You can get to Koh Phangan from neighbouring Koh Samui in as little as 30 minutes, though you’ll be cruising slower if you’re sailing a yacht, which is perfect to take in the beauty of the Ang Thong archipelago that sprawls across the northwestern horizon. If you planned on chartering a yacht in Koh Phangan then you’ll have a selection of sweet spots to point your boat at. Sailing to Ang Thong Marine Park from Koh Phangan being the most recommended itinerary.
The island’s name, Pha Ngan, is a direct translation from the Thai word for ‘sandbar’, from the many swells of sand that surround the island, in some places keeping the water level low for hundreds of meters. This makes for many child-friendly beaches, though their parents might be frustrated by the tepid, shallow water.
They may find their paradise, though, on the island’s select few sandbar-free beaches. Like most of Koh Phangan’s beaches, these are blanketed by powdery, white sand, and swaying palm trees providing shade from the sizzling sun. Beachfront activities like volleyball, paddleball, stand-up paddleboarding, and of course drinking and dining are available at most beaches, particularly the popular Haad Rin, Baan Tai, Sri Thanu, Secret Beach, Haad Salad, and Mae Haad.
Some visitors climb to Koh Phangan’s highest point, Khao Ra, for the extraordinary uninterrupted view of the surrounding sapphire ocean and nearby islands. It’s a challenging trek of two to three hours, best begun before sunrise to avoid the heat of the day.
Less challenging hikes exist between Chaloklum and Bottle Beach, as well as Haad Rin and Haad Yuan. Hikers are advised to keep their eyes and ears peeled for monkeys, deer, slow loris, squirrels, cobras and many more.
Those more fascinated by what’s under water than over it can go to to Mae Head, one of Koh Phangan’s most sought-after snorkelling destinations, where an underwater pathway leads to a vibrant coral reef off the shore of Koh Ma, attached to the island by a thin sandspit at low tide. The shallow reef dive is 25 metres deep, free from challenging underwater currents. The west-facing beach also offers exquisite sunsets on most days.
An even more unforgettable underwater experience is a diving trip to the internationally-renowned Sail Rock dive site, just 45 minutes off Koh Phangan’s shores. This premier scuba attraction, rising 15 metres above the sea surface but concealing 40 metres below it, is a veritable playground for divers, with a chimney for vertical swimming, surrounded by fish like the Chevron barracuda, schools of mackerel, jacks, trevally and tuna. Lucky divers may even get sightings of the elusive Whale Shark.
Fishing on Koh Phangan is decent. Simply set sail to the island’s most popular angling spots and late dine on your catch of the day either onboard or at a beachfront restaurant later in the evening.
Other fun daytime attractions for families include The Challenge, which lets them test their balance, endurance and coordination on a floating inflatable water course. For a bigger adrenaline rush, there is the Slip N Fly waterpark is home to two 40-metre waterslides that launch sliders into the air and its expansive pool.
Koh Phangan is well-known for its strong southern winds which, combined with the long beachfront, creates the perfect setting for kitesurfing, The island even hosts a kitesurfing competition every summer.
The monthly Full Moon Party is a magnet for the backpackers who descend upon the island in hordes at the height of the lunar cycle, to stay in hotels that require a minimum five-day stay during this period. Visitors to the island in search of real peace and tranquility at Koh Phangan should probably stick to the island’s western and northern shores, which are less party-prone — or just wait for the full moon cycle to pass.