picturesque islands that lie scattered across the turquoise waters of the Gulf
of Thailand are some of Cambodia‘s last pristine spots. None have paved roads,
cash machines or 24-hour electricity, but what the islands lack in amenities
they more than make up for in natural beauty. Unfortunately, development is
just around the corner, so you will have to move fast to get there before the laid-back
atmosphere is destroyed by an influx of planned luxury resorts.
and a half hours from the mainland, the island of Koh Rong is stunning, with
picture-perfect white sand beaches and placid aquamarine surf. The 78sqkm
island, home to 43km of beaches, is packed with diving, snorkelling and jungle
trekking opportunities. The most developed of the islands off port city Sihanoukville‘s
shore, Koh Rong has more than a dozen guesthouses and bungalows, and small
local restaurants serve cold beer and freshly caught seafood. The popular Monkey Island bar stays open late
and has fire-dance performances every night. Paradise Bungalows, next door,
offers accommodation with a laid-back vibe and a remarkably good wine selection
at their bar. However, you can still find tranquil solitude in the many other parts
of the island that remain almost completely untouched by development.
To the south
of Koh Rong sits the island’s smaller, quieter sister, Koh Rong Samloem, dotted
with beautiful, nearly empty beaches. The
Dive Shop runs a boat between the two islands and has recently opened Robinson’s
Bungalows – simple, inexpensive wooden cottages nestled in the jungle next
to a windswept beach where the sunset paints each evening in vivid pinks and
purples. In the next bay over is Lazy
Beach, the island’s oldest resort and a perennial favourite. Its private
beach, plentiful hammocks and full cocktail menu make it the perfect spot to
laze away a weekend.
shore of Ream
National Park sits Koh Thmei, an almost uninhabited island flanked by
mangrove forests. Koh Thmei
Resort is the only place to stay on the island, and its peaceful,
ecologically minded set up is perfect if you are looking to unwind. Solar power
means the bungalows have electricity almost all day – a rarity on the islands –
although there is no reason to spend much time indoors when there are beaches
littered with exotic shells, a coral reef ripe for snorkelling and more than a
hundred species of rare birds to observe.
Sihanoukville is Koh ta Kiev, a small island just an hour offshore with rustic
accommodation and camping options. Ten
103 Treehouse Bay has simple treehouses in the jungle, which makes
their homemade bread, fresh pasta and other gourmet fare all the more
unexpected. Down the beach, Crusoe
Island offers inexpensive beachside camping and activities such as spear
fishing, squid fishing and jungle treks.
north is the tiny island of Koh Totang, where Nomads Land, a collection of simple,
ecologically friendly bungalows, offers sunset cruises, organic meals and
hammocks best situated to savour the view of the spectacular blue-green waters.
none of these islands are more than three hours from the mainland,
island-hopping off Cambodia’s coast can require patience – getting from one to
the other may require going back to shore or hiring a private boat for the
journey. But it is worth the effort to see some of Cambodia’s most gorgeous,
untouched spots before they disappear forever.
The article 'Island-hopping off Cambodia’s coast' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.