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.
Despite being one of the least developed parts of the island, Ko Pha Ngan's north coast, with the fishing village of Chaloklum at its centre has a surprisingly good range of beaches and accommodation to choose from. This stretch of beaches and bays has something for everyone — from families with young children to night-owls and outdoorsy types to dedicated hammock-swingers. Ao Chaloklum is the largest bay, sweeping across from the west to around the centre of the north coast. Further to the east lies the miniscule Haad Khom, followed by the ever-increasingly popular Haad Khuad.
Chaloklum is Ko Pha Ngan's second port and also a major fishing village. Chaloklum has always been considered one of the most authentic areas on Ko Pha Ngan, and hasn't seen the same influx of tourists until recent years. Now the higher end resorts are creeping in, and many bungalows are going more upscale, but Chaloklum will always retain a certain amount of real charm. It's hard to imagine how upscale it can really go considering the whole place can quite reek of fish at times.
The central part of the bay is dominated by a couple of piers, stacks of fishing boats and that authentic fishy sea smell you either love or hate. Due to the fishing boats, the water around the central area gets a bit murky and it's not great for swimming. Head to either the east or west extreme for much better beaches and water conditions. The western beach is peaceful and quite lovely with plenty of tree cover bordering the sandy beach, and an offshore breakwater provides a good deal of shelter. To the east, the beach is even better, and here you will find the majority of Chaloklum's guesthouses and beach bungalows.
The town has a handful of very good Thai seafood restaurants, so if you stay in the area, be sure to wander into town at least once. Nightlife isn't too wild but there is still a party scene here, mostly centred around the diving operations and their customers. There are a good number of bars and there's always someone like-minded to hang out with in peaceful Chaloklum. The Chinese temple just to the south of the village, on the road to Thong Sala is worth checking out as well, with its colourful Chinese architecture and several beautiful Buddha images.
Haad Khom is a top spot if you'd like to stay away from the hordes but still be on a lovely beach and enjoy some of the best hospitality on Ko Pha Ngan. Although quite small, the beach here is beautiful with plentiful shade, squeaky white sand and crystal clear water. While the beach and shallow sea aren't as beautiful or good for swimming as Bottle Beach, Haad Khom has a much more chilled-out vibe these days, feeling more isolated than it actually is. Locals often boast it's the best place for snorkelling on the entire island. An extensive living coral reef offshore provides vast sea life to be explored; equipment can be borrowed or rented from most bungalow operators.
The range of guesthouses is good, with options for most budgets and there's also a couple of great eateries. Most bungalows actually sit uphill rather than on the beach, but a few are on the sand, and none are too far removed. Electricity is only provided from approximately 18:00 to midnight daily, but it's really not necessary other times.
It's about a 15-minute walk from Haad Khom to Chaloklum or about a two-hour hike to Bottle Beach, though the trail is poorly maintained if it doesn't see frequent foot traffic, so wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for one hell of a trek. If the tide is out, it's much easier to walk to Chaloklum along the beach rather than along the steep, dirt road. If you are walking to Bottle Beach, go over the hill, NOT around the rocks!
Once a largely undiscovered little gem isolated in the north of Ko Pha Ngan, Haad Khuad, better known to westerners as Bottle Beach,became one of the most popular backpacker destinations on the island and a well kept secret for years. Despite still being very hard to access by terrible jungle road, the beach is seeing more and more mid-range tourists, and two of its four resorts have built new cement resort accommodations and hardcore backpackers will be shocked to discover a two storey block of hotel rooms. The crowd here consists mostly of younger sun worshippers, though it's a popular day trip destination frequented by boat tour operators from around the island. In spite of its rapidly-growing popularity, Bottle Beach still remains a relatively quiet and lovely spot to escape the worst crowds.
Soft white sand surrounded by green hills and rocky palm-fringed headlands make this long, gently sweeping beach an ideal location. The crystal clear water is deep enough for some good swimming and snorkelling, and plenty of sun and shade alike are available for flopping in the sand. There are three volleyball nets along the beach for the more active beachgoers.
Despite the modernification of some resorts there are still no ATMs on bottle beach.
Of Chaloklum, Haad Khom and Bottle Beach, the latter is by far the most isolated, but even there, most services are readily available — the only thing you'll need to go out of your way to find is an ATM.
Chaloklum has just about everything a traveller could want or need — including the only ATMs in the area and money exchange kiosks. There's also a couple of small markets, a good-sized pharmacy, a 7-eleven, book shops and plenty of travel agencies dotted through the village's narrow streets. While most resorts offer laundry services, you'll also find small mom and pop operations (where mom does most of the work) in Chaloklum itself.
On Haad Khom you'll find a small travel agent at Coral Bay Bungalow, and the host at Coconut Beach is a wealth of information about the region. Coral Bay can also help with your laundry (50B/kilo).
Bottle Beach is relatively undveloped but most services can be found here. Snacks and basic supplies can be purchased in most bungalow receptions, and Haad Khuad Bungalow, AKA Bottle Beach 3, has a decent little shop with internet access (3B/minute), money exchange and travel booking.
By Stuart McDonald.