Sure, compared to Thailand, Cambodia isn’t known for its tropical beaches and turquoise coastline. But, don’t discount the islands of Cambodia. A welcome break from the overdevelopment of Thailand, the islands of both Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem are still relatively unknown. Koh Rong, the bigger of the two, is backpacker paradise. Stuffed with enough kickback party hostels and bars to line the entire beach, this spot screams gap year. Koh Rong Samloem, on the other hand, is like Koh Rong’s more serious big brother. Just a 45 minute boat ride away. If you’ve ever dreamed of washing ashore on a beautiful deserted island, this is probably as close as you can get.
Both islands are beautiful and each has its own draws, so here’s the down low on Koh Rong vs Koh Rong Samloem and you can choose which is right for you!
Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong is by far the more developed of the two, yet it’s still pretty rustic. You won’t find any fancy resorts or restaurants here. They definitely cater to a backpacker crowd and the island seems to be brimming with twenty-somethings that keep extending their stay by one more day. We can see how this island would have that affect. The main beach by the dock isn’t much to look at, but there are enough hostels to guarantee you a space even in high season. The bars and restaurants are all packed in together along the beach. There are plenty of delicious spots to eat and fun bars to have a sunset beer on the sand. Live music in the evening transitions to bumping top 40 for those that are looking to party the night away.
The real beauty is on Long Beach, an hour hike through the jungle and up over the hill to the other side of the island. This beach is, as the name suggests, long and even when it’s crowded with people you can find a decent slice of sand to yourself. Shade is scarce in the afternoon so if you see a tree, snag it. The beach itself is beautiful and the water calm enough for a leisurely swim. The only disappointing thing was the amount of trash thrown into the bushes on the beach. Not cool! We didn’t see any locals on the beach, so it’s pretty evident backpackers come for the day and leave their trash. It’s popular to stay the night on the beach in hammocks. We only had a coupe nights here so we didn’t sleep on Long Beach, but we heard it gets chilly and there’s lots of bugs, so bring something to cover up!
Most hostels don’t have wifi, although a few restaurants do, and electricity does not run 24 hours. It sounds rustic, but nothing compared to the underdevelopment of Koh Rong Samloem.
Koh Rong Samloem Island
This spot is like the Maldives on a budget. It is beautiful and serene, but very underdeveloped. When we got off the ferry in Koh Rong Samloem, we looked at each other and thought “where’s the rest of it?” The island itself is relatively big, but the development is still really limited. Walking down the main beach it’s almost eery how quiet it is. Because this spot is pretty secluded, the prices are a tiny higher than Koh Rong Island. Accommodation runs from $5 for a rented tent to $25+ for a simple cabana. There’s also a sweet new Mad Monkey Hostel on Samloem as of 2015 and it’s well worth a visit if you want some atmosphere and social life.
Electricity here is run by power generators and don’t even think of asking about wifi. If you do, you’ll probably end up getting a hearty laugh from one of the expat business owners here. Don’t expect a party either. Unlike Koh Rong, the island pretty much shuts down after dark. There are a couple restaurants to grab an evening beer, but most travelers on the island pack it in for an early night.
There’s really not much to do on Koh Rong Samloem. You can take a beautiful walk through the island to see the other beach or try your luck at some snorkeling. If you get antsy spending your day relaxing on the beach, this place is not for you. But if you’re looking from a refreshing break from the backpacking overload of Sihanoukville or Koh Rong, it doesn’t get much better than Koh Rong Samloem Island. We rate it as one of the best beaches we’ve seen in ALL our travels and our time their felt like a honeymoon.
24 thoughts on “Koh Rong Or Koh Rong Samloem: The Best Cambodian Islands”
Wow. Koh Rong Samloem looks absolutely perfect! I would love to spend a week there doing absolutely nothing.I really hope development holds steady until I can get there, but then that is probably everyone else who goes there is thinking too!
We think Koh Rong Samloem still has some decent time as an underdeveloped island, because most travelers opt for the larger Koh Rong for their backpacker fix. Maybe another year or so for some island paradise in Cambodia!
Is a boat schedule published online? I just booked a bungalow for Koh Rong Samloem in December.
Congrats! Hope you enjoy it! We’re not familiar with a boat schedule that’s published online. We just went down to the docks to as someone.
Well, I think I might just go to both! Sounds like I might need some serious relaxation after a few nights’ of partying!
Yeah start on Koh Rong, and then move to Samloem! If it’s relaxation you want, you’ll definitely find it at Samloem! Let us know how your trip goes 🙂
There’s options to move between this two islands?
Correct, there are regular boats that move between the two. It’s cheap and doesn’t take long. You can organize your tickets on both islands.
Can you take a boat from Koh Rong to Koh Rong Samloem direct? I have beachfront bungalows booked in both spots! 😉
Yep no a problem at all getting between the two. It takes about 30-40mins and costs $5. Super easy 🙂 They’re both very different, but awesome in their own right.
Hi… nice review about the islands.
Me and my wife are going to visit the island in July. I have booked a room for two nights in Paradise Bungalows, Koh Rong. Our main purpose is snorkeling and off course relaxing in pretty beaches. Do you think is possible for us to explore snorkeling spots in Koh Rong and also Koh Rong Samloem? I can’t find information about an organised snorkeling trip in Koh Rong except the Dive Centre. Do we have to hire a boat?
You’d definitely be able to get a boat across to both islands, either the main ferry or hiring one. Once you’re there you’ll find all the info you need 🙂 Have fun, it’s such an awesome place!
Hi i would reallly love your opinion im in 2 minds of which island too stay on! Me and my BF will be flying from HCM vietnam ➡ sihanoukville and then grabbing the boat over to either island! We only have 3 days as we are on a tight schedule and we do like to have a drink and party but we may be all partied out from thailand. Also don’t want to be bored! Sorry for all the Q’s
I’d probably stay at the main Koh Rong island because you can always find a quiet spot and go for nice hikes if you want to get away from the crowds. And if you’re not a fan you can always jump on the ferry and pop across to Samloem for the day to really chill out in a quiet spot. Also, ‘partied out’…. not such thing haha. Enjoy!
Hi there, really good read.
By the way, what is the name of the beach in Koh Rong Samloem?
We are heading down south Cambodia in the next two days.
Umm not sure, but it’s a small beach so it won’t be hard to find 🙂
Hi, I’m wondering which island is the best to stay at for diving? Can trips be organized from both islands?
Hey Desi, in regards to diving we’re not entirely sure which would be best. We’re not big divers, so chose to spend our time relaxing on the beach haha. If you find out please let us know 🙂
Great read. We are going to koh rong samloem tomorrow but we are both pretty sunburnt from a boat tour yesterday. Are there places with umbrellas on the beach? Don’t require anything luxury just somewhere to lay in the shade and enjoy the beach
Hi Trish, it’s been a couple years since we’ve visited but when we went it was very underdeveloped and there weren’t any umbrellas. But there is some shade from trees and at local restaurants on the beach!
Hi, we’d like to visit (maybe?) both islands in december. Is it possible to rent motorbikes and visit different beaches?
Hi Marianne, I don’t think they have motorbikes on either island, although we could be wrong!
Really useful review! We are going on our honeymoon in few weeks and couldn’t decide which island to pick!
This was defined the best blog, to the point and good summary!
Thanks so much Jana! And congratulations on the wedding! Have a blast on the honeymoon and send us a pic 🙂