As Koh Phangan is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, and it has no airstrip, the only way to get there is by sea ferry. There are two ways to reach the ferries. The most direct and most expensive is to fly to the nearby island of Koh Samui, where there is an airport. Ferries run regularly between the two islands and the mainland, forming a triangle. The other way is to take an overnight bus from Bangkok. The state bus company and numerous tourist coaches ply the route to Na Dan and Surat Thani, where ferries to the island can be had. The most inexpensive choice is to take the state bus to Na Dan, but this does mean booking the ferry passage independently. The travel agencies around Khao Sahn Road in Bangkok sell the bus trip and ferry bundled together. There is a third, and less plied path: travelers already in Southern Thailand can make the trip in a single from places like Krabi or Phuket by buying a seat on a tourist mini-bus.
The best way to get around Koh Phangan is to rent a scooter bike. This requires leaving behind the renter's passport, and in 2008 the rates were between about $6 and $12 per day, depending on the size of the scooter and the renter's haggling skills. Public transportation on the island is cheap, but somewhat unpredictable in schedule and requires a little patience. This is in the form of the songthaew, or pick-up truck converted into a public bus. A ride from one end of the island to the other in 2008 cost about $5.
One of the main virtues of Koh Phangan is that it has a lot of beaches, and they represent a range of development. There are beaches without even so much as a snack shack, beaches that have been virtually privatized by a posh resort, and everything in between. At the high end there are the resort beaches of Haad (beach) Salad and Haas Chao Phao. Occupying the older backpacker grounds are the quiet pleasures of a simple beach shack and a hammock at the northern sites like Ban (village) Chaloklam. Those looking for lots of partying and girlie bars should center their attention firmly on Haad Rin, home of the original Full Moon Party. Thonglang Bay and Thong Nai Pan feature little or no development. Most of the island's other beaches are home to mid-range, 2- and 3-star hotels.
Koh Phangan is not really a surfer's beach spot, but it is a good location for snorkeling and scuba diving. Virtually every beach will have either a hotel, guesthouse, tourist agency or actual dive shop advertising both. Some of these sites are nearby, but most are a couple hours' boat ride away off nearby Koh Tao. The typical scuba dive trip is a two-dive day with lunch included. Prices both for dives and for classes in Thailand are not as inexpensive as they used to be, due to a weak dollar and a strong baht. In 2009, a two-dive day trip was $105.
The Dive Inn
Ban Chaolklam, Koh Phangan
Tel: +66 77 374262