What is the best island to visit in Cambodia?
There are many paradise islands in Cambodia with white soft sand beaches and turquoise clear warm water. The most common ones tourists choose is Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. That also means it is more developed and crowded in general compared to Koh Ta Kiev - our personal nr 1 paradise island in the world. Why? And when there, what can you do? Where can you stay?
Welcome to Paradise Island!
When we arrived in Sihanoukville (which you can read more about here) and tried to figure out where to go all the signs lead to Koh Ta Kiev.
Welcome to the Paradise Island – Koh Ta Kiev!
The initial two-night stay ended up being a three-week stay for us on this close to untouched paradise island. The simple life here is almost like going back in time. It is not very developed, which is a blessing in so many ways.
So what can you expect when you arrive at the island? Where can you stay? What can you eat? What can you do?
Koh Ta Kiev?
Koh Ta Kiev is a small island 10 km off the coast and approx. 45 min in a long tail boat from Sihanoukville (15 minutes in a speedboat). You can get to the island from Otres Beach, and there are several day-tour boats that stop on Koh Ta Kiev Island just for an hour or two for snorkeling and playing. If you book accommodation, be sure to check which boat is going to that place.
Koh Ta Kiev is ideal for exploring by land and by sea, as the island is only 28 square kilometers. Its jungle-clad interior is home to more than 250 species of birds, flying lizards, rare orchids, and rare carnivorous pitcher plants. You can also find freshwater ponds, rocky cliffs, hidden bat caves, and even an old Khmer Rouge runway cut into the heart of the jungle.
If your beach-break perfection is about logging off and slothing out, this little island off Ream National Park ticks all the right boxes. Despite the fact that much of the island has been leased to a Chinese property company – and a proper road has recently been sliced through the jungle interior, signaling major development may not be far off – for the moment Koh Ta Kiev still has budget-friendly, basic, but with high chill-out factor places to hang out.
Snorkeling, jungle treks, fishing, swimming, and exploring the island and waters are about the only activities here.
The Simplicity of Koh Ta Kiev
If you like luxurious resorts type of places, Koh Ta Kiev is not for you. Some of the accommodations are quite civilized, while others have dorm rooms on the beach, hammocks, or tents.
There is no public water on Koh Ta Kiev, no public electricity, and no sewage system or garbage collection. All the bungalows on the island have a solution to all these problems, however. For instance, Ten103 gives a free beer to every bag with trash collected from the beach.
There is telephone service, and hence, internet at most places, with the provider Smart, even if it can be a bit unstable. The bungalows on the island import or improvise for the fresh water. Electricity is usually by generator, and only for a few or several hours at night at some places.
Where to Stay and Eat?
There are a handful of options of where to eat and sleep on the island. If you stay for a while, you most likely want to try the different restaurants. Where the best place for you to stay and where to eat?
Let us dive into the alternatives from our personal opinions:
The most “luxurious” place we found with nice tree house bungalows is Kactus on Plankton and/or Coral Beach (name shift depending on where you are and read for some reason). You can even flush the toilets there! 😉
Still very simple and open bungalows without air-condition, but since you are on the beach you have mother nature air-condition from the ocean. A large family bungalow with private bathroom to fit 4-5 people would be around $75/night.
The food at Kactus restaurant is great and European, with a French chef, having only a couple of options for lunch and dinner. Their homemade rom is sweet and good to the delicious tiramisu or homemade ice cream or with a cup of great Cambodian coffee (the only place on the island with really good coffee). They have 4-5 different bean options for the French Press.
Talking about coffee; you want to remember to ask for fresh milk instead of the sweet condensed milk the Khmers uses when you travel in Cambodia… Or buy small packages of soymilk with sesame in the stores (on the mainland) if you do not use cow milk.
Kactus also have a free boat to/from Long beach where 4 other bungalows/hostels are (with lower prices) if you only want to go to Kactus for dinner or if you walked to Kactus for lunch. The boat Leaves Kactus at 3pm, it returns from Long Beach at 5:30pm and there is even a nightboat from Kactus to Long Beach at 8-9 pm. The latter is a great opportunity to see the fluorescent plankton in the waves.
Sea Garden has simple bungalows without private bathrooms for around $25/night. The toilets are ok, with no running water of course, but toilet seats.
The beach is very small here, but very cozy and with restaurant in the trees over the ocean.
The European food is fine, but we had some less exciting experiences there such as moldy bread, missed orders and wrong orders as well as often they find substitute things instead of what you actually order- such as regular bread instead of croissants - which lowered our score. Although, when you get your food and it is not moldy, it taste really good. Their “Bowl of Goodness” salad is amazing and their veggie burger juicy and tasty too.
There are a lot of young people staying here and it has a backpacker feel to it, but is not the loudest of places.
The hotel owners are working on keeping the beaches clean, they bring all the plastic and garbage back to mainland and are working at having Koh Ta Kiev as National Park so it can be saved.
That in it self is worth going there!
Ten 103 Tree House Bay
Ten103 tree house bay is another backpacker favorite place at the southern point of Long Beach. They have bungalows or rent a hammock and they have many volunteers working there (Sea Garden have that too). The toilets are the biggest downside with this place as they only have the hole in the floor ones…
The cozy restaurant where you sit on cushions on the floor with low tables facing the ocean has breakfast all day and the best Khmer Curry Oliver had on the whole trip. It is a very laid back relaxed place with lots of young people. Turns out that the manager is a Swedish girl. It only took us 5-10 minutes walk on the beach from ‘our place’ Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows to Ten103, so we were going there to eat a lot, until we got sick one night from the food... Afterwards we heard that that happens ones in a while at that place. But great staff and good hearts there.
Surprisingly, it has only happened once that we got sick from the food in 5 weeks so far, both in Thailand and Cambodia. Often you get sick from the water they say, and we drink from our water filter bottles (which you can read more about here).
Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows
Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows (or Nak´s Shack) is our place where we stayed several weeks. The family bungalows on the center part of Long Beach are spacious, simple with private bathroom without running water for about $25/night right on the beach. The best part is the outside bed on the terrace. There are two double beds in the large family bungalows.
The bungalows face the ocean (ocean is maybe 25 meters away), and the outdoors double bed with mosquito net gives you first row ocean view from bed. The terrace also has a hammock we spent many hours in. The small bungalows have one double bed inside but no private bathroom for around $15/night. We used our own bed sheets and towels here as the ones provided here are in polyester, which we are not huge fans of.
We had a few mice coming to eat our stuff – even the kids Lego – so we had to put all “eadibles” in our hard suitcases, hang the rest up and Nak gave us some cage-traps. You will have mice and nightly visitors in all these hostel options, even at Kactus… That is life on the jungle beach. Just tuck the mosquito net well under the mattress and you will be all right!
The bathroom has a barrel with water for flushing the toilet, showering and washing, that gets filled every evening when the power is on (between 6-10 pm). This is also when you can charge your electronics.
Long beach has the most beautiful and powerful sunsets. We enjoyed the sunsets with our favorite Cambodian beer – Klang (lower alcohol and more flavor than Anchor in our opinion).
Since this is a Khmer run place the food is authentic Khmer. This is the cheapest place for food and drinks on the island and the only Khmer run. We went through the whole menu and liked all of it, even if we were tired of it after a couple of weeks... We really enjoyed the noodles and fried rice here. You can also get sandwiches, pancakes with mango filling (Yummy) and Continental breakfast in large portions. A Klang beer only cost $1 here ($1,5 other places).
One downside with Long beach is that all the tour boats come in a few hours during the day and maybe even play music and party. But, this is still the quietest place from the afternoon until around 11 am. And when we say crowded, it might be 100 people in high season on the 1 km long beach… 😉 The other places to stay are more crowded and party feeling at all times.
Crusoe is on the northern tip of Long Beach. They offer tents and have some small bungalows in a lush area. They also have a restaurant, which was ok but nothing too exciting to return to, so we used the above mentioned places, instead. We have talked to people who says that this place is good for families.
The Last Point hostel is said to be a small party place on a tiny beach, which is a 5 min walk from Kactus.They have dorms with hammocks and a couple of bungalows.
They have really delicious pizzas in their restaurant. The party starts at 3 pm where you buy a beer and get free beers the next 30 min. For young backpackers this is THE place to party.
It has lovely snorkeling here, the best one on the island according to my boys.
What is the best match for your stay?
Where should you stay?
Basically it all comes down to what you are looking for. We hope this little summary of the places in our opinions makes it a bit more clear what is the best fit for you. This is our subjective description and we are all different, so you might rate it differently. Even if you choose to stay at one place you still have walking distance to most other restaurants.
Remember to figure out which boat to take to get to the place you have booked. Too many get on the wrong boat as the ticket sellers are mainly interested in selling tickets than to get you to the right beach. You can read more about what you need to bring and prepare before you leave to Koh Ta Kiev here.
What can you do on Koh Ta Kiev?
You can do as much and as little as you want while hanging on the paradise island. Here are some of our favorite activites:
1. Fluorescent Plankton
The best part of having dinner at Kactus at sunset and taking the late boat back to Long Beach is that at night you have the chance to see the fluorescent plankton in the water from the breaking waves which the boat makes, while the bright stars shine upon you… One of the kids favorite experience on the island so far.
The night skies are truly something to behold. Thanks to the low levels of light pollution, the nights are filled with brilliant stars. You can head out into the ocean for a late-night swim accompanied by millions of stars twinkling above while a host of bio-luminescent plankton illuminate the dark ocean around you. Although, they will not be visible around the time of full moon. This phenomenon as well, follow the rhythm of the moon…
Night swims on Koh Ta Kievs waters, jumping up and down and create waves together with the glowing plankton is really something extraordinary to experience. Bring your goggles to have a closer look.
2. Beach Hang
With over 13 km of coastline to explore, the island makes it easy to find a secluded spot to sunbathe or beachcomb for beautiful coral and shells.
Remember to put on lots of coconut oil when you are on Plankton/Coral Beach as the sandflies are very intense there. Coconut oil is the best protection against sandflies. They can’t bite through the coconut oil “filter”. Long beach doesn’t have many sandflies – at least not when we were there. They say sandflies are very aggressive on the bigger islands Koh Rong and Koh Rong Saloem.
Plankton/Coral beach faces more open sea, which also gives a bit more waves than the bay of Long Beach where the sea is often very calm and clear.
Hints of the island’s volcanic past come into view if you go snorkeling around its rocky outcrops and coral reefs. Most guesthouses offer snorkeling gear for $2.50 per day, and the staff can help you organize a boat trip or point you toward the best spots that can be reached on foot. The snorkeling is better at Plankton/Coral Beach than Long beach since there are more corals there.
And if you are after the Best reefs for snorkeling, they are around the headland between Kactus and Last Point. And as said before, Last Point snorkeling was the best for my boys.
If you are a big snorkeling fan Koh Ta Kiev might disappoint you as it is close to the mainland and visibility is relatively low. From what we have heard Koh Rong and Koh Rong Saloem that is further out is better for "pro-snorkelers".
A great way to enjoy Koh Ta Kiev’s beaches and marine life is by kayak. Athletic types can kayak all the way around the island in a few hours, but it’s also possible to paddle out just long enough to relax and enjoy the view.
At the moment, Seagarden and Crusoe Island are the only places on the island that offer kayaks for hire. Prices for a double kayak, paddles, and a dry bag are around $5 to $10 per hour.
5. Boat Trips and Cliff Jumping
After the morning drop-off and pick-up run, the resort boats are free to run private fishing, cliff-jumping, and sunset tours starting from $4 per person. The evening tours head to Elephant Rock (rock in the shape of an elephant head), where you can take in the sunset as you leap from the top of an 8-meter-high cliff. Those who don’t feel quite so adventurous can enjoy a leisurely swim and sip a cold beer as the sun sinks over the horizon.
6. Jungle Treks
You can also take a 30 min hike through the jungle and on Plankton/Coral Beach from Sea Garden, add another 10 min on the beach from Long Beach to experience some jungle ending at the white long beach and have some delicious lunch at Kactus.
It’s easy to lose an entire day wandering the island’s numerous jungle trails. Pick a route and head into the wilderness: the colorful signs and painted trail markers will keep you pointed in the right direction, kind of... They are easy to miss – so stay awake. Make sure you tell the resort staff that you’re heading out, and don’t forget to wear shoes and to take a flashlight and mosquito spray.
7. Visiting the local Fishing Village
Follow the blue signposts through the jungle and you’ll come to a small fishing village where you can check out island life. You do not need to have hiking shoes on, but bring a phone, since it can be tricky to navigate all the small paths and forks everywhere.
This little village is built mostly over the water, with houses, shops, and boat mechanics all precariously balanced on wooden stilts. And it is the home to the island’s local population.
The houses in the water is the cool part of the fishing village, the garbage is not. Everywhere you walk there is trash floating around, which made us very sad.
It seems like the hotel mangers on the island are the cleaners since they pick up trash on daily basis on other parts of the island. The locals do not, unfortunately.
All in all, you will have as plenty to do or as little to do as you want visiting Koh Ta Kiev…
We dearly love this island, and hope it will stay as untouched and simple forever. This is our paradise island.
What do you need to know and prepare before you head for the island? Read our blog post with a list of what to bring and know here.
Please post your comments and questions below! We look forward hearing from you!