All the stereotypes of a tropical paradise island are true for Koh Rong. White sand beaches under the subtle veil of casuarinas, crystal clean sea waters, secluded bays are all here. If you are critical enough, you will notice, though, that the picture perfect beaches are not properly cleaned and electricity blackouts are common on almost all the beaches. Yet Koh Rong remains arguably the best Cambodian beach destination catering both for old-school backpacker souls and jetsetters wishing to pamper themselves in one of the most luxurious resorts in Cambodia.
Two thirds of 60 km coastline of Koh Rong are beaches and beaches are definitely the main reason to visit the island. The 78 sq. km island has no roads which means that travelling between beaches can be more complicated and time consuming than you may expect.
Note that many of the beaches have both a name in Khmer and an English name. Sometimes people – especially foreigners – may not use the name of the beach at all, but rather the name of a business on the beach. It may be prudent to have a small map with you so you can clarify where you wish to go with the boat operators or others.
Spending all days long in a hammock on the terrace of your wooden hut is not the only pastime available on Koh Rong. Koh Toch village is great for partying, in walking distance of Koh Toch village is Police Beach which is known for it’s late-night parties, also there is Vietnamese Beach, which caters to backpackers. Those who are hoping for a more relaxing time would probably prefer Long Set beach (aka 4km beach), Sok San beach, or Coconut beach.
Other activities on offer on Koh Rong include adventure ziplining, diving, snorkelling, trekking, cycling, fishing, island hopping and archipelago exploration. The corals around the island teem with abundant marine life and the new High Point Rope Park is a great destination in itself.
Both Nature Beach or Lonely Beach are gorgeous, offering amazing natural beauty and seclusion. Another great place to visit is Daem Thkov Village, near Coconut beach, which is a small fishing village that gives a glimpse into traditionally Cambodian island life.
The experience that you wish to have might also effect the time of year you want to visit, with high season being from October 19th to April 17th and low season being from April 18th to October 18th.
Good news: whether you are looking for the cheapest beach huts or an upscale accommodation, Koh Rong has something for all tastes and pockets. Affordable accommodation can range from 5$ in a dorm to 24$ for a private bungalow. If you are looking to go to the other extreme though, Song Saa resort located on Koh Ouen, one of two tiny islands off of Koh Rong, together called Koh Bong P’oun, or the sweethearts, has rooms starting at $1,000 per night and going up to $5,000 in high season. Note, Koh Ouen is now often referred to as Song Saa Private Island.
There is one thing to take a note of when booking accommodations: be aware that the cheapest accommodation option available might actually be staying in a tent offered by a hostel – e.g. Suns of Beaches, where a two bed tent is 10$ per night. In general, although the accommodation prices may be higher than those found on the mainland, they tend to be similar to other islands that we’ve stayed on. Do note that rooms are quickly booked-out during high season, so booking ahead of time is wise during these periods – if, of course, you do not want to end up staying in one of those bed-bug infested flophouses.
Well, it is better not to expect much from the restaurant scene on Koh Rong. The food is relatively inexpensive but nothing to write home about. Koh Toch Village and Koh Toch Beach offer many places, but if you are staying somewhere else you will most likely be eating at your guesthouse. In fact, most restaurants are not standalone, but a part of a guesthouse though allowing you to eat there even if you aren’t staying there.
Yet you can find anything from western food (try Bamboo for pizza or Monkey Island for British food) to local foods (try Elephant Guesthouse or Chai Family Restaurant). Vegetarians and vegans may want to check restaurant called Rising Sun.
Getting there & around
Koh Rong can be reached by a fast boat or slow boat from Sihanoukville. The fast boat leaves twice daily and takes 40 minutes to an hour, costing 20$ round-trip (with open return; bookable here).
The slow boat leaves 2–3 times daily and takes 2.5 hours, costing 10$ round-trip (with open return, too).
Note that both options are highly dependent on the weather.
Always check if your ferry ticket includes being picked-up at your accommodation or if you must go to the pier on your own. Also it is important to find out beforehand to which area of Koh Rong the ferry you book will take you as there are no roads on the island, so you must walk everywhere or hire a local fishing boat to take you along the island.
Note that some places have 24-hour power, but not all do. It would be prudent to check if the accommodations you select have a blackout period – i.e. a time of day where they shut off the electricity.
Furthermore, water is a precious resource and there is no a system for managing wastewater on the island. That means it is a good idea to brush your teeth with bottled water!
Safety & health issues
Koh Rong beaches are considered safe – in the sense that violent crime is not a common thing on the island; but of course visitors should exert common sense and keep track of their valuables. If help is needed there is a police station on Police Beach.
It is more likely though that you may have problems with pests, such as sand flies, the best way to prevent them from biting you is to use a repellent with DEET.
Furthermore, when entering the water be careful of sea urchins, although they won’t cause any lasting damage, having a sore foot the few days you are on the island won’t be fun! Of course always remember your sunblock, preferably a waterproof one.