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.