“Hippy island hangout that's grown up to be a seriously cool place, with detox and retox in equal measure”
But the health treatments are what sets it apart. Dietary courses, massages, hydrotherapy, even colonic fasting are available for those who need to de-stress physically as well as mentally. This combination makes it unique among Thai beach resorts, but it's not for everyone. If you're after a well-appointed room in a highly-organised resort, look elsewhere. If you want a memorable experience, and don’t mind some friendly chaos, self-examination and dirt under your fingers, then read on…
- The coast here is glorious - a succession of sandy coves with turquoise sea, backed by dense green rainforest, waiting to be explored on foot or by kayak
- You won't find a healthier or more extensive menu - from fresh seafood and spicy curries to fruit smoothies, low-salt and sugar-free - anything you can think of, they have
- Beautiful sea-views, especially from the higher houses
- You're guaranteed to meet some fascinating people
- All this introspection among the young and beautiful can seem self-indulgent
- Some of the accommodation is very basic (despite the price), and night-time noise from nearby parties can keep you awake
- The Sanctuary don't take card and there's aren't any cash-points in the bay - best to bring cash!
- It can get busy, but nothing like the drug-fuelled mania of Haad Rin
- Service can be quite hit and miss, we’ve had reports of slow and unfriendly waiters and front-of-house staff
- You are in a jungle so there will be creepy crawlies about, including irritating mozzies, spiders, frogs and geckos
Best time to go
Don't forget that the island is bursting for a few days either side of the full moon - you'll need to book well ahead then, and also during major Thai and western holidays. Bear in mind that Friday night is party night.”
Our top tips
- Beach Resort & Wellness Centre
- 19 houses, suites, cottages and villas
- Restaurant and bar
- All ages welcome but not recommended
- Open all year
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Laundry Service
- Snorkelling equipment available
- Health and wellness classes
Hidden among the palm and cashew trees above the beach, you'll find a surprising number of stilted wooden houses, rooms, simpler bungalows and dorms. Of these, the luxury houses, air-conditioned rooms and hillside bungalows are prebookable, while the dorms aren't. Luxury is, of course, a relative term. Here it means fabulous open-plan design and tree-top terraces. For these are home-made, home-designed extravaganzas of casuarina, bamboo and thatch, with open-plan rooms and back-to-nature plumbing.
Of these bookable options, the most stylish is Ocean View Round House, built by co-founder Steve as his 'dream house'. It's a perfectly circular platform under a pyramidal thatch, but the pièce de résistance is a small bridge leading onto a vast, flat-topped granite boulder with unbeatable sea-views. Another favourite is Leela House, built in a large, open-plan L shape. More secluded is Star House, built over several levels and set deep in the forest canopy, with an outdoor bathtub for bathing in the moonlight. Garden House is set in its own private garden with a great view of the bay; located close to the yoga hall, it's a popular room, but it does get some generator noise. Sunshine Cottage has an elevated sun-deck where you can see the sun rise over the horizon, or the myriad stars puncture the dark night’s sky. We also like the look of Rainbow House, spread over several levels with ladders, boulders and a semi-open-air chill area.
Of the others, the 4 Weemarn (Angel) Houses and the Weermarn (Angel) Beach House are smaller and nearer the restaurant (easier access, but more noise), while Padma House is set back in the jungle for more privacy. If you want air-con, book a room in the newer garden building, a 5-minute walk from the restaurant and beach. The Garden Suite has a kingsize double bed but not much extra room so may be better for a solo traveller. The Garden Deluxe Suites have an additional sofa bed in the lounge, so could sleep 4 at a squeeze. Also available are 2 Hillside Bungalows, situated between the beach and yoga halls, these deluxe bungalows are spartan wicker-and-thatch affairs with fans, but do offer kingsize beds, hammocks and balconies.
Most of these have indoor and/or outdoor living space, room for extra beds or mattresses, a kitchenette with gas rings, running water and a small fridge, and a bathroom, often built against the granite boulders, equipped either with shower or tub (gas-heated water).
If all else fails - or if you are on a seriously tight budget - there are a few mixed dorms (these aren't bookable) above the restaurant with 8 thin, netted mattresses on the floor. Take your earplugs and not much else, as space and security are limited.
- Mosquito net
Just above the beach is a large, open-sided, thatched building which houses the restaurant and bar, as well as the dorm, library and reception. It's the hub of the resort, with a constant stream of guests and staff padding through, flip-flops in hand, or swopping travellers' tales from the comfort of a bamboo easy chair or a low-slung hammock.
People-watching aside, it's also a great place to enjoy what must be the most specialised and frankly the most fascinating menu in southern Thailand. They serve up fresh seafood and an array of vegetarian dishes including spicy curries, steamed or stir-fried veg, snacks and spring rolls, salads, sandwiches and open baguettes, pasta, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, soups, cocktails, all-day fried breakfast, fruit fritters, cakes, fresh mixed fruit juices, shakes and smoothies, tofu burgers, low-salt and sugar-free dishes, pre- and post-fast broths … You name it, they've got it - which is all the more impressive when you consider that most ingredients are boated in (fresh) from Haad Rin.
We’d suggest you immediately order the smoothie of the day from the bar and then settle down with the menu. Choosing takes a while, and service can be slow, so be prepared. Our recommendations include the carrot, apple and yoghurt salad, the steamed snapper with lemon and ginger, the boiled pumpkin with yoghurt and grated coconut, the tofu pad thai on a bed of crunchy veg and cashews, the pumpkin and garlic soup, the halved pineapples filled with veg and nuts (sure beats a bag of crisps!) and - if your diet allows it - the rich banana chocolate fool. If not, you might allow yourself a 'revival ball' of ginseng, royal jelly, spirulina and chocolate chips.
All dishes - and all guests - are assigned a number, so you end up saying "Hi, I'm 170 and I'd like a 119 and a 56". If you're unsure (and let's face it, it's a daunting choice), stick to the veggie options - it's what they do best, and it may even convert you. If you prefer fish, go for steamed - the BBQ'd steaks come overcooked and dry.
The Tea Temple, which acts as a tea house, a cafe, a library, a health shop, and lounge, serves drinks and snacks throughout the day, and offers a healthy lunch menu of Japanese favourites, including sushi rolls and miso soup.
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian menu
- Chances are you'll either be coming for a course in yoga, healing, fasting or one of the other treatments on offer - in which case that will take up most of your time and energy. Or you'll be coming to chill, swim and party, in which case that is precisely what you will do
- HEALTH AND BEAUTY
- Try a detox programme which includes colonic fasting; made famous by Princess Diana and continues to have its fans around the world today. They talk of renewed energy, vigour and clarity of vision, though most conventional doctors consider it to be neither useful nor harmful. There's only one way to find out for sure… Be prepared to live off psyllium and clay 'shakes', and the occasional broth, oh, and to give yourself 2 colonic flushes every day
- Alternatively, sign up for a more relaxed yoga retreat which includes daily group session, private classes, access to the spa and a therapy session
- Spa and beauty treatments - body scrubs, facials, manicures, pedicures and after-sun massages are available (book on arrival), plus there's a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi
- Yoga and Pilates classes are held in the tranquil meditation hall are available daily - just book the previous day. Or you can join a scheduled group at certain times of the year
- Weight loss programme (14 days): fruit, fasting and detox coupled with daily yoga, gym and exercise routines help shed the kilos, and allow beach time too
- Massage training (7 days) is a great gift to bring home - the course is enough to make you feel competent and comfortable with all aspects of deep-tissue massage
- Self-realisation courses (4 to 7 days) are held at certain times of year, with 2 trainers to help you explore and transcend your limitations, often using rolphing or satsang techniques
- For current course dates, please enquire through our booking form
- OTHER ACTIVITIES
- Once a week sees an open mic night which has a lively, relaxed atmosphere. Start warming up those vocal chords now!
- Koh Phangan's east coast is stunningly beautiful, and surprisingly unspoilt given its proximity to the party capital, Haad Rin. A small path threads along its entire length, passing through dense rainforest and above a succession of inviting beaches
- Our favourite beach is Had Yao, 1 hour north, whose smooth sands are often empty bar the occasional khlong (shrimp) fisherman
- Serious hikers can continue to Thaan Praphat waterfall, particularly impressive after the rainy season
- Book one of the resort's kayaks and paddle off to whichever cove takes your fancy
- Or take the easy option - a longtail boat-ride along the coast, or around the whole island; it's best to find a small group to share the cost
- There's excellent snorkelling and fishing all year round
- Or just chill out in a hammock - there's no better place!
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Well being
We would not recommend the Sanctuary for children - it's hard to reach, and the activities are definitely geared for adults. However, you do see some couples with toddlers, and occasionally with teenagers. The hotel prefers not to have children in and around the bar area after dark and there are no special meal plans or facilities for children.
The Sanctuary is on the island of Koh Phangan (or Ko Pha Ngan etc) in the Gulf of Thailand, near the island of Koh Samui. It's near the southern tip of Koh Phangan; the nearest town is Haad Rin, from where it is a short boat ride in a longtail or speedboat (or you can walk if you prefer).
By Air: (via Koh Samui)
There is no airport on the island, but it can be reached quite easily from the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. There are numerous daily flights from Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
From Samui, it's best to catch the small ferry from Maenam pier (north coast) direct to Haad Tien beach, which is the Sanctuary's beach. It goes daily, except during monsoon season (late Oct - early Jan). Otherwise you catch the big ferry from Big Buddha pier near Samui airport (numerous daily departures) to Haad Rin, and from there take a taxi-boat to the Sanctuary. There are 2 piers at Haad Rin: east (which is closer to the Sanctuary) and west (which is busier). Either way, it will take around 30 minutes for the taxi-boat to fill up, get going and get you there.
From the Thai mainland and Koh Tao
If you're feeling adventurous you could take the train down from Bangkok to Chumphon, and then the boat (via Koh Tao) to Koh Phangan; or if you're coming from the southern mainland there are overnight boats from Surat Thani. Both take you to Thong Sala, on Koh Phangan's south-west coast, so you'll need to take a taxi-van from there to Haad Rin (30 minutes) and then a taxi-boat from Haad Rin to the Sanctuary (see above).
More on getting to Thailand and getting around
- Koh Samui 20.0 km USM
- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International 470.0 km BKK
- Beach 0.1 km
- Shops 3.0 km
- Restaurant 2.0 km