Once known among backpackers as a little-known and unspoilt paradise, it is fair to say there has been a lot of change in Koh Rong, Cambodia over recent years. It has been eight years since my first visit to the island and in this time, the landscape has changed dramatically. Roads have been carved through the jungle, resorts have sprung up all over the palm-fringed beaches and new infrastructure means that electricity is available around the clock.
While development is present everywhere you look, the white sand and impossibly clear water still make Koh Rong a Cambodian island well worth visiting. Famous for its hedonistic party scene, excess is abundant for those who want it – however, there are plenty of quiet enclaves for those seeking a relaxing break.
No matter what you’re seeking from your visit to Koh Rong, this comprehensive guide, written by a repeat visitor, will help you find it.
Koh Rong Map & Resources
Koh Rong, Cambodia – Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Koh Rong, Cambodia
The best time to visit Koh Rong is from November to March. During this time, the days are hot, though humidity is lower than at other times of the year. Visitors are always encouraged to check the forecast before they visit as climate change is causing freak weather events to occur more often, disrupting travel to the islands.
December and January are peak months for tourism and those seeking a Christmas or New Year escape will want to book in advance, particularly for more premium resorts.
Where to Stay in Koh Rong, Cambodia
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Once upon a time, before Koh Rong hit the mainstream, all the easily accessible accommodation options were clustered around Koh Tuch where the ferry from Sihanoukville docks. However, the introduction of resorts and roads means that the island is accessible in a way it never used to be. As such, a range of accommodation options have popped up all over.
Despite this, The Koh Tuch strip is still the number one spot for shoestring backpackers and is crammed full of budget digs and obnoxiously loud bars. Fire shows take place nightly and the nearby restaurants are tailored to Western palates, with deals on pizza, chips and burgers.
Koh Tuch is THE place for backpackers looking to party in paradise – however, be aware that the most budget accommodation in the village is varying levels of cheap and cheerful, with some more shabby than others. To find the backpacker hotspots, look out for the signs advertising free shots and sometimes happy cookies (though we didn’t see the latter on our most recent visit).
Further up the Koh Tuch strip towards the beach, there are some nicer accommodation options including Dream Resort and Happy Beach Bungalows, however, visitors sucked in by the idyllic photos should remember that the party goes on til late here…
Good to Know!
Long Set Beach, also known as 4km Beach, is a better alternative when it comes to accommodation. This is one of the island’s most beautiful strips of sand and while there are a few accommodation options to suit all budgets, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic in the same way as Koh Tuch. The beach is pretty lively and a very popular spot with day trippers but quiet spots can be found, especially towards the end of the bay.
If you’re looking for resort-style accommodation, a few gems offer great value for money. Palm Beach is a beautiful and quiet area in the northeast of the island. It’s an ideal base for those travelling with children and couples seeking a more relaxing stay. Long Beach, also known as Sok San Beach, is also home to a few well-rated resorts.
📶 Island WiFi Woes…
7 Amazing Places to Stay in Koh Rong
1. Mad Monkey – Long Set Beach
If you’re looking to party with like-minded backpackers, Mad Monkey is the place for you. Offering a mix of dorms and bungalows, their Koh Rong offering sits on the shores of the beautiful 4km Beach. Make the most of the volleyball court and get the drinks in at Happy Hour!
2. Palm Beach Resort – Palm Beach
If you want to set up base in a more quiet part of the island, Palm Beach is a great premium option. With a private beach, plus comfortable beach bungalows and an outdoor bar – Piña Coladas are just a stone’s throw away! Offering family bungalows too, this is a good choice for those travelling with the kids in tow.
3. Vagabonds – Koh Tuch Village
If you want a place to crash after a night on the lash, Vagabonds offers basic rooms and dorms right on the Koh Tuch strip. Best known for the super friendly staff and the banging café downstairs, they also take walk-ins – making this a great choice for backpackers looking to meet others flying by the seat of their pants.
4. Firefly Guesthouse – Prek Svay Village
Benefiting from a more local setting in Prek Svay Village, Firefly Guesthouse offers budget-friendly digs away from the majority of tourists. This fishing village, located in the north of the island, offers travellers the chance to see how the locals of Koh Rong live.
5. Lonely Beach Resort – Lonely Beach
For the perfect mix of adventure and tranquillity, look no further than Lonely Beach Resort. Offering private bungalows within eyeshot of the beach, this is a part of the island that few travellers bother to explore. The host makes a stay here great but banging food in the restaurant also helps!
6. Golden Beach Resort – Long Beach
Nestled on Long Beach, Golden Beach Resort is perfect for those seeking a little more luxury from their time on the island. The staff are extremely helpful and can arrange onward travel to other islands or back to the mainland. The highlight is naturally the breathtaking beach (the best in Koh Rong!) but the apartments ain’t half bad either.
7. Song Saa Private Island Resort – Song Saa Island
A private island just off Koh Rong, there is only one accommodation offering here – the swanky Song Saa Private Island Resort. Let’s be real, it ain’t cheap but if you want to experience a couple of nights in the ‘Maldives of Cambodia’ it may be worth the splurge.
Good to Know!
Things to Do in Koh Rong, Cambodia
1. Clock on to Island Time
Honestly, one of the best things to do in Koh Rong is nothing at all. Beautiful beaches dot the island’s shores and with a plethora of palm trees offering respite from the sun, reading a book with a spectacular backdrop is truly a great way to spend the day. An e-reader always makes it onto my packing list but plenty of the accommodations and restaurants have book exchanges so keep your eyes peeled for a good read!
2. Hire a Motorbike
In the days of old, hopping on board one of the extortionately priced taxi boats was the only way to explore the many beaches on Koh Rong. However, now that there is a ring road looping around the island, these idyllic spots are more accessible than ever before.
Rental is offered at most guesthouses or resorts and costs around $10/15USD a day (including fuel). Helmets are usually included in this but if you are not given one, you should insist. While the main road is smooth and wide, making it ideal terrain for those not well practiced on two-wheels, there are a lot of sandy areas which can catch inexperienced beach riders off-guard.
3. Beach Hop
There are some truly stunning beaches across Koh Rong. During your time on the island, make sure you check out Long Set Beach (4km Beach), Long Beach (Sok San Beach), Koh Tuch Beach and White Beach. While many travellers like to hit a few of these in one day on a motorbike, it is better to take a tuk tuk if you want to make a day of it – that way you can enjoy a few beers as well.
Sandflies rule the beaches of Koh Rong and can be a nuisance. The best way to avoid their bites is to apply coconut oil. You will find this in many of the island’s shops, particularly those in Koh Tuch.
4. Swim in the Bioluminescence
Koh Rong is famous for its bioluminescent plankton which create thousands of tiny flashes in the sea under a starry sky. A truly breathtaking experience, it is only possible to experience bioluminescence in areas with very little light pollution. The best time is before the moon is out or during a Black Moon phase. Boat trips depart from Koh Tuch every evening around 7 pm and cost approximately $5USD per person.
5. Hike to Lonely Beach
Although it is possible to ride a scooter to this beach, the walk is really nice and doesn’t take that long. Head along the road towards Prey Svay Village and turn left at the sign for Lonely Beach. From there, you can follow the well-marked track to the parking area. The whole trek takes around 40 minutes to an hour from the road.
When you reach the beach, don’t follow the track to the left. This leads to Lonely Beach Resort and there is very little beach to speak of here. Instead, turn right to find a space to pitch up on the sand. This beach is under-visited compared to many others on the island – get there early for fewer people.
If you want to enjoy a can of beer on the beach, you can head to the nearby Lonely Beach Restaurant (part of the resort mentioned earlier) and buy cans to take away. Always make sure to take any rubbish back with you to dispose of responsibly.
6. Kayak Through the Mangroves
Run by the Prek Tasok Ecotourism Community, this extensive mangrove forest is one of the best examples of this landscape that you will find in Cambodia. Immaculately clean and completely plastic-free, the locals pride themselves on green living here.
It costs around $2USD to enter the community and kayak rental is approx. $10USD (holds two people). As well as kayaking through the mangroves which I highly recommend, you can also explore via the boardwalk.
7. Chase Some Waterfalls
Koh Rong is home to a couple of beautiful waterfalls in secluded jungle spots. Some can be hiked to independently whereas others are a little more elusive and require some local expertise to locate.
Prek Svay Waterfall is arguably the most impressive on the island but challenging to find. There is also Varisan Nureach Waterfall, located behind Sok San Village. Note that if you are visiting during the dry season, the waterfalls are not really worth visiting – they run dry during peak months.
8. Hop on a Boat Trip
Available from numerous hostels and tour agencies in Koh Tuch, these boat trips are a great way to see the island for those limited on time. They usually leave in the afternoon and take visitors to a range of beaches over the island.
Snorkelling is usually included, meaning you get to take in the views both in and out of the water. If it is underwater life you seek, the best area to snorkel on the island is Lonely Beach, however, enthusiasts may want to splash out on the day trips to Pineapple Island where the underwater life is most impressive.
A visit here will not be included in the standard boat trip package. If you cannot find a specific snorkel tour, it is also possible to arrange a private boat transfer to Pineapple Island, usually costing from $70USD.
The most popular half-day boat tours usually take in sunset views and finish later in the evening, providing travellers the opportunity to experience the bioluminescence before they depart. Boat trips usually cost around $15USD per person.
9. Go Diving
Compared to other diving hotspots in Southeast Asia, Koh Rong and the other Cambodian islands are regularly overlooked, largely due to their proximity to the mainland. However, that isn’t to say that there are no dive opportunities here.
A range of dives are available across Koh Rong, from shore fun dives (approx. $45USD), and boat fun dives (approx. $65USD). Expect your Open Water Course to start at around $425USD with the Advanced qualification costing around $375USD. Dive shops are located in Koh Tuch and also at Lonely Beach.
10. Kayak to Pagoda Island
Floating off the shores of Koh Tuch and Long Set beaches is Pagoda Island, a tiny islet topped by a pagoda. Aside from the pagoda itself, there is nothing here except for beautiful jungle and the odd monk.
You can reach the island by kayak, which can be rented from a range of places along Long Set and Koh Tuch, costing around $5USD per hour or $15USD per day. There are also clear kayaks available which add the novelty factor to the journey! It takes around an hour to paddle there and back but this doesn’t account for sea conditions (it can get very windy on Koh Rong) or time spent on the island.
11. Check Out the Song Saa Sandbanks
There are some beautiful sandbanks just a short walk up from Palm Beach Resort and accessible from the road which heads towards Prek Svay Village. Located opposite Song Saa private island and only accessible between high and low tide, these sandbanks create an Instagram-perfect landscape – ideal for that holiday photoshoot you’ve been hoping for (even though you’d never admit it).
11. Get Messy
No guide to Koh Rong would be complete without mentioning the absolute legendary party scene that the island has long been known for. Alcohol is cheap and plentiful across the island with pretty much all hospitality businesses offering Happy Hour.
While it is easy to find a party in Koh Rong, travellers shouldn’t miss Long Set Beach’s Funky Beach Club or Nest Beach Club, both of which host Full Moon Parties like the kind Koh Phangan made famous. Free shots, fireworks, cage dancing and fire shows all feature and make for a wild night!
Also read: Banging Party Destinations in Southeast Asia.
12. Volunteer with Friends of Koh Rong
Offering both short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities, this is the organisation to seek out if you have fallen in love with Koh Rong and don’t want to leave.
They are always recruiting qualified teachers to help with their education programs (two-month commitment required). There are also health projects as well as community-based work to get involved with. The NGO is passionate about reducing the environmental impact of tourism in Koh Rong and run regular beach clean-ups which anyone can get involved with.
14. Take a Day Trip to Koh Rong Sanloem
I’ll level with you here, Koh Rong Sanloem is worth so much more time than a day trip can allow. Its powdery white sands, relaxing vibe and coconut-clad beaches are well worth losing a few days to. However, if you’re tight on time and can’t bear the thought of missing out on visiting, a day trip is better than nothing.
Still not sure Koh Rong is the Cambodian Island for you?
Koh Rong vs. Koh Rong Sanloem – Which is Right For You?
Food and Drink on Koh Rong
There is a lot of outdated information online about restaurants in Koh Rong. A lot of well-rated eateries were victims of the pandemic and the food and drink scene on the island has changed a fair bit as of late. The legendary Koh Lanta, Bamboo and Eat Pray Love have all sadly closed. Despite this, there are still great places to eat and drink scattered all over the island.
Bear in mind that if you are staying at a resort outside Long Set Beach or Koh Tuch, you will likely eat the majority of your meals there – restaurants are few and far between outside the main tourist hubs but the food is generally good quality.
Pura Vita Restaurant – Long Set Beach
Set on a truly breathtaking part of Long Set Beach, the restaurant owned by Pura Vita Resort is well worth a look. With tables both inside and outside (though some are thankfully in the shade), this is a great place to pitch up. There are a range of dishes on offer including budget-friendly pizza.
White Rose Guesthouse – Koh Tuch Beach
The service is slow, but the food is worth the wait here. There is comfortable seating upstairs, on the ground level and outside on the sand. Breakfast is where White Rose really excels – don’t miss the yoghurt fruit bowls. Travellers staying at the associated guesthouse get 10% off food.
Lonely Beach Restaurant – Lonely Beach
Offering a range of Khmer and Western dishes, plus mouthwatering shakes (and beer), this tucked-away jungle shack is known for its warm hospitality and varied menu. The tapas dishes offer a refreshing change from fried rice and noodles and the chicken sandwiches are great.
Funky Beach Hostel – Long Set Beach
The party continues all night long at Funky Beach where you can dance, jive and quite simply, have the time of your life! Cage dancing takes place every night and there is also fire jump rope – not advisable after a few beers but hey, you do you!
Nest Beach Club – Long Set Beach
The hub of party culture on the island, Nest Beach Club is the place for fun-seeking backpackers. They host a range of events, from Full Moon Parties to Nestival, a weekly event that promises lots of laughs and plenty of booze.
Lily’s Riverhouse – Prek Svay
Offering a range of reasonably priced Khmer and Western favourites, this hidden gem is loved by all who stumble upon it. Family-owned, there is also the opportunity to eat delicious vegetarian food – something not always easy to come by in Cambodia!
Getting Around Koh Rong
There is a ring road which goes around the island. Most of it has now been finished, however, the stretch which joins Long Set Beach with Koh Tuch is not sealed, making it a very rough ride not recommended for those on motorbikes (although all the locals use this route). Motorbikes are the most popular way to get around the island and can be rented from your accommodation.
Tuk tuks can also transport you to different parts of the island, just flag someone down or ask your accommodation to arrange transport for you. Prices vary depending on where you are travelling but can be quite expensive. Taxi boats are also available to transport you to other parts of the island. Agree a price before hopping in.
How to Get to Koh Rong
Sihanoukville acts as the gateway to Cambodia’s southern islands. Since a wealth of Chinese investment transformed the once-beach-paradise into casino central, there really is no other reason to head to this part of Cambodia’s coast, except to escape to one of the islands.
Speed ferries depart from a range of piers (depending on the ferry company) and are operated by Speed Ferry Cambodia, GTVC and TBC Speed Boat. A return ticket to Koh Rong costs between $20-25USD. Schedules vary depending on the season but there are usually at least two a day, with a morning and afternoon offering. Ferry prices drop between April and October.
If you have a return ticket, you should make sure that you validate it at the ferry office in Koh Tuch the day before you are due to travel. This ensures that you have a seat. If you have travelled from Koh Rong Sanloem or Koh Kong and don’t have ticket to Sihanoukville, you can purchase one from these same ticket offices.
Alternatively, it is possible to get the slow boat from Sihanoukville (3 hours) if you are looking to save on some cash. It isn’t the safest or most comfortable journey but a return is half the price of the speed boat.
Those travelling from Koh Rong Sanloem will find daily water taxis to Koh Rong, costing between $5-10USD on average. These depart from Saracen Bay and also M’Pai Bay.
If you are coming from Koh Kong, Boonsiri run a bus/boat service which takes around four hours (three hours on the bus and an hour’s sea crossing). These tickets are expensive at around $35USD per person but also include a taxi shuttle to the part of the island where you are staying. If you don’t want to do the journey this way, the only other way to access Koh Rong from Koh Kong is to first travel to Sihanoukville and then come across on the ferry from there.
Where to Go Next:
Koh Kong: A little-visited part of Cambodia that acts as the gateway to the Cardamon Mountains. Trekking, waterfalls and authentic fishing villages dot the countryside. If you want to cross into Thailand, Koh Kong is the best place to do this.
Koh Rong Sanloem: The sister island to Koh Rong, this tropical escape is popular with couples and laidback travellers looking for lazy beach days. While development has made it to the island, it retains much of its charm (so far) making it a much better choice than other nearby coastal spots.
Kampot: Home to Cambodia’s best pepper, the laidback hippie town of Kampot has become a popular spot with travellers. Explore the countryside on two wheels, tour the pepper plantations or embark on a yoga retreat for a few days.