Back to Basics with the Best Islands in Cambodia: Cambodia's Islands Capture Old-School Thailand Charm

Before neon lights and high-rises dominated tropic scenes, Thailand lured adventure-seekers with deserted white sand beaches, swaying palms and dive sites untouched by crowds. Fortunately next-door neighbor Cambodia now offers this portal to paradise past. Let’s rediscover the carefree island life of yesteryear on Cambodia’s gorgeous island jewels.

Back to Basics with the Best Islands in Cambodia - Cambodia's Islands Capture Old-School Thailand Charm

Cambodia’s islands are starting to gain more attention from travelers looking for unspoiled tropical paradises. With white sand beaches, swaying palms, crystal clear waters, and a laidback atmosphere, these islands offer a throwback to old-school Thailand before mass tourism took over.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the beauty and charm of the best islands in Cambodia, showing you why they are an idyllic escape reminiscent of Thailand decades ago. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, breathtaking nature or vibrant nightlife, Cambodia’s islands have something for every traveler.

Key Takeaways:

Vibrant Island Nightlife in Koh Rong: Cambodia’s largest island draws party-seekers with pulsating beach clubs and all-night full moon fests recalling Thailand’s anything-goes heydays.

Eco-Bungalows on Koh Rong Sanloem: Grass-roofed timber huts blending seamlessly into nature offer that old Robinson Crusoe castaway vibe missing from mainstream resorts.

Carefree Local Life on Koh Tonsay: Interact with humble fishing villages where traditional lifestyles persist across generations – a portal to Thailand 30+ years ago.

The Best Islands in Cambodia Offer Thailand Charm Without the Crowds

Similar to Thailand 30 years ago, before rapid development and hoards of visitors, Cambodia’s islands remain mostly untouched and crowd-free. Those longing for the carefree days in Thailand immortalized in Alex Garland’s novel The Beach will find their paradise once again in Cambodia.

Here you can chill in a hammock on a remote beach without disturbance, immerse in colorful coral reefs without bumping into dozens of snorkelers, or dance the night away at a beach bash without overwhelming crowds. Cambodia’s islands give you the chance to experience Thailand’s glory days when few travelers knew about its wonders.

The Best Islands in Cambodia Offer Thailand Charm Without the Crowds

Top 7 Islands in Cambodia Capturing Thailand’s Magic

Let’s dive into the top islands in Cambodia offering that old-school Thailand atmosphere:

Koh Rong – Vibrant Island Nightlife

Koh Rong Island packs in the most vibrant nightlife and energetic atmosphere in Cambodia. Its main beach strip, aptly named Koh Touch, comes alive after dark with beach parties, fire shows, pub crawls and flashing neon lights from bars and clubs.

Revelers dance and drink the night away with new friends on Koh Rong’s sandy shores. The island recalls the early Full Moon Party days on Thailand’s Koh Phangan when the monthly beach bash remained a hidden secret.

Koh Rong Samloem – Idyllic Tropical Getaway

For a more relaxed vibe, head just offshore to sleepy Koh Rong Samloem island. Its two main beaches, Saracen Bay and Lazy Beach, exude a peaceful atmosphere perfect for whiling away the days in a hammock.

Thatched roof bungalows line the shores, summoning images of simpler times in Thailand when basic beach huts sufficed over elaborate pool villas. With fewer visitors and developments, Koh Rong Samloem offers the unspoiled natural beauty and tranquil pace Thailand has lost.

Koh Ta Kiev – Remote Island Adventure

Adventurous spirits who want to pave their own path should visit remote Koh Ta Kiev island. Mostly uninhabited and undeveloped, Koh Ta Kiev’s pristine beaches feel like you’ve discovered a private slice of paradise.

Navigating jungle trails to emerge onto empty swaths of powdery sand evokes Robinson Crusoe vibes of living in harmony with nature. Koh Ta Kiev provides the remote island experience Thailand’s popular destinations no longer offer.

Koh Totang – Digital Detox Destination

Further enhancing the remote island atmosphere is Koh Totang, situated off the coast of sleepy Kampot town. With no paved roads, electricity or internet, Koh Totang forces you into a much-needed digital detox.

Pass days beachcombing, swinging in a hammock and swimming without disruptions from modern technology. Koh Totang transports you back in time to when we all led simpler lives before smartphones and social media took over.

Koh Tonsay – Glimpse of Local Island Life

Charming Koh Tonsay near Kep town offers a window into authentic local island culture that’s disappeared on Thailand’s developed islands. Home to just a small fishing village, visitors can glimpse traditional island living.

Watch local fishermen pull in their daily catch, sample tasty Khmer dishes in family-run beach shacks, or try lending a hand to villagers tending vegetable gardens. On Koh Tonsay, this connection with locals provides insight into what Thailand’s islands were once like.

Koh Russei – Pristine Private Island

For those desiring both peacefulness and luxury, Koh Russei fits the bill with its exclusive five-star Alila Villas resort. Occupying the entire small island and closed to outside visitors, Alila Villas Koh Russei maintains exclusion and privacy.

Its pristine beaches remain litter-free and uncrowded, harkening back to Thailand’s now packed Phuket or Koh Samui of decades past. At Alila Villas Koh Russei, you can indulge in a pampered island getaway while also avoiding hordes of tourists.

Song Saa Private Island – Sustainable Island Sanctuary

Speaking of secluded luxury escapes, ultra-exclusive Song Saa Private Island sets the standard for sustainable island tourism. This all-villa resort spans two petite islands offering the ultimate private hideaway above a marine reserve.

Song Saa protects the surrounding sea allowing flourishing coral reefs and marine biodiversity reminiscent of “old” Thailand. Perhaps more importantly, the Song Saa Foundation runs impactful community initiatives from school building to waste management.

Song Saa gives you the chance to enjoy an unspoiled tropical island and also give back, much like Thailand’s islands used to inspire global stewardship. Its sustainable approach provides a model to rescue paradise before it’s too late.

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Introduction to The Best Islands in Cambodia

Introduction to “The Best Islands in Cambodia”

Beyond their aesthetic beauty, Cambodia’s islands capture the carefree atmosphere and connection with nature that put Thailand’s islands on the map decades ago. Whether you seek thrills, serenity, local culture or sustainable travel, Cambodia has the perfect island for you.

In the list below, we will count down 10 epic islands in Cambodia and all the reasons you should visit them. From undercover hippy havens to family-friendly beaches to exclusive private enclaves, discover your ideal tropical escape.

Cambodia islands Bonus:

Escape to Cambodia’s islands boasting deserted beaches, all-night parties, lush jungles, and vibrant coral reefs! These untouched havens evoke nostalgia for old Thailand before the crowds. Paradise found!

The Best Islands in Cambodia

Koh Rong Island

Main Highlight: Epic nightlife and gorgeous beaches

As the second largest island off Cambodia’s coastline, Koh Rong serves as the epicenter of the country’s revitalized island scene. Despite increasing development, it manages to maintain the atmospheric hippy haven vibe reminiscent of Thailand 20-30 years ago.

Koh Rong’s main tourist village, Koh Touch (Koh Tui), provides the island’s liveliest nightlife. Pub crawls, beach bonfires, fire shows, all-night dance parties… Koh Touch brings the festivities against a backdrop of neon-lit bars, beach clubs and open-air DJ booths.

Yet during the day, Koh Rong dazzles with over 20 pristine beaches lining its shores. Long Beach offers seven kilometres of serenity, while secluded Palm Beach ensures total privacy. You’ll find any ambiance you desire on Koh Rong.

Where to Stay

Koh Rong Sanloem

Main Highlight: Lazy days in tropical paradise

If Koh Rong feels too hyperactive, head just offshore to its more sedate sister island, Koh Rong Sanloem. With fewer crowds and developments, Koh Rong Sanloem focuses more on harmony with nature through eco-bungalows, jungle treks, beachfront yoga and diving expeditions.

Most accommodations congregate on two main beaches: Saracen Bay and Lazy Beach. The aptly named Lazy Beach stretches over one kilometre of buttery sands backed by swaying palms, beckoning hammocks, beachfront dining and rustic-luxe resorts like its namesake, Lazy Beach Resort.

The entire island exudes a relaxed, carefree atmosphere reminiscent of southern Thailand decades ago. Koh Rong Sanloem offers a portal to paradise before mass tourism discovered these once pristine islands.

Where to Stay

Koh Ta Kiev

Main Highlight: Robinson Crusoe-style remote island

For those craving remote off-the-grid relaxation, Koh Ta Kiev fits the bill. Largely uninhabited and undeveloped, Koh Ta Kiev’s pristine beaches feel like you’ve discovered a private slice of paradise.

Navigating jungle trails to emerge onto empty swaths of powdery sand summons Robinson Crusoe daydreams of living in harmony with nature. Designated camping areas let you fall asleep to the sound of lapping waves.

By day snorkel among vibrant corals or wander until you find your perfect deserted beach. By night watch the waters illuminate with bioluminescent plankton. Leave the world behind and embrace island simplicity on Koh Ta Kiev.

Where to Stay

Koh Totang

Main Highlight: Peaceful digital detox destination

Further enhancing the remote island atmosphere is Koh Totang, situated off the coast of sleepy Kampot town. With no paved roads, electricity or internet, Koh Totang forces you into a much-needed digital detox.

Pass days beachcombing, swinging in a hammock and swimming without disruptions from modern technology. Koh Totang transports you back in time to when we all led simpler lives before smartphones and social media took over.

Its sole resort, Nomad’s Land, offers an escape from modern trappings through its solar-powered wooden bungalows and natural building materials.

Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)

Main Highlight: Laidback island life

Idyllic Koh Tonsay near Kep charms visitors with its local island vibes reminiscent of Thailand 30 years ago. A fishing village remains home to most inhabitants who live traditional lifestyles.

Beachfront restaurants serve the daily catch from fishing boats bobbing on the shoreline. You may glimpse farmers tending vegetable plots or children playing football on the sand against fiery sunsets.

Yet Koh Tonsay also meets 21st century relaxation standards with swimmable waters, shady palm trees and a smattering of affordable beachfront bungalows. Find your perfect hammock nook to soak up island life.

Don’t forget to feast on Kep crab, cycles down dirt roads to hidden coves or snorkel among colourful corals. Rediscover bygone days of connection to nature and community on Koh Tonsay.

Where to Stay

Koh Russei (Bamboo Island)

Main Highlight: Total relaxation and wellness

Bliss-seekers desiring both tranquility and luxury should consider Koh Russei, exclusively home to Alila Villas Koh Russey. Occupying an entire small island and closed to day trippers, Alila offers extreme privacy and peace.

Guests indulge in spa treatments, sunrise beach yoga, healthy gourmet dining and relaxation between pristine sands and turquoise shallows. Your personal butler caters to your every whim so you simply recharge.

When you tire of lounging on plush day beds, grab snorkelling gear and play among colourful fish and corals, or charter a boat for fishing or island hopping. Pamper your body and soothe your soul on beautiful Bamboo Island.

Where to Stay

Song Saa Private Island

Main Highlight: Ultra-luxury sustainable island

For those seeking the ultimate exclusive tropical escape, look no further than Song Saa Private Island. Actually spanning two islands, Song Saa features 27 spectacular overwater and jungle villas showcasing vintage-chic Cambodian design.

By day snorkel among vibrant corals or embark on thrilling wildlife adventures to remote islands. Luxuriate with indulgent spa treatments in your outdoor jungle tub or sip sunset cocktails on your private pool deck.

Yet Song Saa offers more than sheer hedonism. Its non-profit Song Saa Foundation drives impactful community and conservation initiatives from school and clinic construction to hornbill protection. Song Saa lets you experience an unspoiled private island while bettering local lives.

Where to Stay

Koh Thmei

Main Highlight: Untouched nature and wildlife

Pristine Koh Thmei south of Sihanoukville offers adventures into unspoiled landscapes that recall Thailand’s national parks 30+ years ago. The island belongs to Ream National Park, meaning its mangrove-cloaked shores and rolling interior jungle remain perfectly preserved.

More than 150 bird species call Koh Thmei home, like colourful kingfishers, majestic sea eagles and endangered Imperial pigeons. Wildlife sightings may include monkeys swinging through canopies overhead or otters splashing in mangrove creek inlets.

Stay in one of the eco-friendly wooden bungalows and enjoy guided jungle hikes, sea kayaking and snorkelling. Immerse yourself in nature from dawn until you fall asleep to a nocturnal jungle soundtrack.

Where to Stay

Koh Tang

Main Highlight: Superb scuba diving and snorkelling

Adventurers and diving aficionados will adore rugged Koh Tang near Sihanoukville. Mostly uninhabited, the island’s coral reefs prosper allowing schools of fish and turtles to thrive. Divers report conditions matching Thailand’s top dive sites 30 years ago.

Snorkellers will delight over kaleidoscopic corals and spotting butterflyfish and even sharks in shallow bays. When you surface, lounge on secluded powdery beaches without sight of another soul for miles. Camp under the stars or bunk down in crude wooden huts.

Offshore dive sites astound with fish-laden walls, pinnacles swarming with barracudas and wrecks encrusted with corals. Live out your sea gypsy dreams on this remote dive paradise.

Where to Stay

Koh Rong Sanloem

Main Highlight: Robinson Crusoe island life

We’ll round up our list with Koh Rong Samloem (or Sanloem), whose northern tip offers a special community lacking on crowded islands. In the humble village of M’Pai Bay, visitors immerse in authentic daily life alongside the tight-knit fishing community.

Watch parents paddle children to school through mangroves or help granny slice pineapples destined for beachfront warungs (cafes). Kick a football around on golden sands with local youth as the sun dips below the horizon each evening.

Simple homestays owned by local families invite cultural exchange, or opt for complete isolation at Frangipani Resort‘s secluded beach houses. However you experience M’Pai Bay, you’ll capture the essence of what Thailand’s islands once offered.

Discover the Best Islands in Cambodia Before the Secret Gets Out

As you can see, Cambodia offers island lovers an incredible variety of tropical escapes to suit every style and budget. With a fraction of the crowds currently overwhelming neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam, now is the time to experience these island paradises.

From backpacker parties on Koh Rong to nitrox scuba courses on Koh Tang, Cambodia presents adventures found nowhere else. And you still get to enjoy that unspoilt natural beauty and local charm before the bulldozers move in.

We highly recommend visiting sooner rather than later, before the floodgates open. Trust us, you’ll find that Thai island atmosphere of 40 years ago still thriving just over the border in Cambodia!

So don’t just research endlessly. Book a ticket and watch your island dreams unfold before mass tourism transforms these deliciously remote outposts forever. Adventure awaits on Cambodia’s gorgeous island jewels!

Discover the Best Islands in Cambodia Before the Secret Gets Out

What are the top-rated islands to visit in Cambodia for first-time visitors?

Based on their popularity, ease of access, and variety of attractions, I would recommend the following top-rated islands for first-time visitors to Cambodia:

  1. Koh Rong – As Cambodia’s largest island, Koh Rong offers the widest range of accommodations, dining, and activities. First-timers can party till dawn or relax on tropical beaches. Easy to reach by ferry from Sihanoukville.
  2. Koh Rong Samloem – Just offshore from Koh Rong, this island provides a more chilled-out vibe with opportunities to snorkel vibrant coral reefs or hike jungle trails. Also a quick ferry ride from the mainland.
  3. Koh Ta Kiev – For a remote, rustic island experience minus large crowds, Koh Ta Kiev fits the bill. Navigate between deserted beaches and jungles for a real castaway adventure that’s still easily accessible.
  4. Koh Tonsay – Near Kep/Kampot, this petite gem presents an authentic fishing village culture beyond just a beach escape. Its proximity to the mainland makes it a convenient island escape.
  5. Song Saa Private Island – Those who can splurge on luxury will appreciate the stunning villas and impeccable service at Song Saa Resort spanning two private islands. Once-in-a-lifetime experience!

These islands offer a nice mix of activities, landscapes and vibes for first-timers. Avoid super remote spots before getting your bearings in Cambodia and instead opt for popular paradises within comfort reach. With endless coconut trees and white sands matched by friendly locals, these islands guarantee an unforgettable tropical escape for new visitors!

Best snorkeling spots in Cambodia’s islands for beginners?

Here are my top recommended snorkeling spots in Cambodia’s islands for beginners:

  1. Koh Rong Sanloem – The clear, calm waters along Lazy Beach are perfect for beginner snorkelers. You can easily spot colorful fish and small coral formations in shallow areas. Lifeguards also patrol the beach for added safety.
  2. Koh Ta Kiev – Just offshore, you’ll find a vibrant coral reef bursting with clownfish, blue spotted rays, and more. The water remains relatively shallow allowing you to take your time. No crowds either.
  3. Koh Tang – Protected coves on the west beach gentle lap at the shoreline creating a natural swimming pool environment ideal to try snorkeling for the first time. Spot starfish resting on the sandy sea floor.
  4. Bamboo Island – Along the southern tip, a shallow reef populated by angel fish and wrasses offers novice snorkelers plenty to see up close to shore. The beach entry allows easy, gradual water access.
  5. Koh Totang – The beach by Nomads Land slopes gently outward allowing you to acclimate before diving under. Schools of striped fish frequent these calmer waters.

With lifeguards, accessible shores and vibrant marine life concentrated close to beaches, these spots prove optimal for beginner snorkelers to discover Cambodia’s spectacular underwater scenery from the surface.

As you depart Cambodia’s islands, bid farewell to the Thailand of decades past. But despair not! With sustainable stewardship and mindful development, these gems can avoid the overexploitation plaguing regional neighbors. We hold the power to rescue paradise from the bulldozers. Catch that last epic sunset and promise to help Cambodia write a different future.

Glossary for Further Reading

To enhance your understanding and knowledge about Cambodia’s Islands and related topics, here’s a curated selection of blog posts from “My Siem Reap Tours.” These posts delve into various aspects of traveling in Cambodia, offering insights and information that align well with the theme of Cambodia’s enchanting islands.

Blog Post TitleDescription
How to Go to Kulen MountainGuidance on visiting a significant natural site
Siem Reap Airport TipsUseful tips for navigating the local airport
My Siem Reap Tours Questions and AnswersFAQs for tourists in Siem Reap
The Top Five Sunset Spots in Siem Reap and Angkor Archaeology ParkBest locations to experience sunsets
Experience Yoga in Siem ReapExploring yoga retreats and sessions
Insurance for Travel Throughout South East AsiaTips on travel insurance in the region
Transportation from Phnom Penh to Siem ReapTravel options between major cities
A Guide to the Siem Reap Best Kept SecretsUnveiling lesser-known attractions
Siem Reap with a Tour Guide on a Private Day Tour of the CityInsights into private touring options
The Spiritual Side of AngkorExploring the spiritual aspects of Angkor temples
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