Is Koh Rong Worth Visiting?

Is Koh Rong Worth Visiting? - The Travel Lush

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.

Koh Rong - beach

Why I think Koh Rong is worth visiting:

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 Rong pier

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.

A glimpse of the main drag.
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 beautiful beaches.  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.

Picture-perfect Long Beach.

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.

Long Beach is the place to watch the sun go down.
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 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 phosphorescence (i.e. trippy bioluminescent plankton that glow in the water).  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.

Long Beach - drink

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.

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!

I thought we would be safe from the noise up here…turns out I was wrong!

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!

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.

bungalow with view

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 serious 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…

Koh Rong beach
Koh Rong’s main beach…not too shabby!

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?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

26 thoughts on “Is Koh Rong Worth Visiting?

    1. Thanks! I do like to keep it real around here 😉 It is a super chill place and I really enjoyed disconnecting and living the basic life for five days. I totally urge you to check it out. In my opinion, it’s paradise!

    1. I had honestly never even heard of Koh Rong when I first visited Cambodia in 2006. But I’d heard such great things from friends and other travelers that I simply had to see it for myself. I highly recommend it. It really is one of the most gorgeous islands in SE Asia.

  1. We were interested in visiting Koh Rong when we were in Cambodia but then we decided not to bother. We talked to some other travelers the night before we were thinking of visiting who had just returned and they said that they didn’t really think KR was anything special or different from Sihanoukville/Otres Beach. Obviously every traveler will have different opinions so we shouldn’t have taken their word for gospel, but… yeah, we just decided to stay put where we were.

    Long Beach does look pretty in your photos, but trash on Asian beaches is such a problem that I know that would have been a real problem for me. We had the same problem over at Otres Beach, though the sand there is not nearly so lovely as what looks to be at Long Beach. Did you experience any issues with sand flies, or has that been dealt with?

    Also, I’m not sure I’d dig the late night party scene happening at KR. It’s kind of crazy that that tiny island that isn’t really a huge tourist draw would have such a raucous nighlife… but if you couldn’t even escape it high up in the hills, I’m not sure that’s my idea of paradise!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Guided by our Guts in Madrid

    1. I think everyone has a different experience, but in my opinion Koh Rong’s beaches were far superior to Sihanoukville’s main beach. I never made it to Otres Beach so I have no idea how Koh Rong compares. I think you guys might like Koh Rong…if you’re ever back in Cambodia I’d give it a shot. Plus, it’s so close to Sihanoukville!

      The trash wasn’t bad on Long Beach. There wasn’t garbage in the water or on sand. But when I started walking a little inland I noticed there was garbage strewn about. In all likelihood it’s from the people who camp out there. But however it got there, the realization that there’s no way to properly dispose of trash bummed me out. As far as the sand flies go, I didn’t have any problems. However, Aaron did get these weird red bumps all over his hands and arms. We didn’t know what was going on, but maybe sand flies were the culprit? Or maybe he just had some sort of rash…

      The late night noise was a drawback, for sure. I do think it’s avoidable though. You can stay down the beach from the little cluster of clubs and bars. I did that my first night and didn’t hear a peep all night. Then I moved to the hillside bungalow for four nights. It was really only noisy on Friday and Saturday, but it was really loud. So, if you ever do go I’d just stay far down the main beach. Or stay on Long Beach! There’s no noise over there 😉

  2. I had heard amazing things about Koh Rong, but unfortunately I didn’t have as much time there as I would have liked. Instead of actually visiting Long Beach, we did a snorkel trip to that side of the island (which was awesome, in any case) but we only saw it from the boat. I don’t have any beautiful postcard shots like yours. And I do remember the music being crazy loud…and we were staying in that wooden hostel over the water, in wooden bunk beds that shook violently with every single footstep someone took. I was lucky that I had a leftover supply of Xanax to knock me out! But I still really loved the island and I wish I had seen more of it.
    Leah recently posted…40 Lessons Learned in Three Years of Travel

    1. I definitely think Koh Rong warrants at least four days. There is actually a lot to see and do there. I didn’t even do a snorkel trip when I was there…so I guess we both missed out on doing things there! The music was impressively loud. I thought it would stop when the power went off at 2am. And then one bar had the grand idea of starting their generator and keeping the party going. I could hear the music start back up and everyone cheering all the way up the hill! Yeah, thankfully bought some Ambien before we went to the island…I suppose that’s why I wasn’t bothered!

    1. I loved the hike too Sally! Although I do have the worst sense of direction so I was a little nervous that I was going to get lost! I’m just mad that I didn’t camp out on Long Beach. I’m definitely staying out there if/when I go back.

  3. that’s so cool. I would love to stay somewhere not super touristy like that. I’m really crazy a super lazy beach day lately so maybe I’ll have to keep Cambodia in mind. The trash situation is sad – though I’m not sure what islands in more developed countries with trash? I hate to see pollution as well
    Rebekah recently posted…Trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge

    1. You should definitely keep Koh Rong in mind if/when you go to Cambodia. It is by far one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, so if you’re craving a relaxing beach day this is totally your place. Yeah, I hate seeing trash just thrown on the ground. But it’s true that it’s an issue everywhere, which is sad. That’s why I try my best to not add to the problem.

  4. My wife and I decided against Koh Rong during our trip through SE Asia and I do kinda regret it. Had we not spent a week on some other beaches and been on limited time, it probably would’ve made a nice stop for a week or so. I read some similar concerns about it and that played into our decision, I’m sad to say. We weren’t far away though but didn’t really visit any beaches in Cambodia.

    Thanks for the mention about electricity because our trip wasn’t a pure vacation and I had work to do. Needless to say that would’ve been a bother and I appreciate you noting it. Aren’t we in a tough situation with all that trash? As much as we can all try to leave no trace when traveling, the trash is overwhelming at times.

    We lived in Korea the past 4 years and can attest to some wonderful beaches there, along with some not so wonderful ones thanks to pollution. It’s a sad thing that I wish governments would take more action on. I applaud you for being honest about it in your assessment of Koh Rong. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. It was a great read! Take care Justine!

    1. Koh Rong definitely has its pros and cons. Now that I’m living in Cambodia I’m realizing just how very hot it can get here. I should update this post, but what I didn’t realize is that when I traveled to Koh Rong it was during the coolest month weather-wise in the country, so the weather was nice and living without electricity was relatively easy. However, I don’t know if I’d be willing to brave Koh Rong or even Cambodia in the hot season, especially in April and May. And yes, the trash issue is something that bothers me in many Southeast Asian destinations. I at least try my best to reduce my trash. I’m dying to go to Korea and I’m very interested in checking out these beaches you mentioned. Sad that there is a trash problem there too 🙁

  5. Thanks so much for this informative article! We are headed to Koh Rong in the next couple days, and we’ll be sure to make it to Long Beach! It looks stunning and after nearly 2 months of travel without beaches, the ocean is calling my name 🙂

    In your opinion, is it worth spending a night in Sihoukanville, or should we get to Koh Rong as soon as possible so we can spend more time there? Also, did you make it to Koh Rong Samloen or hear of anyone who went there? We probably only have 4-6 days total down in that area, so we’re trying to figure out if we should split up our time. Just curious to hear your opinion since you’ve been to both!

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Personally I would probably spend my time on the islands versus Sihanoukville. The beaches on the islands are much better, in my opinion. I haven’t been to Koh Rong Samloem, but I have heard wonderful things from friends and I totally regret not going there. It’s equally as beautiful as Long Beach on Koh Rong but not quite as touristy (so I’ve heard).

  6. Wow we must’ve gone right around the same time looking at this post. I know exactly where you were staying and it was full of construction! I stayed in the village area closer to the bars, but for some reason I couldn’t hear it down there. Maybe it has something to do with the acoustics of you being up so high? I had more issues with the crazy-loud chickens in the mornings. Oh my god those things were noisy. I loved Koh Rong so much and I’m really worried about it. I heard they’re starting to build a resort on Long Beach :'(
    Richelle recently posted…Adventures Around Asia Turns FOUR!!!

    1. Yeah, somehow the sound of the construction wasn’t too bad because we were up so high. You could still hear the music from the bars but at least we weren’t right smack in the middle of all the noise. And somehow there were no roosters near our hotel. We lucked out because I hate those things! I’m worried about Koh Rong too. When I was at Long Beach I could totally hear them cutting down the forest…so I’m not surprised to hear they’re building a resort there. I wish they would build the island up responsibly, but we all know there’s no way that’s going to happen 🙁

  7. waiting impatiently the time of banning noise as a major pollution which can compare to cigarettes etc…
    having read your (nice ) article will save me time and money and I will definitly not go to Ko Rong..
    There are many other beautiful beaches ( Philippines for exemple ) where I dont have to endure
    these drawbacks…

  8. I have been to Koh Rong last year because my friends had been there the year before and said it was so nice and quiet. Obviously when i got there, it was already busy with backpackers.

    However Long Beach definitely is probably the prettiest beach in SEasia!
    x

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