Every month—like clockwork—our hostel goes crazy for the Full Moon Party. Neon body paint covers the walls, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone with a bucket (filled with a fifth of Sangsom and a can of coke). Put simply, it’s a weeklong beach rave. And even though we love a good party, you should know that Koh Phangan has so much more to offer.
If you’ve found yourself wondering “what should I do in Koh Phangan?”, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a beachgoer, this beautiful island is a perfect fit for your getaway. After leaving, you’ll feel renewed and like an expert on Thai culture. Read on to find out about the spots that tourists usually miss out on!
Nurse Your Hangover in Nature
Relax in Koh Phangan’s Natural Mountain Pools
One of our favorite spots on Koh Phangan is the Wang Sai Waterfall. It’s on the island’s northwest coast, and not too far from Mae Had. We recommend venturing out on a motorbike, but taking a taxi is just as easy for the faint of heart. While Wang Sai isn’t Koh Phangan’s biggest waterfall (or the site of the infamous Waterfall Party), it’s worth the trek. After taking in the view, be sure to take a dip in the natural pools nearby.
Take a Diving Course (or two)
Koh Phangan and its neighbor Koh Tao are two of the best spots in southeast Asia to go diving. Travelers from all over the world flock to Thailand to get their diving license. And many come for nothing more than a fun day under the sea (cue the Little Mermaid music)! You’ll find tours and instructors sprinkled around the island, but there are a few spots we like to recommend. When you’re considering diving, be sure to check out: Sail Rock, Koh Ma, and Ang Thong National Marine Park. Aside from being beautiful, these sites offer great dives for everyone, from beginner to dive master.
Try Your Hand at Kayaking
If you’re interested in kayaking, you can either sign up for a tour or hire your own kayak. An hour-long rental can run anywhere from 100 to 150 baht, so be sure to keep track of the time while you’re out. The waters are pretty calm in Koh Phangan, but they can get a bit choppy during rainy season (from July to October). The calmest areas to kayak are going to be Wok Tum and Koh Ma on the west coast. Kayaking from Chaloklum to Hadd Khuat is also a great route. Just don’t forget to stock up your kayak with lunch, water, booze, and sunscreen!
Waste Away on Koh Phangan’s Beaches
If you’re anything like us, you know that the best hangover cure is a cocktail on the beach. Had Rin is the busiest beach on the island, and home to the monthly Full Moon Party. However, it’s not where we would send you for a beach day. Instead, we’d set you off towards Thong Nai Pan beach. It’s one of the most gorgeous spots on Koh Phangan with white sand, clear water, and (most importantly) few tourists. And after your day at Thong Nai Pan, be sure to check out the not-so-secret Secret Beach. Despite being more touristy than other options, it’s a must-see when you’re in Koh Phangan.
Explore Thai Culture
Find Your Inner Peace at a Temple
Even if you’ve spent just one day in Thailand, you know there is no shortage of temples. Many tourists say if you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen them all, but they’re wrong. Every temple in Thailand has something special to offer, and this is especially true for Koh Phangan. We recommend Wat Phu Kaho Noi and Wat Pho, the first being the oldest temple on the island and the second being Koh Phangan’s best traditional Thai sauna. When visiting a temple, just remember to dress modestly and act with the utmost respect.
Get in a Workout with Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a traditional form of Thai boxing that has brought fighters to Thailand for decades. It began in the 16th century, and both locals and tourists practice the fighting form to this day. Muay Thai is called the “art of eight limbs” because fighters use their fists, elbows, knees, and shins against their opponent. If you’re looking to get a taste of Thai culture, signing up for a Muay Thai class is a great way to take part in a five-hundred-year-old tradition (and burn off some beer calories). Koh Phangan has a wide variety of class options and gyms, many of which cater to tourists who want to learn about the history and technique of the fighting style.
Visit the Thai Culture Center
Koh Phangan is home to the Thai Culture Center, which is one of the best places in Thailand to learn about Thai culture, people, and tradition. They offer courses on everything from Thai cooking to language and dance. The country of Thailand is so much more than a place to relax on the beach and get wasted at night (but we love doing both of those things). Taking time out of your stay to learn about the country and take skills home with you will be entirely worth it. Thai people love sharing their culture with foreigners, and want you to leave loving Thailand as much as they do.
Thongsala Night Market
The best way to spend a weeknight in Koh Phangan (aside from drinking) is to visit the Thongsala Night Market. It’s the best place on the island to get affordable, local food. You can find everything from curry to coconut cake, in addition to any souvenirs your mom has been begging you to bring back. Nearly every city in Thailand has a bustling night market, and Koh Phangan’s is one of our favorites. It’s an awesome opportunity to see the communal nature of Thai culture, and to find out just how delicious some of the less common foods are.
Go Out Partying (Obviously)
The Full Moon Party
A trip to Koh Phangan isn’t complete without a wild night out at the Full Moon Party. This party has been going on regularly since 1985. A group of tourists decided to party on the crescent-shaped beach of Haad Rin to celebrate the great view of Koh Phangan’s full moon. Nowadays, thousands of tourists flock to the island every month to enjoy buckets, body paint, flaming jump ropes, and dancing until the sun rises. If you’re looking to do Full Moon, be sure to arrive a few days before the party starts. The island has several pre-parties, and hostels do tend to be fully booked by the time the party starts.
The Half Moon Party
The Half Moon Party takes place the week before and the week after the Full Moon Party. If you’re not able to make it to Full Moon, it’s a great chance to still enjoy partying on the beach. It also has a bigger focus on trance, techno, and house music, unlike Full Moon which is pop-centered. There is a 1200 Baht entrance, but it includes a drink, an entire night of crazy fun, and a hangover.
The Jungle Party
A lot of visitors say that the Jungle Party is Koh Phangan’s best night out. It takes place the night before the Full Moon Party, and is a great chance to pregame before you do it all over again the next night. The Jungle Party brings in Thailand’s best underground DJs, and is set up to feel like a complete rave. If you’re planning on going, definitely don’t miss out on the warmup pool parties all across Koh Phangan!
The Waterfall Party
The Waterfall Party is held at the Sramonara Waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It has a massive dance floor, swimming hole, and chill-out area in addition to an amazing bar. Their resident DJs play everything from house to electro and trance. Based solely on the location, it’s an amazing experience to have in Koh Phangan. It takes place two days before the Full Moon Party.
Be a Tourist and Have Some Fun
The Challenge Phangan
Inspired by the TV show Wipe Out, the Challenge Phangan is an insane water obstacle course. It’s the most touristy attraction on Koh Phangan, but totally worth the minute of shame you’ll feel walking up to it. The course has a rope swing, stepping stones, jungle bars, rolling barrels, climbing mountains, balance beans, swinging shapes, and infamous red balls. If you can beat the clock, you’ll be put up on the wall of fame. And after your workout, there’s a restaurant and bar onsite.
Slip N Fly Waterpark
Sometimes you just need to get away from the ocean. Slip N Fly Waterpark is a great way to enjoy a few drinks in the sun without getting sand all over your clothes. With a massive waterslide and countless other attractions, it’s guaranteed to leave you exhausted. Our recommendation is to spend the day before on of the island’s main parties having a blast here. Then you can head to your hostel, take a shower, and get ready for the night.
If you found our Koh Phangan Backpacker guide useful, you’ll love our Thailand packing list where we cover essentials every backpacker should bring on their adventures.