This February we chose Cambodia for our short escape from European winter. After spending 3 days in busy Siem Reap, exploring the majestic Angkor temples, we decided to relax on a beautiful island of Koh Rong Sanloem. While checking carefully all rooms in Saracen Bay (the main beach and port on the island) I got the impression that we would be squeezed between hundreds of hostels and bungalows – and that is definitely not my cup of tea. Suddenly this isolated brand-new resort caught my eye so I dropped a few lines to the management. I wanted to know if we would be able to visit the Saracen Bay and go places we wanted to (the island has no roads and you need to travel by boat almost everywhere). The manager of Pearl Resort in Koh Rong Sanloem responded immediately and left a very good impression by explaining everything in details, including how to arrive to the island. So, I decided to give Pearl resort a chance, even though they had just one review on Tripadvisor at that time.
I have explained how to get to Koh Rong Sanloem in this post, but from the micro location point of view Pearl resort is situated in the eastern part of the island, facing west; which means that guests are spoiled with some pretty amazing sunsets. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the resort by a boat from the main pier at Saracen Bay; and the ride is provided free of charge. Apart from pick up and drop off on the day of your visit and departure, the resort also provides 3 boat rides per day which is more than enough to get your shit done. At first, I was afraid that we would get bored (the resort is really isolated and you practically cannot walk anywhere because of the rough area) but the days went by so fast I didn’t even get the chance to finish reading my book!
Accommodation – the bungalows
Pearl resort comprises of 15 really cute bungalows, which offer a small terrace (some even include small massage pools outside), a large bedroom with TV and coffee machine (water, tea and coffee is complimentary in limited supply daily), beach towels and bathrobes. Bathrooms are fancy and quite spacious, providing all the necessities you need for stress-free vacation. Wi-Fi is available in bungalows and throughout the entire resort area and the signal was surprisingly strong (my first impression of Koh Rong Sanloem was that there are hardly any Wi-Fi spots on the island – obviously this has changed a lot in the last few years).
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in an “open air” restaurant (partly covered by roof) with direct view of the beach (and that sunset I mentioned before). Food choice is of course limited, but still enough variety to get by even if you don’t leave the island for the whole week. I especially loved the morning fruit plates – Cambodian mango is absolutely fantastic. Prices are a little bit higher compared to the ones in Saracen Bay, but this is normal since the fresh food has to be delivered by boat each day. We are talking about 1 or 2 dollars more, so no drama there.
Beach and pool
Looking at the photos of Pearl resort beach on the internet I must admit I was a little skeptical, since I am a white-sand-turquoise-sea fanatic. But in reality it was not bad at all – even though the colors are not as fantastic as in Saracen Bay, I actually enjoyed it. The sand is soft, the ocean is clear and that is pretty much what you need for a good swim. Oh, by the way – the Saracen Bay is so shallow that you need to walk a lot before you can swim for real. So Pearl resort beach is actually a winner in swimming quality category. If you suffer from oceanophobia (I just made this word up and it sounds pretty cool to me), you can swim in a large pool or enjoy a water massage, drinking your favorite cocktail. Sunbeds are provided for each guest, so no need to wake up with sunrise and run down like crazy to reserve your spot.
Things to do during the day
The management has really done a lot of effort to keep the guests of Pearl resort busy and happy. Besides really enjoyable swim, the bay is perfect for SUP-ing or kayaking (2 SUPS and 2 kayaks are available for the guests). You can also hike a short trail up the hill (just a couple of minutes) to reach a beach on the other side of the island – to watch the sunrise or just enjoy the serenity of the ocean. There is also a beach volley playground available but I’d say this one is a challenge – with only 15 bungalows I can’t imagine how you can gather a team of at least 6 people who can keep the ball in the air for a while 😉 If you run out of options, you can always hitch a boat ride to Saracen Bay where you will find bars, restaurants and a lot of cute little dogs. And you will probably thank yourself that you are staying in Pearl resort because Saracen Bay is very much alive in the evening (and I read that due to many hostels the nights can be loud as well). By the way, the resort owns a cute little cat, which will probably stay cute even when she grows up – you can check her out in my instagram “Cambodia” stories.
Anda’s rate: 9 from 10
Bottom line: First of all, DO visit Cambodia, it is a fantastic destination. Second, if you are a beach lover, DO go for Koh Rong Sanloem (Koh Rong is also an option, but busier with tourists). At last, but not the least, DO pick your accommodation carefully. If you prefer a good night sleep, more privacy and a touch of luxury for a very reasonable price, I can highly recommend staying in Pearl resort. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t take an extra day or two to enjoy the island.