Koh Rong Samloem Travel Guide
Cambodia’s hidden (atleast for now) island of Koh Rong Samloem is a paradise waiting for you, and now is certainly the time to visit before it gets overcrowded. I’ve created this Koh Rong Samloem travel guide to make planning a trip to this hidden paradise easier than ever!
Look, I’m going to be honest. I’m not normally a lay on the beach and relax kinda girl. I’m normally always on the go, thriving on adventure and activity. During our trip to Cambodia, mum and I were spending a week on Koh Rong Samloem, and honestly, after that week I am a new person.
I could have stayed there forever, spending my mornings hiking, kayaking and swimming, before laying in the sun with a good book and a cocktail (or five). Eating good food and drinking delicious cocktails, always on the beach. It’s quiet and it’s tranquil. I would go as far as saying almost perfect. So yeah, I like islands and relaxing now. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m planning my return next year.
Koh Rong Samloem is situated in the Gulf of Thailand, 25km south from the coast of Cambodia. You might have heard of the popular party island, Koh Rong. Well, Koh Rong Samloem is the little sister, much quieter and undisturbed. Don’t head to Cambodia without visiting this slice of paradise, it’s well worth the time and effort of getting there.
To avoid confusion, the island is often called Koh Rong Samloem, or Koh Rong Sanloem, both of which seem to be correct according to locals, so go with whichever you like!
So, let’s jump in to this Koh Long Samloem travel guide, including getting there, places to stay, where to eat and drink, things to do and a lot more. Be warned, this will fuel major island wanderlust vibes!
Getting to Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem is situated in the Gulf of Thailand, 25km off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. So getting there requires a ferry from Serendipity Pier in Sihanoukville, which I’m going to be very honest here, is not the nicest place on earth. In fact, it’s probably one of the worst.
It’s dirty and chaotic, but it’s definitely worth a little suffering to get to the island. You have a couple of options in terms of getting to Sihanoukville, depending on where you are coming from. From Siem Reap, you can take a short, relatively cheap flight (this is what we did!) to Sihanoukville.
From Phnom Penh, you can get a bus which takes approximately 6 hours, but be prepared for a bumpy ride. You can also fly direct to Sihanoukville from Ho Chi Minh City. Find the best deals on flights with Skyscanner, which scans everywhere on the internet to find the best prices. From the airport to Serendipity Pier is almost an hour drive, and you can expect to pay around $20 for a taxi.
There are several ferry companies which run frequent ferries to Koh Rong Samloem and back, however take everything with a grain of salt. Not all the ferries will run on the day. We booked in advance for a 3pm ferry – lucky we asked on the day because our choices were 2pm or 5pm, no 3pm in sight.
It’s recommend to pre-book in peak season as they do sell out. Leave a lot of time as well, particularly on return from the island. The ferries can be pretty unreliable, so if you have a flight or bus to catch, give yourself plenty of time.
The following companies run ferries: Speed Ferry Cambodia, Buva Sea, Island Speed Boat, GTVC and Angkor Speed Ferry.
Take home tip: Don’t trust the ferries, give yourself plenty of time!
Beaches on Koh Rong Samloem
Easily the most accessible and popular beach on Koh Rong Samloem, Saracen Bay features the most accommodation and eating options, and a beautiful stretch of beach. The main stop for the ferries is Saracen Bay, and most resorts in the Bay will pick you up from the pier and take to your resort. I highly recommend staying here – it is truly beautiful, and not crowded.
Lazy beach features only one resort, aptly named the Lazy Beach Resort, which features only basic accommodation. It’s not as easy to get too, but there is a walking trail from Saracen Bay (starts at Octupussy Bar) which is relatively easy and takes about 40minutes. I recommend staying in Saracen Bay and walking over for a day trip.
Even harder to get to, the trail from Saracen Bay is a rough walk and takes a couple of hours. Named after the beautiful sunsets, Sunset Beach is on the Western side of the Island and offers great diving options. Accommodation here is also basic.
More of a local village compared to the other beaches, Mpai Bay is the place to go if you like basic accommodation and want to immerse yourself in to local life.
Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
The One Resort
Often called the best resort on Koh Rong Samloem, The One Resort is simply the best. One of the very few places with a pool, and situated on one of the best parts of the beach, it truly is paradise. The One also offers some of the best food and drink options on the island, although you can expect to pay a couple of dollars more here for the quality.
You can choose from a range of bungalows and rooms, and the resort also features a gym, second pool and a huge range of sun loungers and day beds both on the beach and by the pool. This is where we stayed, and let me tell you, it was well worth the splurge! It truly felt like an undisturbed paradise and made our stay on the island so wonderful. Check it out here.
OneDerz Hostel is one of the best on the island. It has such a great vibe, is central and features a great bar and restaurant area. I met great people every time I dropped by for a drink, so highly recommend checking it out.
Eating and drinking on Koh Rong Samloem
The One Resort
We ate here often as this is where we were staying, but it honestly had the best food we had on the island. With a good selection of local and western dishes, everything feels 5 star. I recommend trying the Cambodian Curry, and you can’t go wrong with the burgers, one of my favourite lunch options daily. They also have a huge range of cocktails and drinks, and the Aperol Spritz is a must. Check it out here.
Sol Beach Resort
The best spot for happy hour, hands down. Offering 2 for 1 cocktails between 4 and 6pm, Sol Beach Resort has a huge range of unique and different cocktails along with all the classics, and they are delicious! Sit back in one of the comfy lounge chairs on the deck and watch the sun go down. Check it out here.
Lime Beach Bungalows
Beach barbeques are common on the island, and this is one of the best. Sit on the beach, lit by fairy lights and lanterns as your food gets cooked on the barbeque. It’s pretty sweet, and the food is great. Any purchase of a BBQ deal normally comes with a free beer, and the 2 for 1 cocktail deals are pretty sweet too. Find out more here.
Cita Restaurant calls itself an authentic Italian pizza restaurant. Offering a huge range of wood fired pizzas, this place is pretty damn good. Down the quieter end of Saracen Bay, the area is tranquil and worth the walk. Check it out here!
Situated next to the One Resort, Moonlight is one of the top resorts on the island. Sit inside the cool dome like restaurant or outside at one of the tables on the sand lit up by candles. The food is great (try the pizza or fish!) and the view even better. See reviews here.
The Big Easy
Situated in the middle of the busiest part of the island at night, the Big Easy offers cheap food and drinks, and often has live sport on TV, as well as events such as trivia. If you are looking for a more lively vibe, head here, and check out Tree Bar or Octupussy Bar nearby. Check it out here.
Things to do in Koh Rong
Obviously the main thing you do on an island like this is relax.. that’s why we are here, right? I don’t think anyone could ever get sick of sipping cocktails and laying in the sun. But if you happen to want a break from all that relaxing, there is other things you can do!
There are several hiking trails for you to try your hand at if you are up for it. The Lighthouse trek starts just past Paradise bungalows on the far side of Saracen Bay, and takes between 1-2 hours each way, depending on your pace. It’s pretty straight forward, however the path can be pretty overgrown at times, so be smart and on the watch for snakes.
The walk to Lazy Beach is a flat, easy walk, however the walk to Sunset Beach is a bit of a scramble, although they are both worth it if you are wanting to spend the day at another beach.
Get a massage.
Some resorts offer spas on the island, with massages and a range of other treatments available, all for great prices!
Most resorts offer snorkelling trips, either full day or half day tours. Head off the island in a fishing boat and snorkel in a range of different spots!
Kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding.
Most resorts will have kayaks and SUP boards available for guests to use free of charge or for a small fee. With calm waters, this is the perfect way to explore the bay!
Top tips and recommendations
- Take Cash– Most places on the island take only cash, and there isn’t anywhere to get cash out, some come prepared. The few places that accept card will charge a hefty fee, so it’s better to pay cash. Come prepared with US dollars!
- Stock up on sunscreen and bug spray before you head to the island– There are a few little convenience type store shops along Saracen Bay, however prices are pretty high compared to the mainland, so my advice is to bring plenty with you. Mosquitoes are pretty rampant in the area, and in countries like Cambodia there is still a risk of things like Malaria and Dengue Fever. Bushman’s 80% Deet is the most reliable.
- Insurance! Never travel without insurance, you never know when you might need it. Cover More is my number one choice, and I use them for insurance on every trip I take.
Basically, Koh Rong Samleom is paradise, which isn’t facing the issues of over tourism (yet). So visit now. I can’t recommend it enough. It was just one of those places where I felt content (like all of Cambodia, for that matter). It’s easy to fall for the charm of the island.
The people are lovely and accommodating, they want to welcome you to the island as friends rather than guests, which is something that is so important to me when travelling. It’s peaceful, with a cat or dog wandering around every now and again. It’s quiet at night, the island sleeps early and rises early, to make the most of the day.
It’s not over crowded and it’s not over done with huge resorts, restaurants and shops. Everything is boutique style and so fitting for an island like Koh Rong Samloem. Who knows how long that will last though? Tourism and demand is increasing at an alarmingly fast rate, and with that will come more construction – bigger resorts and maybe even roads through the middle of the island, so I recommend going now, while its peaceful and tranquil and not overdone.
I hope you have found this Koh Rong Samloem travel guide useful! Interested in reading more about Cambodia? Check out my other blogs below: