Traveling through Cambodia was quite a trying experience for me. On the one hand, I genuinely enjoyed exploring Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. However, between walking all around Angkor Wat and learning about Cambodia’s tortured history, I was all traveled out. I really needed to chill and hang low at the Cambodian islands.
All set to hang my traveler hat and engulf in some self-indulgence, I traveled to Sihanoukville.
I’d heard this was where most backpackers came to simply chill. To be honest, Sihanoukville city was pretty much a dud.
However, there are a lot of great things to do in Sihanoukville province. Foremost amongst them is going island hopping through the Cambodian islands off the south coast.
You can generally find a ferry at the Sihanoukville pier. It can either take you on a day trip around the landmark Cambodian islands. Or it can simply take you to one particular island and drop you off. To return, you’ll have to arrange for a ticket in the island itself, a day in advance.
The two main Cambodian Islands are Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.
However, there are three other islands in Cambodia that you should also check out. These are Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Thmei, and Koh Totang.
These are the 5 best Cambodian Islands, and between them, you can literally find something for everyone. Whether you love partying till the break of dawn or finding a quiet isolated patch of sand to call your own, these Cambodian islands have it all.
In this article, I’ll give you a brief introduction to the 5 best Cambodian Islands.
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If the 5 Cambodian Islands were sisters, Koh Rong would be “the Wild One”.
Koh Rong is definitely the most popular island off the coast of Cambodia. This is also where most of the make-shift hostels, bars, and clubs line the coastline.
Koh Rong is the prime backpacker island. And, for some reason, it attracts an inexplicably large number of white guys in dreadlocks and man buns.
The main area close to the pier is pretty filthy. Furthermore, it’s also quite noisy and crowded. There are several street stalls lined up, and it’s full of backpackers just looking for booze.
The hostels in the main street are similarly chill. And by “chill” I mean they really couldn’t give a shit about anyone or anything.
The hostel I stayed at consisted of a room that never closed, and a bathroom without a flush.
I can handle all else, but when it comes to ladling water into dirty pots, I can’t even…
At least they had mosquito netting though. I already – potentially – had Rabies (more on that later)… I couldn’t deal with a Malaria scare as well!
If you go down the coastline a little, you can find relatively quiet patches as well.
If you want to go paddle boarding or kayaking, you can rent the gear for about $4 to $8. It depends on how long you want to keep it.
At night, this island comes alive with booze and loud music bursting from every shack. The music is only occasionally interrupted to accommodate the sound of someone retching.
As the night crawls on, the music from each shack gets successively louder in its eternal attempt to drown out the rest of the music. What you end up with is a wall of noise all around you that makes any real interaction impossible. But I suppose that’s just my whiny little sober ass talking. Folks around me seemed to be having a ball!
I suppose Koh Rong can be a pretty fun Cambodian Island if you’re in a large group. Or if you like getting drunk with strangers. If not, maybe you should try its sober and sensible sister Island — Koh Rong Sanloem.
I’d advise against trying to mitigate your loneliness by befriending a sleeping stray dog on the island. I tried doing that and I got bit as a result. That left me having to catch the first ferry out of the island the following day so I could get the rabies shots.
Whoever knew it wasn’t wise to pet sleeping stray dogs!
Let sleeping dogs lie… if only that were a popular saying, hmmm…
Best Resort in Koh Rong: Palm Beach Bungalow Resort
Best Backpacker Hostel in Koh Rong: Nest Beach Club
If Koh Rong is “the Wild One”, Koh Rong Sanloem is “the Sensible One.”
As hungover visitors from Koh Rong wobble out of the ferry and on to Sanloem’s arms, she holds their hair back and soothes them back to life.
Koh Rong Sanloem is one of the most peaceful Cambodian islands. She sits in quiet contemplation, all gentle waves and white sands.
Koh Rong Sanloem comprises three yellow sand beaches in its southern half and a white sand beach in Saracen Bay. There are various opportunities here to go diving and snorkeling as well because of the availability of coral reefs.
Best Resort in Koh Rong Sanloem: Sol Beach Resort
Best Backpacker Hostel in Koh Rong Sanloem: Driftwood Hostel
Wherever I travel, I always hear backpackers complain about how everything is “gentrified”. Complaining about commercialization and loss of “authenticity” (ugh) while sipping on cocktails almost seems a staple.
As for me, I thoroughly enjoy my inauthentic experiences in comfort.
However, if you’re a Rustic Romantic, you should ditch partying with other backpackers in Koh Rong and head over here. Koh Ta Kiev is one of the most untouched (yet accessible) Cambodian Islands.
It comes with only a handful of budget resorts, which are really just glorified huts in the jungle. However, currently, a luxury resort is being developed on the northern end. Gentrification is coming fast for Koh Ta Kiev so you might want to satisfy your rustic hunger soon.
Best Resort in Koh Ta Kiev: Kactus
Best Backpacker Hostel in Koh Ta Kiev: The Last Point Hostel
Koh Thmei has only one thing going for it — the Koh Thmei Resort. That’s the only resort in all of this Cambodian island. As such, Koh Thmei is quite isolated and uninhabited.
Koh Thmei Resort is quite an eco-friendly resort located on the beach, surrounded by mangroves. The beach itself is one of the most untouched beaches in Cambodia. Furthermore, it’s great for snorkeling due to the abundance of coral reefs.
You can find the latest prices for Koh Thmei Resort on Booking.
In Koh Totang island there’s only one resort called Nomads Land.
This is the most eco-friendly resort amongst all the Cambodian Islands. In fact, it might just be the most eco-friendly resort in all of Cambodia!
Nomads Land consists of 5 colorful bungalows located on the beach. They have hammocks strung up on trees where you can relax. Furthermore, they use rainwater as their primary source of water, and they generate electricity through solar power.
Naturally, the toilets here are compost-based and they use bucket showers.
Koh Totang is the most off-the-grid island in Cambodia. If that’s your thing, have at it!
Well, so these were the 5 best Cambodian Islands that you can start hopping your way across. You can generally find ferries to take you through them either in the Sihanoukville pier, in Koh Rong, or in Koh Rong Sanloem.
In case you get seasick or if you don’t have the time to go island hopping, you can also settle for the 5 best Sihanoukville beaches. Save the bragging rights, they basically offer the exact same things, and they’re more accessible.
I hope you found this article on the 5 best Cambodian Islands useful. If you want to add anything to it, please let me know down in the comments section!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…