BAN KHAI AND BAN TAI BEACHES
Many visitors head east from Thong Sala to nearby Ban Tai Beach—here they find a quiet stretch of sand away from the hubbub of Had Rin but close enough to visit the party zone and readily accessible by communal taxi (songtaew). The water, unfortunately, is often too shallow for proper swimming, but the fine-sand beach is wide, and most resorts now have pools set on the beachfront. The beaches here aren’t the prettiest, but accommodation tends to be affordable compared to more desired spots on the island.
Had Rin (aka Haad Rin) is a narrow peninsula on the island’s southeastern tip filled with bungalows, busy shopping streets, funky clothing shops, and an array of restaurants between east-facing Had Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach, where the Full Moon Party happens) and Had Rin Nai (Sunset Beach) on the west side. If you’re looking for swimming and white sand, Had Rin Nok is the nicer of the two. Full Moon parties are the biggest money-making days for the cheaper hotels/hostels here and they’ll often cram extra cots and mattresses into dorm-style rooms to make the most of the busy days.
This part of the island has fully embraced its Full Moon tomfoolery identity, and techno raves, DJs, and fluorescent paint dance parties break out regularly, making it hard to predict when there might be a lull in the action. If peace and quiet trump rowdy and raucous, find accommodation elsewhere.
If you wish to transcend it all, tucked away on the soft white-sand is Leela Beach (aka Had Seekantang), just 5 minutes over the hilltop. There you’ll find Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa (www.cocohut.com; tel. 07737-5368). Spacious bungalows of all sizes start at 2,600B. Next door, the stylish Sarikantang (www.sarikantang.com; tel. 07737-5055-7) has beautifully designed and well-equipped rooms that range from 1,700B to 5,400B. Both places have beachside restaurants and pools, and are just far enough from town for a bit of quiet, but are close enough to walk down and join the festivities. Lighthouse Bungalows (tel. 07737-5075) has secluded fan and air conditioning bungalows set around the rocky cape hillside with sea views. Despite a secluded setting, regular DJ parties keep the party going outside of key lunar dates, which might not be your thing. Rates run between 450B and 1,000B. Tommy Resort (www.tommyresort.com; tel. 07737-5215) is a cute little boutique that offers everything from standard rooms and bungalows to pool villas and has a nice pool that leads to a quiet beach with shade from palm trees. It’s in the heart of the Had Rin action (for better or worse), and prices start around 2,000B, though pool villas run around 8,000B.
THE EAST COAST
Had Yuan and Had Thian are the main beaches on the southeastern part of the island, which is the most secluded part of the Ko Pha Ngan. You’ll need a boat to reach the resorts over here since the roads require four wheels and are often impassable after heavy rains. But if you’re after quiet beaches and a bit of isolation, don’t let that deter you since the 10-minute long journey on a long-tail boat from Had Rin costs around 300B, and hotels are adept at booking transfers. Had Yuan is a small but beautiful beach that feels worlds away from the Had Rin party scene, and the water is a sparkling shade of blue. A rocky outcrop flanks one end of the beach and the swimming is good.
WEST & NORTH COAST
Both the west and north coast have white-sand beaches and are far from the monthly hippy hoedown at Had Rin, which might be a relief. Resorts are quiet and affordable, and growing in number and quality of attractions. The tranquil Laem Son freshwater lake lies close to Ao Chao Phao, but it’s on the site of a former tin mine and is thought to be toxic, so don’t try swimming there. Had Yao, or Long Beach, is considered by many to be a perfect beach, a quiet but huge stretch of white sand, good for swimming, with the same sunset views and laid-back vibe that drew the first travelers here. Supermarkets and Internet cafes up on the main road provide the bulk of services you’ll need; good eats can also be found along the beach—it’s big enough to play soccer on.
There are several bungalow resorts and budget spots. Snap great photos for Instagram from the infinity pool at Haad Yao Sandy Bay Bungalows (www.sandybaybungalows.com; tel 07734-9119) or from a private bungalow with an ocean view; rooms from 1,500B. The winning combination of great service, good-value rooms and excellent restaurant makes Shiralea (www.shiralea.com; tel. 080719-9256) a popular pick. Choose from fan-cooled rooms at 650B or air-con rooms at 1,400B; all have thatched roofs, are raised on stilts, and have balconies with hammocks.
This handsome and secluded sandy beach used to be a pirates’ hideout and is good for swimming (Nov–Apr), with a reef about 150m (492 ft.) offshore that is a well-known dive site. The beach has a rustic vibe and Thai fisherman catch fish and naps from the long-tail boats docked off shore.
Salad Hut (www.saladhut.com; tel. 07734-9246) has Thai-style bungalows with verandas and a small infinity pool (that doesn’t fill up too quickly because the hotel only has a dozen rooms). The staff are good-natured and helpful, and rooms start at 2,200B. The nicest option on this stretch of sand is Cookies Salad (www.cookies-phangan.com; [tel] 07734-9125), a popular resort with an odd name. There’s a tiered Jacuzzi and pool and the bungalows are stacked on a hill affording great views from nearly every room; rates from 1,700B.
NORTHEAST/AO THONG NAI PAN
Two adjoining crescent-shaped beaches, 17km (11 miles) north of Had Rin, are differentiated by the suffix yai (big) and noi (small). This secluded paradise is home to the island’s most swank resorts and is easily reached by rented boat, or less easily, by bumpy dirt track. Thanks to a bit of construction work, the road between the two beach is well-kept, and a taxi between the two beaches runs around 100B. Thong Nai Pan Yai is quieter, while Thong Nai Pan Noi is the island’s most beautiful beach and has a more bohemian vibe and a small village with some cool bars and restaurants.
This part of the island is best suited for honeymooners and those looking for luxury—and the prices and accommodations types reflect that. However, there are a few inexpensive places to bed down near these fabulous beaches. Longtail Beach Resort (www.longtailbeachresort.com; tel. 07744-5018), at the southern end of Thong Nai Pan, has a lovely pool with ocean views. Its bamboo bungalows are simple but clean and well-kept in a lush garden setting. Fan-cooled rooms start at 720B and air-con rooms range from 850B to 2,500B.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.