Koh Phangan pronounced goh pa-ngan is a consonant without a separate G sound) is an island off the Central Gulf Coast of Southern Thailand forming part of the Chumphon Archipelago. Located halfway between the islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao it is known as a land of coconut trees and the world (in)famous full moon parties.
Places below are listed clockwise starting at Thong Sala:
Thong Sala — The island's "capital" and main ferry port.
Ao Nai Wok — Also known as Baan Manali Beach from the hotel of the same name, is a quiet bay with a long white sandbar in front of it. It is the first bay to the north of Thong Sala (just 7 mins walk) and one of the best areas for sailing, windsurfing or kayaking. This is due to its orientation to the wind all year long and the proximity of the two wild little islands, Ko Tae Nai and Ko Tae Nok (approx. 10 min paddling in a kayak to Tae Nai)
Sri Thanu — A volcanic peninsula to the south of Haad Son and Haad Yao with bays and beaches, sand on this beach is nice, but quality of water is not so good and also not much shadow from trees.
Haad Son — A beautiful small bay with a beach and nice water (further from beach there are plants under water so not so good for swimmers), very low development, quiet and family friendly with quite a lot children.
Haad Chao Phao — A small quiet beach on the western shore of Ko Pha Ngan. It has some resorts and bungalows offering budget rooms with full facilities. Has several beach bars and restaurants where you can have dinner and drink while the sun is setting. To go there from the main pier by taxi takes around 15 minutes and 20 minutes by motorbike. If you need a real escape, here it is. Also has a Moon Set Party at the Pirate Bar. The party is arranged regularly a few days before the Full Moon Party.
Haad Yao — A long white sandy beach just north of Haad Chao Phao, slightly more developed with more beach bars, a 7-11, ATMs, and restaurants, but clean nice sea with sandy bottom and snorkelling further from the beach (rocky bottom, lot of sea urchins), nice sandy beach with lot of palm trees providing shadow, accommodations from 150-200 baht. Maybe the best beach on the west coast because of good water, sand and infrastructure. Also very good for swimmers since in morning you don't need to go far from coast to be in deeper water convenient for swimming.
Haad Salad — An idyllic cove with several high-end resorts on the northwestern part of the island, sandy beach is here very narrow and there is lot of shadow from nearby trees, family friendly with many children here.
Mae Haad — Wide sandy beach joined to Koh Mah, a national marine park, by a sand spit at low tide. Has some of the best diving and snorkelling on Pha Ngan, although quality of water and sand here is not so good during the windy season. There is a small village and a variety of resorts, restaurants, and bars. Nice snorkelling: you'll need to go out to the reef via the cleared path when the tide is low. There is a sign on the beach just south of Island Cabana and it is pretty easy to see. At high tide swimming out to the reef is possible, it is about 100m from the beach. Best coral is toward Koh Mah.
Thonglang Bay — Between Chalok Lam and Haad Mae Haad Mae Haad, this almost undiscovered bay offers a delightful and peaceful escape from the crowds.
Chalok Lam — Fishing village with a picturesque beach in a long beautiful sandy bay at the northern tip of the island. Not touristy because of few boats making the trip, and the western part of the bay has some of the most beautiful waters off the island with a nice narrow beach under palm trees, there is also commercial Malibu beach in western end with one of the best sand of the island.
Haad Khom — 20 min walk east of Chalok Lam on a steep concrete road or a few minutes ride (110ccm motorbike can do it with total weight of 2 passengers around 120kg, for heavier people rent 125ccm motorbike or one person must sit down from motorbike) from Chalok Lam you will find a nice quiet beach with clean sea and soft white sand where you can relax and do some of the best snorkelling on the island with many different species, be careful to do it only in morning during high tide, later during low tide it can be dangerous to return because of rocky bottom, very easy to scratch your skin. There are only around 5 accommodations with good prices (from 250-300 baht for a bungalow), so the beach is not crowded. Only the one closest to Chalok Lam, Coral Bay Bungalows has 24 hr electricity, the other use diesel generators. Together with Bottle Beach and Chalok Lam Bay these are the best and only beaches of the northern coast and some of them even maybe the best of the entire island.
Bottle Beach — Also called "Haad Khuat", one of the most isolated beaches on the island, on the north coast accessible by longtail boat from Chalok Lam (150 baht/person) or by a 2-3 hr long, tough hike from Haad Khom beach (this hike named the beach due to the use of plastic bottles to mark the trail). There is also the road option--on one of the worst roads on the island--but the taxi ride is so expensive that is always better go to Chalok Lam and take a longtail boat from there. Very relaxed quiet beach with few accommodations but very resonable prices (from 250-300 baht/bungalow). Nice long and wide soft white sand beach and good clean water for swimming even during dry season. There is only one disadvantage. Due to its isolation, there are no ATMs or 7-11s or local restaurants so you have to buy everything for inflated prices at your accommodation (e.g. 90 baht for fried noodles). But what you pay for meals you will save on accommodation expenses and you will be able to enjoy one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches on island.
Thong Nai Pan — Scenic area on the northeastern part of the island that includes the neighboring beach resorts of Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai and Ao Thong Nai Pan Noi, twin bays with two fantastic beaches. Thong Nai Pan Yai is the bigger one. The area caters to families with children, and singles and couples who are looking for nice beach. This beach went through rapid development, so don't expect quiet relaxed place anymore as advertised in old guidebooks or travel diaries. Here you get safe swimming all year except during the November monsoon which normally ends around the middle of December. Both beaches have a variety of restaurants ranging from inexpensive Thai to 3-star international cuisine.
Haad Thien — Home of the Sanctuary Resort, a hip, up-scale resort with a nice vibe.
Haad Yuan — A nice sandy beach on the southeastern corner. A hop away from Haad Rin if you would like to get away from the party crowd.
Haad Rin — (Hat Rin) — The most touristy/crowded village, with all the services any traveller needs and the home of the famous Full Moon Party. The biggest party scene on the island (along with Baan Tai). One of the few beaches during dry season where is possible to swim. Very nice wavy ocean with blue colored water, outside of Full moon party dates the beach is pretty quiet, but you must be still careful about ocassional garbage.
Ban Kai — Between Ban Tai and Haad Rin this beach offers an idyllic setting, just minutes from the Full Moon Party. Sea also quite dirty and very mountainous terrain, but not bad option for cheap accommodation (fan/AC rooms from 300-400 baht) as base for your trips around island on motorbike.
Ban Tai — Facing Ko Samui, the longest stretch of uninterrupted beach on the entire island.