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The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem

one of the pier in Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem Cambodia, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, guide to cambodia island, pisan zapra journey
A stunning view from Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Samloem
Cambodia may not be acknowledged for its white sandy beaches, neither being famous for the long pristine shoreline. It's rare you hear Khmers bragging about their island destinations. But this one little paradise will definitely amazes you with its untouched beauty away from overrated tourism (yet).

Before jumping off a boat, we can't avoid discussing the unappealing Sihanoukville coastal town's current condition. This is where the Ochheuteal, a.k.a Serendipity pier, is located.

As for now, Sihanoukville is undergoing massive foreign direct investment and construction, and the true identity of this sleepy coastal town is slowly being deprived. Sihanoukville's postcard beauties are now choked with plastics, dusty roads, and bare soils. It is no longer recognizable as a tourist attraction. The vibe of a tropical destination has already long gone, so all the backpackers and travelers.

Photos by Andrew Haffner

amazing orange teal colour from Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville Cambodia, guide to travel cambodia, pisan zapra journey
Stunning Sunset from Serendipity Beach

I was surprised when I arrived there the first time (on independence beach) and tried hard to convince myself not to regret the 40 minutes ride from the airport. There was nothing I liked about this place except for the stunning sunset. It was a stupid mistake not to research enough before boarding the plane. Lesson learned!

At night, hundreds of casino billboards stagger along the coast, topped with loud music and karaoke from bar restaurants. Struggling Cambodians were selling grilled seafood on charcoal piles that they carried around to get some customers on the beach. It was sad to see these people soon be squeezed out of their homeland.

I was utterly clueless about what to do in Sihanoukville, especially in Preah Sihanouk. I desperately needed a plan before heading to Siem Reap, which was just my second day in Cambodia. Locals told me to turn over my way to Otres Beach. Apparently, it's the only place where the backpacker's community is still thriving, or I could book a ticket to an Island nearby (I made a friend at the airport, we shared transport, and she told me she would be staying on one of the Koh Rong islands) I was lucky, I saved her number before we parted ways.

The next day, I found myself on this little island, drinking coconut water while watching another incredible sunset, waiting for the night to crawl in.


Enough story,

Let's move on to this little secret paradise island.

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Koh Rong Sanloem is a hidden gem of Cambodia, a secret beach that doesn't pop out quite often of the square map. It's almost everything you wish for an island destination. This is one of those places you want to tell the entire world about, but at the same time, you want to be stealthy to keep it as a little secret.

With merely a handful of humble accommodations, the island is still away from voracious development, and its virgin charms are unspoiled by over-tourism. This beauty is the perfect destination for "disconnect to reconnect" with yourself. It is a peaceful, relaxing island with breathtaking scenery, sandy white beaches, stunning turquoise seawater, and a tropical jungle wilderness.

Picturesque enough to be one of your favorite Instagram posts.

So, where is Koh Rong Samloem exactly?

The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem

Koh Rong Samloem is about 25km off Sihanoukville's coast and 4km south of Koh Rong Island. Don't get confused. Koh Rong Samloem is Koh Rong's beautiful sister island, a short 20-minute ferry trip away.

How to get to Koh Rong Samloem?

From Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem (and vice versa), you can buy a ferry ticket that costs $22 for a return trip. For an express boat, it will take about 40 minutes to get to your destination. If the boat does a pitstop at Koh Rong Island, expect additional 20 minutes before arrival.

What To Expect on Koh Rong Samloem?

Still lucky enough, the backpacker party culture has not entirely spoiled Koh Rong Samloem Island, opposite its neighbor Koh Rong island, which is more prominent to tourists and attractions. This means tranquility at its best. The day can be quiet and slow, even completely peaceful at night. This is the moment when you appreciate the sound of waves crashing on the beach while closing your eyes, ready to fall asleep. So much of laid back ambiance here. Time to embrace rustic living for good.

As mentioned above, this place is the perfect gateway for you to disconnect and reconnect with yourself. WiFi is now accessible in most areas of Koh Rong Samloem, especially in Fancy Resort and high-end restaurants, though it can be slow and unreliable. Rather than get frustrated trying to connect yourself to the cloud, it is best to unplug from unnecessary distractions. Enjoy the beach day, and try to make an intentional effort to unplug and recharge. On the other hand, electricity runs on generators, expect your hostel is turning it on for only 12 hours a day unless stated otherwise.

What is the best time to visit Koh Rong Samloem?

I would say that the best time to visit the island is between mid-November and the beginning of May. During these months, you'll have beautiful sunny days (25°C – 40°C) with little clouds and low humidity. Time to spill some SPF sunscreen, work on that tan lines!


Here's a summary of Koh Rong Sanloem's most popular beaches and activities.

Saracen Bay

This is the most hospitable section of the island. In fact, you can find some of the best Cambodian island accommodations here with such reasonable price tags. It doesn't take very long for Saracen Bay to earn its limelight. Continuous development has changed this bay's landscape in just a few years, with more upcoming resorts and hotels under planning.

Aerial View of Saracen Bay, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
photo by nSonNguyen

You can find it all here, from fancy resorts to dorms, with prices ranging from $7 to $ 20 for basic dorms and resorts from $30 to $80. There's always something for everyone here and plenty of options to suit your budget.

night life in koh rong samleom, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
Octopussy Bar on Saracen Bay

Nightlife doesn't need to be sad here. In the evening, the vibe on the bay will transform into a more mellow one. It's time to do some seafood adventures at the beachfront restaurants. If all the activity during the day doesn't drain you, hit one of the beach bars after dinner.

Saracen bay is blessed with white sand beaches topped with pristine blue water that is mostly shallow from the shoreline. Opposite sunset beach, this bay is the right place to watch the first light of the day; at dawn, you'll be hugged by the warm glow of the sunrise.

M'phey Bei

This is where you find the real fisherman Village on the island where backpackers amicably exist side-by-side with the islanders who have called this place home for generations. Over the years, M'phey Bei became one of the island's famous tourist spots, primarily for long-term stayers. Thanks to the most budget-friendly accommodation, between $5 - $7 for a dorm and less than $25 for beachfront bungalows.

View from M'phey Bei pier, fisherman's village, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
Photo by

Unlike Saracen Bay, life in a fisherman's village is more laid back and rustic. You can expect a little touch of development here, but the fisherman's village's authenticity is still preserved. The beachfront only gets busy when boats come ashore, bringing their catch of the day. Take a short walk on the beach and discover great snorkeling opportunities.

Sunset Beach

Amazing sunset on Sunset Beach, Koh Rong Samloem, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
Golden hour on Sunset Beach

Solitude over the sunset. No more hiding from the name, the perfect place to watch the most beautiful sunset on the island. Life is pretty chill here, with just a smattering amount of guesthouses and beachfront restaurants; you can appreciate the seclusion.

If you are staying at Saracen Bay, there are two options to reach this amazing sunset beach. First, you walk through the jungle trail for about 45 minutes or just rent a long-tail boat that costs around $6 one way. Keep in mind walking back to Saracen Bay at night can be dangerous and confusing, bring extra lights, and follow the trails carefully. Don't hesitate to use your phone as a GPS if you need one.

Lazy Beach

The lazy beach is a private tropical hideaway on the island owned by the same name resort. A perfect place for couples and families, this place is fully equipped with beachside bungalows and bar restaurants for in-house guests.

lazy beach koh rong samloem, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,

The beach is a long stretch of yellow sand set in a beautiful bay surrounded by tropical trees. This is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying a lazy day on the beach. The scenery in Lazy Beach is remarkably calm, and watching the sunset here is a really great way to end the day. Look out for some pine needles from the trees before putting on your beach towel.

To reach this place from Saracen Bay, you can either follow the jungle trail for about 45 minutes or rent a longtail boat for $6 one way.

Amazing Waterfall on Saracen Bay

Saracen Bay Waterfall is easy to find, not far from the northern end of the namesake bay, near the main pier and Freedom Island Resort. Surrounding the waterfall is a lush green tropical forest, making the view from the top more epic. Be careful when climbing up the waterfall; wet river stones can be slippery.

The pool at the bottom of the waterfall is perfect for swimming and cooling off on a scorching hot day after sunbathing.

Snorkel & Scuba Dive

What a great way to explore the pristine blue water of Koh Rong Samloem. It would be best if you didn't miss the chance to jump into one of the best diving sites in Cambodia. Got no diving license? No problem! Snorkeling won't disappoint you, either. Get some gear and get ready to see the stunning underwater corals and fishes. The best location for diving and snorkeling is around sunset beach. Remember the rules, take only memories, and leave only footprints. Cheers!

Diving in cambodia, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
photo by

Finding a diving operator is not that hard on the island; it's a stone's throw away. Walk to Saracen Bay's center, near Orchid Resort, and you'll find some Snorkeling and diving operators there! Book a session, and you're good to go!

Do Island Tour

Recently, tourists have been keen to explore the island and get to more places without breaking a sweat hiking for 45 minutes in the jungle. Boat tours have become more popular, allowing you to travel around the island, explore different beaches, resort transfer and visit more attractions on the island. This definitely saves you a lot of travel time.

Imagine sunbathing on Saracen Bay after breakfast, eating lunch at the Lazy Beach restaurant, ending the day with an amazing sunset on Sunset Beach, getting dinner at Fisherman's Village, and finally, heading back to Saracen Bay for nightlife. All is possible with a private water taxi service.

Watch Bioluminescent Plankton

bioluminescent plankton in koh rong samloem, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
Photo by Living+Nomads

Wonders of the night, you are lucky if you get the chance to see the bioluminescent plankton in Koh Rong Samloem. This phenomenon is abundant on the islands but can only be seen in places with minimal light pollution. Don't forget to check the moonlight for that night before heading out.

Local boat operators will bring you to the best spot possible to see the glowing plankton. Once you arrive, get ready to be stunned by the amazing starry sparkles on the surface of the water.

Explore the Lighthouse

This one is for those who seek a little hiking adventure on the island. Trail estimation is around 90 minutes, it doesn't sound that much, is it? Wait till you get inside the forest. The trail will welcome you uphill, down dale, some rough paths, and more. (don't take this seriously) Indeed, a beautiful tropical forest, the perfect place to exercise your glutes.

Stunning view of the lighthouse, Koh Rong Samloem, The secret paradise island of Cambodia - Koh Rong Samloem, pisan zapra jouney, guide to cambodia koh rong samloem island,
photo by

You don't need a map, walk in a straight line, follow the pathway, and the challenging trails will grant you a stunning view from the top.

So, to get to the Lighthouse, you have to go to the end of the beach, near the Paradise Villas and Dolphin Bay Resort, you'll find an entrance that leads to a jungle trail. That simple! Upon reaching the Lighthouse, there is a $1 entrance fee to climb up, but it's totally worth the view.


Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloen Island?

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Before I end this article, this is one fun fact about Cambodia.

US Dollar & Khmer Riel – Both currencies are accepted everywhere in the country. It's a bit confusing sometimes when you are paying in dollars but getting a change in Riel. Time to work on your math!

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1 Comment

Love the details of your journey, looks an amazing trip to scheduled. 🤩

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