You’ve been to Bali, you’ve done Phuket. But have you stretched out on the golden-sand beaches that fringe the Cambodian Riviera? It’s likely you haven’t. Once the country’s glittering crown jewel (before the rise of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s), in recent years the southern coastal region has been slowly reemerging as a travel destination. It’s a renaissance that November’s opening of Alila Villas Koh Russey is helping to solidify.
The highly anticipated resort marks the first inroads into Cambodia for Alila, the luxury hospitality brand behind the mesmerizing Alila Yangshuo at the foot of China’s sweeping Karst mountains and the centuries-old Indian-fort-turned-hotel Alila Fort Bishangarh. And like its sister properties around Asia, the appeal of this private island resort—besides, of course, its sleek beachfront pavilions and villas—is that it opens up a slice of a region previously only accessible to the most intrepid backpackers. A speedboat ride away from Sihanoukville, the property is an ideal home base for exploring the glittering Koh Rong archipelago. Guests can spend their days sailing out to deserted beaches, anchoring down to snorkel in emerald-green bays along the Gulf of Thailand, and trekking through the lush jungles and hidden temples of Bokor National Park.
That said, while there is plenty of Robinson Crusoe–style adventure to be had, you’re going to want to block out enough days to ensure that you also have plenty of time to simply stay put. The 50 pavilions and 13 villas (which offer a little bit more space to spread out in) have all been designed by Singapore-based architect Chioh-Hui Goh with nods to the local Khmer culture in mind. Nearly everything has been inspired by Krama, a traditional Cambodian cloth woven with a check pattern. The freestanding guest rooms are all arranged to follow the traditional geometric lines (helping preserve much of the island’s natural foliage), and the rich wooden headboards and cabanas that line the private pools (which are also present in most rooms) have been intricately carved to mirror the fabric of Khmer life.
Traditional Khmer ingredients and healing techniques are threaded throughout the treatments at the beachfront Spa Alila and in the cuisine served up at the Beach Shack, where guests can settle in for light Khmer-inspired bites and seafood to refuel before the afternoon’s adventures out on the water. Come dinnertime, they can head to Horizon for a taste of traditional French and French-fusion fare that nod to the region’s colonial past and bright, international future.