Sihanoukville, Cambodian name Kampong Som, is the largest community on the Cambodian coast and has the most tourist infrastructure. It has a series of beaches that are the longest, widest, and some would say the best on the mainland. There are six beaches in the Sihanoukville chain, called Victory, Hawaii, Independence, Sokha, Ochheuteal, and Otres, running from northwest to southeast.
The largest and moderately of the Sihanoukville beaches is Ochheuteal. It is an expanse of five kilometers of powdery white sand, fronted by shallow, pretty blue ocean, that is perfect for swimming. At the north end of Ochheuteal beach, there is a strip of lively, open-air bars and restaurants, right on the sand with lounge chairs out front where you can relax. Around dinner hour, they light up the BBQ grills and cook freshly caught seafood, including shrimp, crab, tuna, lobster, and squid, right over the coals. After dinner, you can sip drinks made from tropical fruits, and partake of the local Angkor beer brewed right in Sihanoukville, while you enjoy cool music. For the late-night crowd, there are a couple of all-night bars on the beach where you can dance until the sun comes up.
The far northern end of Ochheuteal beach is an area known as Serendipity. It is a bit quieter there, with bungalows extending up a hillside that rises from the sand. At the southern end of Ochheuteal beach, the thatched roof bars and restaurants that were formerly there have been replaced by a moderate-sized tourist hotel under construction. In between the development at the ends of Ochheuteal beach, there is a two or three-kilometer stretch that is undeveloped, where you can have the beach to yourself, except for the occasional jogger or beachcomber.
To the south of Ochheuteal is called Otres beach, the last in the series. This beach is practically a duplicate of Ochheuteal beach except that there is no development at all except for a few thatched-roof restaurants at one end. Otres beach is a great place to retreat from the weekend and holiday crowds at Ochheuteal.
The next beach to the north of Ochheuteal is Sokha beach. This is a smaller beach occupied entirely by the upscale Sokha resort. Continuing to the north from Sokha beach, the next beach is Independence beach. This beach is a bit narrower and rockier than the more popular beaches and is inhabited by just a few thatched-roof shacks sell snacks and drinks. At the far end of the beach, the hotel from which the beach gets its name, the Independence Hotel, sits atop a point.
In between Independence and Victory beaches, lies Hawaii beach. It is narrow and a bit muddy. Its claim to fame is a massive tourist project under construction at the north end, with a half-finished bridge connecting the mainland portion of the project to the island portion of the project that is on an island about a kilometer from the shore. Other mega-resorts, and a raft of new luxury hotels and condominiums, are rumored to be in the works for Sihanoukville, and once completed, this will forever change Sihanoukville into another overdeveloped beach resort, so enjoy the current unique character of Sihanoukville while it lasts!
The northernmost beach of the Sihanoukville chain is Victory beach. It is a fairly short beach, but it has nice sand, and it is great to view the ships passing by from Sihanoukville port at one of the bars on the beach. Up from the beach is Victory hill, an area of foreign-run bars and restaurants catering to tourists.
Sihanoukville’s most beautiful beaches aren’t on the mainland, they are on the islands near the Sihanoukville coast. A real jewel of Sihanoukville is Bamboo Island (Koh Russei), one of the closest and best of the islands. It is a small island with breathtakingly beautiful beaches on two sides, connected by a kilometer and a half long path cutting through the jungle-covered interior of the island. There are a small bar/bungalow establishments on the windward side of the island for those wanting to stay the night on the island. Getting to the island is an easy 45-minute boat trip. There is a daily ferry service provided by Coasters.
Currently, there are only two larger hotels, the Independence and the Sokha, and one ultra-exclusive resort, the Mirax, on private Koh Dek Koul island just offshore, in Sihanoukville. Though Sihanoukville lacks the sort of large resort hotels that some other beach destinations have, that does not mean that there aren’t nice accommodations available in Sihanoukville. Something Sihanoukville has, that the beach destinations with the large resorts do not, are bungalows right on the beach. For example, Coasters, the sponsor of this website and it’s neighbor the Aquarium, offer bungalows with private balconies looking right out over the ocean, only steps from the beach, with all the comfort you would expect from a luxury hotel, and at more comfortable rates.
Getting to Sihanoukville is easy. From Phnom Penh, there is excellent bus service provided by several companies, with departures throughout the day, from the Sisowath Quay and central market areas. It is an easy four and a half hour trip over the good highway. From Bangkok, there is a good bus service to Trat, close to the Cambodia border. It is recommended that you stay the night in Trat on this route. From the Trat bus station, you can catch a minivan on to the border. Then after crossing the border, you can take a bus on to Sihanoukville, about a five hour ride, or alternatively, catch a taxi for a short ride to Koh Kong, a beach town close to the border on the Cambodia side, and then take the high speed ferry boat service on to Sihanoukville, about a four and a half-hour ride. Either way, you will be on the beach at Sihanoukville in time for dinner.
Getting around Sihanoukville is easy also. As soon as you arrive, you will quickly discover that there is absolutely no shortage of tuk-tuks and moto-taxis happy to take you where you want to go. Motorbikes are also readily available for rent. Sihanoukville has a downtown area a couple of kilometers from the beaches where there are more bars and guest houses, but not a great deal of shopping. A moto-taxi ride between downtown and the beach should cost two dollars or less at 2011 prices.