Over the years, Koh Rong has gained the reputation as the Cambodia party island and place to be for backpackers. While that’s definitely true, there is so much more to this tropical paradise! So before you start sipping Anchor beer on the beautiful Koh Rong Beach there’s a few things you should know. Join us for the costs, best places to swim, and tips from our own experiences!
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Getting to Koh Rong Island
We’ve actually been to Koh Rong Cambodia twice! Once in 2015, and recently again 4 years later. It’s interesting to see the changes (and lack their of) that have taken place on the island.
For better or worse, it’s becoming a more and more popular area to travel. Here’s a look at what we wrote 4 years ago about what’s become known as the Cambodia party island.
Journey to Koh Rong Island in 2015
After only one day in the capital of Phnom Penh, we hopped on the very bumpy ride up the coast. Making it to the bus station, we immediately jumped in a tuk tuk and raced to the boat shop that sells the tickets.
We literally just made it with moments to spare! While it wouldn’t have been the worst thing staying in the more touristic city of Sihanoukville, we were desperate to get to the islands.
Thirty backpackers, ten locals, several animals, and enough supplies to feed a small army packed onto this small “slow boat” and took off into the distance. It wasn’t until later we found out there was even an option for a fast ferry which we ended up taking on the way home.
Nevertheless, there was something magical about getting to Koh Rong Cambodia by slow boat. As the boat made its way to Koh Rong beach, we really felt like we were traveling to some amazing deserted island.
Being on the slow and VERY authentic Cambodian boat put us in the right mindset.
Arriving on Koh Rong
We arrived on Koh Rong Island just as the sun was setting, and we had finally been transported to paradise! Let’s be clear. This island is fairly new to travelers! This means backpackers and tourists alike are flocking to it quicker than it can be developed.
Just picture filing off of this old wooden boat onto the single jetty that extends from Koh Rong island. When you come to the end, half a dozen hostels and restaurants stand before you… but then there is nothing!
No roads or big fancy Koh Rong hotels. Only the sand beneath your feet and the jungle forest! Everything feels old and worn here, but in a rustic beach way. Honestly, it’s the exact way you would want it to feel if you were deserted on a tropical island.
Back in Koh Rong Cambodia in 2019
Four years later, and we really upgraded our trip! We flew from Siem Reap after visiting Angkor Wat instead of taking a long overnight bus. To be fair, it’s not that we don’t take buses anymore (because that would be impossible in Asia).
What really happened is that the “good” bus company was sold out for the next few days. At this point we had already extended our trip in Siem Reap, and were excited to get back to the islands we remembered so fondly.
Arriving at the airport, we spent the night in to the small town of Otres beach, just outside of Sihanoukville. With an early morning wake up we headed straight for the ferry port. This time we didn’t leave from the sleepy slow boat dock, but from the hustle and bustle of the main pier.
Ferry to Koh Rong Cambodia
We eventually climbed onto a massive passenger ferry and took off. The trip was fast and smooth with the boat dropping and picking up people in Koh Rong Sanloem before continuing on to Koh Rong.
When we first got a glimpse of the Koh Rong beach we were happy to see that no mega resorts had taken over the main strip. There were still the same unfinished docks and bars along the sand we remembered, with a just a few more buildings added on.
Koh Rong Snack Tip
Before you enter the ferry dock to go to Koh Rong there are a handful of stands selling water, juices, and sandwiches. If you’re lucky, there will also be a women who we have found twice now set up right under the light poll.
She sells what we can only describe as Cambodian Bánh mì’s, and they are amazing! Filled with pork, different meats, and a vegetable slaw, this is the boat snack you need. Stock up before your boat ride to the islands!
→ You can now search the different ferries companies and pre book your tickets online when traveling from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong!
Quick Koh Rong Cambodia Tips
Money on Koh Rong Island
Funny thing and very important to know. Koh Rong Cambodia doesn’t have any ATM’s! There are a small handful of restaurants that take credit cards, but it’s best not to rely on that since almost none of the hotels do either.
If you get into a real jam a few places offer a cash back service on your credit card, but take a massive fee on top.
Luckily we took out twice as much money as we needed beforehand. We loved the islands so much that we extended our stay! Then we literally spent every dollar we had before returning to the mainland (whoops!)
Feel free to let us know in the comments if this has changed since 2019. Whatever the case, it’d be wise to stock up on cash before getting to the Cambodia party island.
Koh Rong Hotels: The Good, Bad & Ugly
It sucks to have to be the one to say this, but the hotels on Koh Rong are not great! There are one or two that are decent, but if you don’t book them weeks (or months) in advance you’re simply out of luck.
The main issue is there’s no difference between a $15 USD room and a $50 room. So even if you wanted to spend a little more to have something nicer, you can’t. Expect to pay the same or more as you do on the mainland, but get much much less for your money.
We paid double what we did on the mainland and stayed in one of the worst places we ever had. It was our bad for booking it last moment when everything was sold out, but you live and you learn!
Koh Rong Island and Koh Rong Sanloem Boat
There is a ferry system that runs between the main ports of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem. We love Koh Rong for a night or two, but in our opinion Koh Rong Sanloem is the ultimate paradise.
It’s way more laid back and a bit less of a Cambodia party island. Everyone has their own travel style, but you should definitely plan for enough time to see both.
- How to Visit Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem: Paradise Found!
- M’Pai Bay Cambodia: Why You Can’t Miss This Island Beach Town!
- How to Hike to the Beautiful Lazy Beach on Koh Rong Sanloem
3 Best Koh Rong Beaches
Koh Touch Beach
Koh Touch is popular for its central location to town. Walk all the way down to the furthest end of the beach to avoid the boats near the harbor. It’s the perfect place for a quick cool down and to relax without walking or hiking across the island.
Just a quick 15 minute walk from the main area of Koh Rong is the beautiful 4k beach. As the name suggests, its white sands stretch far into the distance for what seems like forever.
The easy access of 4k also makes it a favorite for many visiting the Koh Rong beaches. Everyone lays in the shallow water, drinks cold beers under the sun, and naps in the hammocks that scatter Koh Rong Cambodia.
Hands down, Long Beach is our favorite on the island of Koh Rong. We hiked there on our first visit to the island, and it was the top thing we were excited to do again!
Think about white sand as far as you can see, mixed with the most beautiful clear blue water. It doesn’t matter if you hire a boat, jump on a tour, or hike over to Long Beach. This is a must do while in Koh Rong Cambodia!
→ How to Get to Long Beach Koh Rong: Cambodia Island Paradise
Cambodia Party Island After Dark
Now this is where the truth comes out… Koh Rong is THE Cambodia party island! That is at least it is if you stay in the main bubble of town. Like we said it’s exploding with backpackers, and that is largely due to the fact that young party crowd has money to spend.
With hope to ramp up tourism, Cambodia is marketing it as the place to come and let loose. While some people might like this, we’re not sure it’s for us! To be honest, after seeing the wild stuff that happens on islands like Koh Phi Phi in Thailand we weren’t really up for the Koh Rong night life.
Police Beach Party on Koh Rong?
Just one more FYI about the Cambodia party island night scene on Koh Rong. There’s plenty of parties that are thrown nightly, but the biggest one is twice a week at Police Beach. Police Beach is rightfully named so because it’s also where the police station is located.
Yes, we’re serious. We can’t say for certain, but the police officers are rumored to take a cut allowing all kinds of nefarious activities to go down. The night we went they even had stuff that’s supposedly illegal in Cambodia available right there on the drink menu. All we can say is be careful what you ingest!
On Koh Rong you’ll be constantly offered tickets to the Police beach party while strolling around. This starts from the second you get off the boat to the moment you step foot inside your hotel. Now at least you know what it is!
Is Koh Rong Cambodia Worth Visiting?
Yes! Even though we may not have gelled with night scene of Koh Rong, it’s still totally worth visiting. The beaches and nature you’ll find during the day make it worth it for any traveler.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Cambodia, then make sure you get to the islands. Despite the crazy party scene, Koh Rong really is an awesome place for everyone to visit.
Getting to Koh Rong is easy from Sihanoukville with flights going there from all major Asian cities. Honestly, go now before its too late! Soon the beach clubs, fire shows, and copious amount of liquor will turn Koh Rong into the next tourist hub.
Where To Stay on Koh Rong Island
Ultra Luxury – The Royal Sands Koh Rong – Since Koh Rong is still so untouched, very few luxury resorts exist. The Royal Sands is one of the first of its kind to break ground, and features all the luxury amenities you’d expect at a five star resort. This is a great option if Koh Rong hotels are more your style. Not to mention, it’s private beach is one of the nicest you’ll ever see!
Fun Vacation – Coconutbeach Bungalows – If you need something more off the radar than the royal sands, check out this set of bungalows in Coconut beach! Offering a tranquil beautiful beach setting with a restaurant, you’ll never have to leave here if you so choose!
Hostel Life – Nest Beach Club – If you’re not up for camping on Long Beach Cambodia, you can always opt for the hostel life of Koh Rong beach. Nest beach club is a popular option with the incredible island setting you need!
Have any questions about Koh Rong Cambodia or your own island tips? Please share in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Cambodia Travel Planning
Cambodia: Make sure to check out all our Cambodia articles including our popular 2 to 3 Week Cambodia Itinerary! We cover everything from Siem Reap and Angkor Wat to the Kep Crab Market and Kampot boat tour!
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Wow wow wow. I live in Va And often visit hatteras which is my home from home. That whole area in North Carolina has Miles and miles of untouched beaches as u drive south 12 highway. Now it’s time to find a tropical beach like this. jus walk out and see no one for miles. Is this the way it is around there or is there people on every beach. Thank u
Hatteras sounds wonderful! Near the main town on Koh Rong the beach is busy, but you can still find plenty of space in the sand to enjoy. We also like to do the hike to Long beach for that beautiful untouched beach experience!
I will have 5 nights to spend on the Cambodian islands and I would like to spend 2 or 3 nights on Koh Rong. That means only enough time to stay at 1 place on Koh Rong Sanloem if I make the trip. If you could only choose one beach on Koh Rong Sanloem to stay at, which would it be? Also is it quite easy to get to/from the mainland when going to Koh Rong but returning from Koh Rong Sanloem?
Oh that’s a tough call… It really depends on what you’re looking for! Saracen Bay is bigger and has more restaurants and hotels where M’Pai Bay is a bit quieter and caters more to the backpacking crowd. I think Jake enjoyed M’Pai a tad more and I liked Saracen. Both of the beaches are insanely beautiful so you can’t really go wrong though! And yes, the high speed ferry goes directly from Koh Rong Sanloem back to the mainland. Hope that helps, enjoy ( :
Thanks for your advice! As a solo traveller I may go with M’Pai Bay for a slightly more backpacker vibe but it’s going to be a real tough decision haha. After reading more of your posts about the islands and checking accommodation options, I’m even wondering whether to just cut out Koh Rong (although it looks well worth visiting) and choosing both these locations on Koh Rong Sanloem. Do you think it would be shame to skip Koh Rong completely or a justified compromise given that I only 5 nights?
Koh Rong Sanloem was definitely more our style, but still think Koh Rong is worth visiting. There’s an amazing jungle hike to Long Beach which is one of the nicest beaches we’ve ever seen. Just watching the sunset from there is worth a trip to Koh Rong in itself! With that said, 5 nights on Sanloem doesn’t stink either… That’s a tough call. Maybe do 2 nights on Koh Rong and 3 nights on the other as long as you don’t mind taking the boats around. Good luck and let us know if you have anymore questions!
Thanks so much for the tips. And great blog with lots of info, I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts about Cambodia 🙂
Anytime! Glad you enjoyed them and we hope you have an amazing time in on the islands 🙂
Very informative, I’m planning a trip in Nov. Thanks for the info
Glad we could help! Make sure to go to Koh Rong Sanloem if possible, too.