The Ultimate Guide to Ko Phangan, Thailand

December 4, 2015

The walls vibrated from the thundering bass as everyone in the crowded room bounced their collective heads to and fro in sync to the beat. Artwork on the walls of The Nomad House hostel undulated with the crowd as if dancing. The artwork’s intricate design added to the hostel’s unique character. One of the paintings portrayed a giraffe that wrapped its tongue around a beer bottle as if it were always ready to party. Its neck curved upwards this way and that towards the ceiling, spelling out the word “Nomad” along the way.

guide to Ko Phangan

The bartenders poured drink after drink as thirsty backpackers demanded their special house cocktails, from “Lunar Eclipse” to “Nomad Iced Tea” to “Surfer on Acid.” Chang’s were clanged and Singha’s were slurped just as quickly as 100 baht notes were thrown to the bartenders in exchange for more alcohol.

A couple games of beer pong took place at the entrance while a more naughty crew played the Nomad House’s special board game, which may or may not include the loss of clothing, a lap dance, and a paddle spanking.

Backpackers conversed with one another as they sipped on their drinks in preparation for one of the many parties that take place on the island of Ko Phangan every single night. Tonight was the Full Moon Party, and every backpacker on the island was celebrating as the moon shone its light down on the island.

guide to ko phangan

I spent roughly two weeks on Ko Phangan island and wish that I had had more time. This island has everything, and whether you’re a recent graduate looking to party, a nature lover, or someone looking to escape from reality, there is something for everyone here.

If you happen to visit this island when the moon is not in full force, there are plenty of other parties throughout the month, too: the half moon party, black moon party, quarter moon party, waterfall party, pool party, and jungle party.

Here is my guide to Ko Phangan, Thailand. 

What to do on Ko Phangan

Attend the Full Moon Party

… and the half moon party, jungle party, black moon party, waterfall party, pool party, quarter moon party, and floating bar party. 

Like I said, there is plenty to do on this island. The Full Moon Party attracts 10,000-30,000 people each time, with the busy season starting around January. The beach is lined with bars that play different types of music. You spend the night drinking alcohol from buckets and hopping around to each bar in search for an atmosphere that suits your liking, until 11 in the morning.

The half moon party is in the jungle and has different stages that play more deep house music. It’s smaller than the Full Moon and costs 1,000 baht to enter. The jungle party, also in the jungle, is usually right before the Full Moon and is very small and intimate. I really enjoyed the jungle party because it was smaller (and so much easier to find your friends). The waterfall party is a rage near a waterfall, and the pool party is similar to something you’d find in the movie Animal House. 

A word of advice: Don’t bring ANYTHING to any of these parties. I didn’t even wear my shoes to any of them, I would have lost them immediately. Don’t bring a camera or phone or anything you wouldn’t want to lose, it’s not worth it.

guide to ko phangan

Rent a Motorbike and Explore

Ko Phangan is a beautiful island that has so much to offer. You could spend an entire day driving around the island and discovering the secrets it holds. There are waterfalls, beaches, cafes, and viewpoints with breathtaking scenery.

The staff at The Nomad House and I, along with a few other guests, spent an entire day driving around the island. I saw places I didn’t even know existed on the island, and had such a great time discovering them. If you are on the island during the Full Moon Party, make sure you stay a few days afterward. It gets a lot quieter and it’s a lot easier to explore the island without the crowds.

Some waterfalls worth visiting are Phaeng Waterfall, Paradise Waterfall, and Than Sadet Waterfall. 

guide to ko phangan

Visit the Beaches

There’s more to the island than just Hat Rin Beach, which is where the Full Moon Party takes place. Some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen are tucked away on this island, and are a bit more difficult, but fun, to get to.

Take a look:

guide to ko phangan

guide to ko phangan

guide to ko phangan

A few of the more popular beaches includes Mae Haad, which is in northwestern Ko Phangan. There are small shops and restaurants nearby. Had Yao is in northwestern Ko Phangan, and is considered one of the most pristine beaches. The more adventurous can head to Thong Nai Pan Noi, which is accessible by dirt road. 

Visit High on High

This is one cafe you should visit if you’re a more adventurous bike rider (unlike myself). Follow a bumpy, unpaved, dirt road to this hidden cafe with a viewpoint unlike any I have ever seen in my entire life.

guide to ko phangan

guide to ko phangan

Relax in the mountains as you sip a beer or a “special shake” and take in the view of Ko Phangan and the surrounding water.

guide to ko phangan

Time seems to stop the longer you stay up there. Watch as dark stormy clouds roll into the island from the coast, or as the sun shines its rays down onto the water, which reflects back like crystals. You can also spend the night here for 700 baht (which also includes a BBQ). If I had had more time on the island, I definitely would have done this.

guide to ko phangan

Go SCUBA Diving

I had the pleasure of going diving with The Dive Inn at Sail Rock. My experience diving with the company and the location was incredible. I saw more marine life than I thought possible and had a wonderful time diving one on one with my Divemaster. This company gives the personal attention each diver needs, and everyone was friendly and helpful. They even provide breakfast and lunch on the boat!

guide to ko phangan.

Go Snorkeling

If you don’t want to go SCUBA diving, then snorkeling is the next best option! The Dive Inn also takes travelers on snorkeling trips, where you will see plenty of marine life and beautiful coral from the surface.

Go to Slip n Fly Party

This is the spot for the adrenaline junkies. Spend the day sliding on one of the biggest and craziest slides in Southeast Asia while getting that adrenaline rush you just may need. 

Where to Stay on Ko Phangan

The Nomad House

guide to ko phangan

I arrived at The Nomad House the night before the Half Moon Party. A group of acquaintances was sitting outside playing a drinking game. As I walked up to the hostel, I watched one person perform jumping jacks while another jumped up and started to spank another group member in the butt with a paddle. This is going to be interesting. 

The manager, Yuki, greeted me with a smile as I entered The Nomad House (after 8 long hours of traveling). “Welcome home,” he said as he handed me a cool glass of water. I looked around the hostel, which was decorated with intricate artwork. Colorful swirls from an incomplete piece of art took up an entire wall. I stared at its beauty in awe, amazed at how complex and detailed it was. 

guide to ko phangan

Artist Nemanja

I met a few other members of the Bromad team the rest of the night and knew that I had picked the right place to spend the next two weeks on Ko Phangan. Having arrived a few days early, I was excited to see the build up of the hostel and the atmosphere of the island leading up to the Full Moon Party.

guide to ko phangan

The Build Up

Day 0 (November 19th)

The Full Moon Party was just days away. I spent my second night on Ko Phangan at the half moon party with a few members of the hostel and other guests that were staying there. A semi-large group of us headed to the party together, and I knew that these party-goers were just a hint of what I was going to experience within the next few days.

Day 1, Day 2 (November 20th and 21st) 

One night of relaxation allowed me to attend the floating bar party on the 21st. It was a bungalow floating on the water with a bar and a dance floor. I began ramping up my tolerance in preparation for the Full Moon Party by taking shots and chugging Chang beer. 

guide to ko phangan

Day 3 (November 22nd)

Today was the calm before the storm. More people slowly checked into the hostel one by one, but the real damage was going to come tomorrow.

Day 4 (November 23rd)

BAM. Everyone arrived at the island all at once. There were over 80 check-ins a couple days before the Full Moon Party, which meant there were over 140 people staying at the hostel.

The Nomad House was a party in itself. I felt like I was back in college that night; everyone came together in the bar and outdoor area to drink and socialize before heading to the waterfall party. 

guide to ko phangan

Day 5 (November 24th)

I spent the night pouring shots from an old Sprite bottle into people’s mouths and pumping them up for the jungle party that night. The hostel was the busiest I had seen it thus far. It was filled with people from all over the world who meshed together to celebrate a night equivalent to Christmas Eve. The jungle party was definitely a night to not remember, as everyone danced until 7:30 in the morning and continued to party into the afternoon. Tomorrow was Christmas’s equivalent. 

Day 6 (November 25th)

Christmas has arrived. The day of the Full Moon Party. Everyone was hunched over and exhausted from exuberant partying the night before, but that didn’t stop them from partying.

Nine O’Clock P.M. hits…

Body shots, beer pong, and chugging. It’s time to party.

One guy even had to get naked, as he fell victim to The Nomad House board game. Now I felt like I was at a college party on steroids. Everyone was in the best mood I had seen so far; they were dancing and singing and drinking as they prepped their bodies for the next 12 hours of partying on the beach.

guide to ko phangan

The pre-game at The Nomad House was better than some of the parties I had attended on the island. The staff members Yuki, Ashli, Juvi, Tommy, Nemanja, Shameka, and Shine know how to pump everyone up and bring everyone together. The Nomad House is one big happy family celebrating every single night and day. 

Besides the parties, The Nomad House has a ton of other things to offer. The bathrooms are spotless, there’s A/C in almost every room, and guests are provided with a towel and locker.

Whether it be a few beers over good conversation or a full blown rager, the Nomad House has it all. The hostel gets quite intimate days after the Full Moon Party and in between the other parties. Most of the guests pile out and head to another island while a few others stay and get to know each other. It’s a great place for every kind of person and partier. 

guide to ko phangan

They also provide taxi service to the parties, so guests don’t have to worry about setting one up. Everything is easy here; you don’t have to try too hard. It’s a short walk to a local beach, and there are a ton of cheap restaurants around that are perfect for the budget backpacker.

Ringside Hostel

This hostel is extremely close to the beach and is another great location for the Full Moon Party. I had the pleasure of meeting the staff and everyone was so friendly and knows how to party. Everyone makes you feel at home and becomes your family the second you arrive. They also arrange taxi’s to all of the parties. 

Wanderlust Hostel

This hostel is one of the newer ones on the island and definitely lives up to its amazing reviews. I was also able to meet the staff at this hostel. They are great at bringing everyone together to party, and never leave anyone out. Traveler’s feel welcome and at home from the second they arrive at this hostel, and it’s one of the few on the island that make sure your time on Ko Phangan is unforgettable. 

Typical Costs

If you visit around and during the Full Moon Party, the island can get quite expensive. Hostels will typically be around 300-500 baht per night. Entry to a lot of the parties is around 500-1,000 baht, while the Full Moon Party is free. Every party is so worth the price.

Taxi’s are typically 50-100 baht and I found that food is incredibly cheap. There are a ton of Thai food options near The Nomad House hostel, with plates around 50 baht (how can you beat that?).

Still, I found the island to be cheaper than I expected. Beer is 60-100 baht while mixed drinks are around 100 baht, typical for Thailand.

Are you thinking of visiting Ko Phangan? Think no more: this island has plenty to offer. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to spend time on this island, which is unlike any other place in Thailand. 

Please contact me if you have any questions about Ko Phangan! 

4 comments

  1. Comment by jlizmania

    jlizmania Reply December 4, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Thanks! I’m going to southern Thailand in a week and was having difficulty deciding on islands.

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica Reply December 4, 2015 at 9:28 am

      You’re very welcome! Definitely add Ko Phangan to your list :]

  2. Comment by Jessica Beck

    Jessica Beck Reply February 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    What was the nightly rate for the nomad house when you visited?

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica Reply February 17, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Hey Jessica! It’s normally around $6 a night, but during the Full Moon Party prices go up to around $10-15 a night. That’s true for most places on the island, though!

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