No wonder that since Koh Phi Phi had been features in The Beach movie after Alex Garland’s novel with DiCaprio starring, its popularity among the backpacking crowd grew even higher. Lazing in the sun and bathing in the transparent waters of the Andaman teeming with colourful marine life during the day couple perfectly with partying all night through. Though night venues do not lack on Koh Phi Phi, you know that nothing compares – yes, nothing compares! – to a once in a lifetime celebration experience which the legendary Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan offer. Raging parties rock the island constantly: if you cannot hit the Full Moon Party proper, opt for any of the other ‘Moon’ parties, which are equally crazy.
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan
For an easy hop between the two backpackers’ Meccas, opt for a combination ticket from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan. Travelling all by yourself by separate tickets makes sense if you want to see other places between Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan and probably spend a night or two in Phuket, Krabi or Suratthani. Otherwise choose option #1.
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan by a combination ferry+bus+ferry ticket
Seatran Discovery offers a very convenient transfer from Koh Phi Phi directly to Koh Phangan. You first take a ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi (1½ hour), then hop onto a bus from Krabi to Donsak Pier in Suratthani (four hours including waiting time at Donsak Pier) and then board a ferry again, this time from Donsak to Koh Phangan (2½ hours), spending totally about 8 hours to get from Koh Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea to Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Siam. Tickets cost between THB1100 and THB1400 and are a great value as you are unlikely to spend considerably less if travelling by separate tickets.
Note though, that it is also possible that from Donsak you will be first transported by a large Seatran ferry to Samui first and then change it for a smaller ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan via Krabi and Suratthani
You can follow the route which Seatran Discovery offers with its combination ticket buying separate tickets from Koh Phi Phi to Krabi (THB450-THB600; 1½ hour), from Krabi to Suratthani (THB250-THB270; four hours) and from Suratthani to Koh Phangan (THB380-THB600; four hours including transfer from Suratthani). Check the corresponding pages for more details about each leg of the route. Travelling this way requires more time, but it makes sense if you are going to check one or several of Krabi beaches (e.g. Ao Nang, Railey Beac, etc.), hit the roads less travelled in Suratthani or make a detour to Khao Sok National Park.
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan via Phuket and Suratthani
Similarly to Koh Phi Phi–Koh Phangan travel via Krabi, you can make Phuket your first port of call on your way to Koh Phangan’s Moon Parties. Pricewise the travel from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket is more expensive compared to Koh Phi Phi–Krabi route (THB700-THB800) and normally takes a bit longer (tow hours compared to 1½ hour). A ride from Phuket to Suratthani costs the same (THB250-THB270), but also takes a bit more time – up to five hours compared to four hours necessary to get from Krabi to Suratthani. In general, it is worth travelling via Phuket only if you are planning to make a stop on the island itself.
Island hopping from Koh Phangan
Do not miss a wonderful opportunity to visit Koh Phangan’s neighbouring islands, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Though a part of the same archipelago, the three islands differ greatly in the atmosphere and activities they offer.
From Koh Phangan to Koh Samui
Change the party-crazy Koh Phangan for Koh Samui’s upscale resorts, idyllic beaches and beautiful crowd – or just use Koh Samui as your base for partying on Koh Phangan if all the accommodation options on Hat Rin are sold out for the Full Moon Party. A slow Haad Rin Queen ferry brings you to Koh Samui from Koh Phangan in 50 minutes; Sonserm covers the same distance in 40 minutes; Lomprayah (THB300) and Seatran Discovery (THB400) are the fastest operators (20-30 minutes).
From Koh Phangan to Koh Tao
A diving Mecca of Thailand, Koh Tao is the place to get your fins wet. Seatran Discovery and Lomprayah offer the fastest (1–1½ hour) and most expensive transfer from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao (from THB500). There are also Songserm boats plying the same route.
Koh Phangan is big enough, and if you wish to explore the island interior and its beaches, it makes sense to hire a motorbike – provided you know how to drive. Otherwise skip the idea and opt for songthaews instead. It will cost you more (THB100-THB200 for a ride depending on your destination), but taking into account rather an elevated number of inexperienced (and often drunk) riders fresh from Moon Parties, it may prove much safer.
That said, a motorbike remains a great way for getting around on Koh Phangan, and rentals are cheap – from as low as THB150 per day; but be ready to leave your passport as a deposit, which may feel a bit uncomfortable thing to do as scams on asking tourists to pay for imaginary damages of motorbikes on handing vehicles back are not unheard of.
The fittest ones can make use of bicycles (from THB50 per day), but do not underestimate the island roads coupled with tropical heat. It is a great idea to hire a longtail boat to cruise little bays accessible only from water or by hiking. Prices are negotiated with the boats' owners, and usually works out quite well if you're in a group.
Where to stay
No matter which beach appeals to you most, if you come for the Full Moon Party, do arrive early. It means 4–5 days before the party hits the island; otherwise you risk counting the stars by night – literally. Almost all the guesthouses require the minimum stay of at least three nights, with some places not letting you in for less than a week. There is transportation to Hat Rin, where the Full Moon Parties are held, from all the beaches, so it is not so important where you finally settle down.
Families and those looking for some serenity and peacefulness should try the remote Haad Thong Nai Pan Noi with its elegant resorts, which bring an air of Samui to Koh Phangan.
Tip: If you fail to find accommodation on Koh Phangan during the Full Moon period, consider staying on Koh Samui which is the closest option.
With the diving mecca of Koh Tao within an easy reach, there is no great sense in visiting much more modest diving sites of Koh Phangan. Still there are nice spots for snorkelling in the vicinity, including Koh Ma, and you may also sign up for a hiking and snorkelling adventure in the Ang Thong Marine National Park. Waterfalls and worthy trekking trails await those to venture to the island’s hinterland. Climb the highest island’s pick, a 630m Khao Ra, or hire a kayak and reach some hidden beaches and visit Saturday Walking Street market in Thong Sala (the best time to do so is between 6pm and 8pm) for local souvenirs and cheap tasty food.
If you are going to the Full Moon Party not just to party and drink, but to take drugs as well, remember that drugs are completely illegal in Thailand and punishment is severe. To get inspired, watch Bangkok-Hilton and think twice. In any case do not leave drugs in your accommodation and do not carry any with you.