An emerald isle off the coast of Cambodia, Koh Russey Villas & Resort 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…
11am; earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability and an additional charge.
Double rooms from €227.17 ($240), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per booking prior to arrival and an additional room tax of 2% per booking on check-out.
Rates include a la carte breakfast at the Horizon restaurant.
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 local bath products. Villas also have a 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 beachfront villas, designed for indoor-outdoor living with private pools, a deck and a lanai; you can see the sea and the sand is just steps away; they also have huge bathrooms. Pavilions are differentiated by view and storey – beachfront and ocean-front options edge ahead with easy beach/garden access on the ground floor, plus an outdoor bath tub with your ensuite. 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 (open 7am–6pm).
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.
Welcome: under-12s are charged as children. The hotel can provide cots and baby monitors, but there's no kids club or crèche.
The hotel is set among established plants and trees, carefully conserved by the grounds team. There's no single use plastic at Koh Russey: bath products are full size and refillable, drinks are in glass bottles or cans (both then recycled). Lights in public areas work on an (energy-conserving) timer system, and wood in some areas has been sourced from fallen timber or driftwood. The hotel works with regional suppliers for food and drink where possible and used cooking oil is sold for upcycling.
The tables closest to the pool at Horizon are the perfect perch for watching the sun go down.
There are two: the poolside Horizon has a Khmer/Asian focus with some international dishes: 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. Breakfast at Horizon is a daily changing, diverse affair, whether you fancy huevos rancheros, bread pudding or Middle Eastern puff pastries. If flame-charred seafood paddles your kayak, head to thatch-roofed Beach Shack, where a bar in the sand centres around the seafood grill with a choice of more typical Western comfort food (burgers et al) and salads also on offer. To mark a special occasion (or just for the romance of it), you can also a seafront private dinner at a pagoda on the sand. 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, 7am–10am; lunch, noon–3pm, and dinner, 6pm–9.30pm. Beach Shack is open for lunch and dinner between noon and 3pm, then 6pm–9.30pm.
You’ll find Koh Russey Villas & Resort 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 US$38 round trip per room, and shared transfers can be arranged for US$62 round trip per pavilion or villa; private transfers are $145 a round trip. You can also land 200 kilometres away in Phnom Penh. 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. Private transfers from Sihanoukville can be arranged for US$60 for a round-trip booking.
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. Ask about private boat or helicopter transfers to Koh Russey Villas & Resort.
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.
You’re marooned in paradise, so it’s the resort’s restaurants or a trip to the mainland for dinner.
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 Koh Russey Villas & Resort 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 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…