M’Pai Bay, also sometimes spelt M’Pai Bei, is located on Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia and was once a small fishing village. These days, it is the backpacker hub of the island. Made up of a small community of locals and expats, M’Pai Bay is the perfect place to set up base for a few days, with an outstanding international food scene, budget-friendly digs and a super cool laidback atmosphere.
While other parts of Koh Rong Samloem are popular with travellers, M’Pai Bay retains much of its authenticity, delivering oodles of personality on an island where big swathes of land are being lost to soulless construction works.
Despite being a small village, there are loads of amazing places to stay and eat, not to mention lesser-visited attractions nearby. If you’re heading to this little piece of paradise, keep reading for all our top tips!
M’Pai Bay Map & Resources
M’Pai Bay, Koh Rong Samloem – Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit M’Pai Bay, Cambodia
If you want the best weather for your visit to Koh Rong Samloem, it is recommended to visit from November to February. This is the peak season for arrivals. The days are hot and sunny, with hardly any rainfall. If you are planning to be on the islands over the festive period, make sure that you book your lodgings in advance.
The wet season spans from June to October. Throughout this time you can expect short bursts of heavy rain. The big advantage to travelling in the low season is that as there are fewer tourists, less competition for lodgings and it’s also possible to bag some great deals on accommodation.
Where to Stay in M’Pai Bay, Cambodia
M’Pai Bay was hit hard by COVID-19 and the tourism recovery in Koh Rong Samloem has not been linear. Lots of popular places closed over the pandemic but new places are now rising from their ashes!
If you want to be in the thick of the action, stay as close to the beach as you can – there are several hostels lining the sand! However, don’t expect a party hotspot like Koh Tuch on Koh Rong – Samloem has a much more chilled vibe.
The other cluster of traveller accommodation sits along the hill out of M’Pai Bay towards the jungle. This is a generally quiet area with several lodgings to suit all budgets.
Good to Know!
Top Accommodation in M’Pai Bay
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One of the most popular budget offerings in town, the Cliff Hostel offers both dorms and private rooms. It is one of the few places with a decent WiFi connection, making it ideal for those who have hours to clock in at their virtual desks. Make sure you witness at least one sunset from the bar!
Offering air-conditioned rooms with ensuite bathrooms, The Azure is the perfect hideaway for couples looking to stay in comfort. Owners Jay and Dave can help you find off-the-beaten-track spots on the island, helping you to discover a side of Koh Rong Samloem few see.
Situated along M’Pai Bay’s main beachfront, Lost and Found offers a handful of cosy rooms, some of which have balconies. If you are looking for comfortable lodgings close to the pier, this is it! Enjoy the balcony views over the bay and don’t miss the food downstairs.
For a unique experience, head to On the Rocks. This campground offers premium accommodation in spacious bell tents. There is direct access to a rocky beach where you can snorkel (just tell the hosts you’d like to borrow gear – it’s free) or watch the sunset.
Just a stone’s throw from M’Pai Bay Beach, CocoHuts offers a range of budget-friendly accommodations, with dorms catering to solo travellers and bungalows for couples. The lodgings are basic but offer everything you could need for a beach escape from the mainland.
One of the beachfront’s newcomers, Seashell has made quite a splash since it first burst onto the M’Pai backpacking scene. Offering dorms and privates, owners Mads and Mathilde pride themselves on offering travellers a home away from home in their little corner of paradise.
Things to Do in M’Pai Bay
1. Chill and Snorkel on Long Beach
A short walk from M’Pai Bay, Long Beach is a wonderful sandy strip where you can easily lose a few hours with your favourite book. Boasting crystal clear water, it is the perfect spot for a bit of snorkelling – hire the gear from Adventure Co before you set off and don’t forget your suncream!
2. Kayak in M’Pai Bay
Even though boats drop off passengers along M’Pai Bay Pier, the bay itself is very chilled. One popular thing to do here is to rent a kayak and meander around the shoreline. As the water is generally calm, some also do the longer loop around the jungle-clad island of Koh Koun which sits opposite the bay.
There are several hostels along the beachfront that rent kayaks to visitors, prices start at around $7USD for an hour.
3. Hike to Clearwater Bay
If lying on the beach isn’t active enough for you, why not trek to the often-overlooked Clearwater Bay? The trail begins at the end of Long Beach, skirting up and around the white shack and through the jungle.
It’s largely sheltered but you’re sure to work up a sweat anyway, making a refreshing sea dip at the end a worthy incentive. Ask in town for directions or sign up for one of the guided hikes with Adventure Co. that leave a couple of times a week. This is a great way to meet your fellow backpackers and get your body moving after a few days basking in the sun!
🌊🗑️🚮 A Note About Trash…
4. Go Diving
If you prefer to be under the water rather than on the beach, look no further! Bubbles Up Dive Centre, located in M’Pai Bay, is your one-stop-shop for everything diving! From fun dives, intro dives and PADI and SSI courses, you’ll be well looked after no matter your ability. The best thing? Not only are the guides passionate and experienced but they are also multilingual, speaking English, French, Dutch and Spanish!
5. Go to a 23 Fundraiser
Did you know that M’Pai Bei means 23 in Khmer? According to locals, this harks back to the size of the cannonballs which were used to protect the island during the war and is the reason why there are so many businesses with 23 in the name!
M’Pai Bay is a tight-knit community of Khmer people, expats and travellers, who all come together on the 23rd of each month to raise money for local causes. This is done through raffles, games and clothing sales – to name a few!
The fundraiser is hosted by a different business each month. It has been a huge success since it started and the money raised employs people to keep the beaches clean, maintain vital infrastructure and fund other community projects. If you happen to be visiting around this time, do your bit and get involved!
6. Hike to a Waterfall
If you’re visiting M’Pai Bay during the wet season, head out on one of the short hikes to some of the nearby waterfalls. The most popular hike starts at the Cliff Hostel (there is a sign on a tree which marks the beginning of the trek or you can ask the staff for directions). This and one other are marked on maps.me. Be aware that if you visit during the dry season, the waterfalls will have run dry and won’t be worth seeing.
7. Watch the Sun Set
Cliff Hostel is the most popular sunset viewing spot in the village, particularly with backpackers, and there is a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean. With comfortable floor furniture and ice-cold beers, what more could you want?
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated vibe, head to On the Rocks where you can either take in the views from their restaurant or head down to the rocks on the shore to take in the spectacle.
8. Don’t Leave
Koh Rong Sanloem has changed a lot over recent years, however, it is still one of Cambodia’s finest tropical islands. If you’ve fallen head over heels for the laidback hippie lifestyle, beautiful sands and close-knit community, you may find yourself daydreaming about never going home…
Luckily for you, plenty of the businesses around M’Pai Bay need volunteers to help out at their accommodation and hospitality businesses. Unlike in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, English isn’t commonly spoken on the island, so Western volunteers are everywhere, working jobs where English is a necessity. Keep an eye out for signs in hostels or sign up for a Workaway profile to search for opportunities in advance.
Food and Drink in M’Pai Bay
There is a lot to like about staying in M’Pai Bay but honestly, the food is the best that I have eaten in two months of exploring Cambodia. No matter whether you’re after vegan home comforts, Arabic fare, freshly baked bagels or cheese and wine, you’ll likely find it in M’Pai Bay!
Seapony: Got a whiff of freshly baked bread on the wind? Nope, you weren’t dreaming! Seapony, located a street back from the main drag, is known for its excellent homemade bagels and decadent ice cream shakes.
Lost and Found: Quite simply, the best cheese toasties on the island and maybe in the whole of Southeast Asia. Made using homemade bread with either cheddar, mozzarella, or both, you can select from a range of fillings including olives, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, jalapeños and more!
Wine at Mine: Got something special to celebrate while you’re on the road? Look no further than Wine at Mine, offering cheeseboards and your favourite tipple! Drop into the bar itself or arrange a takeaway to enjoy your indulgent feast on a beach of your choice.
Nomad: This new restaurant along the main beachfront is the place to go for veggie and vegan fare. Offering banging falafel and delicious eggplant fritters, this will meet all your plant-based needs. If you’re looking to indulge, they also sell glasses of French Wine. C’est magnifique!
On the Rocks: When the sun is shining, every night is barbecue night! For a great budget offering, head to On the Rocks for sunset, making the most of their epic sea view terrace. Choose from a mix of red snapper, mixed seafood, tuna steak, chicken, pork, beef or veggie skewers. All dishes are served with rice, rosemary potatoes (highly recommended!) or mash.
Spicy 23: Offering delicious food (not all of which is spicy) in a chilled atmosphere, this is the place to go for mouthwatering Khmer food. All the options can be made veggie-friendly and the tofu lok lak comes highly recommended!
Two Ducks: If you’re craving a pub experience, head to the Two Ducks. Complete with a beer garden and Angkor Beer on tap, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported back to your favourite local…except for the amazing weather of course!
Bongs: The first restaurant cum guesthouse that you’ll see as you depart from the ferry, Bongs is a cornerstone of M’Pai Bay. The kind and welcoming staff are a mix of expats and Khmer locals, serving up a range of mouthwatering dishes. There are also plenty of options for veggies – don’t miss the mushroom quesadillas!
Getting Around M’Pai Bay
M’Pai Bay is small and compact so getting around on foot is easy. It will take approximately 10 minutes to walk from the resort at the top of the hill to the seafront.
If you want to explore other parts of Koh Rong Samloem, you must go via taxi boat. Water taxis leave the bay at 10.30 am and service popular areas like Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach. A return ticket costs $10USD per person and pick-up is usually around 4 pm. Make sure to pay attention to your boat captain as the pick-up could be in a different area than drop-off.
How to Get to M’Pai Bay, Koh Rong Samloem
You can easily get to M’Pai Bay from Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. Most of the ferries which depart from the mainland service M’Pai Bay as standard but it is always worth checking this in advance. I recommend booking your tickets on 12go.asia where you can clarify the exact pick-up and drop-off options before you book.
If you are travelling from Koh Rong (approx. $10USD per person), make sure you tell the boat captain you are going to M’Pai Bay. Sometimes they will only stop if they know someone is departing there.
Where to Go Next:
Koh Ta Kiev: Looking for a less developed island escape? Accessible from Sihanoukville, Koh Ta Kiev is often skipped over by travellers but is well worth the stop. For castaway vibes, you won’t find better in Cambodia!
Kampot: Home to the country’s most famous pepper and the eerie Bokor National Park, a few days in beloved Kampot is never a waste. Enjoy the countryside, the laidback pace of life and reconnect with your fellow travellers here. Buses and trains travel from Sihanoukville.
Koh Rong: Just a stone’s throw from KRS, this is the island to head to if you’re looking to party! Bars line the beachfront offering happy hour all day long. For a super sociable stay, head to Mad Monkey – you’ll find drinking buddies in no time!
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…