The best islands in Cambodia

The best islands in Cambodia

First published on 29th April, 2011, last updated 22nd December, 2015

Sihanoukville is Cambodia's premier beach destination, popular with locals, backpackers and expats alike. But despite considerable amounts of recent development, the town can still be disappointing for those who come expecting a Thailand-like beach experience. Sadly, when many people think "Cambodia islands" they draw a blank, but nothing could be further from the truth -- Cambodia has some outstanding islands -- and here are some of our favourites.

People tend to be down on the mainland beaches simply because they just aren't very impressive -- and the child beggars and crusty sexpats only add to the feeling of seediness that the place exudes. Luckily, though, Sihanoukville proper can just be a pit stop on a trip to a true beach paradise, with a bevy of gorgeous Cambodian islands on offer, each with excellent (and relatively undeveloped) beaches.

The sunsets get tedious after a year or so

The sunsets get tedious after a year or so.

Well and truly off the map just a decade ago, in recent years the islands off the coast of Cambodia have become a tourist destination in their own right with new accommodation being built on nearly all of them, along with a host of bars, restaurants, dive shops and so on. While they're no longer deserted island paradises they do still possess a serenity not easily found elsewhere in mainland Southeast Asia.

Koh Rong Samloem

If you've been to one of the islands off Sihanoukville before this year, Koh Rong Samloem was probably it. The western side of the island boasts three gorgeous yellow sand beaches of which Lazy and Sunset beaches have accommodation. These two are also accessible on foot via jungle paths from the eastern side and are perfect for watching the deep pink sunsets every evening. The eastern side is heart-shaped Saracen Bay, named after a British ship that once sailed there. This is the most developed bay on the island and the beaches are an eye-blinding white, with a fast-developing choice of accommodation from eco tents and circular huts to swish romantic bungalows.

Outside Lazy Beach On Koh Rong Samloem

Outside Lazy Beach On Koh Rong Samloem

The island is quite large, and covered with interesting opportunities for visitors, including coral reefs that can be visited by even the most novice snorkellers and diving is also possible with a selection of providers offering diving on Koh Rong Samloem. Although Koh Rong Samloem is the most well-known of the Sihanoukville islands, it's still an excellent choice for a relaxed weekend.

Places to stay on Koh Rong Samloem reviewed on Travelfish.

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is the star of the islands off Sihanoukville. With white sand beaches and turquoise waters, Koh Rong is a dreamy tropical paradise and one of the loveliest islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Apart from sunning on the miles of white sand, there's also diving, snorkelling and trekking paths for visitors.

Just another crummy beach on Koh Rong ;-)

Just another crummy beach on Koh Rong ;-)

The hub of the island, Koh Touch, is a sandy guesthouse-packed stretch that has earned Koh Rong a reputation as a party island, but it is important to realise that all the beaches aside from Koh Touch are undeserving of this label, with a chilled out, snoozing by the sea vibe permeating much of the rest of the island. Despite many a developer having their beady eyes on the 78-square-kilometre island, the rapid development of late is mostly limited to basic bungalows and cheap guesthouses in Koh Touch, so it remains easy to find a quiet refuge elsewhere on the island.

Development aside, the island is truly gorgeous and includes seven bays, all teeming with marine life, making for great snorkelling and diving. There's enough to keep even the most active visitor busy, with diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, trekking, kayaks and motorbike treks, and plenty of sand, sun and sea for those with more relaxed tastes.

Places to stay on Koh Rong reviewed on Travelfish.

Koh Ta Kiev

Koh Ta Kiev is the widely-ignored (at least by travellers) little brother of the island group -- it is also considerably closer to the mainland than the others. The island is home to three lovely yellow-sand beaches shaded by pine trees are accessible on the island, and coral reefs make for excellent snorkelling. Long Beach hosts most of the accommodation, with Coral Beach at the southernmost, tucked in on its own secluded bay. It's possible to walk the entire stretch and the pine needles make this long sandy stretch of sand seem less ‘pure' than it might otherwise feel.

Koh Ta Kiev beach scenes

Koh Ta Kiev beach scenes

Trekking paths meander through Koh Ta Kiev's jungle if you're feeling adventurous and would like to do a bit of wildlife-spotting and bird watchers will be happy to hear that more than 150 species call Koh Ta Kiev home. One path is identified by blue markers which takes you to the local fishing village on the east side, another by red markers which heads south from the centre of the island, leading you to Naked Beach on the south of the island.

Places to stay on Koh Ta Kiev reviewed on Travelfish.

Koh Thmei

The most pristine of all of the islands, Koh Thmei is part of the Ream National Park and doesn't even have an entire village to call its own, though a few families do live on the island. The only current accommodation is the eight wooden bungalows that comprise Koh Thmei Resort.

Koh Thmei Sunrise

Koh Thmei Sunrise

Like many Cambodian islands, the shadow of development looms large, but for now, the island remains relatively pristine. Flanked by mangrove forests, the island is a natural paradise that is as far from Sihanoukville as night is from day. Koh Thmei is the habitat of many types of interesting wildlife, particularly birds, with over 150 types of birds making their home in the park and a trip to the island offers ample bird-watching opportunities.

Accommodation to stay on Koh Totang reviewed by Travelfish.

Koh Totang

A small drop in the ocean at only 1.3 kilometres by 500 metres wide, Koh Totang is one of the 12 tropical islands that make up the Koh S’Dach Archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand. Midway between the Thai border and Sihanoukville, Koh Totang is somewhat out of the way of Cambodia's main island hotspots, with Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem significantly further south.

Local taxi rank.

Local taxi rank.


But this out-of-the-way location has been one of Koh Totang’s greatest assets; few have heard of it, which means a slice of undeveloped paradise is yours for the taking. Squeaky sand beaches and a rocky coastline embrace the island, where the single flashpacker accommodation Nomads Land Cambodia, sits smugly alone on the beach. Unspoiled and undeveloped — there are no roads, barely even any tracks — makes getting back to nature easy here.

The main beach is sandy but then switches rapidly into rocks and coral, so swimming is usually easiest from the pier rather than walking in off the beach — not so great for kids who might want to run in off the sand. The lodgings are rustic, but Nomads Land have done such a good job with their eco-retreat.

Accommodation to stay on Koh Totang reviewed by Travelfish.


Reviewed by

Previously, Lina has been based in Oakland, California, New York City, Dublin and London. Lina spends most of her time thinking about food, travel and synthpop. She's currently based in Siem Reap.

Feature stories


Islands in Cambodia

Learn more about Koh Rong
Koh Rong

Oh the beaches

Learn more about Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem

A world away

Learn more about Koh Sdach
Koh Sdach

Fishing village island

Learn more about Koh Ta Kiev
Koh Ta Kiev

Beautiful

Learn more about Koh Thmei
Koh Thmei

Almost empty

Learn more about Koh Tonsay
Koh Tonsay

Rustic hideaway

Learn more about Koh Totang
Koh Totang

Drop off the map


Islands in Indonesia

Learn more about Gili Air
Gili Air

Fancy pants beach hangout

Learn more about Gili Gede
Gili Gede

A hideaway

Learn more about Gili Layar
Gili Layar

Beachbum digs

Learn more about Gili Meno
Gili Meno

Family hideaway

Learn more about Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan

Party party

Learn more about Kanawa Island
Kanawa Island

Gorgeous island, crappy resort

Learn more about Karimunjawa Islands
Karimunjawa Islands

Island hideout

Learn more about Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park

Fascinating

Learn more about Nusa Ceningan
Nusa Ceningan

We love this joint

Learn more about Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan

Surf and snorkelling

Learn more about Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida

Go now

Learn more about Pulau Moyo
Pulau Moyo

Fit for royalty.

Learn more about Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh

Diving and beach mecca


Islands in Laos

Learn more about Don Dhet
Don Dhet

The land of the lotus-eaters

Learn more about Don Khon
Don Khon

Charming island getaway

Learn more about Don Khong
Don Khong

Real Lao life


Islands in Malaysia

Learn more about Langkawi
Langkawi

Great for families

Learn more about Pangkor Island
Pangkor Island

Popular with Malaysians

Learn more about Penang
Penang

A favourite

Learn more about Perhentian Islands
Perhentian Islands

Two great island escapes


Islands in Thailand

Learn more about Coral and Raya Islands
Coral and Raya Islands

Escape the main island

Learn more about Ko Adang
Ko Adang

Ko Lipe's wild neighbour

Learn more about Ko Bulon Lae
Ko Bulon Lae

The tranquility runs deep

Learn more about Ko Chang
Ko Chang

Elephant Island

Learn more about Ko Chang Noi
Ko Chang Noi

The other Ko Chang

Learn more about Ko Jum
Ko Jum

Ready to relax?

Learn more about Ko Kho Khao
Ko Kho Khao

No need to leave that beach chair

Learn more about Ko Kradan
Ko Kradan

Great beaches, pricey food

Learn more about Ko Kut
Ko Kut

Glorious beaches, thin crowds

Learn more about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta

Where the beaches stretch for miles

Learn more about Ko Lao Liang
Ko Lao Liang

Let's keep this one a secret

Learn more about Ko Libong
Ko Libong

Great choice for the quiet life

Learn more about Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe

Welcome to paradise

Learn more about Ko Mak
Ko Mak

In a mellow mood

Learn more about Ko Muk
Ko Muk

More to it than the Emerald Cave

Learn more about Ko Mun Nork
Ko Mun Nork

An exclusive island getaway

Learn more about Ko Ngai
Ko Ngai

A comfortable island getaway

Learn more about Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan

More to it than Full Moon Parties

Learn more about Ko Phayam
Ko Phayam

One laid-back island

Learn more about Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi

Popular party island

Learn more about Ko Phra Thong
Ko Phra Thong

Golden Buddha island

Learn more about Ko Ra
Ko Ra

Unspoilt island wilderness

Learn more about Ko Rawi
Ko Rawi

Pristine beaches and jungle

Learn more about Ko Rok
Ko Rok

Unspoilt twin islands

Learn more about Ko Samet
Ko Samet

Bangkok's island playground

Learn more about Ko Samui
Ko Samui

Dozens of beaches to choose from

Learn more about Ko Si Boya
Ko Si Boya

Take a break from it all

Learn more about Ko Si Chang
Ko Si Chang

Low-key fishing island

Learn more about Ko Sukorn
Ko Sukorn

Settle into a slower pace

Learn more about Ko Surin
Ko Surin

Breathtaking above and below the water

Learn more about Ko Tao
Ko Tao

A popular spot to learn to dive

Learn more about Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao

Awesome

Learn more about Ko Wai
Ko Wai

Why not Ko Wai?

Learn more about Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi

Leave the crowds behind

Learn more about Ko Yao Yai
Ko Yao Yai

A bay all to yourself.

Learn more about Phuket
Phuket

Thailand's biggest and busiest island

Learn more about Similan Islands
Similan Islands

Say hi to the sea turtles


Islands in Vietnam

Learn more about Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island

A great island escape

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Con Dao Islands

What a getaway

Learn more about Hai Tac
Hai Tac

A backpacker's treasure

Learn more about Hon Son
Hon Son

Island escape

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Nam Du

A taste of magic realism

Learn more about Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc Island

Island time!