Southern Thailand is flush with exotic islands to choose from, each one as ravishingly beautiful as the next. But Koh Phangan, off the Central Gulf Coast, is undoubtedly one of the most special – not only for in terms of scenery, but for the fascinating lifestyle it offers.
You’ve probably heard all about Koh Phangan thanks to the Full Moon Party, a monthly event where thousands of backpackers come to get drunk and dance on the beach. But an unbelievable counterbalance exists to all the hedonism, in the island’s fully-grown hippie and new age scene. Like yin to yang, there’s another side to Koh Phangan based on relaxation, meditation and staying healthy that often goes unnoticed by tourists.
Here are a few recommendations on how to have a “fit” vacation on the island:
1. Go kayaking. A kayak excursion is a great way to discover all the hidden nooks and crannies of Koh Phangan. It can take around a week to completely circle the island in its entirety, but you can hit a few beaches in only two to three days. Grab a couple friends and get paddling, spending the evenings camping out on the jungle coast.
2. Do a detox. The island offers a full range of proper detox programs, that won’t leave you hungry and cranky for days like some of the notorious juice cleanses out there. First-timers can try the Ayuredic detox offered by Monte Vista, which offers a five-day package that includes three square meals a day (including fresh fruits in the morning!) and morning yoga and meditation. You’ll leave Koh Phangan bursting full of energy.
3. Do yoga. There’s surely no better way to perform sun salutations than overlooking the water with a fresh breeze. You can find yoga classes and workshops on any day of the week in Koh Phangan, from beginner level to truly far-out and bizarre. The Sanctuary offers standard holiday packages, and it’s location on Haad Tien beach is really breathtaking.
4. Eat Italian. In Italy the saying goes, “You don’t age while seated for a meal”. We have to agree that sometimes, a few extra calories can do wonders for the soul. So why not indulge in one of the authentic Italian restaurants that Koh Phangan has to offer? Ask for the “secret menu” at iSapori on Haad Rin beach and you won’t be disappointed.
5. Get in the water. Swimming may be a little obvious, but there’s also a wealth of water sports to dip into on the island. Windsurfing, kite-surfing, paddle-boarding and sailing are all good options.
6. Play beach volleyball. There’s an intense beach volleyball scene happening on Koh Phangan these days. Regular tournaments are hosted here, and professionals are invited down to spike and swing their way to local glory. If you’re looking to get in on the action, head down Haad Rin beach and chances are you’ll find a little competition at the nets.
7. Get your “Wipeout” on. If you’ve ever seen the TV show, you’ll know exactly what to find at this fun and silly obstacle course. It’s the perfect choice for an afternoon of physical activity, especially working out those stomach muscles from laughing out loud.
8. Go scuba-diving. Halfway between Koh Phangan and Koh Tao is Sail Rock, the most famous dive site in the entire Gulf of Thailand. Check in at a PADI diving school to find out how you can see the tropical fish and coral reefs down under.
9. Try archery. Target practice can be a great way to relax, get focused and start the day off right. At First Bow and Arrow Club, up to four people can shoot at one time, so find a few friends who are keen on working out their biceps.
10. Go hiking. There are lots of hiking trails, ranging from a full day’s trek to just a couple of hours. When the weather is nice, Khao Ra Viewpoint is one of the most spectacular. It’s located on the highest hill in all of Koh Phangan.