You can’t go wrong on Koh Rong!
We love love loved our time spent on the island paradise of Koh Rong. It was a perfect way to get out of the hectic concrete jungle we live in, and just relax. Cambodia’s beaches and islands frequently get passed up in favor of Thailand’s more tourist friendly shores. We understand the appeal, those beaches are more developed, and have more traffic making for bigger parties. We were not looking for those things though, we just wanted a scenic getaway. A little research was all it took to find this gem of a place. It had everything we were looking for. We wanted a green space, not crowded by selfies and Tuk-Tuk cat calls. Cambodia is still developing so there a lot that isto be desired in the waste removal system around their cities and villages. Koh Rong was a far cry from the trash of the urban areas.
The trip to Koh Rong was a little exhausting. Which is to be expected any time you leave the city. We wanted to get the most out of our trip so we left after Kate finished teaching for the day. Grabbed a 5:30pm bus and we were off. So the bus system is pretty extensive in Cambodia. There is a plethora of options that can range anywhere from $9-$20. This depends on the bus company you use and time of day you leave. There are also the options of taking personal taxi which get you there about an hour or so sooner, but run about $40. This might be a more reasonable price if you are traveling with a friend. The bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is roughly 5 and a half hours. They do stop twice to let everyone off for restroom needs and to grab food. We used PSD Express for this trip which cost $11 USD each for a one way ticket, and absolutely loved it. Free Wi-Fi, snacks, water, power outlets, and a toilet on the bus. Most of the travelers on this bus were westerners traveling to Sihanoukville for fun during the long holiday weekend. After the six hours of driving we finally arrived in Sihanoukville. Unfortunately, we were unable to grab a boat to the island that late at night. We planned ahead and booked a guest house. We stayed at Small Hotel which was close to where out bus dropped us off. The room was nice, clean, and had all the amenities we could have needed for a single night of sleep. The place we stayed was on the north of the island, Palm Beach. They run their own ferry service, since it’s more remote.
If I were to describe the island of Koh Rong itself I’d break it into two parts. Those sections would be the somewhat remote bungalow villages and then the more populated Koh Touch beach. While every portion of this island is literally a tropical paradise, we opted for the more remote section. We heard tell that Koh Touch has earned a reputation as a party beach, with bungalows lined up next to each other providing for ample
parties, drinking, and frivolity. While that is super popular with the backpacking crowd, we wanted something a bit quieter. We opted for the more
secluded bungalow beach side.
Many of the travel blogs about Koh Rong focused only on the party beaches of Koh Touch, so we were not sure exactly what we we
re in for. We are so glad we took that gamble though. It turned out to be perfect for us. Palm Beach was quiet enough to be peaceful and relaxing, but with a large enough community to not be bored. We ended up having an amazing time. Some of the same things we likely could have done on the more populated side of the island, but with way fewer people. Hiking to gorgeous jungle waterfalls, kayaking clear blue water, beach volleyball, and so on. We even achieved one of Kate’s lifelong dreams, swimming with phosphorescent plankton. I’m not even joking when I say that they are her favorite animal. It was magical.
If we went again we think we’d like to stay on Long Beach. It’s on the western side of the island, and is apparently just gorgeous. It’s also a little easier to get to, with more than one ferry service. That might be something in our future, especially if we are feeling a little too confined in the city again. Beach living always helps.
1- Stay in one of the quiet parts of the island. Unless you’re looking for a rocking beach party every night (right outside your absolutely not soundproof bungalow), the quiet life is the best way to go. Read reviews of places to stay, and find one that doesn’t seem like a flophouse for naps between raves. This island is beautiful and scenic, and it would suck if a hangover got in the way of you enjoying that.
2- Get out and explore on your own. We found that the best times we had were not with organized programs, but were when we struck off on our own. This helped us really get to see the unique things the island had to offer, and not be worried about someone else’s time table. Though it is really nice that guesthouses will offer activities for visitors, it’s nice to explore solo. We would however recommend making sure to get good directions, so you don’t get lost (like we did).
3- Visit in a dry part of the year. While our trip was amazing, it was during the peak of rainy season. When it rains it pours in southeast Asia, and that water has to go somewhere. A lot of it ends up in the Gulf of Thailand, where Koh Rong is located. That made the waters a little murkier than normal, and as a result the snorkeling was really limited. Our guesthouse wasn’t taking people out on trips because of the poor conditions, and there wasn’t a ton to see from shore. So if you’re into the fishes we would recommend going when there’s been a break in the rain, if at all possible.
All told, we loved this trip. It made us fall even more in love with this country. It was a perfect getaway on a long weekend. The clear air, and greenery helped us get over some of our concrete jungle blues. Koh Rong was perfect for us, and Palm Beach, as one of the quieter beaches fit us well.