Ko Pha Ngan is an island in the southern Gulf of Thailand. It is part of the Surat thani Province and the Samui Archipelago. Ko Pha Ngan is famous for it’s Full Moon Party at Haad Rin Beach and as a massive backpacker destination. The island is featured heavily in Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach”. The Full Moon parties here are a monthly dance and music festival scheduled at every full moon. Generally these festivals attract almost 30,000 people per month. Recently, steps have been taken to make Ko Pha Ngan a more family friendly location, by promoting natural attractions and stepping up the police presence. There are now a number of roadblocks with stop and search procedures, and undercover police. There is also a lesser known Half-moon party held at the half moon of each month. It is located in the jungle, inland from Ban Tai, requiring tuk-tuk, taxi or bike transportation to and from. The island isn’t all built for the crazy antics of backpackers seeing a few wild nights. Ko Pha Ngan has plenty to offer as far as natural beauty and things to do for the more refined traveler as well. It’s peaceful northern beaches make it a great place for families and couples alike. The western coast has developed into upscale resorts and ritzy old buildings. High season is between November and April. June - January is usually monsoon season, and weather can be quite harsh in the Gulf of Thailand. Things will be cheaper, but less facilities will be available.
The name Ko Pha Ngan derives from the word “Ngan” meaning sand bar in a southern Thai dialect, as there are tons of sand bars off the island. Settlements date back as far as the Bronze Drum of Dongson Culture from 500 - 100 BCE. Historians believe that the first people to settle in this island chain were muslim sea gypsies who traveled by boat from the Malay peninsula. Today there are still Muslim inhabitants of the islands. Since the 1900’s the populations of these islands has steadily grown. Mostly these people live off the sea as fisherman, and coconut farmers. Tin mining was popular in the 50’s and slowly faded out into the 70’s. Since then, tourism has been the island's main focus. Most of the population and local economy happens on the coastline, as the mountainous interior of the island is inaccessible due to unspoiled rainforest. Originally, Ko Pha Ngan was a part of the Ko Samui district. But was broken off and given it’s own jurisdiction on October 1, 1970. It now consists of Ko Pha Ngan, Ban Tai and Ko Tao.
The second largest island after Phuket. A popular family and couples island that boasts a more upscale experience than the backpacker haven of Ko Pha Ngan.
The largest island in the Mu Ko Ang Thong island group. A beautiful island that still inhabits about 400 sea-gypsies that make their living as fisherman. There is no accommodation, and only one restaurant on the island. The locals are kind and simple people. Some will take you on day fishing trips if you’re lucky.
An extremely small but picturesque island with one restaurant, snorkeling and an incredibly difficult viewpoint trail. One of the most gorgeous viewpoints in the area, but be warned… the trail is not easy and is rope guided for most of the way.
A spectacular island known for its scuba diving. Also known for it’s incredible turtle rehabilitation program. This lovely island has plenty of accommodation and tourism, and is a great stop for anyone looking for an island getaway.
This bungalow resort is a wonderful little slice of pardise. With a great location only .6km from Thong Sala Pier, and Thongsala walking street only 1km away. Power beach resort is exactly the right amount of comfort while maintaining a budget travel destination. The resort has free Wifi, a beach bar and a ferry shuttle. They also serve coffee with their breakfast.
With only a 1 minute walk to the full moon beach, this resort is in a prime location to cater to your needs, the rooms are clean and friendly. Rooms are decorated in the Thai style and tradition with a beautiful surrounding. With Haad Rin Nai beach only .5 km away, and Haad Rin Pier only .4 km away, this resort is everything you need to take on the full moon!
At only 267 baht per night, this hostel is one of the cheapest places to stay on the island. For what it lacks in price, it makes up for in personality though. The staff and vibe of the hostel are what make the experience worth staying here, besides the price. Only .6km from Haad Yao beach, this hostel is in a lovely location. It has a pool, a bar and a spa and hot-tub. It also has pool tables, breakfast and free Wifi!
Panviman offers a pristine luxurious experience unlike any other. The bungalows are spacious and expertly designed. They feature a terrace, a beautiful bathtub and a free show. The hotel also has a free tuktuk service to take you around the very large and well maintained premises. The views are spectacular, the staff are service oriented and friendly and the restaurant is one of the best on the island. This resort spares nothing to provide the customer with the complete Ko Pha Ngan experience.
Coral bungalows is a lovely little bungalow that is only 2km from Haad Rin Beach, and only .7km from the full moon beach. With facilities like a pool, a billiards table and a restaurant, what more can you ask for 300 Baht a night. The facilities also have motorbike rentals. This bungalow is right near the nightlife, so expect to hear the bars and the party right next door!
You can get a flight from(DMK) in Bangkok to Koh Samui (USM), where you can then catch a boat to Ko Pha Ngan. The ferry starts at 6:30 and goes until 17:30.
You can catch an overnight bus to Surat Thani from Khaosan road in Bangkok which leaves at about 18:00 every day. From there catch the ferry over to Ko Pha Ngan.
One can take an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station. You’ll have a bed and it can be quite comfortable. You’ll arrive in Suratthani and you can grab the ferry to Ko Pha Ngan from there.
Mostly a food market, but it is one of the most fun activities to do at night if you aren’t at the full moon party. Tons of food, some trinkets, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s also a nearby market called Panthip which is open everyday, from noon to about 930pm.
Opening hours: 4pm to 10pm
Entrance fee: free
Nothing feels better than a sauna, except for an Herbal Sauna on the beach, in a lovely location. This spa is right next to the largest tree on the island. It’s quite hard to miss. Run by monks, this little haven is the perfect place to relax and detox after partying too hard on the beach.
Opening hours: 2pm to 7pm daily
Entrance fee: 50THB plus tips
The Full Moon party on Haad rin beach is one of the main attractions of the island, and attracts almost 30,000 people a month. This party is monthly, on the night of the full moon. There is also a half moon party for those that don’t want to get as crazy.
Opening hours: starts around 8pm, ends at dawn
Entrance fee: 100 THB
Why not spice up your travels with an archery class from The First Bow and Arrow club? It’s certainly something different to do on your island vacation, and will leave you feeling primal and closer to the animal inside of you.
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm
Entrance fee: 200THB per hour
There are about 7 waterfalls around the island, which should be flowing in early high season. The waterfalls are particularly beautiful and lush on the islands, and swimming is usually allowed in the appropriate attire. Many of the falls also have trails behind them leading up the mountains to viewpoints. The Jungle is dense and easy to get lost in, so be careful and stay on the trail. Bring mosquito repellant, especially during wet season, as the mosquitos will be out in force.
Opening hours: sunrise to sunset, daily
Entrance fee: free