Once you step off the boat onto the island of Koh Rong, Cambodia, you’ll be transported into a world of beauty that you never could of imagined existed. It will only take a few short hours after you arrive before hearing someone mention the words “Long Beach.” Having gone to the Cambodian islands on a whim, we had done little to no research, when we first heard someone describe “heaven on earth.” After spending the first night hearing countless whispers about this mysterious beach, we had to find out what the hype was about.
Now we have seen countless beautiful beaches around the world, and while I have described several as the best we’ve ever seen, Long Beach is truly different. Maybe it’s the deep seclusion it provides or the adventurous hike that takes you there, but one thing is for certain. Long Beach holds its own against any beach paradise in the world!
What exactly is Long Beach?
Simple question with an equally simple answer. On the opposite side of the island, far away from the dozens of hostels dotting the coastline, hides the infamous Long Beach. Cut off from almost all civilization, the clear aqua blue water beach stretches for miles, and the sand is so soft it melts like butter between your toes.
However, don’t think a destination like this is just going to be handed to you! Your adventure to paradise begins with a grueling hike!
We’re no stranger to hiking and have done our fair share of it, but honestly this was hard. Maybe it was the 100 degree heat, or not knowing what was actually waiting for us at the end, but this will not be a casual walk through the jungle. Leaving the main town of Koh Rong, you travel on a dirt path that cuts up the mountain side. Ignore the steps that are made of random old planks of wood, and strange water that we can only assume is sewage that you have to travel over as you make your way out of town. Arriving at the top of the first steep incline, you’ll be greeted with the beautiful view below! Now the fun is about to begin!
Your next hour will be spent climbing, crawling, and traversing boulders, as you literally move to make your way up and over the island. About half way to Long Beach in the dense Cambodian jungle is when reality will hit you. Everyone that we talked to in passing had been so mesmerized by the final destination, that they had failed to really explain the intensity of the hike. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVED the adventure…. but some other travelers we passed in bikini’s and flip flops were not feeling the same excitement! Just be smart. While you’re going to an AMAZING beach, you literally have to climb up and over the entire jungled island to get there. Make sure to pack hiking boots or sneakers, and lots of water.
As you come towards the end of the hike you will be tired, dripping in sweat, and most likely about to faint. The good news that I haven’t told you yet, is that you don’t have to do the hike on the way back! Every night during the magical sunset, fisherman from all over the island come in small boats and offer rides back to the main town. Even for the most frugal of backpackers, now is not the time to be a cheapskate! The hike is hard enough during the day, and there’s no way this should ever be attempted while your sunlight is dwindling.
Boom! The work is over, it’s time to relax in paradise!
While many people would plop down and spend the entire afternoon soaking in the water, for some strange reason we decided to walk long beach. Yes the entire stretch! While 90% of Long Beach is unpopulated, at the farthest tip is a small beach hotel and a permanent camp for the French version of the reality show “Survivor.” Funny enough, they were actually filming the American Survivor while we were there! Did I try to sneak up the coastline and see what was going on? Of course, but the Cambodian guards with large guns didn’t appreciate that!
Camping on Long Beach
Want to know the wildest thing about Long Beach? It’s a safe haven for campers! The entire beach was scattered with pop-up tents and makeshift campsites. At one point, a girl (who to be honest looked like she had spend one too many days in the sun) was begging us to take over her camping spot. It was complete with her tent, fire pit, and jars of rice and beans. I guess that’s the way of the island! When you’re done, just pass on your spot to the next traveler who sets up camp until their days on Long Beach come to an end.
For all of you wondering, we did not take her campsite. It was one of those wild spur of the moment experiences where I found myself thinking. Hmmm… should we just stop on this beach in the middle of Cambodia and live in this random girls tent? However, with all of our belongings in the safety of our bungalow back in the main town, we had to pass.
The golden hour. That magical time of day when the sun is setting, and the fading light turns everything perfect. I kid you not, everything is more beautiful on Long Beach! While the beach may have felt secluded during your afternoon hours, there is a strange force that takes place during sunset. Everyone is pulled to the beginning of the beach (where you enter from the path) as travelers drink cold refreshing beers sold by the locals and take in the incredible view.
I may have had a slight panic attack about missing a boat back to town, driven by the frightening reality that we would could have to make the strenuous hike again. Learn from my mistake and don’t freak out! While the sun is setting, dozens of boys and men will try to solicit you to take their boat back into town. This is also when you can negotiate the price. I mean, I know that saving a dollar might not feel like much now. But when you realize that is the price of a meal you will quickly find yourself fighting over pennies. You’ll easily be able to tell which Captain’s hustled the hardest. Some boats will be packed to an illegal and unsafe capacity, while others might only have a few. Just remember, a stay on the island of Koh Rong is not complete without catching a sunset at Long Beach, but you don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!
Tips to Remember:
- You are hiking up and over the island of Koh Rong so be smart.
- There is only one place to buy food and water at the start of the beach, and it’s not always open. With that said, make sure to pack enough provisions for your entire day.
- Camping equipment including hammocks and tents can be rented in town.
- It is HOT and there is almost no shade. Sunblock, hats, and water are a must!
- Stay for the sunset!
- Take a boat back to town! Not only is it super cheap, but it’s amazing to see the island from the water.
- GO NOW! One sad fact that I didn’t touch on is that they JUST started to develop Long Beach. It will only be a matter of years before plush resorts take over the stretch and all the campers are exiled. Time is running out, so if you want to see this paradise before it becomes another travelers slum like Koh Phi Phi, don’t wait!