You will enjoy Sihanoukville only if you plan your trip properly. Granted, the town itself is not especially pleasant, with too many tourists, cheap parties and dirt. However, the surrounding area offers some wonderful beaches with the infrastructure needed to have an unforgettable time. Furthermore, a massive construction boom has brought new giant resorts to the area, threatening to destroy the tranquility of nearby beaches. Thus, choosing where to stay in Sihanoukville is essential if you want to enjoy what’s left of the coast. Likewise, take note that two gorgeous islands some 20km from the city offer even better beaches and wildlife.
Sihanoukville is the largest city on the Cambodian Coast, named after the former king Norodom Sihanouk. Due to its long strip of sandy beaches, it has become Cambodia’s third most visited destination, after Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Ou Chheuteal Beach is the only nice sandy beach within the city limits. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of hotels, guesthouses, bars, and restaurants, it’s too noisy. For decades it was popular among backpackers for its cheap accommodation and bars. As everywhere in the world, it is now becoming a mecca for tourists that demand new giant hotel, the most western the better. Therefore, Ou Chheuteal Beach is definitively the place where not to stay in Sihanoukville.
Otres 1 Beach
Approximately 7 kilometers from Sihanoukville City you will find Otres beach, a long beach divided into Otres 1 and Otres 2. Up until a couple of years ago, Otres 1 was a relatively peaceful and quiet sandy beach with okay infrastructure, as it should be. There was an ATM, a few shops and plenty of small hotels, guesthouses, bars, and restaurants. But that is all in the past! Massive buildings have mushroomed all over the area. A lot is still under construction, so just imagine the noise. Hence, in Sihanoukville we suggest avoiding Otres 1 beach too.
Otres 2 Beach
Generally speaking, Otres 2 is the small area between the Ou Trojak Jet River and the sea, only 20 minutes by Tuk-Tuk from the city. Otres 2 Beach is becoming the new Otres 1 with several concrete hotels replacing simple elegant guesthouses. It is still relatively far from the city and the construction frenzy of Otres 1 Beach. Since there are plenty of resorts and good restaurants, it’s not necessary to go to the city at all. Furthermore, the long sandy beach is still nice and the sea calm and warm.
October 2019 UPDATE
Unfortunately, we’ve recently learned that massive construction has taken over Otres 2 Beach. Hence, we change our advice: avoid going there. Go directly to the islands and enjoy them while you can. That said, if you want to spend some time on the mainland, stay in Otres 2 in one of our recommended hotels. However, be sure to check the latest comments by fellow travelers. Things are changing fast!
Where to stay in Sihanoukville: Otres 2 Beach
We loved our time on Otres 2 Beach. Most hotels and guesthouses on Otres 2 don’t have direct access to the beach. In fact, some are across the main street. If you are like us, you will understand the importance of staying spot on the beach. The Mittali Hotel and the Venice Resort are very good hotels directly on the beach. If you are into something a little bit rustic, yet equally comfortable, stay in a bungalow at the Secret Garden at Otres Beach, also on the beach. If you rather stay in an apartment, the White Boutique Hotel and Residences is your place on the beach. Finally, if you prefer something different, the Samot Baitong Resort is located on the river, not far from the beach.
Koh Rong is the largest island in Cambodia and has remained mostly immune to massive tourism. Most tourist infrastructure is on the most popular beach on the island, Tui Beach, on its southern end. On the other hand, Long-Sok San beach, Long Set beach, and Pagoda Beach are less crowded and quieter. A dense tropical forest covers the island almost entirely. The experience is magical. To move around the island you have to cross this natural environment. Superb!
Where to Stay in Koh Rong
We do not recommend staying at Tui Beach because it can get crowded. The best place to stay on the whole island is the Long Set Resort on Long Set beach. Located directly on the beach it offers first class service and amenities. You will find two great options on Long-Sok San Beach: the Ryta Beach Bungalow & Resort and the Sok San Beach Resort. If you are after peace, you have to stay on Pagoda Beach. Both the Sweet Dreams Koh Rong and Tamu Koh Rong are great options.
Koh Rong Sanloem
As nice as Koh Rong is, we believe Koh Rong Sanloem is even better. The island is smaller and far less crowded. In fact, there is no nightlife. Not even on Saracen Bay, its most popular beach. The internet arrived recently but not the parties! Sunset Beach and Lazy Beach are isolated. To reach both you have to cross a beautiful stretch of rainforest inhabited by monkeys and exotic birds. Twilight Beach further south is even more remote. Another great beach is narrow Mpay Bay, next to a tiny local village. Each and every beach is gorgeous, so we bet you will spend some time on all.
Where to Stay in Koh Rong Sanloem
We stayed at Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Sanloem’s main beach. Though there are many hotels and restaurants, the beach is pretty relaxed. To us, nothing beats staying in a bungalow on the beach. The Bamboo Jam and the Sky Beach Resort have the best bungalows. If you prefer something a bit more urban, stay at The One Resort or the Moonlight Resort. The best place to stay in Sunset Beach, across the island, is the SunBoo Beach Bungalows. You guessed it: killer sunsets from your porch. For an inside into the local life, stay near the small village close to Mpay Bay Beach. The Lost and Found is your best option there.
Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem are the main beach destinations among the islands of Sihanoukville province. Nevertheless, you can also stay in a few islands south of the city. As contradictory as it sounds, you have either basic guesthouses or super fancy resorts. Though large Koh Ta Kiev Island has nice beaches, the accommodation offer is limited. The Koh Ta Kiev Bungalows is the best option in the entire island. On the other hand, nearby Bamboo Island has a 5-star resort, the Alila Villas Koh Russey. For a private secluded experience stay at the Six Senses Krabey Island on Koh Krabey Island, a private island close by.
Our recommendations on where to stay in Sihanoukville
- If you like parties and gorgeous beaches then you should stay at Koh Rong Island
- If you are looking for something quiet with pristine beaches but not completely isolated from Sihanoukville then stay at Otres 2 and Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Sanloem.
- If your thing is isolated pristine beaches then Sunset Beach on Koh Rong Sanloem is the place for you.
- If you prefer staying on a private island go to the Koh Krabey Island.
How to Get to Sihanoukville
The easiest way to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is by bus. The bus ride from the Cambodian capital takes at the most 5,5 hours. Another option is to hire a private car. We did so with our Norwegian friends and were there in less than 4 hours. Since recently there is a direct train from Phnom Penh. The 7-hour long journey is rather scenic. Traffic in Sihanouk International Airport has increased considerably. You can even fly to Phnom Penh in less than an hour. However, really? Such a huge ecological footprint to avoid a nice road trip? Once in Sihanoukville City, you can either take a tuk-tuk to Otres 2 or a boat to any of the abovementioned islands. The ferry terminal is in the city center at the end of Serendipity Beach Street.
Book a bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville
Book a boat to Koh Rong Island
What to visit in Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville offers more than beautiful beaches. Actually, the city has a couple of very interesting sights. On the main roundabout in the center of the city, you will find the Two Golden Lions. Likewise, there are several nice Buddhist temples. Wat Leu with its carved three-headed elephant is the most interesting one. Don’t miss the Ream National Park, east of the city if you are into nature. All you have to do is walk through a primary forest admiring flora and fauna. Though we are not convinced this is a primary forest, the experience is sublime. Finally, go to Kbal Chhay Waterfall, north of the city if you are into waterfalls. Once again, the best option is to hire a tuk-tuk driver. Cambodian drivers are very professional and a pleasure to talk to. We were taken care of everywhere we went. Thanks!
No trip to Cambodia is complete without visiting its coast. The landscape may not be as spectacular as in Thailand, but Sihanoukville’s secluded beaches and clear blue water are quite special. In addition, sunsets are unforgettable and massive tourism hasn’t invaded every corner. Sihanoukville city is not interesting in itself. Beaches are mediocre, bars and restaurants crowded and noisy, and it lacks architectural landmarks. That said, all the beaches we mentioned above are definitely worth visiting and easily accessible. All you have to do is choose the right place where to stay in Sihanoukville and enjoy!