KOA campgrounds are a staple in American camping. When you see the big yellow sign, it’s unmistakable. You probably think family-friendly, smores, and shuffleboard when you think of a KOA. But are they as inviting as they seem from the outside? We’re about to spill the beans and give you reasons why to avoid KOAs. Let’s dive in.
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What Are KOAs?
KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America. There are more than 500 of them across North America. Marketed as a home away from home for people of all ages, KOA campgrounds started in 1962, by Dave Drum, on land in Billings, Mont. Four years later, the first KOA franchise opened in Cody, Wyo. After that, franchises popped up from coast to coast and today there are more than 485 KOA campgrounds in the US.
KOA campgrounds promote traditional camping with modern campsites and conveniences. They pride themselves on friendly service and staff up with workampers who often escort you to your site. Most KOAs include RV sites and rental cabins.
The KOA brand is committed to giving back to its communities. They partner with organizations, including their Care Camps, in which they offer children with cancer a chance to relax with friends and have fun at a KOA.
5 Reasons to Avoid KOA Campgrounds
So far, we’re making it sound like KOA campgrounds are pretty great, right? Well, they are but there are five reasons to avoid them. Of course, it depends on what type of camper you are but keep reading to be sure.
#1 They’re Expensive
KOA campgrounds are expensive for the type of properties they are. They’re not luxury RV resorts, but we would classify them above a state park since they usually have full hookups and amenities such as pools and more. However, it’s challenging to rent a site at a KOA for less than $50 per night. Depending on the location and season, you might pay upwards of $100 per night.
#2 They Get Crowded
Since KOAs are well known, and they’ve been around for many years, they’re popular. As we said, they’re not luxury RV resorts with large campsites and plenty of elbow room. Instead, the sites are often close together, and the campgrounds are crowded. With the family-friendly nature of the brand, activities like the pool and playgrounds are usually quite busy.
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#3 They Can Be Noisy
With kids, dogs, and a crowded campground, there’s inevitably going to be noise. If you prefer a quiet getaway, a KOA is likely not going to suit your needs. KOA campgrounds are active and, therefore, noisy. There are always activities going on and people coming and going.
#4 Sites May Be Close Together
Campsites at KOA campgrounds tend to be close together. This isn’t only a KOA issue, but we bring it up as it’s a fairly consistent issue across their campgrounds. Even some of their larger pull-through sites are tight on the sides, giving you little room if you have slide-outs on your RV.
#5 You’re Closer to People, Farther from Nature
KOA campgrounds tend to be closer to people and conveniences in towns. While some are near nature, they’re not necessarily off the beaten path. If you’re looking for a camping experience that is slightly off-grid with hiking trails, a KOA isn’t the best option.
For those wanting to go completely off-road, boondocking on public lands is a great option. You can get out into nature and may not see people for days. It’s the perfect way to have a quiet getaway in the great outdoors.
Pro Tip: Camping with your furry friends? Keep them comfortable with their own camper! Read more about Are Dog Campers Ridiculous or Awesome?
KOAs Aren’t All Bad
Not all KOA campgrounds are bad. Your camping preferences are largely going to inform whether a KOA is right for you. And since KOAs are franchised and owned individually, each has its own look and feel. The reality is that some aren’t managed as well as others, which can exacerbate issues. Everyone’s experience will differ, and you may need to see for yourself how you like the campground giant.
However, KOAs often have pools, activities for kids, and a camp store. Some even serve food. The Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA, for example, has a cafe that serves breakfast and lunch. Plus, they have mini golf and a thermal hot springs heated pool and spas. While their sites are close together, they do a great job of putting bushes and flowers in between to give you some privacy.
Is Staying at KOA Campgrounds Right for You?
We’ve given our case for reasons to avoid KOA campgrounds, but they might be right for you. If you have the opportunity to stay at a KOA, let us know how your experience was. Being part of the RV community affords us all opportunities to learn from each other and find those hidden gem campgrounds along our journeys.
Have you every stayed at a KOA campground? What was your experience like? Drop a comment below!
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