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Sunrise Beach

Sunrise Beach is the most famous beach in Koh Phangan. That is because it is the site for the world famous Full Moon Party. However, even without the party Sunrise Beach (Haad Rin Nok) would be a beach worthy of comment not least because of its stunning natural scenery.

The beach is roughly 600 metres long. It arches in a gentle crescent and faces directly to the east. It has a wide strand of sand. At the northern end of the beach is a rocky headland. Here there are a couple of bars including the famous Mellow Mountain, known for its mind expanding shakes. At the southern end of the beach there is a wooden walk way hugging the rocky headland.

At the back of the beach there are still a few palm trees in between the businesses. Although Sunrise Beach is a very commercial beach there are still plenty of gaps to allow people easy access between the beach and town. This is a considerable improvement to Chaweng in Koh Samui where it can be infuriating trying to reach the beach without going through a hotel or a restaurant.

The sand is fairly fine. It is not ‘squeaky’ fine as found on beaches in Zanzibar and elsewhere. It is white sand. The remarkable thing about the sand on Sunrise Beach is that it is mostly clean. There are cigarette butts buried under the surface but they are yet to be profuse enough to give the beach a bad reputation. The gangs of cleaners after the Full Moon Parties do a great job keeping the beach in good condition.

Sunrise Beach benefits from being an ‘east coast‘ beach. This means there are no corals off shore. The sea bed is all soft sand. There is no massive tidal difference and the sea is great for swimming virtually all year round. The water gets deep fairly quickly. Unlike the beaches on the west coast which have a large tidal difference that means you sometimes have to walk far out into the sea before it comes deep enough to swim.

The waves pick up a little in August until the monsoon hits around October/November. This is definitely not the time for swimming. The waves might look like a surfing opportunity but they are not. The waves dump and the sea is deadly. There are no life guards in Koh Phangan so if you get caught in a rip tide or battered by monsoonal waves you are very much in danger. Passersby might try to help but be unable to do much other than also risk their lives. There are sometimes red flags on the beach to tell tourists that it is not safe to swim.

One recent safety feature has been added to the beach. There is now a wide net 20 metres or so out to sea. It surrounds the northern half of the beach. The idea is to create a safe swimming area. The net prevents jet skiers from bothering swimmers. It also keeps out jelly fish. Over the past couple of years there has been an increase of incidents of people bitten by the very poisonous box jelly fish. The net stops the jelly fish getting close to the beach.

You can see the net in the video above. The video also shows the present crop of bars that line the beach. Some of these bars are long established institutions of the party scene. Others are newly branded businesses. Landlords charge huge rents. The bars have to sell a lot of drinks to make their bar a viable business. The party is what it is. Over the last few years the shock factor has somewhat waned. They say that any publicity is better than no publicity. Well the world’s tabloids have largely moved on to other things to be morally outraged about. The young are fickle. Hot destinations become cold and trends change in travel.

If the parties die out, it will be to the benefit of the natural setting. Sunrise Beach is a great beach. Just imagine how much better it would be if it could again be described as ‘unspoiled’.