Koh Rong: An Undeveloped and Quiet Island in Cambodia

Koh Rong Island, a very primitive island in southern Cambodia, is small, with only 78 square kilometers. On this small island less than an hour’s boat ride from Sihanoukville, there are few modern amenities, no hotels, no fine restaurants, and no fine bars. The buildings here are basically European-built guesthouses, restaurants on the first floor and accommodation upstairs. Almost all the houses are made of wood, bamboo and thatch, known locally as Bungalow. The beach is also not occupied by private hotels, all areas are free to open, and hammocks by the sea are free too, basically following the first-come, first-served principle.

The basic pattern of the island is simple, with a row of guesthouses along the coast on this side of the pier and a long beach on the other side of the island. According to locals, the Royal Cambodian Group, which has a development plan for the island and plans to build an airport and other tourist facilities on the island, has been slow to make progress since the 2008 financial crisis because of a lack of funds.

Beach on Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong Island, one of the nicest places in Cambodia

Where to Stay

The wooden bungalows on Koh Rong Island are basically European-owned guesthouses, and this one we booked is a separate wooden house with sea views. On this island, the common room is $12-$16 a day, a separate cabin is $35-$50 a day, but even the more expensive cabins are shabby, with a bed, a dim light, a mosquito-proof tent, a public toilet, and basically no other facilities. If you’re not planning to spend the money, you can also camp in tents, which many backpackers choose to spend the night on the island. Due to the limited development of the island, all guesthouses on the island are without hot water and are without power at noon and at night! In the evening, there are a lot of people in the bar downstairs, and there are tourists singing live. I hear you can get a free bottle of beer as long as you’re on stage. Sometimes the event is to rate the best dress and the worst dress on the spot, both can get the prize.

Bungalows on Koh Rong Island
Relaxation area outdoor
Relaxation area outdoor, guesthouse on Koh Rong Island

Tips: The check-out time is before 10am the next day; No hot water for homestays at any price point, so if you want to take a bath, you can only use cold water.

What to Do on Koh Rong Island

In addition to regular activities such as relaxing on the beach, boat trip is the island’s main business tour project. You can see the billboards at the door of many homestays, or you can book such services directly with the owner of the property.

Relax on the Beach

There were very few people by the sea in the early morning, and the sea breeze blew on you, cool and comfortable. After breakfast at the Guesthouse and came to the beach nearby, a massage was offered by local woman for just $8 an hour. Although the techniques of massage were far less than that of professional massage therapists in Thailand, it was a different experience to have a massage outdoors while blowing the sea breeze. There were more and more people on the beach, some walking by the sea, some sunbathing, and a few bikini-clad beauties sitting together to organize a bunch of starfish of all colors. A glass of iced drink, a book, a hammock set up in the shade, lying there quietly, an afternoon soon passed.

People on Long Beach
Hammock by the sea

Hike through the Jungle to Long Beach

Long Beach, a great place to watch the sunset, is located on the west of Koh Rong Island, opposite the main pier. To get to Long Beach, you can choose to take a boat for $5 one way, or you can choose to walk through the middle of the island for about an hour. Of course, it’s easier to take a boat ride, and if you want a different experience, hiking might be a better option.

Long Beach on Koh Rong Island
White sand like cake powder, clear blue water, Long Beach on Koh Rong Island

Although everyone says there is no road on Koh Rong Island, but there are several hiking trails through the jungle. Near the island’s only dive shop, there is a trail to Long Beach, which should also be the route most people choose. Since the road needs to cross the jungle, it is relatively difficult to walk. Although there are no large animals in the jungle (the largest may be monkeys), lizards, snakes and mosquitoes are common, so protective measures are still needed, and mosquito repellent is essential. In addition, it’s best not to walk alone.

Snorkel near Koh Tas Island

For boat trip, we booked an afternoon boat at the door of Smile Guesthouse and two local boaters would serve us. Going out to sea, snorkeling, fishing, barbecue, watching the sunset, it only costs $10 a person.

Boat used for the boat trip
Boat used for the boat trip

Snorkeling is the first activity of the boat trip, and the place of snorkeling is a small outlying island called Koh Tas near Koh Rong Island, because the water is warm, and there are corals here. However, to be honest, the snorkeling experience here was very general, a lot worse than Malaysia’s, the water wasn’t very clear, and there were no rare marine animals in the sea other than gray corals, several fish, and sea urchins. The accompanying fishermen will provide free equipments, and the snorkeling will last about half an hour.

Fish and corals

Go Boat Fishing

After snorkeling was fishing, fishing tools were made by the boatmen themselves, and bait was ready too – fresh squid. The location was still near the island just now, all we had to do was to put the line down and wait… After a few dozen minutes, we didn’t catch a fish, but the boatmen themselves caught one after another, the boatman gave the trick was “put it on the ground”, but we were not quite sure what this means. After nearly an hour of tossing, we caught only one fish, but the boatmen caught a lot, probably for their own dinner.

Fishing this activity itself was actually quite boring, but also very bad sun, but because there were a lot of people on board, we fishing, while laughing, taking pictures, or quite interesting.

Watch the Sunset at Long Beach

The last activity was to watch the sunset at Long Beach, an uninhabited beach with white sand, crystal clear blue waters and pristine but beautiful scenery. We arrived some time before sunset, but there were already a lot of people on the beach, some lying on the beach basking in the sun, some playing beach volleyball, and some kayaking. Two boatmen were preparing dinner for us at this time, that was, the barbecue just caught the fish. I had to say such fresh fish was really delicious! Besides, boatmen also offered free beer!

Koh Rong Island at sunset
Peaceful and quiet, Koh Rong Island at sunset
Bungalow, Koh Rong Island at sunset
Bungalow, Koh Rong Island at sunset

While enjoying the beautiful sunset, while eating our own fish caught, while chatting with friends, what a pleasant holiday! When the sun approached the sea, everyone started to go back by boat, otherwise it would be too dark to see the rocks in the water, there might be danger.

Useful Tips

Merchants on Koh Rong Island only accept cash and don’t accept credit cards. Certainly, US dollars can be used on the island, but you should prepare some small denominations of cash.

There are many mosquitoes on Koh Rong Island, especially in accommodation, so mosquito repellent is a must.

Bungalows at various price points are made of thatch and there are many small animals in the room, such as lizards, ants, moths and so on.

If you take a boat to Long Beach, please note that there’s no pier there, so be prepared to jump from boat to shore.

There are no restaurants at Long Beach, so if you plan to stay there longer, you may need to bring your own food.

About boat trip: The cost is usually $10 per person, but if you insist to bargain, it can be reduced to $8 per person; boatmen will hardly set sail at the agreed time because they will have to wait until there are enough tourists; and the boat may break down at any time.

Fruit shakes
Fruit shakes, sunshine, beach
Balcony of a bungalow in the early morning, Koh Rong Island
Balcony of a bungalow in the early morning, Koh Rong Island

Koh Rong Island is really small and primitive, there are not many activities that can be carried out, no tour groups, and no shopping attractions. On this small island, you can relax, read a book, and sunbathe during the day, eat BBQ at night. When the power is off, you can lie on the balcony, see the sea view, or have a good rest, enjoy your holiday.