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.