When people think of Koh Phangan, they immediately think of full-moon parties, tattooed hippies, psytrance beach parties, and colourful cocktails. Yes. It is all these things. But it is also a beautiful, family-friendly island. “Beautiful” is an understatement. Koh Phanghan is one of the most idyllic, relaxed, colourful, unassuming place I have ever been to. I immediately felt like I was part of the flow, even with a stream of kids in tow. You can definitely have a family-friendly holiday in Koh Phangan.
Where Is Koh Phangan?
Koh Phangan is an island off the west coast of the Thailand mainland. It’s located in the Gulf of Thailand and is a part of the Surat Thani province. It is located in between the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao and is accessible by ferry or boat. Most of the interior of the island is mountainous, making it mostly unfit for living. So you’ll find that all of the action is happening around the coastline, although jungle trips through the middle of the island are definitely recommended.
The first time we went to Koh Phangan it was just me and my husband on a very belated honeymoon. I think we had been married for six years already, but better late than never. It’s so much easier to travel when it’s just the two of you, but a family of five did it easily too. There were just more people to herd about.
We caught the Lomprayah ferries, which are incredibly reliable and affordable. They are also comfortable and fast. The first time we went, we had flown into Koh Samui, so we left from there when we headed to Koh Phangan. The second time we went with the family, we caught the ferry from the mainland and went via Koh Samui. Both times we disembarked at Thong Sala on Koh Phangan.
The ferries run like clockwork, so you can plan accordingly unless there is some serious weather to prevent them from going out. You can buy the ferry tickets online, or you can buy them before departing from the ticket office. You can also book overland travel through Lomprayah.
You get a Koh Phangan sticker for your luggage and one for yourself so that the crew know where you are headed and where your luggage should be placed. Incidentally, your luggage is stored outside on the deck of the ferry, but they do attempt to cover it in the rain. When you arrive at Koh Phangan and disembark, all the luggage is placed on the dock for people to collect. It’s a system that is so simple, but it works. From there, there are multiple taxis ready and willing to take you where you need to go on the island.
Family-Friendly Koh Phangan Beaches
Because we had been to Koh Phangan as a couple, we knew where the family-friendly beaches were. Basically all of them are suitable for families, but our favourites are:
- Salad Beach
- Haad Yao
- Chaloklum Bay
- Mae Haad
The one that we found to be the best for our family trip was Haad Salad or Salad Beach. We initially discovered it on a scooter mission around the island, and the first thing we thought was how much the kids would love it there. We weren’t wrong.
We stayed at Green Papaya Resort when we travelled as a family and it was the most incredible place for the kids, as much as it was for us. We stayed in a pool villa, which gave us our own private pool and garden. The pool villa was split into two separate units, so while we were there as a family, my husband and I still had complete privacy.
A little beach bar (with the most divine barman) and some sunbeds on the beach were the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the bay. All the while the kids played on the beach, in the sea, or in the pool. They loved it as much as we did and it offered something for everyone.
The resort itself had the most beautiful pool area, with loads of sunbeds for me to lie on while my youngest swam for hours on end. Ordering cocktails by the pool was simply the most wonderfully indulgent experience, which I capitalised on every day. Just beyond the pool is the beach. Pure heaven. So while Finn was swimming in the pool, Amber and Cameron were off snorkelling in the bay. I could see all of my kids at the same time as they were experiencing their own personal freedom.
Things To Do In Koh Phangan
First: Hire A Scooter Or A Car
One of the best things we did both times we visited Koh Phangan was to hire scooters to get around. Paying for taxis every time you want to go somewhere can become costly, and it also limits your freedom. Riding scooters around is part of the fun, and the roads are all decent enough that you won’t encounter any issues. Just prepare for steep hills! We also hired scooters with the family and I had both Amber and Finn on with me. This was challenging but possible! Once we were in motion, we were fine.
You will need to show your passport and driver’s license for this. There are places that don’t require you to hand over your passport as an exchange for the rental. Be aware of this. We hired scooters as guests through our hotels, which was all the validation the rental companies needed. You simply need to return the scooter in the same condition and with the same amount of fuel.
Check Out The Snorkel Hotspots
There are so many beautiful places where you can simply float around and watch the world under the water. It’s better to go to a location that is renowned for snorkelling. A lot of the bays have damaged coral and reefs, which is very sad to see. But when you go to a quieter location, you will get to enjoy the real beauty of underwater Thailand.
Catch A Long-tail Boat To Anywhere
We used them to go to snorkelling hotspots. The boat ride in itself is such an adventure for the kids, but then you also get to enjoy the destination too. Often you can make an agreement with the boat owner to wait with you while you explore an island. If not, there are always other boats that will take you back to your home beach.
There are some spots where long-tails are not allowed to anchor themselves on the beach. These are usually great snorkel beaches and you can simply dive off the boat into the water to get your underwater fix.
Go For A Massage
The Thai massage parlours are everywhere and for good reason – they are so good! They are also really affordable and such great money spent. We went for a few family massages. My son, Finn, was always asleep in minutes with every foot massage he got. Needless to say, we weren’t charged for him and his tiny feet.
We found the most divine massage spot on Salad Beach in walking distance from Green Papaya. We were served Thai tea afterwards and all walked out of there feeling completely relaxed.
Experience The Restaurants
The food in Koh Phangan is just as delicious anymore else in Thailand. We found that the smaller and less flashy the restaurant, the better the food. The authentic, simple Thai food was our favourite, but my youngest, Finn, is quite a fussy vegetarian, so it was difficult to find solid meals that kept him happy. He ate more watermelon than he ever has in his whole life. He had watermelon shakes with every meal. He was also always keen for pizza or pasta. There was also always the chocolate cereal for breakfast. At least he was eating.
If you want to find out more about the backdrop for our family-friendly holiday in Koh Phangan, check out the Green Papaya Resort website. They are really good at getting back in touch when you make an enquiry.