Sihanoukville beach

Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s premier beach location, a peninsula ringed by pretty whiteish-sand beaches and surrounded by a smattering of tiny islands. Debate rages over whether its beaches will ever seriously rival those that lure the hordes to neighbouring Thailand, but given international tourism’s insatiable appetite for new places, we think they will … eventually … one day … maybe; at least, the international developers who have snapped up many of the islands on long-term leases are hoping so.

Cambodia‘s youngest city, Sihanoukville town sprang to life in 1955 when a construction team arrived at what was then known as Kompong Som to begin work on Cambodia’s first (and only) deep water port. When the port was finished in 1960 the area was renamed Sihanoukville (in honour of then King Sihanouk) but many Cambodians continue to refer to it as Kompong Som.

The Khmer Rouge kept Sihanoukville largely off-limits to all but the most intrepid travellers for years. But today, with a good road from Phnom Penh and an on-again, off-again airport where regular flights may one day become a reality, Sihanoukville is drawing a steady stream of backpackers along with expatriates down from Phnom Penh for lazy weekends.

The first time we visited Sihanoukville we loved it, the second time less so; each time after that less so again, as its seediness started to outshine the prettiness. Despite its newfound popularity, the town has a somewhat abandoned feel to it, amplified by the number of half-built or deserted plots of land marked out by high and imposing fences — plots often “owned” by businesspeople with sometimes dubious land titles and an eye for a fast buck.

And though it’s a beach town, it’s not the most relaxing place. Endless construction projects in all parts of the town make sleeping in a luxury and time spent on many of the beaches is punctuated by repeated requests from street children and local vendors to buy bracelets, make donations or have massages.

Ochheuteal beach, Sihanoukville’s most popular, has a bit of a caravan-park feel to it and the motodops here are among the most dodgy in Cambodia. Over the last few years, Thailand has slowly tightened its visa regulations and it seems there’s been a commensurate influx to Sihanoukville of crusty, sex-tourist types who have certainly contributed to the rising number of dodgy bars. Sihanoukville also has a long-running problem with foreign and local paedophiles.

Relax on the beach

Relax on the beach

It isn’t all bad news though. Sihanoukville’s beaches are sprawling and pretty, though perhaps not as postcard-perfect as many of Thailand’s. The sand is generally grainier and more yellow-grey in colour and many are lined with ramshackle food vendors. On weekends, Khmer and barang hordes converge particularly on Ochheuteal, and accommodation prices rise accordingly. It’s a fun place, and the unusual mix of Khmers and barang relaxing side-by-side is something you don’t see in Thailand, nor in fact in the rest of Cambodia, that often.

If you’re looking for white sand beaches and turquoise waters, you’ll have to head offshore to one of the many islands around Sihanoukville.

The province is also home to Ream National Park, which is well worth a visit.

If you’re arriving in Sihanoukville by bus or share-taxi from Phnom Penh, you’ll arrive in Sihanoukville town, from where Ochheuteal Beach, Independence Beach, Victory Hill & Beach and Sokha Beach and much more are but a motodop ride away.

Things to do around in Sihanoukville.

There’s Sihanoukville’s beaches.  There’s Cambodian Culture.  Then there’s everything else.

Beaches and Islands in Sihanoukville
The town of Sihanoukville is surrounded on 3 sides by the Bay of Thailand.  From the beaches and surrounding hills, many of the country’s small islands can be seen.  Many of the beaches are filled with grass hut restaurants and bars, some of the beaches are rocky, a couple are big resorts, and some are pure sandy beach.
Activities in Sihanoukville
Many vacation activities around town are related to the beaches. Swimming and sunning, trips to the islands, scuba diving, fishing, and snorkeling.  Within town, there are many themed restaurants and bars owned by people from all over the world.  Buddhist temples, mountain biking, walking around downtown and the central market, shopping, and seeing the Cambodian culture are also popular activities.
Day Trips in Sihanoukville

Many close by stops await you from downtown Sihanoukville. The fishing village at Stung Hauv, Kbal Chay Waterfalls, Ream National Park, day trips to the islands. You can even holiday in the coastal towns of Kampot, Kep and Bokor Mountain, just 2 hours away.

Night Life in Sihanoukville

Daylight ends around 6pm here, and the vacation continues.  Many beach restaurants stay open until the last customer leaves.  Restaurants with French, Japanese, Italian, Indian and many other cuisines come to life.  Some bars and the casinos are open 24 hours a day.

Transportation in Sihanoukville
There are a few ways to get around town.  While many tourist walk, there are also motorcycle taxi’s and Tuk Tuks (carts pulled by a motorcycle) on every street.  To get to Sihanoukville, you can take a car or bus from Kok Kong, Thailand.  From Kampot or Phnom Penh, a bus or car. And cruise ships and Naval ships regularly dock at the port in town.  Flights arrive at Phnom Penh and then it’s a 3 hour countryside ride to town.
Accommodations in Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville offers places to stay ranging from $2 a night, to an island resort costing thousands of dollars per day.  Most hotels and guesthouses are either downtown, on “The Hill”, or on one of several beaches.


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