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Koh Rong Samloem Backpacking Travel Guide

koh rong sanloem cambodia

“Welcome to paradise!” is what you are likely to hear when you first land on the island of Koh Rong Samloem or Koh Rong Sanloem in Cambodia – and this is not far from the truth.

The inconsistencies on whether ‘Sanloem’ or ‘Samloem’ is the actual spelling dates back to several years ago. According to the locals, the correct name is “Sanloem”. The difference began with the map makers in the French rule period.

Locally, the word “Sanloem” has two meanings; drowsiness, and the second is far out and difficult to discern.

The name ‘Rong’ on the other hand also has some uncertainties, some islanders think the word refers to some historical person’s name while others think it is an ancient term.

Also read: 25 Best Things to Do in Cambodia

Having toured this island, I must say that Koh Rong Sanloem Island is exceptionally one of the best places I have ever visited and I feel I must tell others about it or somehow keep it as my little secret.

The island has a smattering of low-key accommodation considering that it is still underdeveloped. Its immaculate beauty hasn’t been damaged by tourism.

Moreover, the island still has the standard water activities of snorkeling and diving-which I think gave me a chance to disconnect from real life.

Where is Located?

koh rong samloem cambodia
Photo by Joana Pastor on Unsplash

Koh Rong Samloem is a little island off the southern part of the Coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. Located within a collection of Islands, Koh Rong Sanloem is a sister island of the larger Koh Rong and some other small islands.

If ever asked to recommend the one you may like for a visit, I would recommend Koh Rong Sanloem. This is because it is a perfect balance of small but enough to feel isolated and large enough to meet people to have a good time with.

Koh Rong Island is often compared to other Thai Islands, and it is known for being less developed and having fewer tourists.

The island is near the Thai border and its closest mainland city is Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Sihanoukville is the largest coastal city with good links to transport as well as comfy hotels and services.

How to Get to Koh Rong Sanloem?

koh rong sanloem cambodia
Photo by Dara Keo on Unsplash

Traveling from mainland Cambodia to Koh Rong Samloem is no longer a challenge when traveling through Sihanoukville.

I took a boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem for $22 USD, return included. Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem takes approximately 45 minutes-depending on stops.

Check Transportation Routes & Prices»

General Tourism Information

tourist information koh rong samloem
Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash

There are several spectacular locations where tourists can visit in Koh Rong Samloem. The main location where tourists start the visit is Saracen Bay which has a quite comfortable atmosphere with several resorts around it.

Money or payment options? At the moment there is no ATM on Koh Rong Samloem, so make sure you bring enough cash with you on the island.

If desperate for cash, a WING transfer is possible. Also, I’ve heard from people i met on the way that some locals are doing credit-card-for-cash deals but the fees often exceed 10%, so be careful!!

Due to the challenges I experienced, I think next time I will bring plenty of cash, sunscreen cream, and defiantly a mosquito spray including other necessities.

Otherwise, I found most of what I needed in the shops in M’pai Bay and Saracen Bay despite that they might be a little expensive.

Make sure you make a packing list before you arrive on the island.

How to Get Around?

koh rong samloem boat transportation
Photo by Paul Szewczyk on Unsplash

There is no public transport on Koh Rong Samloem. Apart from tourist resorts and a really small fisherman village, the island is not inhabited.

The only way to roam around Koh Rong Samloem is by foot or by boat. You can walk along the beaches, on jungle paths, or rent a boat to take you around, starting at $10.

5 Best Things to Do in Koh Rong Sanloem

koh rong samloem island
Photo by Nick Haill on Unsplash
  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
  • Paddle Boarding and Kayaking
  • Trekking through the Jungle
  • Visit Lazy Beach, voted by National Geographic as one of the top “#10 Beaches in the World”
  • Visit the Lighthouse

Koh Rong Samloem Beaches

Saracen Bay

Saracen Bay koh rong samloem

It is the main tourist area in Koh Rung Sanloem Island. The beach has an accessibility rating of 10. The beach is convenient and beautiful. However, the cost of staying in this beach is higher compared to other beaches.

The cost of basic necessities in shops is high and is not convenient for everyone. This place is therefore recommended for newly married couples and families.

Lazy Beach

lazy beach koh rong samloem
Source: yourcambodia.com

It is a small and beautiful beach located on the western side of Koh Rong Samloem. The beach is exceptionally beautiful with silky smooth sand, blue waters, and enveloping mountains.

M’Pai Bay Beach

M’Pai Bay Beach koh rong samloem
Source: livingnomads.com

If you would like to experience the local culture, I find this beach suitable for you. Around this place, I was able to meet local fishing families and a considerable part of the friendly and active community.

There are several shops and local bars. The accommodation is cheap with an average cost of $15/night. The area is accessible through 4 ferries.

Sunset Beach

sunset beach koh rong sanloem
Source: mydustyflipflops.com

This beach is located on the western side of Koh Rong Samloem just like the Lazy Beach. It is a beautiful beach with soft white sand where you can watch a spectacular sunset.

The beach has a good number of diving spots and is a popular destination for Scuba Divers. The beach has a Dive Shop too. The accommodation isn’t easy to get and is much dependent on the weather.

The Best Time to Visit Koh Rong Sanloem

Between November to May is the best time to visit Koh Rong Samloem, with the peak season between December and February.  Also, between March and May is the hottest time of the year.

If you want to explore more from Cambodia, check the best time to visit Cambodia.

Nightlife

koh rong full moon party

I think Koh Rong Samloem is a good place where you can enjoy the nightlife, even if the island is not too developed.

The full moon party on the Koh Rong Samloem occurs in the jungle of Camp Good Vibz, between Saracen Bay and Sunset beach.

Also, Mad Monkey has a nice good hostel where you can enjoy having some drinks with the other travelers. I do recommend the Skybar Rooftop Bar and the party at Police Beach.

Where to Stay in Koh Rong Samloem

High-end Accommodation (Resorts)

The Pearl Resort

The Pearl Resort koh rong island
Source: booking.com

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This resort is located on Saracen Bay and is definitely the best Koh Rong Samloem hotel. The modern bungalows have a TV, air conditioning, and a private plunge pool.

The Bounty Boutique

The Bounty Boutique koh rong samloem island
Source: booking.com

The Bounty Boutique is one of the high-end Koh Rong hotels on Saracen Bay. The hotel has standard amenities like air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and access to the outdoor pool.

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Sweet Dreams

sweet dreams koh rong
Source: booking.com

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Sweet Dreams is a very cool 4star hotel located on the beach and it has a pool, restaurant, bar, and a nice garden. You will absolutely love this place, is just so beautiful.

Mid-range Accommodation

The SunBoo Beach Bungalows

sunboo beach bungalows koh rong
Source: booking.com

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The SunBoo Beach Bungalows is a set of bungalows located in Sunset Bay. This place is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Each bungalow accommodates two and has a garden with a clear coastal view.

The Paradise Villas Koh Rong Sanloem

Paradise Villas Koh Rong Sanloem
Source: booking.com

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The Paradise Bungalows is a good place to rest if you would like to have a clear view of the coast and a serene environment suitable for relaxing. The beach is a ten-minute walk away. The bungalows start from $30 and go up to 100$ a night.

The Lazy Beach Resort

The Lazy Beach Resort
Source: http://lazybeachcambodia.com/

This hotel is located in the undeveloped parts of the island and is very suitable for isolation. The hotel has serene surroundings, a tropical jungle, and a private beach.

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Budget Accommodation: Hostels

The Mad Monkey

mad monkey hostel koh rong
Source: madmonkeyhostels.com

You haven’t been in Southeast Asia if you never heard of Mad Monkey, one of my favorite chain of hostels.

They have hostels in 5 different countries in SE Asia and know how to organize good parties. They have a private beach and do regular fire shows, pub crawls, happy hours & tours.

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Onederz

onederz hostel koh rong samloem island
Source: booking.com

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Onederz is a highly rated hostel and is located in Saracen Bay. The hostel has a hangout space that is large enough to accommodate individuals who would like to have a chat, travelers, or even a crazy party. This hostel is located on the beach.

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