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.
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 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 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 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.