An emerald isle off the coast of Cambodia, Alila Villas Koh Russey is high-spec hideaway close to the forest-flanked mountains of Bokor National Park. It’s a short speedboat ride from the mainland to this private paradise, which was once a navy outpost, though nowadays the sailors are long gone and discerning travellers are in on the secret. The airy pavilions and villas are teak-lined temples – the latter have private pools – with outdoor lounges and direct access to the beach. No detail has been spared – head up for a bird’s-eye view of the terraced pools in the shape of Angkor Wat…
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from £285.58 ($371), including tax at 23.42 per cent.
Rates include breakfast and shared return airport transfers (by minivan and speedboat) from Sihanoukville Airport.
The hotel can pack you off with a gourmet picnic to have on your own patch of this island paradise – or do it yourself after enrolling in a Khmer cooking class.
At the hotel
Beach, gym, yoga, watersports. In rooms: free WiFi, air-conditioning, free bottled water, tea-making kit, Nespresso coffee machine, flatscreen TV and Alila Living bath products. Villas also have a 24-hour host, pool deck with loungers and a cabana with a sunbed, and a pantry.
Our favourite rooms
Every room has some serious design credentials, especially the honeymooner-approved One-Bedroom Beach Villas, where the private pool is lined with an alfresco-lounge-housing pavilion, you can see the sea and the sand is just steps away; they also have huge bathrooms and a secluded setting. There are two-bedroom villas for families and four-bedroom villas for groups.
There’s an infinity pool by the beach, with loungers, palm trees and parasols, as well as some Angkor Wat-referencing architecture. Pool service is available between 8am and 7pm.
The spa has five treatment rooms, including one for couples, for rituals that blend the best of Asian and Western therapies, such as Balinese massage, Khmer-inspired herbal detox scrubs and avocado-based hair treatments.
This is a case of desert-island chic: bring castaway classics and marooned must-haves.
The hotel isn’t easily navigable for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome, but the resort is better suited to over-fours. Prams and pushchairs aren’t allowed in communal areas and there are steps around the resort. Cots can be added to rooms, and snorkelling kits, armbands and highchairs can be borrowed.
The tables closest to the pool at Horizon are the perfect perch to watch the sun go down.
There are two: the poolside Horizon has a French focus, along with some Asian and Italian flavours; the chef also likes to give his homeland of Mexico the odd nod. Many of the ingredients are plucked straight from the hotel’s organic garden, and you can also expect the local fishermen’s daily catch to be on the menu. Beach Shack offers a more authentically Khmer experience, as well as just-caught seafood grills and Caribbean-flavoured comfort food. Breakfast is a daily changing, diverse affair, whether you fancy huevos rancheros, bread pudding or Middle Eastern puff pastries. Children are welcome in both restaurants, where you’ll find dedicated menus and highchairs but no changing facilities.
Beach Shack is the best place for sundowners with a sandy floor.
Horizon opens for breakfast between 7am and 10.30am; and dinner from 6.30pm until 10.30pm. Beach Shack is open between 10am and 11pm.
There’s an all-day menu available until 10pm, when a smaller section of salads, sandwiches and snacks takes over.
You’ll find Alila Villas on the island of Koh Russey, a short boat ride from the Cambodian coast.
The closest airport is Sihanoukville, a 10-minute drive away, followed by a 10-minute boat trip; shared transfers are included with your stay, and private transfers can be arranged for US$30 a person each way. You can also land 200 kilometres away in Phnom Penh; hotel transfers for the four-hour drive start from US$387 a vehicle (up to four passengers). There are direct flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville daily; the flight time is 45 minutes.
Sihanoukville’s railway station is a 45-minute drive away; Royal Railways runs services to other cities across the country, including Kampot and Phnom Penh.
The centre of Sihanoukville is 45 minutes away by car. You won’t need a car to get around the island, and if you arrive in one, you’ll have to leave it on the mainland (the hotel car park is on Ream Beach, from where it’s a speedy 10-minute speedboat trip to Koh Russey).
Regular boat shuttles cross the waters to Ream, where you can get around by taxi, tuk tuk, motorbike or bicycle.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s lots to see and do on this private island, whether you fancy standing up on a paddle-board or slumping at the spa. The hotel has an outdoor cinema, yogastudio and an organic garden to check out. The concierge can also arrange trips to the other islands in the archipelago, and back to mainland Ream. Take a day trip to the mountain-flanked Kampot Town to see the colonial shophouses on the riverside, then head east through the countryside to visit the Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple, a seventh-century Hindu shrine surrounded by limestone caves and an eagle-shaped rock formation. Ascend to the French hill station within the peak-filled, jungle-covered Bokor National Park; these colonial buildings were used as a Gallic mountain retreat in the 1920s. While you’re there, don’t miss the staggered Popokvil Waterfall. Crustacean fans should check out the Kep Crab Market in the namesake quiet coastal town, where the various stalls will cook the freshly caught arthropods just the way you like them. Find peace (and great views) at the Ream Pagoda.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury hotel in Cambodia and unpacked their swimsuits and snorkels, a full account of their beach-side break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Alila Villas Koh Russey in Sihanoukville…
If you’re looking for spectacular modern architecture, you’ve come to the right place. Jaws will hit the floor regularly on Koh Russey, or ‘bamboo island’, whether it’s at the open-air reception’s lattice shroud, the Angkor Wat-shaped terraced pools or the water-feature-edged Horizon restaurant. Inside, the flat-roofed villas have hardwood floors, volcanic stone and wooden screens, with white walls, gunmetal-grey accents and colourful ikat cushions. Outside, the lush landscape largely pre-dates the resort, so you can expect huge old palm trees and plenty of jungle to explore. There’s a whole island that’s yours to adventure around, whether you want to pack up a picnic and find a secluded patch of sand, practise yoga, enrol in a Khmer cooking class or dine under the stars. Koh Russey once belonged to the navy, but the sailors have moved on. Now it’s all yours…
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