Last Updated on January 23, 2023
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:And you’ll keep this little secret to yourselves, right? You have to promise me that you will not visit Koh Poda 😉
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. But when me and my girlfriend 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.
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.We 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. Before 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.I couldn’t believe that the island didn’t have hotels or resorts on it (the closest hotels to Koh Poda are in Ao Nang), because the grassy space behind the beach would be perfect for it, and you could get here easily in twenty minutes from Ao Nang.
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.
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: 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.I 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.When 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.
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 Koh Poda 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 2023: Apparently, the entrance fee to visit Koh Poda is now 400 baht (US$13.25)!
In 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.Despite 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.
And so the next day, we hopped onto another long-tail boat and set off again to spend another day in paradise.
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.)
Price: There are long-tail boats that leave from Ao Nang whenever they’re full. They charge 300THB per person for a return trip to Koh Poda. As soon as 6 or 8 people are in the boat, they make the trip.
Have 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!
Tuesday 31st of January 2023
We booked a vacation to Ao Nang in april.
I was hoping to see some beautiful beaches, to hike and most of all relHiax.
We are a couple from Belgium, 55 and 56. Old but still enjoy traveling 😉.
Reading about the bad smell in Ao Nang scares me a bit. And also the part about Railay, beceause i booked 2 nights there. A lot of people love the Pra Nang beach and the vibe there. But now i doubt We made a good choice.
I searched already a lot on Google which places we can visit. Islands ... We don't like crowds at all. So the Maya Bay and Phi Phi Island are off the list already. I was hoping to find some other less crowded, beautiful places.
Did you also visit the Hong Islands? About the Poda Island. It looks amazing. Is it expensive to make a day trip? And is it possible to have a little lunch there? When you have other suggestions about that part of Thailand ( not crowded 🙏), feel free to share.
Lovely greetings, Suzy
Wednesday 1st of February 2023
Hi Suzy, thanks for your comment! I would love your feedback about the smell in Ao Nang - it may not be around anymore... the area got a long break from tourism during the pandemic, which may have helped it to recover a bit (Maya Bay for example was closed for a while so that the marine life could recover).. as for crowds, you'll also find less people around when you visit in a couple of months since tourism is just picking up again .. would love to hear from you after your trip to see how you liked it and what your favorite spots were! :)
Sunday 27th of November 2022
Just got back from Thailand yesterday! Can confirm that Koh Poda is a still a slice of heaven, we took the early sunrise tour and we had me and maybe 10 people have breakfast on the island. There is way less trash and I even saw my tour guide pick some up when we left.
Friday 2nd of December 2022
Heather, thanks so much for the update! It's good to hear Koh Poda is still as magical as I remember it.. haven't been to Thailand since pre-pandemic, but I hope I'll finally make it back there this winter!
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.
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 :)
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!
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
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