I have to admit that I was skeptical about visiting Koh Rong. I had heard rave reviews about the tropical Cambodian isle, which is rumored to be home to some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. But I’ve learned not to get overly excited about what other people say because, in my experience, it will inevitably lead to disappointment.
To add to my skepticism, I’d also read a few disconcerting reviews about Koh Rong. I was more than freaked out that my hotel room would be crawling with rats or that I’d be plagued by sand flea bites.
Skeptical as I was, I was too intrigued by the good reviews to be scared away. And thank goodness I didn’t skip it because this place is absolutely incredible. And the beaches really are as picture perfect as everyone says. In an effort to keep it real, I will say that I do have a few complaints about the island (which I’ll go into in a bit) but Koh Rong more than lived up to the hype.
So for anyone who’s wondering if Koh Rong is worth visiting, I say that it most definitely is! Koh Rong honestly does boast some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever laid eyes on. And coming from a beach snob like me, that’s saying a lot! So here are a few reasons why I think that Koh Rong is most certainly worth a visit.
So is Koh Rong worth visiting?
Here’s why I think I think Koh Rong is absolutely worth a visit:
The island is relatively undeveloped…
The first thing I noticed when my ferry docked at Koh Rong’s pier was just how undeveloped the island actually is. As the second largest island in Cambodia, Koh Rong measures roughly 78 square kilometers. But despite its size it is only home to about 1,000 residents.
Tourists have only been coming here for the past decade. And I was surprised to learn that westerners have only been allowed to settle on Koh Rong for the past five years or so. Koh Rong might not be a secret but its hasn’t been completely overrun by tour groups and hotel chains…yet. And the lack of roads and electricity means that, in the grand scheme of things, Koh Rong is still really rustic and untouched.
Koh Tuich Village, the main tourist area, is nothing more than a quaint hamlet clustered with barebones beach bungalows, rustic beach bars and a few dodgy hostels. You won’t find any mega-hotels or 5-star resorts here. It’s possible to walk the length of the main drag in about five minutes. Suffice it to say life is really simple on Koh Rong.
Long Beach is easily one of the best beaches in SE Asia…
With 43 kilometers of coastline, it’s no surprise that Koh Rong is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. But Long Beach is truly something special. Long Beach is located across the island from Koh Tuich Village, which means that barely anyone stays overnight out there. To this day, there are roughly 10 beach bungalows sprinkled along a rocky outcrop at the far end of the beach. The rest of this seemingly endless stretch of sand is completely untouched.
You can either hire a boat to take you to Long Beach or opt to take the 45-minute hike from Koh Tuich Village to Long Beach. After venturing on the hot and slightly sketchy walk though Koh Rong’s lush interior, my mind was blown when I emerged from the jungle and saw what I argue is the definition of a perfect beach.
A flawless strip of white sand unfurled as far as I could see. And the sand was so powdery fine that it literally squeaked underneath my feet as I walked. The water was the perfect shade of turquoise and was unblemished by coral and sea grass. It was perfection. It boggled my mind that there were so few tourists on Long Beach.
There’s plenty to keep you busy…
For such a small and rustic place you would think there’d be nothing to do but sit on the beach. But there was plenty to keep me occupied during my (all-too-brief) five days on the island. Don’t get me wrong; I love hanging out on the beach. But I’m just not the type of person who can spend hours laying in the sun…I literally get bored after 10 minutes. So I was happy to find there were plenty of other options.
The hike to Long Beach is obviously a must-do. And while I’m not the biggest fan of tours, I did book a nighttime boat tour to glimpse the otherworldly bioluminescent plankton on koh rong (i.e. trippy glow-in-the-dark plankton that glow in the water just offshore). Other than that it’s possible to book snorkeling trips, island hopping tours, jungle walks and kayaking trips to nearby isles. Or you can always just chill at the beach with some beers or a coconut.
A few things I didn’t love about Koh Rong:
The trash on Long Beach…
This one really bothered me. I realize that it’s tourists like me who contribute to trash washing up on the shore. Us travelers go to Koh Rong and drink out of plastic cups, run through disposable water bottles and take away food in Styrofoam containers. During a vacation in paradise, the last thing we think about is where all this trash ends up.
Most visitors might not even notice that trash washes up on shore there. But when I saw trash accumulating in the midst of such natural beauty it was pretty heartbreaking. The trash wasn’t bad at Long Beach but it was there. And it made me painfully aware of the fact that this island has no way of disposing of all the waste that’s created by tourists and locals alike. Either it’s burned, dumped in the jungle or thrown in the water.
I don’t have any solutions for this problem, except it’s always best to try to reduce your waste. When I was there I bought one big water bottle and just refilled it at one of the restaurants. It’s not only cheaper than buying new water bottles every day but I felt better not tossing away countless plastic bottles. (If you’re looking for other money-saving tips for Koh Rong, read my budget guide to Koh Rong here.)
Koh Rong is not authentic Cambodia…
This didn’t bother me per say, but if you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience you’re not going to get it on Koh Rong. From what I saw, most of the businesses are western owned and largely staffed by foreigners, which was something that I found to be a little odd.
Incessant construction and really loud clubs…
The bars bump music until the wee hours. I thought our bungalow’s location, high on the hillside, would shield us from the noise but in actuality the music floated right up the hill. And it was really freaking loud. Somehow I managed to sleep through it, only waking up a few times. But still….
That being said, I was really glad I wasn’t staying in the heart of Koh Tuich Village…that might have been too much for me to handle!
Another thing that irked me was the non-stop construction, but the sound of buzz saws and hammering was simply unavoidable. There seemed to be construction going on in every nook and cranny of the island. This is one reason you might not want to book your accommodation beforehand!
That being said, I still highly recommend where I stayed at Highland Beach Bungalows. It is a challenge to find affordable and quality accommodation on Koh Rong and after a lot of hunting I was very pleased with this place. It was only $30 a night (for two people) and the view was spectacular!
The lack of electricity can be kind of a bummer…
There is no electricity on Koh Rong. But from 6pm-2am, all businesses and hotels run generators so you won’t be left in the dark. I knew that electricity was scant on Koh Rong but much to my surprise it didn’t really bother me.
That being said, the lack of electricity can be a total bummer in some cases. I just so happened to stay in a bungalow high up on the hillside and, at night, it got a really nice ocean breeze. But had I stayed in a different location, the nights might have been insufferable.
Also, limited electricity means that accessing WiFi is a challenge. It wasn’t a problem for me because I was on a true vacation. Unplugging was fine by me. But for anyone who’s working or has serious business to attend to, getting online can be a frustration. Some beachfront restaurants run generators in the morning until 1pm, so that’s a good time to log on if you need to! But I’ll warn you that your connection will be very slow…
Despite a couple of downsides I still say that Koh Rong is most definitely worth visiting. Long Beach is no doubt one of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. Koh Rong might be touristy, but in no way is it overrun by tourists. If you ask me, as far as tourist spots go this place is about as untouched as it gets in Southeast Asia. It truly is something special.
Have you been to Koh Rong? Did you think it lived up to the hype?