Cambodia is not a country we’ve ever visited for it’s beaches. After all, I’ve spent my life growing up just a five minute walk from beaches in the south-west of Western Australia, where you can find some of the best beaches in the world. When we want a ‘beach break’ on our travels, we head to the one of the many beautiful beach paradises of Thailand. We definitely don’t go to Cambodia, especially after our visits in 2012 where the beaches of both Sihanoukville and Koh Rong were in appalling condition.
So when we planned our trip to Cambodia in 2016, the plan was to avoid the beaches like the plague – we figured we would spend our time off the beaten track, visiting new destinations and having more outdoor adventures – like trekking through National Parks. That’s why we picked both Kampot and Kep for their close proximity to each other and different national parks.
It turns out that on our visit to Kep, after a fairly disappointing National Park trip in Kampot, turned out to be a ‘beach stop’ after all – completely unplanned, and it completely took us by surprise. Kep may just have been my favourite stop on this trip!
Kep is quiet.
The moment we arrived, instead of the dozens of tuk tuk drivers vying for our business, there was just a few. The central hub, was quiet. The roads, were quiet. The beach, was quiet. Kep had the most quiet, relaxed and laid back vibe I’d seen anywhere in Cambodia.
Kep is small.
Rather than a sprawling city that you could never begin to explore fully, Kep was entered around a small hub, just opposite the main beach, with small places to eat, to shop, to get a coffee, and to relax. Spread out a long one flat, major road you could easily walk around if you felt like it, or grab a bike and pedal along.
Kep’s beach is beautiful!
Whilst not the stark white, sandy beaches you might find in Thailand, the main beach in Kep was not far off – there was next to no rubbish, it had a gradual drop off into an almost flat bay (my type of beach) and best of all – there was NO ONE around. You had it all to yourself.
Our best finds were a genuine French bakery in the main hub of town – their pane au chocolat was the best I’d eaten outside of France – where we would stop for an iced coffee and stock up on pastries. Another great little restaurant we’d found on the other side of town was Captain Chim’s, selling delicious and cheap Khmer food in a cute little outdoor area. Dinner and a drink for less than $4 USD!
Kep is the perfect place to lose sense of time.
Whether its spending all day on the beach, renting a hammock and watching the sun set, riding your bike around the national park, or taking a day trip to Rabbit Island, Kep is so idyllic that you can easy find yourself wanting to never leave.
Kep is most definitely Cambodia’s best kept secret. It felt so very different to the rest of the country, and was such a welcome respite from the larger, noisier, more touristed hubs in the country. If you’re travelling in Cambodia for a long period of time or even just passing through, Kep is well worth a stop. Do it now, before Cambodia’s best secret is discovered by everyone else!
- How to get to Kep
We arrived in Kep from Kampot (another great spot), which is just 25km away and half an hour by mini-bus. They leave several times a day and cost $3 USD. You can also get to Kep from Phnom Penh in a large bus, taking 4 hours and costing around $8 USD.
- Where to stay in Kep
Our hotel in Kep was our FAVOURITE spot. We’re talking beautiful villas, by a beautiful pool, with wonderful staff, happy hour and just a short bicycle ride from town. We stayed at Palm House Boutique and Spa – book through Agoda for the best rates and frequent discounts.
- Best time to visit
It doesn’t really get ‘cold’ in Cambodia, though it does rain more often from July – October. Keep is super quiet during the week but apparently gets busier on the weekends, so avoid the crowds (albeit smaller ones) and plan your visit for the week.
Have you been to Kep? Tell us about your experience in this beautiful little town in the comments below!