Koh Phangan is famous for one thing: it’s Full Moon Parties. And that, in itself, tells you everything you need to know about this island. The parties have been raging for years and are held once a month in accordance with the full moon, but there are also similarly events held at other times like the Dark Moon Parties and with such a reputation you can be sure that there will be a party happening somewhere on Koh Phangan when you visit.
The full moon parties take place at Haad Rin Beach and depending on the month and season as many as 20,000 people can attend, many on dedicated package tours to bring them in solely for the party and then out again. If you have any illusions of this being a spiritual experience involving communing with the spirits or worshipping the full moon then you are likely to be very disappointed and the emphasis here is on alcohol and drugs, both of which are available in large amounts. That said, drugs are illegal in Thailand and the penalties for possession are harsh, and in recent years undercover policeman have roamed the parties and arrested people. Accidents and even fatalities caused by drugs and alcohol are also common, so if you are going to indulge in a Full Moon Party try to do it safely and responsibly. Certainly don’t take all your possessions including all your money, credit cards, and passport with you, and know your limits.
When it comes to the rest of Koh Phangan there are over ten other beaches around the island for you to explore either before or after the party or parties, some of which are prettier and cleaner than others. The best way to see these is to rent a motorbike with a driver if needed and explore the island yourself, using Haad Rin Beach as a base especially for the first few days you are planning to stay.
Koh Phangan is loud and famous for being a party lover’s paradise, but if you have time before or after the parties it is a very worthwhile place to explore. It has lots of little beaches tucked away where you least expect them and a good road system that allows you to navigate around easily.