Located on the southeast coast of Cambodia, Kep is a quiet, comfortable and beautiful small town with a 6 km long Palm Avenue along the coastline. During the French colonial period, it was a leisure resort for the French elite, and later became the main place for the Cambodian nobility to spend their summer vacations. For more than a hundred years, Kep has developed its own unique culture, with European residents accounting for more than a third of Kep’s population. The fine life, the slow pace, the combination of East and West cultures, and the beautiful natural environment, are all fascinating!
To say that Kep is a city is rather a small town, and there are not even supermarkets here, let alone any decent shopping malls. For very ordinary daily necessities, have to go to Kampot 25 kilometers away to buy. But it is indeed a city, or a municipality, with a total area of 336 square kilometers, a total population of about 50,000 people, originally under the Kampot Province, more than 20 years ago by the Cambodian government as a municipality.
The roads in Kep are very spacious and I think these are probably the best and cleanest roads in Cambodia. It’s a place where you can forget the crowds and dusty sky of Siem Reap. In addition to the beach, there are green hills and green trees, which will make people feel better at once. There are many things you can do in Kep, from visiting the pepper farm not far away, to the nearby small fishing village to experience Cambodia’s most primitive fisherman life, or to visit Koh Tonsay and feel the scenery of the original island without commercialization.
Whether with friends or with family, Kep has some amazing activities. You just have to find them!
Spend A Nice Morning Walking through Kep National Park
Nestled on the hillside behind Kep, Kep National Park is a lovely little park with several dedicated hiking loops, and this is a place of relaxation and tranquility. Here you can see some beautiful scenery that is rare to see. We would recommend this place to anyone who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Admission to the park is $1 for foreigners and 0.5$ for locals. There are multiple hiking trails in the park, and various styles of signs are everywhere, so don’t worry about getting lost. The main trail is paved and 8 km long, which is a safe and easy walk through the park, where you can see various wildlife. This is also the path where locals commute every day. Usually, you will find cars or motorbikes along the way.
For those who want more challenges, we would recommend the Stairway to Heaven trail as it is not overgrown like other paths and eventually leads to sunset rock with stunning views of both bays and the sea. The trail is poorly paved and perfect for those who like adventurous hiking, yet there are yellow marks to follow. You might need to crawl or walk along a stream, which is interesting to me. It starts with the road near the beach, from the road there is a set of stairs into the forest so it is easy to find. The trail itself is not very long, but I think you can continue along the other trails all the way to the top if you wish.
In the park, you can meet some people who come to the holiday, it might be a family exercising, or it might be a couple of friends walking together. In Kep you may not see the majestic scenery, but it’s just this idyllic and comfortable life. The park is really beautiful, the trees have a lot of shade, there are places to sit and relax, the view of the valley is stunning. Although the waterfall is just a trickle, it is still worth seeing.
Relax on the Kep Beach
Kep Beach is a 600 or 700-meter-long white man-made sand beach right in the centre of town. The tide is fairly little, the beach is uncrowded, with a gentle breeze, and the water is clear and clean, refreshing and pleasant. And, if you get up early, you can see local fishermen wading out to set up some crab pots. On weekends and national holidays, the place can be packed with local Cambodians, but for the most part, it’s not crowded.
The water was very warm so we took a walk along the beach, which was a great place to get away from the busy pace of other places. Along this stretch of the seafront, there are many small pavilions with hammocks that can be rented very cheaply. This is a favorite place for locals to enjoy the weekend with nice food and music. There are vendors selling coconuts and other drinks on the seafront road. There is a local volunteer group who pick up trash on Sundays. If you visit on a Monday, you can enjoy a cleaner beach experience.
More laid-back, less touristy, Kep Beach is a great place to visit and experience Cambodian beach life.
Have A Relaxing Day Trip on Koh Tonsay
Koh Tonsay is a small island about a 20-minute boat ride from Kep. It’s not a resort, no hotels, no fine restaurants, no motor vehicles, and no supermarkets. It’s a fairly pristine island, and the island’s Guest Houses, mostly run by local families, offer accommodation in the form of some basic wooden bungalows.
On the island, there are several small beaches and several little sandy coves. The main beach is about 250 meters long and looks much better than Kep Beach. There are some small restaurants on the beach that sell food and drinks at very reasonable prices, and free hammocks and wooden beach recliners if you buy drinks or lunch at the corresponding restaurant.
Visit the Crab Market for Delicious and Fresh Seafood
More famous than the beach of Kep is the Kep’s crabs. The crabs here are the freshest and cheapest in the whole of Cambodia. Crabs are caught by fishing boats every morning, and then these crabs are kept on the seashore near the small bungalows, and when they are eaten, they are freshly cooked, which is truly delicious.
Kep Crab Market is on the town’s main road, right next to the coast. The market is small but bustling, mainly for locals, and usually only during the tourist season, it is crowded with foreigners. Cambodian ladies wad out to bring in the crab baskets, empty them and sell by weight. Next to the crab market is a row of restaurants built by the sea, the most famous of which is Kimly, where pepper crab is the third specialty of Kep after pepper and crab. If you have adventure and are a little daring, this market is great. It’s neither clean nor air-conditioned, but don’t let it scare you as you will have some of the best seafood.
You purchase seafood here by kilogram or 1/2 kilogram. We bought 1 kg of crab for $5 (smaller ones, and larger crabs for $10 a kg), 1 kg of prawns for $4 and 0.5 kg of squid for $1. You can get these seafood cooked up directly at this market, and the fee is very cheap, 0.5$ per kilogram. If you add pepper and other spices, it is 2.5$ a kilogram, and the taste will be even better! If you need some rice, you can buy them from other vendors for $0.25 a serving, including delicious sauces, of course.
If you want something different, be sure to eat here instead of one of the restaurants. Eating here, you’ll seat in the middle of mess and grill smoke, though, this is precisely one of Cambodia’s most unique dining experiences.
Tips: You can come here on a bike that is freely available at your accommodation; Keep in mind that no one here really speaks English; Best not to come here at noon, because it’s too hot.
Check Out Kep Butterfly Farm Located in the Mountains
Kep Butterfly Farm is a bit far from the town centre and sits on a dirt road that leads to the hills outside Kep. It’s not easy to get there either, and, the road is in very bad condition, and it will be a fun bumpy trip to the farm by tuk-tuk.
It costs $2 per person to enter the farm, and then staff will give each visitor a bottle of drinking water. The farm is cute and small, with a lot of butterflies (said to have thousands of species), a stunning little stream and bridges around the farm, swings and a beautiful wooden house with a platform that gives you an amazing lookout point and a great place to sit and enjoy yourself. The whole venue is beautiful and very relaxing, and coming here with your books and snacks is a great way to spend hours.
Renting a bike from Kep to come here costs only $1.50, while taking a tuk-tuk ride costs around $15 for a round trip. Besides, there is no food available here.