Spice Up Your Family Vacation To Koh Phangan With These Lesser Known Attractions.
The tropical Thai island of Koh Phangan has a (somewhat deserved) reputation as a place for hedonistic Full Moon Parties, but there’s more to the place than backpackers going to town on the booze buckets. Away from the party hostels and party beaches, Koh Phangan is an extremely family-friendly destination, and a trip here offers plenty of opportunity to slip away from the hungover hordes and the honeymooning couples. Boat trips and jungle hikes are the starting point for many island adventures, and families in Koh Phangan are never far away from an opportunity to let the kids race around on secluded beaches, snorkel among schools of colorful fish, splash in natural pools or take a nature trek through the deep jungle that covers some 90 per cent of the island. So while there may be 10-20,000 partiers rocking up to Hat Rin for the Full Moon fun, there’s plenty of scope for age-appropriate, crowd-free activities elsewhere.
Take a Free Herbal Sauna (and visit a giant tree!)
When you’re on the road with the family, the idea of a de-stressing, de-toxifying sauna and massage may well seem pretty darned appealing to everyone from tired out toddlers to their travel-weary parents. But we’re not talking ritzy, high end hotel spa treatments here. At the Wat Pho Sauna and Thai Massage, in Baan Tai Village, monks from the nearby Buddhist Temple have set up a herbal sauna surrounded by wild forest and well-populated fish ponds, and now welcome visitors to come and soak up the herbs’ healing properties. While the treatments are popular with partied-out Full-Mooners, they’re also a nice option for families – the herb-scented steam opens the pores and cleanses the system, and littlies who don’t fancy breathing in healing air are likely to enjoy the relaxing Thai massages that are also on offer. There’s no need to worry about paying a premium, either – the monks ask only for a fair donation.
🌲 Nearby, families can check out the island’s biggest tree – a giant tropical Yang Na (rubber tree) which has been left to grow unhindered for hundreds of years and now it is over 50 m’ tall,
Embark on Jungle Adventures and Splash in Natural Pools
With the world and his wife making a beeline for the beaches of Koh Phangan, it’s easy to overlook the rich tropical jungle that covers vast swathes of the island. Which is all the better for adventurous families keen to get off the beaten tourist track. Slap on the DEET, strap on sturdy walking shoes and head to the trails that lead through steep jungle paths to Thaan Sadet waterfall, in the North East of the island. Sitting in the middle of a gloriously wild national park, this is in fact not one fall but a series of cascades and natural pools, surrounded by giant boulders and stepping stones and stretching out over some 3km. Families with energy to burn can follow trails from the falls up to the island’s tallest peak – Khao Ra – which stands nearly 630 meters above sea level. Viewpoints at the top offer staggering views over the island, its beaches and the surrounding ocean, and cooling off in the pools on the way back down is a nice reward for tackling the climb.
The diving, snorkeling and kite boarding on Koh Phangan are hardly a secret, but families can practice a whole host of non-water based activities on the island, too. Volleyball, football and a sport known as jorkyball – a kind of 2-on-2 variation of soccer – are all popular on the island, and there are numerous sports facilities and classes where kids and parents can brush up on their skills or learn new ones. Each month, huge beach volleyball and beach football tournaments attract big crowds, and grownups who think they’ve got the skills can sign up to take part. If that’s a step too far, just watching the matches is enough to stir up enthusiasm for kicking or volleying a ball around a beach, and after all that racing around, the kids are likely to be zonked enough to for their parents to enjoy a peaceful beachfront meal and/or sunset cocktail.
Eat Here: Roots and Leaves
Cakes and Thai-Indian curries served inside a rustic hut surrounded by wild jungle make a meal at Roots and Leaves feel like a real family adventure. On the edge of Than Sadej National Park, the cafe serves huge portions of sweet and savory dishes made with the freshest ingredients imaginable, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options for those that want them. Far from feeling like a worthy ‘clean eating’ spot, though, this welcoming little cafe serves genuinely delicious dishes that savvy locals and visitors consider to be some of the best food on the island. It’s hidden away from the main drinking and dining strips on the island, and feels all the more exciting for that.