Thailand,  Travel

Koh Phangan | Experience More Than the Half Moon Festival

After an amazing few days of diving and exploring Koh Tao, it was time to move on to the next island. This time for one main reason, the Half Moon Festival on Koh Phangan.

The Full Moon Party and Half Moon Festival are famous in Koh Phangan. Backpackers and travelers alike plan entire vacations around these parties. They are one of the main reasons people venture to Koh Phangan on their vacations.

They aren’t the only “big” parties that Koh Phangan offers. There are also Jungle Parties and Waterfall parties. Basically, ever week, sometimes twice a week, there is some massive party somewhere on the island. Although the Full Moon Party is the grandest of them all, the Half Moon Festival comes in a close second.

When I initially thought about my Thai island adventure, I was going to go to Koh Samui from Koh Tao. It’s the largest of those islands and I thought that there would be more mountains to hike and beaches to relax on. 

Koh Phangan

Plus, my initial thought was to reward myself and take a staycation. Koh Samui has so many nice resorts and beautiful beach side properties.

However, when we realized there would be a Half Moon Festival during the timing of our visit on Koh Phangan, I didn’t hesitate to change the island.

These types of parties aren’t really my scene, but I was intrigued. I wanted to see what so many of the travelers I have met rave about. It was time to step outside of my comfort zone a little and experience this popular Thailand party.

Where I Stayed

Mad Monkey Koh Phangan

Brittney was already planning to head to Koh Phangan to meet a friend, but not as early. So, we needed a place to stay for a couple of nights. Thank goodness for the power of hostel mates to give us a few options to decide from.

Because we were staying in the neighboring island, many people at our hostel came from Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party. We chatted with several of them and had a few recommendations. I ultimately decided that I wanted to check out Mad Monkey‘s new hostel that recently opened on Koh Phangan.

I’ve stayed in several of Mad Monkey hostels and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. I knew what I was going to get; nice and comfortable rooms, great service, delicious food and drinks, and an amazing social community. Plus, Mad Monkey is one of the few hostels that offers a pool on site. I do love the ocean, but there is something to say about chilling by the pool.

We only stayed at Mad Monkey for a couple of nights before we moved hostels. Her friend she was meeting had booked them another hostel for the rest of the week. Since I was joining them at the Half Moon Festival, I decided it would be best to move hostels.

Also, one of the downfalls of Mad Monkey Hostel is it’s location. It is located in the center of town and requires a 20 minute walk or motor scooter drive to get to the beach. I didn’t stay at a beach side hostel in Koh Tao and really wanted to, so I was keen in moving hostels.

Mad Monkey Koh Phangan

Echo Beach Backpackers

The second hostel was one her friend had selected, called Echo Beach Backpackers. It was located right on the main road between the two main towns and directly on the beach.

Echo Beach Backpackers offers a variety of rooms from private to dorm style. The privates were also located across the street from the dorms, which is a huge perk. I stayed in a 8-bed co-ed dorm and it was extremely spacious. The beds were comfortable but did make a little noise when tossing and turning during the night.

Echo Beach Backpackers Koh Phangan

Because Echo is located right on the beach, they offered a variety of lounging options. From big bean bags in the sands and hammocks in the shade to couches and tables for gathering, there was never not a place to sit. They had a bar and restaurant and nightly activities including beer pong.

I was staying during the Half Moon Festival, which occurred only a week after the Full Moon Party. This ended up making the hostel pretty empty as many travelers wish to attend the Full Moon Party instead. But it didn’t take away from the hostel vibe and I would stay at Echo Beach Backpackers again.

Things to Do in Koh Phangan

During our stay at Mad Monkey, we ended up deciding against renting motor scooters. We truly just wanted to relax and chill by the pool. However, once we arrived things shifted quickly.

OXA Beach Party

Apparently, during our two night stay, there was this beach party called the OXA Beach Party. I honestly couldn’t tell you much about this party. It took us about 20 minutes by songtheaw to get too. Everything was set up by Mad Monkey and the cost of the songtheaw varies depending on the amount of people. However it was a round trip fare since it’s a ways from the hostel.

The ticket for the beach party costs around 400 baht and included one free drink. The party offers a variety of entertainment and the theme changes each week. There were fire dancers, an awesome DJ, a dance floor, and neon lights flashing everywhere. Plus, there was a HUGE hammock down by the beach which easily held 10 of us. It’s where Brittney and I ended up spending majority of the time with our hostel mates!

Although, it’s super tiny in comparison to the “grand” parties on Koh Phangan, this party is a bit more budget friendly. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford the Full Moon or Half Moon Festivals, this would be a good alternative.

Motor Scooters

Motorscooter Koh Phangan

In Koh Phangan, I actually spent a decent amount on the beach. However, I must say this, it is not easy to “beach hopping island” or easy to explore without one. I would highly recommend renting a motor scooter on Koh Phangan, so you can explore the entirety of the island.

One thing that is really nice about Koh Phangan are the roads. There are only a few main roads to get you around the island. The roads are in decent condition and exploring the island is possible in one day.

There is one large loop on the west side of the island that takes you up the coastline. On the south of the island is one main road connecting the two main towns. In the middle (ish) of the island is one last main road. This road is an up and back as no other main road connects to it.

I felt very safe on the road. There didn’t seem to be any sort of traffic nor too many cars at once. This is the BEST and cheapest option for exploring the island.

motor scooters Koh Phangan

Beaches

Secret Beach Koh Phangan

The first beach we found was called Secret Beach and the only reason we knew it was a beach was because of a small sign right on road. Thankfully, Brittney spotted it and we quickly parked. To get here, we started our drive at the main town and drove up the west coast for about 20 minutes. Honestly, super easy to get to by scooter.

Secret Beach was quite large with pebbly-like sand. There was a beach bar and several places for shade. The ocean was shallow and was ideal for relaxing and laying in the water.

Just up the road is another beach called Haad Yao Beach. We decided not to stop, because it was only about 5 minutes between the two. Haad Yao is a longer beach than Secret but much more “touristy”. There are many resorts and bungalows to stay if you’re looking for more options. There are also a variety of restaurants to eat at if you’re interested in a sunset dining option.

Salad Beach is located just north of Haad Yao right off that same main road. I wish I had a name or number of the road but it was all in Thai. It’s very similar to Haad Yao, with resorts, bungalows and restaurants and would be another ideal sunset location.

One final beach along the west coast was Mae Haad Beach. This beach is popular because of the sandbank and is the best to visit at low tide. We unfortunately missed the opportunity to make it to this beach and I’m still a little heartbroken. We just couldn’t manage the ‘low tide’ timing in our few short days.

Along the south coast, where our hostel is located, weren’t too many “swimming” beaches. It was quite rocky. However, if you keep driving east towards the “Full Moon Party” town, you’ll find a few more beach worth stops.

The beach where the Full Moon Party is held is called Haad Rin Beach. It iss MASSIVE. You can diffidently tell they rely on the full moon aspect because there is just bar after bar after bar lined up. We spend a good while sunbathing and swimming at this beach. It was a really nice location for swimming and the sand was soft too. We also ended up finding a place with smoothies and drank over looking the ocean. Perfection.

One final beach is Rin Nai Beach. It’s located along the same peninsula and Haad Rin, just on the opposite side. I don’t know much about this beach, but from other travelers, sounds very similar to Haad Rin. It’s also another option for “places to stay”, if you’re planning a visit to the Full Moon Party.

Waterfalls

Than Sadet Waterfall Koh Phangan

In addition to beaches, one of my favorite things are waterfalls and view points. Thankfully, Koh Phangan offers both. Unfortunately, it was dry season, which meant several of the waterfalls were dried up or just trickling water. It didn’t stop us from trying to get to at least one of them.

Phaeng Waterfall, Wangsai Waterfall, Than Nam Rak Waterfall, and Than Prawet Waterfall were not ones we visited. We had spoken to another hostel mate who ended up visiting three of these, and he showed us pictures of basically rocks. There was hardly any water, which did deter us away from visiting.

However, Than Sadet Waterfall was still rushing water. It was extremely easy to get too. In fact, with the use of Maps.me, we just followed the three steps it took from our hostel to the waterfall. The entrance seemed a bit weird, but was very easy. There is a blind man, who lives in the house on the property where the waterfall is found. He requests the purchase of a drink to enter onto the property and it’s an easy walk from there.

The waterfall is very rocky but I never felt like it was too slippery. There was a small pool at the very bottom, but none of us decided to swim. We ended up taking pictures and standing on the rocks instead.

After the waterfall, continue along the road towards the east coast. You will find a very small and quiet, yet pebbly beach. This was one of my personal favorite beaches because there was swing.

The swing was made from a round buoy and tied to a string on one of the palm trees. I’m pretty sure my friends and I spend a solid 10 minutes combined swinging. But, we did also get into the water.

Than Sadet Beach Koh Phangan

Viewpoints

Koh Phangan had a few options for view points. The two we went to were vastly different from each other. I think that’s what made them each unique.

The first view point we went to was semi-close to Paradise Waterfall. Seriously, zoom in on google maps around Paradise Waterfall and you’ll see the view point logo. It’s on some family’s property and down a dirt road. 

view point koh phangan

I don’t recommend driving your scooter down the road, it appeared washed out at times. If you have experience or are a skilled dirt bike rider on a dirt bike, go for it. The small scooters aren’t worth the risk trying to safely get to the bottom. Just walk.

We parked our bikes at the top and walked to the entrance point, which was like 10-15 minutes at most. You will see the rock with a yellow “welcome” painted on it and stairs to the top. Once at the top, the family does offer beverages and as a courtesy, spend the 20 baht for a drink.

The view is pretty amazing even in the mid-day sun during dry season. Plus, we were the only ones at the top. It was a small hike to get to the top, but 100% worth it.

The next view point was recommended to us for sunset by a hostel mate. It’s called Secret Mountain and is a bar & restaurant located at the top of a hill with a pool. It is very much more luxury than the first view point. There is a small fee to enter into the pool area, but they do offer other seating areas.

Secret Mountain does overlook the western side of the island, which does make it ideal for sunset. However, we didn’t get the best sunset view while we were at the top. It was slightly cloudy and still a bit smoggy from pollution. So, we decided to leave and then the moment we reached the bottom of the mountain, the sky turned colors. It was just our luck, but it was still an epic place for a sunset.

Secret Mountain Koh Phangan
Secret Mountain Koh Phangan

Half Moon Festival

The Half Moon Festival is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’m not really a music festival type gal, but this party was unreal. Plus, it’s not even the main party/festival on the island.

Most hostels do provide assistance with transportation as the Half Moon Festival is a distances away. You can purchase your tickets through your hostel, which Echo and Mad Monkey do offer. Or you can do what my friends and I did, and pre-book them online. I chose this option strictly for the fact that I could use my card vs. having to have cash.

Half Moon Festival Koh Phangan
Half Moon Festival Koh Phangan

The pregame to this event starts way before the sun goes down, but it starts with finding the perfect outfit. You see, both full and half moon festivals tend to have a neon theme. The more glow in the dark you are, the better. I was able to easily find a bright neon yellow tank top at one of the shops close to Echo.

In addition to the clothing, many festival goers paint their bodies in bright neon, glow in the dark paint. Echo Beach Backpackers and many of the hostels usually offer a painter. However, during our stay, there was a conflict issue. Thankfully, other hostel mates had paint and we managed to get into the spirit with some face paint.

The pregame at Echo reminded me of college. Shots, drinks, countless games of beer pong, and so much laughter. Everyone was socializing, partying and having a good time. Brittney and I played a few games a beer pong and ended up making friends with a group of guys from Newcastle. I honestly couldn’t keep up with them and had SO much fun.

We finally made it to the festival around 12:30 am and we were all pretty lit. We ended up pregaming at the hostel a lot longer than we expected. It meant by the time we arrived, the festival was in full swing.

Half Moon Festival Koh Phangan
Half Moon Festival Koh Phangan

The festival entrance was pretty easy to navigate. It didn’t take us long to get our tickets. The only downfall is once you enter it’s pretty easy to lose people.

The festival was so crowd and loud with super long lines. I ended up losing Brittney and our friend after an hour and then lost the rest of the people from both hostels. There was so much going on in the festival. The main stage had 1000s of people standing in front dancing and drinking. There were light shows everywhere and a fiery Half Moon Festival sign, which was pretty cool.

I didn’t end up staying long at the festival. After losing everyone, I realized it wasn’t really my scene. It was just too much and not fun alone. Thankfully, getting back to Echo from the festival was super easy.

Right outside the entrance were several motorbike taxis waiting to take people home. It cost 200 baht for the one way, but as a solo traveler, it was quick and easy.

Half Moon Festival Koh Phangan
Would I do the Half Moon Festival again?
    • Unlikely. It just isn’t my scene, but I’m glad I went and I did have a blast in the short 90 minutes I was there.
Would I have liked to experience the Full Moon Party?
    • Absolutely, but after experiencing the Half Moon Festival, it just wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to make it to the islands again.
Is the Half Moon Festival worth the cost?
    • This one is tough. I do think the festival is a blast and something you should experience. However, if you’re on a tight budget and not into the techno-disco style festivals then I don’t think it’s worth the cost.
What is the difference between the Full Moon Party and Half Moon Festival?
    • For starters, the location of these parties are different. The Full Moon is located on Haad Rin Beach, whereas the Half Moon is located in the jungle. The Full Moon is defiantly at a more grander scale, but both festivals appear to be that techno-disco style events.
What about the Jungle Experience and the Waterfall Party?
    • The Jungle Experience is Koh Phangan’s original underground music festival. It occurs each twice each month dates rotating; ONE & TEN days before the Full Moon Party. It’s a place where DJs go wild with crazy sounds and lights.
    • The Waterfall Party is another open air music event held deep in the jungle of Koh Phangan amongst the waterfalls. The music is a blend of Techno, House, and EDM. It occurs TWO days before and afterthe Full Moon Party.

I’m super happy with my decision to go to Koh Phangan and experience the Half Moon Festival. I felt that Koh Phangan had way more than I initially expected, having done bare minimum research. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it, especially after scuba diving with a whale shark in Koh Tao. Visiting the Thai islands were high on my list when I first moved here, and I’m glad I was able to check it off during my time in Thailand.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and companies I use personally.

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11 Comments

  • Sandra

    I’ve heard so many times about a Full Moon Festival, but never about Half moon one! 🙂 I am not a big fan of festivals, but I think when I visit Thailand, I’m gonna go to one of them, to get the feeling 😀 And that Mad Monkey hostel sounds nice, I also love hostels with pools!

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Truthfully, I didn’t know the Half Moon Party was a thing either until someone told me. They are festivals unlike anything I’ve experienced before! I hope one day you get to go to one of them!

  • Kez

    I would go there just for the waterfalls! I’d probably avoid the parties too, because I think Thai islands are much more endearing when they’re not overrun by tourists.

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Just go in rainy season since most of them were pretty dried up, but there are several so you would be in waterfall heaven!!!

  • Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad

    Can confirm: the full moon party is insane! Not normally my thing but I had to see it to believe it haha. In hindsight I wish we had rented a scooter – we decided to on Koh Tao and then did a couple of times from then on, but we didn’t really think about it on Koh Phangan! That first viewpoint looks incredible, and it’s a pretty big island so I imagine there’s lots to explore. We stayed on a beach the other end of the island from the party, and it was like paradise! Absolutely loved it. A lot of people just go for the party, stay by Haad Rin, and leave thinking the island’s nothing special. They’re missing out!!

    • Nicole | Mapless Adventures

      Thanks for sharing about the Full Moon Party. I was the same way…had to see it for first hand experience! I loved Koh Tao too! Everything is easier in hindsight, but it sounds like you still had a good time on the Thai Islands.

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