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The Souss Massa National Park has been a natural reserve since 1991 and it covers an area of 33,800 hectares. It is located between Agadir to the north and Sidi Ifni to the south, including the landscape of the coastline, dunes, marshes and the steppes.

Over 300 plant species and over 30 fauna species can be found there, including the Oryx antelope and the Dorcas gazelle, as well as foxes and wild cats. Moreover, the Souss Massa Natural Park is home to the world’s largest colony of Bald Ibis and the wetlands act as a stopover for many other migratory birds.

When to go?

The climate on the Moroccan coast is enjoyable for most of the year. The best time to visit Souss-Massa National Park is spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is ideal. In summer it can get extremely hot and December is the wettest month, although it doesn’t rain too much anyway. I visited the park at the beginning of October and it was simply perfect!

How to get there?

There are two entrances: one called Rokein Reserve, located near Takate and Ihchach, about 20 km from Agadir and the second one called Ourais Reserve, located near Sidi Binzarne, about 65 km from Agadir.

The easiest way to explore the park is with a rental car. It gives you full flexibility to organize the day as you like and it will also be the cheapest option. You can get a good vehicle for 25 – 40 EUR per day while an organized day trip costs about 70-80 EUR per person.

I recommend using the service of Click’n’Go Car Rental. Very friendly guys and easy to contact on WhatsApp. I ended up renting a Renault Clio for the whole month and got a nice price. For visiting Souss-Massa National Park any car is fine and you don’t need a 4×4 unless you really want to do some off-roading.

If you don’t want to drive, the only option is to join an organized tour. Most hotels will be able to get you in touch with travel agents or do your research online.

How much time should you plan?

Visiting all three major sites: Rokein Reserve, Tifnit and Ourais takes the whole day. After that, return to Agadir or spend the night in Tiznit, which is worth discovering too.

Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco

Where to stay?

In Agadir, I spent a few nights in Hotel Lynx. It’s not a resort but I wasn’t looking for one. The receptionist was very friendly, the room was spacious and comfortable and there was a small balcony too. Breakfast was not included but there are lots of restaurants all around so it wasn’t a big deal.

In Tiznit, I recommend Hotel Amoudou, located very close to the medina.

Rokein Reserve

 Upon arrival, I was greeted by a staff member who explained two options for visiting a park. The first was a shorter loop dedicated to hikers (3 km), and the second was much longer and involved driving your car with a guide. Of course, I decided on the longer one as I had a car and I wanted to explore more remote sections of the part. The ticket cost me 150 MAD. The guide hopped inside the car and we started our mini safari in a Clio 🙂

The guide spoke limited English so I couldn’t learn too much but we had some basic conversation and he was pointing out the animals that we were passing by. Mostly there were gazelles, ostriches, onyxes and some birds. It made me want to do some big safari in Africa soon! We left the car several times and walked to the observation points. One of them was particularly nice, with a large number of animals resting or grazing. According to my guide, they often gather there as it’s closer to the ocean and as a result, more windy and cooler.

Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco

Tifnit

Next, I went to see Tifnit, a fishing village with houses packed between the beach and the cliff. I walked along the coast and saw some cave dwellings, that probably used to be occupied by fishermen but at that time they rather looked abandoned.

Tifnit, Morocco
Tifnit, Morocco
Tifnit, Morocco
Tifnit, Morocco

Ourais Reserve

Another entrance to Souss-Massa National Park is located near Sidi Binzarne. The entrance doesn’t cost anything but I am sure you will be offered a service of a guide as soon as you park your car. There is no need for that as the way is very easy to follow, the question is if you can say no 🙂 If you decide to take one, it will cost you about 200 MAD but feel free to negotiate. The hiking trail goes along the river (Oued Massa) towards the beach with huge dunes and is about 10 kilometres long. Keep an eye out for some birds. On the day of my visit, the fog was hanging over the ocean, creating a mysterious atmosphere.

Once you reach the ocean, turn right and walk along the beach towards cave dwellings. On your rights, you will pass by a fancy hotel: Ksar Massa. If you want to check out the cave dwellings inside, approach one of the fishermen hanging out in front of it and I’m sure they will let you have a look for a few dirhams. I must say, observing how people live and how different those lifestyles are is one of the most memorable of my travel experiences.

Take the concrete pavement climbing up and start the way back, this time following the cliff edge. The wide sandy road will take you back to the trail along Oued Massa which you already walked before. Follow it again to return to the parking.

Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco
Souss-Massa National Park in Morocco

Summary

All in all, this was a day well spent and I truly enjoyed my time in the national park. It’s a great place to visit for those staying in Agadir, who want to escape the big city, see the magnificent Atlantic coast and hopefully spot some wild animals.

Oualidia is a little fishing town, located between El Jadida and Safi, on the Atlantic Coast. Its location is particularly charming as it’s hidden in the lovely lagoon with calm waters protected from the wind by rocks.

When to go?

The climate on the Moroccan coast is very pleasant for most of the year. The best months for visiting Oualidia are from April to June when the season is still low and there aren’t that many tourists. In the summer holidays, the beach can get very crowded and somehow the charm is partially gone.

How to get there?

Oualidia is located between the cities of Safi and El Jadida. Driving time should take between 1 – 1,5 hours from both locations, depending on the route.

Grand Taxi

A shared grand taxi is the least expensive option however you will need to wait until the taxi fills up. I got one in El Jadida and the waiting time wasn’t longer than 10 minutes. It all depends on the demand and I guess you have better chances for smooth travel if you start early in the morning. You will find the drivers at the crossroads of Av. Attahrir and Av. Echouhada, not far from the Sidi Bouafi Lighthouse.

Bus

CTM has one daily connection from El Jadida which costs 40 MAD and also one from Safi which costs 25 MAD.

Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco

What to do in Oualidia?

Don’t plan for an active day as there isn’t that much to do besides relaxing on the beach. And that’s the beauty of it!

Go for a walk

Long, fine sand beaches are ideal for stretching your legs and you can go even as far as Sidi Karam Addaif Beach.

Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco

Take a boat trip

Local fishermen will be more than happy to take you on a fishing trip or a simple boat ride to admire salt marshes and hopefully see some interesting birds (best chances in spring and autumn when the migrations happen). You may also rent a kayak and do it yourself although you won’t be able to go that far.

Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco

Try some water sports

The lagoon is rather calm but you can find some good spots further afield to practice surfing and windsurfing. Equipment can be rented in the village, or you just may sign up for a lesson with an instructor.

Eat seafood

Many people come to visit just for that. Oualidia is known for its oyster farms but all types of fish and seafood are available. If you want to cook by yourself, you can buy all you need straight from the fishermen. They can be found in the morning hours just next to the corniche where their boats and tents are located.

Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco
Oualidia, Morocco

Extra tip

If you have your own wheel and are planning to continue the trip south towards Safi, there is one more interesting spot to check out – Lalla Fatna Beach. It is known for good waves for surfing enthusiasts and beautiful cliffs.

Lalla Fatna, Morocco
Lalla Fatna Beach
Lalla Fatna, Morocco
Lalla Fatna Beach

The fishing villages of Taghazout and Tamraght are located on the southwest coast of Morocco, north of Agadir. They are among the most popular beach destinations in the country, well-known for famous surfing spots that are suitable for advanced as well as beginners. For me, it was a perfect and much-needed escape from the madness of medinas of big cities such as Marrakech of Fes.  

When to go?

If surfing is not the reason for your visit, you will enjoy the place year-round. It’s a semi-arid climate with mild winters and rains are rare.

For surfers, the best period is from October to the end of April, but keep in mind that the waves between December and February can be challenging for beginners.

How to get there?

If travelling from Agadir, your best choice is to buy a seat in a grand taxi. It should cost about 10 MAD to go to Tamraght (20 minutes) and about 15 MAD to Taghazout (30 minutes). You can also get there by local bus (line 32 and line 33), but it will take about 1 hour, and you won’t save much money so it isn’t worth it.

If travelling from Essaouria, you may take a grand taxi heading towards Agadir and ask the driver to drop you off in Taghazout or Tamraght. Alternatively, get a CTM bus. It doesn’t stop in either of those small towns, but you may buy a ticket to Agadir and ask the driver to leave you at the roadside next to the turn-off to Taghazout or Tamraght. From there, it’s an easy 15-minute walk down to the coast. This is what I did, and it worked perfectly well. Just keep in mind that drivers can forget about you, or they change halfway, so besides asking at the beginning of the trip, make a friendly reminder about 10 kilometres ahead of your destination.

Taghazout, Morocco
Taghazout Beach

How to get around?

You really won’t need much more than your legs. You can easily walk around both villages and take a nice promenade that runs between them (about 6 km). If you get tired, you can always get a taxi or rent a bicycle for a longer trip.

Taghazout, Morocco
Camel riders at sunset

Where to stay?

Both Taghazout and Tamraght have plenty of accommodation options for all budgets. I based myself in Arima Surf House in Tamraght and everything was great. The owners took me on a surfing class and I really enjoyed the experience, even though there is definitely a lot of work ahead of me to become a professional surfer 🙂

What to do in Taghazout and Tamraght?

There aren’t many must-see places and that’s the beauty of both villages. Prime activity is relaxing!

Blue boats line the beach in Taghazout and it’s nice to come here in the early morning to calmly observe the first rays of sun and listen to the waves. You may also stroll on the streets of the village and even though it’s very compact, it’s also very picturesque.

Watch the surfers or be the surfer! Walk to Madraba Beach and chill there, observing surfers at their best at nearby Anchor Point. There are also plenty of surf schools all around Taghazout and Tamraght so if you feel like trying to catch some waves in Morocco, there won’t be a better occasion.

Taghazout, Morocco
Beach in Taghazout

For straightening your legs, I recommend following the seaside promenade all the way to Tamraght. It’s about 6 kilometres. There, you can check out Imourane Beach, Tamraght Beach and the Devil’s Rock. Come back to Taghazout by taxi in case you have had enough of walking 🙂

Each day should be concluded with observing the sunset and those can be really spectacular. And don’t forget to get some seafood for dinner!

Paradise Valley

One of the most popular places to visit from Agadir, also easily accessible from Taghazout or Tamraght. It’s a small oasis with pools scattered all along the river, all in the middle of breathtaking mountains. Instead of swimming, you can also do some cliff jumping to boost your adrenaline level. Needless to say, be careful as there have been some accidents in the past. For less adventurous, there are a few stands at the beginning of the valley where you can get a table and cool your feet in the water. The easiest to get there is with an organized half-day trip.

Paradise Valley, Morocco
Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley, Morocco
Paradise Valley

Timlalin Dunes

Impressive sand dunes with stunning views. You can rent equipment and do some sandboarding or simply walk around. The best way to get there is by car and the day trip can be easily connected with a visit to Imsouane which is described below.

Imsouane

Imsouane is a small fishing village located on Morocco’s southwestern coast, about 1 hour 15 minutes drive to the north of Taghazout. Due to its location at the mouth of a large bay, it’s another ideal surfing spot.

Jebel Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa, situated in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Standing at an impressive 4,167 meters above sea level, it attracts hikers from all over the world. Let me share with you my experience of going to the summit!

When to go?

The best time to hike Jebel Toubkal is typically during the late spring to early fall, so from late May to early October. During this period, the weather is usually mild, and the trails are not covered in snow. Winter requires more experience and equipment (crampons, winter clothing). I did my hike at the end of October and it was perfect. Sunny days with a temperature of about 20 – 25C and very cool at night.

How to get to Imlil?

Imlil is located only 60 km south of Marrakech and can be easily reached by grand taxi. You will need to pay about 300 DH for the private trip or 50 DH per seat and share the car with other passengers. Taxis are located close to Sidi Mimoun Garden. The trip will take about 1.5 – 2 hours but the views are very scenic!

Alternatively, you may take a local minibus to Asni and from there get a grand taxi to Imlil but it will take more time and you won’t save much.

If you want to have everything organized for you, including transportation, look for a reputable travel agent with a lot of positive reviews on Google Maps or check the offer of GetYourGuide.

Route

The distance from Imlil to the summit of Jebel Toubkal is about 15 km, starting at an altitude of about 1659 m a.s.l. and ending at 4167 m a.s.l. (2508 meters up).

It’s quite a lot and most people decide to conclude the first day with an overnight stay at Refugio du Toubkal, covering a distance of about 11,5 km (1501 meters up). On the second day, they continue to the summit and back to Imlil (18,5 km, 985 meters up, 1659 meters down). If you follow this scenario, there is no need to start in Imlil very early in the morning as you will have plenty of time to arrive at the shelter.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
Jebel Toubkal

Alternatively, you may do what I did, so go from Imlil to the summit and back to Refugio du Toubkal on the first day (18,5 km, 2493 meters up, 993 meters down), and then walk back to Imlil on the second day (11,5 km, 1501 meters down). If you decide to go for this option, keep in mind that an early start from Imlil is necessary and it will be a very difficult day, especially because of altitude difference.

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow but you can always get the Mapy.cz app on your phone to double-check your position. Of course, I’m talking about hiking season and not winter 🙂

What to take?

When hiking Jebel Toubkal, essentials include hiking boots or trail runners, weather-appropriate clothing (shorts, long pants, jumper, gloves, hat, spare T-shirt and underwear), a sleeping bag, suncream and a backpack with snacks and water. It gets really cold at night so don’t underestimate it. Hiking poles will be extremely useful too so if you don’t have ones, you may rent them in Imlil village. I regretted that I hadn’t done so!

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
At the summit of Jebel Toubkal

Do you need a guide?

If you decide to start the hike from Imlil, then it is necessary to have a guide. There is a police checkpoint after Aroumd village where your passport as well as the ID of the guide will be checked. The requirement of having a guide was imposed in 2018 after the murder of two Scandinavian tourists. So it’s not that much related to trail difficulty but rather overall safety. I found the trail well-marked and easy to follow, especially with Mapy.CZ app on your phone where you can control your position.

I have seen some hikers walking without a guide but they were all coming from the direction of Ifni Lake, possibly doing longer traverses of this section of Atlas Mountains. I believe there is no police checkpoint in Imhilene village but getting there from Marrakech is much more difficult (over 4 hours by car).

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco

Anyway, remember that hiring a guide supports the local community and for them, it’s an important source of income. I paid 800 MAD for the overnight trip and I think it was a fair price.

Here is the contact number for my guide (Kamal): +212 659-076-717. He can be contacted on WhatsApp.

Where to stay?

Staying for the night in Imlil before the hike would be a good idea. It allows you to rest and get ready. Moreover, there are plenty of other shorter routes in the area which you could do as a warm-up. I recommend basing yourself in Dar Adouss in nearby Ait Souka village, but easily accessible on foot from Imlil (about 20-25 minutes). Aziz welcomed me with traditional mint tea, cooked a delicious tajine for dinner, recommended nearby hikes and organized a guide for the hike to Toubkal. It was also possible to do the laundry. The room was a bit cold in October but it’s normal in this region that houses don’t have heating. There were plenty of blankets to keep me warm at night.

Most people climb Toubkal as an overnight trip, spending the night in Refuge du Toubkal. It’s a typical mountain shelter, with dormitories and bunk beds. I was positively surprised by the possibility of taking a hot shower. The food wasn’t that good but it hardly ever is in places like that. It was still decent and no one was hungry! The price for the half board was slightly under 300 MAD. In high season, you may want to make a reservation by texting them at refugiotoubkal@gmail.com.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
Refugio du Toubkal

The hike

Day 1

My guide Kamal met me in Dar Adouss just after breakfast at around 8:30 AM. He seemed to be a nice guy, 33 years old so at my age but already with 3 kids. Well, different life priorities 🙂 His English was not too good but we were able to have some basic conversation. First, we went through Aroumd village and then continued towards the police checkpoint where my passport and Kamal’s ID were checked.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
The trail leading to Refugio du Toubkal

The weather was perfect. Sunny but still quite cool in the morning hours. We were progressing quite fast, passing by some places offering cold drinks and snacks. We made a break in one of them and Kamal came up with the idea of going all the way to the summit today. It seemed reasonable taking into consideration that it was still very early and we weren’t that far from the Refugio du Toubkal.

At the shelter, the break was longer so I had my improvised lunch with tuna and bread. Of course, I couldn’t miss some warm tea! It was about 2 PM when we made the final decision to continue to the summit. That was the moment when the hard part started. The terrain was significantly steeper and I guess I started having some issues with altitude as there were moments when I was really struggling to catch my breath and even got a bit dizzy. The path was going up and up and I was fighting my rising, being on the edge of giving up. Luckily, the presence of Kamal and his good attitude gave me more courage and motivation to slowly but slowly progress further.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
Frozen water, the proof of low temperatures at night

We reached the high point, from where we could clearly see the summit. It still seemed to be far away but in fact, we reached it much sooner than I expected. It’s a wide and flat area, with some ugly metal construction. The views were incredibly nice and we were the only hikers there.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
The summit is closer and closer…

We took a few selfies and started descending back to the shelter. It was obviously much easier but still took some time as my legs weren’t fresh at all. The shelter was really big and looked exactly like those kinds of places look like in Europe. There was a separate room for boots and several dormitories with bunk beds. When we arrived, it was packed with people planning to climb Toubkal early in the morning to catch the sunrise. I’m sure it’s a nice experience, but taking into consideration lower temperatures and the need for a really early wake-up, I felt really happy that we did it in the afternoon instead.

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
At the summit with Kamal
Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
At the summit of Jebel Toubkal
Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
At the summit of Jebel Toubkal

At the dinner, I shared the table with a nice couple from Belgium, and I was surprised to hear that there was even a hot shower in the shelter! It was really great to refresh after the whole day outside. Unfortunately, because of altitude difference and tiredness, I got quite a strong headache so I took some painkillers and went to sleep very early.

Day 2

Most of the people disappeared from the dormitory in the very early morning and I was glad that I had a few extra hours of sleep in silence. We had breakfast at about 7:30 AM and then we set off for the way down to Imlil. Kamal was walking a good few hundred meters ahead of me, and I had the impression that he really wanted to get back home as soon as possible. Well, three kids were waiting 🙂 Once we arrived at Dar Adouss, Aziz prepared for us some mint tea and shortly after, it was time to say goodbye!

Jebel Toubkal, Morocco
The way down to Imlil

Other hikes around Imlil

I arrived at Imlil with one spare day before the start of the Jebel Toubkal hike, and I wanted to warm up my muscles before the big adventure. Therefore, I decided to make the following loop, which was an excellent choice:

Imlil – Tinerhourhine – Ikkiss Amssokrou – Aguersioual – Imlil (6.5h, 16 km, 863 meters up, 890 meters down)

Alternatively, you may also want to discover another area on a slightly more challenging route:

Imlil – Tizi n’ Mzik – Tizi Oussem – Imlil (8h, 18 km, 1480 meters up, 1480 meters down)

If you don’t have the whole day, it’s about a one-hour return walk to Cascade Imlil.

Koh Samui is the second-largest island in Thailand, which evolved from a quiet fishing community into a tourism-targeted destination while still retaining its natural charm. It’s definitely not as quiet and peaceful as some other Thai islands but it offers a good balance for those looking for a combination of vibrant nightlife, serene temple visits, and jungle adventures.

How to get there?

Koh Samui can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 1,5 hours while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 45 minutes. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours 🙂

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia.

How long to stay?

I spend 3 nights on the island and I would recommend it as a minimum. It will give you enough time to explore nature and chill on the beach. That time could be easily extended to one week or even longer. There are beautiful beaches, waterfalls, a nice standard of accommodation for online work, good food, and an option for a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. Sounds like a perfect place for holidays? It could be, but keep in mind that there are also two other islands: Koh Phangan and Koh Tao which are well worth checking as well.

When to go?

The best period to visit Koh Samui is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to April and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From May to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, so September to November, are better to be avoided. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Waterfall on Koh Samui

Where to stay?

I stayed for three nights at the Pamoni Hotel in Chaweng for about 19 EUR per night. It was basically a small apartment, with a living room and a kitchen, a bedroom, a private bathroom and there was a swimming pool for guests too. A very good price-to-quality ratio and the location was excellent too.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find some rental agencies near Chaweng Beach. I rented mine at Idan Rent Motorbikes & Cars. At first, I wasn’t too happy with the bike’s quality but they quickly reacted and changed it for a better model.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still some dirt roads, often quite steep so pay special attention there or simply park your bike on the side of the road and walk.

What to do on Koh Samui?

Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks (Hin Ta Hin Yai)

Beautiful view of the ocean with nice rock formations. Especially famous are the ones shaped like…. male and female genitalia. The legend says that an elderly couple living in Nakhon Sri Thammarat were discussing the marriage of their son. It wasn’t too easy to find a wife for him but they knew someone in the province of Prachuap Kiri Khan who had a beautiful daughter. They decided to use their small wooden boat to make the trip.

It wasn’t a good idea though. Their vessel was tossed around like a small toy, and both of them got terribly seasick. In the distance, they saw an island and decided to try to get there. Unfortunately, the waves were big and the winds were strong. Just as they were about to give up, a huge wave washed them both out of the boat and into the sea. Their bodies were washed ashore and instantly turned into rocks on the beach.

There are plenty of vendors selling food, snacks, drinks, and souvenirs just in case you need to cheer yourself up after discovering that sad story.

The rocks are just next to Lamai Beach, which is the island’s second largest.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Grandfather Rock
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the rocky coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the rocky coast of Koh Samui

Lamai Viewpoint & Valentine Stone

There is the Valentine Stone at the bottom and some fish ponds but the main attraction is the viewpoint. You can either walk up or pay extra to get a ride up. As it’s only 10 10-minute walk, the choice was easy. The path goes through the forest so don’t forget to use mosquito spray before you start. They also have an option to do ziplining, which is about 800 THB, including the entrance fee.

Lanlandaw Viewpoint

Beautiful place with an amazing view of the sea and the island. You can just get a beer or fresh coconut and soak the atmosphere. The owners are very friendly and chatty people. The dirt road leading there is quite steep so be careful when riding a motorbike.

Koh Samui in Thailand
Lanlandaw Viewpoint

Overlap Stone

There are two similar places, called Overlap Stone 1 and Overlap Stone 2. I recommend you to choose the second option. Carry on following the road past the big signs for Overlap Stone 1 and the lady waving enthusiastically asking for a ridiculous 200 THB. The road gets steeper until you see a welcome sign and a little spot saying motorbike parking. Walk up among the trees and the view will open up on both sides. The entrance costs 20 THB and you can buy some drinks too. The views over the island are simply stunning! Take a rickety bamboo walkway to get closer to the stone.

Koh Samui in Thailand
Overlap Stone
Koh Samui in Thailand
Overlap Stone

Wat Ratchathammaram

A beautifully laid-out temple decorated with red terracotta. It overlooks the sea, which makes it a particularly calm and scenic place, perfect for meditation and reflection. Moreover, it houses the relics of Buddha brought in from Sri Lanka.

Ban Hua Thanon

Home to the Muslim community, with a local fish market and Koh Samui Central Mosque that can be seen from afar because of its vibrant gold, green, and white colors.

Tarnim Magic Garden

Peaceful place to rest and appreciate the surrounding nature and different statues whilst hearing very calming trickling water. It’s quite small though and you can get around in about 30 minutes. The entry ticket costs 80 THB so I really wished it had more to offer. Insect repellent is essential!

Koh Samui, Thailand
Tarnim Magic Garden
Koh Samui, Thailand
Tarnim Magic Garden

Paradise Park​ Farm

A well-maintained place with a lot of animals and an enormous garden. The most popular activity is feeding and observing the pigeons that come in shades of pink, blue, yellow, and orange. There are also some deer, goats, rabbits, parrots, and ducks. They also offer a viewpoint where you can enjoy a swing and capture nice pictures. Tickets are on the expensive side: 400 THB per person, but if you travel with kids, it may be a good idea to visit.

Na Muang Waterfalls

The tallest waterfall in Samui (30 meters) with a great pool for swimming at the base. It is set in lush jungle surroundings, easily accessible just off the main ring road. There are several stalls selling snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. Keep in mind that during the dry season, the water level could be extremely small so you may be disappointed. Unfortunately, near the entrance to the waterfall, I saw an elephant which was clearly used for riding. I strongly discourage you from participating in such an “attraction”. If you want to get closer to these magnificent animals, visit Samui Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary or Samui Elephant Home described below.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Na Muang Waterfall

Samui Elephant Kingdom Sanctuary & Samui Elephant Home

If you have the need to get closer to elephants, these two places have a good reputation. The staff look after the rescued elephants and have a great relationship with them. The tours normally include a briefing about the history of each elephant and where they’ve been rescued from, feeding, a walk around the large open grounds with them, bathing, and of course plenty of photo opportunities.

Cobra Show

I haven’t visited the place as I am not a fan of entertainment including animals, but they have positive reviews on Google Maps. Apparently, the owner and staff are very friendly and the animals look comfortable in their enclosures and are well-kept. Let me know in the comments if you were there and what were your impressions!

Khao Yai Waterfall

A short hike through some bush leads you to an unimpressive waterfall. Not really worth the time and effort.

Wang Sao Thong Waterfall

After a 10-minute walk through the jungle, you‘ll be able to cool down in a small lagoon at the base of the waterfall. Don’t expect anything big though and you may totally skip the place in the dry season.

Wat Khunaram

The home to Koh Samui’s mummified monk, Luong Pordaeng, who died in 1973. It was his will to be put on display as a visual reminder of the Buddha’s teachings. The body is presented in a seated meditative position in a glass case and the only noticeable change to the body has been the disintegration of the eyes, which have now been respectfully covered by sunglasses. I really like that place because it also shows you that Thais approach death as the natural order of things and they view it as an opportunity to be reborn into a better place, one step closer to nirvana. So much different from the European point of view.

Wat Plai Laem

This unique temple was completed in 2004 and most of the complex was built in Thai-Chinese style. The two giant, colorful statues dominate the landscape. The first is the huge image of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion who has 18 arms. Guanyin is very highly revered by Chinese people and is known as the protector of women and children, the sick, and the poor. She is said to have so many arms, so she can help many people at one time.

Another statue is that of the fat, laughing Chinese Buddha. In Chinese culture, a fat Buddha represents wealth and prosperity. This very impressive statue is 30 meters high and was painted in expressive colors like red, white, and gold.

Wat Phra Yai

The temple complex is built on a small island named Koh Farn, connected to mainland Koh Samui with a causeway. The highlight is a 12-meter-long Buddha image that was built in 1972. The Buddha is in the subduing Mara posture, which symbolizes the Buddha not giving in to the demon Mara, temping the Buddha with beautiful women. There are also some great views of the surrounding beaches and the island of Koh Phangan to the north.

Thongson Beach

Fine beach but you will most likely need to order something in the restaurant or otherwise they will charge you for parking. You may notice pigs cooling off there on a hot day, not joking. The naturist beach is located further on the right, just follow the path and then go over the rocks. If you are in that part of the island, it’s worth stopping by but it’s not worth a special trip.

Choengmon Beach

It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Koh Samui with clean water and nice sand. You can get a sun bed for about 200 THB. Plenty of spots offer massage, drinks, and food. It’s also a perfect place for a beach walk during low tide to have a closer look at nearby Ko Fan Yai and Ko Fan Noi.

Chaweng Beach

Probably the most crowded and popular beach on the island. Hotels and resorts are all along the beachfront, bars and restaurants play loud music till late night hours, and jet ski as well as other water attractions are available for adrenaline seekers. It’s typical beach madness but sometimes this is exactly what you are looking for. Sunrises are beautiful there and probably that is the only quiet time for peace lovers.

Khao Hua Jook Pagoda

Worth visiting around the sunset for great views over the island and the airport. Entrance fee: 20 THB.

Lad Koh View Point

Lovely viewpoint just off the road. You can take a nice walkway down to the rocks below.

Wat Phra Chedi Laem So

Beautiful, serene, and quiet temple by the sea. It’s not worth a special trip, but if in the southwestern area of Samui, check it out.

Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the area around Wat Phra Chedi Laem So
Koh Samui, Thailand
The aerial view of the area around Wat Phra Chedi Laem So

Koh Taen and Ko Mat Sum

Both islands are located only a few minutes away by longtail boat from Thong Krut Pier. Koh Taen isn’t too impressive and the beach is rocky so don’t waste too much time. On the other hand, snorkeling around the island is decent. Koh Madsum is way better for relaxing on the beach with fine sand and fantastic clear water. It can get crowded as it’s popular for… pigs on the beach. The price for a boat, depending on your plan should vary between 1000 – 1400 THB.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Taen
Koh Samui, Thailand
Ko Mat Sum

Lipa Noi Beach

A very long and narrow sandy beach. The big plus is that there are hardly any people. Both the water and the beach are clean and it’s a good spot to enjoy the sunset in peace.

Hin Lat Waterfall

Another nice waterfall on Koh Samui and a great 30-40-minute hike through the jungle to reach it. Insect repellent and proper shoes are recommended. If the water level allows, you may swim in the cooling pools at the base of the waterfall.

Hin Lat Waterfall
There are a few waterfalls worth seeing on Koh Samui

Khun Si Waterfall & Viewpoint

The waterfall wasn’t too impressive at the time of my visit but the road to get there was leading through the wilder part of Samui, even though it was a bit tricky. At some point, I started doubting if I was heading in the right direction but then a small wooden sign told me that I arrived. Khun Si View Point is just on the other side of the parking, don’t miss it! 

Nathon Sunset Viewpoint

A popular location for sunset. There are benches along the road or you can get closer to the water for a different perspective. During low tide, there is also a nice sandbar to walk on. Bang Makham Beach and Laem Yai Beach further north are other good alternatives for watching the sunset.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Beach on the west coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
At low tide, you can walk around the shipwreck
Koh Samui, Thailand
Shipwreck
Koh Samui, Thailand
Beach on the west coast of Koh Samui

North Coast Beaches and Fisherman’s Village

There are a lot of good beaches on the north coast with restaurants, bars, kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, and other attractions. The best is to just follow the main road on a motorbike and stop wherever you want. The nicest places are Bang Por Beach, Baan Tai Beach, Maenam Beach, W Beach, and Bo Phut Beach. The center of all entertainment is Fisherman’s Village and there is a big night market too.

Koh Samui, Thailand
The beach on the north coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
Scenic coast of Koh Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand
The beach on the north coast of Koh Samui

 

Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is a captivating tropical paradise, known for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and unique blend of tranquillity and excitement. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of the world-famous Full Moon Party, a serene escape to crystal-clear waters, or a taste of authentic Thai culture, this island has something for every kind of traveller. For me, it’s also one of the top places for online work in the whole of Thailand.

How to get there?

Koh Phangan can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 2,5 hours while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 1,5 hours. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours 🙂

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui and hop on a boat from there. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia

How long to stay?

The island is a very pleasant place to stay, regardless if you are a party type or not. I would count a minimum 3 days which could be easily extended to one week or even longer. Beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and forest, nice standard of accommodation for online work, good food, and an option for a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park. What else would you need for a perfect tropical holiday?

When to go?

The best period to visit Koh Phangan is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to April and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From May to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, so September to November, are better to be avoided. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Ko Tae Nai
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Ko Tae Nai

Where to stay?

The night in Mae Haad Garden Inn cost me about 12 EUR per night and I chose that location only because other options were not available because of the Full Moon Festival. I ended up very satisfied with it and the area was super calm. With a scooter, it was easy to reach any part of the island anyway. Chaloklum Beach was only a 10-minute ride away.

Later, I moved to the Shanti Boutique Hotel which was a bit more expensive but absolutely brilliant. The rooms are simple but very cozy and clean, and it’s nice that they come with a balcony. The location is great as well, near Srithanu Beach and Zen Beach. There are also many cafés and restaurants that offer super tasty food with a lot of variety.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find some rental agencies near Thongsala Pier.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still some dirt roads, often steep so pay special attention there or simply park your bike on the side of the road and walk.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
The road across Koh Phangan

What to do in Koh Phangan?

Wat Phu Khao Noi

The oldest temple on the island is a very tranquil place to walk around and enjoy the peace. It has a very nice vibe and the buildings are beautiful to look at. As it is located on a small hill, there are some good views too.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Wat Phu Khao Noi

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Wonderful waterfalls with lots of places to stop for a quick dip. The circular trail is challenging and adventurous but absolutely worth it. The full version takes about 2 hours but you may also choose a shorter variation. Hiking shoes are recommended as the trail is sometimes difficult and can be slippery. The entrance fee for foreigners is 100 THB.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Than Sadet Waterfall

The scenic road from the south of the island to Haad Sadet Beach crosses Namtok Than Sadet National Park. Don’t expect an impressive waterfall as it’s more like a stream with a lot of small waterfalls where you can walk up or downstream. The level of water depends on the season. The entrance fee for foreigners is 100 THB.

En route, you will notice two other access points to the same stream: Pho Darng Waterfall and Deang Waterfall.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Than Sadet Waterfall
Koh Phangan, Thailand
A very scenic road in Koh Phangan

Haad Sadet Beach

An okayish place but nothing too special. The highlight for me was taking a walk through We took a walk through the rickety bridge to the abandoned resort on the nearby beach: Haad Thong Reng. The entrance to Haad Sadet Beach costs 100 THB.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet and Haad Thong Reng
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet and Haad Thong Reng
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Sadet

Haad Yao (East) and Haad Yang

Two remote and quiet beaches that can be reached by boat from Haad Rin, 4WD, or on foot. Haad Yao (East) is popular for its weekly parties at Lost Paradise.

Haad Wai Nam

Another nice and cozy beach, with a very chilled vibe and free atmosphere. Beautiful rocks and good water for snorkeling! The restaurants serve delicious food and there is a beach party every Saturday. The easiest way to get here is by boat from Haad Rin.

Haad Yuan Beach

I really enjoyed the jungle hike from Haad Rin to get to this place, with a wonderful viewpoint on the way. It takes about 1,5 hours. If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back, you can just take a boat taxi for approximately 200 THB per person. There are parties on Saturday night at Eden Bar.

Haad Rin

This is the epicenter of the island’s nightlife, most famous for its Full Moon Party, a massive monthly beach party that draws thousands of visitors from all over the world. The event typically takes place on the night of the full moon, hence the name. It’s known for its vibrant atmosphere, music, dancing, and colorful decorations.

Haad Rin is divided into two main beaches: Haad Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) and Haad Rin Nai (Sunset Beach). Sunrise Beach is where most of the Full Moon Party action happens, while Sunset Beach is generally quieter and more relaxed. Both beaches offer stunning views and plenty of water sports activities.

For good panoramic views, hike to Haad Rin Rock Viewpoint. It’s a good spot for sunset, although take the flashlight with you as the route is bushy. Follow the road to the antenna and about 20 meters before the road ends, there is a small, overgrown path toward the rock from which you can see the best view.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Rin
Haad Rin

Yang Na Yai Tree and Wat Pho

Dipterocarpus alatus also known colloquially as the resin tree, is a tropical forest tree. The tallest one on the island is truly colossal and impressive. It’s located near Wat Pho, which is a quiet temple with an herbal sauna on the opposite side of the street.

Wat Khao Tham

It’s a very quiet and calm place on the hills of Koh Phangan, with a wonderful viewpoint over Koh Phangan. Koh Samui can be seen as well. They have a Vipassana meditation retreat so ask for more details if you are interested.

Koh Ma and Koh Ma Beach

Koh Ma is a small island in the northwest connected to Koh Phangan by a tiny but very picturesque sandbar. It’s a very popular snorkeling spot with some rock reefs on the east side of the island. The beach is very nice too, with hotel rooms located right on it but go a bit further and you will find a much quieter part.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Ma
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Koh Ma

Wang Sai

Very disappointing place. The entrance fee was 50 THB per person but the place is neglected and it isn’t worth the time and money. The bar was closed and the waterfall was very tiny. Not recommended!

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Wang Sai

Guanyuin Temple

Beautiful temple located on the hill by the main road from Thongsal to Chaloklum. It is dedicated to the bodhisattva Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The price for entering is 40 THB per person.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Guanyuin Temple

West Coast Beaches

There are several pleasant beaches on that section of the island. Especially worth mentioning are: Salad Beach, Haad Yao Beach, Secret Beach, Zen Beach, Srithanu Beach, and Hin Kong Beach.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Zen Beach
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Hin Kong Sandbank
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Hin Kong Sandbank
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Haad Yao Beach
Haad Yao Beach
Haad Yao Beach

Phangan Royal Navy Ship

HTMS Phangan was donated to the Thai government by the United States back in 1957 as a symbol of good relations. It was in service during the Vietnam War and was officially retired on June 5, 2008. During my visit in April 2022, the interior was not available for sightseeing.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
HTMS Phangan
Koh Phangan, Thailand
HTMS Phangan
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Panorama of Koh Phangan

Chalok Lam Beach and Malibu Beach

A nice beach stretching mainly by Chaloklum, a small fishing village. There are a lot of food options around. To the west of the village is the very picturesque Malibu Beach.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Chalok Lam Beach
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Malibu Beach

Khao Ko Viewpoint

A hidden little viewpoint over Chaloklum Bay! You can spend the entire afternoon there enjoying the view from the hammocks. The road is short but very steep so if you are an inexperienced motorbike rider, just park it on the side and continue on foot. Refreshments like beer, coke, and water are available.

Bottle Beach

Nice, wide, and relatively clean beach with a bar and some bungalows for rent. The road to get there is recommended for 4WD only, so unless you are a skilled rider, it’s better to park your motorbike and continue on foot. It’s a pleasant downhill walk and on the way back I was lucky enough to get a ride in a pickup truck. From here, you can also access the track through the jungle leading to the most amazing viewpoint on the island.

If you don’t drive a car or ride a motorbike, you can find boat taxis waiting for clients on the beach or ask about them in a bar.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Bottle Beach

Bottle Beach Viewpoint

Probably my favorite point in Koh Phangan. The journey through the jungle path was nothing short of amazing, and some moderate climbing near the end added to the sense of adventure and connection with nature. It’s not for someone who is scared of heights though.

The viewpoint can be reached either from Bottle Beach (about 25 minutes) or from the road on the other side. Just look for “Bottle Beach Scooter Parking” on Google Maps. From there the walk is even shorter. Flip-flops are not recommended.

Koh Phangan, Thailand
Bottle Beach Viewpoint

Haad Khom Beach

A quiet and beautiful beach. Sometimes you can see monkeys around this area. You can take a boat taxi to Bottle Beach from here or simply take a trail which is well-signed with blue marks. It should take about 1 – 1.5 hours one way.

Thong Nai Pan Beach

Beautiful beach and area with clean soft sand and water. The village has a quiet vibe and feels small and calm. Wat Thong Nai Pan with an unusual stupa has a nice viewpoint and is located nearby.

You may also check Than Prawet Waterfall or Thong Nai Pan Waterfall if you are tired of beaches.

Day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park

Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from Koh Phangan. The park was established on 12th November 1980. and consists of 42 small, limestone islands, characterized by lush greenery, towering cliffs, and hidden coves. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for one: Koh Wua Talap, where the visitor center, campsite, and bungalows are located.

There are numerous companies running daily trips from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and first, you will need to decide if you prefer to take a speedboat or a slow boat. It takes about an hour to reach the islands by speedboat and about 2-3 hours by slow boat. You can save a lot of time choosing the first option but the ride can be bumpy and less enjoyable. The slow boat usually has a nice deck where you can sunbathe and take a lot of nice pictures.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park

I decided to choose a tour operated by the Orion Cruise, starting from Koh Phangan. It was a bigger and slower boat. As of April 2022, the cost was about 2.000 THB. Included in the price is pick-up from the hotel, lunch, snacks, soft drinks, and snorkeling equipment. You may pay an extra 200 THB if you go for an option with a kayak. The price included the Ang Thong National Marine Park entrance fee.

A full description of the tour can be found in a separate post HERE. You may also ask at your accommodation for alternative options.

Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from the popular tourist destinations of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The park was established on 12th November 1980. and consists of 42 small, limestone islands, characterized by lush greenery, towering cliffs, and hidden coves. All of the islands are uninhabited and undeveloped except for one: Koh Wua Talap, where the visitor centre, campsite, and bungalows are located.

How to get there?

To get to Ang Thong National Marine Park, you need to travel to the nearby islands of Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, as it serves as a starting point for visiting the park. In both places, you will easily find tour agents offering day trips to the park. There are no boat tours from Surathani or Koh Tao. 

Koh Samui and Koh Phangan can be reached on a ferry from Donsak Pier near Surat Thani. Raja Ferry is slow, cheap, uncomfortable, and takes about 1,5 hours to Koh Samui and 2,5 hours to Koh Phangan while Lomprayah is exactly the opposite but about twice the price and takes 45 minutes to Koh Samui and 1,5 hours to Koh Phangan. Time is money, they say. The choice is yours 🙂

Another option would be to fly to Koh Samui. There are regular flights from Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as some foreign destinations. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia.

How long to stay?

Typically people sign up for a one-day tour. However, camping is possible so if you wish to do so, you will need to make arrangements individually with the tour agent and the boat will pick you up on the next day. The rent of a tent for 2 people is 250 THB per person per night including a torch, clean sleeping bag, and mosquito net.

When to go?

The best period to visit Ang Thong National Marine Park is between December and August.

The dry season lasts from December to February and it’s the peak tourist season. Pleasant weather with lower humidity and cooler temperatures. Accommodation and flights can be more expensive, and popular tourist spots can be crowded.

From March to August, there is a hot season with higher temperatures and humidity. Occasional rain showers are possible but they are usually brief. May and June can be particularly hot.

Rainy season months, from September to November, are better to avoid. The prices are more budget-friendly but you may expect frequent rainfall and boat tours will most likely be closed.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park

Entrance fee to the park

When signing up for a tour, clarify if the entrance fee is included in the tour price. Normally it isn’t and extra cash is collected by tour companies before the trip starts or while you are on board.

The fees as of August 2023 are as follows: 300 THB for foreign adults and 150 THB for foreign kids. Thai citizens will pay 50 THB for adults and 25 THB for kids.

*all prices are from April 2022.

Where to stay?

Koh Phangan

The night in Mae Haad Garden Inn cost me about 12 EUR per night and I chose that location only because other options were not available because of the Full Moon Festival. I ended up very satisfied with it and the area was super calm. With a scooter, it was easy to reach any part of the island anyway. Chaloklum Beach was only a 10-minute ride away.

Later, I moved to the Shanti Boutique Hotel which was a bit more expensive but absolutely brilliant. The rooms are simple but very cozy and clean, and it’s nice that they come with a balcony. The location is great as well, near Srithanu Beach and Zen Beach. There are also many cafés and restaurants that offer super tasty food with a lot of variety.

Koh Samui

I stayed for three nights at the Pamoni Hotel in Chaweng for about 19 EUR per night. It was basically a small apartment, with a living room and a kitchen, a bedroom, and a private bathroom and there was a swimming pool for guests too. A very good price-to-quality ratio and the location was very good too.

Ko Wua Talap

If you decide to extend your tour for the overnight stay, there are camping and bungalows to rent at the park headquarters on Ko Wua Talap Island. Facilities are basic: cold water shower and electricity from a generator that shuts down at 11 PM, but isn’t it a beauty of this place? You may also rent a kayak to explore the area from the water perspective independently.

The tour

There are numerous companies running daily trips from Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and first, you will need to decide if you prefer to take a speedboat or a slow boat. It takes about an hour to reach the islands by speedboat and about 2-3 hours by slow boat. You can save a lot of time choosing the first option but the ride can be bumpy and less enjoyable. The slow boat usually has a nice deck where you can sunbathe and take a lot of nice pictures.

I decided to choose a tour operated by the Orion Cruise, starting from Koh Phangan. It was a bigger and slower boat. As of April 2022, the cost was about 2.000 THB. Included in the price is pick-up from the hotel, lunch, snacks, soft drinks, and snorkelling equipment. You may pay an extra 200 THB if you go for an option with a kayak. The price included the Ang Thong National Marine Park entrance fee.

The day started with a slightly delayed pick up in the accommodation by a minivan and delivery to the pier. Coffee or tea and snacks were already waiting. The boat departed a few minutes after 9 AM and was going slowly so there was plenty of time to relax on the deck. The first stop was around Koh Wao, where we got our snorkeling equipment and jumped into the water to see some colourful fish and coral. It wasn’t bad but the water wasn’t perfectly clear and during my travels in South East Asia, I have visited much better snorkeling locations.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkelling spot near Koh Wao
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkeling spot near Koh Wao
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Snorkeling spot near Koh Wao

From there, the boat went deeper into the national park and at this point, it is better to be on the upper deck to have an unobstructed panoramic view of the small rocky islands all around. The boat stopped near Ao Ka Beach, which was a drop-off point for those who decided to choose the option of a kayak. To get to the beach itself, we had to switch to a long-tail boat first, as the slow boat was too big to get so close. The whole kayaking experience wasn’t too long and took about 30-40 minutes.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
A scenic beach in Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Picturesque rock formations

If you haven’t decided to have a kayak trip, you will stay on board and meet up with other participants later at Koh Mae Koh. It’s a wonderful island with a Blue Lagoon surrounded by steep limestone cliffs in the middle. Follow some steep stairs to get to the viewing platform and you won’t be disappointed. The color of the water is bizarre yet very beautiful.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
The Blue Lagoon
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
The waters are full of fish

The last stop was at the biggest island in the archipelago: Koh Wua Talap. Here are the national park headquarters and this is the place where you can stay overnight if you wish to. What you certainly have to do is hike up to Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint. It provides a sensational view of the islands with blue waters and green forests all around. The hike up is very steep and sweaty, especially under the hot sun but it’s totally doable for most people. Take your time and stop at other viewpoints along the way. The return trip should take about 1 hour.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Absolutely amazing views from Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Absolutely amazing views from Pha Chan Charat Viewpoint

Once I got down, I still had some time to enjoy the wonderful beach and chill in the hammock. At the agreed time, the captain called me to return to the boat and we started our return journey to Koh Phangan with the sun slowly setting. We arrived shortly after 6 PM and were dropped off at our hotels.

Overall, it was a great day and the whole trip was organized nicely. The food was good, the crew was incredibly friendly and the views in the national park impressed me a lot. The only negative side was the speed of the boat, which was really slow and we spent plenty of time travelling to and from Ang Thong National Marine Park. If the boat had been faster, we would have had more time to spend in the park.

Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park in Thailand
Ang Thong National Marine Park

Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam and is located in the Gulf of Thailand, off the southwestern coast of Cambodia and the southern coast of Vietnam. In recent years, the island has become a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists with resorts popping up one after another. As usual in such cases, a lot of natural beauty was lost or significantly damaged. If so, is it still worth visiting?

The history of Phu Quoc is rather gloomy. Due to its remoteness, the island served the French colonial administration as a prison. The role didn’t change much when the Americans arrived and about 40,000 Viet Cong prisoners were held on the island.

Let’s make it clear, after traveling for 5 months in Vietnam, I strongly believe that it isn’t a good country for beach holidays. When talking with local people, I always heard raves about the island and its beauty. I felt I couldn’t skip it and planned my 4-day trip there to check if it really was better than other typical beach destinations that I have seen so far in Vietnam.

How to get to Phu Quoc Island?

The Island can be comfortably reached by ferry from Ha Tien or Rach Gia. You can also transport your motorbike on board for an extra fee. Two popular operators are Superdong Ferries and Phu Quoc Expresses. Check the schedule on their website as it varies depending on the season.

Moreover, you can take a flight from various cities in Vietnam or neighboring countries to Phu Quoc International Airport. Check your connections at 12Go.Asia

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Streetfood in Duong Dong

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches and engaging in water sports without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer. On the other hand, expect more tourists and higher prices.

Where to stay?

I stayed for a few nights at Phu Quoc Areca Garden Bungalow. It cost about 15 EUR per night and the bungalows were wonderfully set next to the garden. It’s not a resort along the beach but this was not something that I was looking for. The beach or other attractions can be easily reached on a scooter. The room was spacious and bright.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes. You will also find plenty of rental agencies in Duong Dong, the main town of Phu Quoc.

The network of roads is really good with most of them sealed. There are still dirt roads, mainly on approach to the beaches on the north and northeast coast.

Taking your own motorbike on the ferry is easy and quite cheap. Ask about it directly in the sales office of Superdong Ferries or Phu Quoc Expresses.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The hills in the central part of the island
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The hills in the central part of the island

What to do on Phu Quoc Island?

Duong Dong

The main town on the island is full of streetside stalls, restaurants, bars, and shops. There is a night market too. Here you don’t have that huge resort vibe and it’s the most authentic place on the island to observe local life. Fishing vessels are parked all around the busy channel. Fresh seafood guaranteed!

Near the promenade and among the rocks stands Dinh Cau Temple which honors Thien Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, who provides protection for sailors and fishermen. A very popular place for domestic tourists.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Entrance to the temple
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
The channel filled with boats

Ba Keo Beach

A popular beach in the southern part of the island. It is spacious and most parts are relatively clean. The water is calm and there are a lot of bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s kind of divided between resorts and it’s nearly impossible to find a place to sit in the shade without paying for a sunbed. Rubbish is also very often reported to be a problem here, but the situation is similar at all other beaches in Vietnam.

Suoi Tranh Waterfall

A bit kitschy park for lots of weird statues. Nevertheless, the short walk to the waterfall was pleasant and once I was there, it wasn’t crowded at all. You can take a dip or enjoy your picnic there.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Suoi Tranh Waterfall

Coi Nguon Museum

I liked walking around the museum and reading the stories of Phu Quoc and the life back then. The display includes Vietnamese medicines, Stone Age tools, ceramics, and furniture. The museum is quite old-fashioned, dusty, and pretty hot inside. The view of the city from the upper floor is worth checking out. An entrance ticket costs 50,000 VND.

Phu Quoc Prison (Nha Thu Phu Quoc)

The place was built by the French in the 1940s and today it houses exhibits presenting the history of the jail and how Vietnamese POWs were mistreated. The entrance is free and it takes approximately 20-30 minutes to see everything.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Old Phu Quoc Prison
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Old Phu Quoc Prison

Sunset Town

A strange and deserted place that is partially still under construction. It’s a copy of a Meditterean coastal-style city. As of November 20222, most of the shops were closed and it looked like a ghost town. There was classical music playing on speakers throughout the town, which actually helped to somewhat alleviate the feeling of emptiness and despair.

Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town
Sunset Town, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Sunset Town

Cable Car and Aquatopia Water Park

The cable car to Hon Thom Island is the world’s longest sea-crossing construction of this kind (almost 8 km). It provides magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding seascape. On the island, the main attraction is Aquatopia Water Park with a few interesting rides, a beach area, restaurants, and cafes. Unfortunately, as of November 2022, some of the rides were closed. The entrance fee is 530.000 VND and it includes the cable car. I left with mixed feelings. The cable car was excellent, however, the water park was somewhat disappointing.

An Thoi Islands Tour

The group of islands off the southern coast of Phu Quoc is known for its natural beauty and clear waters, which makes it a popular destination for snorkeling or diving tours. Some of the notable islands include Hon Thom, Hon Roi, Hon Dua, and Hon May Rut. The tours include transport from the hotel to the port and back, snorkeling equipment, and lunch. I booked mine through John’s Tours and can totally recommend it.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
An Thoi Islands Tour

Khem Beach and Sao Beach

Probably the best beaches in the southern part of the island, and also quite clean by Vietnamese standards. There are many water sports activities such as banana boats, parasailing, and jetski so it’s very noisy and the sea water isn’t that clear. There were a few restaurant and cafe options.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The aerial view of Sao Beach
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
The aerial view of Khem Beach

Quoc Mau Hall

Located 10 km north of Sao Beach, the largest pagoda on Phu Quoc Island was built in 2012 and provides beautiful sea views.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Quoc Mau Hall
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Quoc Mau Hall

Vung Bau Beach

Following the dirt road to get to the beach on a scooter was fun. The beach is quite long and in principle completely empty. Don’t expect sunbeds, huts, bars, or restaurants. It’s just the beach and that’s the beauty of it.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Fishermen coming back home

Cau Can Beach

Another almost empty beach. The area next to the river mouth is particularly nice and you will see fishermen going in and out.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Cau Can Beach
Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Cau Can Beach

Ganh Dau Beach

Small beach but a pleasant stop for a cold drink with a view of the Cambodian island Koh Seh.

Grand World

Another attraction copying European architecture. After a few months in Vietnam, I realized how popular those places are! There is a canal with gondola rides like in Venice and you may also join one of the shows at night. Moreover, plenty of restaurants and snack stands do their best to satisfy all tourists’ tastes. Have I mentioned that there is even….a Teddy Bear Museum?

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World
Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Grand World

Thom Beach

The ride from Grand World to Thom Beach is through a scenic and forested interior of the island. There is a bar with hammocks on the beach and the place was perfectly calm without many tourists.

Final thoughts

Maybe I got spoilt after spending a few months in Thailand visiting probably over 30 different islands there, but a visit to Phu Quoc hasn’t changed my opinion that Vietnam simply isn’t a good place for beach holidays. I have no idea what the island looked like a few years ago but as of 2023, the coast is lined up with resorts or construction sites to create even more of them in the near future. If this is what you are looking for, then it’s fine. However, I prefer a good mix of relaxing on the beach and active exploration, and that part was kind of missing. Some more remote beaches are even difficult to access if you aren’t a guest of the hotel.

Sure, there are nice places to visit but nothing extraordinary, considering the size of the island. The four days that I spent there were more than enough and I don’t feel like I would like to come back anytime soon. Especially if there is an option of coming back to Thailand or the Philippines.

Phu Quy Island is a small, picturesque island located in the South China Sea, off the coast of Binh Thuan Province in Vietnam. The island has rather average beaches and rugged rocky landscapes. However, it offers a laid-back and peaceful environment, making it a perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and tranquillity away from the crowds on the mainland. The population is small, and its inhabitants are mainly involved in fishing and farming.

How to get to Phu Quy Island?

The Island can be comfortably reached with Superdong Ferries or Phu Quoc Expresses from Phan Thiet. Check the schedule on their website as it varies depending on the season.

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from December to May, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches and engaging in water sports without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer.

Where to stay?

I stayed for one night at Thành Trinh Hotel đảo Phú Quý and for the price I paid (9 EUR), it was of amazing quality. The owner picked me up from the port and once we got to the accommodation, he also rented me his scooter so I was able to explore the island independently. The room was spacious and bright.

How to get around the island?

Without a doubt, the best option is to rent a motorbike. Ask for one at your accommodation. They will either have one or get in touch with someone who can deliver it to you within minutes.

Taking your own motorbike on the ferry doesn’t make sense as it’s too expensive for a short-term trip. If you have one, it’s better to park it at your hotel and then rent one on Phu Quy.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The beaches on Phu Quy are very average
Phu Quy, Vietnam
A small quiet temple

What to do on Phu Quy Island?

Fishing village

The narrow streets with houses around Phu Quy Port are mainly built in the traditional style, creating a beautiful space for photography. You may follow the concrete embankment which is especially pleasant at sunset.

Hon Tranh Island

That small island can be reached by boat from the beach on the eastern part of Phu Quy Port. There should be two trips per day, at about 8 AM and 2 PM but double check with your hotel. On the island, there are two sandy beaches and that’s about it.

Trieu Duong Bay

Further east is a big beach where local people like to gather. You can buy some grilled seafood or Vietnamese pizza made with rice paper and relax in the shade. Good idea to take mosquito repellent.

Flagpole Viewpoint

Continue following the main road around the island to reach that viewpoint with the Vietnamese flag. It can get quite windy but the panorama of the sea and beach below is decent. Here I met a super nice Vietnamese who visited Poland once before, when they used to live in the Czech Republic. The world is small!

Phu Quy, Vietnam
One of the beaches on Phu Quy Island

Ganh Hang (The Happy Slot)

You will need to go down the cliff to reach a natural pool among the rocks. Swimming shoes are recommended as the rocks may be sharp.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
Scenic rocky coast but trash is a problem

Ben Cano Hon Tranh

A small fishing area with a market operating from dawn. Nearby, there are floating rafts that serve affordable seafood. You can also participate in SUP or snorkelling to see the coral during the high tide. A few kilometers further north, you may make another stop at the beach called: Bai Tam Lach Xanh.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The coast of Phu Quy Island

Mo Thay

One of the nicest places to visit in Phu Quy Island. The temple with Master Nai’s Tomb is more than 300 years old. It provides spiritual support for the fishermen before each trip to the sea and is a place symbolizing the cultural interference between the Vietnamese and the Chinese. On the side of the cliff, you will find photogenic ponds with seafood.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
Ponds near Mo Thay

Linh Son Pagoda and Cao Cat Mountain

Cao Cat Mountain is the second highest point on the island. Therefore, it provides a panoramic view of Phu Quy and the sea surrounding the island. The mountain is considered sacred to the people living on the island and Linh Son Pagoda, which was built more than 100 years ago, sits near its top.

Phu Quy, Vietnam
The view from Cao Cat Mountain

Linh Buu Pagoda and the Lighthouse

The temple is located at the foot of Cam Mountain, which is the highest point of Phu Quy Island. You may follow the path with over 120 stone steps to reach the lighthouse at its top. The views are worth the effort!

Linh Quang Pagoda

Popular temple among locals, where major festivals take place every year such as Buddha’s Birthday, Vu Lan Festival, and Thanh Minh Festival.

Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are popular tourist destinations located in Binh Thuan Province. Phan Thiet is a coastal city known for its fishing industry and production of fish sauce. Mui Ne, a small fishing village has gained popularity for its stunning sandy beaches, unique red and white sand dunes, and water sports opportunities like kite surfing and windsurfing.

When to go?

You will get more sun and a more pleasant experience from November to April, during the dry season. This period offers ideal conditions for enjoying beaches, engaging in water sports, and exploring sand dunes without being affected by the intense heat of the Vietnamese summer.

Where to stay?

I was more than happy to stay at Hotel Minh Hang in Phan Thiet and from there I made a trip to Mui Ne and to Phu Quy Island. Mui Ne offers plenty of accommodation too so if you prefer to stay there, check booking.com or agoda.com.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
The riverside of Phan Thiet

What to see in Phan Thiet?

The main sights can be comfortably seen in half a day. Start with Ho Chi Minh Museum and Duc Thanh School. Most probably both places will be packed with local tourists due to their historical importance. You will see preserved classrooms and boarding houses where former President Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as he is often called by Vietnamese people, lived and worked in 1910. The museum built next to the waterfront glorifies that individual and presents some school relics. There are no descriptions in English but it’s worth having a short look, also to understand the propaganda mechanisms and the cult of Ho Chi Minh in that country.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
The monument of Ho Chi Minh
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Panoramic view over Phan Thiet

Guang Di Temple is located nearby and is the oldest and largest scale Chinese place of worship in town.

Continue further to Van Thuy Tu Temple, which is a unique place containing the skeleton of a 19-meter-long whale. Fishing communities in southern Vietnam revere whales as sacred beings who offer protection against storms.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Van Thuy Tu Temple and whale’s skeleton

Phan Thiet Water Tower and Victory Monument are on the other side of the Ca Ty River. Both places are nicely illuminated at night.

Doi Doung Beach has a nice park with lots of trees. You can sit or walk along the beach, though it’s not a particularly clean place to relax.

Po Sah Inu Cham Towers is the most interesting place to visit in Phan Thiet, of course in my opinion 🙂 It’s about 10 minutes drive from the city center so you will need a scooter or a taxi. Dating from the 9th century, this complex consists of the ruins of three towers, associated with the Cham people, an ethnic group with a rich history and cultural heritage. They are typically built using brick and sandstone and often consist of several towers arranged in a specific layout, with each tower serving as a place of worship dedicated to Hindu deities. The towers are adorned with intricate carvings, sculptures, and bas-reliefs that depict scenes from Hindu mythology and Cham culture.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers
Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Sah Inu Cham Towers

Around Phan Thiet

Phu Quy Island

It’s located about 120 kilometers from the mainland. In November, there were hardly any tourists and I could feel a peaceful and relaxed ambiance. There are some rocky cliffs as well as sandy beaches but those are unfortunately polluted with trash. Superdong Ferries and Phu Quoc Expresses depart from Phan Thiet Port.

You can find more information in the separate post HERE.

The beach on Phu Quy Island

Ta Cu Mountain

The highlight is definitely a giant reclining Buddha statue, which is about 49 meters long. The pagoda is a place of worship and a serene spot for meditation, accessible by cable car or on foot.

More information can be found in a separate post HERE.

Ta Cu Mountain, Vietnam
Ta Cu Mountain

Ke Ga Cape

Ke Ga Cape is famous for being the place where the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Vietnam still stands. The structure is about 60 meters high and was designed by a French architect to ensure safe navigation for vessels in that area. The construction was finished in 1899.

More information can be found in a separate post HERE.

Ke Ga Cape, Vietnam
Ke Ga Cape

Mui Ne

Fairy Stream

It has the reputation of being a little hidden gem in that area, but is it really? It’s a pleasant walk up the shallow creek to the small waterfall at its end, with interesting rock formations along the way. Nevertheless, there are usually quite many tourists and you have to pay attention to avoid being scammed (most probably they will try to overcharge you for the parking or offer an unnecessary guide).

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Fairy Stream
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Small waterfall at the end of the hike

Mui Ne Fishing Village

Amazing view of hundreds of fishing boats. It’s a good place to get cheap seafood, but you have to bargain. The beach area is quite dirty due to all that business going around.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
Mui Ne Fishing Village

Mui Ne Beach

Disappointing beach that proves that Vietnam isn’t the right place for beach holidays. If that’s what you are looking for, just do yourself a favor and go to Thailand 🙂 The beach is full of garbage and some shady guys ask 50.000 VND to access it. Save your time and money and skip it.

Red Sand Dunes

Mui Ne is famous for its huge red and white sand dunes and that is what brings most of the tourists to that area. The red ones are smaller but they are closer to the village and look particularly nice at sunset. You can get a ride in 4WD but it’s completely not necessary. Just walk.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
Red Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
Red Sand Dunes

White Sand Dunes

Bigger and more impressive than Red Sand Dunes. To get there, follow the main road to the north for about 25 kilometers. You will be offered quad bikes or buggy rides and it may be tempting as the area is big and it can get hot. If you are fine with walking on your own, it’s perfectly doable as well. Just climb one of the highest dunes to get a panoramic view of the landscape.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes

Less Touristy White Sand Dunes

A few kilometers further north you will get another opportunity to check out the dunes. Just park your motorbike at the roadside and start climbing. No loud ATVs or buggies here which is a huge advantage.

While riding a motorbike between Mui Ne Village and sand dunes, watch out for the police. They are frequently patrolling the area and stopping foreigners. As I had an international driving license, they let me go without questions asked but if you don’t have one, get ready for negotiations and have some cash with you as most likely they will ask for ‘tea money’.

Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes
Mui Ne, Vietnam
White Sand Dunes

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