Home to Thailand's world famous Full Moon Party, Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan is the premier place to meet people and party before moving on to quieter places in the Thai islands.
Haad Rin is a narrow peninsula in the south of Koh Phangan approximately 25 minutes by truck taxi from Thong Sala — the largest town on the island and the usual port of entry. Haad Rin is conveniently one of the few places that you can see both an impressive sunrise and sunset just by walking 15 minutes between the two main beaches on the peninsula.
Although many backpackers tend to only visit Haad Rin for the social atmosphere, Koh Phangan (pronounced 'Koh Pon Gahn') is actually a sizable island with lots of quiet bays and secluded beaches dotted around the island. Other parts of the island are accessible via the matrix of poor roads throughout the island interior or by taxi boat directly from the beach.
Haad Rin is a very popular stop along the Banana Pancake Trail for backpackers and young budget travelers.
Haad Rin Beaches
Haad Rin has two primary beaches: Sunrise and Sunset. Popular Sunrise Beach is a long strip of powdery sand and good swimming while the Sunset Beach is mostly rocky and unfit for anything more than enjoying nice sunsets.
Most of the action in Haad Rin — including the Full Moon Party — is oriented around the Sunrise Beach and the main road that parallels the beach. If you're looking for something a bit quieter, consider staying closer to the Sunset Beach.
The Full Moon Party in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan
Don't think for a minute that Haad Rin will be quiet if there is no Full Moon Party buildup in progress. While the area is significantly quieter in the low season, you'll still find nightly beach parties and plenty of revelry in the streets.
Haad Rin transforms into a completely different place on the week before a Full Moon Party. People arrive in waves up until the day of the party, which sometimes exceeds 20,000 people; the streets and beach become unbearably crowded. There is never enough accommodation to support the influx of travelers and accommodation prices skyrocket — book well ahead or you may be stuck staying on neighboring Koh Tao or Koh Samui and then taking a boat to the party!
Ways to Meet Fun People
Other than dancing in the sand and recovering on the pristine beach, you'll make plenty of new friends at these activities:
- Munchies Boat Tours: One of many companies offering boat trips, Munchies comes highly recommended and is a cheap, enjoyable way to see more of Koh Phangan. Boat tours are very sociable with free drinks on the boat, lunch included, and a trip to various beaches around the island. The tour ends with a snorkeling trip; you'll return to Haad Rin around 6 p.m. with plenty of newly met friends.
- Same Same Guesthouse Parties: Arguably one of the most popular guesthouses in Haad Rin, Same Same was purchased in 2010 by two Danish travelers and quickly rose to fame. An extremely social place, you'll find great pizza, free body painting contests, activities, and an excellent spot for pre-partying. They host a rock band each month on the evening of the Full Moon Party. Same Same books up quickly during the busy season.
- The Sanctuary: If the party is starting to be too much, escape for a few days of peace and a pleasant vibe at The Sanctuary or nearby Haad Yuan Beach — just 15 minutes by taxi boat from Haad Rin. The Sanctuary is a yoga/health retreat, however, you don't have to participate. You can just enjoy the excellent food, lounge around on the beach, and meet plenty of interesting people who decided to sneak away from Haad Rin for a few days!
Arriving in Haad Rin
After getting off the boat in Thong Sala and running the gauntlet of touts trying to pull business to remote guesthouses, grab one of the waiting Songthaews (truck taxis) and ask for Haad Rin. The fare should only be 100 baht, however, prices can go up a few days before the Full Moon Party or during the busy season.
If you're in the north, here's you can get to Koh Phangan from Chiang Mai.
Staying Safe in Haad Rin
While drugs are illegal and carry harsh penalties in Southeast Asia, they are still readily available from the infamous Mellow Mountain bar perched on the rocks at the end of Sunrise Beach. You'll find plenty of people trying out magic mushrooms for the first time and lots of party goers doing stupid things in various stages of drunkenness.
While Haad Rin and Thailand are mostly safe in general, theft on the beach and in guesthouses -- particularly on the night of the Full Moon Party -- does happen. Consider locking up your valuables in the reception safe boxes and know that scores of cameras, phones, and shoes are lost during the beach parties.
You'll see plenty of people hobbling around Haad Rin with bandages and oozing knees/elbows; most were caused by motorbike accidents on the poor roads. Use extreme caution when driving and only consider taking a motorbike on Koh Phangan if you are an experienced driver.
Women should be cautious about leaving their drinks unattended at parties; party drugs are sometimes put into the 'bucket' drinks by seedy visitors and locals.
Don't even think of going to Haad Rin without budget travel insurance.