What to expect from Kep?
Historically, Kep town and the entire province flourished. The French founded it in 1902 and transformed it into a stunning coastal region.
Beautiful colonial buildings (mainly villas) were erected during this time and the overall French flavour for the luxurious made it one of the most desired destinations.
The province itself is, in fact, the smallest and least populated region in all of Cambodia. With an area size of 336 km2 and a population of just over 41,000, it’s nothing compared to Phnom Penh’s 679 km² area size and 1.5 million population.
Kep town, which sits right on the southern coastline, is located 30 km northwest of neighbouring Kampot. The two regions are connected by a paved road suitable for all modes of transport.
Very convenient if you want to go to and from each location with ease!
And now? Well, the area has changed somewhat, mostly as a direct result of the Khmer Rouge.
The once beautiful colonial buildings are left vacated and dilapidated, and the overall landscape is a little rough around the edges. However, this does add to its charm and Cambodian locals still see it as a peaceful seaside retreat, especially on the weekends and during holiday times.
Neighbouring Kampot is a more common destination with most travellers
Backpackers and foreign travellers, on the other hand, tend to favour neighbouring Kampot and only use Kep for its beachfront (and some other cool activities) for the day — though it’s worth pointing out the beaches really aren’t as impressive as, say, Sihanoukville’s or the ones found on the Koh Rong islands.
There’s not as much of a party-scene in Kep either — it’s more of a laid-back vibe and attracts a different (perhaps more sophisticated) crowd. There’s also not a central town area, so most eateries, bars, and pubs are sporadically placed all across the huge beachfront.
Either way, Kep is still a cool spot to visit. If you love fresh seafood (Crab!), long treks through nature (Bokor National Park isn’t too far away), and a healthy dose of French colonial history, we recommend a stay at Kep for a night or two.
Where to stay in Kep?
Although Kep has a reputation for being very quiet and laid-back, as well as small and modest, there are many places for you to stay.
Most of the accommodations are located around the seafront that wraps around the entire town and surrounding areas — you’ll rarely find anything further inland.
This is a blessing, really. Witnessing the Cambodian sunrise and sunset from the balcony of your guesthouse or hotel is something else — though, of course, it doesn’t replace watching it from Kep Beach with a cocktail in hand!
Luckily, because there’s such a large number of accommodation spots all around the town, you can pick something up on all luxury levels.
Location #1: Kep’s eastern area is for you budget travellers
Budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses are pretty common, especially around the eastern side. You can grab a 6-person dormitory for as little as $3-$4 per night at a guesthouse. Private rooms can cost upwards of $10 per night with or without shared toilet/bathroom facilities.
This area of Kep is actually very convenient if you’re looking to take a 25-minute boat over to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) from Koh Tonsay Boat Terminal — it’s very close! To find out more about Rabbit Island, we’ve covered it in more detail below.
Location #2: Kep’s western area is far pricier but has the famous Crab Market
The west side of Kep is where you’ll find the famous Crab Market, as well as some pretty incredible seafood restaurants next to it overlooking the sea.
This location generally offers luxury resorts and villas unsuitable for budget travellers — this is better for family holidaymakers as opposed to backpackers.
Prices vary between $30-$100 per night (sometimes more).
That’s not to say there isn’t some budget accommodation, however. There’s just not as much choice.
Location #3: Relax on the newly upgraded white sands of Kep Beach
Once upon a time, Kep’s only beach was a disaster. Only recently has it been upgraded. Sand from Otres Beach in Sihanoukville has been used to upgrade the beachfront and extend it a further 50 m, which means more room for relaxation in the fierce Cambodian sun.
It’s also probably the most desirable area to stay — the beach is there after all! However, there aren’t as many accommodation options, which is very surprising — you’d think there would be, right?
There are only three or four places directly on the beachfront. The prices are much higher than in the east. You’ll be looking to pay anywhere between $20-$60 a night for a private room.
If you want cheaper, simply venture further north up the road. You’ll find a few hostels and guesthouses there — though you won’t be as near to the beach. Expect to pay anywhere between $6-$8 in a shared dorm.
How To Get To Kep?
The easiest way to get to Kep is by bus from either Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville. The journey from Sihnaoukvill will take 3-4 hours, while the journey from Phnom Penh takes about an hour longer.
Note that most buses go via Kampot, which means the journey to Kep will take 30-60 minutes longer as the bus operators often make a stop in Kampot before continuing to Kep.
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Siem Reap||4-8 hrs||$26 - $125||Siem Reap to Kep|
|Sihanoukville||3-4 hrs||$8 - $40||Sihanoukville to Kep|
|Phnom Penh||3-4 hrs||$8 - $40||Phnom Penh to Kep|
|Battambang||6-9 hrs||$18 - $130||Battambang to Kep|
|Kampot||30min-2 hrs||$3 - $20||Kampot to Kep|
Top things to do in Kep
Kep and neighbouring Kampot share most of the things to do due to their close proximity. The Bokor National Park, for instance, spreads across both provinces, making it easily accessible from both towns.
Besides the amazing things to do we listed on the Kampot page, there are, however, some cool activities to do in Kep itself.
Kep Crab Market will deliver you some of the freshest seafood
Kep is well-known for its crabbing industry. It will, therefore, come as no surprise a whole market dedicated to crabs exists in the region.
The market is located on the eastern shoreline of Kep, which runs alongside Chhak Kep Bay. Every morning when the sun rises you’ll find fishermen and market stall owners reeling in their crates of crab fresh from the sea and ready to sell.
Once you’re there, you’ll notice crab isn’t the only thing on the menu. There’s a maze of sellers offering an assortment of seafood, fruits, vegetables, and drinks. Weirdly, clothes, hats, and accessories are also available as well. Not something you’d expect!
Kep National Park offers hiking trails and spectacular views
Compared to Bokor National Park further to the north, Kep National Park is a relatively small area of land — however, it does spread right through 65km2 of Kep Province.
Established in 1993, this park you’re totally free to roam through the endless paths and hiking trails to catch a glimpse of Phu Quoc and the Bokor Ranges, as well as Vietnam, in the distance.
The park is very well maintained too, which will make your hike more enjoyable. Some of the paths are paved, whilst others are dirt tracks. Each walking trail is sign-posted to stop you from getting lost. The Stairway to Heaven trail is particularly amazing — it’s not quite so overgrown as you’d find with the others around the park.
There is a $1 entrance fee but the views and nature around you are priceless, to be honest.
Hop on over to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)
As we’ve already mentioned, Rabbit Island is only a 20-25 minute boat ride away from the coast of Kep — it’s a very easy trip and won’t take a chunk of time out of your day!
Thanks to the lack of development, this small island’s of 2km in size, kept its peaceful remote aura firmly intact. There are no high-rise buildings spoiling the lush green scenery, nor will you find much modernisation — everything you see is authentically Khmer.
Although this might sound tempting, we would like to inform you that it isn’t the same paradise you’ll find at the islands more north around Sihanoukville. Rabbit Island offers only a small beach strip that isn’t particularly interested or close to the phenomenal islands Koh Rong Samloem or Koh Rong.
In our honest opinion, we would rather spend some extra time at Koh Rong (Samloem).
Can’t resist yourself from seeing every island Cambodia has to offer?
Then you can grab a boat from the Koh Tonsay Ferry Terminal found in the eastern area of Kep. One-day return tickets are $7 through your accommodation/hostel tour operators or $20 for the whole boat with 8-10 of your travel buds.
In case the island exceeds your expectations, you can also find a small number of beach chalets on the west side of the beach — these typically start from$10 or so per night.
If you’re looking for a full rundown of things to do in Kep, take a look at our Kampot page. We’ve listed ten of our favourite places to explore regardless of whether you’re located in Kep or Kampot.
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