Where now lies the port of Sihanoukville, was originally the fishing village of Kompong Som. Cambodians still refer to the town by that name. It is the only real beach resort of Cambodia.
The town is rather spread out and actually consists of two parts: Sihanoukville-City and Sihanoukville-Beach.
The centre of town is rather quiet and there is a reason for that: it is boring and uninteresting. We would even call it right out ugly. The development of the city started only by the end of the 1950s with the construction of the seaport. The local market though is worth a visit, especially to see the trade in exotic seafood.
Fortunately Sihanoukville sits on a beach lined peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Thailand with miles of white sand beaches, picturesque islands and warm tropical waters. Relax on one those beaches, go snorkelling or diving at one of the tropical islands, visit nearby Ream National Park or enjoy the delicious local seafood specialties.
Sihanoukville is the right place to unwind and chill out, after you have visited the temples of Angkor or the interesting, but also busy and dusty Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. In fact, many people living and working in the capital escape to Sihanoukville over the weekends. So expect Sihanoukville to be busy in weekends and during the high tourist season (from half October to March). Also, on Khmer holidays many Cambodians visit Sihanoukville, especially during Khmer New Year and the Water Festival (for dates, see our Festivals page).
Off the coast of Sihanoukville are some islets. Most are barely developed for tourism. Still pristine, the islands offer some very beautiful beaches. Day trips to the islands let you experience a few of these. A few islands have basic bungalows on their beaches, others have no facilities at all. Cambodia is a land of contrasts and the islands off Sihanoukville’s coast are no exception: on one of the islands you can splash out at $3,000 per night…
On and under water
Many types of boats are available for rent – personal watercraft, charter and group fishing and sailing boats, yachts, and party boats. Furthermore, Sihanoukville has a number of scuba diving and snorkeling businesses where you can book training courses, day trips, and overnight trips.
Sihanoukville is mainly for sun, sea and beach lovers. For nature lovers a visit to Ream National Park is recommended. It lies about 30 km outside the city and is a protected mangrove forest where dozens of bird species live. By the way, there is a beach in this park too…
More than 100 kilometres east of Sihanoukville lies Kampot. It is a quiet but charming town with many buildings from the French colonial period. It is located near Bokor Mountain, also a National Park. The road to the 1080 meters high summit has recently been upgraded and now you can reach the top in less than an hour. The views are breathtaking.
Here we briefly introduce you to the beaches of Sihanoukville. More information on the respective beach pages. To be honest, none of Sihanoukville’s beaches qualify as South East Asia’s finest. But on weekdays it’s still possible to have stretches of sand to yourself. On weekends and holidays it can get cramped as Sihanoukville is extremely popular with well-to-do Khmers from Phnom Penh. On all beaches you can hire lounge chairs and umbrellas. Furthermore there are thatched roofed eateries, bars and restaurants, either right on the beach or nearby, offering cold drinks, beach umbrellas and chairs, seafood BBQ, evening parties, water sports and more.
By far the most popular beach in Sihanoukville is Ochheuteal Beach south of the city centre. Expect the weekends to be very busy on this beach as an increasing number of Khmers take their families to Sihanoukville every once in a while. The streets behind this beach are lined with dozens of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants.
At the northern end of Ochheuteal lies an area commonly known as ‘Serendipity Beach‘. The name was coined by an American who formerly owned a guesthouse of that name and he claimed copyright. To the surprise of many, he won the lawsuit! So be careful using the name ‘Serendipity’, you could be sued! Serendipity is a backpacker’s paradise with cheap bungalows and guesthouses, some right on the beach.
Just west of Serendipity lies Sokha Beach. Officially this beach is open to the public, but as is often the case in Cambodia, the reality is different. In practice you’ll have a hard time getting to this beach as the guards of the upscale Sokha Beach Resort will try to persuade you that the beach is ‘private’.
Victory Beach near the port and at the foot of Weather Station Hill used to be a magnet for backpackers. But with the development of the beaches south of the city, it has lost much of its attraction. With one exception: the Airport Club. It is a beachside restaurant by day and a discotheque by night, centred on a real Antonov AN-24 twin engine airplane!
East of Ochheuteal and behind the development going on at the southeastern side lies Otres Beach, popular among expats from Phnom Penh.
In recent years some bars and restaurants have set up business here, but it is still a rather undeveloped beach.
That may change though, as these bars en restaurants have been told to move out, to make way for a ‘large scale development’. This being Cambodia, that ‘development’ may take a few years to start.