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Koh Rong Samloem is a jungle-clad island surrounded by magnificent beaches illuminated with white sand. It is undergoing development but remains a stunning destination in Cambodia. Here’s all you need to know for an escape in paradise.  


By: Mark Barnes |
Published: 28 Mar 2024

Koh Rong Samloem is an island paradise with some of the finest beaches in the world.

Remote locations with few facilities and tricky access made Koh Rong Samoloem the perfect destination for backpackers.

Recently, mid and upmarket hotels have started appearing with some infrastructure underway to connect different parts of the island. Development comes at an environmental cost, but it also brings a much wider choice of accommodation.

We were a bit nervous before visiting, but we were not disappointed. The island maintains a cool vibe and it’s possible to avoid most of the development.

Our guide covers the main areas of the island with tips for deciding where to stay, how to get around and what to do.

If you are deciding between the beaches of Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong, check out our guide to Koh Rong.

sitting on the beach at saracen bay koh rong samloemsitting on the beach at saracen bay koh rong samloem

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Koh Rong Samloem is a laid-back resort island with beaches dotted around its edge, but there are a few things to know before you decide where to stay.

Rubbish – Plastic is a problem in Cambodia, and unfortunately, you’ll find it littering some of the beaches at Koh Rong Samloem. Much of it gets carried across the water from Sihanoukville, but there’s also a little being dumped directly on this beautiful island.

Every morning, resort staff (and tourists) will clean up the beaches and generally keep the area in front of the resorts pristine. But away from the main resorts, there is some litter on the beach. In our experience it was a little better than Koh Rong, mainly because most of the beach is occupied by resorts.

Development – Koh Rong Samloem has been home to backpackers for many decades, but the Cambodian government is trying to develop the island. Mid and upmarket resorts are being built sometimes with little concern for the environment. Large tracks that seem much wider than necessary have been carved through the jungle to prepare for roads that so far have not been built.

Saracen Bay, in particular, has been affected. But, where development has finished, there is now an excellent mix of accommodation for different budgets surrounded by a relaxed vibe and beachfront restaurants. We were nervous about coming here but if you choose your accommodation carefully (see below), it’s a fantastic beach destination.

Sandflies – Sandflies can be a problem when lying directly on the beach at Koh Rong Samloem. However, the process of raking the sand helps to significantly reduce the number of these pesky little insects. So, finding a beach in front of a resort or guesthouse is a good idea. Otherwise, find a lounger or hammock.

Cash – Most guesthouses, hotels, and resorts take credit and debit card, but the local bars and restaurants will want cash. There are no ATMs on the island so bring enough with you.

WHEN TO VISIT KOH RONG SAMLOEM

The best time to visit Koh Rong is from Mid-November to February when the temperature is between 25°C-30°C (77°F-86°F), the skies generally clear and the sea calmer. 

March to May can be very hot and humid with temperatures reaching up to 35°C (86°F) but rainfall can still be relatively infrequent.

Throughout June to mid-November you can expect some wind and rain on about half the days. Periodically boat crossings to the island are cancelled and snorkelling and diving is impossible. The upside is that accommodation is cheaper.

saracan bay pier samloem cambodiasaracan bay pier samloem cambodia

GETTING TO KOH RONG SAMLOEM

To get to the Kohn Rong islands you take a boat from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

SIHANOUKVILLE AUTONOMOUS PORT

Sihanoukville’s Autonomous Port can be reached by bus from most other Cambodian cities. The most popular are Phnom Penh (3 hours), Kampot (3 hours) and Siem Reap (10 hours).

Rithy Express Buses stop just around the corner from the Autonomous Port. Vireak Buntham buses require a short tuk-tuk ride ($3)

There is also a new flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville (1 hour 10 minutes) with Cambodia Angkor Air. 

SPEEDBOAT FROM SIHANOUKVILLE PORT TO KOH RONG SAMLOEM

Five companies run regular speedboat journeys from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port to three destinations on Koh Rong Samloem: Saracen Bay, Sandy Bay and M’Pai. Saracen Bay has two different piers (Ocean Pier & Eden Pier), 10 minutes’ walk from each other.

Timing – The boats run from about 8 am to 5 pm.

Cost – Tickets are $14 one way or $25 return. You need to book a ticket to a specific destination, so make sure you know the pier that’s most convenient to where you are staying.

Journey Time – The boats will stop wherever people have booked tickets for. The journey takes between 40 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes depending on whether you are the first or last stop. If you buy a return, you need let the ferry company know the boat you want to get back one day before you leave Koh Rong Samloem.

Bookings – Book online in advance, especially in peak season. We used GTVC, it had the best ratings, easy online booking, and the service was good. However, its arrival times were a bit optimistic, so allow extra time for any connections on the way back.

GETTING BETWEEN KOH RONG & KOH RONG SANLOEM

You can get between Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem via longtail boats. There are a couple daily, leaving from M’Pai or Saracen Bay and dropping you at Koh Touch or Long Set Beach. They take about 60 to 90 minutes and cost about $14 per person.

ACCOMMODATION BOOKING TIPS

Rooms are pricier if they overlook the beach and accommodation is most expensive in December & January. Here is a rough estimation of what you could expect to pay: 

  • Budget – $ – up to $30
  • Midmarket – $$ – $30 to $60
  • Upmarket – $$$ – $60 to $120
  • Luxury – $$$$ – $120 +

When booking, make sure you know if your room comes with air-conditioning and/or mosquito nets. With lots of insects and night-time temperatures around 25°C, they can make sleeping much easier.

If you are staying for more than 3 or 4 days, it’s worth splitting your accommodation and staying at a couple of different beaches.

Alternatively, you could spend 3 days on Koh Rong Samloem and then hop over to equally stunning Koh Rong and stay a few days there.

beach huts koh rong samloembeach huts koh rong samloem

WHERE TO STAY IN KOH RONG SAMLOEM

Beautiful beaches are dotted all around the coast of Koh Rong Samloem. Each beach has a different vibe attracting a different crowd and different levels of accommodation.

We have a brief description of each below along with our recommendations for the best places to stay, and a rough indication of the price.

1. SARACEN BAY

The jewel in the crown of Koh Rong Samloem, Saracen Bay is a stunning beach. With only a narrow entrance at its mouth, it feels almost like a lagoon. Gentle soft white slopes gradually to the water so you can walk out for a few hundred metres before being up to your waist.

It used to be a backpacker haven, but new developments have provided mid-market and upmarket resorts. While there is some building happening, most of Saracen’s cool vibe remains.

The middle part of the beach (around Sara Resort) is still a great mix of cheap and friendly hostels and guesthouses, with plenty of places to drink and eat.

saracen bay samloemsaracen bay samloem

Regular good value boat trips leave to explore the coast, stopping to snorkel, dive, or see the bioluminescent plankton.

The trick is knowing where to stay. It’s best to avoid the south-eastern section of the beach where development is still planned, and the older resorts look a little tired. The middle section (Sara resort, Onederz & La Passion) has no more room for development and resorts keep the beach immaculate.

The excellent Island Centre Point has a central position on the north-western end of beach. The two resorts either side share a large beachfront which they all maintain well.

GETTING THERE

All 5 ferry companies run direct ferries from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port to Saracen Bay. GTVC stops at Ocean Pier, while the others drop off at Eden Pier. The two piers are a 10-minute walk apart.

SARACEN BAY ACCOMMODATION


ONEDERZ KOH RONG SAMLOEM ($)

This hostel in a prime location in the middle of Saracen Bay has dormitories and rooms with private bathrooms. Wedged between other resorts the beach around here is well-cleaned and often pristine. The papasan chairs on the beach are a great place to hang out.

SARA RESORT ($$$)

In the middle of Saracen Bay, Sara Resort has a great central location surrounded by other bars and guesthouses. The beach front is mainly taken up by their excellent restaurant, but there are loungers around the pool.

ISLAND CENTER POINT ($$$)

New in 2023, the rooms at Island Center Point are modern and beautifully appointed with stylish open-air bathrooms. The hotel owns a wide stretch of beach, with free cabanas. It’s a quiet end of Saracen Bay, but the bars are just a 10-minute walk along the beach. The downsides are there is no pool, and the restaurant is decidedly average and expensive.

LA PASSION BY ACHARIYAK ($$$$)

The most luxurious hotel on Saracen Bay, 4-star La Passion is beautifully presented with carefully manicured gardens and boardwalks. The restaurant looks extremely inviting, but its prices and western-focused menu can be a bit off-putting. Fortunately, there are lots of options nearby.

2. M’PAI

M’Pai is a small fishing village on the northern tip of Koh Rong Samloem that can only be reached by boat.

The beach is not as attractive as Saracen Bay, but the village entices backpackers coming for a longer stay. It has a slightly bohemian feel and being more remote there are good hiking options into the jungle. The diving and snorkelling at Koh Koun, just across the water, is excellent, and it’s possible to see the glowing bioluminescent plankton just offshore at night.

This is a good option for a cheap, but different type of stay on Koh Rong Samloem.

GETTING THERE

GTVC and Buva Sea run direct ferries from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port to M’Pai. Numerous shuttle boats run daily between M’Pai and Saracen Bay and cost about $7.

mpai shore cambodiampai shore cambodia

M’PAI ACCOMMODATION


DRAGONFLY GUEST HOUSE ($)

Basic but comfortable fan-cooled bungalows with shared bathrooms. There’s a bar and garden to hang out in, and a rocky bay for snorkelling. They have incense to deter mosquitoes, but no nets.

BEACH HOUSE CAMBODIA ($$)

Directly on the beach, this hotel offers lots of activities from yoga to snorkelling, movie nights to karaoke. The common areas are a great place to meet other travellers. There are rooms for all budgets, some with air-conditioned (a rarity in M’Pai).

mpai on koh rong samloemmpai on koh rong samloem

3. SUNSET BEACH

With no roads across the island and no scheduled ferries, Sunset Beach, on the western side of Koh Rong Samloem, is a secluded untouched gem.

There’s wonderful snorkelling straight from the beach and diving opportunities. Facing westward, there are excellent sunsets and a good chance to see the glowing bioluminescent plankton just offshore.

The beach is backed by three or four different accommodation options. There is no five-star luxury, nor is there air conditioning. But you will find back to basic experiences where the sounds of the forest and the waves permeate every moment. There’s not much to do and it’s not easy to get anywhere else, so it’s the perfect place for just unwinding.

Sunset Beach is a good place to stay if you want to get away from it all. Alternatively, it’s a great destination for one or two nights to break up a longer stay on Saracen Bay.

GETTING THERE

Ferry & Walk – Take the ferry to Saracen Bay then hike for 30 minutes across the island to Sunset Beach. The path is a mix of wide gravel tracks (being prepared for roads) and narrow jungle paths (see map below). The last section is a steep, narrow rocky trail down to the beach. There’s a guard rope to assist with the descent and you’ll need your hands free.

Wear shoes with a good grip and come with a backpack. The path is not good for flip-flops or suitcases and certainly don’t try it at night. (If you are coming for the day, leave heavy luggage at Sunny Bungalows on Saracen Bay for $1).

Ferry & Taxi Boat – Alternatively (during summer season November to May) get the ferry to M’Pai and hire a local taxi boat to take you to Sunset Beach. The taxi boat takes about 30 minutes and costs $20-25 one way.

SUNSET BEACH ACCOMMODATION


ROBINSON BUNGALOWS ($)

Wooden bungalows with straw thatched roofs, each with their own balcony with hammocks overlooking the sea. Rooms have mosquito nets and private bathrooms but no electricity points and wi-fi is unreliable (charging can be done at reception).

SUNBOO BEACH BUNGALOWS ($$)

The basic beach-facing bungalows are comfortable enough, but it’s the morning yoga classes, tasty food, books to borrow, and inviting hammocks that really make Sunboo a great experience.   

4. LAZY BEACH

Lazy Beach is another remote destination on the western side of Koh Rong Samloem. The golden sand is untouched and, apart from a few bits of rubbish at the far end, it’s very clean. Tree roots wind through the sand and their canopy offers a small amount of shade.

There is no road to Lazy Beach (although that may change) and no scheduled ferry stops. But the walk across the island from Saracen Bay is easy and they have a tractor ferry guests across with their luggage.

There is only one resort on this remote beach, and it has a great restaurant area. Even if you don’t stay here, walking over from Saracen Bay and having lunch is a great thing to do on Koh Rong Samloem.

Lazy Beach is an easier place than Sunset Beach to disconnect from the world.

GETTING THERE

Take the ferry to Saracen Bay where Lazy Beach Resort will organise a tractor to carry you and your luggage to the resort on the other side of the island. Without luggage, you can hike the 0.7 miles, which will take about 25 minutes. The trail is a mix of wide gravel tracks and narrow jungle trails which can be done in flip-flops (see map below).

LAZY BEACH ACCOMMODATION


LAZY BEACH RESORT ($$)

Rustic bungalows with balconies and sea views. The rooms are spacious and come with a private bathroom and mosquito nets (no aircon). Board games, puzzles, and wi-fi is available in the bar and restaurant area. There is very limited phone reception.

lazy beach koh rong samloemlazy beach koh rong samloem

5. SANDY BEACH & PEARL BEACH

These two beaches are separated by a slither of land forming a jungle-clad peninsula on the far eastern section of Koh Rong Samloem. Sandy Beach faces east towards Sihanoukville and has a few mid-market resorts lining a pretty beach. Pearl Beach is the private beach of Pearl Beach Resort & Spa – a new luxury resort recently opened.  

From either beach it’s a 60-minute walk along tricky jungle paths to get to Saracen Bay. The hike is hot and tiring and should not be attempted at night, so you are restricted to staying around the resorts in the evening.  

Restaurant prices can be a bit high, but between the two beaches there’s a mini-mart and Sky Bar that serves decent food.

If you want to get away from the crowds in a good quality resort, then these beaches can be a good option. But the location is inconvenient for evenings out and exploring the rest of the island.

GETTING THERE

Buva Sea run direct ferries from Sihanoukville Autonomous Port to Sandy Beach.

sandy beach koh rong samloemsandy beach koh rong samloem

SANDY BEACH & PEARL BEACH ACCOMMODATION


ONE BEACH RESORT ($$)

Secluded and private resort with garden and pool on a pretty stretch of beach. The rooms are very good value rooms, but at the time of writing, there were construction works happening on other parts of the beach.

PEARL BEACH RESORT & SPA ($$$$)

Pearl Beach Resort is a brand-new luxury resort in a tranquil setting overlooking its own private beach. The villas are well-appointed with views stretching across Saracen Bay. The spa is due to open in 2024 and they offer free boat transfers across to Saracen Bay to help you explore.

KOH RONG SAMLOEM MAP

We have marked the beaches and our recommended places to stay on the map below. They are colour-coded to help you get your bearings.

  • Saracen Bay – red
  • M’Pai – blue
  • Sunset Beach – purple
  • Lazy Beach – orange
  • Sandy Beach – brown

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


THINGS TO DO ON KOH RONG SAMLOEM

While you’ll be more than happy to laze on the beach, there are plenty of activities that almost all hostels, guesthouses and beach resorts can organise for you.

Hike to other beaches – If you are staying on Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach, or Sunset Beach, you can walk between each of them in around 30 minutes. The path between Saracen Bay and Lazy Beach can be done in flip flops, but the descent to Sunset Beach is steep and rocky so you need decent footwear for this. Routes are shown on the map above.

Snorkelling – There is some decent snorkelling around the island and particularly at Koh Koun. Regular half day trips run on converted fishing boats and can be booked through most guesthouses.

Bioluminescent Plankton – One of the most popular trips (about $10 per person) is to head out to sea just after dusk and watch the bioluminescent plankton turn the sea an eerie green.

Island Tours – Mr Nice Island Tours run half day tours from his guesthouse on Saracen Bay. They include a mix of snorkelling, a visit to M’Pai, watching the sunset, and seeing the bioluminescent plankton.  They run from 2 pm-8 pm and cost $15 per person.

Diving The Dive Shop, located in the middle of Saracen Bay, offers Padi Courses or day trips, which usually leave from Saracen Bay, but can be moved to Lazy Beach or Sunset Beach if conditions require.

Water Sports – Many resorts and guesthouses have kayaks & SUPs that you can either use for free or rent. Head out in the morning when it’s cooler and usually calmer.

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