Sihanoukville is without a doubt one of the rising stars of Southeast Asia’s beach tourism scene. Experience the magic of this popular seaside town and its nearby islands, which despite the hype, have managed to maintain their laid-back atmosphere and low prices.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, Sihanoukville played a key role in the economic recovery of Cambodia, first as a port city and now as a beach destination. Sihanoukville’s main claim to fame is its impressive array of beaches. Since the town is still relatively uncrowded, you’ll have no trouble finding your own patch of white sand and some shade cast by coconut palms. Occheuteal Beach is especially popular with budget travellers. Nearby Otres Beach charms with its gorgeous landscape and its more relaxed atmosphere.
Look for monkeys in Sihanoukville’s frenetic downtown. The monkeys often gather by the Independence Hotel in the hopes of scoring a snack from passers-by. Head out of town for a moment’s tranquility at Wat Leu, a Buddhist temple featuring graceful architecture and unbeatable panoramic views of the area.
The town’s proximity to pristine tropical islands is one of its greatest assets. Hop on a boat for a day-trip to a dreamy island paradise, or go full castaway and stay overnight in a bungalow. Watch the sun set with a cocktail at Koh Rong Samloem or take a memorable jungle trek at the stunning Koh Ta Kiev. True nature lovers will love Koh Thmei, the most untouched of the islands, which is home to more than 100 bird species and offers occasional views of migrating dolphins from the beach.
Sihanoukville is a 3-4 hour bus or taxi journey from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Phen. Alternatively, fly in direct to Sihanoukville’s tiny international airport. Since the town is fairly spread out, getting around is best done by taxi, motorcycle taxi or bicycle. Sihanoukville is generally safe, but theft of unattended valuables can be a problem.