Koh Phangan - The Paradise Island with Spirit
Located in the Gulf of Thailand and part of a group of 40 islands that make up the Samui Archipelago, Koh Phangan is commonly referred to by visitors and long-term inhabitants as "Magical" or "Paradise Island". It is not uncommon for travelers who intend to stay a week or two to extend their visit for months and even years at a time. Hell, we'll need to count ourselves amongst those!
The island is fashioned from granite of age old indigenous formations, and is said to be sitting on an ancient bed of crystals. Many a visitor feels this energy, and says it amplifies their meditation, yoga and healing experiences.
GaiaYogashala is nested on Bovy Beach in Baan Sri Thanu, at the beautiful west side of the island. The village is a Yogi town, with a smattering of yoga schools, veggie and vegan restaurants and a variety of engaging activities and workshops.
If there is one common denominator that runs throughout the island of Koh Phangan it's that each of its beaches has colorful and atmospheric restaurants. Beachside dining, whether it is local, Italian, Mexican, or even Halal, is undeniably enhanced by cool breezes, sand between the toes and stars twinkling above.
The Thai love of food is contagious and coupled with smiling hospitality dining out in Phangan is a memorable highpoint of many visitors holiday experience. Yet, you should always keep in mind that this is Thailand, not London if you're fussy about perfect service. Fine dining is most certainly not the order of the day on the island although there are a couple of worthy contenders. Fresh seafood, healthy vegetable dishes and out-and-out fast food are the way most eateries go here, some succeeding and others – well maybe they should stick to Thai cuisine. Speaking of which, Thong Sala's daily food market is hard to beat for genuine Thai food and a great cultural experience while simple chicken & rice food outlets abound.
Find restaurants by area:
Eateries & Bars
Some enjoyable eateries and bars at the Yogi Village of Sri Thanu area. For additional island restaurants, visit LonelyPlanet.
- Belgian Beer Bar, Sri Thanu
- Cotton Beach Restaurant, Ao Hin Kong
- Karma Kafe, Sri Thanu
- L'Alcove Bistro, Ao Hin Kong
- La Dolce Vita, Haad Chao Phao
- Orion Cafe, Sri Thanu
- PAZ, Sri Thanu
- Peppercorn, Haad Salad
- The Organic Chocolate House, Hin Kong
- The Raw Café, Haad Salad
- The Green Gallery, Sri Thanu
- Jungle Hut, Chao Pho Beach
- The Green Gallery, Sri Thanu
- Green Leaf Cafe, Sri Thanu
- Mama Pooh, Sri Thanu
How To Get To Koh Phangan Island
From Koh Samui: There are at least 3 ferries a day from Koh Samui's Big Buddha pier to Thongsala pier: Seatran Discovery and Haad Rin Queen Ferry arrive at Haad Rin. Boats also leave from Nathon pier (Songserm Express) and Mae Nam pier (Lomprayah) to Thongsala 3 times daily.
From Koh Tao: Songserm, Lomprayah or Seatran boats depart frequently from Mae Haad pier and arrive at Thongsala pier. The last boat from Koh Tao to Phangan Island leaves at 15:00.
From Bangkok: The least expensive way to travel is to take one of the overnight buses. The bus leaves Khaosan Road at 18:00 and arrives at Surathani the following morning. From here, you can arrive at Koh Phangan's shores by boat. The Bus & Boat combo ticket may be arranged by travel agencies on Khaosan Road and costs about 700-900 THB all the way to Koh Phangan.
The nearest airport is Koh Samui (USM). There are frequent flights from Bangkok (BKK) and Phuket and daily flights from Pattaya (U-Tapao), Singapore, to Koh Samui. Transportation to the ferry pier is easy to find at the airport. Ferries depart several times daily with the last one at around 17:30. The next closest airport on the mainland is Surathani (URT) where you may find low-cost operators (AirAsia and Thai Airways). From here, you would need a Bus & Boat ticket to arrive at Koh Phangan. This would take several hours.
Taking an overnight train with a proper bed from Bangkok is yet another conducive way to get Koh Phangan. Trains arrive at Surathani early in the morning. From here, you would need a Bus & Boat ticket to arrive at Koh Phangan. This would take several hours. Train tickets from Surathani back to Bangkok should be reserved in advance, particularly during high season.
Slacker, hippie-at-heart Koh Phangan has become so synonymous with the wild and massive Full Moon Party on Haad Rin that the rest of the island – and even Haad Rin outside of full moon week – gets forgotten. It's a strange juxtaposition where for one week the island has some 30,000 people crammed on one beach partying their minds out and then, off they all go on the next boat, leaving the beaches and accommodation shelf empty. It's at this time that budgeting serenity seekers can retreat into a fog (perhaps with a slight herbal scent) of the backpacker days of old and nab a fan-cooled beach affordable shack. This exceptionally gorgeous island is in a sleepy sweet spot offering over 250 resorts to choose from, ranging from the budget 80 THB a night beach hut sans private toilet to luxury air-conditioned accommodation with a private swimming pool.
Remote Hat Thong Nai Pan Noi in particular feels like a miniature version of Koh Samui with its elegant resorts fronted by rows of cushion-clad beach loungers, while the easier-to-access west coast has attracted a handful of new upscale resorts and a few older places have been revamped to attract a more ritzy market.
The phrase "private infinity pool" and "personal butler" may soon be heard more frequently than "magic milkshake" and "another whisky bucket please". But whatever happens, chances are that the vast inland jungle will continue to feel undiscovered, and there will be still plenty of stunning, secluded bays in which you can string up a hammock and watch the tide roll in.
The Yoga village of Sri Thanu is located on a volcanic peninsula just north of Thong Sala. The coral reef offshore allows snorkeling with the protection of the bay. Amid soothing sounds and rippling waters you will find healing retreats, detox programs and yoga and holistic therapies designed to re-instill balance to the mind, body and soul, restoring your natural sense of serenity and vitality.
Getting Around Koh Phangan
When it comes to choosing your mode of transport for getting around the island, you have plenty of choice. In recent years the roads across Koh Phangan have improved greatly and there are now a number of good concrete roads to help you get more or less anywhere. The hilly coastal road is a popular choice for many tourists, winding its way along the western side of the island and offering its travelers breathtaking views along the coastline, as well as an endless selection of bars and resorts to visit.
Although the road network here is very good, many people still think it's possible to drive around the entire island along the coast. Unfortunately, this is not the case - not at present anyway. Double check the map before setting off on your journey to make sure the route is complete and is going to take you to your destination. The furthest northern point on Koh Phangan you can drive to is Haad Khom, near Chaloklum, and there is only one road which will take you as far east as Thong Nai Pan. Some places, such as Bottle Beach, can only be accessed by foot or boat.
Motorbikes and Pick-Up Trucks are by far the easiest and most common way of getting around the island. Motor bikes are particularly popular. The majority of people that holiday here are looking for an inexpensive way to move around the island, but with the guarantee that it won't require too much effort in the scorching midday heat! With daily motorbike rentals starting as low as 150 THB per day, it makes sense to choose this mode of transport over anything else. Any direction you look at, you'll find a motorbike hire shop. No matter where you reside on the island, you will not be far from a rental shop. When you hire any type of vehicle, motorbike or pick-up truck on Koh Phangan, you may be expected to hand over your passport as a security deposit. Although you may not feel entirely comfortable with this, it is a perfectly normal practice.
Automatic motorbikes are a popular choice for most tourists. They are easy to drive and have plenty of space at the bottom to hold any shopping bags you may acquire whilst out and about. Semi-automatic bikes, on the other hand, seem to be a favorite amongst those who have previous experience of riding motorbikes. When renting any vehicle, take photos of the vehicle before driving it anywhere! Also, make sure a record is made of any tiny scratches on the paintwork. This should prevent any discrepancies between both you and the owner when the vehicle is returned. The same applies to other surrounding islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Go careful when riding a motorbike, even if it's something you have done many times before. The roads here can be rather hazardous at times, portraying loose sand, dogs, inconsiderate road users and dangerously deep pot holes. Always wear a helmet!
As you travel around the island sightseeing, you may notice the occasional person with bandages on their knees, ankles, elbows or hands. This is notoriously referred to as the "Koh Phangan tattoo" frequently caused by motorbike accidents. Try avoiding being one of these unlucky souls!
Gasoline is cheap here. It'd cost you between 140-200 THB to fill your motorbike's fuel tank. A full tank will last absolutely ages too. If you discover you have a flat tire and need either air, or if you need repair a puncture, simply walk your bike to the nearest repair shop and they'll offer you free air or replace a tire's inner tube for around 200 THB. There are shops scattered all over the island, every couple of kilometers.
There are two types of cyclists here on Koh Phangan – those that are ultra-fit who cycle around the entire island just for fun, and then there are those that choose to leisurely ride only a few hundred meters a day, to grab their daily fruit and veggies. Depending on what category you fit into will depend on what type of bike you would need. Both geared mountain bikes and city bikes are readily-available across the island. Daily rentals start from as little as 50 THB a day.
Some parts of the island, such as Sri Thanu, Hin Kong and Thong Sala, are fairly flat and make for easy riding. Other parts, for example approaching Haad Salad, reaching Haad Rin and the east coast, are considerably more challenging and aren't for the faint hearted! A bike with gears is highly advisable if you want to cover any distance, due to the steep hills everywhere. Always take plenty of drinking water and try to avoid being out in the early afternoon sun when it’s at its hottest. Remember to attach a chain and padlock to your hired bike so it is left secure when you head off to the beach for a swim, a drink or a meal. The great advantage to using a bicycle is you can stop pretty much anywhere you like to appreciate the beautiful views and scenery around Koh Phangan. There are some absolutely stunning sights across the island. Make sure to never rush anywhere so you may stop and appreciate the beautiful scenery.
Upon arriving the pier at Thong Sala or Haad Rin, you'll be greeted by taxi drivers offering to transport you to your destination. Simply tell them where you would like to go and they'd escort you to their vehicle, along with a few other customers. Taxis can hold approximately 8-10 adults plus luggage; however, during busy periods you may find that they try to carry more passengers. There are set fees for each route and you're generally not able to barter for a better price. However, we always think it's worth a go.
The most relaxing way to view Koh Phangan has to be from aboard a boat. It is only from a boat that you'll get to view the giant ragged cliffs which create such beautiful formations as they drop into the ocean. Views vary as you cruise around each bay and every beach offers a slightly different environment from the last. This way, not only do you get to see the island from a completely different angle; you are able to travel quite a distance in a relatively-short time.
Long tail boats and their owners are often moored up at most of the beaches around the island making it an easy and convenient way for getting around Koh Phangan. You simply need to negotiate a price for the journey, taking into account how many are traveling, whether it is a round trip or not and how long you would like to stay at your destination before heading back.
Fees may vary depending on the season, sea conditions and the type of boat being used. The most common journeys are around the beaches on the North West coast and those stretching throughout the entire East coast, as they may be harder difficult to access by road. The local Thai people who own and drive the boats are forever accommodating. They will pretty much take you anywhere around the island for an agreed price. Don't forget to take your snorkeling gear with so that you may explore the coral reefs if traveling around the North West Coast. Remember that long tail boats cannot operate if the sea is too rough. It would be wise to always have a Plan B in case of a somewhat stormy weather.