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Koh Rong Samloem: Things to do in Cambodia’s little Paradise

by Cecilie
Published: Last Updated on
Koh Rong Samloem Cambodia

Learn about how to get there, where to stay, and all the things to do in Koh Rong Samloem. Or as I like to call it, Cambodia’s little paradise!

Koh Rong Samloem is a truly beautiful and authentic island in Southeast Asia. With poor wifi and no roads, you can easily give in to what’s known as “island life” – a mix of daily hammock swinging and coconut drinking on the beach. Yet there is more to the island than what just meets the eye.

There are several places to stay in Koh Rong Samloem, and each part of the island is different both in beauty and activities. Did you for example know, that it’s possible to watch the glowing plankton from 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 paradiseland in Cambodia!

So in this blog post, I will share my favorite spots on the island. Even though it’s small, you will be surprised with what it has to offer.

There are SO many things to do in Koh Rong Samloem, and SO many places to see, that you could easily spend a few weeks here without getting bored. So let’s get started on this small island guide!


Before you get to the island

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

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 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 AC in your room to be running all day.
  • Poor Wi-Fi: All of the places we went to had terrible or no Wi-Fi. So download your e-books, book your flights etc. before arriving.
  • Expect creeps (Not the human kinds): We had cockroaches in our bathroom, and you might also encounter sandflies. You’re on a small undeveloped island, so just accept the creeps. Get some insect repellent before you arrive.

I know, it sounds terrible right?

I’m obviously kidding!

Koh Rong Samloem is the perfect get-away island if you really want to unplug and completely commit yourself to relaxing. So you are not able to work on this island, or check your social media accounts every 5 minutes of the day. Doesn’t that sound great?

I 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! Just start planning already.


How to get to Koh Rong Samloem

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

We had just spend some time in Kampot, exploring the mystical Bokor National Park, and Kep, eating crab-curries at the mainland seaside of Cambodia, when we decided to go get some island life!

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!

Expect to lose a day on 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. If you have the money for it, you can always get a private taxi instead of a minivan.

You will get dropped off at the ferry terminal in Sihanoukville, and this is where it gets a bit tricky.

Don’t get intimidated by all the people who approach you.

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.

I don’t have the schedule at hand, but I know the ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem leaves several times a day.

Don’t expect the boat to leave on time, but make sure to be there on time yourself. You don’t want to miss the ferry to Koh Rong Samloem and get stuck in Sihanoukville!

The ferry ride to the island is easy and it takes less than an hour to get to Saracen Bay.

Sihanoukville Cambodia in 2020
You do NOT want to get stuck in Sihanoukville. This is how the city looks like in 2020. I feel so bad for Cambodia.
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

Things to do in Koh Rong Samloem

After illustrating the trip to the island as rather uncomfortable, and the island itself as full of creeps and poor Wi-Fi, I can imagine you’re already thinking about going somewhere else. Please don’t!

Let me point out all the great things there is to do in Koh Rong Samloem. You’ll love it here!

1. Glowing Plankton Tours

Have you ever witnessed glowing plankton, also known as bioluminescent plankton? I have and it’s amazing!

Although I never saw any on Koh Rong Samloem, it’s famous for its glowing plankton. We didn’t do a tour, but you can easily book a plankton tour at nighttime and experience this amazing phenomenon.

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.

2. Jungle Hiking

As I mentioned earlier, the island 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 very nice! If you’re lucky, you can even spot a monkey. The hike took us about 30-40 minutes, and we were rewarded with the tranquil Sunset Beach on the other side of the island!

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

3. Sipping coconuts on the beach

Need I say more?

Koh Rong Samloem is the ultimate island get-away. Find a hammock and a coconut, and enjoy!

4. Party in the bars

While Koh Rong island is more known for being the party island of Cambodia, and Koh Rong Samloem as the couples get-away 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, who offered happy hour, live music, pub quizzes and a broken pool table. What’s not to like?

M’pai Bay also offers a few bars where you can go have some late night fun.

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

5. 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 water-based fun. So should you get bored, you can always get yourself a kayak and go explore!

6. Snorkeling and Diving

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

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

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

As you can see, 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 paradise in Cambodia.


Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem? Saracen Bay, Sunset Beach or M’Pai Bay

I didn’t do much research before I arrived on the island. We had just booked a 3 night stay and that was it. Actually, I only heard about Saracen Bay, so I just assumed that was the only place to stay.

To my own benefit, I was completely wrong!

Koh Rong Samloem actually has 3 very different places to stay at, and they’re all unique in their own way. And of course, all of the places have their own lovely beach.

In terms of things to do and places to stay, I believe that Koh Rong Samloem has something to offer for every kind of traveller. Let me show you where we stayed in Kog Rong Samloem, and what we did at Saracen Bay, Sunset Beach and M’Pay Bay.

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

Saracen Bay – For everyone

As I mentioned before, Saracen Bay was the only place I’ve ever heard of before heading to Koh Rong Samloem.

It’s the main tourist strip of the island. In Saracen Bay, you’ll find a lot of accommodation, restaurants, tour companies, and of course – a truly amazing beach!

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

You will most likely also get dropped off at Saracen Bay when you take the ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem.

So Saracen Bay is basically one long beach strip. It’s the perfect example of a tropical Southeastasian beach with its white sand and clear turquoise water sparkling in the sun.

I must admit, I was speechless the first day we arrived at the beach!

The ocean was all calm and the beach strip was just beautiful. I was delighted to find that there was no big road but only beaches and palm trees. However, we never got to take a picture of the bay while the weather was calm, to our regret it was windy for the next 3 days…

Since Saracen Bay is the most popular tourist spot on the Koh Rong Samloem, it’s easy to find food and accommodation here. And they also have 2 small convenience stores on the strip that sell cigarettes and Oreos. Should you be craving any of those.

We stayed at The Big Easy, which was one of the cheapest places we could find. And we paid $15/night for a small bungalow with a fan and a bathroom full of baby cockroaches.

It didn’t bother us much, you get what you pay for.

The staff was really nice though, and The Big Easy Restaurant was one of the cheapest and best in the bay. Plus, every night the place is full of people because they either have live music or pub quizzes.

I will definitely recommend you to go here one night and have a good time!

To sum up, Saracen Bay is the perfect place for every kind of traveller. Spend a few days here before continuing to explore the other sides of this beautiful island.

However, there is one big downside to Saracen bay, which is that the it’s facing Sihanoukville. For those of you who don’t know, Sihanoukville has turned into a concrete jungle for Chinese investors, who are building casinos and hotels. So a lot of thrash is going into the ocean, and it’s unfortunately floating into Saracen bay.

The locals clean the beaches but it’s still traceable. Especially after bad weather. It’s such a shame what’s going on in Sihanoukville!( or sh*tville as some people call it now.)

BUT it surely shouldn’t stop you from visiting this beautiful bay. And there are definitely a lot of things to do on this side of Koh Rong Samloem.

Windy weather in Saracen Bay
The ocean at Saracen Bay can get wild
Koh Rong Samloem Saracen Bay Cambodia Big Easy
Glenn playing on the Big Easy swings in Saracen Bay in Koh Rong Samloem

Sunset Beach – For those who seek serenity

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

There are only two places you can stay and eat at here. So don’t expect many people to be around.

The day we visited Sunset Beach, we literally had the whole beach to ourselves!

The ocean also gets deeper quicker here, than at Saracen Bay, and it’s a much better place to go snorkeling.

Sunset Beach is a good day trip from Saracen Bay, so even if you don’t want to stay here, I still recommend you to go visit. You can easily hike through the jungle from one side of the island to the other.

So go get some sweat worked up in the jungle and throw yourself in the ocean as a reward when you make it to Sunset Beach. It’s honestly such a beautiful beach! Unlike Saracen Bay, there is no thrash in the ocean here.

Sunset Beach can either be reached by foot or by boat. So if you’re not keen on hiking through the jungle, you can just grab a taxi boat from Saracen Bay.

I wish we had stayed a night or two at Sunset Beach because it was the calmest place in all of Koh Rong Samloem. Sunset Beach is definitely for those seeking some beautiful sunsets and serenity at heart.

Sunset Beach at Koh Rong Samloem
An empty beautiful Sunset Beach in Koh Rong Samloem
Freshwater turtle at sunset beach in Koh Rong Samloem
We met a cute little freshwater turtle on Sunset Beach!

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

After spending 3 nights in Saracen Bay, we took a boat to the other side of Koh Rong Samloem, and made it to M’Pay Bay.

The taxi boat cost us $8/person and only took 20 minutes.

M’Pay Bay is the local side to Koh Rong Samloem. Here you find children playing, locals fishing and friendly expats. 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 at Saracen Bay.

This was definitely my favorite place on the island!

And if you don’t know where to stay in M’Pay Bay, I have the perfect Koh Rong Samloem accommodation gem for you. We spend 2 nights in a place right off the pier called “Beach House”. It was the nicest place we stayed at in ALL of Cambodia, and for only $14/night.

We found that the best place to eat was at Bong’s right off the pier. Here they make vegetarian burgers better than regular burgers! I’m not joking, it was the best veggie-burger I had in my entire life! Definitely one of the better things to do in Koh Rong Samloem.

Another great place to go is the Cliff Hostel.

If you go into the village and follow a sign that says, “Cliff Hostel”, you’ll find cold beers, the best spot for sunset and Wi-Fi that works! The bartender even gave us a free shot, thanks Cliff Hostel! I definitely recommend at cold beer and a sunset at this place.

The Cliff Hostel is only a 5 minute walk uphill from the pier of M’Pay Bay. Just follow the signs!

The beach in M’Pai Bay is only a 15-minute walk from the pier. And it’s some of the clearest water I have ever seen! It was just beautiful. Oh, and on the way to the beach, you might meet the island horse.

Apparently one of the expats who lives on the island once jumped off a boat on a horse. It was his horse and he decided to bring it to the island. So now, Koh Rong Samloem has a horse – not an animal you would normally encounter around here.

Glenn and I always prefer the more local sides to our destinations. We loved hearing all the island stories from locals and expats. That’s why M’Pay Bay was my favorite place on Koh Rong Samloem.

That being said, I still loved Saracen Bay and Sunset Beach, and they’re definitely worth a visit in Koh Rong Samloem.

Friendly locals eating fish in M'Pay Bay
Friendly locals sharing a meal in M’Pay Bay on Koh Rong Samloem
Local horse grassing in M'Pay Bay
The local island horse at M’Pai Bay

The future of Koh Rong Samloem

According to local sources, a lot of land has been sold to Chinese investors. A 15-minute walk from M’Pay Bay, we saw how they were cutting down the jungle, and apparently a lot of wildlife on the island already died or lost its home.

They are clearing the land on this tiny island to (you might have guessed it…) build a massive resort and casino!

Bravo, what a perfect way to lose another paradise island in Southeast Asia to mass tourism.

As I mentioned earlier, you take the ferry to Koh Rong Samloem from the pier i Sihanoukville. This means you have to go through Sihanoukville first… So you will see how many Chinese investors have ruined what used to be a great city in Cambodia.

Sihanoukville is full of skyscrapers and casinos, just watch this video to see what happened. Even locals now refer to Sihanoukville as Chinatown. It’s quite a sad story…

I really hope that the rumors about half of the island being bought and turned into a resort aren’t true. But sadly, I already saw all the clearance of the jungle. So it’s probably on the way.

BUT I will still 100% recommend you to go to Koh Rong Sanloem since there are a lot of locals depending on tourism. Plus the island is still gorgeous! Let’s just hope that Cambodia’s little paradise stays beautiful!

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

So this was my blog post about things to do- and where to stay in Koh Rong Samloem. I hope this little travel guide was helpful! Please leave a comment if you have any questions. Or read my Cambodia travel budget to prepare yourself better for your trip to Cambodia. Enjoy! And thanks for reading along.

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22 comments

Bliss April 18, 2020 - 3:59 pm

Such a great post. I could do with some beach and sunshine right now.

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Cecilie April 18, 2020 - 6:27 pm

Thanks! Me too, I miss traveling 🙂

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Erin April 18, 2020 - 4:18 pm

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.

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Cecilie April 18, 2020 - 6:43 pm

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! 🙂

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Vicky April 18, 2020 - 7:48 pm

Oh to be here right now! It looks stunning!

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Cecilie April 19, 2020 - 11:33 am

I know! Would give anything for an hour on the beach right now.

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Ashley April 25, 2020 - 3:57 pm

This looks like a great place to getaway and unplug from the world. The beaches look stunning.

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Cecilie April 25, 2020 - 7:39 pm

It’s great. We could all use some sun and beach right now! 🙂

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Arra April 27, 2020 - 12:18 pm

This is wonderful! I never looked at Cambodia this way. Your photos got me sold!

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Cecilie April 27, 2020 - 6:08 pm

I’m glad to hear it Arra! Cambodia actually has a lot to offer 🙂

Josy A April 19, 2020 - 12:02 am

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.

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Cecilie April 19, 2020 - 11:55 am

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 🙂 It is such a beautiful island!

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Francesca April 19, 2020 - 10:23 am

It looks so beautiful there! I could definitely do with a place of serenity right now…

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Cecilie April 19, 2020 - 12:11 pm

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.

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Chrissy K April 19, 2020 - 3:58 pm

Oh my gosh that water at Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem looks INCREDIBLE. Loved your photos and great post!

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Cecilie April 19, 2020 - 8:32 pm

Thanks Chrissy! I bet we all could use some beach time these days 🙂 Koh Rong Samloem is just beautiful.

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Natalie April 24, 2020 - 2:39 pm

I miss traveling! I also miss being a tourist in my own city. Great post!

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Cecilie April 25, 2020 - 7:35 pm

I know! I wish I could go out for dinner and a drink, then it doesn’t matter where I am. Thanks!

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Becky Quesada May 2, 2020 - 3:47 pm

Adding this to our travel list. Gorgeous photos!!

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Cecilie May 2, 2020 - 5:23 pm

Thanks Becky! You definitely should, it’s a beautiful little place on earth 🙂

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Molly May 9, 2020 - 10:54 pm

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!

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Cecilie May 11, 2020 - 12:43 pm

Haha glad to hear you got allured Molly! I will recommend everyone to travel to beautiful Koh Rong Samloem 🙂

Reply

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