After our crazy month in Vietnam we were in need of some R&R, and Kep. Cambodia is the perfect place for just that. It’s a small seaside town with friendly people, a national park and beaches. During the colonial era it was a thriving beach getaway for the French and Cambodian elite. Many people built beautiful villas along the coast. But during the days of the Khmer Rouge, the locals stripped many of the homes leaving only a shell.
In recent years the town has been revived and now has many hotels, guest houses and restaurants. The shells of the old villas give it an eerie feeling and riding around taking in the sights can be quite interesting.
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With amazing views of the sea, easy access to the national park, a nice pool, delicious food and a cute puppy, our accommodation was one of our favorite parts about our stay in Kep. Since we were on a budget we opted for their basic, wooden bungalow with a shared bathroom, but for double the price you can get a concrete bungalow with air con, a private bathroom with hot water and a flat screen TV. They also have bicycles free of charge!
Kep National Park
With our first full day in the town we decided to go for a hike on the jungle trail. It’s an 8 km trail that makes a loop around the mountain.
It boasts beautiful views of the surrounding islands and other small towns in the area. If you’re looking for more intense exercise or adventure, there are smaller trails that branch off the main loop that go up to the top of the mountain. We decided to go this route and we were rewarded with some nice Buddha statues and a shrine. But if the mosquitoes love you like they do me, be sure to wear repellent with Deet because they were everywhere up at the top. If you get thirsty or hungry while on the loop trail, the Led Zep Cafe and the Jasmine Valley Eco-Resort offer refreshments.
Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)
This is the most popular tourist attraction in Kep. It is a small island just 4.5 km off the coast. It is mostly undeveloped having only a few basic bamboo guesthouses and restaurants all run by locals on the main beach. They only have electricity in the evening and sometimes the water for showers can run out. The beach on the other side of the island is a fishing village inhabited by locals. A small trail goes around the shoreline and can be walked in about 2-3 hours. Make sure you have good walking shoes, though, as the path can be tricky in some areas. There’s also a path that goes to the top of the hill in the middle of the island. The swimming is also really good, but unfortunately it was raining on our day trip there so we just relaxed in two of the many hammocks on the beach. It’s a fantastic place to just read a book or take a nap.
Our guesthouse provided free bicycles so we took advantage of this and did some cycling around the little town. We checked out the crumbling old villas, met some locals and ate some delicious food. There’s an old mansion overlooking the water that belonged to King Sihanouk and was later turned into a hotel. Now it stands empty but you can go in and have a look around for $1. If you cycle just up the road a bit you can see the crab in the water welcoming you to the town.
Of course in a seaside town the fresh seafood on offer is amazing, but Kep is particularly famous for its crab and pepper. No visit to Kep is complete without sampling both. These two delicacies come together in a fantastic dish that is cooked up by most restaurants near the crab market. They also offer tours to see the pepper farms, but we decided not to do this since we had seen pepper farms in Vietnam.
As you can see from the photos, a visit to Kep is definitely a must if you’re in the area. It’s a great place for eating, reading a book in a hammock, cycling, hiking or swimming. We are excited for the day we can return to this wonderful place and spend a little more time there.
Transportation: We arrived in Kep via min-van from Ha Tien, Vietnam. Our tickets were $12 each and the whole trip, including the border crossing, took around 1.5 hours.
Accommodation: For our three nights in Kep, we stayed at the amazing Q Bungalows. Our simple wooden shack with a shared bathroom was $15/night, and it was great for our meager budget. Their dog and amazing pool made it one of our favorite places we stayed in Cambodia.
Getting Around: It’s a small town, so the best way to get around is on foot or bicycle. For lazy folks, there are also tuk-tuk drivers ready and willing to drive you around, or you can rent a motorbike.
Activities: Take a hike in the national park, cycle around and check out the ruins of former seaside mansions, lounge on the beach, or take a boat over to Rabbit Island.
Food/Drink: The #1 dish to try here is the pepper crab, and it can be found in most restaurants. In terms of going out, there isn’t much to do here but sit in a hammock, crack a few beers, and make friends with the locals – they are super welcoming and lots of fun!
Recommended Time: We stayed for three days, which is probably good enough for anyone trying to fit a lot into their Cambodia trip as we were. It’s a great place for a vacation, though, so if you’ve got more time and want to include a stay on Rabbit Island, a week would be great here.
Total Cost: We spent $194 between the two of us for our three days in Kep, plus breakfast the day we left. This includes our bus fare from Vietnam, which was $24 total. It’s quite a cheap place, and we definitely could have spent less if we didn’t like eating delicious food and cold beer so much.