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Please don’t go to… Koh Poda, Thailand

Do you remember when I asked you not to go to Todos Santos, Guatemala? Or Samara in Costa Rica? Valladolid in Mexico? It has been a while since I found a place that I wanted to keep all to myself, but when I stumbled across Koh Poda, it took me only a few steps along the white soft sand to realize I had found another little gem that I didn’t want to share with anyone. But you guys belong to my inner circle, so how could I not share this with you:koh poda beachAnd you’ll keep this little secret to yourselves, right? Β  So how did I find this tiny paradise? Krabi is the one coastal region in Thailand that everybody is raving about. I’d been to Krabi before, but it was shortly after getting scammed in Bangkok, and my mindset was just not right at the time, I was prepared to dislike everything about Thailand, and being ripped off right upon arriving in Krabi didn’t help. Beyond Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, I didn’t see much of the area back then – and admittedly, I didn’t love any of the islands I visited. On the contrary: I found Koh Phi Phi smelly and crowded, Phuket seedy and dirty, and our trip to the famous Maya Bay extremely disappointing. I had always seen stunning photos of the imposing limestone cliffs around the beaches of Railay and Tonsai and heard good things about Ao Nang. I owed Krabi a second chance and this year, I made it part of my Thailand itinerary to return to the Andaman Sea. koh poda longtail boatsBut when me and my travel buddy arrived in Ao Nang, neither one of us was very impressed. The beach looked nice but smelled of sewage, and walking by a canal that I am sure holds all of Ao Nang’s wastewater caused me nausea every time we passed it. Right next to it, there was even some kind of landfill where garbage was left to rot in the sun. On the other side of the canal, there were several restaurants – we couldn’t even bare the thought of eating in any of them, so close to the horrendous smell.

ao nang garbage
The not-so-pretty side of Ao Nang

So the next day, we hopped straight onto a long tail boat to Railay, excited to finally hit a dream beach. And again, while it looked pretty nice, it didn’t wow us. We didn’t even feel like going into the water because the bay was filled with long tail boats that were blowing their fumes into the air and water, and it was so stony that walking into the water required zigzagging around rocks and pebbles.railay beach thailandWe decided to go for lunch and a drink instead, but the prices at the beachfront restaurants (which I believe all belong to resorts) were so outrageously steep, that this wasn’t much fun either. I was aware that Railay would be more expensive because it is only accessible by boat, but if a simple Pad Thai is more expensive than in New York City, something is off.Β In general, prices for accommodation, food and drinks were considerably higher than in Koh Tao for example – often twice as much. I don’t mind paying more if the quality is better but not a single dish I had in eight days around Ao Nang and Railay was memorable. Β  andaman sea islands near railayBefore giving up on Krabi, we decided to email a tour company that advertised private island tours, and whose contact form was titled ‘Tell us what your dream is‘. The dream was, we wrote, to spend a day on an island with no tourist crowds, no tour groups, simply a small secluded beach. The email that came back was disheartening: such a thing didn’t exist in this part of Thailand, they wrote. Were there really no secluded dream beaches anymore?

ao nang sunset thailand
The pretty side of Ao Nang

Our last try would be a boat trip out to the islands we could see scattered across the Andaman Sea on the horizon and for which day trips were offered in the small travel agencies and along the beaches of Ao Nang. After a quick Google search about the various islands, we opted for a combined snorkeling trip of Chicken Island and Poda Island, just for the two of us.

chicken island
Any guesses why this is called Chicken Island? πŸ™‚

And finally, when I least expected it, there it was. The Thai island paradise I had dreamed of. Crystal clear water and wide, white deserted sand beaches.koh poda beach coconutTo be honest, I didn’t think this would happen when we first approached Koh Poda and around 20 long tail boats and speed boats lined the shores of the tiny island. Hordes of tourists were swimming in the shallow water around the boats, taking selfies, the beach filled with beach towels in bright colors.koh poda touristsWe walked down the beach, away from the boats and the crowds, and the unthinkable happened: suddenly, we weren’t surrounded by people anymore. No more boats. Just crystal clear turquoise water, an empty beach, and the occasional sun seeker hidden between trees or tree trunks. It felt glorious.koh poda beach thailandI couldn’t believe that the island didn’t have hotels or resorts on it, because the grassy space behind the beach would be perfect for it, and you could get here easily in twenty minutes from Ao Nang.

koh poda palm trees
The perfect place for some beach side bungalows. However, I hope the island will remain uninhabited.

Other than a tiny hut selling cold drinks and snacks near the boat landing, there was no restaurant. And the further you walked away from the boats, the more the island felt like a completely deserted Robinson Crusoe island. koh poda shellI wished we could have spent the night but we were not prepared and didn’t bring any food or even a change of clothes. I am not sure if camping is officially allowed there, but when we followed the path through the woods, we saw several extinguished campfires and other signs of overnight camping.koh poda longtail boatsI was so thrilled to haveΒ finally found the paradise island I’d been looking for all over Thailand, that I didn’t want the day to end.D & J in Koh PodaI think the photos show why I don’t want to share the island with anyone, but there are some other reasons why I’d like to keep Koh Poda to myself: While I thought Koh Poda was stunningly beautiful, I found the amount of garbage on the tiny island disturbing, especially considering that it is such a popular day trip destination (most boats seem to anchor for 30 minutes to an hour and then move on to the next place, as part of an island hopping trip). And I don’t want this little paradise to turn into another Ao Nang.koh poda boat thailandWhen people spend the night in such a paradise, why can’t they take their garbage home with them? Why would they not want the island to stay in a gorgeous state so that other people can enjoy it too? I simply cannot understand how tourists can just pile up garbage in such a pristine place and leave, but the overnight campers seemed to think differently.

koh poda trash
Even paradise comes with a downside..

Also: Koh Poda is a designated National Park, so why does nobody clear the garbage on the island? Wouldn’t the people who are in charge here want it to stay as jaw-dropping as it is, for the hundreds of people that come and visit it every day? We were charged an admission fee of THB200 (about US$5.88) each when we came on a private boat and THB50 (US$1.47) when we came back on a shared long tail boat the next day, so one would think enough money is collected every day to be able to employ someone who cleans the entire beach, and not just the tiny part where the boats arrive and the majority of people stay during their visit (I assume that this part is cleaned every day, but I don’t know for sure).koh poda thailandIn addition to the garbage, the damages of the 2004 Tsunami are still visible everywhere. There’s not a single palm tree left on the beach, dozens of massive tree trunks line the beach, making it even impossible to walk the entire length of the beach during high tide (there is a forest path though, and you can climb over most of the tree trunks). It gave me shivers to see how much damage the tsunami caused, still so prevalent on this tiny rock, more than a decade after it happened. I found myself wondering about the lack of clean-up here too, not sure why the tour operators wouldn’t get rid of these nuisances along the otherwise picture-perfect beach.koh poda tree trunks and beachDespite the garbage and the tsunami damage, Koh Poda was such a dream destination for us that we decided to return the next day. One day was just not enough.
koh poda daniAnd so the next day, we hopped onto another long-tail boat and set off again to spend another day in paradise. koh poda water thailandI don’t know what will happen to Koh Poda – seeing how developed the Krabi area is, I would be surprised if it stayed resort or hotel-free forever. And that’s why I ask you: Please don’t go to Koh Poda. (But if you do, don’t forget to take your garbage back with you.)Koh Poda Island FunHave you found a dream beach in Thailand? If so, feel free to share it with me in the comments below…

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39 Comments

  1. Wow, this place looks gorgeous! I’m so bummed I didn’t know about it when I was in Railay a couple of years ago. Next time I go to Krabi I’m definitely adding this to my itinerary πŸ™‚ I love finding perfect beaches but it’s so true that they are actually REALLY hard to come by in Southeast Asia.

    1. Justine – But you live really close to ones of my favorites in SEA now.. Otres Beach! I hope I’ll make it back there this winter πŸ™‚

    1. I realized on Koh Poda that no matter where in the world I found a little paradise, there was always a downside to it. I am not sure if there’s any place that would tick ALL the boxes of a true paradise?

      1. We are planning our first family trip to Thailand and struggling to find a really nice secluded island. I am getting nervous now that perhaps we should have gone back to the Cook Islands which is beautiful. One of the most amazing places I have ever visited.

        1. Have you checked out Koh Lipe? I’ve heard that that one is still pretty secluded because it’s hard to get there, compared to other islands like Phuket or Koh Samui…

    1. I think I’ve now seen lots of beaches in Thailand and it’s time for me to explore the mountains more! Have been wanting to visit Pai for years! Maybe I’ll finally make it there this winter? πŸ™‚

  2. Man, that white sand and blue water just doesn’t seem real … Southern Thailand is not long on these sorts of place anymore, so I’ll be sure to not visit (or if I succumb to temptation, I promise to not tell anyone else about it)

  3. Lovely beach you’ve found there. To bad for the garbage around the town, but still, there are some good things around there. The last visit I made on Thailand was years ago and I certainly haven’t managed to visit this beach.

    But maybe next year….

    Who knows.

  4. If you ever go back, skip Ao Nang as that place really is terrible and stay in Krabi town instead. The town is fairly small, cozy, filled with friendly souls and great seafood. Head over to MR Krabi for some great Thai and Italian cuisine. The owner Max is probably the friendliest soul around, making every costumers feel at home and gives great traveling advices. And Ko Poda is great, but make sure to have the private boat take you to the nice side from the start and fairly early. I’ve been there all alone and it’s just incredible. Ko Hong is also worth seeing if you go back and the mountains to the east (the national park is located there) are beautiful. I’ll try Ko Surin next spring, I’m moving back to Bangkok from Sweden and could really need some time at the beach again.

    1. I’ll definitely head back to that part of Thailand – there are so many more islands to explore there πŸ™‚ Adding Ko Hong to my list!

  5. Hi there, I can also give the thumbs up for the Hong Islands(visited in 2013), I loved it but shared it with many! I to booked the very next day to go again, so I understand that feeling:).
    In 2014 I went to the Similian Islands from Koh Lak(South Thailand), its pricier to visit the islands than off the Krabi areas but truly stunning, definatly worth the $110 aud per person we paid, the coral was alive, the white sand and colour of the water was brilliant and lots of pretty shady spots to sit and marvel at the beauty, we went on three different days to different destinations with different tour company’s, all were great and I will visit again. Our first visit to Krabi was in 1994 and have returned twice, the rubbish is always there, Phi Phi is the worse affected IMO πŸ™ such a shame, good luck with your adventures. Maybe the Caribbean might be where your dream island awaits or the Maldives…… but Thailand is cheaper πŸ™‚ I’m so glad I have had the privilege of visiting many times. And now I will check out Poda as well, so thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Jennene – ‘The koral was alive’ – that is something you can’t say about most of the islands off the coast of Krabi πŸ™ I’m taking notes & the Similan Islands are on my travel wish list for my next visit πŸ™‚ I also heard great things about Koh Lipe near the border with Malaysia, that’s been on my Thailand wishlist for a long time now. Next time πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been to many islands in Thailand but never been to those in Krabi area. Will defintiely visit Koh Poda in April…and look for a spot away from tour groups!

  7. Hi. From where did you take the boat?
    And if i want to go early in the morning? Would it be possible still to get a shared boat?
    And how about getting back? Is it easy to get into a random boat? What would be latest? im going to that area around 10 apr, any other suggestions for krabi and phuket away from crowds? For now i have planned mai khao beach, phang nga self paddle tour (the only guided tour as i hate guided tours), rent a kayak in Ao Tha Lane, climb Khao ngon nak. thats about it. Im definately Not going to Koh Poda after seeing your post πŸ˜€ Thanks!

    1. Hi, we took the boat from Ao Nang. The boats are waiting for passengers along the beach – you just tell them you want to go to Koh Poda. It’s super easy. And you could also just go for an afternoon – that way you might even beat the snorkeling groups that stop in Koh Poda during the day. I think you’ve got some great places to escape the crowds – I am taking notes here! I don’t know the area well but there are quite a few places that sound lovely, like Koh Yao Noi (see also this post) and Pang Nga Bay, which you’ve already got on your list!

  8. It amazed me how Koh Poda felt so quiet and “remote”, even though it’s one of the closest islands to Krabi/Ao Nang. I’m afraid it won’t stay like that for long… the hotel they were building there it’s going to make things change quickly!

    1. Bruno – I was surprised, too! But once you get away from the crowds, it feels wonderfully remote and secluded. Please don’t tell me they’re building a hotel on Koh Poda!! That breaks my heart πŸ™

  9. Love this! I went to Krabi for the first time in Jan 2016. Poda became my ALL time favorite, nothing could compare, not even Phi Phi (over hyped really!).

    Poda was serene, relaxing and barely any people. I ended up really having a good time!

  10. HI

    I was search Poda Island on Google and found this. We just been to Krabi and found that our last stop, Poda Island was the best island that we’ve been to. We’ve been to 2 island hopping package. One was the Hong Island and the 4 islands. Now I wish we could have just stayed in Poda island. It was so dreamy in there. When we landed on the island, I thought, hey, the last stop should be the best island, not another tourist plague destination. But I saw the paradise when I walked and bought something from the store. When I saw the big rock, I thought, I just had to run to my wife and my son to get them there.

    I’m so sad because we only had like 10 min til the boat would need to leave. We only took few photos and not even a chance to relax and just lay down on the beautiful sand. I wish there was a tour to just take you to that place and then pickup you up in the afternoon.

    But I’m glad to have read your blog. It was a click bait since the title said don’t come to Poda island. Maybe I need to do the same with my blog so that no one will come there and it’ll stay as virgine as it was and only power travellers would know it exist.

  11. This made me think.. I was planning a trip in October to Thailand but wasn’t sure if Phuket was a great idea or not. Krabi was next on the list…. :9

  12. Thanks for all the info! I went there in April, it wasnt as deserted as i wished, but still very beautiful: https://youtu.be/2J2cnf-IJdk?t=1494

    A couple of tips – go very early, as most of the beach gets tide is covered by water from around 1 pm i think. Although water lever was very high everywhere due to moon i think, on Tup island you had to swim to the other island – it was neck deep. Maybe now the tide is different.
    Take the boat from this booth https://goo.gl/maps/HWdEWSfmZzP2 as i found you had to wait longer at other booths for the boats to fill up.

  13. This is the best travel blog I’ve read in some time. Your initial criticism that turned out to be sarcasm caught my eye and now I’m afraid to say I will be visiting this wonderful location, thank you for discovering it and giving such useful feedback. I promise you I will clean all my rubbish and maybe take a little extra back with me. I return to Thailand in 8 days and missed krabi last time so this is my first excursion on the itinerary! Much love.

    1. Warren, thank you so much for your comment – it put a huge smile on my face! I hope you’ll love Koh Poda as much as I did.. would love to hear what you think of the Krabi region. Enjoy your trip!! πŸ™‚

  14. Hi my name is Geoff your site popped up when I googled Poda I first went to this paradise in 1992 and declared it my aura of tranquility, I went back in 2015 and if you go left after getting of the boat ( left as looking at Poda as you approach it) and found it just the same left for love, right for hell, Chicken island was great in 1992 only the two of us on that island but now is a nightmare. Cheers Geoff

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