This island off the coast of Ko Samui is probably best known to overseas visitors for its infamous full moon parties as revellers descend on the beaches of Hat Rin. However, beyond the beaches and parties, Ko Pha Ngan offers a beautiful National Park and a smattering of waterfalls to visit. The island’s infrastructure has improved greatly in recent years, but not to the extent of Ko Samui’s and much to the delight of the backpackers and independent travellers, this has helped to deter the big holiday companies from establishing a presence on the island. Even if partying isn’t your thing, the island is worthy of at least a day trip if you’re staying in Ko Samui.
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Where to Stay
Basically, if you want a beach with a good-time vibe and plenty going on, head for Hat Rin. Even apart from full moon nights when thousands of revellers descend on the beach, Hat Rin is the busiest and most developed of Ko Pha Ngan’s beaches. If you want a bit of seclusion and a quiet time, head for any of the other beaches on the island. Beautiful Thong Nai Pan has enjoyed historical links with the Thai royal family and is highly recommended.
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If you are travelling from Bangkok a combination rail and boat/ferry ticket is available from most tour operators and from Railway of Thailand agents. From the mainland, ferries depart from Surat Thani and Don Sak 6 times a day, with journey times ranging from 4-7 hours.
From Ko Samui
A ferry runs daily between the two main towns on each respective island; Na Thon (on Ko Samui) and Thong Sala (on Ko Pha Ngan). The express boat for foot passengers takes 45 minutes. A combination of speedboats and longtail boats also run from Ko Samui’s northern beaches of Maenam, Bophut and Bangrak (Big Buddha Beach). Times and frequency fluctuate, but for the full moon party there are all-night services shuttling between Hat Rin and Samui’s northern beaches.
From Ko Tao
Depending on weather conditions, there is a choice of speedboat, express ferry or slow boat. Journey times are from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
Travel on Ko Pha Ngan
Despite improvements, the infrastructure on Ko Pha Ngan isn’t great, partly because of the island’s topography. There is an infrequent songthaew service but many people elect to rent motorcycles. Be aware that Ko Pha Ngan’s roads are often bumpy with plenty of hairpin bends, blind corners and dips.