Travel Guide: Koh Rong, A Piece of Paradise in Cambodia

We almost didn’t go.

While planning our Indochina trip, we didn’t know how to squeeze Koh Rong Island into our jam-packed itinerary. We were visiting three countries (Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) but we wanted to see a hundred things. It was such a pain to do the planning and we almost crossed Koh Rong off the list until my friend, Via, pointed out: “But we would be seeing temples for days. Koh Rong will be our down time. Our chill time.”

That got me half-convinced. But then she whipped out her phone and showed me photos of Koh Rong (some by @doyoutravel, my favorite Instagrammer)—and this got me sold. Yes, we were going to the beach—fuck those temples (kidding).


Koh Rong is an island off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia—the second largest in the country at 78 square kilometers. Studded with dreamy beaches and rustic structures, it is a true island paradise—untouched, serene, and stunning. It combines both the quietness of a tropical retreat and the excitement of a beach party—fun but not as loud as other known party islands in Asia.

Koh Toch Beach is the main beach and the entry point for travelers. This is also where most establishments are located—like bars, restaurants, hostels, and beachfront bungalows. The island has other more peaceful beaches like White Beach, Long Beach, Lonely Beach, and Palm Beach.

The trip to Koh Rong from Siem Reap takes 12 hours in total (5.5 from Phnom Penh) but I would say that it’s totally worth the hassle. First timers in Cambodia shouldn’t hesitate to include it in their itinerary, even if they are doing the whole Indochina route. With its pristine beaches, chill vibe, and absence of huge crowds, Koh Rong is a true escape.


When to Go

Koh Rong is warm all throughout the year but the best months to go are from December to February, which are considered their dry months. This is also “tourist season” but compared to other beaches in Thailand and Philippines (like Boracay), it is still a lot quieter.


How Much Money to Bring

The US Dollar is widely used in Cambodia so you don't need to change your money to Cambodian Riel.

Our accommodation in Koh Rong costs $30 a night (~PhP1,532); split among 3 people, we only paid $10/PhP510 a night for a non-airconditioned beachfront hut (no breakfast). Hostels in the island should fall in the same range, if not lower.

Food and drinks are relatively cheap—same prices as in Siem Reap but even that is cheap already. The cheapest ones go at $1 and anything above $5 is considered expensive. Beers are sold from 50 cents to a dollar.

Considering lodging, food, drinks, and activities, I would say $35 (~PhP1,788) is more than enough for a day in Koh Rong.


Things to Bring

Suntan lotion
Mosquito repellant
Waterproof case/bag for gadgets
Cash (no ATMs in the island as far as I know)


How to Get There

From Sihanoukville, travelers can take a speedboat to Koh Toch Village in Koh Rong—roundtrip tickets cost $15.75 each (~PhP805), and the trip (one-way) takes roughly 45 minutes. We booked our tickets online via Speed Ferry Cambodia (check here) so that we would have guaranteed seats, but if you don’t want to do this, they have a ticketing office at the Serendipity Pier in Sihanoukville.

The boat is relatively large and you can drink Cambodian beers while enjoying the scenic sail. Better yet, strike up a conversation with fellow travelers and exchange travel tips.

Boat schedules are as follows:

Sihanoukville to Koh Rong: 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m.
Koh Rong to Sihanoukville: 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m.

Take note that if you wish to catch a sunset (i.e. if you’re staying only for 1 night), do not choose the 3 p.m. trip as you have to cross the island to Long Beach to witness the sunset.


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Further reading:

WHY YOU SHOULD BOOK GIANT IBIS
Skilled drivers, comfortable bus units, reliable services, and many more.

ITINERARY & BUDGET
Our 10-Day itinerary across Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam; useful tips; plus our budget breakdown!
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Where to Stay

Since we were seeking a “real” island getaway, we booked a Beach Bungalow at Monkey Island Koh Rong—it’s literally a few steps away from the water! From Koh Toch port, it was a challenging 15 minute walk because the sand was so soft (not that I’m complaining!) that we couldn’t walk properly with our huge backpacks, but once we got there, we knew it was going to be a super chill stay.

Our bungalow was as bare and simple as it could be: it had two beds, mosquito nets, electric fan, and a heavy box with a padlock for storing valuables. However, we had our own veranda where we drank coffee and beers and just enjoyed the view throughout our stay. The hut doesn’t have its own bathroom—there’s a communal one a few steps away, behind the lobby-slash-restaurant. Admittedly it wasn’t my usual choice for accommodations but I LOVED IT.

Koh Rong is not invaded yet by big hospitality companies, so expect no luxury hotels (and, thankfully, tour agencies) in the island.


Things to Do

Koh Rong is serene and undeveloped, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do around the island.

Definitely, you have to swim in its perfectly clear turquoise waters. It reminds me of Philippines’ Boracay, but cleaner. The shore is the same—gradually sloping so that you can go far where the water is still not too deep. The view of the trees from the water is awesome.

If you’re after some serious relaxation, you’re better off spending the whole day just lounging outside your bungalow, taking swim breaks, and then retreating for some beers and bites.

If you’re adventurous, take a 45-minute hike through the jungle to Long Beach—situated on the other side of Koh Toch. As if Koh Toch isn’t quiet enough, Long Beach is more peaceful, with dream-like sand and water and less people. Be careful when you hike though as the jungle is home to some poisonous snakes. As alternative, you may take a boat ($5/~PhP255) that will take you to Sok San Beach, which is a 30-minute stroll to Long Beach.

Take an island tour and explore the different beaches of Koh Rong as well as private islands and fishing villages. And while you’re at it, why don’t you try diving, snorkeling, or fishing too? In addition, you can go to Koh Rong Samloem, another island a short distance away, which, I heard, is just as stunning (we weren't able to go *sobs*).

By nighttime, join a group tour that explores the bioluminescent planktons that inhabit Koh Rong’s waters. For around $5 (~PhP255) per person, travelers can marvel at star-like things that sparkle in the sea.

Walk along the small strip of rustic bars and grab a few rounds of beers with friends—or go make some new ones by challenging strangers to games of beer pong. The nightlife in Koh Rong is chill and not at all party-ish—perfect for buzzed socialization.

Making friends doesn’t stop in the evening—look for beach volleyball setups along the beach and invite strangers to play with you (there's one right in front of Monkey Island).

With little developments and practically nonexistent Wi-Fi, Koh Rong is what the world was like back when everything was simple but beautiful.


Now What?

Book your bus transfers from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to Sihanoukville here.
Or, book your flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville here or here.
Check affordable Koh Rong accomodations here.
Buy ferry tickets to Koh Rong island here.
Plan your whole Cambodia itinerary by reading my Indochina travel guide.

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Related stuff:

WHERE TO STAY IN SIEM REAP
Great location, affordable, and above all things.. fun! Enjoy the best of what Siem Reap has to offer.

COMPLETE SIHANOUKVILLE GUIDE
Cambodia's premier beach destination boasts of natural attractions, stunning beaches, and vibrant nightlife.
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Koh Rong Island, Cambodia



Have you been to Cambodia? Which places have you visited? What do you think of Koh Rong Island?

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