Koh Rong – Cambodia’s Slice Of Paradise

Koh Rong Pier

Koh Rong, Cambodia

Paradise. There isn’t a better word to describe the backpacker hotspot of Koh Rong. The island, located off the coast of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, has only been on the radar for a couple of years; that is all it has needed to cement itself as one of the must-see destinations in all of South East Asia.

Koh Rong Rocks
Rocks on one of the isolated beaches of Koh Rong.

Just a 45 minute ferry ride from the mainland will have you sitting on beaches so beautiful they rival those found in Southern Thailand. Big scale development hasn’t hit the island yet (but be aware that there are serious talks of turning Koh Rong into the next Koh Samui), and as such most of the infrastructure is quite basic. The cheaper accommodations are comprised of rustic bamboo bungalows and timber-built guesthouses, such as our favourite place to stay on the island, Bong’s Guesthouse. Electricity is only turned on for certain hours of the day. There is a severe limit on the amount of fresh water available. These things just add to the atmosphere of being stranded on a beach island.

Koh Rong is not off the beaten path anymore. Thousands of backpackers now flock there every year for more than just relaxing beach time – they want to party. Koh Rong has developed a massive nightlife scene where the bars will be open until early hours dishing up potent cocktails and beers. All along the main beach from the pier are places that offer ‘happy’ shakes and cookies. Intoxicated and high travellers stroll up and down the sand enjoying themselves immensely. There always seem to be something going on and it can be hard to escape the wrath of Koh Rong’s notorious nights.

Looking for accommodation on Koh Rong? Book here with Agoda.com

Buffalo Beach Koh Rong
Even the buffalo like to hang out at the beach.
Koh Rong Accommodation
The view from our accommodation.

\Those who manage to actually wake up in the morning will find a whole array of activities to keep them busy all day. Kayaks can be rented for decent prices and used to paddle around the island. Jungle paths can be trekked to take you to isolated beaches, another world away from the drunken revellers spilling out of the bars. Stand-up paddleboards are available for those who want to practice their yoga poses out on the water. One of the funnest things to do is take part in an afternoon boat tour, which usually includes fishing, snorkelling, a cooked meal and plenty of alcohol to drink.

Isolated Beach Koh Rong
A stretch of beach with no one on it.

By far our favourite attraction was the presence of bioluminescent plankton in the waters surrounding Koh Rong. When the sun goes down you can head into the ocean to experience what fireworks look like underwater. The phosphorescence sparkles when you disturb the plankton with your arms or legs, lighting up like fireflies. The conditions in the Gulf of Thailand around Koh Rong are perfect to witness this phenomenon and you’ll never forget the first time you see it with your own eyes.

Koh Rong Beach
Koh Rong seems to have it all.
Koh Rong Island
Looking back at Koh Rong from a boat.

Unfortunately as I mentioned earlier there are plans to expand Koh Rong to become a huge luxury resort, complete with a ring road circling the entire island and an airport. With the way things are changing in South East Asia this looks like it could happen sooner rather than later. The locals and business owners are starting to get pushed out from their establishments, despite protests and environmental concerns. The time to go to Koh Rong is now, before it becomes another over-developed holiday destination for rich tourists. Don’t miss out on what this island has to offer for backpackers looking to truly enjoy this Cambodian paradise.

Or visit Koh Rong Samloem…

Washed Up Log Koh Rong
A log washed up on the beach.
Happy Koh Rong
Pretty happy to be on Koh Rong.
Bungalows Koh Rong
Some bamboo bungalows on the island.
Nomadasaurus Koh Rong
Hurry up and get here!
Picture of Alesha and Jarryd

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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22 thoughts on “Koh Rong – Cambodia’s Slice Of Paradise”

  1. Long Beach on Koh Rong is probably the prettiest beach that I have ever seen!Just WOW!
    Although it was a tough trekking to get there.
    Did you went to Long Beach?

    • Bummer! No we unfortunately didn’t. We will add that to our list for next time. Thank for the tip Stephanie. 🙂

  2. Hello Lesh and Jazza, thank you for all your great posts! Nomadasaurus has been a great research tool as I get ready for my first trip into Asia. I was wondering, what do you do with your motorcycles when you stay on islands such as Koh Rong? Do you bring them with or leave them on the mainland?

    • Hi Spencer, thanks for the comment and glad to hear our blog is helping you out!

      For Koh Rong we left our motorbikes at a guesthouse in Otres Beach. For Don Det in Laos we took them with us.

      Happy travels and ride safe!

  3. Hello. Thank you so much for writing about our island paradise Koh Rong – We need all the help we can get to keep spreading the good word! We are a non-profit, independent organisation created to help keep the Koh Rong Islands clean and help the local fishing communities. Would you mind sharing the link to our new guide to help our project? Your help would be very much appreciated! You can find our guide on Koh Rong here: https://kohrong.guide/

    Thank you!

  4. Camille and I went here during our 40 day trial run to long term travel and loved it. It was most def off the beaten track. There were also a lot of parties near the pier but we stayed at the treehouses. Glad to have been out there when we were. Hopefully the island develops veeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrry slowlllllllllly. Loved the post, brought back some memories.

    • Koh Rong will always hold a special place in our heart. Koh Rong Samloem is developing far slower than Koh Rong. Might have to head back to check that place out 😉 Thanks for reading Mark.

  5. I don’t know if you can help but am reaching out! My son is in Koh Rong not even sure what part of the island but had connections with Bamboo bar and has been in contact with the filming of “survivors” but I have not heard from him in over 3 months so am VERY concerned. If you can give me any info I would be ever so grateful!!! My sons name is Ryan Davis, is about 6′ 0 and has bright red hair. Thanks for ANY info

    • Hi Jan, we’ve been away from Koh Rong for quite a few months now, but we will ask some friends of ours who live and work on the island. If we hear anything, we will let you know.

      • Thank you!! I still have not a heard a thing so am very concerned!! Any information I can get will be very much appreciated!!

      • Hi Jazza & Lesh,

        I did find out my son is working at the zip line in Koh Rong and best of all I am going over there with my sister-in-law in Nov. to see him!! Yeah I am excited!! I have enjoyed reading about the travels you both have been doing. If you are ever around northern California please contact me. You are welcome to stay and there are LOTS of beautiful lakes and hikes around here

        • Hi Jan! Wonderful to hear that you found your son. Thanks so much for the offer as well of a place to stay in California! Very kind of you, and we may just take you up on that deal one day (we’ll bring the beer) 🙂

    • Hi Jan,
      I am currently in Koh Rong and have seen a few red heads. Can you send me a picture of your son?


  6. wow sand flies on every island like Ko Rong? no, actually. But you don’t seem to do much except follow the crowds and stay with your sponsors. Very useful for people who want to travel for real. Now I know where to avoid! Thanks SO MUCH!

    • Thanks for reading Mat. I dare say in the 1 year in Southeast Asia and 15’000km we’ve ridden across Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam that we’ve seen far less crowds than you have. And it’s hard to find sponsors when you are off-the-beaten-path. Can’t remember finding anyone in Nam Tra My that even had internet for example. Oh well, you keep trying to “travel for real” and let me know when you end up somewhere that isn’t so popular that travel bloggers write about it. If you are researching Koh Rong, you are failing at that. Happy travels mate 🙂

  7. We spend a week on Koh Rong earlier this year with our 1 year old daugther.

    What you are not telling in you post is Koh Rong is also sandflies, to much trash, no waste disposal, people who build anywhere. The locals and the long established hotels and bungalows are really not happy with all the drunk and drugs using tourists. We even saw topless sunbathing there. I would really not stay near the pier but as far away as possible. There the beach is still really beautiful and you don’t have to worry about getting sick from swimming in the dirty sea.

    Koh Rong is still beautiful and there is a lot of nice things to fo from diving to visiting a local school.

    • Thanks for reading, Tikva.

      Yes Koh Rong is full of sand flies, but the same can be said of any tropical island in most regions of the world. Unfortunately it is a negative we have to deal with to stay in paradise.

      As for the trash/waste disposal issues, it is a shame that this kind of thing happens. There are multiple daily waste removal boats that take the trash back to Sihanoukville (we saw them operating) but the waste generation far outweighs the cleanup. Again, this is not a problem that is confined to Koh Rong. You will find this everywhere in SE Asia, not just on the islands. And when the waste is removed from the island it just gets thrown in a landfill on the mainland. When Cambodia reaches the high standards of living that we are afforded in the ‘First World’, perhaps recycling and proper management will be put on the radar for them. Until then, they have bigger problems to worry about.

      We came into contact with many locals on the island, and became friends with a few of the business owners. For the most part having tourists frequent the island has improved their livelihoods and there are quite a few expats on the island who work closely with the villagers to improve services, education and medical systems there. Admittedly, Koh Rong has developed a lot faster than most places and unfortunately has attracted those ‘Banana Pancake’ drunken revellers. This, along with the topless sunbathing, really needs to be addressed on a large scale with travellers. Through our work with South East Asia Backpacker Magazine, and this site, Alesha and I will be publishing some new articles on respect whilst travelling which will hopefully address these concerns. People need to think before they act.

      Absolutely, the beaches away from the pier are much quieter and make for a more relaxing stay if partying is not your scene. With a 1 year old child, these areas would be ideal. Along with the diving and visiting the organisations and schools on the island, it can definitely be a perfect getaway. A lot of the bungalows on the backside of the island will even pick you up from Sihanoukville, so you don’t have to visit the backpacker havens close to the pier.

      Thanks very much for reading Tikva. Hope the rest of your holiday in Cambodia was a little bit more uplifting =)

  8. That buffalo is luckier than me! I agree this place is nothing short of a paradise. Beautiful pictures.

    • Tell me about it! Even the buffalo live the good life there! Thanks for reading our post Renuka.

  9. This place looks amazing and it will be a pity when it’ll turn into another resort and product of the mass tourism. Soon it’ll be almost impossible to find unspoiled places 🙁
    It seems like you guys were there at the perfect time!

    • It just means we’re going to have to venture off to more isolated locations to find these pieces of paradise. Development is destroying the planet, but a select few are getting incredibly rich from it. Hard to see the bigger picture when your wallet is growing. Maybe we should go check out some places off the West coast of Africa, perhaps?

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