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The Best of Coastal Cambodia: Your Must-See List

One of Southeast Asia's most enjoyable destinations...

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  • 28 January 2020
  • • 8 min read

From stunning beaches and temples to rich history and culture, coastal Cambodia needs to be high on your list when visiting Cambodia. Its diverse landscape provides the perfect balance of adventure activities, cultural immersion, and paradise escape for your next trip.

Koh Rong Samloem

Just off the southwestern coast of Cambodia, this island’s pristine beauty will take your breath away. Still largely untouched by tourism, the island of Koh Rong Samloem is the perfect island getaway to unplug from the rest of the world and enjoy yourself, the picturesque views, and the company you’re with.

Mad Monkey on Koh Rong Samloem is the island’s premier backpacker private beach resort. Complete with beach view bungalows, a pier bar, restaurant, water hammocks and swings, daily tours, and evening events, it is truly a backpackers paradise. 

The daily Snorkeling and Fishing tour is the perfect day out on the water. Jump in the refreshing water to swim with the marine life and admire the corals, learn from our local guides and test your luck at fishing, get relaxed and catch some rays, and enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch on board. The tour includes 2 drinks and you get happy hour prices on board, so you also have the option to get boozy!

Head out onto the pier bar for an afternoon full of sunbathing, jumping off the dock, and a few bevies. They a pier bar happy hour our every day from 3-6 PM and always have different activities like beer pong for you to join in on. Heading out to the pier bar for a beer often turns into a pier bar party day sesh too! There are different events in the evenings, including an epic fire show on the beach performed by the Mad Monkey team three nights a week.

One of the best parts of Koh Rong Samloem is the limited internet connection. Because of its remote location and it still being largely underdeveloped, the island has very limited access to the internet. This provides the perfect opportunity to unplug from the outside world and live in the moment. Enjoy your surroundings, develop friendships with the locals and other travelers, and truly relax. 

Koh Rong Samloem is the best backpacker paradise getaway in Cambodia with its stunning beaches, chilled vibes with a splash of party!

Koh Rong Island. Photo courtesy of iStock.

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is Koh Rong Samloem’s bigger, but still small, sister island. This island shares Koh Rong Samloem’s chilled out vibes and idyllic beauty but is more developed. While Koh Rong Samloem has a few party spots, Mad Monkey being one of them, Koh Rong has an entire beach with hostels and bars lining the beach. 

The tropical paradise island of Koh Rong is bordered by countless stunning beaches. Long Beach, the largest beach on the island, has white sand stretching over 70 miles long. Though it is a popular beach, there is more than enough room for everyone to have their own spot on the sand or in the water. Lonely Beach, again as the name suggests, is the perfect beach to go to if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. Located at the island’s northern tip, Lonely Beach is still an undeveloped part of the island making it the perfect island beach escape.

Photo courtesy of iStock.

Like Koh Rong Samloem, there are day excisions on boats involving snorkeling, fishing, and diving. A day out on the crystal clear waters surrounding the island is a must-do while on the island. Boats are for hire at hostels and hotels as well as at the pier.

Other daytime activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, waterfall chasing, or simply perching on a beach and enjoying relaxing and doing nothing at all. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented at many of the hotels on the island. Sok San waterfall, located in Sok San Village is a beautiful waterfall to visit during or soon after the rainy season. Do take note that the waterfall usually dries up during the island’s dry season.

Koh Rong is the perfect island destination for anyone looking for a mix of adventure, party, and relaxation in paradise.

Bokor Mountain

Bokor Mountain is a must-do experience from Kampot. The ride itself up the well maintained, snaking roads is reason in itself to make the treck up the mountain. Along the way, there are many attractions from a world-class casino and abandoned hotel, to run down churches, incredible viewpoints, and one of the largest statues in Cambodia. 

Mad Monkey Kampot offers a day tour on which you can choose to drive yourself or hop on the back of one of their skilled and friendly driver’s motorbikes. Do note that though the roads are well maintained, it is not a ride well suited for first-time riders.

As you ride up the winding roads, Mad Monkey’s experienced guide will lead you to some historical reference points and landmarks starting with a collapsed bridge that has a unique view down the mountain. The next landmark, standing 29 meters tall, is the Lok Yeay Mao Monument, a large statue of the Goddess of Buddhism known to keep peace and calm.

You will also visit a collection of luxurious French colonial buildings built in the 1920s, known as Bokor Hill Station, located at the top of the mountain. The idea of this lavish mountain resort was to create an escape from Phnom Penh’s heat for colonialists, however, they have almost all been completely abandoned

Then, cool off at Pokvil Waterfall and enjoy your included lunch taking in the scenic views. Other stops include Le Bokor Palace Hotel, also known as the Old Casino on Bokor Mountain. After being abandoned, it has been revamped and reopened open, yet it is very rare to find someone actually renting a room. It is a fun stop to have a beer and take in the great views of the lush jungle below meet the water. The new luxury casino on Bokor Mountain is a sight unlike the rest of the abandoned mountain. Take a walk around, grab a drink, or try your luck at gambling!

After a full day of riding around and exploring sights, you head back into Kampot in perfect time to grab some dinner and see a beautiful Kampot sunset over the river. 

Pepper Plantations

Pepper plantation in Cambodia. Photo courtesy of iStock.

Visiting a pepper plantation is a must while in coastal Cambodia! The pepper from this region was at one time the best pepper in the world. Sent back by the French colonists, it was used in all the best French restaurants. 

Pepper growing dates back to the 13th century in Kampot and continued to escalate to the 19th and into the 20th century, however, during the civil war in the 1970s, pepper growing was nearly abandoned. In the past 20 years, pepper farming has started again using traditional methods creating the unique flavour and aroma that originally made it so popular.

Today, pepper farming is booming again with new plantations continuing to pop up. Many pepper farms offer free tours to visitors providing a look around the plantation and a local perspective on the history of Cambodia and pepper plantations as well. Pro tip: make sure to buy pepper from the plantations, not the local markets which often sell cheaper pepper from Vietnam!

Kep Beach

Known for its pristine beach, seafood, and relaxed vibe, Kep is a small coastal town just 30km from Kampot. The crest shaped beach is lined with restaurants and shops that stay busy on the weekends with locals and travellers excited for a beach day. 

Kep Beach. Photo courtesy of iStock.

There are many Kep Beach day tours leaving from Kampot. Typically you will hop in a tuk-tuk for the 30-minute drive out of town with a group of tourists, led by a local guide. You will drive through town and along the promenade that is dotted with larger-than-life statues of all types. 

While in Kep, make sure to stop at one of the local restaurants for some seafood. It will likely be not only some of the freshest seafood you have ever eaten, but some of the most delicious because the locals also know how to prepare it just right. It will be a meal you won’t forget. Take a visit to the crab market to see buckets of just-caught crab and stalls lined with still flapping fish waiting to be sold.

Photo courtesy of iStock.

If you go during the week, the beach will be much quieter with many locals getting their beach days in on the weekend. Sunbathe and relax on the soft, golden sand and take a dip in the water to cool down. The small waves are perfect for floating in and having a swim around. 

Not only is Kep Beach a tropical getaway for many in Cambodia, but it is also rich in history. In the 1950s and 60s, Kep was the place to be in coastal Cambodia. Its fame was stolen by the now very busy Sihanoukville, but the chilled-out beach town has reclaimed its glory in recent years and now provides visitors a less crowded, more unique beach experience. From local restaurants to luxury villas, Kep Beach is a must-visit.

Coastal Cambodia’s remote paradise islands and landmarks rich in history draw locals and tourists from around the world. Make sure these stops are high on your list to explore during your travels through Cambodia.

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