Cambodia Beaches, Sihanoukville, Otres, Koh Rong
Cambodia Beaches: Koh Rong Sanloem pier on Saracen Bay, 40 minutes from Sihanoukville by fast boat.
And no, that’s not a fast boat in the photo! At the end of the pier is a sizeable bar/restaurant with various beach huts scattered along the white powder sand beach and a scuba dive center on the right. Jump to Koh Rong.
Cambodia Beaches, good and bad
Serendipity/Ochheuteal beaches overview, with boat pier on the right extending from the blue roof.
An easy 4 hour bus ride from the capital Phnom Penh or a 1 hour flight from Siem Reap (well, you could choose a 12 hour bus ride, but only hardened budget travelers do), Sihanoukville is Cambodia beaches hub. It’s also one of the country’s three most popular destinations, even though the city beaches have lost their shine along with their tranquility.
Over the last couple of years Sihanoukville has grown exponentially as Chinese investors have piled in due to its position as Cambodia’s only deep-water port. Chinese tourists, gamblers and entrepreneurs have followed. Chinese residents increased by 120,000 in 2017 alone so there is beginning to be a problem between locals and Chinese.
Massive, neon-clad buildings – shortly to be at least 70 – now lurch above and around the beachfront, several of them casinos. I had the pleasure of staying in one new skyscraper on Serendipity Beach Road in 2017. Build quality was appalling, doors didn’t fit, power supply was erratic, staff knew nothing about anything and the breakfast was pathetic. But it was cheap, spacious and overlooking the beach (the photo above was taken from there).
Bottom line suggestion: don’t plan to stay in Sihanoukville unless you enjoy crowds, but use it as a transit point to get to Otres or the islands, tho’ how long they can survive with their beauty, ambience and identity intact in anybody’s guess.
Serendipity Beach Road leads down to Serendipity Beach, though there is some confusion as to where Serendipity ends and Ochheuteal Beach begins. Wherever it is, foreigners prefer to call in Serendipity as it’s easier to pronounce than Ochheuteal.
The pier at the bottom of Serendipity Beach Road hosts boats out to the Rong islands, though some also depart inconveniently from Victory Beach.
Serendipity merges invisibly into Ochheuteal beach at some point which was unclear to me in spite of walking the four kilometre strip several times. The 4km beach – whatever it’s officially called – is frequently overcrowded (by locals) and the constant hustlers, beggars, bar touts, plastic bag trash etc. are tiresome.
Ochheuteal beach at Christmas. The sand on just about all Cambodian beaches is soft and white but at holiday times Sihanoukville is overcome by partying locals and foreign visitors have learnt to head for Sokha (nearby but private, for beach resort visitors only), Otres (hop a tuktuk or motorcycle for a 20 minute ride down the coast) or jump a boat out to the Rong islands (30 mins – an hour depending on the boat).
Sokha beach, Victory beach, Independence beach
If you are seeking peace, quiet and manicured sands and can afford to pay a bit over the top head for privately owned Sokha Resort and Spa, just north of Serendipity. Sihanoukville’s best beach is private, which is good news and bad news. It’s a wonderful 1 kilometre length of wide, soft white sand washed by tranquil waters that is entirely hawker free. But to use the beach you’ll have to either stay at the Sokha Beach Resort or pay a day entry fee – which also gives access to the hotel’s swimming pool and catering facilities. Photo above with hotel redevelopment in progress.
Near the Sihanoukviller’s main (industrial) port, Victory Beaches – including busy Victory Beach and Hawaii Beach/King’s Beach are small, grubby, poorly serviced, a hassle to get to and thus favoured more by locals than tourists.
Victory Hill above Victory Beach offers a selection of budget guest houses, bars and seafood restaurants as well as a great sunset view, though the area is a bit seedy – depending on your point of view – with fast-developing night-life hotspots.
Alternatively try the latest developed beach, Independence, with limited facilities and least spoilt. We couldn’t get there as the military closed it off for Christmas/New Year – a big wig holiday no doubt. It’s between Sokha and Victory beaches.
Otres 1 beach posters targeting backpackers and neo-hippies, their primary market.
Now that’s simple living! An open-plan dormitory beside the beach in Otres 1.
The wide white beach separating Otres 1 and Otres 2, there’s no accommodation there but it’s much enjoyed by a few overlanders with their camping cars and a few local people.
And in contrast…not simple living in Otres 2. From what I could see (not much) Otres 2 appeared to be populated by affluent north Europeans who don’t mind a limited beach so long as the fixtures and fittings are stylish and comfortable and the service impeccable. There are a handful of very smart little hotels just off Otres 2 beach, which is – more or less – the end of Cambodia’s mainland beaches before Vietnam.
Now that is a bar where I could happily hang out, if I could afford it. Otres 2, naturally, far too sophisticated for Otres 1.
Best time on Cambodia beaches
The best time to visit Cambodia is during the cool, dry months November – February. November- mid December especially benefits from pleasant, dry, warmth and vegetation that is still verdant after the rainy reason, but remember that the Christmas/New Year period will be crowded and pricey.
Cambodia has a tropical climate and four seasons:
Hot & rainy, June-August
Cool & rainy, September, October
Hot & dry, March-May
Cool & dry, November-February
The most uncomfortable time to visit is the ‘green’ season June – August, when it’s hot, wet and humid. Going in the late wet season is not a bad idea from September and October with less heat, less crowds and lower prices. At this time the beauty of Angkor is reinforced by lush greenery.