Haad Salad is located on the sunset side of Ko Pha Ngan, sandwiched between Mae Haad to its north, and Haad Thian to its south. Haad Salad is not, as some foreigners jokingly assume, named after a healthy bowl of lettuce, but rather after the pirates who once congregated in its bay before heading off on their next plunder (Salad means ‘pirate’ in Thai). Its sand is among the softest and whitest on the island, and with calm, shallow waters, this beach is especially popular with families. Here are our picks for the “best ofs” on the beach.
Best hang out spot
Of course, there’s nowhere better to hang out on Haad Salad than on a towel planted on the soft white sand, but when the sand and sun get too much for you, head to My Way bar, which no longer has live music, but is still one of the funkiest spots on Haad Salad.
With its Thai-style loungers, you can lie back and listen to Bob Marley telling you not to worry about a thing… and actually believe him. The outgoing staff are fun and friendly. The food is alright, but best to stick to their shakes, beers and cocktails. This is the perfect pre-party spot.
If lying on the beach isn’t quite relaxing enough for you, head to Tuk massage, which is easily the best massage parlour on the beach. With a large wooden platform that can support at least six clients at one time (sometimes more, sometimes less), directly overlooking the surf, you can even go here with a group.
The Tuk massage technique has been passed down for generations, and with good reason — it’s close to perfect. If you’re not into Thai massage, try their coconut oil massage, which costs the same (300 baht) and is done with coconut oil made right there on site.
Best high-end resort
The breathtaking Salad Buri Resort on the southern end of Haad Salad has luxurious bungalows that have a contemporary style with a traditional Thai twist. The spacious rooms are the ultimate in opulence, with patios overlooking a lush tropical garden, a large pond, and some of the best panoramic views of Haad Salad.
The pool is technically for guests only, but we’ve noticed a few non-guests going for cheeky dips, having simply bought a drink from the bar. The servers at the restaurant will even bring you your cocktail poolside — the mango margarita is highly-recommended. The poolside loungers are some of the most popular on the beach, so get there early to stake your claim. The restaurant does fairly good Western and Thai food, and a nightly barbecue right on the beach. Beside the restaurant is a massage area with competitive prices and excellent masseurs. If you’re interested, check out availability here.
Best mid-range hotel
Salad Beach Resort offers many of the amenities of a luxury resort, but at far more competitive prices. We love it mostly for the huge pool, which is surrounded by loungers, a massage platform, and looks onto the ocean.
Rooms themselves are clean and stylish, though there is little variation between the cheapest and most expensive, except of course in proximity to the beach (the latter being the closest). But it’s the tropical gardens, three-stage waterfall, and wooden picnic salas that truly give this place its memorable holiday ambiance.
Best budget hotel
Backpackers and budget travellers flock to Smile Beach, set slightly back from the beach, with wooden bungalows that start at 300 baht. Though basic, the bungalows are clean and roomie, and have a large patio to chill on when you’ve had enough of the sun.
The restaurant does tasty Thai and Western dishes for cheap. There’s a pool table, and lots of different salas for groups to chill out in. They even provide private songthaews to the full moon party at 200 baht a head.
Best spots to eat
If you’re looking for a place to eat on Haad Salad, look no further than Salad Hut, which does some of the best grub on the beach, be it Thai or Western.
With an extensive menu and high quality ingredients, it’s understandable why their prices might be slightly (but only slightly!) higher than other places on the beach. Happy hour takes place from 17:30 till 18:30, just around sunset, though we have to admit that the sunset is better viewed from the other end of the beach. Still, everything from red curry, to pad Thai, to pizza, is delicious here, and the cocktails aren’t bad either.
Best place to catch sunset
Haad Salad may be on the sunset side of the island, but the full sunset isn’t viewable from all parts of the beach, because of a hill blocking the way on the southern end. For the best sunset view, head all the way north (to the right if you’re looking at the ocean) to the aptly-named Sunset Bar.
The set-up here is nothing special — your typical make-shift sign with Thai-style seating on a wooden floor covered in colourful mats, and beers are priced slightly above average at 70 baht, but this is the place to watch the sun dip into the ocean, so we can forgive them. On Saturday nights, they provide just about the only nightlife on Haad Salad, with their open mic night from 21:00 till 02:00.
By Kaila Krayewski
Last updated on 9th January, 2013.