Ko Pha Ngan is so big, we've split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Pha Ngan as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don't know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Pha Ngan's different areas.
Thong Sala is the first beach to the east of the same-named port town, and is largely overlooked, underrated and considered part of Ao Baan Tai to the east. The sand on this long stretch of beach is soft and white, and shade is plentiful along most of its length. The island's main road is situated not far off the beach, so this is an easily accessed area and visitors can get to Thong Sala and Haad Rin with little difficulty.
The swimming is good, though the water is extremely shallow up to the reef approximately 250m offshore through most of the day in the lower tidal season (May to July). The central stretch of the beach is a bit rocky, and the far western end near the pier has poorer water quality as well as a good deal of ferry and longtail boat traffic.
There is not much in the way of partying, just a handful of tiny beach bars set along the sand. However, this whole stretch of beach can fill around Full Moon Party time, particularly in the peak season, so it's wise to call ahead. Outside of the Full Moon party and through the off season, it can feel like having the whole place to yourself.
Running along Ko Pha Ngan's south coast, commencing not far from Thong Sala, it's an easy ride to Ao Baan Tai. Perfect for long walks, the beach is a pleasant, open stretch of sand, with calm waters and scenic views. The lack of trees allow a refreshing breeze to blow across the sand and this strip is a great area for watching the sunset over neighbouring Ko Samui.
Not as sleepy as it once was, Baan Tai today is a bit overpopulated, with resort after resort lining the sand -- it is a popular area with young travellers who appreciate Haad Rin but don't want to stay there, afterall, from Baan Tai the heaving scene at Haad Rin is just a taxi ride away. This beach is also popular with families, drawn by affordable family-friendly accommodation and waters that are rarely too rough for swimming and there's plenty of marine life waiting to be discovered when snorkelling.
The entire area is protected my a small offshore reef around 200 metres offshore, and at low tide the waters can become too shallow to swim in unless you walk a long way out. Conversely at high tide the beach can almost totally vanish in places.
Despite this development, if you take a step back from the shore, you'll find the surrounding area backing onto the beachfront is given over mainly to coconut plantations, with a pace of life as slow as the branches in the wind.
As with its neighbour to the west, Ao Baan Kai has long, peaceful shores which beckon visitors year after year. Though narrower, and lacking the powdery white sand of some of Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches, the sunset views from Baan Kai's shores are incredible and more than compensate. Greenery grows abundantly on the sand, and the crystal-clear water is ideal for swimming and discovering the active marine life.
Baan Kai is yet to become as developed as its neighbour, Baan Tai -- there are fewer resorts spotting the shore but you'll still find lodgings for most budgets, though those looking for ultra-luxury will need to try their luck at Baan Tao or Haad Saikantang. Closer to Haad Rin than neighbouring Baan Tai, this can get quite busy around the Full Moon Parties as travellers set up base within relatively close striking distance of the party. Outside the monthly parties however, peace, quiet and convenience make this spot a great option for those looking to sandwich the Full Moon party between relaxing seaside away from the wild action.
Ao Baan Tai forms the middle section of the famous sunset beaches that line the southeast coast of Ko Pha Ngan. It commences at neighbouring Baan Kai to the east and ends at Thong Sala to the west. There are ATMs available in several of the larger resorts -- but Baan Tai and Baan Kai towns are just a short walk away from their respective beaches and there you'll find ATMs, convenience stores and other services. Computers and WiFi are available at many of the guesthouses. There are excessive amounts of restaurants to choose from in town. Try one of the small food carts for a taste of delicious local eats.