A fishing village turned ultimate holiday destination, Koh Rong Island is the next big destination in South East Asia. Prepare to have you life changed. With over 43 kilometers of white sand beaches, bathwater warm turquoise water, coconut trees lining the shore, and an eclectic mix of locals from all over the world- this is the ultimate holiday spot in Cambodia.
To get there, hop on a speedboat ferry from the southern town of Sihanoukville. After about 45 minutes, you’ll arrive on the shores of this gorgeous and relatively undeveloped island. No roads here, just beaches so take off your shoes and get to exploring.
To the left of the main pier is Koh Toch village where locals live, children play, and chicken wander. To the right are western-style bars and guesthouses known for their tasty food and eccentric parties. Both directions will lead you to stunning beaches with crystal clear, warm water and both budget and snazzy accommodation in the form of guesthouses, homestays, and dorms. For once, ‘beachfront’ actually means beachfront.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Koh Rong Island:
1. Zip Line through the Jungle
Get in touch with your inner spirit animal that loves heights, speed, and climbing around the rainforest securely strapped into a safety harness. High Point Zip Line is the most thrilling ropes course and zip line that you’ll come across during your whole SEA excursion.
Join one of the super experienced guides who will take you on an adventure through a creatively designed course that involves climbing, swinging and sliding high above the forest floor. I warn you, though, this course is intense. If you freak out and freeze, don’t worry- you’re not the first. The guides are also quite experienced in the art of calming reassurance.
2. Go on a Boat Trip
Beaches, bikinis and beers- that’s what you came here for, right? Get it all on a Koh Rong Boat Trip.
Hit the crystal waters with Adventure Adam Boat Tours for a full day of fun. This long tail excursion gives you glimpses into island life that you couldn’t possibly experience from the shore. In between the best snorkel spots and whitest sand beaches, you’ll have the chance to visit local villages and buy homemade snacks and treats.
From 9am, you’ll join a group of other eager travelers who have signed up for the boat trip, making this an ideal adventure for solo travelers. The tour includes a big Cambodian BBQ lunch, snorkel gear, life jackets, beers, and whiskey to make for the best day ever on Koh Rong.
3. Sun Bathe on White Beach
Right at the foot of Koh Rong’s guesthouses, bars, and restaurants lies White Beach. It takes zero effort to crawl out of bed, throw on your suit and flop down under the sun with a towel and a good book. The sand is powdery soft and the sea is almost always bathwater warm. In between sunning sessions, you can run into the water to cool off.
There are some shady palm trees for when you get too hot, vendors selling ice cold coconuts when you get thirsty, and volley ball nets when you get antsy.
Pro Tip: Don’t swim too close to the piers as the water tends to be a bit contaminated in that area.
4. Join in on a Beach Clean Up
Not only is the beach clean up a great way to meet new people, but it also gives you a chance to give back to the island that gives so much to you.
KREA (Koh Rong Ecological Alliance) is run by a mix of local Cambodians and some island expats who are dedicated to keeping the island clean, the animals safe, and educating the local kids about how they can be environmental ambassadors in the future.
Check out their Facebook page to learn where to meet for their weekly Monday, Thursday, and Saturday beach clean ups.
5. Live Music at Bong’s Guesthouse
Fun Fact: The word for ‘friend’ in the Cambodian language of Khmer is “bong” (so get your mind out of the gutter). Bong’s Guesthouse is a place where strangers become friends during live music nights where the draft beer is flowing and the vibes are laid back.
They’ve got an island-style stage in the bar with amps and a microphone to turn the place into the best barefoot gathering spot in the evenings. Do you like to jam out? Talk to the bartenders about playing at Bong’s while you’re on the island and they’ll be delighted to have you. There’s also free beer all night long for anyone who graces the stage with their presence. Just prepare to have quite the adoring crowd.
6. Get your Open Water Diving Certificate
While the underwater visibility off of Koh Rong is not world-class, you’re sure to see schools of colorful fish, corals, urchins, quite a few sea horses and possibly even some manta rays. There aren’t any wreck dives or cave sites but guess what? That’s what makes this place the cheapest school to get your Open Water Certificate. Koh Rong Dive Center flies under the radar and so do their prices.
Some seriously cheap deals can be found here, especially when compared to getting your Open Water Certificate in nearby Phuket or Koh Samui. The extra paybacks are that the water is super warm, the class sizes are small, and you literally wake up in paradise every day.
7. Jungle Trek to Long Beach
Long Beach, the gorgeous white sand stretch as far as you can see, is on the other side of the mountain from Koh Toch Beach and is certainly worth the voyage. The hike gets your heart pounding as it’s a bit steep at times but the bright green jungle scenery is so beautiful that you probably won’t even notice.
Once you arrive, cool off in the turquoise water or grab a fresh fruit shake from one of the shacks on the beach. As the day nears the end, groups of people gather on the shore to watch the sun set into a gorgeous orange and pink painting in the sky. There will be long tail boats waiting to take people back to the main beach if you don’t want to brave the trail in the dark.
Hiking shoes, flip flops, bare feet- its all been done before. The most important thing to bring on this trek is a flashlight in case you decide to hike back after sun set.
8. Go Kayaking
Rent a kayak, fill your dry bag with some water and sunscreen, throw on a life jacket and just go. There is so much exploring to be done around Koh Rong including “Small Island” which is visible from the main shore, mangroves over on Long Set beach, and nearby beaches like Police Beach. You don’t have to be a kayak pro to manage in these waters as their pretty calm and you won’t need to head too far out in the sea in order to find adventure.
Your best bet is to rent a kayak either from one of the locals in Koh Toch village or over on Long Set beach at Sky and Sand bar. Each kayak rental is just under $5 for a half day. If you’re not sure where exactly to explore, ask a local.
Without volunteers, the island of Koh Rong wouldn’t have a school, emergency medical services, puppy control, or…bartenders. There is a job for everyone here if you want to kick back for a few weeks or even a few months and see where island life takes you.
You can apply in advance to local expat-founded NGO’s such as Friends of Koh Rong who runs the local school or Koh Rong Emergency Services Team that provides emergency services to both locals and tourists. They just might have an opening.
Alternatively, you can join the family and community of barefoot bartenders who volunteer at guesthouses in exchange for accommodation, free food, and some free drinks. Just rock up to the island and a spot will eventually reveal itself to you.
10. Get a Tattoo
A funny thing happens when people visit Koh Rong. Most plan to stay for 2 or 3 days, but wind up staying 2-3 weeks and cancelling their plans all together. It’s like a vortex of friendship sucks you in and you never can (or want to) get out.
So, when you find yourself totally in love with this island, you might want to commemorate it with a Koh Rong tattoo.
Visit Leo Ink Tattoo for elaborate tattoos done in a professional and sterile tattoo studio.
11. Full Moon Party
Thailand isn’t the only Full Moon Party destination anymore and some would even argue that Koh Rong’s Full Moon party is the best kept secret in South East Asia. Unlike the over-crowded and high-priced Full Moon parties that you’ll find in other tourist destinations, the Full Moon Party on Koh Rong is the ideal place to get weird with new friends while still being able to appreciate paradise.
Located in the idyllic beach cove of Police Beach, you can expect fully equipped sound systems with killer DJ’s playing house, techno, and EDM, along with fire spinners and jugglers to keep you entranced. There’s food to keep your energy going, drinks flowing to keep your spirits high, and reasonably priced tickets for sale at the “door”.
12. Explore Sok San Village
The local residents of Son San village have only recently decided to open their little community to welcome backpackers. Away from the tourist trail on Koh Toch beach, you can expect a more local experience in Sok San.
Put your bags down in your room and have a wander around the village. Give high fives to the village kids, drink beers with the locals, and don’t mind the chickens. If you wanted a taste of what rustic Cambodia was like, this will give you a glimpse.
Don’t expect anything lavish in terms of accommodation, however. You’ll find basic fan bungalows but with extremely welcoming owners, lower than expected prices, and unspoiled beaches nearby.
13. Climb a Waterfall
Behind Smile Guesthouse on White Beach is a secret waterfall off the beaten path that even many long-term residents here don’t even know about. Why so secret? Well, this waterfall takes some courage to explore. Watch your head as you duck under spider webs with massive bird-eating spiders and watch your footing as the initial moss-covered rocks can be quite slippery. If you fancy yourself a modern day Indiana Jones, this is precisely the adventure for you.
Once you make it past the booby traps, you’ll be rewarded with a multi-platform waterfall where you can chill out for an hour or two, so bring some beers and sandwiches in your dry bag. There are dozens of small, fresh water pools where you can lay and there are several tiers of cascading water falls to give you a nice back massage as you take it all in.
14. Get your Coffee Fix at Runaways
True coffee connoisseurs require more than Nespresso instant coffee packs to fill their blood with the essence of life. Fresh Lavazza coffee and an espresso machine are sure to do the trick. At Runaways on Koh Rong, you can get handcrafted coffee to go along with freshly made carrot cakes, coffee cakes, and all the cakes.
As if artisan coffee wasn’t enough, now picture sipping that cup of joe alongside the sound of waves crashing and the sparkle of the sun hitting the water. Not a bad way to start off your day.
If you also happen to be a sushi snob, Runaways puts on a fabulous sushi night Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
15. Eat Local
Supporting local family restaurants on the island no only feels good, but damn, it tastes good, too.
You’ll find a handful of fresh smoothie stands lining the beach, especially near Koh Toch village, that offer every smoothie combo you could ever dream possible. These stands are also the places to get your fresh fruit fix to start the day off right.
For lunch- it’s all about Chai Family Guest House. Located on the smaller pier next to the main pier, this mom and pop restaurant on the water has some of the most ingredible chicken noodle soup you’ve ever tasted. For around $1, you can fill your belly with fresh ingredients cooked by one of the original families on the island.
16. Visit Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong’s younger brother, Koh Rong Samloem is similar to what Koh Rong looked and felt like 5 years ago. With just a handful of guesthouses, a fraction of the tourist crowd, and only a couple boats docking on the island per day, here is where you come to get a taste of that low-key island life.
Spend your days wandering the village while weaving around children playing and dogs napping, visit local restaurants for some traditional Khmer food, explore the jungle where you can see monkeys, Hornbills, and red squirrels, then pop into expat owned guesthouses like The Drift for a cold cider as the perfect end to a perfect day.
17. Go Clubbing at Bunna’s Place
Well, sort of. Bunna’s Place is the closest thing to clubbing that you’re going to find on Koh Rong. Known for their rowdy parties put on by shirtless Cambodian guys from the mainland, Bunna’s Place never disappoints when you’re looking to have a wild time.
The music kicks off right around sunset and gets progressively louder and more intense as the night goes on. Play a few rounds of pool, take some shots, and then get on the dance floor to mingle with other carefree travelers and backpackers. Ask to get a game of beer pong or flip cup going and other travelers are sure to join in.
18. Visit Long Set/4k Beach
Walk to the far end of Koh Toch beach, through a flat jungle trail past some tall tree house bungalows and you’ll have reached Long Set Beach. Often called 4k Beach, this is the unspoiled paradise you’ve been looking for. Bright white sand with turquoise water and overhanging coconut trees- this beach is reminiscent of every tropical post card you’ve ever seen.
A few guest houses have began popping up here, but not enough to affect the ‘Cast Away’ impression you get when frolicking in the water. In fact, these little additions have added to the experience and your ability to spend all day here as there are little stands to buy cold water and a few restaurants to get some tasty grub.
Fun Fact: This gorgeous beach is so pristine that it was used one of the campsites for a recent season of Survivor.
19. Swim with the Plankton
Do you remember the scene in the movie “The Beach” where Leo goes swimming in the bay that lights up with glittery plankton? The same natural phenomenon occurs right here on Koh Rong. As you swim around in the water, each motion disturbs these tiny plankton and they glow a fluorescent color that makes it look like the sea is full of stars.
To get the best plankton experience, you need complete darkness. Walk as far from the lights of the beach as you can to find a blacked out strip of water or hire a boat to take you out at night for the ultimate glittery swim.
20. Get Romantic at Sky Bar
The most amazing bird’s eye views can be seen from Sky Bar, possibly the most romantic bar on the island.
Post up and watch boats jet in and out of the piers, take in views of the islands in the distance, and escape the heat with a nice treetop breeze. At night, pop a bottle of wine and order off their fantastic seafood menu as you cuddle up on some floor pillows with mellow music in the background. Sky Bar certainly gives you a change of pace from that backpacker vibe and allows you and your sweetie to get a bit more intimate.
If you want that quixotic one-on-one time, you’re going to have to work for it. You’ll be faced with a vexing hike up a few sets of steep stairs but I promise, the views are worth it.
21. Join the Pub Crawl
The fastest way to make friends, get acquainted with the island, and settle into a nice buzz is to join the famous Koh Rong pub-crawl. Every Tuesday and Friday from 8pm to 2am, you’ll venture from one side of the beach to the other, stopping at 8 of the best bars on the island where you’ll get a free shot, play some drinking games, and let the island vibes take over.
For $7, you get a Koh Rong tank top and all drinks included. Again, this is a fantastic idea for solo travelers. You’re sure to have made some new friends by the second bar and now you’ve got your crew for the week.
22. Police Beach Parties
Clear your busy island schedules Wednesday- Saturday and get yourselves down to Police Beach where all night beach parties are in full swing til the sun comes up. DJ’s, fire spinners, food, drinks- the whole scene is on point.
If you’d like, plan to spend the day on Police Beach in your bathing suit playing in the water or joining in on a volleyball match. The beach will soon fill up with a friendly crowd and now, the party has come to you.
No boats needed; just follow the well-trodden path past Green Ocean Guest House into the jungle and you’ll come out on the other side at Police Beach.