Ko Pha Ngan (, pronounced KOH pa-nGan with G as in mango) is a Thai island off the Central Gulf Coast that is part of the Chumphon Archipelago. It is recognized as a country of coconut palms and the world-(in)famous Full Moon Party, which has firmly positioned the island on the Banana Pancake Trail halfway between the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao.
- Thong Sala — Thong Sala is the “capital” of the island and the principal ferry terminal.
- Ao Nai Wok — A peaceful bay with a large white sandbar in front. It is the first bay to the north of Thong Sala (just a 7-minute walk away) and one of the greatest places for sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. This is owing to its year-round exposure to the wind and closeness to two untamed small islands, Ko Tae Nai and Ko Tae Nok (approximately 10 min paddling in a kayak to Tae Nai)
- Sri Thanu — A volcanic peninsula with bays and beaches to the south of Haad Son and Haad Yao.
- Haad Son — Haad Son is a lovely bay with a beach.
- Haad Chao Phao — A little, calm beach on Ko Pha Ngan’s western coast. It contains a few resorts and bungalows that provide cheap accommodations with complete amenities. There are various beach bars and restaurants where you may eat and drink while the sun sets. It takes around 15 minutes by cab and 20 minutes by motorcycle to get there from the main dock. If you’re looking for a true getaway, this is the place to be. There is also a Moon Set Party at the Pirate Bar. The celebration is held on a regular basis, a few days before the Full Moon Party.
- Haad Yao — A long white sandy beach just north of Haad Chao Phao that is significantly more developed with more beach bars, a 7-Eleven, ATMs, and restaurants, but with clean good water and snorkeling farther from the beach with lodgings starting at 150 baht. The greatest beach on the west coast, maybe.
- Haad Salad — On the northwest part of the island, Haad Salad is a picturesque bay with numerous high-end resorts.
- Haad Mae Haad — A sand spit connects a wide sandy beach to Ko Maa, a national marine park. On Pha Ngan, it has some of the greatest diving and snorkeling. There is a small hamlet as well as several resorts, restaurants, and pubs. Nice snorkeling: to view the coral, you’ll need to wade past the first, dead reef. Crossing the dead reef while the tide is retreating may be difficult and uncomfortable, so make sure you get in and out during high tide. There isn’t much else to do here than snorkel.
- Thonglang Bay — Located between Chalok Lam and Haad Mae Haad, this nearly unexplored bay provides a wonderful and calm respite from the throng.
- Chalok Lam — Chalok Lam is a fishing community on the northern extremity of the island with a magnificent beach on a long beautiful sandy bay. Because there are few boats making the journey, it is not very touristic, and the western portion of the bay offers some of the most gorgeous seas on the island, as well as a wonderful small beach shaded by palm palms.
- Haad Khom — Haad Khom is a 20-minute walk east of Chalok Lam on a steep concrete road, or a few minutes’ ride from Chalok Lam, where you can rest and experience some of the greatest snorkeling on the island. The beach is hardly busy since there are only around 5 good-value lodgings (bungalows range from 150-300 baht). Only the one nearest to Chalok Lam, CBB, provides 24 hour power; the others rely on diesel generators. Together with Bottle Beach and Chalok Lam Bay, they are the greatest beaches on the island’s northern shore.
- Bottle Beach — Also known as “Haad Khuat,” this is one of the most remote beaches on the island, located on the north coast and reachable via longtail boat from Chalok Lam (150 baht/person) or a 2-3 hour difficult climb from Haad Khom beach (this hike named the beach due to the use of plastic bottles to mark the trail). There is also the option of driving on one of the island’s worst roads, but the cab journey is so costly that it is always advisable to travel to Chalok Lam and hire a longtail boat from there. Very relaxing and peaceful beach with limited lodgings but very inexpensive costs (from 250-300 baht/bungalow). Even during the dry season, there is a very long and broad soft white sand beach with clear water for swimming. There is just one drawback. Because of its seclusion, there are no ATMs, 7-Elevens, or local eateries, thus you must purchase everything at your lodgings for exorbitant costs (e.g., 90 baht for fried noodles). However, what you spend for meals, you will save on lodging and get to enjoy one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches.
- Thong Nai Pan — A scenic location in the island’s northeast that comprises the neighboring beach resorts of Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai and Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi, which are twin bays with two wonderful beaches. Thong Nai Pan Yai is the larger of the two. The region appeals to families with children, as well as individuals and couples seeking natural beaches, solitude, and tranquility. Swimming is safe all year except for the November monsoon, which usually finishes around the middle of December. Both beaches include a wide range of eateries, from low-cost Thai to high-end international fare.
- Haad Thien — This is the location of the Sanctuary Resort, a trendy, up-scale resort with a wonderful feel.
- Haad Yuan — Haad Yuan is a lovely sandy beach in the southeast section of the island. If you want to get away from the party population, this is a short distance from Haad Rin.
- Haad Rin — (Hat Rin) — The most touristy/crowded hamlet, with all the amenities any visitor need, and the location of the world-famous Full Moon Party. The island’s largest party scene (along with Baan Tai). During the dry season, this is one of the few beaches where swimming is permitted.
- Ban Kai — This beach, located between Ban Tai and Haad Rin, provides a picturesque setting only minutes from the Full Moon Party. The sea is also pretty unclean, and the country is fairly hilly.
- Ban Tai — The longest length of unbroken beach on the island, facing Ko Samui.
There are several Internet cafés that also provide international calls, fax services, and airline confirmation. The connection and speed are typically satisfactory. In central places, expect to pay 60 baht per hour (1 baht per minute) for Internet access. One baht per minute is standard for tourist-oriented establishments, with many additionally offering cheaper prices for pre-paid blocks of time. The friendly owner Tomas of travel agency Tan Tour (50 m west of 7-Eleven next to the pier) is famous for not taking charging customers very seriously, so if you stay only a short time, you can usually use the Internet for free, or if you stay longer, you will usually end up paying only 20 baht instead of 40-60 baht.
Sweet Cafe, next to the 7-Eleven in Thong Sala at the pier, has free (open) Wi-Fi for everyone, so if you don’t mind sitting in the sun, you may use it for free. There is also free Wi-Fi in the food court of the Thong Sala night market (which is open all day). It’s not difficult to locate well-equipped, quiet, air-conditioned Internet cafés for 60 baht per hour. Users who wish to connect their own computers may readily find shops that can accommodate them. Printing (black/white) is typically priced at 10 baht per page (30 baht per page for color).
Expect to spend up to 3 baht each minute as you leave the more developed beaches. It may be cheaper to get a SIM card with a 1GB data plan for 1 month for 214 baht (AIS/DTAC), which is plenty for mobile Internet, but be aware that certain beaches do not have a 3G signal (Haad Yuan/Haad Tien, for example).
Mobile phone/SIM cards may be purchased and topped up at several 7-Eleven locations across the island. All around the island, mobile signal strength for DTAC (Happy) or AIS (1-2-Call) is adequate. Avoid utilizing the TrueMove network because of its poor coverage.
Many agencies and Internet stores, as well as guesthouses/hotels and similar establishments, provide international calls. The majority advertise a fee of 15 baht per minute (or 25 baht per minute for mobile phones). Almost every Internet cafe will provide headsets for Skype usage, which will be free if you don’t need to contact a phone number.