The island of Koh Rong Samloem is still Cambodia’s best-kept secret.
It has maintained much of its laid-back, tranquil identity. The overall atmosphere of Koh Rong Samloem is also quite immersive. The lack of development and the low population gives the island a naturally relaxed atmosphere — a far cry from the Sihanoukville construction site!
Located roughly 24 km off the coast of Sihanoukville, it still remains vastly undeveloped. Once you’ve stepped foot on Koh Rong Samloem’s pure white sands, you’ll hear nothing but the calming sounds of the ocean waves and the harmonious calls of the diverse wildlife within the jungle. This is especially true if you’ve just come from certain parts of Koh Rong, where the beaches are busier and the party scene is rowdier.
Tip: Koh Rong Samloem is very much like Koh Rong in that shopping and supplies are limited: there are very few convenience stores and one of the only pharmacies on the island is in M’pay Bay. Make sure you stock up on essentials in Sihanoukville.
Where to stay
Just like Koh Rong, it’s wise to plan ahead and book your stay in advance since accommodation on the islands is limited and the best places are quickly fully booked.
Moving around on the island isn’t that easy because there are no concrete roads or transportation systems. This means that the beach area you stay in will be the most important factor in how you will experience Koh Rong Samloem.
The island itself comprises four main beach destinations: Saracen Bay, M’Pay Bay, Sunset Beach, and Lazy Beach. Which one will you choose?
Location #1: Saracen Bay for beautiful resorts
Saracen Bay is the most popular tourist spot and the furthest developed area in the whole of Koh Rong Samloem.
Over the last couple of years, the bay has seen a large number of changes. Shops, resorts, bars, and restaurants have multiplied, as has the number of tours and activities.
You can buy basic necessities such as snacks, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and shampoo or conditioner in nearby convenience stores. But we recommend buying them at a lower cost in Sihanoukville before hopping on the ferry to the islands.
Just a quick word of warning for anyone looking to stay in Saracen Bay: the beachfront can experience powerful winds from December through to March.
Not surprisingly, this makes it a much less attractive area to visit — sitting on a beach with an Angkor beer and feeling strong gusts of Cambodian air is not ideal!
If you decide to travel in this period to Koh Rong Samloem, we recommend booking accommodation at one of the other beach areas which are protected from this northeastern wind.
Accommodation in Saracen Bay
In terms of accommodation, there are approximately 25-30 places to stay on the beachfront, each with a different price tag depending on the level of luxury offered.
Compared to other locations on the island, the prices here are slightly higher, simply because it’s the main port people arrive at.
At the lower end of the price scale, expect to pay $20-$25 per night for a private room (usually with basic amenities and no air conditioning). At the higher end, you’ll likely pay anywhere between $50-$100 per night for a private room (mostly with nicer rooms and service, as well as air conditioning).
There’s also a backpacker hostel on Saracen Bay called Onederz — you can pick up a shared room for as little as $4-$8 per night depending on the season.
Location #2: M’Pay Bay for authentic village life and deserted tropical beaches
M’Pay Bay is one of Koh Rong Samloem’s northernmost beach destinations and is known as the island’s only real and authentic village on the island.
You’ll find a large number of local families and fishermen all living together as one in this beautiful and fairly secluded spot.
Because M’Pay Bay is still very much undeveloped and not as geared towards tourists as you’ll find in, say, Saracen Bay, you’re not going to be overwhelmed by other people on its beaches.
You can simply laze on the beach soaking in the rays or swim for hours and hours until you’ve seen every inch of the coastline.
Accommodation in M’Pay Bay
When staying in M’Pay Bay, there are many budget-friendly accommodation options to choose from.
Accommodations on M’Pay Bay are generally cheaper than on Saracen Bay with private bungalows starting from $15-$20 per night — prices, of course, will go up during peak season (November to May).
Shared backpacker rooms will cost around $4-$5 a night (usually you share with eight other people). You won’t be getting all that much luxury here. You will, however, get a really nice and chilled backpacker atmosphere.
There’s also a really cool beach house accommodation called, well, The Beach House. The resort features traditional Khmer-style rooms with a modern decorative twist. While some rooms offer a view of the wild jungle landscape, others offer a gorgeous view of the beach right from the comfort of your bedroom or open balcony. Individual rooms per night cost anywhere between $14-$30 per night (sometimes higher during peak season).
Location #3: Sunset Beach for its crystal blue waters and unforgettable sunsets
Sunset Beach is a very remote beachside area of Koh Rong Samloem and a 1-hour trek west through the jungle from Saracen Bay.
A trek through the jungle isn’t really something most people are prepared to do. Instead, travellers are more likely to take the daily Dive Shop Boat, which costs $20 for an open return. This boat originates from Sihanoukville (Serendipity Beach Road) at 07:00 and arrives at Sunset Beach at roughly 10:00 or 10:15 (weather dependent).
Watch the orange glow of the distant sunset
You’ll be met with a gorgeous 800-metre strip of golden sand with the sea’s amazing crystal blue colours running alongside it. The strip of sand also offers a beach volleyball net for all you competitive adventurers out there.
At night, you can witness the fluorescent shapes of glowing plankton whilst taking a leisurely swim — a simple shake of your hand underwater lights up the plankton as if it were your own tropical Christmas tree.
Because the light pollution is so low on the island, you can practically see every star and constellation in the night sky above you. We recommend sitting out at 22:00 after the island’s lights go out and gaze up at the star’s lights beaming back at you.
When you’re ready to leave Sunset Beach, you can catch the daily boat back to Sihanoukville at 15:30, which arrives at either 18:30 or 19:00 (again, weather dependent).
Accommodation on Sunset Beach
You’ll be met with five beautiful places to stay and watch the orange hue of the sun blaze over the stunning beachfront.
To the north side of the beach, you have Huba Huba. This relaxed, almost hippy-ish place features beach tents and simple accommodation with shared bathrooms, as well as a beach volleyball area, a cocktail bar, and a cool little chillout lounge complete with sand under your feet. The average price per night is $5-$25.
Further south you’ll find the impressive Sleeping Trees. This little resort has one of the coolest accommodations you’ll find on the island — there are hanging tents sitting between the palm trees big enough to sleep two people! The dorm rooms cost as little as $6 per night and bungalows cost roughly $25 per night.
You’ll also discover two pretty upmarket and luxurious bungalow resorts further down the beach named Sunboo Beach Bungalows and Robinson Bungalows.
Sunboo Beach Bungalows offers three options at different prices. You have the Dorm Bungalow ($12 per night), which sleeps eight people and has a shared bathroom. You also have a Garden Bungalow ($50-$95 per night depending on the season), which features a massive queen size bed and private bathroom. And finally, you have the premium Beach Bungalow ($60-$120 per night depending on the season), which comes complete with a very spacious room, queen size bed, and your own patio area all around the bungalow itself.
Robinson Bungalows is situated further up into the hills. This provides you with an amazing view of the beach and the waters in front of you. The bungalows are varied. You’ll find some very basic accommodation and some more fancy ones too. Prices are similar to Sunboo.
If you don’t decide to stay at Robinson Bungalows, venture up there to see the view or simply try out its delicious kitchen.
Lastly, there’s the famous Dive Shop hostel for all you wild backpackers out there. This place is located right at the entrance of the jungle path that connects this secluded beach to all the others on the island.
Like Huba Huba, this hostel has a really cool, relaxed atmosphere, as well as a cocktail bar. You can also organise a scuba diving or snorkelling trip through the hostel as well.
Location #4: Lazy Beach for its immaculate white sands and laid-back vibe
National Geographic named Lazy Beach one of its 21 best beaches in the world in 2017. It is a stunning spot on the lower west of the island.
This beach is exactly what you’d expect from the name itself: a laid-back, relaxing, and, well, lazy beachfront paradise.
To get to Lazy Beach, you can take a 20-30 minute walk (2 km) along the jungle path from Saracen Bay. Once you arrive, the first thing you notice is the crystal blue water that blends perfectly with the almost luminous sands.
It’s incredibly picturesque and worthy of a photo for your Instagram feed.
There’s only one resort here called, well, Lazy Beach. This resort is nestled perfectly amongst the palm trees, which makes the early morning sunrise a thing to look forward to!
Each bungalow comes with two large double beds, en-suite bathrooms, and a pretty awesome balcony that lets you look over the beach in front of you. You’ll also find a restaurant and bar area to chill out in.
Prices vary between $45-$75 per night depending on the season.
How to get around on Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem doesn’t spoil you for choice in terms of transportation.
There are no tuk-tuks, buses, or taxis, and there’s certainly no rail network. This makes the island a struggle to get around if you’ve grown accustomed to the almost infinite amount of choice in the major cities. Let us take you through the options.
Option #1: Trek on foot through Koh Rong’s vast jungle interior
If you’re really up for an adventure, you can trek through the vast jungle to get to each location on the island. Most treks take 1-2 hours.
It’s a really awesome way to see the deeper parts of the island.
Remember though: where there’s a tropical wilderness, there’s wildlife, too. Be careful of snakes in particular — a bite could land you in some serious trouble, especially on an island where there’s little medical care.
In order to protect yourself from these beautiful but slithery reptiles, find a piece of wood and take it with you on your journey. You can use it to hit the ground in front of you whilst you’re walking. The vibrations will likely scare off most snakes in the immediate area.
Option #2: Take a transfer service with one of the ferry operators
If trekking isn’t your thing, we recommend taking scheduled boats to and from each location. There are ferry boats that leave periodically throughout the day.
The ferry boats are operated by the four main ferry operators (Speed Ferry Cambodia, GTVC, Buva Speedboat) based in Sihanoukville. The schedule can be pretty crazy and unreliable, so check online or contact the companies directly.
They’re also not as frequent as they are in Koh Rong, though, so it’s best to book a day or two in advance. Your best bet is to either buy the ticket online or let your accommodation organise it (this sometimes comes with a small admin fee).
Option #3: A private longtail taxi boat
Longtail taxi boats are quite hard to come by as well — and when you do find one, they’re usually pretty expensive.
In fact, they’re more expensive than in Koh Rong. Single or return ticket prices vary depending on where you’re going, the weather conditions on the day, or if it’s high or low season.
The price of hiring out a longtail boat can be anywhere in the region of $20-$45 to any of the other beaches on the island. This price can be shared between roughly 8-15 people at a time.
No matter where you stay or how you get around, just be safe in the knowledge that Koh Rong Samloem is a fantastic island adventure.
So grab your beer, spray on that mosquito repellent, and head over to your own remote island underneath the gorgeous Cambodian sun.
Just don’t forget to pack swimming trucks and bring enough cash in your back pocket.
How to get to Koh Rong Samloem
If you’re journeying from Sihanoukville or picking up a transfer from Koh Rong, you can take a ferry through one of the main ferry operators (Speed Ferry Cambodia, GTVC, Buva Sea, or Island Speed Ferry).
The travel time from Sihanoukville is 45-60 minutes and return tickets cost $22 across all operators. Ferry transfers from Koh Rong cost $6 and the travel time is 15-20 minutes.
Alternatively, you can take a private longtail taxi boat. Prices are substantially higher than a ferry transfer and travel naturally much slower, but this is perfect when you want to travel shorter distances and travel from one to the other beach on the same island.
See here an overview of the options on how to get to Koh Rong Samloem: