First off, I want to say you’ve made the right choice in deciding to attend the famous “Full Moon Party.” It’s a bucket list item that everyone should do while they’re still young and able to throw down with hundreds of travelers from all over the world. I’ve put together a general overview of the event plus tips to make it your best Full Moon Party experience.
What Exactly Is The Full Moon Party?
Legend has it that the Full Moon Party started in the 80’s as a monthly gathering of travelers and locals. The official website states that tourists found the full moon so beautiful while on Haad Rin Beach in Koh Phangan that they decided to throw a party (because the moon). That tradition has continued with Full Moon Parties during every month of the year and hundreds of people from all over the world in attendance. You can find the 2016-2018 schedule on the official website.
Where Is It And How Do I Get There?
The original Full Moon Party is celebrated each month on the island of Koh Phangan at Haad Rin Beach in southern Thailand. The island is on the east side of Thailand’s southern isthmus and north of its larger sister island Koh Samui.
There are plenty of places to stay near Haad Rin beach (check out the Full Moon Party website for recommendations) but if you’re booking last-minute I’d look to get a bed in a hostel as there are a ton in the immediate vicinity.
Plane or Bus to Don Sak
If you have the money to spare and don’t want to endure a 12-15 hour bus ride from Bangkok, you can fly into Koh Samui and then hop on the ferry to Koh Phangan. A non-stop round-trip flight will cost you around $250-400 depending on when you book, and Bangkok Airways, Thai Airlines and Air Asia have multiple flights leaving each day.
If you’re on a backpackers budget (like I was when I traveled) then you can take one of the many buses from Bangkok to the Don Sak Port in the Surat Thani District (Southeastern Thailand). It’s a 12-15 hour ride depending on traffic and other variables, and the stops are infrequent. Get to the bus stop early so you can be first in line to board the bus – You don’t want to be stuck sitting next to the onboard bathroom!
You can buy combination tickets that include both a bus and a ferry ticket – check out the ferry websites below.
Ferry From the Mainland to Thong Sala Pier (Koh Phangan)
There are multiple ferry routes that run between mainland Thailand to Thong Sala Pier in Koh Phangan and the other islands nearby (Koh Samui & Koh Tao). The 2 main ports that you can catch a ferry from is the Donsak Pier in Surat Thani (Google Map) and Matapon Pier in Chumphon (Google Map). Most boats are old and the seats aren’t super comfortable, but it’s the only way to get to Koh Phangan.
From Donsak Pier, Surat Thani:
The normal ferry will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes while the express will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Normal Ferry – Songserm Ferry Website / Raja Ferry Website / Seatran Ferry Website
Tickets will cost you between 200-300 Baht for a 1-way ticket (about $6-7 USD) and 400-500 Baht (about $12-13 USD) for a roundtrip ticket. The Seatran Ferry is the most expensive option at 450 Baht.
Express Ferry – Lomprayah Ferry Website
Tickets will cost you 450 Baht for a 1-way ticket (about $13.10 USD) and 900 Baht (about $26.20 USD) for a roundtrip ticket.
From Matapon Pier in Chumphon:
The normal ferry will take about 4 hours and 30 minutes while the express will take you about 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Express Ferry – Lomprayah Ferry Website
Tickets will cost you 1000 Baht for a 1-way ticket (about $29.11 USD) and 2000 Baht (about $58.20 USD) for a roundtrip ticket.
What To Bring Or Buy In Advance
Imagine that a rave and a beach party had a baby. That is what you wear to the Full Moon Party. Think bright colors and neons, but preferably clothes you don’t care about ruining. Bring other fun items to make your outfit unique to your style. Go crazy!
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes or sandals! You don’t want to ruin your night by cutting your foot. Also, wear your bathing suit in case you want to go for a moonlight swim.
Buy the neon paints for sale around the island. Everyone ends up painting all over each other (one of my favorite parts) with different designs.
What Are Those Little Buckets Everyone is Drinking Out Of?
In general, most drinks sold on the beach and around the island will be in brightly colored quart-sized buckets. Each bucket will have a mixer and a few airplane-sized bottles of alcohol that equal about 2.5 strong drinks. They’re sneakily strong, so make sure you take breaks and plenty of water throughout the night. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
BE CAREFUL WITH THE RED BULL IN THAILAND. You’ll find the original recipe Red Bull here in Thailand sold in square glass bottles, but buyer beware: This original recipe is much more potent than the cans sold elsewhere in the world, and we were advised not to have more than 2 bottles in 24 hours because of how strong it is. No matter how many cups of coffee you drink a day, this advice should not be taken lightly. I can say from experience how miserable you will feel the next day if you drink these all night (think heart palpitations) and can’t sleep the next day. Just don’t do it!
What Do You Actually Do During The Full Moon Party?
You have one goal: Party all night and stay awake to watch the sunrise. Aside from socializing with other travelers, there are plenty of activities set up on the beach to help you celebrate the full moon.
Music & Dancing
There are multiple DJ booths set up across the beach and different beach-front bars to keep you dancing all night long. You’ll have no shortage of music during the Full Moon Party.
Fire Dancing (i.e. Playing with Fire)
Yes, you read that right. Local Thai residents will bring sticks and ropes coated in a flammable substance and perform impressive feats of “fire dancing” while spinning flaming batons. They even let partygoers get involved with flaming limbo and a flaming jump rope, just make sure you don’t attempt if you’re drunk!
Yes there really is a section of the beach roped off so that you can take a quick power nap before returning to the festivities. This is ideal for any travelers whose accommodations aren’t located within walking distance of Haad Rin Beach but who still want to watch the sunrise with everyone else.
Watch the Sunrise
Even if you end up needing to tap out early and get some rest (there’s no shame in that) you should still set your alarm so that you can watch the sunrise on the beach with other party goers the morning after the party.
Where Can I Eat & Drink During The Full Moon Party?
You can find a lot of vendors who have set up their food stands or grills on the beach where you can get everything from corn on the cob, meats and fried insects (for those who are more adventurous). Most of the beachside bars and restaurants will also be open and can provide a much-needed safe haven for those wanting to take a break from the Full Moon Party madness.
Mellow Mountain Bar (North End of Haad Rin Beach)
The Mellow Mountain Bar is located on the north end of Haad Rin and is situated up on the side of the cliffs that overlook the beach. This bar is famous for its trippy psychedelic decorations and “special shakes” which can be purchased for 500 Baht (if you’re into that sort of thing). I came here for normal drinks and snacks during the day and found it super relaxing, but at night it transforms into a mini nightclub with DJ’s spinning trance and house music.
Kangaroo Bar (North End of Haad Rin Beach)
Bar Review / TripAdvisor
The lesser-known Kangaroo Bar is located right next to The Mellow Mountain Bar on the same cliffs. The space is more intimate and can only hold about 100 people on both the dance floor and balcony. This place also sells”special shakes” for 500 Baht and also features the same trancey house music.
Moon House Seafood & Steak (Central Haad Rin Beach)
TripAdvisor / Facebook Page
We ate here quite a bit during our stay given its prime location on the beach and variety of food. You can get everything from American breakfast and steak to pad thai.
Cactus Bar (Central Haad Rin Beach)
Cactus Bar is centrally located on the beach and a good place to grab food. During the Full Moon Party, they set up a slide from the roof.