Island paradises all over the world have slowly gained fame, thus sacrificing the qualities in which made them such dreamy destinations in the first place. Fret not, as there are still a handful of islands that remains relatively undeveloped and unspoiled: Cambodia’s southern islands. Backpackers and tourists alike blindly head to Sihanoukville, and it is there that they find themselves disappointed with the overwhelming number of sexpats in an overall seemingly sleazy area. Head just an hour or so off these seedy shores, however, and visitors will come across some of the most beautiful islands, we think, in the world. Here, an island-hopping guide to Cambodia.
Visitors making their way from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville should be ready to leave just as soon as they arrive. There are several speedboats and ferries that will take tourists to the first island on our itinerary, Koh Rong. The best pier to get a boat at is at the Serendipity Pier. The time it takes to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong on the ferry completely depends on the driver and whether or not they are on schedule. Plan accordingly as to not miss any connecting ferries or night buses on the way back.
The main party hub of the island is just off the Koh Toch Pier in Koh Rong. Visitors will be greeted by an entire shoreline of hostels and bungalows, all catered to young travelers and backpackers. Private, double bed bungalows can be upwards of $40, but private rooms can be as cheap as $15 for those travelers who are comfortable sleeping without air conditioning. As always, dormitory rooms are the cheapest, being as little as $5 in some hostels located right on the water.
The Koh Toch Pier is a great area for those hoping to socialize with other travelers as well as enjoy Koh Rong’s dreamy beaches with a cocktail in hand. There are plenty of beachside restaurants and bars, and there is even a sky bar that sits several flights of stairs into the jungle, where visitors can get some of the best views of the ocean. Those looking for something a bit more secluded should steer clear of the Koh Toch Pier on Koh Rong. There are plenty of bungalows around the island not found at this busy pier that are perfect for those travelers seeking something a bit more quiet.
Be wary of the food in Koh Rong. Many travelers who venture to the island end up getting sick to their stomachs. Whether it be from cross-contamination of bad meat after the power has gone out (which happens frequently) or unsanitary water, be very careful as to what you are putting in your mouth. Some things that will help you keep from getting sick is to only eat food that has to be cooked prior to serving it. While munching on fried food through the entirety of your stay on the islands might sound too unhealthy to handle, visitors will be relieved when they don’t get sick, as many visitors of these islands oftentimes do.
If you are looking to stay somewhere off the beaten path on Koh Rong, Nature Beach is a secluded, private getaway from the onslaught of tourists trudging through the sand at the Koh Toch Pier. Be warned that Nature Beach’s accommodations consist of tents, both on the ground and on wooden platforms. Channel your inner outdoorsy gene and go for it; sleeping in a tent is not as bad as you think, especially for $5 a night.
If you want something even more secluded and quiet, be sure to head to Koh Rong Samloem before your journey ends in Cambodia. The area is more local, there are fewer tourists and the beaches here are not to be missed.
One of the most noteworthy things to do on the island is to swim with plankton. There are ample beaches here where visitors can both swim with and see a swarm of plankton shining brightly in the otherwise black water, so grab a flashlight and head to the shoreline at around 10 p.m. to experience it.
Kayaking is a must-do attraction on the island of Koh Rong Samloem, where the waters are graced with sporadic land masses, making it an intriguing place to explore on water. Visitors can also rent snorkeling gear for only $3 and head for the open water solo. There are many sea urchins, however, so be sure to stay clear (enough) of the coral.