Koh Rong Samloem (also sometimes spelt Kaoh Rong Sanloem) is an island in Cambodia. Confusingly, it sits in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the coast of Cambodian seaside town-cum-casino-haven, Sihanoukville. This place might be less visited than its sister island Koh Rong but it is no less beautiful!
This island paradise is known for its white sandy beaches, warm crystal waters and exquisite underwater life, including the magnificent glowing bioluminescent plankton. If you’re looking for a slice of paradise, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about planning a trip here!
Koh Rong Samloem Map & Resources
Best Time to Visit Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem has two seasons; the monsoon season and the dry season. However, due to the tropical climate, the temperature stays warm all year around.
The best time to visit Koh Rong Samloem is between October and January when the weather is not too hot and the humidity levels are lower, making the climate more comfortable. This is a great time to enjoy the pristine beaches, and activities such as snorkelling, diving and kayaking.
Don’t forget to book your accommodation in advance if you fancy a New Year or Christmas escape – the islands are really popular and you don’t want to miss out!
“When I first visited Koh Rong Samloem back in 2015, there were no roads on the island and electricity was only reliably available for six hours a day. Development has since found the island (the jungle is currently being carved up into roads) and accommodation has sprung up all over Despite this, there are still pockets of Koh Rong Samloem which retain a castaway vibe. WiFi, while available in a handful of establishments, is not commonplace and power cuts are a regular occurrence. If you are looking for an isolated island experience, KRS is no longer the island for you. Instead, head to Koh Ta Kiev for a more rustic experience. Get in quick though, with much of the land having already been sold to developers, who knows how much longer it will stay this way!”Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker.
Where to Stay in Koh Rong Samloem
Saracen Bay is a short walk away from one of the most frequented piers on the island and also the main jumping-off point for boat trips. As well as fancy accommodation and budget hostels, there are also lots of beach restaurants and chilled-out bars here. Saracen Bay is the best place to stay on Koh Rong Samloem for convenience, however, this means it can also get very busy, especially during peak season.
Located on the western side of the island, this area is a favourite among hippies and divers. It’s great for travellers who prefer a quieter setting and a slower pace of life, as well as that classic Southeast Asia hippie vibe. As you’re likely to have gathered from its name, this spot is a fantastic place to catch one of Koh Rong Samloem’s sunsets!
Once upon a time, the only way to reach Sunset Beach was by foot on a challenging jungle track. While you can still walk there from Saracen Bay, the journey is now much easier, with roads some of the way and ropes to assist with the descent down the jungle track. However, bear in mind that this route would be difficult to navigate with a suitcase! Boat taxis also go to Sunset Beach from Saracen Bay and M’Pai Bay. The cost is around $5USD per journey.
Located in the north of Koh Rong Samloem, local fishing village M’Pai Bay doubles up as the backpacker hub of the island. The beautiful cove is surrounded by many stunning beaches and accommodation here is the most affordable on the island.
There is great nightlife and cheap places to eat and drink nearby. This is the area to stay in if you are a backpacker who wants to meet new people and socialise. There is a close-knit community here so if you’re staying for a few days, you’ll definitely feel part of the community by the time you leave!
Best Accommodation in Koh Rong Samloem
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1. Onederz Hostel (Saracen Bay)
Located in the middle of the beautiful Saracen beach and within walking distance from the piers, this place is the perfect tropical setting to chill out in with your fellow travellers! The rooms are clean and comfortable, making it a great choice.
2. The Cliff Hostel (M’Pai Bay)
This hostel is a favourite among backpackers and is considered to be one of the best spots to watch sunset on the island! It’s super affordable and there are chillout areas on the sea-facing balcony lined with outdoor beds, hammocks, and swings. To add to this, there’s also an on-site bar and restaurant – what more could you want?!
3. The Big Easy Koh Rong Samloem (Saracen Bay)
Offering dorms and private rooms, this brand-new hostel is highly rated by guests. There is a bar with happy hour cocktails and they host different events each night. Don’t miss the chance to eat here, the food is delicious!
4. The Azure (M’Pai Bay)
Offering plush en-suite rooms with all the comforts of home, The Azure is a great choice for couples. Run by expat couple Jay and Dave, you will want for nothing at this cosy hideaway in M’Pai Bay. Jay also owns local tour company Adventure Travel Co. so is well-placed to give you off-the-beaten-track recommendations for things to do across the island.
5. Lucky Sun (Saracen Bay)
This affordable hostel also offers cheap food and beers, along with the best nightlife on the beach! They have a bar which hosts fire shows and pumping parties (including dancing on the bar!). Lucky Sun also offers group boat trips around the island for fishing and snorkelling. Choose between a basic but comfortable private room or dorm bed!
6. Sleeping Trees (Sunset Beach)
These luxury tents set up on the fabulous Sunset Beach are the perfect escape for couples looking for a few days in paradise. The beach itself is quiet when compared to other spots and the water is crystal clear, making it a great spot to snorkel. Dorms are also offered here but in reality, you will only be sharing with a maximum of one other person, offering great value for money.
7. On the Rocks (M’Pai Bay)
Situated in M’Pai Bay up the hill, this chilled glamping spot is a wonderful base. Only recently opened, the bell tents offer a novel yet comfortable way to spend your time on the island. The attached restaurant serves the best value barbecue on the island and the hosts are super helpful – offering to help with onward transport and lending guests snorkel gear free of charge.
10 Things to Do in Koh Rong Samloem
Can’t decide between Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem?
👉 Koh Rong vs. Koh Rong Samloem – Which Rong is right for you?!
1. Visit the Old Lighthouse
If you’re looking for the best views that Koh Rong Samloem has to offer, set off on the trail towards the old lighthouse. To get there, first head to Dolphin Bay Resort in Saracen Bay and follow the track for five kilometres.
The hike is pretty easy and best done in the morning when it’s cooler. It should take around an hour for someone of an average fitness level.
When you reach the lighthouse you will come across the man who lives there. You’ll need to pay him a dollar (US) entrance fee to head to the top. The viewing platform boasts fantastic views!
2. Take a Boat Trip Around the Island
There are many kinds of boat tours available around the island including snorkelling and fishing trips. On some of them, you can even choose where you stop off along the way!
The locals will show you how they fish using plastic bottles and fishing wires. If you’re really lucky, they may even fire up a BBQ on the boat and cook the fish fresh for a truly tantalising taste experience!
The best part is when night falls and the bioluminescent plankton light up the sea beneath you; an enchanting spectacle
3. Swim in the Waterfall
Look out for the fantastic waterfall close to Saracen Bay’s main pier and Freedom Island Resort. It’s surrounded by tropical green jungle and you can sit in the refreshing water at the bottom to cool off on a hot day… very inviting! There are also two waterfalls within walking distance of M’Pai Bay, both of which are marked on maps.me.
It’s important to note that the waterfalls can run dry outside wet season so be sure to ask a local whether it is worth making the journey before you set off.
4. Snorkel or Scuba Dive
Take advantage of the amazing underwater life at Cambodia’s first Marine National Park with a spot of diving or snorkelling. Orchid Resort in the middle of Saracen Bay is home to a dive centre, as is M’Pai Bay where you can find Bubbles Up. Both come highly recommended among travellers. For the best experience, head to the waters around Sunset Beach on the west side of the island or travel further afield to Koh Tang or Koh Pring!
5. Watch the Sun Set at Sunset Beach
If you love chilling by the beach and watching the sun disappear beyond the ocean, don’t miss the vibrant pink and purple hues at Sunset Beach!
This gorgeous golden sand beach is quiet with just a few guesthouses along the beachfront and only a handful of places to eat and drink, giving it a secluded, castaway island feel!
The accommodation here provides an array of activities to keep you entertained, including volleyball, paddleboarding and pool! To get there, instead of a left turn, take a right turn at the fork in the road on the same trail to Lazy Beach.
6. Hike to Lazy Beach
Based on the west side of the island, Lazy Beach is nestled away from the busier parts of Koh Rong Samloem, offering a secluded and peaceful vibe. There are no restaurants or bars, apart from the one at the beachside bungalows, so factor this in when planning your visit.
To get to this beautiful golden sand beach, you have to trek across the island. Starting behind Tree Bar in Saracen Bay, follow the signposted trail until you reach a fork in the road and then turn left until you reach the bay. The walk takes around 25 minutes at a gentle pace.
7. Treat Yourself to a Beachfront Massage
Imagine lying in the shade on a white sandy beach, with waves crashing in the distance and the smell of the sea on the breeze… Doesn’t that sound like paradise?
Now imagine that you’re getting a massage at the same time! A skilled masseuse isn’t hard to come by on Koh Rong Samloem and when daylight dawns, massage shops begin to pop up all along the beach!
8. Catch Some Rays on Long Beach
Just a short walk from M’Pai Bay, you will find the chilled sandy strip of Long Beach. With crystal clear water ideal for snorkelling, hire the kit from Adventure Co. in town before you make the journey. It will cost around $1-2USD per person.
9. Hike to Clearwater Bay
From M’Pai Bay, it is possible to hike to the often-overlooked Clearwater Bay. A 10km round trip, it is likely to hot and humid trek but the isolated beach makes it well worth the effort.
If you fancy taking on this trek with a group of other backpackers, head to Adventure Co. in M’Pai Bay who offer a guided hike twice weekly for $5USD per person.
🌊🗑️🚮 A Note About Trash…
10. Stay For a While…
The businesses in Koh Rong Samloem rely on the help of volunteers, especially in the hostels and cafés. While many of the local people work in tourism, the level of spoken English is not nearly as widespread as it is elsewhere in Cambodia and foreigners are needed to help make up the deficit. If you have fallen in love with the island and don’t want to leave, drop into a few hostels and see if anyone is looking for volunteers! A few months in paradise? Don’t mind if we do!
Food and Drink in Koh Rong Samloem
If you’re on a budget, you’ll be saddened to hear that eating and drinking on Koh Rong Samloem does tend to mean splurging more than in other parts of Cambodia and Southeast Asia. On average, you can expect bills to come to around $6-15USD for a meal and a drink.
This isn’t to say there are no shoestring options though. Cheaper alternatives exist, you just need to find them! The following places are a few of our favourites on the island.
Titanic Restaurant: Most of the beachfront restaurants along Saracen Bay cook up barbecues right on the sand, preparing the most mouthwatering seafood and meat feasts! Although there are many to choose from, Titanic is one of the most popular options, serving barbecued food for $6-10USD a plate.
Wine at Mine: Who would’ve thought it was possible to enjoy a range of cheese and wine on a tropical Cambodian island? It may seem hard to believe, but the popular Wine at Mine offers both of these things, giving you a welcome taste of home or a novel way to celebrate something special while you’re on the road.
On the Rocks: This Australian-owned establishment serves up fresh BBQ every night! The sunset terrace offers some of the best views you can imagine and the food itself is high quality and offers great value for money. Don’t miss the Red Snapper with rosemary potatoes.
Octopussy Bar: From beach games to movie nights and a range of vibrant and creative cocktails – this place has it all! Great beachside bar and restaurant which you definitely shouldn’t miss on your visit to the island.
Sweet Time: This is the most affordable restaurant in Saracen Bay and the best place for the famous Cambodian dish; Chicken or Fish Amok! They serve good portion sizes for a great price compared to other nearby restaurants, making it an ideal place for budget backpackers!
Tree Bar: Located in the centre of Saracen Bay, stop here if you’re after that authentic, rustic beach bar vibe. They serve ice-cold drinks which do a great job at quenching your thirst on a hot day!
The One Resort: This place is a little more on the fancy side but if you want to treat yourself, it’s a no-brainer. Located right on the beach with an infinity pool overlooking the white sand and azure sea, this place is pure bliss! Head here for some tasty cocktails and delicious food. The restaurant serves a range of dishes including Thai, Cambodian and European.
Street shakes: Along the Saracen Bay beachfront, you’ll find many fruit shake stalls which are a refreshing treat on a hot day! For just a dollar each, they won’t break the bank!
Getting Around Koh Rong Samloem
Much has changed in Koh Rong Samloem over recent years, particularly since the pandemic. Roads have been constructed all over the island, linking popular beauty spots.
At present, these roads are dusty tracks but there are plans to cement them in the future. While it is possible to travel to some places by motorbike, it is worth bearing in mind it is likely to be some years before the roads are finished and many sections will be challenging on two wheels.
Boat taxis regularly depart from Saracen Bay and M’Pai Bay for popular areas including Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach. The going rate for a shared water taxi is $5USD one way per person.
How to Get to Koh Rong Samloem
To get to Koh Rong Samloem from the mainland, you’ll need to head to Sihanoukville which is a southern city on Cambodia’s mainland. You can get to Sihanoukville by flying into a nearby airport such as Sihanoukville Airport (KOS) which is 12.2 km away or Phnom Penh. The latter is further away (177.8 km), however, it is the only other major airport nearby(ish).
From Sihanoukville, catch a ferry to Koh Rong Samloem but make sure you know where on the island you are going. Getting from Saracen Bay to other parts of Samloem can be pricey! Ask the ticket office which ferry will take you to the part of the island you are staying on to be safe. The ferries take around 30-45 minutes and cost around $22USD.
From Koh Rong, buy a boat ticket along Koh Tuch strip or purchase one at your accommodation. Ferries to KRS cost somewhere around $5-10USD but expect to pay more than this if you are travelling by speedboat.
Where to Go Next:
Koh Rong: If you want more island paradise, head to the nearby popular backpacker pick, Koh Rong. The island is similar to Koh Rong Samloem, with pristine white sand beaches, however, Koh Rong boasts a livelier party atmosphere!
Phnom Penh: Head to Cambodia’s capital to experience the historical architecture and attractions, such as the various temples, Royal Palace and vibrant local markets. You can also learn about the awful history of the Khmer Rouge regime by visiting S-21 or the Killing Fields.
Kampot: Head to the southern town of Kampot, known for its high-quality pepper and salt fields. Placed in the middle of a magnificent winding river, it’s the perfect spot for a riverside getaway!
South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…
🙏 Sheree Hooker | Editor
🙏 Tim Ashdown | Gear Expert and Writer
🙏 Jay Adventure | Adventure Travel Co.