The Sanctuary, a Health Resort in Thailand

Yoga, Healthy Food, and a Great Vibe on the Island of Koh Phangan

The path to The Sanctuary in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Jim Doberman / Getty Images

 

Ironically, the Sanctuary, a health resort in Thailand, is located only 15 minutes by boat from the party peninsula of Haad Rin, the rowdiest spot on the wildest island in Thailand (Koh Phangan). Regardless, go check out the beautiful grounds and the Sanctuary's isolated bay, take a yoga or meditation class, and enjoy a healthy lunch of organic food right on the beach!

Boutique resort, wellness center, or romantic retreat—the Sanctuary resort in Thailand can be whatever you want it to be. There are structured detox and cleansing programs for people who attended one too many of the Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan. Workshops range from familiar disciplines such as yoga, meditation, and qi gong all the way to stuff you've probably never tried. As instructors rotate in and out, you'll find a multitude of disciplines for improving your health and happiness.

But who says you have to sign up for anything? You could just sit on the beach with a drink in hand and enjoy meeting friendly people from all over the world. Refreshingly, you'll never be pressured to participate in the health workshops. Part of the Sanctuary's allure is the lack of pretentiousness found at some other holistic retreats.

Contacting the Sanctuary Thailand

The Sanctuary stays busy due to its popularity. You'll definitely want to call or book ahead (they recommend 2 months in advance!) if hoping to book the nicer accommodation options during Thailand's busy season.

Getting to the Sanctuary on Koh Phangan

The Sanctuary is located in Haad Tien Bay on the island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand, just one hour from Koh Samui and two hours from Koh Tao. The nearest airport is on Koh Samui.

If flying into Koh Samui, grab a 15-minute taxi to Big Buddha pier then take the ferry over to Koh Phangan. You will arrive on the "Sunset Beach" side of Haad Rin. Make the 10-minute walk east or get transportation to Sunrise Beach (site of the monthly Full Moon Party). Grab any of the waiting taxi boatmen holding a sign. There's a pretty good chance the boatmen will approach you first!

A taxi boat from Sunrise Beach on Haad Rin to the Sanctuary in Haad Tien Bay takes around 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the local mafia has fixed prices to the Sanctuary surprisingly high for such a short journey. Negotiating is futile but try anyway. Your boat may wait on other passengers before leaving.

What to Expect

First, don't worry about being stuck in an isolated part of the island with a bunch of "health nuts." Although the Sanctuary's programs are about health and wellness, beer and cigarettes are sold at the same counter as organic juices! It's that kind of place; you can choose your level of participation. During your stay at the Sanctuary, you'll meet friendly people who have come for lots of different reasons.

The grounds at the Sanctuary are expansive. You'll enjoy wandering the sprawling compound where accommodation of all types, hangout areas, workshops, and a beach await. From cheap dorm rooms to family-sized houses, the spectrum of accommodation options attracts travelers of all budgets: backpackers, families, couples, and luxury travelers.

The sand on the beach at the Sanctuary is coarse, but it's suitable enough for sunbathing and swimming. For a serious beach day, you'll be better off walking the trail to nearby Haad Yuan beach.

Workshops and Activities

Conveniently, you don't have to commit to most workshops in advance. Instead, simply turn up, give your account number, and participate whenever you like.

Just a few of the classes and disciplines available are:

  • 3- and 7-day fasting/cleansing/detox programs
  • Many types of massage
  • Many varieties of yoga
  • Tai chi and qi gong
  • Reiki
  • Sound healing
  • Pilates
  • Sacred dance
  • Meditation (free and guided)
  • Full spa treatments
  • Weight-loss programs

Workshops are held in beautiful houses with names like "The Tea Temple" and "Zen Hall." When workshops are not in progress, you can hang out in the houses to meet people with the same interests.

Food at the Sanctuary

Although pricey by Thailand standards, the pleasant restaurant at the Sanctuary faces the beach and is renown for a good reason: The healthy food is simply some of the best you'll find in Thailand.

The restaurant at the Sanctuary doesn't serve meat; however, the Spice restaurant (evenings only) located on the Sanctuary grounds does have meat on the menu. The food and ambiance are excellent. You'll need to pay in cash at Spice.

Don't expect to be very nocturnal while staying at the Sanctuary! The kitchen closes at 9 p.m., and the bar closes at 11 p.m.—although guests often stay up later to socialize.

Accommodation

The Sanctuary Thailand has a bewildering number of accommodation choices spanning different comfort levels and budgets. The cheapest option is to stay in the very basic shared dorm ($11 baht) which consists of an open area with mattresses on the floor, each covered with a mosquito net. Larger, more luxurious bungalows and houses are available for families and travelers with bigger budgets. Understandably, many of the high-end options have a minimum stay of five nights in peak season and three nights the rest of the year.

The Sanctuary does not offer advance booking for the dorms and cheaper bungalows, only the houses. You must call ahead or send a message on the morning of your arrival or simply turn up and take your chances.

Alternatively, you can stay at one of the other cheap bungalow operations down the beach or in Haad Yuan, the bay adjacent to Haad Tien.

The Sanctuary is cash only. Without a fixed landline, they can't accept payment by credit cards.

Tips for Staying at the Sanctuary Thailand

  • You won't find an ATM at the Sanctuary. You can join one of the many daily boats back to Haad Rin usually consisting of people making money runs to settle their accounts; however, keep in mind the run will cost you at least $13 round trip plus the usual $7+ ATM fee in Thailand. Going to get money will be inconvenient and cost at least $20—bring a lot of cash with you!
  • Internet access is available with paid Wi-Fi tickets; a limited number of hours are included with bookings. Phone reception isn't good; just enjoy being less connected for a few days.
  • Mosquitoes are a real annoyance around the Sanctuary grounds, and dengue fever is a real problem in the islands. Bring spray, coils to burn, and know how to avoid mosquito bites during your stay.
  • A small, family-run shop on the Sanctuary grounds sells snacks, cigarettes, toiletries, and does laundry. Because of the need to bring everything in by boat, prices are higher than you'll see in Haad Rin. This isn't a shopping destination; bring what you need with you!
  • Even if you have no interest in the party, the monthly Full Moon Party at Haad Rin will affect accommodation and transportation throughout the islands for days before and after the party. Be aware if you'll be traveling around the same time as the party.
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