Koh Rong Samloem

Mini Travel Guide to Koh Rong Samloem

My favorite island in Cambodia is Koh Rong Samloem (also commonly spelled Koh Rong Sanloem) Although this island isn’t the most popular amongst travelers, it is the most beautiful in my opinion and deserves more recognition. There are a technically a total of eleven islands off the coast of Cambodia.

island dock
Our speed boat approaching one of the piers on the island

The most visited island is Koh Rong, notorious for being a party island but it’s sister island Koh Rong Samloem is at complete opposite side of the spectrum. Koh Rong is a place you go to unplug, detach from the rest of civilization and drink a cocktail in complete tranquility. If this sounds like paradise, that’s because it is.

Why Koh Rong Samloem?

This remote and secluded island boosts some of the finest white sand beaches in the entire country. In fact, this island barely has a wifi connection so even if you wanted to check your email you probably couldn’t. The lack of wifi forces visitors to leave their phones behind at the hotel and really experience the island as it was meant to be experienced… completely uninhibited.

lazy beach yellow sand
Who needs internet, when you’ve got beaches like these?

With no computers to distract me and bog me down, I was free to spend my time swimming in the ocean and eating fancy meals with my toes in the sand. The island offers an oasis of pure nature ready to be discovered. From lush jungles that extend for days across the islands expansive belt to beaches only reachable by foot, Koh Rong Samloem is the off-the-beaten-track island I’ve always dreamed about. Romantic, dreamy, and completely underrated.

How to Get to Koh Rong Samloem

The only way to get to Koh Rong Samloem is by boat, as the island doesn’t have an airport. I was staying in Kampot Cambodia and used ANNY Tours & Travel agency to purchase my ticket to Koh Rong Samloem. The ticket included a bus ride from Kampot to Sihanoukville and then a boat ride over to the island via Sihanoukville Speed Ferry.

kampot to sihanoukville bus

The two hour bus ride from Kampot to Sihanoukville had great views the entire time

Booking a Speed Ferry to the Cambodian Islands

Before leaving on my journey, I had read many terrible reviews about pretty much all the island speed boats. Nightmare tales of them getting into accidents, terrible delays, and driving in unsafe weather. The truth of the matter is, from my experience I didn’t experience any of these bad things. My trip was perfectly fine from start to finish. I will note that the Sihanoukville Speed Ferry didn’t have enough life jackets, but that’s just the way things are in Cambodia.

sihanoukville speed ferry boat
A woman precariously boards a Sihanoukville Speedy Ferry boat

The bus arrived on time and took about two hours to get to Sihanoukville. It was a pleasant journey with air-con and a decent amount of restroom stops along the way. When we arrived to Sihanoukville we were able to leave our bags at a restaurant (located in the same spot as the Sihanoukville Speed Ferry ticket booth. We had to wait about an hour for our boat to arrive and we were told to be on the pier 20 minutes prior to our departure time. Although things weren’t the most organized, we found our boat and boarded right away.

nate adriana speed ferry boat
Nate & me on the Sihanoukville Speed Ferry boat

The boat journey takes about 45 minutes and costs roughly $25 for a two-way ticket. A two-way ticket covers the transportation from Koh Rong Samloem back to Sihanoukville. Once you get back to Sihanoukville, we had to figure out our next mode of transportation to our next destination.

speed ferry boat cambodia
The pier in Sihanoukville where you can catch a boat to a Cambodian island

When we arrived to Koh Rong Samloem, we were told to report a day in advance (at the same area) to let them know when we wanted to depart. There are a couple different times throughout the day but we decided to go with the first available time slot.

Anny Tour Agency

Phone: +855 76 368 9999

Sihanoukville Speed Ferry

Website: http://speedferrycambodia.com/

Ticket cost: $25 two-way ticket from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem

Best Beaches in Koh Rong Samloem

There are typically two sides of the island that people stay at, Saracen Beach Bay and M’pai Bay. Saracen Beach Bay is known as the resort side of the island and offers higher-end accommodation.

Saracen Beach Bay is also famous for their world-class white sand beaches which live up to their hype.

white sand beach cambodia
The idyllic white sand beaches of Saracen Bay make this the #1 beach on Koh Rong Samloem

M’pai Bay is popular with backpackers and budget travelers looking for cheaper accommodation. M’pai Bay has beautiful yellow sand beaches and offers plenty of low priced restaurants.

Nate & I met some travelers from the UK who stayed in M’pai Bay previously, and once they saw the white sand beaches in Saracen Beach Bay, there jaw dropped. They ended up booking several nights at a dorm and enjoyed the rest of their stay in Saracen Beach Bay.

koh rong samloem cambodia
Splashing around in the crystal blue water on Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem

Lazy Beach is also a very nice choice, however it is very secluded. There is only one hotel (with an attached restaurant) and nothing else in the area. Since Nate and I wanted to stay near some nightlife, we were happy with our decision to book a hotel in Saracen Beach Bay.

Where to Stay on Saracen Beach Bay

Beach Island Resort

This is where Nate & I stayed for three nights. We opted for a private hut located on the shore (right smack in front of the ocean) which costs approximately $30. The hut is two stories with the first level being the bathroom and the second story is the room with a bed and fan. They also have a nice restaurant and the perfect location. The hut was surprisingly comfortable and it meet our expectations for the price (although I will admit that they seem to be loosely throwing around the word resort). They also offer VIP dorm beds with a beach front view ($15 for a double bed which fits two people).

beach island resort hut
Our little island hut with a beachfront view! Picture perfect…

Sunny’s Bungalows

I didn’t stay here, but I ate quite frequently at Sunny’s smoothie shack. The owners are very friendly and offer budget bungalows. Prices are negotiable (especially during the low season). Bungalows are between $20-25 depending on the season. Fan only cabins located directly on the beach (but without a view).

Lazy Beach Resort

This is the only hotel and restaurant on this side of the island. I ended up eating her for breakfast one morning and the food was really good. There is huge selection of Western and Cambodian food on their menu including vegetarian and meat options. Range of prices from $3 to $7 depending on what you get. Cheaper options include egg omelette and local Khmer food. Beautiful view of the ocean from the restaurant.

The One Resort

One of the most highly rated resorts on the island, The One Resort offers high end accommodation for travelers who value creature comforts. Air conditioned bungalows, a beautiful pool and a nightly BBQ make this resort stand out from the rest. Bungalows start at $90.

Where to Eat

Each resort on the island has its own restaurant attached to it. There are usually nightly BBQ at night on the beach which cost anywhere between $5-8. Of course, being on a tropical island… there are a ton of seafood options to be had.

Cambodian breakfast fruit
An array of exotic Cambodian fruits and local green tea for a post-hike breakfast

Beach Island Resort

This place had the best breakfast buffet (all you can eat) for $7 per person. Large selection of tea, coffee, fruits, congee (traditional Cambodian porridge with meat), an omelette station, and a pancake station. The high quality of the food and the excellent service made it well worth the high price tag. Nate and I stuffed ourselves so much on all the delicious food that we typically were full until dinnertime. At dinner time they offer wood oven fired pizza (which looked yummy) and BBQ (not my favorite). For lunch, there are some budget options on the menu including sandwiches, soup, and curries for around $3.50.

Sunny’s Smoothie Shack

This place offers budget options for breakfast such as freshly cut fruit, yogurt, and muesli. They also sell beer, coffee, and smoothies for a reasonable price. A plate of fruit is only $1 which is a good price compared to the rest of the restaurant prices. This was a nice place to grab a coffee or tea and chat with the locals.

Natural Island Resort

We ate here almost every night because they had a fantastic BBQ right on the beach. For only $5.50 I would feast on BBQ fish, potatoes, and a coleslaw salad. For $6, Nate ate BBQ chicken breast with the same sides. The food is served on a banana leaf in a cute little woven basket. I usually asked them to leave out the mayo on the salad as it was a bit overwhelming. Best seats are outside on the sand, but they also offer seating inside their restaurant.

Lazy Beach Resort

If you are interested in staying in a very secluded part of this remote island, Lazy Beach is the perfect place to hide out. Lazy Beach Resort offers beach front wooden bungalows for around $65 per night. If you book this accommodation, you’ll have to walk for about 45 minutes through the jungle (along a trail) to get to this side of the island. There is sometimes the option of catching a ride on the back of a motorbike (carrying a wooden cart) however I’m not sure how you schedule that. Contact hotel for more details.
The One Resort

Fancy resort at the end of the Saracen Beach Bay. They offer nightly BBQ at a higher price, but the service and atmosphere are a notch above. I didn’t eat here, but the food looked really yummy. I would love to go back and try this place out for dinner and cocktails.

Where to Drink Cocktails

Octopussy Bar

I’ll admit the name of this bar is a tad off-putting, but this bar is awesome. They are usually playing some sort of metal band and the bartenders are very friendly (usually volunteers from Europe). Nice atmosphere, decently priced drinks, and they offer wine by the glass.

octopussy bar sign
Our favorite little spot for nightlife on Koh Rong Samloem

Note: You can buy bottled wine or cold beer at any of the local conveniences stores. This is what Nate & I typically did.

Weather

There are basically two seasons in Cambodia – wet and dry.

The dry season (which is when we took our trip) runs from December through April.

dogs on the beach
Island dogs trying to beat the heat by swimming in the cool water

Nate & I stayed in Koh Rong Samloem during the low season (April), which just happened to be the hottest month in Cambodia. We had perfectly sunny days with no rain during our trip. There were less tourists during this time of year (due to the heat), which we preferred.

cambodia island blue water
The pristine and untouched landscape of Koh Rong Samloem is mesmerizing

The wet season runs from May to November in which the country experiences heavy rainfall due. This is also known as the monsoon season or the “green” season.

The coolest months to visit Cambodia is between November and March when temperatures are mild. Known as the high season, this is when tourism is reaches it’s peak.

Practical Tips & Advice

  •  If you suffer from sea sickness (like me), I would suggest taking a motion sickness pill one hour before the boat departs. I took a dramamine and this really helped me feel okay during the trip. I luckily didn’t puke on anyone
  •  There are two different stops on Koh Rong Samloem (the Western side & the Eastern side) so it’s best to know ahead of time what side of the island you need to get off on.

    lazy beach hike
    The 45 minute hike from Saracen Bay to Lazy Beach is completely worth the effort
  •  If you are on a tight budget, keep in mind that food and liquor costs are about triple the price on the island. Everything has to be imported over to the island via supply boats (even coconuts and fruits!) so keeps the costs high. You can pack some food (& beer) in a bag and bring it along with you. I wish I had brought more food with me as the options were limited (and expensive) on the island. Breakfast was very expensive, so bringing a bag of muesli with you might be a great way to keep expenses down.
  • There are NO ATMS on the island. Crazy, I know. With this being said, it’s a good idea to come prepared by bringing however much cash you think you might need.
  • There is a Russian owned restaurant called Blue Green that offers an ATM solution. They’ll run your credit card on their machine and charge you a 10% convenience fee. Although their fee is exorbitant, it is currently the only restaurant offering cash money and it really got us out of a pickle when we ran out of cash on the island.
  • It is rumored that Koh Rong Samloem is operated by the Russian mafia. From what I experienced, I feel like this might be true. (Insert laughing emoji here). Just something to keep in mind before going (so you won’t be surprised later).
  • Pack some good sunscreen and mosquito repellent, guys. After-all, Koh Rong Samloem is a tropical island full of bugs and critters. Sunscreen is incredibly useful on the island as there isn’t much shade. Sunscreen is also very expensive (about $15 for a small bottle) when you arrive to the island. There are lots of mosquitos on the island! Almost all hotels, including the resorts do not have air con and are some form of open air hut or cabin. I was super happy that I brought an Off mosquito repellant Spray with me because it worked like a charm.
  • Plan to stay at least two nights if you can. This charming island will lure you in and you’ll never want to leave. Instead of doing a flash packing itinerary, Nate & I booked three nights on the island and enjoyed each day very much. I think two night would be the perfect amount of time to see most of the island, however, I did meet people who stayed for a week (they were just so smitten on the island).
  • Although it makes sense to walk barefoot through most of the island, it’s a good idea to carry a pair of flip flops (especially at in the hot sun!) I made the mistake of leaving my sandals behind one day and I was forced to run through scolding hot sand. My feet were actually burned red and hurt for days afterwards so the damage to your skin can be pretty serious.

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