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THAILAND: KOH PHANGAN
Things to Do in Koh Phangan

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Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is an island that’s world-famous for its full-moon and half-moon beach parties. Nicknamed ‘Samui’s Little Sister’, it only has about 10,000 residents but attracts around 30,000 travellers looking to enjoy the island’s hedonistic events. Koh Phangan may be most famous for its full-moon parties, but it has a lot more to offer visitors than all-night dancing.

The best things to do in Koh Phangan will keep you busy during your holiday on this charming, barely developed island that lies some 12 km north of Koh Samui. The 125-sq-km island has all the assets of a tropical paradise: white powdery sand beaches lapped by turquoise waters and fringed by coconut tree groves, hilly hinterland covered with lush vegetation, and small villages which have had to adapt to the growth of visitors.

Most of Koh Phangan's attractions and activities are closely related to nature. From beaches to waterfalls to viewpoints, Koh Phangan offers a great holiday destination for those with a penchant for exploration. The expansion of tourism also brought some new opportunities for fun activities and adventures on the island.

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Haad Rin Beach

While Haad Rin is not the capital town of Koh Phangan, it certainly is the busiest destination on the island. This is, for the most part, thanks to full moon parties that attract plenty of young people and backpackers every month. 

To keep those crowds entertained in between binge drinking sessions, Haad Rin offers a good choice of activities such as beach football, beach volleyball, and bikini contests, as well as a good list of water sports like jet-skiing and sea kayaking.

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Beach-Hopping

Beach-hopping is a must-do if you stay on Koh Phangan. With a circumference of about 40 km, the rather small island has around 30 beaches of various lengths and features. It's fairly cheap to rent a motorbike, which makes it easy for you to explore all these pristine stretches of sand.

Some of the tiniest ones cannot be easily reached by road, one of which is Haad Nam Tok (Waterfall Beach). In this case, you may want to hire a long-tail boat for the day. Cruise along the beautiful Koh Phangan shore to discover these hidden slices of paradise.

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Waterfalls in Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan has several waterfalls to discover, with the most notable ones easy to find. Than Sadet Waterfall is off the road to the Thong Nai Pan beaches, and Paradise Waterfall is just off the road to Chaloklum Bay. There's Than Prawet Waterfall, which is also near the Thong Nai Pan beaches. Last but not least, there's Than Praphet, which leads directly in the sea at Waterfall Beach on the southeast coast of the island.

If you are ready for challenging hikes, a visit to any of these waterfalls will surely be a rewarding experience. Just note that it's often best to see them right after the high season when the weather starts to get better.

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Khao Ra

Khao Ra or Ra Mountain towers over Koh Phangan and affords scenic views of the Andaman Sea. There's a central 'road' running over the island's crest from Ban Tai to Thong Nai Pan Beach, on the island's northeastern side. The only trouble is it's not finished, heavily rutted and unlit in places. In any case, it's best to take an appropriate offroad vehicle such as a dirtbike, 4x4, or taxi.

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Trekking in Koh Phangan

Trekking in Koh Phangan is a great way to see the island's wild side. The island is pretty much perfect for hiking, bushwhacking, and even camping. The eastern coast is the best place for this adventurous activity. You can also trek in the central, mountainous part of the island – specifically Khao Ra, which stands at 630 metres and overlooks Chaloklum and Thong Nai Pan. 

The actual route is not too demanding but easy to lose. For this reason, it's best to hire a guide. You can hire one at the Phaeng Waterfall National Park.

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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving 

The waters around Koh Phangan have great snorkelling and scuba diving sites. Less reputed than Koh Tao, which is regarded as the mecca of underwater activities in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan features all that's necessary to explore the underwater world. 

You can enjoy snorkelling at almost any beach along the west and north coasts. You can also arrange for beach diving, but the dive centers based on Koh Phangan usually go further out at sea, in the direction of Koh Tao (some 35 km away). Sail Rock, one of the most beautiful dive sites in the vicinity, is 15 km north of Koh Phangan.

Koh Phangan is ideally situated for diving forays into the Gulf of Thailand. The reefs from Chaloklum and down the northwest coast are in good condition. It's even possible to dive directly off the beach.

At 15–40 meters below sea level, Sail Rock features a dense variety of sea life. One of the best diving sites in the Gulf of Thailand, it's only 1 hour away from Koh Phangan. Around Koh Tao, you'll find lots of turtles, leopard sharks and unicorn fish – to put it briefly, Koh Phangan is a diver's paradise.

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Kayaking in Koh Phangan

Kayaking in Koh Phangan is a great way to explore the island's beautiful coastline. Most major beaches have kayaks for rent, though the best locations are on the calmer west coast. Generally, any beach is great if the sea is not so choppy.

We advise against kayaking alone near sunset. Take note that going with a current means fighting it all the way back. Before heading out, wear sunscreen and clothes that protect you from the sun, and bring plenty of water. 

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Kuan Yin Temple

The Kuan Yin Temple stands on a road heading north from Thong Sala to Chaloklum. It's made up of 7 different buildings – each attractive and with extensive views of the countryside and nearby Chaloklum Bay. There's an impressive 'dragon drum', several vividly colored pagodas, a large golden Buddha image, and wind chimes throughout the complex.

The grounds are dotted with frangipani and bougainvillaea, while several golden warriors guard the inside entrance. The Kuan Yin Temple was originally meant to be a lighthouse to aid fishermen, but donations were so generous that a combination of lighthouse and temple was erected.

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Phaeng Waterfall

Phaeng Waterfall is one of the largest waterfalls on Koh Phangan, It's easily accessible and really only worth visiting after steady rainfall during the monsoon season. Phaeng Waterfall belongs to Thon Sadet, also known as the Koh Phangan National Park.

Phaeng Waterfall's cascade comprises 2 levels, with many trails leading to various viewpoints in the mountain. Guides for hire are available at the Phaeng Waterfall National Park.

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Koh Phangan viewpoints

Koh Phangan is rich with mountainous landscapes that present visitors with a great choice of stunning viewpoints. The highest spot is Khao Ra, a 627-metre-tall mountain in the north-central part of the island. The best way to get to the summit is to hire a guide at the base of the trail. It doesn't cost much, considering that the trek can get arduous. 

Besides Khao Ra, there are good viewpoints all around the island in Haad Yao, Haad Rin, between Haad Maehaad and Chaloklum Bay, just to name a few. Some Koh Phangan viewpoints are simply on the roadside, while others require a bit of an effort to reach.

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Koh Tao

Koh Tao – meaning ‘Turtle Island’ – lives up to its name, being the scuba diving destination of choice in Thailand. The stunning white-sand beaches that ring the hilly, 21-sq-km island are surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The vibrant coral reefs there are home to a wide range of exciting and colourful sea creatures – including turtles, naturally.

The compact island supports a varied selection of hotels, from budget guesthouses and beach bungalows all the way up to 5-star luxury resorts. The choice of restaurants and nightlife establishments has also been constantly growing.

Snorkelling in Koh Tao is one to tick off a Koh Pahangan bucket list. Koh Nang Yuan's sandbar beaches, formed by the ocean's currents interacting with the 3 peaks of the island, are unique to the world. Their beauty will take your breath away. 

Enjoy snorkelling in clear water and a chance to encounter the most beautiful ocean life. Continue to Koh Tao where you can stop for lunch at one of the great local restaurants that offer wonderful value for money. After your wholesome meal, you can either snorkel, sunbathe or just relax under the coconut trees.

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Full Moon parties

Koh Phangan is famous as an island destination for parties themed around the moon phases. Full moon, half-moon, and black moon parties take place on the east side of Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan's southernmost beach. Partygoers rave it up from dusk till dawn with their toes in the sand. Half- and black moon parties are of slightly lower prominence compared to the iconic full-moon party in Koh Phangan. Both of them are held around Baan Tai Beach, just north of Haad Rin.

How to get to Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is easily accessible by ferry. Overnight buses and trains connect land travellers to the ports at Surat Thani and further south at Don Sak, where ferries depart for Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Ferries from the mainland generally stop at Samui’s Nathon before continuing to Koh Phangan. They usually depart at 9 am and 11 am every day. The voyage takes around 45 minutes.

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