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 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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.