Koh Rong Samloem Cambodia

There are so many things to do in Koh Rong Samloem – or as we like to call it – Cambodia’s little paradise.

Koh Rong Samloem is truly a beautiful and authentic Southeast Asian island. With poor wifi and no roads, you can easily fall into an island-life-comatose, which is a mix of hammock swinging and coconut drinking on the beach. Yet there is much more to this island than what meets the eye.

Did you for example know, that it’s possible to watch the glowing plankton from the popular Saracen Bay? Or that you can walk through the jungle to the less discovered Sunset Beach? And did you know that an imported horse lives in M’pay bay? There are so many sides to this little piece of paradise in Cambodia!

So in this travel guide, we’ll share our favorite spots on the island. We will go through how to get to Koh Rong Samloem, where to stay, tips and tricks, and of course the best things to do here. So kick back, relax, and get ready to plan your trip to this amazing island in Cambodia!

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Things to know before you visit Koh Rong Samloem

How to get to Koh Rong Samloem

Cambodia doesn’t have a very good infrastructure, but getting to the island actually isn’t that difficult.

We had just spent some time in Kampot and Kep when we decided to go to Koh Rong Samloem. So, we asked our guesthouse to arrange the transit. It cost us $28/person to get from Kep to Koh Rong Samloem with a stop in Kampot. Oh, and it took us all day to get there.

Expect to lose a full day of travel and expect to sit on half a seat in a cramped minivan for hours. Sorry, but it’s just the reality of budget travel in Cambodia. You will then get dropped off at the ferry terminal in Sihanoukville, which is where you need to take the ferry to Koh Rong Samloem.

If you want to travel more comfortably, then you can always get a private taxi to Sihanoukville instead of a minivan, and then book a ferry ticket on 12go.asia.

When you reach Sihanoukville, go straight to the ferry terminal to claim your ferry tickets to Koh Rong Samloem, or look for the Information Center on the left by the pier and ask for help. The ferry ride to the island is easy and it takes less than one hour to get to Saracen Bay.

Sihanoukville Cambodia in 2020
You do not want to get stuck in Sihanoukville. This is what the city looked like in 2019 – one big construction site.
Arriving at Saracen Bay Pier
Arriving at the “pier” in Saracen Bay. This is basically where you get dropped off when you take the ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem

Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem

Koh Rong Samloem has 3 very different beach areas you can stay at, and they’re all unique in their own way. They’re called Saracen Bay, Sunset Beach, and M’Pay Bay.

We’ll do a quick explanation on each place with a hotel recommendation included. Hopefully, it paints a picture of each part of the island, so you’ll know where to stay.

Saracen Bay – for all kinds of travelers

Saracen Bay is the main tourist strip on the island where you’ll find a lot of accommodation, restaurants, tour companies, 2 small convenience stores, and of course – a truly amazing beach strip!

So if you don’t know where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem, then we would suggest Saracen Bay for your first visit. You’ll find accommodation for every kind of traveller here: From low-budget bungalows to luxury beach huts.

During our time at Saracen Bay, we stayed at The Big Easy, which is one of the most affordable accommodation options in the bay. We can recommend it for the great atmosphere, the cheap price, the good food and vibe from the bar – but it’s pretty rough around the edges, so don’t stay here if you want luxury or cleanliness.

There are many other accommodation options you can choose from on Booking.com, so have a look around before you decide on which hotel you will stay at.

Next time, we will probably stay at Onederz because it also looks pretty nice and affordable. However, you can find many other options like luxurious resorts and beach huts – so there surely is something for everyone at Saracen Bay.

Sunset Beach – for those who wants serenity

On the opposite side of Saracen Bay, you’ll find Sunset Beach, which is the calmest place on Koh Rong Samloem. And as the name indicates, you can watch a beautiful sunset from here.

There are only 3 accommodation options in Sunset Beach, so don’t expect many people to be around. The day we visited Sunset Beach, we literally had the whole beach to ourselves! You can either get to Sunset Beach by taxi boat or by hiking through the jungle from Saracen Bay.

We kinda wish we had tried to stay a night in this bay because it was the calmest place in all of Koh Rong Samloem. Next time we’ll try to stay a night or two at SunBoo Beach Bungalows, which looks super cozy. Sunset Beach is definitely for those seeking beautiful sunsets and serenity.

M’Pay Bay – for those who wants to meet the locals

After spending a couple of days in Saracen Bay, we decided to take the taxi boat to the other side of the island called M’pay Bay. This bay turned out to be our favorite place on the whole island!

M’Pay Bay is the local side to Koh Rong Samloem where you’ll find children playing, locals fishing, and several expats who settled here. It’s more common to find guesthouses rather than resorts. Hostels rather than hotels. There is overall a more laid-back backpacker vibe in M’Pay Bay than in Saracen Bay. Plus, it’s also a bit cheaper than Saracen Bay.

You actually start to wonder if you’re still on the same island. But that’s the beauty about the many sides to Koh Rong Samloem.

We stayed in an absolutely amazing places named Beach House, which we can highly recommend! The place was beautifully located, it was clean, and run by a friendly expat – it actually turned out to be the nicest place we stayed at in all of Cambodia.

Another great place to stay in M’Pay Bay is the Cliff Hostel where you’ll find cold beer, WI-FI that works, and an amazing sunset deck. We enjoyed spending our evenings here.

Koh Rong Samloem island map Cambodia
I drew a map over Koh Rong Samloem island

Tips for visiting Koh Rong Samloem

Before you jump on the ferry to Koh Rong Samloem, there are a few things you should know about the island. Because let’s face it: The idea of getting stuck on an island isn’t the worst, but in reality it would probably suck if you’re not prepared.

So while you are planing your amazing island getaway, here are a few tips you should take notice of:

  • No ATM: There is no ATM on Koh Rong Samloem, and you most likely can’t pay with credit card. So stock up on cash in Sihanoukville before you get to the island.
  • It’s expensive: The island is more expensive than mainland Cambodia, so count that into your budget.
  • No 24-hours electricity: Only a few hotels have 24-hours generators, so don’t expect the A/C in your room to be running all day long.
  • Poor Wi-Fi: All of the places we went to had terrible or no Wi-Fi. So download your e-books, book your flights, and answer your e-mails before arriving.
  • Expect creeps: We had cockroaches in our bathroom, and you might also encounter sandflies. You’re on a small undeveloped island, so just accept the small creeps. Get some insect repellent before you arrive.

We know, it sounds terrible right? We’re obviously kidding!

Koh Rong Samloem is really the perfect getaway island if you want to unwind and completely commit yourself to the now. So, you aren’t really able to work on this island or check your social media accounts. Doesn’t that sound great?

We don’t mean to sound all love-and-peace like, but this island is damn good for the soul. Plus, there are so many things to do in Koh Rong Samloem, which will occupy you anyways. So just start planning already.

Things to do in Koh Rong Samloem

As you will learn in a second, there are plenty of things to do in Koh Rong Samloem. So you won’t get bored without Wi-Fi for a few days. Just turn off your phone and enjoy this Cambodian paradise.

So let’s dive into the 10 best things to do in Koh Rong Samloem.

1. Experience glowing plankton

Koh Rong Samloem is known for being a great spot to experience glowing plankton. The glowing plankton is also known as bioluminescent plankton, and it’s a natural phenomenon where plankton creates a sparkling light in the ocean at night. It’s so mesmerising!

We tried to find this phenomenon several nights at several places on the island, but with no luck. So if you want to make sure to get this experience, then you should join a glowing plankton tour.

You can either book a plankton tour through your accommodation, or walk down the strip of Saracen Bay where you’ll find many places advertising for the tour.

We have experienced it before somewhere else in Southeast Asia, and it’s absolutely amazing!

2. Jungle hiking on Koh Rong Samloem

As we mentioned in the beginning, Koh Rong Samloem has no roads.

But there are several hiking trails through the jungle. You can for example hike from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach, or from Saracen Bay to Lazy Beach.

We went hiking through the jungle to Sunset Beach, and it was super nice! If you’re lucky, then you can even spot a monkey on the way. The hike took us about 30-40 minutes, and we were rewarded with the tranquility of Sunset Beach on the other side of the island!

Just a tip: Wear mosquito repellent! Mosquitoes will attack you in the jungle during the day. Also, wear good enclosed shoes. The road through the jungle is not straight forward, so sometimes you have to do a bit of climbing over boulders, which can be pretty tough in flip-flops. Also, enclosed shoes are always a good idea in the jungle. Why, you ask? One word: Snakes.

Sunset Beach at Koh Rong Samloem
Made it to Sunset Beach in Koh Rong Samloem

3. Coconuts and hammocks on the beach

Need we say more?

One of the best things to do in Koh Rong Samloem is to relax. Find a hammock, find a coconut, and enjoy! This activity can be done anywhere on the island.

4. Go partying in the bars at Saracen Bay

While Koh Rong island is more known for being the party island of Cambodia, and Koh Rong Samloem is known as the couples getaway island, this doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun!

In Saracen Bay there are a few good bars where you can have a good party after dark. For example, we stayed at The Big Easy, which offered happy hour, live music, pub quizzes and a broken pool table. What’s not to like? Onederz also looks like they have a nice bar.

So don’t rule out Koh Rong Samloem for just being an island getaway for couples.

Koh Rong Samloem Saracen Bay Cambodia Big Easy
Glenn playing on the Big Easy swings in Saracen Bay in Koh Rong Samloem

6. Watch the sunset of Koh Rong Samloem

As already mentioned a few times in this blog post, it’s possible to watch a nice sunset in Koh Rong Samloem – it’s actually one of the best things you can do on the island.

There is just nothing more calming than watching a beautiful sunset.

The way we see it is, you have two options: 1) You head to Sunset Beach and spend your evening watching the beautiful sunset with your toes in the sand, 2) You head to the Cliff Hostel in M’Pay Bay and enjoy a sunset from their bar with a cold beer in hand.

Both options sounds pretty good, right?

7. Find the island horse

If you find yourself in M’pay Bay, then go look for the island horse.

It’s actually a pretty funny story.

Apparently, one of the expats who lives on the island once took a horse all the way to Koh Rong Samloem. Apparently, it was his horse and he wanted to bring it to the island. So one day, he took it with him on the boat to Koh Rong Samloem. And since then, the horse has lived on the island.

It often just walks around minding its own business.

Local horse grassing in M'Pay Bay
The local island horse at M’Pai Bay

8. Try kayaking and paddle boarding

It’s also possible to rent a kayak or a paddle board and enjoy the island from the sea.

We didn’t get to do this, but we saw several people having some fun in the ocean. So should you get bored of sipping coconuts on the beach, then you can always get yourself a kayak and go explore!

9. Go snorkeling and diving

I went snorkeling at Sunset Beach, but I know there are better places to go snorkeling on Koh Rong Samloem.

I heard that one of the best places to go snorkeling is at The Cliff Hostel in M’Pay Bay. Apparently you can walk down a staircase from their bar to a great snorkeling spot.

We never went diving, but there is also a dive shop on the island. So if you want to see what the underwater world looks like by the Cambodian islands, then go book yourself a tour.

So no need to worry, there are several things to do in Koh Rong Samloem for those of you who love to explore the ocean.

Windy weather in Saracen Bay
The ocean at Saracen Bay can get wild

10. Meet the locals and expats at M’Pay Bay

Want to dive deeper into life in the island? One of the best things to do and best ways to experience the island is to engage with the local people living on Koh Rong Samloem.

We absolutely loved our time on this side of the island because we also got to connect with the people who lived there – both expats and local Cambodians alike. It was honestly really nice, and it gave us another understanding of life on the island.

So make sure to head to M’Pay Bay if you want to know more about life on Koh Rong Samloem.

Friendly locals eating fish in M'Pay Bay
Friendly locals sharing a meal in M’Pay Bay on Koh Rong Samloem

Our favorite things to do in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem was one of our favorite island getaways in not just Cambodia, but in all of Southeast Asia! The beauty of Saracen Bay, the calmness of Sunset Beach, and the welcoming locals in M’Pay Bay made our trip absolutely perfect.

So to round up this blog post, here are our top 3 favorite things to do on Koh Rong Samloem:

  • Jungle hiking: We absolutely loved hiking through the jungle from beach to beach. There is just something so satisfying about sweating your way through the jungle only to find an incredibly beautiful beach on the other side. And the dip in the ocean afterwards was just magnificent!
  • Partying at Saracen Bay: We found that there was a really good vibe in the evening at Saracen Bay. You could often find live music, pub quizzes, and other good times along the strip. We had a lot of fun here!
  • Engaging with locals at M’Pay Bay: We also loved the time we spent at M’Pay Bay. Engaging with the local expats and Cambodians gave us a whole other understanding of the island. Koh Rong Samloem definitely became so much more than just another backpacker destination – We experienced a sense of community here.

Thanks for having us Koh Rong Samloem, we cannot wait to be back in the future and make this list of things to do even longer!

Me overlooking the horizon at M'Pay Bay
Overlooking the horizon at M’Pay Bay in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

We hope this travel guide can help you in plan your own trip to Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. We absolutely loved our time in Koh Rong Samloem and found that there are so many things to do here in spite of its small size!

If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading and happy travels!

(According to local sources, some of the island has been sold to Chinese investors, who wants to build a massive resort and casino. We did see that a lot of the jungle had been cut down, which could have been for this purpose. However, we truly hope this is just rumours and that Koh Rong Samloem will stay the same! Either way, make sure to visit this beautiful island and support the locals living here.)

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  1. Haha I love your comment about expecting creeps. When I was on Koh Rong Samloem a few years ago, I ended up encountering rats that came out from the jungle at night!!! Wasn’t ideal, but honestly as you say, the island is so incredibly beautiful that it is worth the creeps. I’m sad to read that the island is being sold to investors for development. When I was there in 2017, the fact that it was untouched with no wifi or 24 hr electricity was what made it such a special experience. Regardless of development, I do hope that the local communities on the island are able to benefit from the tourism that development will bring.

    1. Whaaat jungle rats? Well I’ll take cockroaches over rats anytime haha. I’m glad you enjoyed Koh Rong Samloem too! It truly is one of the small paradise islands in Southeast Asia.
      The problem is that the locals probably won’t get any money out of the resort because it will be so big it has restaurants, pools, casinos, bars etc on side. But you’re right, let’s stay positive! You never know what it might bring to the island.
      Cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Goodness that is so depressing about the future of this stunning area. I mean, would you even want to go back when it’s a giant resort and casino? Sob. For the moment, it looks truly beautiful.

    1. I know! I don’t want to put people off from going to Koh Rong Samloem. My point was just that people shouldn’t stay at the big resort but instead support the local businesses ๐Ÿ™‚ It is such a beautiful island!

    1. I know me too! What I would do to just have a day in paradise – I guess my apartment, a cold beer and an afternoon nap will do instead haha.

    1. Thanks Chrissy! I bet we all could use some beach time these days ๐Ÿ™‚ Koh Rong Samloem is just beautiful.

  3. After reading your Cambodia 3 week budget post I had to know more about the island that had the alluring swings over the sea. This place really does look like paradise!

    1. Haha glad to hear you got allured Molly! I will recommend everyone to travel to beautiful Koh Rong Samloem ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. April 1st 2023
    Iโ€™m sitting in a hammock at the far end of Saracen bay at Waterfall beach resort enjoying my morning coffee.
    I was here at the beginning of my trip around SE Asia in February and enjoyed it so much I decided to return for an entire month to end my trip.
    Covid put an end to all the Chinese development as it also did in Sihanoukville. So far they havenโ€™t returned, fingers crossed.
    Koh Rong Samloen reminds me of my first trip to Koh Samui in 1982 which is something I havenโ€™t found anywhere else.
    Your article covers all the highlights of this island which is basically, idyllic beaches coconuts and beer cheaper than water usually. A wonderful place to really get away from the rest of the world.
    Get off your couches, turn off your TV and book a flight. bonvoyage

    1. Dear Nick, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Koh Rong Samloem is a little paradise on earth!
      I’m excited to hear about life after covid and the Chinese development since we haven’t been to Cambodia since our last trip in 2019. I’m glad they stopped the high-rise hell in Sihanoukville but on the other hand, I hope it hasn’t just been left as a ghost town/building ground…

      Your comment made me very happy! I’m glad to get an update on Koh Rong Samloem and to hear that it’s still as beautiful as ever.
      All the best, Cecilie

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