Here is a video I took a couple of years ago. I was staying at one of the bungalows at Island View Cabana. I walked out of my bungalow and filmed as I walked down the path to the main beach. Please excuse the slight bumpy nature to the movie.
The movie gives you a good idea about just how close Island View Cabana is to both beaches at Mae Haad. The first beach you see is the land bank that connects Mae Haad to Koh Ma. There is a bank of rocks by the exit to the beach. It is best to take the path to the right which leads to the main ‘south’ beach. From there you can double back to get onto to the sand bank.
As you can see from the video the south beach is preferred by visitors because it is less affected by the tidal variations. It is also a wide beach with plenty of room for everyone to get a bit of privacy. Not that this ever becomes a problem as Mae Haad is an idyllic place that never really fills up. The tour groups come for an hour to do some snorkelling round Koh Ma and then head off somewhere else for lunch such as Bottle Beach. However, they don’t really disturb the tranquillity of the beach.
Bungalows at Island View Cabana start at $13 a night. It is a bargain for Koh Phangan. To be this close to one of the best beaches on the island, and to not have to be a King’s ransom. Just perfect!
While Mae Haad itself is fairly quiet at night in terms of nightlife, there are, of course, plenty of party options farther afield in Koh Phangan – the island unofficially dubbed the party island of Thailand. However, not everyone is a fan of techno, trance and minimal. For those who like live music with musicians rather than DJs there are a few choices in the nearby vicinity.
The Jam – Hin Kong
The Jam is a beachfront bar south of Mae Haad in Hin Kong. It is the beach just after Srithanu. It takes about 20 minutes on a bike to get there. Since 2008 they have been running a live music night. Every Friday at 9pm they have a band that kicks off proceedings and then people from the audience that can handle a guitar or hold a tune are invited to join in. It is a lively event and usually well attended.
They have plenty of YouTube videos you can check out. During high seasons they often run a Wednesday jam session as well as the Friday one.
This is a slice of the old Koh Phangan. As the name suggests this place is unashamedly ‘rasta’. It is a small wooden bar built with love on the northern road going out of Haad Yao. Check out the video:
They don’t have any regular music nights but do get bands in occasionally. Koh Phangan’s biggest band – Job to Do – play here always to a lively crowd up for dancing.
Omega Bar – Chaloklum
Omega Bar has been holding live music events for a few years now. They feature whoever is around. And that can often be a few talented individuals. They have a drum kit, amplifier and other instruments as well as stage. Again you can find plenty of footage on YouTube. There is a strong hippy vibe. They sometimes combine live music with a kids’ event earlier in the day.
Things often happen on a Wednesday at Omega Bar. It is located in the centre of Chaloklum. You can take the northern road from Mae Haad and be there in 15 minutes.
During a typical two week holiday on Mae Haad Beach it is normal to sample Koh Phangan’s famous (and infamous) nightlife at least once. Mae Haad is excellent for snorkelling and relaxing but it is a poor spot if you are looking for crowds, a hedonistic atmosphere and loud music.
Haad Chao Phao is a small beach to the south of Mae Haad on the west coast. It is not as busy or developed as Haad Yao. However, it does have fine white sand and beautiful rockery scenery. It is connected to the main western coastal road and takes about 10 minutes to reach from Mae Haad by either shared taxi or motorbike. The roads on this part of the island are mostly flat and mostly covered in concrete. This makes it a relatively safe journey to make at night.
In a shared taxi it should cost about 100 Thai Baht per person. If you hire a private taxi for you and your friends the total cost should be about 1,000 Baht. Scooter hire for 24 hours is about 250 Baht.
The Moon Set Party is held at the Pirates Bar. It is a funky little bar at the end of Chao Phao Beach. It is in a small cove that is empty except for the bar. This makes an ideal location for a party as it is away from accommodation. The bar is reached via a wooden walk way that goes around the headland at the southern end of the beach.
The bar itself is located in a wooden shaped bar. It is a ramshackle affair made partly from salvaged drift wood. It is set back against rocks. There is seating on the roof as well as at the bar. There is also a platform next to the sea with low tables and cushions great for chilling out.
Next to the bar is a stack of loudspeakers and a wooden stage. The wider area is decorated by white flags. During party nights numerous psychedelic decorations can be seen sporting the usual fluorescent colours and patterns. There is also a basic lightshow that adds to the party atmosphere. On big party nights like in December there is also a burning sign that reads ‘Moon Set Party’.
Moon Set Party
The Moon Set Parties occur mostly during the high seasons of January, July and August and the peak season at Christmas and New Year. The party dates are a little imprecise. They should be 2 days before the Full Moon Party and Half Moon Party. There is little to no effort made to use social media or a website to announce party nights. The net reveals the last party promoted through Facebook events was in December 2013.
However, not to worry: if you are staying anywhere along the west coast of Koh Phangan you will soon find out about the next party.
The party itself attracts about hundred people. It is a small cove and fills up with people. There is the usual Koh Phangan collection of trance and techno devotes who sway for hours on the dance floor while drinking buckets. There are also people just staying locally who have come to check out the party.
The atmosphere is relaxed. The music is loud (too loud if you don’t like trance and techno) but the event is not overwhelming like the Full Moon Party. You aren’t bothered by sex workers, police or those lost on magic mushrooms. In short the Moon Set Party at Haad Chao Phao is the best party on the West Coast – it is more than just a bar playing music and less than a large outdoor rave.
Ang Thong National Marine Park along with Sail Rock are the two most famous dive spots that are accessible from Mae Haad. What is less well known is that Ang Thong is a fascinating collection of islands to the West of Koh Phangan that is great for not only diving but also snorkelling and kayaking. If you are looking for an interesting day trip, a break from the relaxing sands of Mae Haad then Ang Thong Marine Park might be the ideal destination for you.
From the north of Koh Phangan it takes just over 2 hours to reach the northern tip of the Ang Thong island chain. The main island and where you find the park headquarters is Koh Wua Talap. Here you will find a restaurant, some bungalows and two beaches at either end of the island. You can trek between the two beaches via a 30-minute jungle trek. There aren’t any roads on the Ang Thong islands and this trek is through thick jungle. To make things easier for visitors there is a rope to guide you.
‘Ang Thong’ means ‘golden bowl’. It refers to the large inland lake in the archipelago. The lake is located on Koh Mae Ko. The saltwater lake is called Thale Noi. The turquoise water and rich bio-diversity make it a great place to snorkel or dive.
The islands are the peaks from a flooded limestone mountain range. Each of the islands have unusual shapes made by karst rocks. The names of the islands in translation reflect the shapes such as ‘Sleeping Cow Island’ and ‘Three Pillars Island’.
On Koh Paluay is a semi-permanent settlement of Sea Gypsies or Moken. They follow an animistic religion and migrated to the Gulf from farther south in Malaysia. Other than the park rangers and the Thais working at the restaurant and bungalows these are the only people on the islands.
Because the islands are mostly uninhabited they are full of fascinating flora and fauna. These include Leopard cats, long tail macaques, sea otters and the dusky langur.
Activities on Ang Thong Marine Park include trekking, exploring hidden coves in sea kayaks, snorkelling, and of course, diving. The depth ranges from shallow to 25 meters. The best dive spots in Ang Thong Marine Park are Hin Yippon, Koh Yippon and Koh Luuk Lek. There are plenty of coral gardens as well as swim-throughs. You can spot the famous whale shark as well as common fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish. For those looking to spot rarer species there is the also the chance to see sea snakes and turtles.
From a diving point of view the other great thing about the Ang Thong Marine Park is that it is seldom visited by the large Koh Tao diver groups as it is too far away. Too many dive boats tend to scare off the wildlife and make the water crowded. This is not the case at Ang Thong.
All the dive shops in Mae Haad, Haad Salad, Haad Yao and Chaloklum have regular day trips to the islands. Snorkelers are welcome to join too. Trips usually include transfers and free lunch on the boat. It is also possible to find boat tours to the islands. You can asked to be left on the islands and be picked up the following day. For those looking for the ultimate remote and Robinson Crusoe experience it is hard to beat. Indeed this is where the film ‘The Beach’ is supposed to be set.
The monsoon is not just one big storm that engulfs November in rain. Rather it is a season of higher than average rainfall and stronger winds. The monsoon builds as it were. You start to notice the higher tides from April on. As summer turns to autumn the leaves don’t change colour but the sea goes from calm to more choppy conditions.
By October the winds and the heavy rain showers are apparent. By the middle of November it is starting to lash it down with rain. In a bad monsoon villages along the coast get flooded. Suddenly the bungalows on stilts make more sense as they keep your bed far from the sodden ground. The rains start to ease up by mid-December. By Christmas the weather is great again but the sea sometimes has a few waves.
During this time there are moments when the conditions are perfect to kiteboard close to Mae Haad at the famous sand spit off the coast of Chaloklum called Malibu beach. Other than during the storm season the sea at Chaloklum is calm with little wind, but when the winds start up adrenalin junkies from all over the island appear at Malibu beach to zip up and down the coastal waters propelled by air-filled kites. For those good at the sport, there is the chance of lots of air time.
The waters off Malibu beach offer a shallow reef and a sandy bed. The bay catches the best wind. These two factors make this the best kiteboard surfing spot in Koh Phangan for a brief time.
Kiteboarding is a great sport. It is quicker than surfing and quicker to learn. Once you have mastered the basics it is very addictive. You can get up and being pulled by the wind in about 3 days tuition.
There are 3 kiteboard schools in Koh Phangan – Kiteboarding Asia in Ban Tai, One2Kite at Phangan Beach Resort (Bantai) and Cuttlebone Kiteboarding Centre in Thongsala. You can easily find their websites and Facebook pages (if they aren’t ‘down’). Another good place to look is on Wind Guru. It is the best site for following weather conditions.
To get from Mae Haad to Chaloklum takes about 10 minutes in a car or on a motorbike. Just take the road that heads east. It is a main road and impossible to miss.
A word of caution – cheaper travel insurance policies won’t cover sports like kiteboarding; although, the chances of getting injured are minimal.
Finally, the video above is interesting as it is filmed at Malibu beach, Ban Tai and Mae Haad. Near the beginning of the Youtube clip you see him fly over the sandbar that connected Koh Ma to the mainland.
I have my PADI Open Water Certificate. I got it when I visited Koh Tao many years ago. I enjoyed the diving but not the conveyor belt nature of the dive operator my wife and I chose. They also charged her more because she was Japanese! I had heard about the dual pricing system in Thailand but to discover that there was another even higher price band for Japanese nationals left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
I wish I had decided to learn how to dive in Koh Phangan instead. I might have chosen to do one of my practice dives at Koh Ma. The travel time is minimal to get to the dive site and it is fairly shallow so there is no danger of getting too deep.
The average depth is 8 to12 meters
Maximum depth is 20 meters
Visibility is 8 to 12 meters
Current is mild to none
Level of experience – good for all levels
PADI Rating – 3½ stars
The dive map above provides a good idea of the dive site. The larger corals are to the east of Koh Ma Island. The deepest spots are on to the west and north of the island.
The corals are hard and soft. There are also whip corals at the deeper sections.
The map also reveals the heart shape of Koh Ma Island. It also shows a tiny beach on the southern coast. The information about a restaurant, cottages and dive centre are out-of-date as the business closed down several years ago. If you like a high risk investment you can probably lease the land and re-open the Dive Resort.
Along with snorkelling around the corals at Koh Ma, the other ‘must do’ activity when staying at Mae Haad is to take the short trek to Wangsai Waterfall.
Unlike other waterfalls in Koh Phangan, Wangsai is a year-round waterfall. Moreover, it has a large basin at the bottom of the waterfall run that provides an excellent spot to spend a few hours relaxing and swimming in the cool waters.
Visiting the waterfall near Mae Haad beach also gives you the opportunity to take a short walk through the tropical jungle. It is a chance to admire the fecund countryside, the colourful flowers, the bird noise and the numerous fluttering butterflies.
It is free to visit Wangsai Waterfall. First walk along the southern beach until you get to Wangsai Resort. Take the road inland. 100 meters along this road you will see a small footpath on the right heading south. Follow this footpath for 10 minutes and you will find the waterfall. It is signposted to help you.
Use the map below to help you. Remember not to leave any litter at the waterfall. Enjoy!
There are two Thai massage houses in Mae Haad. They are Mamas Massage and Suchada Massage. Both of them are small and friendly places with qualified masseuses. They don’t have a website or anything as complicated as online booking. You simply have to go and visit and book and appointment.
Mama’s Massage is located on the longer south beach. It is a basic covered area with a platform facing the sand and the sea. There are berths for up to 6 people to have a treatment at the same time. It is a sociable and informal setting for a massage and a great way to wind down after a day on the beach.
Here is the price list for Mama’s Massage:
Back & Shoulder massage – 250 THB
Thai massage – 200 THB
Jasmine/Coconut massage – 250 THB
Aloe Vera massage – 300 THB
Aloe Vera massage – 250 THB
Suchada Massage is on the concrete road in the village behind the beach. It is a small air-con spa that offers more privacy than Mama’s on the beach. It is also cooler.
The Thai massages are excellent and really hit the spot. They also give facials – something not available at Mama’s Massage. Otherwise the prices at Suchada Massage are virtually the same as at Mama’s Massage.