Gently lounging in the Gulf of Thailand and only two hours by boat from Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Samloem doesn’t have the party vibe you’ll find on northern neighbour Koh Rong, but it offers a wide range of accommodation options, albeit at higher prices. Think eco, funky, rustic, canvas or romantic when it comes to finding a room. Here are our top picks.
The biggest choice of accommodation on Koh Rong Samloem is found at Saracen Bay, arguably the loveliest of all on each of these two spectacular islands and also the quickest beach to get to from the mainland.
Dorm doyennes will be happy with the open-air sleeping at The Beach, where $5 gets you a comfy mattress on a platform, nice linen and a view to die for, directly on the sand. If you like your walls to go all the way around, the imaginative circular huts come with shared or ensuite bathrooms, made from thatch and pebbles.
At the other end of the budget spectrum, Secret Paradise and The One both offer beautifully designed wooden bungalows with air-con, ensuites, private terraces, and lovely settings, for prices ranging from $70 to $120 a night. The latter also boasts the island's only -- as of 2016 -- swimming pool.
Occupying the middle space, Saracen Bay Resort has carefully designed bungalows that look like standard beach buildings until you get close up. That's when you notice the insect screens, sparkling tiled floors, full Western bathroom and attention to detail with furniture and cleaning. Considerately spaced at a distance away from the restaurant, generator and each other, these lovely rooms are perfect for romance. All this care and comfort comes at a price, but $45 a night for bug-free sleep and a glorious view from the veranda when you wake is certainly not extortionate.
Over on Sunset Beach, you’ll find a yellow sand beach, and groovier places to stay. Camping fans can pitch up at Sleeping Trees, whether they want to literally sleep in the trees, or do it safari style with a huge canvas tent kitted out with its own wooden double bed.
We regret that we didn’t make it to The Lighthouse, as we just didn’t have the footwear for the trip. However, the walk to Lazy Beach is an easy meander along a cleared pathway until you get to an extraordinary space with a private beach, fantastic restaurant and a series of well-built bungalows that can each sleep up to four people, for as little as $45 a night, depending on the season. Or you could do what most people do, and go there by boat. Lazy Beach has been an expat favourite for years now, so it is advisable to check ahead for a room, regardless of the time of year.
For similar sunsets at half the price, Robinson Bungalows on the next bay around offer basic cabins nestled into the edge of the jungle, overlooking the rocky end of the beach. Bathrooms are shared and there's no luxury extras such as fans, pool tables or solar power. Instead you get the real deal on a natural stay, falling asleep to the sound of monkeys and sharing your accommodation with geckos.
If sunsets are you thing, but you prefer some proximity to other people, the aptly named Sunset Bungalows at M'Pai Bei village are just the ticket. Services are limited at the beautifully built bungalows, but the fishing village is a two-minute walk for breakfast or beers, and sandy Long Beach is a seven-minute wander away. If you’re looking for something cheaper, then head to Dragonfly Guesthouse, which is up along the same cliffset, though accessed from the road that runs out of the village from the pier.
Wherever you decide to stay, we recommend booking in advance, especially around Cambodia's public holidays or in the high season. Nobody wants to be obliged to make an undignified scramble to get off the boat first and run down the beach looking for a bed. Koh Rong Samloem is for relaxing, smiling and saying "Ahhhhhhhh!" a lot.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 24th June, 2016.