Best Things to See in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Ko Pha Ngan is Thailand’s fifth biggest island. Located halfway between the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao it is known as a land of coconut trees and the world (in)famous full moon parties.

40% of the Koh Phangan Island is a protected area with natural wonders and our first recommendation is Than Sadet-Ko Pha Ngan National Park. The park is named after the river Than Sadet (lit. Royal River). The river forms the largest waterfall on the island, which was visited by several Thai kings. Not far from the waterfall the river empties into the sea at Than Sadet Bay, with its sandy beach another popular place within the park. The best of the scenic viewpoints on the Island is Khao Raa which offers a challenging 2hr trek to the mountain’s 630m summit. Additionally to the forest on Pha Ngan itself the park also includes several small and tiny islands north of Pha Ngan, like the Wao and Hin Bai archipelago.

Than Sadet Beach, Koh Phangan

Than Sadet Beach on Koh Phangan’s east coast. Photo by Alexander S. Heitkamp

The best lookouts in the interior of the island are Domesila viewpoint, a 15 min hike from Phaeng waterfall in Phaeng National Park (free of charge). There is another waterfall viewpoint a 20 min walk from Phaeng waterfall. From Bottle Beach, you can hike to the rocky viewpoint above valley with great views over northeast part of the island, hiking to the top should take 30-45 min depending on your condition. You can visit Wat Khao Tam viewpoint on the road between Thong Sala and Haad Rin which you can reach on a motorbike and then it’s easy walk for few minutes to the temple with viewpoint at Ko Samui and southern coast of Ko Pha Ngan. Another viewpoint is in Chalok Lam on the road to Haad Khom, it’s well signposted from the main road.

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan

Thong Nai Pan (or just TNP among backpackers) is an area on the northeastern tip of Ko Phangan that includes the two beach resorts of Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai and Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi, twin bays with two fantastic beaches. They are maybe the most secluded, yet developed beaches on the island. See the sunrise, day after day, and also try to catch a glimpse of the huge, harmless lizards that are unique to this area.

Visit Ko Maa off the northwest coast of Ko Pha Ngan. It offers one of the best snorkeling places on the island. Other places to do snorkeling are Haad Khom beach (very shallow water on the coast during low tide, be careful) and Haad Yao.

On the road between Thong Sala and Chalok Lam is a beautiful Chinese Temple overlooking Chalok Lam Bay.

Salad Beach, Koh Phangan

The Chinese Temple overlooking Chalok Lam Bay, Ko Pha Ngan

There are elephant camps on the way from Baan Tai to Thong Nai Pan, the other one close to the Chinese temple on the road from Thong Sala to Chalok Lam. Another newer elephant camp is next to Phaeng waterfall. Always bargain in elephant camps and don’t fall for official displayed pricelist price, especially during low season and when you see camp is not busy, they should want to make any money better than no money.

Hiking can be done all around the island. There is a trail that leads between Haad Rin and Haad Tien, which many enjoy. The route can become difficult to discern, and bringing enough water is necessary. If you are feeling adventurous, ride a motorbike to the end of the concrete road at Haad Khom from where you can hike through steep terrain and jungle on the coast to isolated Bottle Beach. The overgrown and difficult trail is occasionally marked with bottles and the hike takes 2-3 hours. Bottle Beach (Haad Khuad) has been called one of the best beaches in Thailand, according to Conde Naste Traveller. It’s secluded, and tends to attract a more laid back, hippie type of tourist. It became popular with backpackers, and remains so today. If you need a place to chill out and relax this is the place.

Bottle Beach (Haad Khuad), Thailand

Bottle Beach (Haad Khuad) – one of the best beaches in Thailand. Photo by Christian Haugen

Haad Rin (Hat Rin) is the most touristy/crowded village, with all the services any traveller needs and the home of the famous Full Moon Party, the biggest party scene on the island (along with Baan Tai). Here you’ll find one of the few beaches during dry season where is possible to swim. Very nice wavy ocean with blue colored water, outside of Full moon party dates.

Between Ban Tai and Haad Rin the Ban Kai beach offers an idyllic setting, just minutes from the Full Moon Party.

Ban Tai is one of the longest stretches of coastline on Koh Pha Ngan. The shoreline runs parallel with Koh Samui offering fantastic views of the island in the near distance. In the high season the coastal strip offers spectacular sunsets which are particularly awesome at full moon. At low tide almost the entire coastline can be walked.

Ban Tai beach on Koh Phangan

Ban Tai beach on Koh Phangan

From easy dives off the beach to longer trips by boat you can experience the world of tropical diving. The waters around Ko Pha Ngan are much nicer than most people know: fine hard corals with a good range of reefs and tropical/pelagic fish. Sailrock, undoubtedly the most famous dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. Located between Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao all the wonders of this exciting site can be explored by all levels of divers. This spectacular rock rises out of the water creating the best wall dive with a maximum depth of 40 m. Providing a great range of marine life, spectacular underwater scenery, rock formations. The island is surrounded by shallow coral reefs so you don’t need to scuba dive to enjoy seeing aquatic life. Options for snorkeling include swimming straight out from the beach (try Mae Haad), chartering a Thai long-tail boat or joining an organised snorkeling tour

With so many things to see your time on Ko Pha Ngan will be truly memorable. The best time to visit the island and also high season is during December-March when the water is high, clean, and good for swimming. It’s also not rainy and temperatures are pleasant. Another high season time is during July/August after dry season when the water is rising. Avoid visiting the island during dry season, April-June, when all of the best beaches on the northwest coast are useless for swimming due to shallow water.

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