Exploring the Natural Beauty of Koh Phangan
Thailand is notably one of Southeast Asia’s premier destinations. The Bangkok Post reports that the country welcomed 38.27 million visitors in 2018, up 7.5% from 2017. The Thai Tourism Ministry estimates that arrivals will increase by another 8% from last year’s figure and are estimated to reach over 41 million in 2019. To put that in perspective, the article observed how visitors to Thailand exceed the population of Canada and equates to more than half of Thailand’s population.
Most travelers who flock to Thailand come to see its magnificent beaches and crystal-clear waters, but the country isn’t all about sand and surf. Chiang Mai, with its majestic Buddhist temples, is nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand, offering a bit of serenity away from the crowds and wild nightlife areas.
Of course Phuket is often on the itinerary of most travelers heading to Thailand, and for good reason. It has been touted by Japan Times for its “endless possibilities”. Phuket has it all including idyllic beaches, exotic and delicious cuisine, and of course endless nightlife. Along with Chiang Mai and Phuket, Expatbets’ long form guide to Thailand notes that Koh Phangan is a favorite destination of both tourists and expats. Koh Phangan is an island teeming with natural beauty and pristine beaches. Let’s explore the many reasons you should make an effort to see Thailand’s fifth largest island.
photo by Visions of Domino (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Koh Phangan Beaches
Koh Phangan has plenty of beaches on which you can easily relax and sunbathe by day and party by night. One of the island’s most notable beaches is Haad Rin Beach, well known for its monthly Full Moon Party where you can deck yourself out in UV paint and dance the night away with upwards of 30,000 people on certain occasions. Of course you can easily escape the crowds by avoiding traveling to the island during a full moon. Accommodation also becomes both more available and cheaper from April to June.
Thong Nai Pan offers a much calmer beach experience with palm trees and pure white sand, while Bottle Beach may be the island’s best known beach. Reaching Thong Nai Pan involves a decent sized hike through the jungle from Coconut Beach, but it’s well worth the effort. Many call the hike the best natural experience to be had on the island. Other notable beaches to check out on the island include Haad Yao and Haad Salad.
Dive Beneath the Surface
As beautiful as Koh Phangan is on land, it may be even more so underwater. The island offers up nearly two dozen world class dive sites in its surrounding waters. One of the most notable dive sites is Sail Rock, which is about an hour’s boat ride from the island. In addition to the countless varieties of colorful fish on offer, you may be lucky enough to spot giant manta rays and whale sharks.
You can easily find great snorkel spots along the northwest coast, offering up chances of spotting sea turtles and several harmless shark species. One of the best snorkel beaches is Mae Haad Beach, but honestly anywhere in the Gulf of Thailand can provide great results.
Lace Up the Hiking Boots
Both the interior of Koh Phangan and the eastern coastline offers up great hiking opportunities. Discover the true natural spirit of the island as you make your way up Khao Ra, the tallest point on the island at around 630 meters. The view from the summit overlooks both Chaloklum and Thong Nai Pan, and the trek will take you roughly three hours to complete. While it may not be a very strenuous climb, the route can be a bit tricky to follow at times. For this reason, it may be worth hiring a guide so as to not get lost.
Another great spot to check out is Secret Mountain. Recently opened to the public, Secret Mountain offers the best place to catch the sunset along with dining on delicious local cuisine. It’s definitely a bit hidden and not well advertised, but that makes it even more enticing. While you can hire a taxi or bike to reach the top of the large hill where you’ll find the restaurant, many choose to hike the easy to manage incline to take in the views along the way. From the top you can take in Koh Samui and the Ang Thong Islands off in the distance. Did we mention there is an incredibly refreshing pool awaiting you at the top?
Photo by Visions of Domino (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Seek Out the Island’s Waterfalls
Koh Phangan boasts seven waterfalls including Sramanora, Phaeng, Thaan Prapaad, Than Sadet, Wangsai, Paradise, and Than Prawet. They are seven of the island’s best attractions and each warrant a visit. Phaeng Waterfall is one of the largest falls on the island and is most impressive after a heavy rain during the monsoon season. If you have limited time, make sure to at least visit Paradise Waterfall near Chaloklum Bay as well as Than Sadet and Than Prawet which are easily accessible from nearby Thong Nai Pan Beach.
You may wish to also check out the island’s largest tree which can be found near Wat Pho, the massage capital of the island. You’ll need to crane your neck to take in this giant that towers over you. The 400-year-old tree is decorated with colorful ribbons and flowers and is said to bring good luck your way.
Visit Ang Thong National Marine Park
Take a boat ride and explore Ang Thong National Marine Park, which covers 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It is home to a range of limestone hills, an assortment of sinkholes and caves, lush forests, and several inland marine lakes. Major attractions include Wua Ta Lap Viewpoint, Bua Bok Cave, and the islands of Ko Wua Ta Lap, Ko Mae Ko, and Ko Sam Sao. Activities on offer to enjoy the park include sea kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking. You can extend your time in the park by camping or staying in a rustic bungalow. Be sure to go snorkeling at Koh Wao and check out the emerald-colored lake of Koh Mae Ko.