Two beaches, plenty of options
The twin beaches of Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi offer the broadest range of eateries on Ko Pha Ngan's east coast, with everything from small Thai eateries to fancy pants resort restaurants. Like the accommodation, Thong Nai Pan Yai's options are more budget focussed.
Thong Nai Pan Yai
Most of the beach resorts have their own attached restaurants and bars of which Dolphin and Longtail, both at the southern end of the beach, are noteworthy for all day grazing and their seafood barbeques.
Note that if you are in the market for seafood you pay a significant premium to eat it with your feet in the sand. More budget conscious eaters should out for an off the beach location in Thong Nai Pan Yai village – we had good seafood at a fraction of the beachside rates at both Som's Seafood and Pa Thong Cuisine on the main road just down from Som's.
Also off the beach, on the same lane as Som's lies Siam House which serves Thai and western dishes in an impressive wooden double story restaurant using mostly recycled goods. They also have BBQ night a couple of times a week and reservations are recommended. Kim and Giet who run it are the original proprietors of Dolphin down on the beach. It isn't a budget meal, but the setting is lovely.
Towards the southern end of Thong Nai Pan Yai's High Street, you'll find @Thai Home on the off-beach side of the road, which does a selection of one plate Thai dishes including a few northeastern dishes. Friendly and cheap, this is a good spot to drop by for lunch. If you're looking for something other than Thai, Italian at The Living Room came recommended, while Fat Cat’s, at the northern end of the strip, does English breakfasts and other western grub.
As the sun gets ready to drop behind the hills, Thong Nai Pan Yai's sleepy bar scene gets going. At the northern end you have Candle Huts affiliated The End bar with an extensive cocktail list and a small splash pool. Towards the centre of the beach you'll find the vaguely Reggae themed Yai Bar which hosts regular fire shows and a bit further south the brightly coloured Flip Flop Pharmacy bar which offers a pool table, crusty pizzas and a heady drinks list you can enjoy from your swinging seat or cushions in the sand. Keep walking and just before Dolphin you'll reach Siam Beach (associated with the above-mentioned Siam House), a cool beach bar that does small pizzas and other snacks along with cold drinks and a friendly vibe.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
Aside from the outrageously priced seafood barbeques on the beach, much of Thong Nai Pan Noi's eating is on the road that runs back through the village where there are plenty of more affordable eateries. Simple one-plate Thai meals are available at the aptly named Thai Food, Again & Again and Ban Muay Thai – we had a decent meal at the first of these three.
Two places on the beach which are worth a mention are Sand In My Shoes – a very friendly staffed stylish wooden place which does pizzas and other beach fare (we just had a coffee) and then, right at the end of the beach, Tapan Noi which is your best option for an affordable meal on a beach that is generally as expensive to eat on as stay on.
Further back off the beach along the road you'll find a few low key bars – Rasta Baby (we'll leave it to you to guess the colour theme) and, just around the corner Hacienda Happy Days, then, a little further, the swanky looking Luna Lounge.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.