Koh Rong Samloem Island is one of those places that you want to run out and tell the world about, but at the same time keep your own little secret. With just a smattering of low key accommodation, the island is still very underdeveloped, and its pristine beauty is completely unspoiled by tourism. There’s not a lot going on on the island except a really gorgeous beach and the opportunity to disconnect from “real life.”
After experiencing the damage that over tourism has left on the islands of Thailand, we were looking forward to somewhere off the grid. As our boat pulled up from the pier, we were pleasantly surprised at the sheer lack of people. It was almost eerily quiet. Coming from the mainland, it took us some time to transition from the busyness of city life to quiet island living. In a few hours though we were happy to float around in the calm water, read a book on the shore and just enjoy the serenity of doing nothing.
What To Expect
Unlike Koh Rong, its more touristy counterpart, Samloem has not been spoiled by the backpacker party culture. This means quiet days, even quieter nights and the chance to feel like you’re part of the natural landscape. Those that are looking for a break from the party in Koh Rong or Sihanoukville will enjoy the laid back atmosphere. Be ready for some rustic living, though. Electricity runs on generators and only during certain hours of the day. Don’t even both asking for wifi. Wifi on the island is like hearing an urban legend, you’ve heard of a friend of a friend who has used it, but you’ve never seen it yourself. Our advice? Give in and enjoy the chance to completely unplug.
Where To Stay
There are several options on the island, most of which are located along Saracen Bay. The accommodation lines the beach, but be quick getting off the boat, in the high season it can be a mad scramble to find a budget room. Getting off the dock and turning right you’ll find The Beach Resort with budget accommodation including dorms. The cheapest option we found is staying in a rental tent for $5 per person. You can find Sweet Dreams (more affectionately known as Alex’s Place) if you walk out from the dock, turn left and head down the beach ten minutes or so. The business is run by a few Russian couples. Say hi to Alex for us, he’s the tan Russian in short shorts and a fanny pack happily chatting away with customers. Don’t expect luxury here. Yes, you’re sleeping in a tent and no, there’s no running water. But when you wake up in the morning, one unzip of the tent reveals a stunning view of turquoise water. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Where To Eat
Food on the island is pricey because it all needs to come in by boat. There’s a small convenience store on the island, but nowhere to buy proper groceries. If you’re on a budget, the best bet is Sweet Dreams. They have a set menu where you can get a drink, main and dessert for just a few dollars. For a step up, check out the Orchid Resort Restaurant, which will be smack in front of you as you come off the dock. We enjoyed their fish sandwich and their seemingly never ending supply of cold beers. If you’re looking for something fancy and romantic, check out the Sun Island Eco Village Restaurant.
What to Do
Koh Rong Samloem Island is a popular choice for divers. There are a few diving shops on the island and the experience is supposed to be really special. Unlike some areas of Southeast Asia, this spot has been well preserved, so there’s a better chance of seeing a greater variety of sea life.
For non-divers, the island doesn’t have much to offer in terms of activities. You can walk across the island, through the jungle to Lazy Beach for some snorkeling. Otherwise, the beach along Saracen Bay is a long strip of white sand dotted with swings, beach beds and chairs to spend your day relaxing in the sun. The ocean is so flat you can walk in the water for a hundred meters before actually getting your hips wet. There may not be strawberry daiquiris or an infinity pool, but Koh Rong Samloem Island is as close you’ll get to a luxury beach resort for $5 per night. Beside, the underdevelopment gives you a feel for the raw natural beauty of Cambodia. There’s no high-rise resorts to block your view of the ocean and at night when the generators shut off and the light disappears, you’re left with a sky full of brilliant stars.