Checking in: Our review of Sara Resort, Koh Rong Sanloem
I’m not going to lie, we love tropical islands. The clear blue sea, white sand, palm trees, what’s not to love? During our trip to Cambodia, we made sure we visited Koh Rong Sanloem, an island just off the coast of Sihanoukville.
We stayed four nights on this paradise island and quite frankly we wish we had headed there earlier! We had two days in Otres Beach beforehand but with all of the new development taking place there, Otres Beach was not relaxing at all.
Koh Rong Sanloem however, was a picture of tranquillity in comparison. While on the island, we were lucky to stay at one of the newest and nicest hotels on the island, Sara Resort. Sara Resort’s setting is just perfect and we quickly felt like we’d never want to leave!
Getting to Koh Rong Sanloem
From Sihanoukville, we caught one of the many speedboats to the island. There are five companies operating daily runs to the islands, leaving at various times throughout the day.
We booked our trip through our hotel in Otres Beach but you can also book your transfer from one of the many agencies in Sihanoukville or Otres Beach. Because we booked through our hotel, we were picked up and taken directly to the pier, which was a plus. That saved us a tuk-tuk fare.
We used Buva Sea but from what we hear, they are all fairly similar in terms of safety and times. Remember that this is Cambodia, safety here is a work in progress, and timing is well Cambodian time! Don’t be surprised if your boat leaves late.
The weather also affects when and how frequently the boats run. We were unfortunate to have a lot of rain on the day we left. Our boat left an hour late because we had to leave from a different pier due to the swell. But apart from that, our trip was quite easy, safe and fast. They had life jackets onboard and the boat appeared to be in decent condition. On the way back they did cram in more people than there were seats, however, so as we say, safety is still developing in Cambodia!
If you are not planning on staying in Sihanoukville or Otres Beach (I can’t really blame you these days!) and coming directly from another town in Cambodia there is also the easy option to book your ferry online at 12go.asia.
Arriving at Sara Resort
The Sara Resort has a great spot, pretty much in the middle of Saracen Bay beach, the largest beach on Koh Rong Sanloem. After approximately forty-five minutes on the speed boat, we arrived at the Princess pier at the northern end of the beach.
As with departures, the arrival pier changes depending on the weather. Because we’d told them our arrival details, one of Sara Resort’s bright blue dinghies was already waiting for us at the pier to take us to the resort. They quickly loaded our luggage onboard and covered them with plastic to keep them dry.
It was a quick five minute trip across the bay to the resort. It’s actually a great way to arrive. You walk the short distance up the beautiful white sand beach a few more metres inside to reception. On arrival, we received our welcome drinks and were taken to our room. After a rather wet morning, we were glad to finally arrive in paradise.
As I mentioned earlier, the resort is perfectly located, right in the middle of Saracen Bay providing truly amazing views across the bay. The Sara Resort is only a year old and offers twenty-four charming, self-contained bungalows. The bungalows are set in a beautiful garden with many yellow and pink flowers all along the path to the rooms. As you make your way to your room, it really feels like you’ve arrived in a tropical paradise. The bungalows are well designed with white painted walls and blue curtains. The blue and white theme really suits the seaside location.
Our Deluxe Double Room was beautifully decorated and was equipped with air-conditioning (it was hot on the island so we needed it!), a safe and a private bathroom with hot water. Many other hotels on the island do not offer hot showers so that was a bonus. Our outdoor seating area was very peaceful and offered beautiful views of the tropical garden.
The room also had a TV, although we didn’t use it once. How could we waste any time watching TV with so much beautiful scenery around us? The room was very comfortable and it was lovely to retreat to it after a long day at the beach.
Each room has a small broom for sweeping sand off the porch and a hose at the bottom of the stairs for washing sand off your feet. These were super useful as you do tend to bring a lot of sand back with you off the beach.
The resort offers free wifi and it reached fine to our room. The only issue we had was that the internet connection seemed to get a little congested at certain times. I’m guessing that this was at peak times when everyone was trying to get online. It was pretty easy to work around those times and unless you’re a heavy internet user it’s not a problem. Most of the time you’ll be out enjoying the island and we all need to get off our phones anyway!
The restaurant and bar
Sara resort has a beachfront restaurant and bar, a perfect place to have breakfast in the morning overlooking the sparkling blue sea. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner and the menu is extensive, offering western, Thai and Khmer food. I tried a fish burger one night and it was the best fish burger I had had in a long time. The fish was so fresh and tasty!
We caught up with a couple we’d come across with on the boat with who were staying at a different resort and they’d eaten at Sara Resort’s restaurant two nights running. The restaurant has a very good reputation on the island.
The restaurant and bar are beautifully decorated and really have a beach feel. We also quite enjoyed the lounge chairs at the front of the resort. They were perfect for sipping smoothies or cocktails while enjoying the view.
Our breakfast was included in the room and each morning we were served a big spread of food. We had a breakfast card and we ticked the options we wanted and gave it to one of the friendly staff. You have a choice between cereal, toast or a fruit platter plus scrambled or fried eggs and a choice of sides. Coffee and fruit juice is also included.
A few of the staff are westerners but most of the staff are Khmer locals. It’s nice to see the resort hiring and training locals. We found the service at Sara Resort to be one of the best we’ve had in Cambodia. The staff in the restaurant were very friendly and attentive, always with a smile on their face.
Reception staff were also very helpful and organised our return speed boat ride for us, as well as our snorkelling trip around the island. They also provided us with a map of the walking trails on the island which was very handy.
How do they help the environment?
We like to visit hotels that are eco-friendly and Sara Resort tries to lessen their impact on the environment by offering house-keeping and linen change on request only. However, you can simply ask at reception for any replacement items you need such as bottled water, toiletries or toilet paper. We decided not to have our room cleaned as we don’t think towels need changing every day. We don’t change them daily at home, so why do it here?!
What to do from the Sara Resort?
Enjoy the beach!
The beach is incredibly beautiful and it would be pretty easy to spend the day moving between sunbathing on a lounge chair and cooling off in the water! The water is warm and inviting so it won’t take you long to get in. The water in the bay doesn’t get too deep until quite far out, so it’s also perfect for kids to play in. There are hammocks in the water a short distance from the resort, which you can lie in and enjoy the sounds of the island around you.
But if you do get bored of sitting in a lounge chair sipping cocktails, there are enough activities on the islands to keep you busy for a few days.
There are three hiking trails on the island, some very easy and some a little tougher. For a birds-eye view of the island, we highly recommend doing the walk to the lighthouse and climbing to the top of it. It’s an hour walk across the island to get there and once there it will cost you $1 per person to enter the lighthouse. There are 6 metal ladders to climb so it’s a little scary (especially on the way back down) if, like me, you’re not great with heights. But the view at the top is totally worth it.
Two smaller hikes lead to Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach, two other beautiful beaches on the other side of the island.
The hike to Lazy Beach is short and very easy. It’s 1.5 kilometres from Sara Resort along a flat and sandy path. Once there you can enjoy a quieter beach that is good for snorkelling in calm weather. The hike to Sunset Beach takes a bit longer and you’ll need proper walking shoes or trainers.
Snorkelling trips can be booked from reception. You can choose to do a two-hour tour with one snorkelling stop or a half day tour with two snorkelling stops with lunch included. We chose the half day trip. We had two western guides with us on the trip who stayed with us in the water.
We’ve been very spoilt when it comes to snorkelling and although this wasn’t the nicest snorkelling we have done (see Lady Elliot Island) it was nice to be in the water for a bit and we enjoyed seeing the rest of the island by boat.
At night, from 6.45 to 8.30, you can do a boat tour to see bioluminescent plankton. This plankton glows in the water when disturbed. We didn’t do it on the island but we did a similar tour from Otres Beach and it was amazing! It’s so surreal to swim in the dark surrounded by hundreds of little glowing balls. We highly recommend doing it if you haven’t seen them before.
Get up for sunrise
You are not going to see the sunset on Saracen Bay, but if you get up early you will be able to catch the sunrise. It’s so peaceful at this time of the day with only a few people awake to enjoy the sight and a few street dogs up early for their morning swim and playtime.
If you’d like to book a stay on Koh Rong Sanloem and stay at the beautiful Sara Resort you can book a room here.
You can also contact them on +855 (0) 97 567 8950 or [email protected]
Disclosure: We received a 50% discount from the Sara Resort in exchange for this review post, however, this is our true opinion of the resort.
Thanks to William at Orsus Digital for arranging this collaboration.