Koh Phangan is an essential stop on the conscious community circuit. It’s the kind of place travellers go expecting to stay two weeks, but end up sticking around for six months… or never leaving. This is a travel guide to the conscious community on the island.

Koh Phangan is constantly changing as people come and go, so if you have new places you’d suggest or find outdated information in this guide, please add the new information you have to the Comments. And feel free to share this with your friends!

Contents


Intro to the Island
Yoga on Koh Phangan
A Summary of the Different Parts of Phangan
Yoga / Meditation Retreat Centres
Healing / Wellness Centres
Food & Drink
Dance & Party
Activities / Sights
Alternative Health / Massage
Housing
Best Time to Go
Final Thoughts

..

Intro to the island


Koh Phangan is a quartz island. It vibrates in a way that attracts people, and those people vibrate on the same frequency to make for an ever higher vibrational field that ends up sucking even more people in.

Like other conscious communities such as Goa, Ibiza and Bali, the island first became known as a rave party destination. Backpackers have flocked by the thousands to the epic full moon parties since the 1980s.

But as the rave generation has aged into 30- and 40-somethings, those who originally started coming for the parties have since been coming for a different kind of spiritual experience, so the island has taken on a whole other dimension as a conscious community (on the west and east coasts, that is … the south is still all about partying!)

The island attracts a huge following of spiritual folk looking to take Yoga courses, do meditation retreats, sing kirtan or engage in some healing in a quiet place. There’s a diverse group of people from around the world. Some come to partake in their spiritual practice at a centre among a group, while some prefer to practice solo. Some choose to do nothing at all other than take in the entertainment and the beach.

No matter their reason for coming, people really love this island. And for the spiritually inclined, Phangan is pretty much an ideal spot.

Yoga on Koh Phangan


Woman doing Yoga pose on rock - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan offers something for just about everyone interested in Yoga. Hatha, Tantra, Kundalini, Ashtanga … pretty much all the main Yoga styles are covered.

Some people go to a particular retreat centre and do a single course (or pick from whatever class offerings the centre has going at the time), while others sample classes at various places.

If you’re located on the west end of the island, you’re ideally situated to get to the Yoga places. Most will require a motorbike to get to (just a five to ten-minute drive), but there’s a few of them—like Samma Karuna, Orion and Ananda—you can walk to if you stay right in Srithanu.

On the west side of Koh Phangan, Yoga is much more than just an activity. It’s life. There are many serious practitioners doing their daily sadhana, which is a good source of inspiration for those wanting to build a strong personal practice.

Because of the numerous Yoga practitioners and events going on, it’s easy to meet fellow Yoga practitioners

who share common values, so this will help you develop a Yogic lifestyle.

Beginner quick tips—What to do when you arrive

If you arrive in Srithanu on a Monday, check out the community dinner at Samma Karuna. It’s a good place to quickly get acquainted with the community and meet like-minded people. It’s within walking distance, so if you don’t have a motorbike, you can easily get there.

On other days you can go to one of the centres listed below and check out one of the many events they have going on.

One choice is Orion. They have a lot of programs to choose from, they also have a nice café on the beach you can hang out in and they’re right in town so easy to get to.

On any day of the week you can go to Zen Beach at sunset, as it’s the main gathering spot for some improv music and dance.

If you prefer searching online for stuff to do, just go to the Koh Phangan Conscious Community Events page and scroll through the endless stream of events.

A summary of the different parts of Phangan


Phangan is a small island. You can drive around it in two hours on a motorbike. To most travellers’ amazement, each of the four sides of the island (North, South, East and West) boasts a totally different vibe, depending on what you’re looking for.

West: Spiritual Yogi town

The west side, centred around Srithanu, is home to one of the largest conscious communities in the world, and it’s the area this guide is focused on.

Along with Bali, Indonesia and Goa, India, Srithanu is one of the leading destinations for those wanting to improve their Yoga practice, get certified as a teacher, evolve their meditation or participate in an array of retreats for cleansing/detoxing, tantra, breathwork and a wide variety of other spiritual practices.

The area is loaded with Yoga and healing centres, vegan organic eateries, saunas, pyramids, music events and all kinds of other activities and entertainment. With all that good stuff, it’s no surprise that it pulls in travellers from all over the world… and for that reason, finding a place to stay during high season can be a challenge (see the ‘Best Time to Go’ section for more).

Being an island in Thailand, it of course has all kinds of beaches, too, but if you ask around, most people don’t even go to the beach much since they’re too busy doing a Yoga course, a sacred dance, kirtan or one of the millions of other activities going on.

East: The other conscious community

Though Srithanu is the epicentre of Phangan’s conscious community, it’s not the only place.

The east side of the island is remote and sparsely populated, since it’s available by boat access only (unless you have a sturdy four-wheel drive, that is). It’s foot traffic only between the three beaches that make up the Tri-Bay area (Haad Tien, Haad Yuan and Haad Wai Nam), so the pace is a lot slower and more peaceful than in other parts of the island. That alone makes it feel like a legit getaway to a truly tropical locale. But when you add in the beautiful beach and lush jungle backdrop, it just feels amazing!

There’s a small group of people centred around the Sanctuary and scattered throughout the whole Tri-Bay area. If you stick around awhile, you get to know people who are living there and mainly working for the Sanctuary as Yoga teachers, healing practitioners or other staff.

Outside of the Sanctuary, there isn’t much on the east side that regularly offers Yoga classes, healing sessions and other such events, so if you’re looking to explore a wide variety of things among a wide variety of people, the east isn’t the place for you. It does, however, make a great weekend getaway for those wanting an escape from the relatively fast pace of the west side.

But for those wanting an escape, be warned. If you’re there on the weekend, you can still hear techno beats pumping throughout the night from one of the local establishments: Guy’s Bar (it sounds like a gay bar, but it’s not) on Fridays and Eden on Saturdays. Then there’s the lovely Whynam beach party (check out the Tri Bay Love Tribe Facebook page for details on that event). It is Koh Phangan, the party island, after all! But these are all fantastic events, so it’s quite a bonus to be on that side of the island.

To get there, you have to go to the Sunrise beach on Haad Rin (where the Full Moon parties go on) and get a boat taxi. You also have to wait until the boat fills up, which can take a while if you go late at night.

South: Party central

The island’s main artery is the south side, comprised of Thong Sala, Ban Tai and Haad Rin. Thongsala is the main town of the island, full of all your potential needs: large grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants, night markets and the main port where all the ferries go in and out.

Ban Tai is the middleman between Thong Sala and party central Haad Rin. It’s smaller, but has some of the best coffee shops on the island, and is more affordable than Thong Sala or Haad Rin. Here, you’ll mainly see the younger crowd gearing up for the next Full Moon party (more on that later!).

This leads up to the most well-known artery of all: Haad Rin. Located in the southeast corner of the island, you’ll find it to be the most touristy section. The demographic consists of college-aged Western tourists and Thais who are hung over from partying the night before, or are getting ready to party tomorrow. The famous Full Moon party is hosted here. It has become so popular that they now have half moon, new moon and a host of other parties in the south to cater to the massive influx of party tourists.

North: Peace, quiet and a beautiful beach

The north is chill, with a small foreigner scene living there semi-permanently. Though it’s only a 20-minute motorbike ride from the more populated southern end of the island, it feels quite removed from it all.

There’s a nice big beach that you can take your time walking (unlike the mostly short strips of beach throughout the rest of the island). There are a few mom-and-pop restaurants, massage places and scuba diving tour agencies that cater to the population of mostly locals and families on vacation.

Being removed from the rest of the island, this is a great place to escape to if you’re staying for a longer term in another part of the island and want to chill on a nice beach without being recognized by people you know.

Yoga/meditation retreat centres


Woman doing aerial yoga on beach - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Here’s a list of the main Yoga/meditation retreat centres that people go to. Though most of them are oriented towards people taking courses, they all offer drop-in classes and events.

Some of them, like Samma Karuna and Wonderland, have accommodation and serve food, so they provide a different kind of experience through which you can just land in the centre and not leave for your whole vacation, if that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for.

Also know that there are more places hosting events than those listed here. To find out about the other places and events going on, check out the Koh Phangan Conscious Community page on Facebook or keep an eye out for posters advertising local events.

Samma Karuna Located in Srithanu, this centre has the most diverse schedule of classes, from traditional Yoga and meditations to more experimental sessions such as rebirthing, Bio Development or AUM.

It’s a great place to meet people easily and quickly, as they have a community dinner every Monday night, a nice lounge and café to hang out in and discuss classes, and another chill area down by the beach.

Though it’s somewhat disorganized, their schedule is packed with classes seven days a week. You can attend the majority of the classes as a drop-in student for around $10, or enroll in a week- or month-long program with exclusive classes that are only for program members. You can also sleep there, as they provide bungalows for students.

As mentioned, aside from Yoga and meditation, they offer a host of other programs. Rebirthing is an intense type of breathwork that can result in a euphoric feeling that allows you to see and feel things from a different perspective.

Bio Development is designed to open up our emotional expression to others. There are some interesting practices involved, like dancing with partners, holding hands or making eye contact. It’s a great way to help you get out of your shell and connect to strangers on a positive level.

AUM is the most mysterious of them all. In the beginning, you’ll think it’s quite odd to be yelling a sentence at a partner nonstop for 10 minutes, but after the intense three-hour session, you can feel cleansed, both physically and emotionally.

Note that Samma Karuna’s practice halls don’t have bug nets, which could be a problem at times, since some mosquitoes in this region carry dengue fever (not to mention that it gets annoying, trying to meditate with mosquitoes biting you). 

Wonderland – The newest wellness centre to join the other large establishments, Wonderland is in a nice setting in the foothills, yet not too far from the main town of Thongsala. It is, however, away from both the beach and from Srithanu, so people who come here tend to stick around without exploring the other spots so much.

The centre is pristine, with a higher-end resort feel. It has a beautiful pool, an amazing vegan restaurant and several halls that host their classes. Wonderland caters to people who want a program of a week or longer in which you eat, sleep and attend class for a set amount of days. They have excellent cleansing/detox programs, as well as Yoga and meditation. They also offer lectures with rotating topics each week.

Pyramid – Perched atop a mountain and embedded right in the jungle, Pyramid is an ideal setting to go inwards. They’ve built some of the absolute coolest buildings on the island: pyramid-shaped open-air buildings that are fully enclosed with bug nets. (Tip: if you’re not an experienced motorbike driver, feel free to park your motorbike at the bottom and walk up, since the incline can be a little daunting).

This is one of the original centres on the island, and is known for its style of Pyramid Yoga. This centre also hosts a number of other great events, like ecstatic dance, the annual Ecstatic Festival, daily drop-in Yoga classes and sound meditations. It’s a special spot to do programs like this, and it’s also available as a space in which you can host your own programs, should you have something to offer.

Pyramid hosts an awesome Sunday morning ecstatic dance event. Ecstatic dance is a dance experience unlike any other. It has certain guidelines that facilitate going inward: no talking, no shoes, no alcohol. DJs play an eclectic collection of music, and people dance with an intensity that’s not seen in nightclubs. People who come to these events come purely to dance, and the result can be totally liberating. For many, it’s the best event of the week on the island.

Sound meditations at Pyramid are optimal, since the centre has a special dome with amazing acoustics for these types of gatherings (Tip: sit in the middle of the dome and you’ll feel the sound reverberate through your body.).

Wat Khao Tam – This Theravadan Buddhist monastery located near Ban Tai offers Vipassana courses from the 10th to the 20th days of each month. Courses are taught in the Thai forest tradition, in the lineage of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. These courses are hosted by donation, and you register in person on the first day of the event.

Jaran’s Yoga and Eatery – Opened in 2017, it’s less established than most of the other centres. It’s located on the west side of the island, about a 10-minute drive from Srithanu on the middle road and about halfway between Srithanu and Thongsala. As well as Yoga classes, they offer a variety of other classes, including their highly popular Wednesday evening ecstatic dance. The location is splendid, with views of the mountains and lots of lush greenery. One issue is that they don’t have bug nets to stop the mosquitoes.

Agama – Previously, this was the main Yoga place on Koh Phangan, with multiple campuses centred around Srithanu and a huge following around the world due to its style of Tantra Yoga. But recently, the founder has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple students, and the number of students has dropped dramatically. A few other teachers have also been accused. This is mentioned here because Agama has quite a history on the island, so it’s good to be aware of what people are talking about when they mention the name—and you’ll also know what you’re getting into if you do choose to take classes there.

Healing/wellness centres


Woman meditating on rock - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

The west has quite a few detox cleansing centres, where the detox process involves fasting, juicing, taking remedies and doing procedures (i.e. colonics) to expel toxins, as well as eating a plant-based diet and taking part in massage, energy work and Yoga.

Then there are DIY detoxers of all stripes, doing their own detox plans that they learned online or from friends. So if you’re on a budget, you can ask around and you’ll no doubt find some passionate person who’s proud to tell you all the details about their latest cleanse (and the resulting contents of their latest bowel movement!) like the urine therapists who will tell you how you can drink your piss until your bladder is so clean your pee tastes like coconut juice!

Or the menstrual blood vampires (not kidding one bit!). Or the most hardcore of them all, the dry fasters who abstain from both food and drink. Most people think it’s impossible, but it’s not. People do it, and if you look around, there’s a chance you’ll find people on Phangan doing it. If there were an Olympics for extreme diets, Phangan would be the place to host it.

The tropical environment provides an ideal place to cleanse yourself of toxins, since the cleanses typically involve periods of fasting, juicing and eating raw. When eating raw, you’re not ingesting hot foods, which makes it more challenging for people to adopt this diet in a cold climate. In a climate like this, it’s much easier. And when you add to that the fact that people are fasting in a structured program within a group setting, that just makes it even easier. People have reported all kinds of health benefits and weight loss from doing these detoxes.

Orion – Orion offers their version of detox programs, as well as a host of other spiritual practices. They offer drop-ins, or you can enroll in a program. They have one of the most popular vegan cafés, with a robust menu of tasty desserts, lunches, teas and salads.

Orion has multiple shalas, hosting a diverse array of classes, including kirtan, shamanic sound healing, breathwork and contact improvisation. Kirtan is an Indian practice during which you chant ancient mantras in Sanskrit. The audience repeats the chanting in a call-and-response format, which makes for a highly meditative, blissful experience.

In shamanic sound healing, you spend an hour lying on the floor as the facilitator plays a huge collection of different tribal instruments, including singing bowls, flutes and string instruments.

Contact improvisation is for people who love to dance or explore their expression through movement. You’ll learn how to free-form dance with partners. It allows you to connect to your physical self and move in a way that has no boundaries or rules. It can be quite beautiful to watch as well.

All these classes are available regularly, on a weekly basis.

Ananda – Located in Hin Kong (just south of Srithanu), across the street from the ocean, you can watch sunsets every evening here, while eating a yummy dinner in the café. Ananda offers mainly cleansing/detox programs and Yoga teacher training. The majority of the attendees eat, sleep and go to class on the property, without needing to go elsewhere. The cleansing/detox program is quite popular, with three-, seven- and eleven-day retreats on offer. This centre also offers a daily meditation that’s open to outsiders. And they also have a sauna and a pool.

The Dome – Though there are saunas at the healing centres, The Dome is a special place to go since it’s set in a peaceful location in the hills on the west side. The location is decorated really well, and it’s a cool spot to look at the stars on a dark night. It makes for a special night out, as you can take your time in the saunas and come out and drink tea while sitting around the fire.

Food & drink


Surprisingly, this small island has food as good as the big city back in Bangkok. Not only can you find tasty traditional Thai food, but thanks to the expat population, you can find authentic Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, German, Japanese and other cuisines, as well as Canadian poutine and English breakfasts. 

As well, being a destination for so many who are on a path of wellness and healing, there are numerous vegetarian, vegan and even macrobiotic restaurants. Almost any diet can be accommodated on Koh Phangan.

There are also plenty of roadside fruit stands where you can buy fresh fruit, drink a coconut or get a tasty fruit shake mixed for you on the cheap.

Thai

To get a sample of all the traditional cheap Thai food, it’s best to go to the nightly market in Thongsala known as Pantip. It’s open seven days a week, every evening, and you can get everything from Pad Thai, Thai noodle soup, tornado (tasty fried potato on a stick) and more.

There’s also a covered area deeper in the market that has non-Thai food options as well. Don’t forget to attend the walking street night market, which is only available on Saturday evenings, down near the pier. The main street running parallel to the ocean is blocked off to cars and has a huge selection of Thai food, cheap clothes and jewellery.

If you want to experience Thai food away from the street scene, there are plenty of good restaurants. It’s impossible to say that one Thai restaurant is better than another, since each specializes in certain dishes.

For top notch Pad Thai and Tom Yum, go to Seaview Rainbow Resort or Yum Yum Da & Ball. Both are in the centre of Srithanu. The best Pad See Ew is at Good Time, also in Srithanu. The best papaya salad (somtam) is made by an elderly Thai guy who never smiles in Pantip Market. You’ll know him when you see him!

The best of all things non-Thai

Italian – Hands down, the best pizza and pasta on the island is at Mandolino, located in downtown Thongsala. This restaurant is owned by a friendly Italian family, so you’ll be getting a true authentic experience there. The pizza is cooked in a traditional stone fire oven. The pastas are homemade, and come in hefty Italian-sized portions. It’s located on arguably the most appealing side street in all of Thongsala: a small road that’s quieter than the main strip and has many other restaurants, along with tattoo shops, coffee shops and massage places.

Mediterranean – For your falafel hummus fix, you can experience Taboon in Srithanu or Baraka in Thongsala. They have pita bread that’s still warm and soft out of the oven, amazing hummus and falafels that melt in your mouth. With a nice ambience and comfortable floor seating, Taboon is also a great spot for a romantic night out (and they have a super tasty shakshuka!).

Mexican – it’s a little trickier to find Mexican food in Thailand, but you can head to Ando Loco on the main street of Thongsala, heading towards Ban Tai, to satisfy your cravings. It has good tacos, nachos and quesadillas.

Vegan – For vegans, Srithanu is the place to be. Try Eat.co, Pure Vegan or Karma Kafe for all the best mushroom burgers, quinoa bowls, salads, smoothies, delectable vegan desserts and other unique homemade creations.

Breakfast – For a traditional western breakfast, Nira’s Bakery has great pancakes that are fully equipped with homemade chocolate sauce. They have tasty home-baked goods, too, like bread, cookies, cake and scones. For a real English breakfast, head to the north in Chakluklom, to World’s End. There’s no better location to drink an espresso and indulge in Eggs Benedict.

CoffeeCookies is the mainstay coffee joint in Srithanu. It’s right in the middle of town, and is always packed. You’ll constantly see a bunch of motorbikes lined up in front of it! Art Café is a funky place in the north end of Srithanu, with a good selection of food and drinks. Bubba’s Cafe and Luna’s Cafe in Ban Tai also have great coffee and their own version of Eggs Benedict.

Other – Run by French-Canadians, Crave makes authentic poutine, a bad-for-you but damn right tasty traditional Quebecois dish made up of French fries, gravy and cheese curds. Crave is a much-needed eatery to balance out all the healthy food in a place where there’s one vegan restaurant after another. For Indian food, most of the restaurants are located in Haad Rin.

Dance & party


Crowd of partiers - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Known worldwide as the Full Moon Party island, because of its monthly electronic music bash on the beach and several other moon parties (Half Moon, Black Moon, Shiva Moon and so on) this island is bursting with dance events, mostly centred in the south of the island.

Yoga practitioners also love to dance, so on the west side of the island, you can find dance events catering to the Yoga community.

But Yoga practitioners also love to dance, so on the west side of the island, you can find dance events catering to the Yoga community. There are a few ecstatic dance events going on, particularly in high season.

Jaran’s has a popular event on Wednesdays that attracts a large crowd. But Pyramid Yoga throws the top party on Sunday mornings that consistently has good music and a pumped up all-ages crowd (and the occasional four-legged friend). It’s got that Sunday morning energy that’s more true to the ecstatic dance vibe than the energy at the evening events, which can devolve into a nightclub kind of feel at times. Dancing inside a pyramid on top of a mountain in the jungle is the ideal location for an event like this, and that’s part of what makes it such a special event.

The only downside of the events around Srithanu is the sound systems. The music can’t go all that loud, and even if it did, there are so many noise complaints from neighbours in this area that events are under constant threat of getting shut down. So the music stays low.

Good thing there’s another side! One of the great things about Koh Phangan is that there’s a polar opposite, yin to yang element present that balances out the island. Head to the south and east and you can find massive all-night beach and jungle parties, including the one that made the island famous: the monthly Full Moon Party.

It’s a really good thing the island has this different side to it, as it invites diversity, something most people in the “Koh Phangan Conscious Community” fail to see. Side note: If someone you meet on the west end of the island tells you you’ll be possessed by the devil if you go to one of these dance parties, you can safely tell them to piss off!

The conscious community typically stays away from that side of the island, and some even put it down with a snobbish, “that’s too unconscious” remark of some sort. (The conscious community on Phangan got its name from the Facebook page of the same name—the go-to place to keep up to date with community events and happenings, but also a place where communication can devolve into negativity).

A lot has been said about the Full Moon Party, but the fears are mostly unwarranted, as is usually the case with any mass hysteria. Yes, people get drunk and high, and it’s possible to get your drink spiked with something or step on broken glass, but violence is rare.

As is the case anywhere, you’ll have a good and safe time if you stay sober and don’t piss anyone off. If you get ruined and start trash-talking some guy for wearing a UK flag while you’re wearing a German flag, then you’re walking into trouble. If you like to dance and enjoy being among fun-lovers from all over the planet, under a brilliant bright moon, it’s well worth it. With people from all over the world who are excited to party, the vibe is electric!

Shiva Moon, Black Moon and Jungle Experience are three other recommended parties on the island. They consistently feature quality music and are set in ideal locations—the first two on the beach, the latter in the jungle.

Most of the aforementioned parties attract a younger crowd (18-23) so if you’re older and still want to really party, most people enjoy heading to the following:

Activities/sights


Three women dancing on beach - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Though most people are busy with courses, it’s good to make some time for activities and sightseeing around the island. By far, the most popular way to see the island is by renting a motorbike and driving around it.

This is a fun way to get around, though it’s suggested you drive slowly at first if you’re new to driving a motorbike, particularly when driving on sandy roads (and watch out for the dogs darting onto the street!).

To get some exercise, you can go to the middle of the island to hike Khao Ra, the highest point on the island, or hike to one of the many waterfalls around the island. For some rest and relaxation, drive around to the many different beaches, and to see the sights, be sure to visit the island’s several Buddhist temples.

Other popular activities are snorkelling and scuba diving, particularly on the north and west ends of the island, and there’s also a waterpark, Slip n Fly, in the middle of the island. For those into group touring, you can take a boat trip to the nearby marine park, Angthong, where you can do some kayaking and snorkelling.

Alternative health/massage


Thai massage is a hugely popular thing to do on Phangan (and throughout Thailand) since you can get a massage for $5. But a word of caution: There are a lot of inexperienced massage therapists who haven’t received any (or very little) training. If you get a massage from one of them, you could end up feeling worse than before you went in, so there’s not much point in wasting your time.

It’s best to ask for a referral from people who have been on the island a while, asking for both the name of a good therapist and their location. If you just get the location alone, that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a good massage, since the variety of therapists working at each establishment can range from inexperienced to experienced. And if you’re unsure, opting for a foot massage is your best bet.

Another recommended treatment is the hot stone massage, which is a really relaxing massage during which they put hot stones on your back that can melt stress out of your muscles.

There is also a growing number of western practitioners offering massage therapy and other healing arts services on the island. Keep an eye on the Conscious Community page for postings, or ask around for a referral from a Yoga teacher living on the island.

One noteworthy example, mentioned briefly above, is Rebirthing. It’s an intensely transformative conscious breathing technique that helps you release conditioning, trauma and negative patterns. Some people report that it’s the most transformative experience they’ve ever had.

But you really have to have an experienced practitioner in order to do this work properly. And it’s not recommended that you do it often, since it’s quite an intense thing. It is recommended that you take a session with Edward, as he’s an experienced practitioner who consistently delivers.

Housing


There are two main ways of staying on the island (not including hoboing, that is!).

Bungalow

If you’re thinking of staying for a month or more, it’s best to find a bungalow. That way, you can pay by the month and get much better rates, have a kitchen to cook meals in, and feel like you have a mini-house away from home.

If you’re arriving during high season (December to March), it can be hard to locate these, though. But if you persist, you’ll end up finding something.

The best way to look for houses is to already be on the island. So you can land in a hotel for a few days and use that time to drive around on a motorbike, and when you find a place you like, ask around to see if the landlord is there; if they’re not, take down a phone number and call (or if no one you meet speaks English, just go back until you find someone). You’ll get the best deals this way.

Alternatively, if you’re just staying for a month and don’t want to waste much time driving around looking for houses, do a groups search on Facebook for “Koh Phangan House for Rent.” There are multiple groups active under this search.

Contact the owners directly, since some of the agents will try and charge you overpriced commissions. It’s also safer to deal with the owners directly, since adding middlemen can only increase the chance of conflict with deposits and other issues.

You don’t need to spend more than 15,000 baht ($475 USD) a month to get a very clean, new, AC and Wi-Fi equipped bungalow with hot water, a bed, a kitchen, towels, a stove, bowls and so on. And if you look around longer (and during the low season) you can find places for 10,000 baht ($315 USD) or even less.

Houses are located either in the jungle, in the village or on the beach. Most houses are in the “jungle,” as people refer to it, which is basically anywhere away from the water, more in the interior of the island.

Cat and dog on porch - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand
A community dog and cat

In the jungle, you can have a lot of privacy, peace and solitude. You won’t have anybody coming to talk to you on your patio, except for the community cats and dogs who will likely come by at some point—and if welcomed, will make your patio their home (Note: If you feed them, they’ll come to rely on you, and in a sense, they’ll end up becoming your pet, so keep that in mind before befriending one when you know you’re eventually going to end up leaving). Bear in mind that if you’re living inland, you’re going to be reliant on a motorbike to get around.

If you like to be in the middle of the action, you can stay right in Srithanu in one of the many bungalows that’s a short walk from the beach. This is nice if you like to walk around and enjoy some village therapy, getting to know the locals and seeing the same faces.

There aren’t many houses available right on the beach, since the properties there are so valuable that they end up getting turned into resorts. But you can always try Bovy Beach or the road just before Zen Bungalows, and if it’s low season, you may get lucky. Your chances of landing a place improve if you book in advance.

Resort

The other housing option is staying at a resort. There are hundreds of resorts in Koh Phangan. The benefit to these is that you can stay nightly and it’s flexible. The downside is that they charge a lot, and the rates skyrocket in high season. They usually come equipped with their own restaurant and beach access, and if you pay more, a pool. Use websites such as Agoda or Booking.com to find the best deals.

Another trick is to simply do a search for “Hotels Koh Phangan.” The benefit to this method is that it will show you all the prices for a specific resort via all the different websites, so it’s easy to see who has the best deal. Resorts are more popular for couples or larger families who are on a shorter vacation stay. The bungalows are for those planning on staying longer—from one month to a year or forever!

Best time to go


The pace around Srithanu can be intense, particularly in the high season from December to March. During that time, the island gets flooded with vacationers and long-term travellers who want to flee their cold climes in favour of a pretty much perfect climate. So if you’re looking for some real peace and quiet, this is not the time to go to Koh Phangan, unless you head to one of the more isolated parts of the island in the east or north.

The energy on the island is really great during high season. With more people on the island, it means more intensity, since more stuff is going on.

High season is a fun time to go, though, because it’s when everyone’s there. That means that the events will be in full swing and will be well-attended, and you’ll be meeting the regulars who come every year at that time. There are more programs to choose from, and in general, the energy on the island is really great during high season. With more people on the island, it means more intensity, since more stuff is going on.

The intensity is an important point. At all times of the year, Phangan is known as an intense place where you’ll face ups and downs—it really has a way of pushing you to your limits. And during high season, that intensity is cranked up a couple notches.

The weather is at its best in high season. Particularly in January and February, the weather is comfortably warm. It cools off a bit in the evening, but you can still wear shorts and it doesn’t really rain. It’s not humid, but not dry, either—very mild in more ways than one.

In April it gets hot. Really, really hot. Like, so hot you can get heat rashes from all the hot, humid weather, because you’re just sitting around in a pool of your own sweat 24/7. And since almost none of the buildings have air conditioning (you’ll see a lot of people spending a lot of time at the 7-Eleven during this month) you won’t have much respite, unless your house has air conditioning (and now, more and more of them do).

But April is also the month of the annual Songkran water festival, which makes it worth being there at that time. It’s the Thai New Year celebration that marks the beginning of the first rains. And God usually delivers the goods on that very day, after what could be weeks without rain. It’s quite a sight to see and take part in the festivities, dancing on the street and spraying people with water.

From May to September, it’s still quite hot, but the rains cool the weather down just enough to make it bearable. There are some really cool storms to watch, if that’s your thing. At some points in the summer, it seems like there are constant lightning flashes happening.

Summer is an OK time to go, since you get summer travellers and there’s a decent amount of people and stuff going on.

October to November is the rainy season (though it can start in mid-September and go to mid-December). It can rain torrentially at this time, and for several hours a day. Though if you’re from a place like the Pacific Northwest, you won’t find the rain that bad, since it’ll just rain hard for a few hours and stop, and the sun comes out quite often.

The thing with rainy season is that it brings dengue (though dengue is around at other times of the year, too—this is just the worst time for it). It’s something to be aware of, since a good number of people do contract the disease on Phangan, particularly at this time (You’re most at risk of contracting dengue if you’re someone who gets bit a lot by mosquitoes, especially if you stay a long time on the island, stay outdoors a lot and don’t protect yourself from these pests).

The island has the fewest people at this time, so there aren’t nearly as many events or programs to attend. And the events that do go on don’t have as many people, and can get cancelled due to not having the minimum number of people going.

Final thoughts


Woman standing on dock at sunrise - A guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan is a special place. You’ll get the most out of a trip to Phangan if you can take your time and stay a while—preferably months or years rather than days or weeks. What’s best about a trip there is being part of a community of like-minded people, and really embracing the experience of being there.

Going deep as you do your self-discovery work takes time. So if you take your time, you can really get a lot out of the experience. If you go for a short vacation, that’s good, too, you just can’t expect much more from it than any other island in Thailand.

Enjoy your stay on Koh Phangan!!!

If you’re planning on travelling to Thailand or another destination in the near future, check out our travel journal, Journeybook: A Guided Travel Journal and Trip Planner to Inspire and Facilitate Your Travels»

by Kiva Bottero & Josh Jones