Kep is a small seaside town in Cambodia, popular with lots of Cambodian beachgoers and a fair number of international visitors, who come not just for the beach but also for the dense forest you can hike through on the hill behind the town.
Kep was Cambodia's top seaside destination until eclipsed in the 1960s by Sihanoukville (and, soon after, decades of civil war). The town is full of ruined shells of old villas, destroyed in the Khmer Rouge days and during the subsequent Civil War.
Today's Kep has become established as a Khmer holiday spot and is slowly being rediscovered by travellers. An unfortunate attitude of "milk the foreigner" pervades the local businesses, which makes bargaining a necessity.
Kep's Tourism Group created a website with a lot of useful information about Kep, what to do, where to eat and stay, maps and a webcam. www.visitkep.com
- From Kampot: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. 25 km, 30-45 min trip. Bus US$3 (2020). For a motorcycle taxi (US$2–3) or tuk-tuk (around US$6) be prepared to bargain like a local or pay a bit more. A tuk-tuk from PassApp is about US$10. Package day tours between the two towns often include a visit to nearby destinations such as Rabbit Island, the caves between Kampot and Kep, and a pepper plantation.
- From Phnom Penh: The road is paved, smooth and well sign posted. Around 4 hr by bus. Several bus companies serve Kep (US$5–6) and offer various departure times between 07:00-15:00. 168 Phnom Penh Sorya bus company runs from the bus station near Phnom Penh's central market. Hua Lian is near Olympic Stadium (St 182, Oknha Tep Phan). Capitol Tours run from their offices in Phnom Penh. Hiring your own taxi should cost around US$40-50 (2½-3 hr).
- From Sihanoukville: Minibuses take around 2 hr and cost around US$7 (shop around, prices vary). Departures are in the morning.
- From Ha Tien, Vietnam: Motorbike taxis take 45 min and should cost over 100,000 dong (~US$5). Bargain hard and in dollars, it'll work out cheaper than in dong. It is a 45-min journey mainly on a dirt road.
Tuk-tuks are plentiful. Short trips around town should cost US$1–2, the price for a full day is between US$12–25. Some roads can be a little bumpy, but there is no major dust irritation like in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.
Self-drive motorcycles can be rented for around US$7 per day for a small 125 cc or around US$14 for a 250 cc. Bicycles are also available for rent.
- Angkaul Beach (45 min to the east near the Vietnamese border). Angkaul Beach was once the swimming beach for the Cambodian elite in the 1960s. The trip there might be long, but it is worth every minute. The 2-km-long beach is clean with white sand and totally deserted except some fishermen. Now there are 6 deck chairs and parasols and a small shop selling cold drinks for the few tourists going there. The water is shallow but clean.
- Caves. Around Kep there are 3 major caves, some with small shrines inside. The biggest and most impressive is near Kompong Trach (30 km from Kep). It boasts beautiful limestone formations and a nearby swimming cave.
- Colonial Villas. There are around 100 or more old French villas, mostly destroyed by the Kep locals, returning after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime (and not by the Khmer Rouge as most travel guides tend to make you believe) and some of them overgrown like Angkor Wat, quite a spooky feeling. Some of them have been restored, but most of them are owned of rich military officials who are waiting to sell it at the highest price.
- Kampot Pepper (at Phnom Voir mountain, about a 20-min drive from Kep). An absolute must is to visit the Pepper plantation. The pepper used to be the number one pepper in the world and all the good French restaurants had it. It is having a revival with a local NGO (Farmlink) helping promote and plant it again.
- 1 Kep Beach. A single, kilometre-long crescent of sand near the tip of the Kep peninsula. Tasty street food and fruit as well as beachwear is for sale along the road behind the beach. Busy on weekends, mainly with Cambodian visitors, but often deserted during the week. The road through Kep traces the coastline to the beach and then circles back on itself. Cars and vans must pay admission to drive the loop (2,500-5,000 riel). Motorcycles and pedestrians are free. The loop is one-way only and the police do occasionally enforce the law, levying fines against violators.
- 2 Kep National Park (Kep Mountain). There is an easy trail going full circle around the hill above Kep in the national park. It's a wonderful piece of jungle, in which it is quite probable to see some monkeys and other animals. The trail is about 8 km long (a 2-3 hour walk). If you don't want to walk, the path is big enough to ride a bicycle or a motorbike. There are even some small benches to enjoy the view and have a rest during the walk. US$1 entry, collected by the ranger on your way into the park.
- Rabbit Island (a 20-minute boat trip from Kep Beach (US$8-10 return if part of a tour; alternatively, get to the boat pier before 09:00 and share a US$20 boat ride with other travellers). Bungalows on Rabbit Island are quaint and cheap (from US$5 a night). The island is generally pretty quiet and is a gem of coastal Cambodia. Development is slow, though there is now a massage shack directly on the beach.
- Lida Massage, National Road, ☏ . Great massages (Thai, oil, or steam) for only US$7, next to the Kep Lodge.
- Sailing Club (next to the crab market). Rent catamarans, kayaks, and even a speedboat. They also have a restaurant with some special foods.
- Swim. While Kep Beach doesn't have the world's nicest sand, it's still enjoyable to go for a swim in the calm, cool water, as lots of Cambodian children do every day. There are wooden lounge chairs spread along the beach, occasionally with a Cambodian woman requesting US$1 to use them. Lots of cold drink vendors nearby and a decent place to watch the sunset too. Don't believe the gloom and doom that some guide books write about the beaches in Kep, they're actually quite nice. Also, going for a swim at night in the sea off Rabbit Island results in phosphorescent (bio luminescent) algae glowing all around you, which is a charming experience.
Seafood, beachwear, and basic everyday necessities can be found for sale in Kep. For anything more substantial you may need to head to Kampot, which is the nearest sizeable town.
There are money changers at the Crab Market that will exchange euros, dong, US dollars and riel. The riel is maintained at around 4,000 to the dollar. Anyone offering much off this is a crook. The market traders will have no problem in breaking large denomination dollar notes.
- ATMs. There is an ATM near the pharmacy. Veranda Natural Resort and Kep Lodge also offer cash advances on Visa and MasterCard cards but levy a service charge of 5%.
- 1 Crab Market. Crowded, noisy, humid outdoor market selling fresh seafood, plus drinks, dresses, and swimsuits for the tourists. Beachwear here is about half the price you'd pay at the shops by the beach.
- Kep Souvenir (Near the beach, just next to the Koki Restaurant (former Pasta et Basta), offers the biggest collection of souvenirs.). 10:00-18:00.
- Kep Supermarket (Near the pier to Rabbit Island). 07:00-20:00. A limited selection of wine, spirits, beers, snacks, and some Western food. There is also a fridge and you can buy cheese, butter and sliced meat. Also have milk and tea.
- Lili Perles aka Signature (Near the Beach), ☏ . daytime. Sells beads from all over the world for very reasonable prices. Lily, the owner, has been doing this for years and their collection is huge and very tasteful. They also have a small school for free, teaching French to the local people.
- 2 UCare Pharmacy (Kep Beach), ☏ . 08:00-12:00, 13:30-19:00. The only decent pharmacy in town. If you need hand sanitizer, shampoo, rubbing alcohol, or basic over-the-counter medication, this is the place to go.
Kep is famous for its crabs. The crab market (a 20-minute walk or US$1 tuk-tuk ride from Kep Beach) has line-caught crabs held in floating cages in the sea. Depending on the size of the crustaceans and your bargaining skills a kilogram of crabs should cost 10,000-20,000 riel. Vendors can steam your purchases in the boiling pots in the market or your hotel may also cook them for you. No visit to Kep is complete without having a least one meal of the fresh crabs, reputedly the best in Cambodia.
Several seafood restaurants line the seashore near the crab market. They have terraces built over the sea to provide stunning sunset views of Phu Quoc and Bokor National Park while you enjoy crab cooked with fresh Kampot peppercorns. If you head there early afternoon you can watch fisherman unload their catch of the day.
- Breezes Lounge & Restaurant, National Road 33 (halfway between Kep Beach & Ferry Pier), ☏ . Set in a beautiful, quiet and green area, and is a good spot to unwind near the sea. Serves imaginative food with an emphasis on Asian (sea)food. Try the Khmer fish wrap, chilli & rum prawns or Asian beef stew. With comfortable chairs, a lounge bed, jazz music and a beautiful garden this place is not only about food and provides a pleasant upmarket alternative in Kep. Showers available for swimmers (guests only).
- Kep Lodge Restaurant and Bar. The comfortable bar is replete with pool table and offers a good selection of Khmer and Western dishes including Swiss specialties cheese fondue and raclette. Music and liveliness can be enjoyed until midnight. Happy hour (17:30-19:00) lubricates the sun's decent over the infinity pool. Mojiot and draft beer available.
- Kep Thmey Seafood Restaurant (At the far end of the crab market), email@example.com. 08:00-22:00. Like all the other restaurants near the crab market, Kep Thmey is noted for crab and shrimp in green pepper. From US$3.
- Kimly Restaurant. Established and popular but possibly becoming complacent in success. Located towards the end of the row of seafood restaurants near the crab market. Shrimps or crabs with spicy sauce are notable, although this applies to all the restaurants on the row.
- Led Zep Cafe (Mountain trek road, just after Le Bout Du Monde). Its elevated position offers breeze and good views overlooking Kep and the ocean. The small menu offers burritos, pizzas and pancakes. There's a range of detailed maps of Kep and its surroundings. The helpful French owner has been living in Kep since 2004 and provides interesting company. Mountain bikes are available for rent. A good place to relax with a cold beer or a cappuccino.
- Veranda Restaurant & Bar, Kep Mountain Hillside, ☏ . 06:30-22:00. Main restaurant at the Veranda Natural Resort with a great view of the gulf, especially at morning and sunset. Beside their popular bakery shop, the restaurant offers seafood dishes, as well as Western and Asian food and brunch. The brunch is a lovely indulgence for a fair price. The service is excellent as well.
- Holy Crab, Crab Market. Holy Crab is one of the nicest of the generally basic restaurants at the Crab Market. You can still find the seafood staples you should try in Kep, but everything is served in a nice ambiance. Wonderful for a leisurely dinner or enjoying a nightcap by the water.
- Baraka. Closes around 22:30. A popular hang out for local expats, also a cosy place to enjoy an excellent sea side pizza and some great cocktails. They now boast an upstairs terrace overlooking the ocean. A truly stunning place for Kep's famous sunsets.
- Jungle Bar. On the small hill behind the Kep beach, Mary is running this late night bar, which features a pool table and a good sound system. Stays open until late.
- MaMa Cambodia. On the other side of Kep, near the Kep market, on the main road, Mrs Soki has opened this popular restaurant/bar which not only serves inexpensive local dishes, but also has a pool table and a nice open air bar. Open until late.
- Kep Night Market Next to MaMa Cambodia. You'll find plenty of small shops with the variety of goods to buy, i.e. Indian, Indo-China souvenirs, antiquities, Khmer specialities, food/drinks. Computer Repair Service is available.
Prices are higher here than in the rest of the country, especially at the budget end. A basic room that would cost US$5 elsewhere is US$10 in Kep. Ask the bus ticket sellers to put you onto something cheap. As Kep is a resort area, there is no problem finding good offerings in the mid- to high-price ranges.
- The Beach House Kep, Right on the beach (behind the white lady statue on Kep Beach Rd). From 170,000 riel.
- 1 Boathouse, 33A Sangkat Pray Thom, ☏ , . Check-in: Anytime, check-out: 12:00. Charming wooden rooms or fan/air-con, cheaper rooms with shared bathroom in concrete building. Traditional Khmer-style, tropical garden with stylish huts, views on the national park. Restaurant serving fine and traditional Khmer & Western food. Friendly family atmosphere. Free Wi-Fi. Motorcycle rental is available. US$8-30.
- Botanica, National Rd 33a, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Guesthouse with 6 bungalows, each with shower and fan or air con. Restaurant serves world food. Pool table, petanque, book exchange. The young garden is becoming established. US$10-25.
- Brise de Kep, 18-19 Kep Beach Rd (Near the guesthouses on Kep Beach near the south roundabout), ☏ . All rooms have hot water and TV. The only Western TV channel is Fashion Channel. The adjoining restaurant looks good, but isn't. US$12 (fan), US$15 (air-con).
- Knai Bang Chatt (Next to the Sailing Club). One of the fanciest places in all Cambodia, this complex has only three seaside villas. Book two and they'll guarantee that the entire place is yours. Great swimming pool, free Wi-Fi. A real private hide away. US$160-350.
- Masada Resort, Pepper St 2 (below the national park, opposite Tree Top), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 13:30, check-out: 11:30. Five bungalows with air-con and private balconies set in a tropical garden. Infinity pool with salt water with view of the National Park. The lounge with sofas and pool table offers panoramic sea view. US$50.
- 2 Kep Lodge, Pepper Street 1d (below the National Park), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Offering great views from the Deluxe bungalows down to the Gulf of Thailand. Thirteen private bungalows with hot shower, minibar, tea and coffee maker, desk and a big private terrace with a hammock and sofa - full breakfast included. A popular infinity salt-water swimming pool, free bicycles, fast & free WiFi all over the lodge, a book exchange and lots of games can be found at the Lodge. New first floor restaurant, with lounge. Has a lively bar, pool table and restaurant serving local and Swiss food. Can also be used as a meeting room. Outside guest can use their pool when consuming US$5/person for free . US$30-80.
- Raingsey Bungalow (email@example.com), Kep Mountain Hillside Rd (Same road as Vanna and Veranda), ☏ . Eight wooden bungalows set in a tropical garden. Private balconies give access to the palm-shaded swimming pool. Air con, en suite bath, hot water, restaurant with sea views. Wi-Fi. From 150,000 riel.
- Sovanna, 777 Ocean Blvd, Starinn_kepcity@yahoo.com. Small 13-room hotel. All rooms are smartly decorated and have sea views. Small pool, comfortable restaurant and bar. US$25-40.
- Tree Top Bungalows, Pepper Street (Below the national park next to Kep Lodge), ☏ . Check-out: 12:00. Set in a beautiful garden next to Kep Lodge overlooking the sea with both Bokor Hill Station and Phu Quoc in view, this place offers a wide range of accommodation ranging from US$4 double fan basic rooms, tree house style rooms through to shared bathroom rooms to rooms with private baths. US$4-20.
- Villa Romonea, Street 33, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. On the sea, villa with six rooms is on a two-hectare property with a six hole golf course, an infinity swimming pool and a tennis court. It is private and has all the amenities. US$150-190.
- Kepmandou Guest House, Road 33 Seaside Road, ☏ . Check-out: 12:00. Dorm and single/double rooms with shared bathroom. Free Wi-fi. dorm bed US$4. room from US$7, hammocks with a sea view US$1.50.
- 3 Bird of Paradise Bungalows, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Rustic, romantic bungalows amid the trees near Kep National Park. Helpful staff, wifi, several pet dogs and even a squirrel. Tasty, if a bit pricey, breakfast and dinner are available. Bungalows from about US$20.
- Ha Tien (Vietnam) - The Vietnamese border town is a fishing hub that offers boat trips to Phu Quoc or buses into the Mekong Delta. The border area is still pretty rustic and some roads will be unpaved.
- Kampot - Gateway to Bokor National Park.
- Sihanoukville - Cambodia's best-known beach resort
|Routes through Kep|
|Phnom Penh ← Takeo ←||N W||→ Kampot → Sihanoukville|