Kep Province

Located just a few km from the border with Vietnam, Kep used to be Cambodia’s most popular beach town

Kep is a small city. The beach, which is suitable for swimming, is only 1,000m long, and the sand, is not white as in Sihanoukville. However, Kep is a big seafood market.


The city was founded in 1908 during the French colonial times. It was renovated into a beautiful seaside resort in 1960s during then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime. The name Kep is derived from the French words le cap, or cape in English. A cape is a point of land that just into water, especially a headland significant for navigation.

Khmer legend offers another explanation for the name. There once was a prince named Sakor Reach who possessed great magical powers. One day, Sakor Reach used his magic to hypnotize a commander of Angkor Thom before stealing the commander’s horse and escaping to the southwest part of the country. While Sakor Reach was relaxing at the seaside, the commander’s troops caught up with him. Nervous, the prince suddenly hopped on the back of the commander’s horse. The horse reared back, however, and fell on the prince losing its saddle1 in the process. The prince got back on the horse and rode off, leaving the saddle there. Hence, the area was called Kep Seh. Later it was shortened to Kep

What to see

Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay) is located about 4.5 Kilometers southwest of Kep. Tourists are drawn to the two beautiful white sand beaches. The sea here is shallow and has a long slope, making Koh Tonsay excellent for swimming. At the sea bottom area a variety of corals, sea animals and plants which attract researchers and ecologists.

The name Koh Tosay is derived from the word Rumsay3. While trying to avoid the commander’s troops, Prince Sakor Reach grew hopeless because his own troops began to tire. He led his remaining troops across the sea to an island in front of Kep city, where the troops spread out. Accordingly, the island was called Koh Rumsay, the Koh Ormsay or Koh Ornsay, and the Koh Tonsay, as it is known today.

Koh Tonsay is 2 square Kilometers. During then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangku Reastr Niyum regime, it was used as a place to rehabilitate criminals, who were also used to defend the island. Horse cart paths and wooden, thatch roofed motels were also constructed during this time. Most of this infrastructure has been destroyed by weather and decades of war. Today, seven families live on the island. They earn their living by fishing and growing coconut trees.

How to get there

Kep is a seaside tourist city located 173km southwest of Phnom Penh. Visitors from Phnom Penh take National Road 3 via Kampot province or National Road 2 via Takeo province. In addition, the train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville stops at Damnak Chang Eur Station, about 7km from the city. Foreigners coming from Vietnam can enter Cambodia via the Ha Teang Prek Chak border checkpoint, about 40km from Kep, or they can travel by boat from Vietnam or Sihanoukville to the Kep City Port.

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