Original article appeared in travel360.com, Air Asia’s online travel magazine.
Koh Phangan, the second largest of the islands in the Samui Archipelago is much less populated than its sister island, Koh Samui, but don’t let that fool you – Koh Phangan provides just as many vacation options as Thailand’s other more popular seaside destinations. Koh Phangan was once known primarily for its famous monthly Full Moon Parties however conservation efforts on both land and sea have made Koh Phangan a haven for those who appreciate natural beauty. Here are five compelling reasons to plan your escape to Koh Phangan!
1: A Breath of Fresh Air!
Koh Phangan’s spectacular vistas will excite the outdoor adventurer in even the most die-hard of urban dwellers. Koh Phangan’s natural geography is wonderfully diverse and includes magnificent coconut groves, lush mountain rainforests and of course, miles of stunning coastline.
Almost 50% of the island is designated as Than Sadet National Park which provides abundant opportunities for communing with nature. Koh Phangan plays host to Mother Nature at her unspoiled finest boasting a protected area larger than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, all of London’s Royal Parks and Paris’ entire municipal park system – combined!
The easy-to-use Koh Phangan Island Map, available for free at most of the establishments on the island, is current and accurate and makes trekking on your own as easy as lacing up your sneakers and renting a scooter or jeep. The map provides both points of interest as well as directions for getting there so you can plan your route or plan to get lost and just keep the map in your back pocket.
The vibrancy and verdancy of Koh Phangan’s tropical rainforests are a treat for both the eyes and the lungs! You’ll find yourself in awe at the size, variety and sheer volume of trees and greenery. Make your way to one of the cascading waterfalls or designated viewpoints and feel the air temperature descend as you ascend and inhale breaths of cool, fresh mountain air.
If you prefer not to go it alone then you can sign up for a guided tour with one of the many tour companies on the island. Either way you will not be disappointed as Koh Phangan’s rich landscape ensures that every journey is sprinkled with beautiful surprises such as breathtaking wildflowers, hibiscus and bougainvillea growing freely; monkeys walking overhead, eagles soaring gracefully above the sea or buffalo grazing at the side of the road.
Koh Phangan’s dedication to maintaining the natural terrain is apparent even outside of the protected lands of Than Sadet National Park. Most of the houses and structures in Koh Phangan are built with minimal impact to the surrounding environment so it is easy to feel lost in paradise in a bungalow that is just a few meters from the road.
2: Beaches Galore!
Koh Phangan’s beaches are legendary! If tranquil turquoise waters, fine white sand and a beach all to yourself sound like your idea of a perfect vacation then look no further than Koh Phangan. There are loads of options for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling and pretty much any beach in Koh Phangan will deliver the goods when it comes to seeing stunning aquatic life. With more than 30 beaches from which to choose you can visit a different beach every day for a month!
You will not have a problem finding a quiet stretch of beach or even an entire beach to call your very own. Travelers tip: the two beaches listed as “Secret Beach” on Google Maps are not very secret however Koh Phangan is the ideal place for exploring and discovering your own secret beach. Imagine off-roading or trekking through a dense rainforest and emerging onto an untainted cove with crystal clear waters! If hiking to a secluded beach on your own sounds like more adventure than you’re up for then there is another wonderful option for discovering a new, hidden paradise – taxi boat.
You can find the colorful long-tail taxi boats docked and awaiting your arrival at the more popular beaches. You will marvel at your boat captain’s strength and dexterity as he expertly guides your sea chariot across transparent cerulean seas from one magical beach to another. There is something very cool about arriving at your destination by boat even if it is only a 10-20 minute journey! The taxi boats operate like buses and stop at multiple beaches so if one of the destinations does not meet with your liking you can simply continue onto the next. The taxi boats operate on set times (sort of) so you can join up with other travelers and depart at one of the scheduled times or you can pay a higher fare and travel solo. The captain will pick you up at a pre-agreed time and place to bring you back to your point of origin.
3: Dive Right In!
If you are looking to dive a little deeper into the Gulf of Thailand then there are plenty of opportunities in Koh Phangan! The sea and reefs surrounding Koh Phangan are well-known by those in the global diving community for their abundant and diverse sea life. There are many scuba diving schools that call Koh Phangan home, such as Sail Rock Dive School, that are ready and certified to provide diving instruction and guidance on your first or thousandth dive. Organizations such as COREsea work to ensure that the ocean around Koh Phangan stays pristine through their diligent marine research and conservation initiatives.
4: Guilt-free Indulgence!
For those on a culinary expedition, Koh Phangan will not disappoint. All of your Thai favorites can be found along with fresh seafood cooked to your specifications and executed perfectly at local favorites such as Sabaii Dee. Koh Phangan also has its fair share of international restaurant offerings such as Indonesian, Israeli, Mediterranean and French to name a few.
Koh Phangan is a popular destination for the mindful and healthful so you will also find many delicious vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on the island. Long-time Koh Phangan resident and pastry chef, Lotta, and her team serve up fresh, healthy options such as crispy salads, gluten-free pancakes and breads and, cappuccinos with coconut milk at The World’s End Café.
5: Get Lifted (naturally)!
Koh Phangan has been a well-kept secret for years for those in the yoga and alternative therapies world. Places like The Sanctuary in Haad Yuan, in the southeastern part of the island, offer unique classes in yoga and meditation as well as services and guest appearances from world-renown visiting practitioners and speakers.
Love music and dancing but not into the party scene? Then head up to the northern side of the island and check out Pure Nature Yoga’s Sunday morning conscious dance party where you can raise your vibration without raising your blood alcohol level. They also offer transformative sound meditation sessions where they use multiple instruments including gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, digeridoos, drums, chimes, tuning forks and bells to heal and inspire you.
If you seek an island getaway where you can escape from world and still have your creature comforts then Koh Phangan is your place. Koh Phangan’s quiet charm and laid-back pace will embrace and seduce you. Travelers’ tip: If you’re looking to avoid crowds then best not to go on the two days on either side of the full moon.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies from Surat Thani from Bangkok an Chiang Mai. From Surat Thani, island transfers are available to Koh Phangan. Book your seats now at airasia.com.