Located just around 25 kilometers off the coast of southern Cambodia lie the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Not particularly established (yet) on a classic visit to Cambodia these two islands have positively impressed us and seem to become more of an alternate destination for travelers and tourists alike.
We took a bus ride from Siem Reap after having visited the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat and headed straight down to the coastal town of Sihanoukville. Once unloaded we proceeded towards the pier from where the boats leave to the islands. There are few speedboats which depart regularly on a daily basis to both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Having heard a lot about Koh Rong and knowing about its chilled island life we opted to go here first. Tickets cost you around $20 per person return. You can check their website and find out about their scheduled trips and costs.
Koh Rong Island
The ride took us around 45 minutes as we approached the eastern part of the island at Koh Tui Beach. This is the most populated part of the island and the main landing zone for arriving boats. The beach is covered with guesthouses and restaurants, all packed and squeezed next to each other. After a few rounds of looking around and comparing offers we decided to stay at one of the many hotels along the main beach strip. Accommodations around the island range from dormitory beds, private rooms and private bungalows. These sell from $5 to $20 dollars, depending on your needs. Room standards are very basic here, Koh Rong is definitely not a high-end, luxury resort type of island! Power shortages are still occurring frequently and air-condition is something that you won’t find here. Budget backpackers are happy with the value options along the main beach and favor the rustic accommodations around the restaurants and bars. BUT, things have changed in the recent years and the variety of upscale accommodations is now increasing. We found a decent private room, settled in and immediately headed out to explore the area.
The Relaxed Vibe
Despite the large amount of eateries and accommodations we noticed the relaxed vibe around us. There were a lot of foreigners walking around of which many seem to have been here for a long (maybe too long) time already. Locals alike offering tours around the island and small vendors selling all sorts of goods necessary for daily island life. Walking through the pristine, white beach sand we headed up towards the end of the bay where we discovered yet another, smaller beach. There were a few nicely looking bungalows around here, some even located above in the trees. Continuing even further we walked by a small stretch of jungle and reached some very secluded beach areas called Long Set Beach and Pura Vita, having them pretty much all for ourselves. The powdery sand squeaked beneath our feet as we walked under the shade of the trees enjoying this incredibly beautiful scenery in front of us. We lazed around, took a nice plunge into the clear waters and realized that we found another slice of paradise!
Apart from lazing around the beach all day we decided to go for a boat tour around the island. Not particularly something that we favor of doing but we have heard that you can see glowing, fluorescent plankton around the area. During the tour we spent some time fishing on board the boat and also visited Long Beach, a huge 7-kilometer wide beach on the other side of the island. We enjoyed a great swim here as we watched the sun set behind the clear waters.
So what about the plankton? It was dark night as we drove out into the waters again and the tour guide told us to take out our snorkeling masks and jump into the water. Reluctant at first and definitely a bit scared we eventually followed his call and jumped into the dark waters. Waving our hands under the water we could now see thousands of small sparks lighting up around us. The plankton started to glow upon movement and it was an unbelievable experience to see this!
Koh Rong Samloem Island
The next day we decided to visit the neighboring island of Koh Rong Samloem. There are boats that commute between the islands but make sure to book in advance as they don’t ride regularly. We took a large transportation boat which stopped several times in between and loaded/unloaded tons of material for restaurants and resorts. Quite fun to see but definitely takes you a lot longer to reach the island!
Koh Rong Samloem is the smaller and more laid-back island. When we reached the pier and started walking around we realized how empty and deserted the place was. There are a few resorts and restaurants around but definitely not comparable to Koh Rong. We eventually ended up staying at the KUN Bungalow – a very laid back, simple but clean accommodation that allowed us to relax and enjoy the island.
The Saracen Bay beach is just gorgeous and we spent two days relaxing here before heading back to Sihanoukville. You can enjoy nice walks over the beach, go swimming and eat in one of the many restaurants along the way. There are several other beaches around the island that are supposed to be very beautiful too – such as Lazy Beach which around the backside of the island. The island is more expensive than Koh Rong and you will find a different crowd here. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed the tranquility of the place and were amazed by its natural beauty.
Koh Rong Summary
Overall we absolutely enjoyed our trip to the islands and loved both the relaxed atmosphere and beach parties at Koh Rong as well as the laid-back and chilled vibe on Koh Rong Samloem. We stayed here for around 5 days in total but could have easily spent more time. We have met a few people who have been on the islands for several months and, after having seen this place, can definitely relate to that. I would highly recommend any traveler to Cambodia. We have heard of plans that the government will turn these islands into top tourist destinations and many constructions are already in place. We hope to have inspired you to visit these islands and also hope that the new ambitions around there will not destroy the island’s special atmosphere and vibe.