If you’re visiting Koh Rong Sanloem soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants, the best things to do and how to get around this idyllic island in Cambodia.
What to expect in Koh Rong Sanloem
Koh Rong Sanloem is a small island paradise in the Gulf of Thailand, a 30-minute ferry from its ‘big brother’ Koh Rong.
Despite the proximity, these islands are pretty different. Koh Rong Sanloem is much smaller, with a lot less development and a little bit closer to paradise in our opinion.
Koh Rong Sanloem boasts pristine white-sand beaches, dense jungles and only dirt roads to get around. It’s the kind of place where nothing is a rush, and relaxing on the beach is the only thing you need to accomplish for the day. The more rustic vibes allow you to feel in touch with nature again and enjoy a more simple life.
Is Koh Rong Sanloem worth visiting?
If spectacular turquoise waters, swaying palm trees and a relaxed vibe is your thing, then Koh Rong Sanloem is definitely worth visiting. It’s like nowhere else you’ll find in Cambodia ,and the perfect place to chill for a few days while in Cambodia.
Throw in some awesome snorkelling and diving, the chance to climb a lighthouse with panoramic views of the island, plus the friendliest locals, and you can’t get much better than that.
How many days should you spend in Koh Rong Sanloem?
Like with any island paradise, knowing how long you should stay is pretty hard. Really it depends on how long you’re spending in Cambodia, and how much time you have to spare for Koh Rong Sanloem. We promise that once you arrive, you won’t want to leave.
If time isn’t on your side and you need to stick to a strict time schedule, we recommend a minimum of three days on the island. That makes the journey there worth it, and gives you some time to unwind and relax.
Where to stay on Koh Rong Sanloem
Choosing where to stay on Koh Rong Sanloem mainly consists of choosing which beach you’d prefer to spend most of your time on as moving around the island isn’t the easiest thing to do. Or, where the accommodation you like the most is situated.
There aren’t a ton of accommodations on Koh Rong Sanloem, so we recommend booking in advance to make sure you get to stay where you want.
Here are the three main places to stay on Koh Rong Sanloem:
Location #1: Saracen Bay — the main hub of the island
Best for: being at the heart of the island. Saracen Bay is the most developed area of the island and is where the majority of tourists stay. It’s by far the most convenient place on the island as this is where you’ll find the two main piers and the meeting point for most boat trips.
Who is it for: those who want to be close to amenities like restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Over the last couple of years, the bay has seen a large number of new places popping up.
Don’t miss: the glorious white-sand beach and turquoise waters. It’s not hard to miss, we just encourage you to make the most of the beach as it’s pretty spectacular.
Biggest downside: between December and March, Saracen Bay experiences strong northeastern winds. Trying to relax on the beach with an Angkor beer in hand and getting blown away by the wind is not ideal!
Accommodation in Saracen Bay
Saracen Bay, being the main hub of the island, is where you’ll find the most accommodations. There are around twenty places to choose from, ranging from budget hostels and guesthouses, to stunning resorts.
You’re really spoilt for choice when picking where to stay as there are some real gems. There are a number of resorts that should cost a lot more than they do. Sara Resort and Eden Beach Resort for example.
Prices for private rooms are more expensive here than the rest of the island, starting at $20 per night.
Location #2: M’Pai Bay — a small fishing village popular with backpackers
Best for: being in a quieter part of the island. M’Pai Bay is a local fishing village that’s a lot more chilled than Saracen Bay. Being less popular, prices are lower here when it comes to accommodation and places to eat.
Who is it for: mainly backpackers. Offering cheaper accommodation, nightlife and a more laid back vibe, M’Pai Bay has become the island’s hub for backpackers.
Don’t miss: the scuba diving and snorkelling. It’s one of the best spots on the island to do this.
Biggest downside: if luxury resorts are what you’re looking for, you won’t find any like in Saracen bay. The accommodation is still nice in M’Pai Bay, but not as fancy.
Accommodation in M’Pai Bay
You’ll find accommodation on the cheaper end of the scale in M’Pai Bay. Instead of resorts, it’s mainly guesthouses, hostels and small hotels.
Prices for a private room start at around $13 per night. Beach House is one of the most popular accommodations in M’Pai Bay. It’s great value for money, has a private beach and offers the cutest rooms with balconies overlooking the sea.
Location #3: Sunset Beach — a remote and secluded beach perfect for sunset
Best for: we’re getting more and more secluded as we go through the list of areas to stay. Sunset Beach is the quietest of all the areas, offering only a few accommodations, and the most tranquil atmosphere.
Who is it for: those that are looking to escape the world for a little bit. This place feels intimate and secluded. It’s a popular spot for hippies and those looking for peace.
Don’t miss: as the name suggests, Sunset Beach is the spot to catch the sunset every day. The golden glow across the beach is magnificent.
Biggest downside: getting to Sunset Beach isn’t the easiest. No boats from Sihanoukville go directly there. So, you can either take on the 40-minute hike from Saracen Bay to Sunset beach, or hire a private longtail boat from M’Pai Bay.
Accommodation in Sunset Beach
There are only a few accommodations to choose from on Sunset Beach, but they’re pretty cool. Most of them are beach bungalows, only steps from the sea.
Our favourite place to stay on Sunset Beach is Sleeping Trees which offers tents, tipis, bungalows and dorm rooms.
Private rooms in Sunset Beach start at around $17 per night.
Best places to eat on Koh Rong Sanloem
Koh Rong Sanloem is still largely undeveloped, but there are a good number of restaurants and cafes to choose from, with more and more popping up as the months go by.
You’ll find everything from BBQs on the beach to upscale restaurants in the luxury resorts on the islands. One thing is guaranteed — fresh and delicious seafood.
Here are our three favourite places to eat on Koh Rong Sanloem:
Paradise Restaurant — a cool place to hang with tasty food
Paradise Restaurant is situated right on the beach in Saracen Bay, offering every type of seating arrangement you could think of — a swing, tables on the floor, deck chairs on the beach and your standard table arrangement. This creates a really relaxed ambience and a great place to chill.
They offer both western and Asian dishes, with a ton of different curries on the menu to try. We recommend trying the barracuda curry.
Seapony Cafe — the best spot in M’Pai Bay for breakfast and lunch
If you’re staying in M’Pai Bay or visiting for the day, you should 100% eat at Seapony Cafe. They serve the best breakfasts and lunch dishes in the bay. On the menu you’ll find a plethora of bowls, pancakes, bagels, wraps and salads.
You have to try one of their bagels that overflow with fillings. It can get messy! But the fresh flavours and ingredients make the mess worth it. As well as great food, Seapony Cafe is simply a nice place to hang out with its open-air vibes.
Sweet Times — cheap and delicious Khmer cuisine
Finding a cheap place to eat in Saracen Bay isn’t the easiest of tasks, so we recommend heading to Sweet Times. It’s a simple restaurant situated right on the beach that serves classic Khmer cuisine.
The amok curry is by far the best thing on the menu!
How to get around Koh Rong Sanloem
Being on an undeveloped and remote paradise island has its positives and negatives. One of the downsides of Koh Rong Sanloem is that getting around the island isn’t the easiest thing to do.
There are no proper taxis, tuk-tuks, and of course, no buses. That leaves you with two ways to get around; by foot and by boat.
You’ll need to rely on your own two feet quite a lot on Koh Rong Sanloem. If you’re staying in Saracen Bay and want to visit either Sunset Beach or Lazy Beach, you’ll have to take on a small hike through the jungle.
Don’t worry, the walk through the jungle isn’t very strenuous, and you might spot some wildlife on the way. It takes 40 minutes to walk from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach, and 25 minutes to Lazy Beach.
You can’t walk from Saracen Bay to M’Pai Bay.
The only way to get from M’Pai Bay to Saracen Bay is by boat. There are scheduled ferry boats costing $6 each way that stop at both locations throughout the day. But as it’s Cambodia, these schedules are pretty loose.
The ferry operators are Speed Ferry Cambodia, GTVC and Buva Speedboat. Head down to the pier to arrange your ticket, or ask your accommodation to help.
Otherwise, you can hire a private longtail boat, but these can cost anywhere between $25-45 each way, which is okay if you’re sharing the price with other people.
Top tips for visiting Koh Rong Sanloem
No ATMs on Koh Rong
There are no ATMs on Koh Rong Sanloem and nowhere accepts card. You need to bring enough cash with you from the mainland to pay for everything on your trip.
If you realise that you didn’t bring enough money with you, there are a few convenience stores that have payment terminals offering card-to-cash transactions. This usually comes with an eye-watering 10% fee, so only use these in an emergency.
Buy a sim card
Wi-Fi isn’t great on Koh Rong Sanloem. If you need to be connected to the outside world, we suggest buying a sim card on the mainland before visiting Koh Rong.
Smart and Metfone are two companies that we recommend using in Cambodia which can be recharged in Koh Touch.
Top 5 things to do in Koh Rong Sanloem
#1 Relax on the beach all day long
What else is there to do on a paradise island other than relax on the beach and spend every hour of daylight swimming in glorious turquoise waters?
Okay, there’s definitely other things that you can do on Koh Rong Sanloem, but exploring its pristine beaches is something you have to do on the island. The beaches you can find on Koh Rong Sanloem are exactly the kind of beaches most of us spend our days dreaming of. They’re idyllic and stunning.
Here are some of our favourite beaches on the island:
Lazy Beach is deemed to be one of the best beaches on Koh Rong Sanloem, and it’s not just us that’s saying that. It was placed at number two on the ‘Top 21 Beaches in the World’ list by National Geographic.
There’s only one accommodation on this beach who does a daily clean up, meaning it’s one of the cleanest beaches on the island. Pair that with its delightful golden sand and idyllic waters, and you can’t get much better than that.
Saracen Bay is where the majority of the accommodations on the island are situated. They wanted to make the most of a stunning beach, who could blame them?
The beach feels endless, whilst the water is crystal-clear and shallow. You’ll need to walk out some way before you’ll be able to swim here, but trust us, the swim will be worth it.
As the name suggests, Sunset Beach is the place to watch the sun say goodbye to another day. It’s one of the more remote beaches on the island with only a few rustic bungalows and fewer people — exactly what we love!
Clear Water Bay
There’s a theme in Asia where they name their beaches after how they look. Again, as the name suggests, Clear Water Bay has some exceptionally clear water.
Not everyone makes the journey to Clear Water Bay, so it sometimes feels like your own private beach. Make the most of it! Clear Water Bay is currently completely untouched, which isn’t going to stay like that for long. There’s plans for resorts to be built here soon.
#2 Explore Koh Rong Sanloem on a boat trip
One of the best things to do on Koh Rong Sanloem is to embark on a boat tour around the island. This way you can visit the more remote spots without having to spend hours trekking through the sweaty jungle to get there.
On your boat trip, you’ll spend the day stopping off at picturesque spots around the island, snorkelling and learning how the locals go fishing using plastic bottles.
After spending a day in the sun and sea, the fun isn’t over. As the sun begins to set and the sky gets dark, the sea comes alive. It lights up with bioluminesce, one of nature’s most magnificent phenomenons.
#3 Discover Koh Rong Sanloem’s underwater world snorkelling and diving
Between Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, you’ll find a number of great dive sites and snorkelling spots — some of the best in Cambodia.
The dive sites are full of opportunities to spot marine life such as scorpionfish, starfish, stingrays, eels, puffer fish, octopus and even sharks if you’re really lucky. There are also some beautiful spots with coral and tropical reefs.
If you just want to snorkel, then we recommend heading to the far end of Lazy Beach, around the rocks. Here there’s some nice coral, fish and apparently a resident shark. Hiring a snorkel and fins costs $2.
How to go diving on Koh Rong Sanloem
We recommend diving with Scuba Nation Diving Centre. They’re very professional and have worked with thousands of people during their time operating on the island.
Their PADI Open Water Course costs $445, which is considerably more expensive than the dive centre that we recommend on Koh Rong. That one costs $300. You’ll visit similar dive sites, so consider staying on Koh Rong if you want to get some diving qualification.
#4 Get the best views of the island from the lighthouse
Koh Rong Sanloem is a stunning island from the ground, but somehow it gets even better from the sky. And how do you go about seeing it from the sky?
You climb the old lighthouse! The climbing won’t be the only exercise that you’ll need to do to earn this view. First you have to embark on a 5 km hike, more of a walk, from Saracen Bay to the lighthouse.
The trail starts by Dolphin Bay Resort and takes around 1-hour. When you reach the lighthouse, you’ll probably have to pay a guy waiting there $1 to climb the lighthouse.
The panoramic views of the jungle and endless water are breathtaking. Or maybe that’s because of the steps to the top!
#5 Go for a refreshing dip in a waterfall
If you get tired from the sea (if that’s even possible) then you can go swimming in a waterfall instead.
Near Freedom Island Resort, you’ll find Freedom Waterfall, a plunging waterfall with a refreshing pool at the base of it. There’s also a bar and restaurant by the waterfall which means that you can enjoy an ice cold drink whilst relaxing in the pool. Perfect!
The food at the restaurant isn’t half bad either!
How to get to Koh Rong Sanloem
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Leaving from Sihanoukville||2-3 hours||$10||Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem|
|30 minutes||$6||Koh Rong to Koh Rong Sanloem|
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you should be ready for your adventure in Koh Rong Sanloem. Create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Koh Rong Sanloem and you’re all set to make lasting memories.
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