Haad Salad is a medium-sized beach on the Thai Island of Koh Phangan. It located in the north west of the island and is considered one of the best on the island. It retains the traditional laid back feel of beaches in Koh Phangan while offering a good choice of accommodation.
The roads along the west coast of Koh Phangan are some of the flattest and best on the island. It takes about 15 minutes to drive between the main port town of Thongsala on the south coast and Haad Salad. A place in a shared taxi in 2013 costs 250 Thai Baht. It is fairly easy to catch a shared taxi to Haad Salad when you get off the boat at Thongsala.
Haad Salad is close to other popular beaches such as Haad Yao and Chaloklum and it is simple enough to get public transport between these destinations.
Bike hire is about 250 Thai Baht a day. Motorbikes remain the most popular way to get around the island, just don’t damage the bike otherwise you will pay through the nose to get your passport back.
Don’t take boat taxis to Haad Salad because boat traffic is damaging the coral reef just off the coast.
Haad Salad has soft white sand with some dead coral mixed in. the sand is better at the southern end of the beach. Haad Salad along with all the beaches on the west coast has a large tidal variation. In the low tidal months the water recedes a long way making it difficult to go for a swim if you don’t have sea shoes. The best swimming at Haad Salad is during the higher tidal months from November to April. However, November usually has bad weather due to the monsoon.
To balance the problems with swimming in Haad Salad, it is a beautiful looking beach with plenty of tree cover. Also the beach has some of the best sunset views on the island.
Snorkeling and Diving
There is a healthy coral reef system about 40 meters off the coast. There are plenty of places in Haad Salad that rent out snorkeling equipment by the hour. If you are staying in Haad Salad one of the must-do activities is to swim out to the reef and spend some time looking at all the colorful fish. You can spot damsel fish, angel fish and butterfly fish as well as other marine life.
There are three main dive operations in Haad Salad: Blue Horizon, Pirate Divers and Dive Inn. They offer most PADI courses as well as nitrox diving. They tend not to use Haad Salad as a dive site. The boats leave from nearby Chaloklum.
There is not much point hunting around for a bargain price for dive courses as the dive shops are going the same way as the taxis in that they are price fixing. Expect to pay about 12,000 Thai Baht for a PADI Open Water course.
Salad beach Resort
Accommodation in Haad Salad ranges from cheap wooden bungalows near the beach for about $9 a night to rooms in 3 star resorts that start at about $70 a night.
For the budget conscious there is Smile Beach Resort that has bungalows a short walk from the beach. Some of the bungalows have basic kitchenettes which allow guests to save extra money by self catering.
In the mid-range there are places like Haad Salad Villa, Cookies Salad Resort and Salad Grand Bungalow. Cookies is good value as you can get an air-con hotel style room for $28 a night. The resort is on the southern headland and features a communal pool and free wifi.
For those who want luxury there is a handful of choices. The best resorts are Green Papaya Resort and Salad Buri Resort and Spa. Both have private pool villas with air-con, bath tubs, satellite TV, fridge and the other touches you would expect when spending over $200 a night.
How to Get a Discounted Room
You can book most of the rooms online easily. However, online travel agents have a rate parity clause in their contracts with hotels which means the hotels cannot sell cheaper rooms on their own websites. Big booking engines such as Expedia and hotel.com actually drive up prices since they take a commission of between 15% and 20%. Outside of peak season (Christmas and New Year) you are likely to get a better deal by not booking in advance and just arriving on the beach and asking for the ‘best price’ at a few places.
Things to do
Being a beach location in Thailand, the best thing to do in Haad Salad is simply to find a sun lounger, hammock or spot on the sandy beach and just soak up the sunshine, and when you get a bit hot to go for a refreshing dip in the sea or the resort pool. The order of the day is relaxation.
For those with a yen to do something more strenuous, there are a number of options.
1) Rent a snorkel and mask and swim out and check out the coral reef just 40 meters from the shore. You can have a happy 40 minutes looking at the colorful fish and corals.
2) Sign up at one of three dive shops to do a fun dive or scuba course. They all charge the same prices although Pirate Divers offers a small discount for rooms at Smile Beach Resort if you sign up for a dive course.
3) Take a walk to Wangsai waterfall. It is easy to find – just follow the signs to The Yoga Retreat; the waterfall is 50 meters from the yoga place. It is a 1 km walk from the beach that takes you through pleasant jungle scenery. The waterfall has a basin that is deep enough for swimming.
4) Rent a mountain bike and ride to one of the neighbouring beaches such as Haad Son, Haad Gruad, Mae Haad or Chaloklum. The roads in the west are in good condition and as long as you bring water and wear a hat and put on sun block you can have both a good work out and fun exploring using pedal power.
5) Haad Salad is only 10 minutes away by vehicle from the start of the trail to climb Koh Phangan’s highest peak, Khao Ra. The mountain is 627 meters above sea level and takes 2 hours. The trek is not technical: the hardest part is finding the trail start. See this account of climbing Khao Ra
6) If you just fancy working out in a gym then the best facilities near to Haad Salad are to be found at Haad Yao Lounge on the beach just south of Haad Salad. This place has plenty of equipment, including the only treadmills on the island.
Nightlife in Haad Salad
Haad Salad is not really well known for its nightlife. For many this is one of the main attractions for the beach: it is a quiet beach, far from the excesses of Haad Rin and the Full Moon Party. You are guaranteed a good night’s sleep (if you don’t have holes in your mosquito net) when you stay on Haad Salad Beach. There are a few bars such as Reggae Village where you can get drinks after the sun goes down, but there is not much in the way of a party scene in Haad Salad.
Many people time their stay in Koh Phangan to overlap with a full moon. There are plenty of taxis going to Haad Rin on the night of the party. On other nights, the best options are bars in Haad Yao such as Rasta Home that have live music. Omega in Chaloklum hold fun open mic nights on Wednesdays with a distinctly hippy feel. Pirate Bar down the road in Haad Chao Phao pumps out hard trance all night at its Moonset Party 3 days before the FMP.
You can get taxis at night; if you do decide to make your own way to parties outside Haad Salad don’t drink too much and drive slowly as there are no street lights on the road; and besides, drinking impairs your ability to control a vehicle.
Haad Salad is that ideal combination for a beach in Koh Phangan – it is big enough to have a range of facilities such as shops, ATMs, restaurants, bars etc. but it still retains its sleepy and hippy atmosphere. You don’t have to slum it to enjoy the gorgeous beach, but at the same time you don’t have to pay a fortune to stay on the beach in relative comfort. If you have never been to Koh Phangan before and you are considering which beach to choose then Haad Salad should be on your short list.
Haad Salad Resources
- Haad Salad Guide
The best guide to Haad Salad covering a number of topics related to the beach. It also has a blog.
Other Koh Phangan Hubs
- Baan Tai Beach
Guide to Baan Tai beach in Koh Phangan.
- Mae Haad in Koh Phangan
A rough guide to Mae Haad in Koh Phangan
- Changes on Thong Nai Pan
A look at the changes that have occurred on the beautiful beaches of Thong Nai Pan in Koh Phangan.
- Muay Thai Training in Koh Phangan
An explanation of the martial art of Muay Thai, and a look at the Muay Thai scene in Koh Phangan.
- Changing Face of Koh Phangan
A look at how Koh Phangan is changing and an argument for how the planned airport in Koh Phangan won't turn the island into Koh Samui.
- Things to do in Koh Phangan
A look at what activities are on offer when you visit Koh Phangan in Thailand.
- Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan
A review of the Full Moon Parties on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan. Including a look at the atmosphere of the party, the music and the problems with the party.
- Haad Yao
A look at the reputation of the Thai island called Koh Phangan and what is called locally as the 'perfect beach' - Haad Yao