Exploring Koh Rong Sanloem – Cambodia’s Backpackers Paradise

Nestled in the azure waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Rong Sanloem is a hidden gem that promises an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Less renowned than its sister island, Koh Rong, Sanloem offers a more tranquil and intimate experience, making it a perfect destination for travelers seeking pristine natural beauty and serene seclusion.

About Koh Rong Sanloem

Koh Rong Sanloem, often overshadowed by its larger neighbor Koh Rong, is part of the Sihanoukville Archipelago in Cambodia. The island stretches approximately 9 kilometers in length and spans around 4 kilometers at its widest point. The name “Sanloem” translates to “drowsiness” in the Khmer language, a fitting description for its laid-back and serene atmosphere.

Unlike the bustling party scene on Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem is known for its peaceful ambiance and untouched natural beauty. The island is divided into two main bays: Saracen Bay on the east, which is the primary tourist hub with a range of accommodations and amenities, and M’Pay Bay to the north, a smaller fishing village offering a more rustic and authentic Cambodian experience. The western side of the island features secluded beaches like Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach, accessible by jungle trails and boat taxis.

Getting There: A Journey to Serenity

Our journey to Koh Rong Sanloem started from the lively island of Koh Rong. We took a speed boat from Koh Rong, which made the trip to Koh Rong Sanloem in about 20 minutes. The ride was thrilling, cutting through the sparkling waters and offering stunning views of the surrounding seascape. Speed boats regularly shuttle between the islands, making it easy and convenient to hop from one to the other.

Sustainable Tourism and Community

Koh Rong Sanloem is still relatively undeveloped, which adds to its charm. Efforts are being made to promote sustainable tourism to preserve the island’s natural beauty and ensure that its impact on the environment remains minimal. Many resorts and businesses are committed to eco-friendly practices, such as reducing plastic use, conserving water, and protecting local wildlife.

The island community is friendly and welcoming, offering a glimpse into the traditional Cambodian way of life. Local eateries serve up delicious Khmer cuisine, with fresh seafood being a highlight. Engaging with the local community not only enriches your travel experience but also supports the island’s economy.

Accommodation –Where to stay in Koh Rong Sanloem

During our stay on Koh Rong Sanloem, we were fortunate enough to stay at Island Center Point, arguably the most luxurious and expansive accommodation on the island. Although they don’t have a pool, it’s hardly needed with the large stretch of beach and the prime location right at the water’s edge. The resort’s extensive facilities and beautiful beachfront setting offer a perfect blend of comfort and natural beauty. I was working with them, so we stayed for free, which was a wonderful perk. The team at Island Center Point was incredibly nice and hospitable, much like their sister property, Templation Hotel, which I had written about previously.

Based on my experience, I wouldn’t recommend any other accommodations on the island. Island Center Point stands out not just for its luxury, but also for the exceptional service provided by its staff. 

If you’re considering booking a stay at Island Center Point, using this link to make your reservation supports me without any extra cost to you.

What to do in Koh Rong Sanloem

Koh Rong Sanloem offers a variety of activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers:

Hiking Trails: Explore the island’s lush interior through hiking trails that lead through dense jungle. These trails offer opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the natural beauty of the island. One popular trail leads to the historic lighthouse at the island’s southern tip, providing panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: The waters around Koh Rong Sanloem are teeming with life, making it a perfect destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Several dive shops offer excursions to nearby reefs and wrecks, where you can discover vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.

Beach Activities: Relax and unwind on the island’s stunning beaches. Saracen Bay, Lazy Beach, and Sunset Beach are popular spots for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. Lazy Beach, accessible via a 20-minute jungle trek, offers crystal-clear waters and golden sands, while Sunset Beach boasts breathtaking sunset views.

A personal perspective

While Koh Rong Sanloem is often touted as a backpackers’ paradise, my experience was somewhat different. Having come from Koh Rong, I found that I preferred the larger island over Sanloem. Koh Rong Sanloem seemed overly geared towards backpackers, and the crowd was a little off-putting in my opinion. The island was unfortunately pretty dirty, and it was evident that it is still very much in a developing phase.

Behind the scenes, the poverty was striking, with visible signs of the island’s struggle to cater to tourists while lacking basic infrastructure. Looking behind the hotels, you could see the stark contrast between the tourist-facing front and the local reality. Stray dogs were everywhere, adding to the sense of a place that is trying hard but not quite there yet. Despite these challenges, efforts are being made to improve the situation, and it will be interesting to see how the island develops in the coming years.

Peering behind the scenes of Koh Rong Sanloem reveals a stark contrast: amidst the lush jungle, hotel employees and locals reside in makeshift containers surrounded by tanks, trash, and debris. This snapshot offers a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by those living and working in this tropical paradise.


Koh Rong Sanloem is a slice of paradise that remains unspoiled and relatively undiscovered. Its stunning beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant marine life offer a perfect retreat for those looking to escape the modern world and reconnect with nature. Whether you’re an adventurer, a nature enthusiast, or simply in need of a peaceful getaway, Koh Rong Sanloem promises an unforgettable experience.

However, be prepared for the reality of a developing destination. The island is striving to meet the demands of tourism amidst its natural beauty and local challenges. The hospitality and efforts of the locals are commendable, and with ongoing improvements, the island has great potential to become a top travel destination.

Practical Tips for Travelers

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Koh Rong Sanloem is during the dry season, from November to May, when the weather is warm and the seas are calm.

Getting Around: There are no roads or vehicles on the island, so getting around involves walking or taking a boat taxi.

What to Bring: Pack light, but don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a good pair of walking shoes for exploring the jungle trails.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi is available in most resorts and restaurants, but it’s a good idea to disconnect and fully immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *