You'll never find another seaside getaway quite like Kep, with its narrow pebble-and-sand coastline bordered by the ghostly villa ruins of the Khmer Rouge era. What once was the coastal playground of Cambodia's elite and the international glitterati was destroyed in decades of war. Ever so slowly investors are refurbishing what's salvageable; most of the villas now being turned into resorts were bought for next to nothing in the early 1990s. When you arrive, tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides are sure to find you. Not much traffic comes through Kep, so the locals know the bus schedule. They're sure to offer you a tour of a nearby pepper plantation, which can be a rewarding experience but also a long, bumpy ride along dusty rural roads (a 4x4 or regular car is the best option). Kep grows some of the world's best pepper, which you can enjoy in its green, red, black and white phases in a multitude of traditional dishes—the crab with Kampot pepper is especially good.
The beach in town is small and a popular picnic spot for locals who come to relax at the water’s edge. Offshore, beautiful Rabbit Island has attracted a lot of tourists over the last few years, and the unfortunate result is that it has become somewhat polluted. You can hire a boat to take you there for $7 to $10. If you are a true nature adventurer and choose to stay at one of the 30 or so bungalows here, be warned—there are snakes in the interior of the island and there is only sporadic electricity—and the nightly massing of bugs is not for the fainthearted; but, having said all this, the tropical paradise can inspire most to conquer their fears.