Koh Kong Sunset

Koh Kong, Cambodia – Backpacking Guide

You’d be forgiven for assuming Koh Kong, Cambodia is an island thanks to the typical Thai and Cambodian prefix – ‘Koh’. But in this case, Koh Kong is an entire province in the country’s southwest. 

Just 10km from the Thai border, the region’s capital, also called Koh Kong (as well as Krong Koh Kong or Koh Kong City), is an excellent jumping-off point for exploring this sparsely populated part of the country.

Use the city to explore Cambodia’s largest island Outer Koh Kong, aka Koh Kong Island or Koh Kong Krao (yes, confusingly everything here appears to be called Koh Kong), trek through the biodiverse Cardamom Mountain Range or soak up beach vibes in Koh Yor – just a short tuk-tuk ride from the city centre. 

If you’re only visiting the city, a couple of days is enough but if you want to get deep into the conservation corridor, you’ll need to budget four to seven days!

​​Backpacking Koh Kong, Cambodia – Travel Guide 🇰🇭🧳

Koh Kong Map and Resources

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Best Time to Visit Koh Kong, Cambodia ☀️

The best time to visit Koh Kong is November-March. Sure, it’s high season but temperatures are pleasant, rarely reaching over 30ºc. It’s worth planning ahead at this time of year though. The best accommodation can fill quickly and prices are slightly higher. 

Koh Kong Mangroves Boat Tour
A visit in high season means blue skies and relatively cool temperatures!

Visiting in the shoulder seasons, October and April can mean you get the best of the weather without the crowds or prices – but it’s a gamble. If rainy season (traditionally May-October) finishes late, you’ll need a good jacket. And if the hot season (April-May) starts early, you’ll spend a lot of time hunting for shade! 

Where to Stay in Koh Kong, Cambodia 🛏️

Most travellers to Koh Kong either base themselves in Koh Kong City or elsewhere in the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor. The city is a good base if you want an all-round experience of the province. 

There are plenty of guesthouses lining the streets but very few are notable for travellers – most still serve as one-night stays for those on visa runs from Thailand and don’t appear on accommodation booking platforms. If you’re in a bind, just turn up and enquire, chances are they’ll have a bed going! 

If you’re looking to explore the Cardamom Mountains or get deep into the jungle, you’ll need to spend a few nights in one of the smaller, more out-of-the-way villages. Chi Phat and Osoam Village are the most popular but can be challenging to reach from certain destinations. The Chi Phat area houses a fair number of eco-lodges that can only be accessed via boat along the Tatai River, while Osoam Village has many homestays and budget-friendly tours into the jungle and mountains. 

Best Accommodation in Koh Kong

Until visiting myself, I knew nothing of Koh Kong in Cambodia. I’d heard it was most frequented by tourists on border runs from Pattaya, Thailand and had a seedy reputation to match. But the new roads – still in the building phase when I visited – are opening the region up to a more rounded group of travellers. Eco lodges and environmental NGOs are basing themselves in the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor and a few fantastic accommodation options have sprung up – offering relaxing stays to suit all budgets! Visit soon before the secret is out!  

Tim Ashdown – Author

Just a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride across the bridge from Koh Kong City you’ll find Koh Yor and Pak Khlang beaches. Lined with bars and restaurants these beaches are also home to the standout Young Wild & Free. This hostel-cum-beach resort offers what I can only describe as rustic luxury. Four stilted bungalows on the beach, all made from natural resources, offer a slice of castaway-esque paradise. The bar serves well-priced beer, cocktails and excellent Western dishes.

Young Wild and Free Bungalows Koh Kong
Young, Wild and Free’s amazing bungalows on the beach!

For a more centrally located stay, Rene’s Pasta Bar and Guesthouse fits the bill. Right in the city centre, it’s on the same street as a bunch of Western eateries and only a few minutes from the local market. Rene’s is well-priced, clean and comfortable. The staff are well versed in traveller needs and can help with any aspect of your visit to the region!

Another central spot is the Apex Kong Hotel. It’s not the most lively place you’ll stay in Cambodia but for the price, you won’t find much better. The rooms are clean and the swimming pool offers a nice reprieve from the sun’s heat! 

For something a little more upmarket, consider Rainbow Lodge. Located around 50km outside Koh Kong City, the lodge can only be accessed via boat from Tatai Bridge. Just getting here can feel like an adventure but it’s worth it. Think elevated walkways, bungalows surrounded by jungle and a riverside spa offering relaxing massages to the sound of nature! 💆‍♂️

Accommodation in Osoam Village

If you’re heading to Osoam Village to experience jungle tours and trekking with the community-based ecotourism (CBET) project, you’ll need to arrange your accommodation directly with the project. This can be done in advance or when you arrive. Accommodation is very similar no matter where you stay and is inspected regularly by the project. Expect clean sheets and mattresses, fans, towels and free bottled water. Mr Lim comes highly recommended and can help organise your transport to and from the project. Find his contact details on the Osoam CBET website. 

Things to Do in Koh Kong, Cambodia

1. Visit Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary 🌴

The most popular trip from Koh Kong City, the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, allows you to get up close and personal with one of the most important habitats in the world – mangroves. A one-kilometre, often sketchy concrete walkway leads you through the dense foliage before spitting you out next to a restaurant and shops in the heart of the sanctuary. 

Koh Kong Mangroves 2
The concrete walkways through Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary!

Here you can grab a bite to eat or pick up a souvenir from one of the many tourist shops. There are a series of rest huts you can enter to enjoy the mangroves or, if you’re done, cross the suspension bridge to the lookout tower for great views of the protected area. Finally, hop on a boat trip which will take you on a water-level tour of the mangroves and deposit you back at the start. 

Entry is around 5000 Riel (approx. $1.25USD) and a boat trip within the park costs between 20,000 and 70,000 Riel (approx. $5-17.50USD) depending on the option you choose. A tuk-tuk from the city to the mangroves and back costs approx. $10USD. 

2. Take a Trip to Koh Kong Island 🏝️

Taking two to three hours by boat, Koh Kong Island is about as idyllic as they come. One side of the island is home to towering cliffs and deep jungle, while the other delivers several charming beaches. The water is so clear you can see the bottom even when you’re well out of your depth, making Koh Kong Island the perfect place for a spot of snorkelling! 

The island is hard to reach and requires a tour to access. There is one accommodation option on the island – Koh Kong Island Resort which has a private beach and onsite restaurant. There used to be more but locals told us they closed during the pandemic. Camping used to be an option but again, this doesn’t seem to be running anymore.

Regardless of how you get to the island, you’ll find large swathes of it off-limits thanks to military activity. 

3. Explore the Local Beaches 🏖️

There are several beaches within a short drive of Koh Kong City. Some, like Koh Yor and Pak Khlang, are very developed with restaurants, bars and guesthouses fencing off their own little stretch. But others like Lam Da Beach are more untamed, offering a chance to relax on the sand without the need to buy a meal or drink. Sner Beach is a popular spot with locals as it’s just a short journey from Koh Kong City. Bars and restaurants line the centre of the beach but there are quieter spots too. 

4. Swim at One (or Many) of the Waterfalls 🏊‍♂️

Koh Kong is chock-full of waterfalls – and many are within easy driving distance from the city. You can either rent a scooter for approx $8USD per day or hire a tuk-tuk driver for approx $30USD. The advantage of having a driver is that they know where all the waterfalls are – something that is especially advantageous in dry season when many of the easy-to-reach ones dry up! 

Ta Chat Waterfall Koh Kong
Ta Chat Waterfall – it takes some getting to!

Waterfalls to visit around Koh Kong include:

  • Tatai Waterfall – One of the largest and easiest-to-reach waterfalls in the area. 
  • Tapon Waterfall – A man-made waterfall in the Tapon Resort. Very easy to reach. Costs approx. 3000 Riel ($0.75USD) to enter.
  • Ta Yong Waterfall – Isolated and hard to reach. You’ll need to ride yourself there, the road is very rough. 
  • Ta Chat Waterfall – Around 25km from the city, getting here is a challenge but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Cambodian countryside. Beware of rusting stairs and weirdly abandoned infrastructure around the falls!

On our recent trip to Koh Kong, we visited four separate falls before finding one that had any water flowing over it – Ta Chat. It was well out of the way and rarely visited by tourists. We never would’ve found it if it wasn’t for our determined tuk-tuk driver! 

Tim Ashdown – Author
Koh Kong Tuk-tuk 3
It takes a determined tuk-tuk driver and some interesting roads to find waterfalls in dry season!

5. Jungle Trekking 🥾

Koh Kong province is home to one of the largest uninterrupted rainforests in Southeast Asia. To protect this marvellous ecosystem, local communities have jumped on the Cambodian ecotourism train and offer a range of fantastic experiences within the jungle. Single-day guided treks can be arranged from Koh Kong City for around $25USD per person.

If you want to spend more time in the jungle – think multi-day treks, sleeping in hammocks and getting well off the beaten track – you’ll need to base yourself in Chi Phat or the CBET village of Osoam. Here you can arrange a myriad of different experiences within the jungle and Cardamom Mountains.

6. Wats and Pagodas 🛕

It’s Cambodia, so there are several wats and pagodas in Koh Kong. If you’re not already suffering some real temple fatigue – which lets face it, many travellers are by the time they reach Koh Kong – there are several worth visiting!

Koh Kong Samothearam Pagoda
Reclining Buddha at Samothearam Pagoda!
  • Khun Chhang Stupa – Located on the far side of the Koh Kong Bridge, the stupa is often wrapped in orange cloth. It’s unique thanks to its location on a rocky outcrop, giving the impression that it’s floating above the waves! 
  • Samothearam Pagoda – With a lotus flower field on one side and a giant statue of a sitting monk to greet you, this is one of the more picturesque pagodas in Cambodia. Take some time to feed the giant fish in the lotus pond! 
  • Neang Kok Pagoda – If you thought Buddhism was just about peace and love, a visit to Neang Kok Pagoda and its statues depicting the violence of Buddhist hell will change your mind. 

Something to Potentially Avoid: Visiting Peam Krasop Traditional Fishing Village

The Peam Krasop Fishing Village regularly makes the top things to do in Koh Kong lists. However, I regretted my visit.

I found it uncomfortable on several levels – not only did the whole thing feel like poverty tourism but locals didn’t give the impression that they wanted us there either. 

Our guide (who was not a member of the community and didn’t seem fond of the place or the people) led us through the village at an amble, regularly inviting us to stare into houses with little regard for the occupant’s privacy – often telling us it was okay to take photos of people without seeking permission. 

Adding to the sense of unease, none of the money we paid to the guide went back into the village, making this an unethical experience I wouldn’t recommend. 

It’s important to note that when I arranged my tuk-tuk tour around the sights of Koh Kong, I didn’t know that I would be taking a trip to the fishing village. 

Make sure you check your itinerary with your driver before you set off and if you’re planning a day trip around Koh Kong, I recommend asking to skip the fishing village and visit Neang Kok Pagoda instead! 🛕

Making The Ethical Choice 😇

Choosing to travel ethically means more than not riding elephants and reusing your water bottle. As travellers, we need to ensure our presence doesn’t do more harm than good. If people feel exploited and don’t want us in their villages, we shouldn’t be there, period. 

If you want to see a traditional fishing village in Cambodia, I recommend heading to one of the floating villages on Tonlé Sap Lake, near Siem Reap. There are several community-led tours which allow visitors to have an insightful experience while still benefiting the people who live there.  It is important to do your research as some floating village trips from Siem Reap are unethical and should definitely be avoided!

👉 Kompong Khleang is a popular choice where the money from a tour is funnelled back into the local community to fund healthcare and vital infrastructure.

Food and Drink in Koh Kong 🍻🍔

While Koh Kong isn’t yet firmly entrenched in the Cambodian backpacking scene, its proximity to the Thai border and surprisingly large number of Western expats mean there is a range of food options to suit all tastes! 

I Love Pizza: If you’re craving a slice of Italy’s finest, you can’t go wrong with I Love Pizza. 🍕 Italian-owned and operated, watch the pizza take shape in front of your very eyes as you sip on a cold beer! 

I Love Pizza Koh Kong
The belting four cheese pizza at I Love Pizza!

Street Food Stalls: For a variety of local options, head to the right-hand side of Koh Kong Bridge. In the evening, the area around the park comes to life with vendors selling everything from sugarcane juice to BBQ!

Young, Wild and Free: Enjoy a Western meal with the sand between your toes at Young, Wild and Free. There’s a relatively small menu but everything they do, they do right! Don’t miss the Koh Kong Sausage! 🌭They also host a weekly movie night, so time your visit right and you’ll get to enjoy a meal and cinema on the beach!

Young Wild and Free Koh Kong
Dinner with a view at Young, Wild and Free!

Thmorda Crab House: A short journey across the bridge from Koh Kong City, Thmorda Crab House offers a large Thai menu as well as a range of western and seafood dishes. Service is notoriously slow but the food is delicious and the views are great – so settle in with a cold beer and enjoy the mangroves while you wait! 

De’ Village Coffee and Eatery: Koh Kong’s answer to Starbucks, this upscale coffee shop has an incredible range of teas, coffees, frappés and snacks – all in a beautifully air-conditioned building! 

De Village Coffee Koh Kong
If you’re craving a decent frappé, De Village is the place!

Crab Shack: Not far from Thmorda Crab House or Young, Wild and Free, Crab Shack serves a range of Cambodian seafood dishes. Settle in for sunset with a fresh crab or a massive helping of prawns! 

23 Koh Kong: Another expat-run business in the city, 23 Koh Kong delivers everything from home comforts like a full English breakfast to buffalo burgers. All food is prepared fresh onsite and the price-to-quality ratio is exceptional! 

Getting Around Koh Kong 🛺

Getting around Koh Kong City is easy. It’s a small place, so you can easily walk to wherever you need to go. But, if you’re staying outside the city, or want to explore some of the region’s attractions, you’ll need to arrange transport. 

Scooter hire is around $8USD per day but there are only a few places offering this service and they don’t have many scooters. Try to reserve one if possible – your accommodation will be able to tell you where to do this. Bicycle hire is another option, costing around $2-4USD per day. 

You can also arrange a tuk-tuk tour to take you to most of the main sights around the city; mangroves, waterfalls, fishing village, etc. These are generally customisable, so you personalise them as much as you want for approx. $25-30USD per day. 

Koh Kong Tuk Tuk
Tuk-tuks are readily available and you can hire them for the day!

How to Get to Koh Kong 🚌

From Phnom Penh:

Buses from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong leave daily. They cost $8-12USD per person depending on the company you book with. Most hostels in Phnom Penh don’t arrange bus tickets to Koh Kong because it’s not on the typical tourist route, so you may need to find the ticket office for yourself. 

We recommend Vireak Buntham. They’re on the higher end of the price range but the vehicles are never overfilled, have good air conditioning and they give a free bottle of water to all passengers. 

From Siem Reap:

There are two main ways to get from Siem Reap to Koh Kong. If you want to take a proper bus, you’ll need to go via Phnom Penh. There is usually a three-hour wait in Phnom Penh before you can get a second bus to Koh Kong – make sure you ask about this as it’s often not explained when you buy your ticket. This route costs around $20-25USD. 

The other, faster option is to take the new road that only opened in 2023. This is by no means an easy route. The road is generally unsealed and no public buses run along it from Siem Reap yet. But if you can make your way to Battambang – you should be able to arrange onward transport from there. Bear in mind that this can be expensive, costing between $60-$100USD for a car to take you.

From Sihanoukville:

Buses from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong run daily. They cost $14-16USD per person. Journey time is 4-5 hours. Vireak Buntham is the most reliable company offering this service. 

From Thailand:

The easiest way to get to Koh Kong from Thailand is via the Hat Lek border crossing. From Bangkok, your accommodation may be able to arrange transport tickets for you. The journey takes approx. 6-8 hours and costs around $20-50USD. 

If you need to arrange your own transport, head from Bangkok to Trat for around $9USD. 

From Trat, you can pick up a taxi or minibus to the border. You’ll then need to get another taxi or tuk-tuk from the Cambodian side into the city of Koh Kong. A taxi from Trat costs around $30USD with a tuk-tuk on the Cambodian side costing around $5-10USD. 

Where to Go Next: 🚐 🛥️

Thailand – Affectionately known as the ‘Land of Smiles,’ Thailand is backpacker ground zero. Many a trip has started or ended in this wonderful Southeast Asian country. Prepare for stunning beaches, amazing mountains, friendly people and some of the best food in the world! Nearby Koh Chang is a great starting point for your Thai backpacking adventure! Can’t decide between Thailand or Cambodia? Check out our handy guide to help you decide!

Koh Rong – Thanks to the ferry/bus route introduced in 2023, it’s now possible to travel from Koh Kong straight to Cambodia’s most popular island without needing to visit Sihanoukville. The bus takes around 3 hours with the boat taking a further 1-2 depending on sea conditions. If you’re travelling onto Koh Rong Samloem, you can pick up a boat from Koh Rong, although you’ll need to spend one night there and get a boat the following morning. 

Osoam Village – Nestled in the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, Osoam Village offers a fantastic opportunity for travellers wanting to get up close to nature and the tourism means would-be poachers now work as guides and conservationists. Accommodation and tours are very well priced. 

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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