In the age of super-connected travel, it can be tough to find quieter, unspoiled places to relax, unwind and really unplug from stress or worries of your life. Thankfully for us all, a slice of paradise still exists in Cambodia’s spectacular islands.
Mostly dotted around the popular Sihanoukville region, Cambodia’s top islands are still underdeveloped in comparison to their Full Moon partying Thai neighbors but that’s not going to last long. Travelers are increasingly looking to Cambodia as a cheaper alternative for their Southeast Asian dream destination, so now is the best time to start the ball rolling and get booking flights and accommodation. Even better, why not start your plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner now so you can see these virgin beaches before everything changes?
No matter what you’re looking for in your epic Cambodian island experience, you can’t go wrong with Koh Rong. This island – serviced by a fast boat from Sihanoukville – has strips of deserted island where you can play castaway or a party scene where you can sip whiskey from a bucket to your heart’s content. The Koh Tuck village is where you go to party the night away and when the sun comes up, you can escape to Long Beach for a day for fishing and sunbathing.
For those who want to indulge in more wholesome activities, take a day to head to High Point, Cambodia’s first rope adventure park. From here, you can see Koh Rong from the treetops, swing from the ropes, travel by zipline or test yourself on the obstacle course.
Go back to the nature on this tiny eco-friendly island. Koh Tanang is home to just one resort, Nomads Land, where you can spend time with the local toucans before going back to sleep in an open hut looking out to the sea. The resort is completely off the grid, running on solar power and storing up rain water to drink. Despite its ‘back to basics’ mantra, you won’t be roughing it. The resort is packed with comfy hammocks and deck chairs to sit back, relax and enjoy your newly unplugged existence. When you’re ready to move, you can explore the island at your own pace by snorkeling, kayaking or scuba-diving or just chat with other travelers while enjoying the delicious (and all-inclusive) food.
Koh Ta Kiev
Once home only to day-trippers, this spectacular island may be packed soon enough as ambitious development plans are in the mix for luxury resorts and hotels. For now though, it remains a haven for beach bum, budget resorts and if you go soon, you’ll get all the boasting rights of seeing it before it changes forever.
It’s the perfect island to go off exploring to yourself, and you’ll find lots of well-marked tracks where you can wander off to find more secluded beaches or take a trek through the jungle to spot some more exotic wildlife. You can reach the island from Otres in just 55 minutes, making a good option for a day trip as well. With dorms starting from just $5 at Ten103 Treehouse Bay, however, you have a great excuse to stay a little longer.
For a full five-star luxury experience, consider staying on private island Song Saa. As well as picture-perfect infinity pools and incredible spa experiences, there are also plenty of fun touches, including a private movie theater and free daily yoga. Despite being a gloriously luxurious resort, you can still fully relax here, spending your days lounging in shorts and t-shirt, while still enjoying world class dining and an impressive wine cellar to choose from.
Rest assured, you can also fully immerse yourself in style without compromising on ethics. The resort prides itself on sustainable tourism and follows through on its promises. Here you’ll find locally made furniture and friendly locals to guide you on your activities. You’ll also be helping to support their community education efforts, water-cleaning resources and 50,000 square meter marine reserve.
This uninhabited island is accessible only on day trips but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mark it on your itinerary. It’s a hugely popular site for scuba divers, boasting no less than eight spots where you can explore a huge variety of colorful coral, sting rays and razorfish. There’s also plenty of opportunity for some spectacular night dives and its waters are renowned for excellent visibility, especially in the dry season.
The island lies at least four hours away from the mainland, which means you’re almost guaranteed to have a peaceful and pleasurable dive away from the crowds. Book a trip with Scuba Nation for an inclusive package with your meals, transport and overnight accommodation closer to the island, giving you plenty of time to explore the amazing underwater world.
An essential stopover for wildlife lovers, this island lies under the protection of the Ream National Park. There is an exceptionally high number of bird species to spot, with the latest count going up to 155 different kinds, including the endangered brahminy kite. If the creatures of the ground are of more interest to you, eagle-eyed travelers can find monkeys and lizards and, for the very lucky, you might even get a glimpse at dolphins or sea-eagles as you swim on one of the deserted beaches.
There’s only one place to stay on the island – the basic Koh Thmei Resort – but it has serious environmental credentials and some entertainment for the family too, with ponies available to ride.
Koh Rong Sanloem
Not to be confused with the aforementioned Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem has a more relaxed, romantic vibe and just a touch more exclusivity. There are not too many activities on the island but it’s designed that way; this place is all about sipping on cocktails, while watching the sunset as you recline on your hammock. What more could you want from your idyllic beach break?
Its fairly large size means the accommodation here is well spaced out, so despite its popularity, you shouldn’t ever feel like you’re staying on a busy resort. Best of all, the center of the island is still completely taken over by the wild zoo that is the jungle. Visitors can get involved in the important work of documenting Cambodia’s insects by getting in touch with the Wonderful Wildlife of Samloem project and taking some photographs while there.
One for the more adventurous traveler, this is Cambodian island life in its wildest form. You may not recognize the name of this island now, but that will soon change. Koh Seh is just 2.9 square miles and is also protected by the Ream National Park. Day tours will take you out to this uninhabited island where you’ll have time to explore the mangroves, do some cliff-diving or even camp overnight (but be prepared to completely rough it if you do). If you’re a confident swimmer, you could even attempt to swim to Vietnam, which lies just three miles away.
Construction is ongoing on the island now, so if you’re looking for a desert island experience, there’s no time like the present to get planning. Visitors wanting to stay overnight are advised to check in with the National Park beforehand to ensure they have all of the right permissions.