool area for the price.

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Budget

Supreeya Guesthouse 1 Star – from 1,700 THB
Basic bungalows with 4 single beds. On the Full Moon Party beach.

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Venus Resort 1 Star – from 800 THB
Basic wooden bungalows in a hillside location overlooking the Full Moon Party beach.

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Baan Talay Guest House 2 Star – from 750 THB
Above average guest house in Haad Rin town centre. Free WiFi.

Black & White Bungalows 1 Star – from 700 THB
Basic bungalows with few services and little housekeeping.

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Thaniza Beachfront Resort 2 Star – from 640 THB
Value for money beach front bungalows. Decent quality.

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Friendly Resort & Spa 1 Star – from 620 THB
Large resort with basic rooms and big pool. Aimed towards younger travellers.

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Amaresa Resort & Sky Bar 2 Star – from 590 THB
Quirky resort on the hillside with dramatic views. Great restaurants and remarkable ‘Eco-style’ houses.

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Suksabai Resort 1 Star – from 580 THB
Basic concrete bungalows. Beach front location. 10 minutes to Full Moon Party.

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Moon Paradise Resort 1 Star – from 550 THB 

Value for money wooden and concrete bungalows. On the Full Moon Party beach.

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Suncliff Resort 2 Star – from 530 THB
Lovely small resort in quiet garden setting. Great views over the coast.

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Leela Beach Bungalows 1 Star – from 480 THB
Basic beach front bungalows. Value for money and quiet.

Sea Garden Resort Haad Rin 1 Star – from 400 THB
Friendly and value for money. Range of accommodation types. Close to the Full Moon Party beach.

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S.K Home Guesthouse 1 Star – from 305 THB
Cheap and cheerful. Small rooms with basic facilities. Ideal for a budget stay during the Full Moon Party. Book early.

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Thai Dee Garden Resort 1 Star – from 300 THB
Basic value for money choice. 10 minutes from the Full Moon Party.

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Same Same Guesthouse 1 Star – from 300 THB
Guest house with great restaurant and bar with party atmosphere.

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Lighthouse Bungalows 1 Star – from 250 THB
Small bungalow resort built on the rocks. Quiet but basic. 20 minute walk to the town/Full Moon Party.

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Haad Rin Beaches

Thongsala

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

bankai

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