The ultimate guide to Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia

The ultimate guide to Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia

Are you plotting a journey through Cambodia? If so, the ancient Angkor Wat temples likely spring to mind first. However, are you aware that Cambodia is also home to stunning tropical islands, including the untouched Koh Rong Samloem? Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, this magnificent oasis offers a blend of excitement and serenity. From snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters to unwinding on pristine white sands, I’m eager to share why Koh Rong Samloem is an essential stop on your Cambodian voyage. Furthermore, I’m excited to guide you through the island’s most enchanting locations. Are you prepared for an extraordinary adventure?

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Koh Rong Samloem or Koh Rong Sanloem 

Before we explore the enchanting sights of Koh Rong Samloem, I want to clarify a minor yet significant detail. As you delve into research about this island, you might encounter various spellings, such as Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Rong Sanloem, or Koh Rong Samlon. This diversity in nomenclature can be perplexing (even to me), but rest assured, all these variants point to the same exquisite destination.

This variation in names stems from the challenges of transliteration—the process of converting Khmer pronunciation into the Latin alphabet. Factors like local dialects, regional pronunciation nuances, and differing romanization techniques contribute to the assortment of spellings.

For the sake of consistency in this blog, I’ll refer to it as ‘Samloem.’ However, it’s crucial to recognize that each spelling is valid and denotes this Cambodian paradise.

Why do you have to visit Koh Rong Samloem? 

Koh Rong Samloem stands as a tranquil oasis off Cambodia’s coastline, celebrated for its untouched beauty and verdant natural vistas. Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, this island forms a part of the enchanting Koh Rong archipelago, merely less than 25 kilometers away from Sihanoukville’s shores.

With its modest size and serene atmosphere, Koh Rong Samloem emerges as an idyllic retreat for those seeking peace and relaxation.

The island is a haven of stunning white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise seas, and a rich tapestry of marine life, offering an unparalleled paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

Moreover, Koh Rong Samloem hosts a quaint local community, presenting a unique opportunity to experience the authentic charm of island living, untouched by the clamor of contemporary life.

Ultimately, Koh Rong Samloem represents a quintessential escape from the daily grind, promising to be a memorable highlight of your Cambodian journey.

How to travel to Koh Rong Samloem? 

Your journey to Koh Rong Samloem kicks off with a scenic ferry ride from Sihanoukville, offering you a first glimpse of Cambodia’s stunning coastal splendor. Wondering how to reach Sihanoukville? Conveniently, buses run from major Cambodian cities like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. If you’re coming from Kampot, there’s even the option to hop on a train to Sihanoukville. For hassle-free booking, 12togo is your go-to platform for all transportation tickets.

With your itinerary to Sihanoukville in place, the next item on your agenda is orchestrating the transfer to the island. Koh Rong Samloem, known for its array of mesmerizing beaches, demands a bit of pre-planning to ensure you disembark at the right beach or pier. This is where your accommodation comes into play; reach out to them for guidance on the optimal drop-off point based on their location or where they can arrange to pick you up.

To secure your spot on the ferry, booking a few days ahead of your stay is wise, easily done through 12togo. Also, factor in the potential for delays in your schedule. If you’re planning to connect a train or bus ride with your ferry transfer on the same day, it’s prudent to allocate some buffer time between these segments to ensure a smooth transition.

Want to learn more about getting around in Cambodia, finding accommodations, currency matters, and other crucial details for planning your vacation? You’ll find all my tips in my blog post ‘10 Cambodia travel tips you need to know before you go’

How to get around on the island? 

Your journey on Koh Rong Samloem transcends the ordinary, immersing you in an untouched paradise where the rhythms of nature dictate the pace. Here, the absence of motorized commotion invites you to a serene communion with the environment.

Exploring on Foot

Venturing by foot, you embark on a captivating exploration through lush jungle trails, enveloped in vibrant hues of green. These paths, a verdant labyrinth, lead to secluded beaches, each discovery a reward of tranquility and unspoiled beauty. As you navigate this natural maze, the island reveals its secrets at every turn, with the occasional wildlife encounter adding a thrilling note to your adventure. This mode of travel isn’t just a means to an end but a journey into the heart of Koh Rong Samloem’s serene wilderness.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

I feel it’s important to share that the island is currently undergoing a transformation, with numerous trees being felled to pave the way for expansive avenues destined to become roads. If you’re eager to immerse yourself in the pristine essence of Koh Rong Samloem, now is the time to visit. The island is on the cusp of a significant change, poised to join the ranks of other developed tourist destinations in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s my sincere hope that, even as these developments unfold, the unique charm and authenticity of Koh Rong Samloem will remain intact.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

On the Water

In addition to exploring on foot, for traversing greater distances across the island, taking a water taxi offers an efficient and scenic option. These water taxis are available everywhere, simply enquire with a local, and they’ll swiftly guide you to the nearest pick-up point. Fares for these waterborne journeys are based on distance, ensuring you can plan your travels with ease and affordability.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

If you’re looking for a dash of adventure, why not consider kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)? Many accommodations offer these as complimentary amenities, or you can rent them at various spots along the beaches. Navigate at your leisure, discovering serene bays and hidden shores that promise a peaceful escape.

For those who enjoy shared experiences, there are organized boat tours available, allowing you to explore the island’s wonders alongside like-minded explorers. Details on these excursions will follow.

On land exploration

Despite the absence of paved roads, some accommodations provide a rather unique transportation method: tractor rides. Here, you’re quite literally taken to your destination on a cart towed by a tractor.

This limited access to motorized vehicles enhances the island’s allure, inviting you to embrace a slower pace of life. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the natural rhythm and beauty of Koh Rong Samloem.

Key advice for a memorable stay on Koh Rong Samloem

Embarking on an adventure through the island’s verdant landscapes? Ensure mosquitoes don’t mar your precious memories by packing ample mosquito repellent and sunscreen. It’s crucial to stay hydrated, so keep a water bottle within reach at all times. Additionally, be prepared for journeys to take longer than expected; the island’s signage can be sparse, making it easy to stray off path. And for those enchanting nighttime strolls, a flashlight is indispensable, quickly becoming your trusty companion as daylight fades.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Before you step onto the ferry to the idyllic Koh Rong Samloem, ensure you’re well-stocked with cash. This quaint island haven operates sans ATMs, offering a charming glimpse into a simpler lifestyle, albeit inconvenient if you’re strapped for cash. Here, amidst the island’s serenity, cash reigns supreme, diverging from the convenience of card transactions you might be accustomed to. Additionally, anticipate higher prices compared to the mainland or other parts of Cambodia.

Regarding connectivity, if you had visions of updating your social media with idyllic snapshots via a local SIM card, you might want to adjust your expectations. Koh Rong Samloem is virtually off the grid, with sparse internet coverage. However, worry not, as selected Wi-Fi hotspots at inviting guesthouses and charming eateries offer a lifeline to the online world. These spots are ideal for sharing snippets of your island escapade or reassuring friends and family of your well-being. So, embrace the opportunity to disconnect, breathe in the island’s untouched beauty, and let its tranquil allure envelop you.

Where to stay in Koh Rong Samloem? 

During our vacation on Koh Rong Sanloem, we were delighted to stay at Island Center Point. This exceptional beachfront property in Saracen Bay offered us a slice of luxury, elevating our island experience to unforgettable heights.

Island Centre, Point,Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Island Centre, Point,Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Island Centre, Point,Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Boasting upscale amenities and an elegant atmosphere, we were enveloped in the serene beauty of Saracen Bay. The lull of the waves and the breathtaking views from Island Center Point crafted an idyllic setting for our stay, blending luxury with the raw allure of Koh Rong Samloem. This selection proved ideal for those of us seeking a harmonious balance of comfort and the untouched splendor of the island.

Koh Rong Samloem caters to a broad spectrum of preferences and budgets, offering everything from chic boutique resorts to cozy bungalows. Regardless of what you’re looking for, Koh Rong Samloem accommodates with options that ensure a memorable stay. Positioned along the shoreline, most lodging options present guests with exceptional vistas of the crystal-clear waters and pristine sands.

A convenient map widget is available below, giving you an immediate comprehensive view of the accommodations and their precise locations. This tool simplifies the process of finding the perfect place to stay, aligning with your exact requirements.

The most beautiful spots and fun things to do on Koh Rong Samloem

Exploring the enchanting shores of Koh Rong Samloem

Koh Rong Samloem, is celebrated for its breathtakingly beautiful beaches, each offering a serene haven of relaxation and a playground for water enthusiasts. Yet, what sets this island apart is the distinctive allure that each sandy expanse embodies. For those lucky enough to immerse themselves in this paradisiacal retreat for a few days, embarking on a beach-hopping adventure is a must. This allows you to experience the unique vibes and scenic beauty that the island’s varied coastlines present.

Saracen bay 
Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Saracen Bay is where the concept of paradise becomes a tangible reality. Here, the sand is so brilliantly white it seems to glow, and the waters are so transparent you might think you could spot hidden treasures on the seabed. It’s a place untouched by the shadows of modern development, preserving its pristine beauty.

The shoreline is dotted with charming accommodations, stylish bars, and inviting eateries that meld into the surroundings as if they were always meant to be part of this natural tapestry. The accommodations, ranging from whimsical huts to cozy bungalows, blend effortlessly with the natural environment, ensuring that Saracen Bay retains its genuine character. And perhaps the most magical aspect? Located on the eastern side of the island, Saracen Bay greets you with a breathtaking sunrise every morning, ensuring each day begins with an enchanting display of nature’s splendor.

Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Please be aware, the beach doesn’t boast a wide expanse. During high tide, the sea brushes against the huts’ steps, whereas low tide reveals an extended sandy stretch, creating ample room for those looking to bask in the sun. The accommodations along this stretch benefit from a segment of private beach, yet there’s no shortage of beach bars open to anyone eager to make Saracen Bay their haven for the day.

This spot is celebrated as the island’s liveliest beach, offering an perfect stay for those who relish the idea of enjoying a nighttime drink amidst the vibrant atmosphere unique to this paradisiacal corner.

Lazy beach 
Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Explore the serene Lazy Beach, tucked away in a secluded bay, where golden sands and mesmerizing turquoise waters await to capture your heart. This hidden gem, situated on the southwest coast of the island, invites you through a thrilling jungle trek. Positioned approximately a half-hour’s journey on foot from Saracen Bay, it offers a tranquil retreat from the world.

Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Surrounded by lush foliage, this spot offers a sense of privacy and a deep connection with nature, as if you’ve become part of a well-kept secret. Nestled among this lush greenery are charming huts, part of the sole accommodation on Lazy beach, exuding an authentic and rustic appeal.

Lazy Beach truly lives up to its name, inviting you to surrender to the serene tranquility of a more secluded existence.

Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

However, Lazy Beach offers more than just a tranquil escape. It’s a paradise for snorkeling enthusiasts as well. With two exquisite reefs to explore, the beach invites you to snorkel on its left side in the morning and the right side in the afternoon, taking advantage of the day’s calmest waters. Should you need snorkeling gear, you needn’t worry. Everything you require can be rented directly from the Lazy Beach accommodation.

When it’s time to satiate your appetite, the Lazy Beach accommodation also serves up delectable dishes and cool, refreshing beverages, making this a quintessential retreat for visitors of all ages.

Sunset Beach 
Sunset Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Sunset Beach is the ultimate haven for those seeking a relaxed atmosphere. Here, you can sink your toes into golden sands caressed by the clearest azure waters, all while soaking in a gentle bohemian ambiance. Tucked away on the island’s western shore, this hidden gem offers unparalleled sunset views that will leave you breathless.

Sunset Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
Sunset Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Take a leisurely stroll along the coast and discover creative boho shops and inviting bars. The charming huts and campsites blend seamlessly with the natural beauty, exuding an effortless charm. But what truly makes Sunset Beach unique is the adventurous journey to reach it: a trek through the jungle guides you to this secluded spot, creating a sense of your own private paradise.

With its laid-back atmosphere and lively, youthful crowd, Sunset Beach is the perfect spot to unwind, forge new friendships, and witness the most enchanting sunsets. Welcome to a slice of Koh Rong Samloem where each day concludes with a radiant golden hue.

Sandy beach 
Sandy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Sandy Beach, hidden in the southeast of Koh Rong Samloem, calls to adventurers willing to put in a little effort for their beach bliss, be it through a scenic hike or a quick taxi boat ride.

With its golden sands and pristine waters, it boasts all the hallmarks of a secluded paradise. However, it’s important to note that Sandy Beach comes with its own set of challenges. It’s not the untouched beach haven one might envision. Currently, numerous resorts are under construction, resulting in visible construction debris and detracting from the natural charm of this shoreline.

Additionally, with a backdrop of the Sihanoukville skyline, Sandy Beach takes on a slightly urban feel. It may not epitomize the quintessential tropical escape, but rather a convergence of two worlds. Despite these drawbacks, Sandy Beach still offers a tranquil sanctuary for relaxation, with ample space for leisurely strolls along the water’s edge.

Sandy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

For those craving a beach day with a twist, and who can still appreciate beauty amidst imperfections, Sandy Beach promises a unique experience.

Hike to the lighthouse of Koh Rong Samloem

If you’re eager to uncover more of the island’s wonders, consider embarking on a hike to Koh Rong Samloem’s lighthouse.

The trek to the lighthouse typically spans about 1.5 hours from Saracen Bay. Due to the ongoing construction of new roads and limited signage, it’s advisable to allocate extra time and attention to navigation.

Starting your hike early in the morning is recommended to evade the scorching midday sun. Essential sun protection like sunscreen, a hat, and covering attire are crucial, especially since shade is scarce along the wide lanes. However, as you venture onto the jungle path, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a more serene and natural landscape.

While the lighthouse itself may not boast architectural splendor, the breathtaking panorama awaiting atop the steep ascent is unparalleled. After conquering the challenging climb, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable vista of the island’s pristine beaches and the distant skyline of Sihanoukville, making every step of the journey truly rewarding.

Admire the Freedom Waterfall at Saracen Bay

Situated at the northern border of Saracen Bay is the striking Freedom Waterfall, celebrated for its natural pool that beckons for a refreshing dip. It must have been an idyllic spot, as the stories go.

However, upon my visit during the dry season, reality painted a different picture. There was no water to be seen. Instead of a cascading waterfall, all I found was a verdant cliff. The once vibrant bars and charming huts, lauded in travel guides, now stood abandoned and dilapidated.

Freedom Waterfal, Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

It’s possible that during the rainy season, the waterfall may regain its full power and beauty. That’s what I’m hoping for, at least. Furthermore, it would be wonderful if this place could swiftly restore its old charm, allowing you to once again revel in the vibrant atmosphere it once possessed.

Explore the authentic fishing village of M’pai

Seeking the essence of Koh Rong Samloem? Catch a taxi boat or join a boat excursion to reach M’pai, the sole village on the island.

This charming fishing village radiates authenticity with its traditional fishing huts and vibrant boats dotting the shoreline. Despite its small size, M’pai is brimming with charm, offering ample opportunities for relaxed exploration. Wander through its narrow streets, uncover cozy eateries and bars, and fully immerse yourself in its laid-back ambiance.

Aerial shot of the M'Pai Bay in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Here, you won’t find any sign of luxury resorts. This makes it the perfect haven for enthusiasts of a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.

Go for a swim with bioluminescent plankton

Ever fancied swimming while the water around you sparkles? That’s precisely the enchanting experience you can have on Koh Rong Sanloem, thanks to bioluminescent plankton. These tiny organisms light up when disturbed, creating a mesmerizing display that makes you feel like you’re floating in a galaxy of stars. However, to fully appreciate this spectacle, it needs to be very dark, away from any artificial lights, including those from bars, accommodations, or the moon.

While I hoped to witness this magical phenomenon from Saracen Bay, the ambient light there was too strong. Therefore, I highly recommend booking a specialized tour.

On such a tour, you’ll be taken by boat to a secluded part of the bay where it’s pitch black. With the guidance of an experienced guide and the right snorkeling gear, you can truly immerse yourself in this otherworldly experience. These tours are readily available at various tourist spots in Saracen Bay. I didn’t get to do this myself, and now I deeply regret it. So, learn from my mistake and make sure to book one of these tours.

Paddleboarding through the mangroves

Looking to deepen your connection with Koh Rong Samloem? I’ve got another exciting and adventurous activity for you: a paddleboard tour through the mysterious mangrove forest.

Led by an experienced guide, you’ll uncover the secrets of this unique ecosystem. Explore a hidden world where birds soar above you, fish glide beneath you, and crabs and shrimps scuttle among the roots of the mangroves.

The best part? You don’t need any prior experience for this adventure. The guide will provide all the knowledge, equipment, and assistance you need. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced paddleboarder, everyone is welcome to join in on the fun.

Embark on a boat excursion to uncover more of Koh Rong Samloem’s wonders

Short on time to explore the entire island but still eager for adventure? Fear not! A half-day boat excursion offers a condensed yet thrilling experience. Easily arranged at various spots in Saracen Bay, these trips set sail at 2:00 PM and return post-sunset around 8:00 PM.

During this thoughtfully crafted journey, you’ll plunge into the underwater realm with a snorkeling expedition, wander through the charming M’pai village, test your fishing skills, and conclude with a mesmerizing swim amidst the glowing bioluminescent plankton.

For a more personalized adventure, consider indulging in a private boat tour offered by select accommodations, allowing you to tailor the experience to your preferences.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

The decision is yours: embrace the shared joy of a group excursion or opt for the intimacy of a private tour. Regardless of your choice, it promises to be an unforgettable afternoon and evening filled with discoveries and fun.

I hope this blog post persuades you to explore the stunning Koh Rong Samloem during your travels through Cambodia. Whether you seek tranquility and beautiful beaches or adventure in the jungle or water, the island’s unspoiled authenticity is bound to captivate you.

Is Koh Rong Samloem on your bucket list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read more about Cambodia?

Thanks for reading. 

Yours truly,  

Sarah 

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the ultimate guide to Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia
the ultimate guide to Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia

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