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.
Ko Pha Ngan's east coast is the island's wildest -- a coast where cliffs and jungle interrupt glimmering beaches and secluded bays. Some beaches, even today, can only be reached on foot or by boat, but if you're looking to get away from the scene to savour a few days to a month of sheer beach paradise, you're in the right part of the world.
The northern most beaches on the east coast are the twin bays of Thong Nai Pan Noi and Thong Nai Pan Yai -- thought by some to be the most beautiful on Ko Pha Ngan. moving further south, you'll reach Than Sadet and Thong Heng, followed by the extremely isolated Haad Yao. Close to Haad Rin you'll hit Haad Why Nam, Haad Thian and Haad Yuan in rapid succession. All are fine destinations in their own way.
Thong Nai Pan Noi
The smaller of the two Thong Nai Pan beaches, Thong Nai Pan Noi is the busier of the two as well. This gorgeous simi-circular cove is lined with soft white sand surrounded by rocky, tree-covered headlands and densely forrested mountains rising up behind to create a stunning environment. The pristine water here is great for swimming, though a stream pouring into the sea at the south make for better conditions toward the centre and north of the beach. The easily accessible rocky northern hillside provides excellent views down the beach and around to another small beach.
This area is more happening than it's sister beach to the south with more bars and restaurants to choose from, and the accommodation here tends to have a classier feel. There are some good simple budget options available, but a couple of upscale places have pushed the average prices up considerably, and sadly the budget huts here aren't quite as budget as they should be. That said, there's some great places worth checking out, and the atmosphere is very laid-back and the scenery spectacular.
If we were heading to Ko Pha Ngan for a beach break, Thong Nai Pan Noi would be our first choice.
Thong Nai Pan Yai
Thong Nai Pan Yai is easily twice as long as its little sister beach, Thong Nai Pan Noi, and offers better spaced out resorts as a result. It tends to be quieter and more subdued than its little sister as well, though that's not to say there aren't some decent beach bars and plenty of opportunities for a good time. The main village has a small school and temple and while it feels relatively undeveloped it offers most services that travellers could need -- including an ATM.
The long, gently-curving cove features beautiful clear blue water great for swimming or kayaking around the rocky headlands, and the sand is mostly soft and smooth -- terrific for sunbathing or barefoot strolls. A small fisherman's anchorage lies to the south, so swimming and sunbathing conditions are better toward the centre and north of the beach. Lovely green hills rise steeply on all sides making the scene all the more lovely and provide some good walking opportunities.
The resorts and bungalows here are mostly simple, family-run bungalow affairs although there are also some hotel-style joints that provide more comfort but less charm. Overall, there are many good options here, some outstanding, with something for everyone, most of which are easy on the budget. Popular among families, backpackers and travellers of all kinds, Thong Nai Pan Yai has been a big draw on Ko Pha Ngan for some time and continues to attract visitors year-round.
Moving on down the coast, Haad Sadet and Haad Thong Heng are two hidden-away beaches midway down Ko Pha Ngan's east coast. If you're after sleepy isolation with clear waters and few (if any) distractions, then these twin bays may be a good choice. Be warned though that Haad Sadet is popular with day trippers who visit on longtail trips, mostly out of Haad Rin. These trips primarily stop at Haad Sadet to see Than Sadet waterfall a small set of falls, which tumbles over some rocks a twenty minute walk back off the beach. Outside of these trips, intrusions are kept to a minimum.
The clear water and reasonable depth off Haad Sadet make it a popular snorkelling and swimming destination. The laid-back atmosphere of this isolated Ko Pha Ngan beach make it the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun -- a feat made easier due to a general lack of shade. Several good restaurants line the white sandy beach and the green cliffs to the north provide an escape from the sun and double as comfortable places to kick back and enjoy the island life.
Haad Thong Heng
Much smaller and rockier than the northern beach of Haad Sadet, Haad Thong Heng offers more peace and quiet than its northern neighbour. With only one small resort, Haad Thong Heng is truly rustic and serene. As ther are more restaurants and better swimming at Haad Sadet, many staying here make the short walk to Haad Sadet for a change of scenery. Just beware of the monitor lizards living along the river between the two beaches.
One of the loveliest and most deserted beaches on the island, Haad Yao has a long strip of soft white sand lined with coconut groves and surrounded by steep green hills. This is a tranquil place to stroll along the beach, sunbathe or take advantage of great swimming on what feels like your own private beach. The only resort here, Ploy, is no longer operating, so you can't currently stay here unless you're camping. Nonetheless, it's worth a day trip here just for the scenery and tranquillity. You can catch a longtail boat or walk here from Haad Thian -- the walk takes about two hours.
Haad Why Nam
As the signs say, why not? This beautiful tiny cove is one of the most idyllic and tranquil spots on the island. The lovely white beach is coarser than others, so you'll leave with tough feet, but the pristine water gets deep quickly so the swimming is very good.
With just one bungalow operation, the crowds are usually minimal, but Why Nam does see some overflow and day trippers from nearby Haad Thian, and people flock here on some evenings during the peak season. Most of the time, however, the silence is golden, and the tranquil beach feels deserted. It's a great place to relax, and the single setup along the southern cliff is a very mellow place with some of the finest views around.
Keep an eye out for Mr Long, a Chiang Mai massage master on a prolonged beach sabbatical. He gives undoubtedly some of the best massages on the island and trained some of the excellent masseuses at the Wellness Centre at Haad Thian.
Not the finest of Ko Pha Ngan's eastern beaches, Haad Thian has a relatively small strip of sandy beach at the southern end, while rocks and mangroves dominate the centre and northern end. However, the swimming remains very good here with quite deep turquoise water.
The major draw is the new-age alternative community which has developed. A variety of self-cleansing and wellness activities and courses are provided, mostly at the Sanctuary, but others have jumped on the bandwagon and offer yoga as well as cater to the fasting crowd, while others deny guests who are fasting. This little rock-lined cove remains one of the most peaceful spots on the island.
This long, sweeping beach is one of the most beautiful on Ko Pha Ngan. The sand is smooth and white and the water deep and crystal-clear for perfect swimming conditions. Quite isolated, Haad Yuan is a fairly peaceful spot, but its ever-increasing popularity has led more and more resorts to develop here, so it can get pretty crowded come high season, especially in the peak season when it's advisable to head to another beach if you don't like crowds. Fortunately, the rest of the time it maintains a mostly low key vibe, and the nights don't get too rowdy.
A large selection of guesthouses and resorts are packed along the beach and up the rocky hillsides on both ends, so there's no lack of options. The quality and rates vary tremendously, and there's something here for most tastes and budgets.
A good cross-section of very simple, rustic huts are available, mostly on the rocks, for backpackers and budget travellers. These places have laid-back old-school island vibes and the lowest rates. A couple of more lively and slightly more expensive spots populate the main beach along with a new luxury setup for upscale travellers.
One can find most necessities in both Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi. A handful of little shops line the street through the village along with the giant Starlight mini mart right on the beach providing snacks, souvenirs and most essential -- and many non-essential -- items. ATMs are available in town as well. Most resorts will be able to provide some travel assistance, laundry service (40-50B/kilo) and motorbike rentals (200-250B/day), and internet access (2-3B/minute) is widely available.
By Romi Grossberg.