My wife and I were recently invited to stay at Sol Beach – A wonderful resort on the main tourist beach of Koh Rong Samloem (i.e. the beautiful Saracen Bay – A peaceful relaxing holiday destination). Sol Beach offers a more luxurious accommodation at a premium price of $150 / night. There are now a couple of resort on Samloem pricing themselves in the premium category (see: The One and Moonlight), so we were intrigued to see how Sol Beach would compare, and how it aims to stand out in the long term.
A room at Sol Beach
Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem
By complete coincidence, the Sihanoukville police force rented out all of the ferries for the day, so we had to take the ‘slow boat’ to Koh Rong Island for a change. Because of its track record, we can’t recommend you take this ferry, at least not till some time has passed and its record has improved.
We arrived to Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem around lunch time, after stopping off for a quick drink on Koh Rong (we took a private boat from Koh Rong to Samloem to save time waiting for the connection – This cost us $30 between 3 of us – with more people it’s about $5pp).
The sun was out and the sky was clear – This is when the ocean is at its best, changing colours every 5 minutes or so, from clear blue to all sorts of greens and turquoises – Truly fantastic. We had a slight breeze to cool us down in the heat – The rainy season was just coming to an end so there are a couple of months to go before the sun is at its full force.
The view on Saracen Bay
Getting to Sol Beach Resort
We were greeted on the main pier by the Sol Beach staff – 2 friendly Khmer men who spoke a good level of English. They took our luggage and helped us into a private taxi boat – Sol Beach is a 15-20 minute walk along the beach heading left as you get off the ferry – If you don’t have heavy bags, it’s definitely worth a walk to see some of the other resorts on the island. With heavy bags however, the option of a taxi boat is excellent, and is now being offered by several of the resorts on Samloem.
The taxi boat took about 5 minutes, and was actually good fun as we had to jump out into the water to get to the resort – A real sense of a desert island paradise is created. First impressions of the resort were great – A large Khmer-shaped restaurant with an expanse of similarly designed villas stretching out across the beach front, the exotic jungle wilderness in the background, a very clean beach with beautiful white sand, conveniently placed comfortable chairs and hammocks… Everything you would expect from a premium-priced resort on Samloem.
A villa at Sol Beach Resort
Sol Beach Accommodation
Upon arrival, we were asked to relax in the restaurant and were offered some complementary drinks – A nice touch we thought. We were then taken to our tree-high villa, the Sol Beach staff carrying our bags for us. This kind of service is not common on Koh Rong / Samloem, so we were impressed.
The villa itself looked very nice from the outside – You can see that a lot of care was taken in its design and construction. The room was better than we expected – A large comfortable double bed, one-way windows providing views of the ocean, a mosquito net over the bed, curtains to cover the glass doors, air-conditioning and fans, a modern western toilet with a bathtub (bathtubs are generally hard to find in Cambodia), a nice shower and sink, complementary toiletries, towels, and free water bottles. All in all, a very nice, western-standard, modern accommodation.
A room at Sol Beach
The only downside was that the room didn’t have a TV, like some of the other premium resorts do. Now, for me, this isn’t a major problem, but my wife likes to lie back and watch movies later at nights, so if I hadn’t brought my laptop we would have struggled on that front. There were also problems with Wi-Fi, but this is to be expected on the island, and all resorts were experiencing the same issue. Some people might also like the added luxury of a swimming pool found at The One resort next door. Personally, the beautiful warm ocean waters are all I need, but I do see the appeal of going for a dip in the pool later at nights.
The Beach Area
By the time we unpacked and relaxed, it was almost the afternoon, so we headed out for a walk along the beach front. Sol Beach is roughly near the centre of the island, so the main view is the wonderful expanse of ocean waters (some of the resorts near the edges of Saracen Bay are surrounded by jungle which adds an interesting aesthetic).
As mentioned earlier, the beach is very well kept and clean around this area of Saracen Bay – Sol Beach and several other resorts clean the beach daily. We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of people around – Although Sol Beach and the nearby resorts were full, there were only a couple of people swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach front – When some of the other resorts are full, the sense of privacy can disperse.
Aerial view of the beach at Sol Beach
Sol Beach Restaurant
After slowly walking and taking in the peaceful tranquil atmosphere (all that can be heard are the ocean waves, crickets, and the occasional bird), we decided to head back to the resort and try out the bar and restaurant.
Overall, the atmosphere at the bar area is very enjoyable, with very nice comfortable furniture that’s ideal for lounging and taking in the ocean views. The bar staff are friendly and full of chatter. I must say that my Rioja was one of the best wines I have had in Cambodia. Cambodia, in general, is not big on its wine, so good ones are hard to come by. What’s more, it’s hard to find a red wine that’s served at the right temperature and isn’t too cold, and the Rioja at Sol Beach was perfect.
The food was also of a good standard. The fish Amok, in particular, was a very accomplished dish, and the chef is clearly very skilled at the Khmer cuisine. The western-side of the menu still requires work, but Sol Beach were creating a new menu at the time, so we’ll have to come back once this is complete.
Fish Amok at Sol Beach Resort
Movie Night at Sol Beach Resort
As we were about to set off back to our room, we bumped into Steve, the owner – A friendly American man who always seems to be happy and smiling. He invited us to stay for the regular film night hosted at Sol Beach. Ironically, that night’s movie was ‘Castaway’ – Very fitting given Koh Rong Samloem ‘s more ‘desert island’ feel.
After the movie, we went back to the villa and got a very good night’s sleep – There was no noise whatsoever. Unlike the main tourist beach on Koh Rong (Koh Touch), all activities tend to finish at around 11pm on Saracen Bay, ensuring that no noise keeps you up throughout the night.
The morning after we had the ‘all you can eat’ complementary buffet breakfast – A very satisfying thing to wake up to. Again, the food and coffee were of a good standard, as you would expect.
To conclude, Sol Beach is an excellent place to stay on Koh Rong Samloem if you want to see the magnificent views in a more luxurious accommodation. If you’re thinking of going to Samloem and would like to try this resort for yourself, you can book here at best price:Book Sol Beach at Best Price
Official Website: Sol Beach Koh Rong Samloem
Q: When is the best time to visit Saracen Bay?
A: The best time to visit Saracen Bay is between the middle of November and the start of May. During these months you’ll have beautiful hot days with very little cloud and low humidity. To give you a rough idea of the average temperatures over this past year:
Middle of November / December / January / February: Warm and dry. 25°C daytime.
March / April / May: Hot and dry. 35°C daytime.
June / July / August: Hot and wet. 35°C daytime.
September / October / Early November: Warm and wet. 25°C daytime.
Please see our Weather Guide for more information.
Q: How do I get to Saracen Bay?
A: There are now 5 modern ferry services from Sihanoukville to Saracen Bay – Speed Ferry Cambodia, Island Speed Boat Cambodia, Buva Sea, Angkor Speed Ferry, and GTVC. (There are also a couple of $5-$10 ‘Slow Boat’ services that take 1.5 – 2.5 hours – These services are not professionally run and are not recommended).
It will take about 40 minutes to get to Saracen Bay if it’s the first stop. If the boat first stops elsewhere, it may take 1 hour or so.
All 5 services will charge roughly $25 return, though prices can vary depending on time of year, special offers, etc. All services leave from the Ochheuteal (AKA ‘Serendipity’) pier in Sihanoukville.
The 5 services offer modern speed boats with comfortable chairs, life jackets, and the option to buy food and drink on board. Not all of the ferries have air-conditioning, but once the boats set off there is a strong cool breeze throughout the sitting areas which more than makes up for it.
All ferry services tend to be very busy – we strongly recommend you buy your tickets in advance. You can buy your tickets online now here: Book Ferry Tickets Online Now
Q: What activities are there?
A: Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
The Koh Rong islands are known for their stunning underwater panorama. Whether it’s snorkeling or scuba diving that you’re after, there are plenty of superb locations on Koh Rong Samloem.
Kayaking & Paddle Boarding
Enjoy the crystal clear ocean waters by Kayaking or paddle boarding your way around – An ideal activity for couples and families alike.
Explore the exotic jungle habitat by foot. If you’re staying on Saracen Bay, we would definitely recommend for you to see Lazy Beach – A 40 minute walk through the jungle trail.
Sparkling like a starry sky all around you, the bioluminescent plankton are a wonderful sight to behold at night times. Please speak to your hotel about booking a plankton tour.
Q: Where can I see the glowing plankton?
A: Sparkling like a starry sky all around you, the bioluminescent plankton are a wonderful sight to behold at night times. Although this phenomenon is abundant on the islands, the glowing plankton can only be seen in places with very little light pollution.
If you’re staying on Saracen Bay, the easiest way for you to see the plankton is by booking a boat tour.
For more information, please read: Glowing Plankton on Koh Rong
Q: What should I bring with me?
A: We recommend that you bring plenty of cash, mosquito spray, sun tan lotion, and any other necessities. Saracen Bay and M’Pai Bay have small shops where you can buy most of what you might need, but prices can be inflated so it’s a good idea to stock up on the essentials before you go.
Q: Is it easy to get a Cambodian Visa?
A: Yes – it is generally very easy to get a Cambodian Visa. Although there are tighter restrictions for Business Visas (which now require a Cambodian work permit), the Tourist Visa (1 month stay) is very straight forward and can be obtained at the airport / border crossing as you arrive. If you’d like to skip the ques, you can buy your visa online now here: Buy a Visa Online Now.
Q: Is there an ATM on Saracen Bay?
A: There is currently no ATM on Saracen Bay. However, many resorts now take card (e.g. VISA, MasterCard, etc) and you can take money out using an Eftpos terminal (10% fee). It is also possible to do a WING transfer if you are desperate for cash. Please ask someone when you are there for details.
You can get cash out at any of the three Eftpos terminals on Koh Touch (the main tourist area on Koh Rong Island). There is an Eftpos terminal at Green Ocean Guesthouse, White Rose Guesthouse, and Koh Lanta.
Q: Is there a medical facility?
A: There is currently no medical facility on Saracen Bay. However, Koh Rong has a medical facility on Koh Touch (the main tourist area). Please ask someone when you are there for directions.
Q: Is it a family-friendly place?
A: Yes, there are many quiet, family-friendly places on Saracen Bay. Please see our Hotel Guide and Beach Guide to learn more.
Q: When is the rainy season?
A: The rainy season on Saracen Bay is from the middle of May to early November. During these months there will be short bursts of heavy rain during the day. One thing to note is that, although it is wonderfully hot throughout the peak season, there are several advantages of visiting the island during the rainy season.
For example, those that visit during the rainy season get to enjoy half-priced accommodation and beautiful rainy scenes, and because it never gets too cold in Cambodia, swimming in the ocean is still a very pleasurable experience (the water rarely drops beneath 25°C). Take a look at this article for more information: 5 Reasons to Visit Saracen Bay in Rainy Season