A brief history of the island dates back to almost 2000 years ago with archeological digs showing evidence of small settlements on the island. The first documented settlers were Muslim Sea Gypsies traveling by boat from the Malay peninsula. Shortly after that Chinese immigrants arrived and started working alongside the Thai population harvesting coconuts (still a major industry on the island) and mining for tin.
The tourism industry arrived relatively late to the island with the first bungalows being built about 20 years ago. Much debate rages about which resort was the original or first however Becks resort just outside of the main town of Tong Sala has laid claim to the title for now.
The island is peppered with villages and settlements with the main names being Tong Sala the island “capital”, Haad Rin the full moon “capital”, the fishing village of Chaloklum in the North West, Sri Thanu with its holistic healing and yoga retreats and Thong Nai Pan Noi (new) and Yai (big) beach towns on the East coast.
Over the next few months I will write a little about all these areas with reviews and pictures of some of the most popular resorts, bungalows, activities and of course restaurants to be found on this island. For now here is where and how….
Koh Phangan Thailand accommodation and directions
Lets start with getting here. There are many web sites dedicated to the island with travel and accommodation info, here are a few of my favorites www.kohphangan.com , www.welovekohphangan.com, www.phangan.info. Below is just a basic breakdown of the many options you have that way you can plan best suited to your budget, mood or time frame!
There is still no airport on the island and despite many rumors I doubt there will be one for a few years. The only access is by boat. The boats to the island come in many varieties to suit all budgets from private speedboats, catamaran’s, night boats, car ferry and regular boat. The main ports it can be reached from are Chumpon in the mainland north, Don Sak pier, Surat Thani in the mainland South of the island and two ports on the island of Koh Samui, Nathon and Big Buddha Pier.
You can get direct flights to Koh Samui with Bangkok Air from Bangkok, Hong Kong and a few other Asian citys or a Fly, Bus and Boat combination to Surrathani airport via Chumpon pier with Nok Air or Air Asia.
The next option is an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (both the name of a town and the province Koh Phangan Island is located in) you can get train information from the my favorite train guru the man at SEAT61.
The final and perhaps cheapest option is a bus boat combo. The bus has two options government and VIP and travels overnight. Tickets are around 1200 Baht for the VIP bus and 850 for the government bus. The only big difference here is the size of the chair and the angle it reclines at. VIP think first class airplane size with almost full recline, foot rest and massage and government bus is bus size seat with slight tilt and no foot rest.
This pretty much sums it up, like I said there are many other sites that have detailed timetables and step by step info about getting here so feel free to click on some of the excellent links above.
Accommodation wise Koh Phangan is just as varied as its access routes. The island really has something to suit everyone from 5 star resorts like Santhiya to budget hostels and homestays there are even camp sites on some resort grounds. If your anything like me you will want to mix it up as 5 star rooms don’t always mean 5 star location on Koh Phangan, sometimes the most basic, cold shower and fan bungalow has the most majestic views of the ocean or jungle you have ever seen. Missing this would be a tad against my nature so here is a round-up of my favorite spots high, low and plenty in-between! Resort names are all hyper links to there respective sites.
As you may notice Haad Yuan is one of my favorite places on this island. I came here first and return every few months just to remind myself how remote and relaxed really do go hand in hand for me. Pariya offers the most luxurious accommodation in the bay and the only swimming pool. I know I have now officially checked in everywhere. I have stayed here on three separate occasions and enjoyed my visit for very different reasons. Mainly the villas are just really relaxing and spacious and offer a cool minimal retreat after the sensual and heat overload of your day. The bath is also hard to resist. On my last visit new management had made some improvements to the beach lounging situation with a few very nice oversize hammocks and better poolside towels which were long overdue. Sadly the food is still terrible.. sorry Pariya!
Heaven! Santhiya resort occupies an entire hillside with beautifully landscaped tropical gardens and villas just far enough from each other that you can almost imagine your alone. We stayed in a two-story villa without a pool which suited us just fine as the tiered pool was about the only reason you feel like leaving these lush rooms. The beds envelope you and the smell of the beautiful wood materials feels like an aromatherapy session. My favorite feature had to be the giant open roofed bathrooms. Pre dinner showers have never felt so tropical with the sound of wild birds, views of swaying palm shadows and the infinite glittering stars.
The food here was a little unimaginative although the inclusive breakfast was vast and options plentiful, I would choose to dine out for other meals. Bit of a shame as you would just want to languish here considering the price and slightly remote location. Still for a few days of pampering you can live.
Part of a collection of restaurants and resorts on the island this affordable and very well-managed resort is ideal for a no frills but totally enjoyable stay.
Pristine white linens and basic but immaculate concrete bungalows with AC are located close to the main village on Thong Sala within walking distance of great restaurants, shops and local amenities. The resort has a great friendly layed back vibe with a small pool and views across the bay. Low tides make it tricky to get a real swim in here but if a quick dip and a strole along sand banks is sufficient this is the perfect spot. The resort also has great sunsets which is always the making of a good holiday.
The shallow sheltered bay that this resort is just perfect for anyone with kids looking for a simple relaxing beach holiday. Added bonus is that this season they will be adding a much anticipated pool WOOP! Watch the action progress here…
This family owned and family run resort (great family too!) has been designed in such a way that every simply decorated bungalow has a sea view as well as enough personal space to really allow you to relax in your hammock and suck up the peace and quiet of the shady palm grove your located in.
It’s just minutes from Thong Sala off the coastal road leading to a plethora of great beaches, restaurants and the curious fishing village of Chaloklum, (more about that later.). If your feeling adventurous, you can rent a kayak or windsurf here even as a non guest and visit the laguna on the small uninhabited island of Koh Tae Nai opposite. Take a look at more information here….
The resort has a great restaurant of its own too so no need to venture further, the breakfasts are fresh and healthy with a great selection, I also highly recommend the crepes.
There are literally thousands more choices on the island and this is just a very small selection im sure this list will grow but for now these are tried, tested and approved.
Koh Phangan Thailand accommodation and directions