Preah Sihanouk province is Cambodia’s most famous beach town. Better known as Kampong Som to locals, it is about 230 km southwest of Phnom Penh and boasts pristine white-sand beaches, unspoiled tropical islands, and a dynamic nightlife.
With its palm-studded shores and warm, clear waters, it hardly comes as a surprise that Preah Sihanouk attracts crowds of locals, expatriates, and tourists eager for a beach side holiday. Do as locals do and enjoy the stretches of powdery white sand with a chilled coconut and some toothsome grilled seafood. Or, indulge in a beachside massage, take a dip in the sea, and go for dinner in any of the local restaurants that serve fresh crabs, prawns, lobsters, fish, and scallops in a mouth-watering array of styles.
There are dozens of untouched islands off the coast of Preah Sihanouk: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samlon both feature blissfully uncrowded beaches with palm-shaded shorelines. Being a beach town, there are also many sea-based activities for adventuous visitors, including boating, island-hopping, fishing, diving and snorkeling in crystal clear waters. For the expert enthusiast who wants to explore the mysterious underwater world of coastal Cambodia, the province has PADI Dive Centers and qualified instructors who know just the right spots to take you.
In the evenings, the nightlife heats up, and those in search of pulsing bars and nightclubs won’t be disappointed. Many entertainment venues, especially those on Weather Station Hill, stay open well into the wee hours.
‘Beach town’, ‘port community’, ‘fledgling resort destination’ – all describe Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s premier beach town. Sihanoukville’s white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to unwind by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, lay back and chill-out.
Sihanoukville has a different look and feel than most Cambodian towns. Constructed as a port city in the late 1950s, the town is much newer, more urban and cosmopolitan than most Cambodian provincial cities.
Nowadays, Sihanoukville is as much a beach town as it is a port town, catering to beach-going weekenders from Phnom Penh as well as a steadily increasing number of foreign visitors. Still, the pace of life in Sihanoukville is very relaxed.
Cows occasionally wander the main road, outside town foreign faces draw smiles and curious stares, and most of the beaches offer only beach umbrellas, thatched roofed eateries, and a growing number of restaurants, bungalows and hotels.
Sihanoukville has a more than ample supply of accommodations, including a 5-star resort complex on Sokha Beach, several mid-range places downtown and at the beaches, a few ‘upscale’ three-star hotels, and dozens of budget guesthouses, especially on Weather Station Hill (Victory Hill).
Considering the moderate number of visitors to Sihanoukville, the town offers a surprising number and variety of restaurants and bars.
Fresh seafood, especially crab, prawns and ocean fish, has always been one of the town’s biggest draws, but there is also a wide variety of places offering foreign cuisines – Australian, French, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, British, Italian, pizza places, a couple of western bakeries and even a espresso coffee shop.
And these days Sihanoukville offers a pretty good night life as well with a wide variety of bars staying open well into the wee hours, especially on Weather Station Hill, in the downtown area, and the beach bars on Ochheuteal, ‘Serendipity’ and Victory Beaches.
Sihanoukville is not a small place, and the best way to get around is to hire a motorbike. Sihanoukville itself is east of the main backpackers’ beach and close to the more mid-range Ochatial Beach. Due south of town is tiny Ko Pos Beach, which ha a solitary mid-range hotel, and the larger Independence Beach, which has the crumbling Independence Hotel – slated for redevelopment.