Set roughly 45 minutes to an hour by ferry from the festering pit of Sihanoukville, there are at least a dozen beaches worthy of your attention. Accommodation is far from great value, but for now, development is relatively restrained.
Koh Rong’s beaches range from spectacular stretches of absolute white sand to golden hues and much of the development actually obeys (shock horror!) Cambodia’s build-back laws. This means you need not be staying in an upmarket resort to enjoy the sand. In season (see below) the turquoise waters are generally calm making for fine and safe swimming for kids (though do take care, people do still drown).
Over the last couple of years a semi-decent road has been constructed around much of the island bringing more of the island’s many beaches within easier reach. While scooter hire remains expensive (US$20 a day) this means you need not restrict yourself to just the one beach with the occasional boat trip to visit others. What does this mean? Longer stays on the island!
Koh Rong also has a nascent diving scene and while the waters are not as clear as what you’ll experience in say Thailand’s southwest, there are still plenty of dive sites. Dive shops we spoke to (we didn’t dive this trip) said what remains of the coral is “pretty”, but the focus is on micro and large schools of fish. Destructive fishing practises remain an issue, though work is ongoing to address this—keep an eye out for the educational panels in the villages illustrating all the ways not to fish. Don’t dive? Snorkelers are welcome—both on boat trips and straight off the beach (though house reefs are extremely limited).
Looking to make a difference? Friends of Koh Rong was established in 2013 and works to help the local communities on Koh Rong adapt to the tourism industry that is changing their way of life forever. See their website for more information. They do not accept short-tern volunteers, but they do organise weekend beach cleans—for which all are welcome.
Koh Rong is monsoonal. This means roughly May to late September is wet season. More resorts are remaining open (often offering more reasonable rates) than in the past across this period, but you should expect considerable rain and erratic, weather dependent, ferry timetables.
Season on Koh Rong runs roughly October to April, with December and January being peak season. Weather across this period is characterised by brilliant sunshine, warm waters and hot days. Expect little to no rain. In peak season room rates can jump by more than 100% to levels which are, frankly, delusional once the standard of accommodation is taken into account. Outside of peak season, expect to pay roughly double what you’d expect to pay in Thailand for similar standards of accommodation.
In peak season we’d say reservations in advance are highly recommended. Unfortunately there is plenty of variance (in both directions) between online agents such as Agoda and Booking versus what you will be quoted as a walk-in and on accommodation websites. So you may be lucky or you may not. Where possible we’ve listed direct contact details for places to stay and it can really pay dividends to contact them directly to see what rate you can get.
Unless budget is not really an issue, arriving in peak season without a reservation could end up being a serious budget buster. On the subject of budgets, if you’re looking to spend $20 or less per night, you’ll almost certainly be in a tent or a dorm.
Set on a roughly northwest to southeast axis, Koh Rong is the second largest island in Cambodia (after Koh Kong). The island is big and while a dirt road has been built around much of the island don’t underestimate how long it takes to get around. If you arrive at Koh Toch, only Police Beach (to the west) and Long Set (4K) Beach (to the north east) are within comfortable walking distance.
At the time of research (October 2019), there were no ATMs on Koh Rong and few places accepted credit cards. Some small retail outlets advertised cash back services, but the charge for this (we saw signage saying 10%) makes for a very expensive way to access your money. Cash up in Sihanoukville before heading to the islands.
There is a small pharmacy in Koh Toch but we saw no other medical facilities on the island.
We had good phone and internet coverage across almost all of the island with a CellCard sim card. Much of the accommodation claims to offer free WiFi though your mileage will vary. If WiFi is an important criteria for you, check the connection before accepting the room, or if booking in advance, ask!
The main determinant regarding where to stay on Koh Rong is your budget. With the exception of dorms and tents, we felt the accommodation on Koh Rong was uniformly overpriced for the standard. That said, the beaches are often lovely, and once you get over the sticker shock, this is a great island to while away a few days.
If you’re planning on spending less than $20 a night, you’ll most likely be in a tent, small room or dorm on Koh Toch or Long Set Beach. There are bungalows also towards the northern end of Sok San Beach and while the beach is spectacular, the bungalows are little over tin sheds and struck us as being particularly poor value.
You could base yourself on Koh Toch and plan to hire a scooter each day to visit other beaches, but because scooter hire is relatively expensive ($20 a day) this can be a bit of a false economy.
The following runs around the island in a counter clockwise direction starting at Koh Toch. This is a very selective list of places to stay.
The largest centre of development is the backpacker village on Koh Toch towards the southern tip of the island. This is where most of the fast boats arrive and is where you’ll find the largest concentration of budget-focussed accommodation. While Koh Toch has a beach, it is far from the best the island has to offer.
At the centre of the town, almost at the end of the concrete alley running up from the beach, you’ll find Happy Elephant Bungalows (T: (069) 371 897 Facebook Agoda Booking) which offers comfortable wooden bungalows running up the hillside from the road. We had the top bungalow which once must have had terrific views, but a concrete monstrosity going in next door has blocked half the view. From $30 with hot water, fan and WiFi.
Down on the waterfront, there are a bunch of cheap digs aimed at budget travellers. Green Ocean Guesthouse (T: (096) 823 2288 Facebook Agoda Booking) is one of the most centrally situated with dorms range from $4-$9 and private rooms with bathroom going for $25. Just along the beach is CoCo (T: (018) 963 9696 Official site Agoda) with dorms for $6 and private rooms from $20. CoCo had a big banner up saying the property was for sale, so this may change. Both of these places catch considerable noise not just from the bikes and boats, but also the bars later into the evening.
For something quieter, take a walk along Koh Toch Beach (to your left when looking at the water). Anywhere along here will cost you more, but there is less racket and, well, you’re right on the sand.
One of our favourites along this stretch is Paradise Bungalows (T: (093) 462 640 Official site Agoda Booking) which had a wide range of bungalows spread across a decent stretch of real estate. Rates start at $35 according to their website, but we were quoted $20 as a walk-in. They also have fancier bungalows at the $50 through to $60 mark, with $100 scoring you air-con. Some of the more expensive rooms can sleep four or more, making the price not so unreasonable (for Koh Rong). They also have a well appointed and spacious restaurant.
As a second option, almost at the end of the beach, lies White Beach Bungalows (T: (069) 320556 Official site Agoda Booking) but the rates are higher here (we were quoted $120 as a walk-in, though their website lists some cheaper rates). Bungalows are solid and well positioned, some with great views over the water, but they are quite spendy. The more expensive rooms have air-con.
Around the headland lies the much photographed Treehouse (T: (015) 755 594 Official site Agoda) which has large family sized rooms atop brown-painted concrete tree trunks and more traditional chalets towards the rear. The concept sounds sexier than we thought it looked in real life. While we were not able to see inside a treehouse room, we’d imagine the views would be solid. Another selling point is the beach which has just the one place to stay on it.
About a fifteen minute walk from Treehouse lies Long Set Beach (often referred to as 4K beach, though Long Set is the correct name). This is a beautiful, southeast facing white sand beach pierced by a long pier roughly at the centre. As far as Koh Rong goes, Long Set has the best mix of accommodation across a range of budgets (from tents through to quite smart bungalows) making it a popular choice among backpackers and flash packers who can’t stand Koh Toch.
You can walk here from Koh Toch (follow the trail that wraps around the headland near Treehouse and just keep going), or ride here on what was the worst stretch of road we saw on the island. To get on the road, you need to ride along Koh Toch beach (on the sand) and veer inland on the goat trail beside Monkey Island, then just keep going. From Long Set onwards, the road is semi decent and runs to Coconut Beach, Pagoda Beach, Sok San Beach and onwards back to Koh Toch.
At the far southern end of the beach you’ll find backpacker factory and party hostel Nest Beach Club (T: (096) 634 2320 Facebook Agoda Booking), but, as long as you’re ok with a tent, we’d recommend continuing on a bit to Sandbank (T: (086) 745 135 Official site Agoda Booking) which has cute tents on a sandbank (duh!), for $7. We also liked the bar area here. The sandbank tapers off to where a small estuary empties out and it is particularly photogenic. Note the wooden bridge here is not, and we want to emphasise this, not, scooter safe!
Further on still you’ll find the more flashpacker friendly (or tent-adverse) Reef on the Beach (T: (096) 759 8583 Facebook Agoda Booking) which offers up larger tents ($18-$30), dorms ($10-$12) and well sized bungalows ($45-70) looking out to sea from within a cashew grove. The wooden bungalows are good value for Koh Rong and are well spaced out for privacy. The restaurant here is also a good spot to meet other travellers and there are plenty of activities put on.
Keep walking past Long Set Resort (T: (086) 796 666 Official site Agoda Booking) and you’ll then reach Puravita Resort (T: (015) 700 083 Official site Agoda Booking) which has simple but well spaced out and positioned bungalows. They draw a bit of a blank on the decor front and the bathrooms are a bit grotty (well, ours was). Balconies have large lazy chairs rather than hammocks and inside even had a desk! On the upside, for Koh Rong, the rates are reasonable (from $25 for a fan-cooled room with cold water shower) and we found the staff here to be very helpful and friendly, even if the music in the restaurant is a bit loud.
A little up from Puravita is Malibu Hostel (T: (098) 402 116 Facebook Agoda Booking). The drawcard at Malibu is while they do offer private bungalows (from $45), they have also converted some bungalows into dorms (from $8) meaning you could end up with an bungalow all to yourself for just $8 in shoulder season. Friendly staff too.
After a long stretch of emptiness you’ll hit the Koh Rong Hill Beach Resort (T: (076) 333 3868 Official site Agoda Booking), which has the most reasonably priced modern chalets on the island along with a cute swimming pool (with wet bar) looking back down the beach. Rates float around the $80 to $100 mark, but this is definitely a spot to shop around online for a competitive rate, as the direct to hotel rates on their website are beyond bonkers.
Moving north from Long Set there are a couple of little visited beaches, most easily reached by boat, though you can also walk to them from Long Set (the not at all well marked trailhead is behind Koh Rong Hill Beach Resort). These smaller beaches may have some accommodation open in high season but we couldn’t find anything that was open and staffed. Coconut Beach lies a long walk further north, but has a semi-decent road leading to it. bring plenty of water if walking.
Our pick of the bunch on Coconut Beach was Coconut Beach Bungalows (T: (077) 766 333 Official site Agoda Booking) which offers camping for $15 and bungalows for $40-50. You’ll find it perched on the southern headland of the beach. The solid wooden bungalows come with cold water bathrooms and are very well shaded, but to the point where the views are not often quite as good as you may expect given the positioning. The beach here is good—squeaky sand and not too busy. It is also dotted with a few very sleepy bars and places to eat. Do bear in mind you’re a bit of a captive audience here—Long Set beach is well over an hour away on foot while a scooter will cost around $10 for the same trip.
Next off the rack heading north is the attractive white sand Pagoda Beach (so named for a nearby pagoda). This beach was seeing quite a bit of development in late 2019, in some cases by properties which were previously located in Otres in Sihanoukville.
At the southern end of the beach you’ll find fancy properties, both at the higher end of the price scale for Koh Rong, but each with very different offerings.
Brand spanking new Anaya Koh Rong (T: (070) 934 690 Official site Agoda Booking ) is the southernmost of the properties and offers up spacious and well spread out minimalist style villas ($140-$165), many with excellent views over the glistening swimming pool and onwards out to sea. The gardens (and the rooms) were looking a bit Spartan, but we’d put that down to the property still being very new. They also have two private pool villas down by the beachfront, but, well, the ocean is right there! The room decks are not fenced in at all, so if you have kids in tow, keep an eye on them.
Right next door, you’ll find Sihanoukville exile Tamu Cambodia (T: (096) 326 9025 Official site Agoda Booking) which is pretty much at the opposite end of the fancy pants scale to Anaya, with a mix of private rooms and glamping. They’ve done a terrific job with the gardens, creating a true beach jungle vibe and the staffer who showed us around was outstanding. We thought the rooms were better at Anaya, but the tents here are pretty special, and come with air-con and attached bathroom. Rates are high, floating around the $130 mark, but these were the best (and most expensive) tents we saw on the island. There is also a narrow lap pool on site—we’d be angling for the ocean.
Further up the beach another Otres Beach exile, Secret Garden (Official site Agoda Booking) was still building and was due to open in December 2019. This was one of our favourites in Sihanoukville, so we’d wager well worth a gamble.
There are two ways to get to this remote beach on the north coast of Koh Rong—boat or scooter. Take our word for it, get the boat—the trail sux.
Golden sand, palm fringed Lonely Beach is home to a single long-running resort, Lonely Beach Eco Resort (T: (071) 209 4858 Official site Agoda Booking ). Normally we’re a bit leery of places self branding themselves as “eco” but in this case, hippy chic Lonely Beach is the real deal. Their larger fan-cooled wooden bungalows ($60) leave no eco stone unturned with cold water mandi style showers and neat coconut shell taps—you’ll need to see one to understand what we mean! There are also smaller, more budget focussed shacks ($45) with shared bathroom facilities. The property is large, with bungalows well spread out for privacy—ideal for hammock swinging with a lover. We found the staff to be friendly and helpful, happy to show us right through the resort, and the whole place, including the comfortable restaurant, just nails that welcoming, laid back vibe. There is no WiFi, but Cambodian sim cards will get a signal. There is also a yoga sala on site. This is a remote location, so don’t plan on leaving the beach too often. The jungle trail here is not well signposted and can be extremely confusing—it is not for a scooter novice. Lonely Beach is one of our favourite locations on Koh Rong.
Koh Rong’s next main beach is the west facing Sok San Beach. Interchangeably referred to as Long Beach—see it and you’ll understand why. This is easily the best beach on Koh Rong. An absolutely stunning glistening white sand beach just goes on and on, with turquoise waters lapping at its edge. This is an absolute cracking beach and even if you are staying elsewhere on the island, you must make the effort to reach here at least once during your stay.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the accommodation scene is a very mixed bag, with some of the poorest value budget accommodation we’ve seen in a long time.
At the northern end of the beach lies Sok San village and the beach front is lined by a couple of dozen shacks which make up the primary budget offerings. When we say shacks—we mean shacks. Walls and roofs of corrugated iron guarantee you’ll be spending as little time inside one as possible (due to the heat) and while the bungalow verandas (often though not always with hammocks) offer an excellent outlook, the rooms themselves are dire.
Among the offerings Sok San New Beach Bungalows (T: (089) 537 243 Official site Agoda Booking) was ok and the rooms in a longhouse set-up at Kong Phu Kheang Guesthouse (walk in only) came recommended, but we couldn’t find anyone on site to show us around. There are a bunch of other places to choose from on the beach front, while if you want to save a few dollars, Thy Sok San (walk in only) is on the off beach side of the road with ok rooms for $15 and $20.
If you can afford to spend more, the extra money goes a long way further at Sok San Beach Resort (T: (017) 777 831 Official site Agoda Booking). A large but cramped resort, it offers a range of clean but sterile rooms (the room we were shown had an overpowering smell of cleaning fluid) set in rows running back the the beach. The beachfront is mostly taken up by a large restaurant and about eight million deckchairs. Rooms start at around $70 for the cheapest fare, with the more comfortable and better appointed chalets going for $150 to $150 depending on season. Absolutely check with the online travel agents for a competitive rate. This wouldn’t normally be our first choice, but the options in the village really are not great.
Midway down the beach you’ll find Long Beach Resort (T: (078) 810 009 Official site Agoda Booking), Ryta (T: (012) 287 502 Facebook Agoda Booking) and the upmarket Royal Sands Resort (T: (078) 888 260 Official site Agoda Booking). While the latter may appeal to those looking for a self-contained upmarket escape, the remainder did not really jump out at us.
As with accommodation, Koh Rong’s food scene is not the most memorable part of the island. On the more isolated beaches you’ll be most likely restricted to restaurants attached to resorts and guesthouses, but there are a few noteworthy spots to try.
You’ll find the widest selection of spots to eat and booze the night away in Koh Toch. By far our favourite, not just of Koh Toch’s options but indeed the whole island, is Skybar. It is set at the end of a long and narrow set of stairs running back from the beachside walkway, and is worth the climb. Loads of comfortable seating is set across two levels, all ideally positioned to take in the late afternoon light looking over Koh Rong Samloem. Try the poutine. Especially friendly management.
Back at ground level, both Rising Sun and Runaways are good convivial spots throughout the day and into the evening, though there are plenty of others to choose from.
Come the evening, a night market of sorts sets up along the boardwalk on Koh Toch, with seafood barbecues and iced cold drinks served to clientele in lazy chairs, makes for an easier spot for single travellers to meet up with others.
If you’re after a pasta fix, Enocafe, on the laneway running back to Happy Elephant does very good home made pasta—goes good with a glass of wine. Sit upstairs on the single balcony setting for a slightly quieter ambience with a view.
Also just off the beach Sigi Thai Food serves up slap dash simple Thai fare in an open air setting. Sigi is a chatty Thai guy who has been on the island for a few years (after a stint in New York he told us), and the meal here was one of the better we had on the island. On the same alley you’ll find Shanti Shanti, Koh Rong’s Indian option. We didn’t try it, but reviews are solid.
Over in Koh Rong’s other tourist village, Sok San, The Moon came recommended, but for an afternoon or sunset drink, any of the beach front places have a restaurant of some description with cold drinks on hand.
Koh Rong’s bar scene is pretty low key. Some, like 4K Bar at the northern end of Long Set Beach, are little more than shacks with a few chairs. Also on Long Set, Sandbar, Reef of the Beach and Nest all have popular and more traditional beach bar scenes.
Police Beach, the small beach to the west of Koh Toch throws regular (ticketed) parties with plenty of drinks and loud music. Koh Rong has a higher profile drug scene than neighbouring Koh Rong Samloem and we’ve heard it is very much in evidence here. Use your common sense please! Swimming when high is not intelligent.
On the topic of drugs, on Koh Rong, you’ll often see “happy cookies” for sale. The $7 per cookie price should be a giveaway, but if not, these are not normal cookies. Handle with care if you want to be able to get out of your hammock within a reasonable stretch of time. In case you are wondering, they are available in both chocolate and peanut butter flavour.
Koh Rong offers plenty of diving and snorkelling opportunities around the many bays and beaches.
On the central pier at Koh Toch, Koh Rong Dive Centre offers daily scuba diving trips around the island’s waters. Courses include PADI diver training, kids’ programmes and reef checks. Two fun dives cost $80, a PADI open water is $390 over four days, and they also run a range of specialist courses like digital underwater photography and night diver.
Snorkelling on Koh Rong is reasonable, which is a good thing considering how little else there is to do on the island. Many bars and guesthouses will rent out gear.
You can also arrange a personalised snorkelling tour with local fishing boats which have signs outside the guesthouses in the village. Most join-in tours take you out off Koh Toch beach and around to Sok San and back. Prices vary from $10 to $20 a head depending on the length of trip and where you are going. Most seem to offer similar things: a journey up the coast, the chance to go fishing, snorkelling, swimming, cook up a barbecue, enjoy a beer or two, and if you’re lucky, a bathe among the phytoplankton in the darkness of the return journey. In other words, all the ingredients for a glorious day out.
Koh Rong Dive Centre, Koh Toch: T: (096) 560 7362; Official site
Transport to and from Koh Rong is at the mercy of the weather. Boats sometimes leave late as a result, so give yourself a few extra hours if you’re booking a bus directly after your return to Sihanoukville.
We strongly advise against organising a flight connection closely tuned to the ferry timetables. Yes Sihanoukville is an absolute dive, but better a couple of hours spent hating on it there rather than missing a flight and getting an entire evening of hating on it for your troubles.
If you’re susceptible to sea sickness, the crossing in inclement weather can get pretty wild. If you sit on the back deck, you and your bags will get wet—take our word for it.
There are at least four operators running boats to Koh Rong. Speed Ferry Cambodia is probably the most popular (we used them with no problems), others include GTVC, Buva Sea and Island Speedferry.
Fares between Sihanoukville and Koh Toch and Long Set are set at $22 for an open return ticket. To Sok San the fare is $27 return. Don’t lose the return stub or you’ll need to buy another ticket. Boat operators appreciate you “checking in” the day before departure, but in practice many don’t bother.
In clear weather the trip takes 45 minutes to Koh Toch, about an hour and a half to Sok San, but in bad weather these times can increase considerably.
Timetables are subject to change (and weather) but at the time of research (late 2019) there were multiple departures daily with the first boat from Sihanoukville at 08:00 and the last at 17:00. Tickets can be purchased at any travel agent, the pier, or online through Travelfish partner BookMeBus (the price should be the same regardless of where you buy the ticket).
Island Speedferry also run to Sok San Beach with the return ticket costing $27.
Departs Sihanoukville 09:00, 12:00, 15:00
Departs Koh Rong (Sok San) 10:00, 13:00, 14:00
Book your ticket now
More isolated resorts such as Lonely Beach run their own boat. Please contact them directly for details.
Scooters can be hired in Koh Toch and Long Set for $15 for a half day, $20 for a full day. We were asked to leave both our passport and a $50 deposit for the bike. Most roads are ok, dirt, but not too rutted. Notable exceptions are the road from Koh Toch to Long Set and the track to Lonely Beach. Take care and watch out for loose gravel. Helmets were not available with bike rental.
We saw no bicycles for hire on the island.
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