Sihanoukville is the seaside capital of its namesake province in Cambodia’s south-west. Situated on the Gulf of Thailand, Sihanoukville is known for its beaches, surrounding islands and the mangrove jungle of Ream National Park. Frequented by surfers, locals, international tourists, and expats from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville offers a beach resort vibe at a wallet-friendly price. Let’s get to know Sihanoukville.
Far from the development of neighbouring Thailand, Sihanoukville’s beaches have a natural raw beauty. Evident too is a solid drinking culture. Serendipity and Ochheuteal beaches, close to the island ferry wharf, are the most popular.
Sokha Beach is Sokha Resort’s private beach. Through high season Sokha Beach is reserved for guests while in the offseason these rules are far more relaxed.
Cleaner, less crowded, but becoming more populated is Otres Beach. Away from the town centre’s action, Otres Beach accommodates a more laid back lifestyle. Here accommodation ranges from hostels and private beach huts ($2 -$8 per night) to luxurious resorts (up to $100) and everything in between.
From Otres Beach the closer outlying islands can be reached by long tail boat directly from shore, but if the larger Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are on the itinerary you’ll need to take a trip to the Island Ferry Wharf in town.
Otres Sailing Club hires catamarans and kayaks for self-guided water exploration and the beach at low tide is perfect for a long stroll or to watch tiny crabs busy rolling sand balls.
At Otres Beach, the bar scene is a tribute to Bob Marley. Drinks range in price from 0.50c for a local beer to $6 for a fancy cocktail. With the rolling happy hours, full priced drinks are seldom purchased. Pay $2.50 for a mixed spirit or buy 2 for $3. You get the picture.
Multi-purpose shops hire scooters to explore the beaches, town, and National Park. They’ll do your laundry for $1 per kilo, arrange tours and stock everything from sunscreen to Grey Goose.
A ride to Secret Beach (actually not so secret) takes you through Otres Village to Ou Treh Pagoda. Tourists are welcome at the pagoda and it’s the landmark to turn right and follow the road through Ream National Park.
Crossing Ou Trojak Jet (the river through the park opens to the sea near Dream Resort) and following the undulating road you’ll eventually come out at Secret Beach having had spectacular views out to the islands.
While exploring by scooter, you’ll see the lack of Sihanoukville’s infrastructure first hand with pot-holed dirt roads, some with major channels running through.
Dogs, goats, and buffalo call the road their own and why not?
Be mindful that helmet wearing is the law but rarely monitored in the countryside. In town, it’s a different story. Permanent locations are standard where police issue the rarely avoidable “foreigners tax”.
Wear a helmet, don’t wear a helmet your fine will still be $20. They’ll ask for more but that’s all you have, right? 😉 Keep your eyes peeled for uniforms at Golden Lion roundabout.
With the number of restaurants in and around Sihanoukville, you certainly won’t starve. From Pizza joints to beachside stalls to high-end restaurants, all nationalities are catered for but don’t forget to try Sandan for creative Cambodian Cuisine. Part of the Friends International restaurant group, Sandan really delivers on Khmer flavours.
Few airlines fly to Sihanoukville. You can fly direct from Siem Reap with Angkor Air, but at time of publishing, there were no direct flights from Phnom Penh.
The 4-hour drive from the capital takes you on, what is considered, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, National Highway 4.
Cambodia’s road rules lean heavily toward the larger vehicle has right of way. NH4 sees speeding trucks, buses, the car you’re in and the odd goat or buffalo.
The journey costs $60 in a comfortable 4 door sedan and our advice is to arrange this through your accommodation who can recommend a driver with skills.
When to go.
Perhaps we wouldn’t recommend the wet season to visit Sihanoukville, but if that’s the only available time you have, then so be it. It’s warm so if you’re caught in a downpour you’ll soon dry off.
Roads are seriously affected by the rain making them slippery, flooded, boggy in cases and downright uncomfortable, but all this adds to the adventure, just be careful.
The wet season does have considerable bonuses though. There’s a significant absence of tourists, prices match the turnover, and if you live in the middle east then you can revel in the rain while enjoying cocktails in a beachside bar. We’ve decided Sihanoukville is worthy of a return visit, perhaps in the dry season this time. 😉
Exploring Sihanoukville, Cambodia: it’s a thing we love….