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Please don’t go to… Koh Poda, Thailand

Please don’t go to… Koh Poda, Thailand

Last Updated on March 28, 2021

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?

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. 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.   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? 🙂

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 coconut

To 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 tourists

We 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 shell

I 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 boats

Koh Poda: Paradise found in Thailand

I was so thrilled to have 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).

UPDATE 2019: Apparently, the entrance fee to visit Koh Poda is now 400 baht (US$13.25)!

visit 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 thailand

If you visit Koh Poda..

I 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 visit Koh Poda, 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…

Interested in more Thai island bliss? Read my article on Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi!

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Koh Poda

Samantha

Sunday 19th of January 2020

It is always great to hear of other people’s expeditions. It reminds you that you cannot plan the perfect trip no matter how hard you try. Depending on timing, tours, people, season... everyone can have a different experience. I’m jealous of your experience at chicken island and koh poda because I was not impressed. I did opt for a group tour that was too quick and at a poor time of day. The beaches were so crowded, but I did journey as far as I could go get away from people. It was the rocks that were so disappointing. No matter where I went I couldn’t swim. As for chicken island, the water was cloudy and the snorkeling was, well, not really snorkeling. I personally had a phenomenal tour at Phi Phi. I had an amazing tour guide and captain, the boat left very early so the hungover partiers were no where to be found, and the water was clear as could be. It also was my first experience in the waters of Thailand, which in itself is breathtaking, so that probably makes a big difference. Maya bay was empty, calm, and had wonderful snorkeling. The captain took me into the deeper waters, and I saw a plethora of turtles, sharks, and other colorful fish. Monkey beach was adorable... I do wish we had more time there. The lagoon was out of this world for swimming - again empty at that time of day, and bamboo island is what I think of when I read your article. The white beach, blue waters, and lack of people.

If I ever venture that way again, I will give poda another try, but I think I’ll head to Koh Samui and Koh Tao next time around. I’m sitting on Koh Yao Noi as we speak trying to figure out my next destination (as I only have three days left.) Oh and Ao Nang was awful... I agree.

Dani

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Samantha! I am sad to hear that you didn't have the experience I had in Koh Poda :( But it looks like Maya Bay made up for it - a place that I personally found so disappointing when I visited - but that was almost a decade ago and your comment makes me want to go back... I'd love to see it empty! I loved Koh Phangan and Koh Tao btw - definitely worth a visit :)

Rich

Friday 2nd of August 2019

Hello, it's August 2019, I'm here in Ao Nang now and really looked forward to go to Koh Poda after reading your blog and others I found online. But sadly, it's now getting so expensive. Rt shared long tail boat is 300. Entrance fee is 400. 700 baht is about 23 USD. Your food and drinks not included. Minimally, say, you spend 100 on that, then a day in Poda will cost you 27 USD. There is a whole day 4 destination sort of tour that includes Poda for 2200 for 4 people. So, per person that's 550, again plus the 400 entrance fee, will be about 32 USD...food and drink not included. Sigh!

Regina

Monday 19th of August 2019

Bueno yo estuve ayer en Ko Poda, y tengo que decir qie empiezan a construir ya casas para los turistas, demasiados barcos y muy poco espacio para la gente que sse quiera bañar, pero como bien dices, para mi también es el paraíso, aunque diré que el tour de islas Ko Phi Phi, cuando te dejan enedio del mar para hacer snorkel y puedes bañarte con los peces y ver perfectamente esa agua tan turquesa, te diré que también me maravillo, no tengo palabras. Para mí el paraíso se llama Krabi

Almario Surel

Friday 10th of May 2019

Dani, I like your blog,,,but you're a white girl,,,,,U should be thankful they allow U to visit their country....U should keep your mouth shut to play safe (everywhere outside your domain)...I've seen the beauty of Thailand (everywhere) yet I keep quiet to myself,,,,U know the "R" word???? Respect other cultures Dani, can't keep travelling everywhere and be bossy,,,stay safe and happy travels to U....Ciao....n good luck

May

Thursday 7th of March 2019

Hi ! I've to thanks you a million time for this post. When I arrived in Ao Nang I felt like so bad... like I hated eventing I saw and I felt desperate to have left the beautiful paradise where I was the previous week.

Then I saw your article and the day after I went to Koh Poda and ... yes the miracle happens to me too...

Million thanks to save my trip.

Chicken Island Restaurant – THE-ACL

Saturday 27th of October 2018

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