Sihanoukville – Cambodia
Sihanoukville is the only deep sea port in Cambodia and a beach staycation when Cambodians wish to put life on pause and go on island hopping and feel the tropical vibes.
Typically, when it comes to those picturesque tropical beach seascape, Thailand is the first that comes to mind while Cambodia seems to have been forgotten as what’s been famous for is actually its largest temple complex in Siem Reap, a gateway to an ancient world.
Only few people know that 528 km away from Siem Reap lies the seaside city that was once being millionaires’ destination to spend a day indulged in sea, sand and sun Sihanoukville has to offer.
Once left undeveloped due to decades of war and political upheavals, Sihanoukville has resurrected to a completely new face as a backpacker’s getaway where they seek to live an economical island life: living in a cozy hut, chilling out by beach bars, exploring the fantastic Cambodian underwater world, beholding the glowing sea of bioluminescent plankton and hanging out with fellow backpackers.
Since the city was just founded in 1964, Sihanoukville may not be a destination for culturally immersive experience similarly to what you’ve witnessed in Siem Reap. It is, however, Cambodia’s rising star with high-rises, five stars hotel lined in progress. Those who visited Sihanoukville said you will never get to see the same cityscape at different time of your visit. That is, Sihanoukville is growing every day and by visiting the city, you’re witnessing history in the making.
To make the most out of your Southeast Asia trip, it’s good to know that Thailand and Cambodia are a perfect counterpart with many beach destinations to be explored. Cambodia’s best beaches can’t go further than its port city of Sihanoukville while Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) is an excellent Southeast Asian hub served by more than 70 different airlines for a connecting flight worldwide. To fly full service between Bangkok – Sihanoukville, Bangkok Airways is your best bet.
The all-inclusive fare covers everything needed in a journey: free 20 kg baggage allowance, free seat selection, free access to Boutique Lounge, free in-flight meal and Thai hospitality throughout the journey.
Above all, the flight schedule is 11.55 – 13.40 hrs. (Flight time 1.45 hrs), which means that flying to Sihanoukville with Bangkok Airways allows you to get to the pier in time for the last ferry to Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem (The last scheduled ferry is 5 p.m. and the time you arrive at Sihanoukville airport is 1.40 p.m. plus traveling time from the airport to the pier 1.20 hrs).
In this comprehensive Sihanoukville travel guide, let us take you to discover all attractive aspects that make Sihanoukville a city for every type of traveler with every budget!
Sihanoukville’s best beaches aren’t in its coastal areas. In fact, you need to sail across the waters to discover its best known islands: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem.
Koh Rong has a quite humble beginning since it’s used to encompass only lush jungles, white clean beaches and a few modest bungalows.
Over the course of decades, Koh Rong has witnessed many changes. One of them is booming tourism and it consequently made Koh Rong livelier ever since. Tourists with concern on accommodation, worry no more as Koh Rong today is packed with well-decorated resorts, beach bars to get you spend the night joyfully. Koh Rong, in other words, is an island full of flavors.
On the other side of Koh Rong’s main tourist area lies a beach that doesn’t go with the rest. Lonely Beach comes with its chic slogan ‘Miles from the paty’ and it just has everything that the name implied. It is, of course, not hangout places with bustling scenes but rather unassuming bungalows and laid-back ambience. Lonely Beach is peacefully located in the north of Koh Rong and it requires a little effort to take a private long tail boat which costs only USD19/round trip.
Speaking of the glowing sea in Koh Rong, these are the results of bioluminescent plankton that keep afloat off Koh Rong’s coast. The darker the sky is, the more the bioluminescent plankton will radiate.
Here are places to see glowing plankton in Koh Rong:
Long Set Beach – Best visible when looking from the beach around Long Set Resort.
Police Beach – One of the best party beaches where you can behold the sea glows.
Koh Touch Village – Our advice is to walk away from lights in the village and stroll around the beach so that you’ll get to see it clearly.
Lonely Beach & Coconut Beach – Two serene beaches with less crowd and dark atmosphere enough for plankton to glow.
For partygoers, every Tuesday and Friday night Koh Rong is wide awake as the ‘Island Pub Crawl’ party occupies half the island. This kind of mini festival involves several bars to be open and for that, you’ll get to experience bar hopping on the island that is sure to bring exotic enjoyment like nowhere else.
That’s not all, Koh Rong still gets you cheerfully occupied with the parties taking place at Police Beach, on every Wednesday and Saturday night.
How to get to Koh Rong
You can take a ferry right from Ochheuteal pier in Sihanoukville to arrive at ‘Koh Touch’, the main tourist spot in Koh Rong. The roundtrip ticket fare is approx. USD22.
Five ferry companies operated are as below:
– Speed Ferry Cambodia
– Island Speed Boat Cambodia
– Buva Sea
– Angkor Speed Ferry
Here is the ferry schedule departing to Koh Rong (Timetable offered by all service providers)
Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem is Koh Rong’s older sister whose travel passion is ignited by the calm and peaceful ambience of a place more so than crowds and party.
For this, Koh Rong Samloem is the vacationer’s paradise with a few modest bungalows, reggae bars, undisturbed beaches and evergreen jungle that exudes oxygen and unpolluted air.
Two main sights to see in Koh Rong Samloem are Saracen Bay and Sunset Beach. The Saracen Bay is a heart-shaped bay with clear water and clean beach. It is home to all grades of accommodations from economical bungalows to sumptuous modern villas.
Koh Rong Samloem, on the other side, lies Sunset Beach where the charms of fisherman’s village meet serenity. M’phey Bei is a tiny fishing village that exemplifies original fishermen’s lifestyle.
Aside from lazily doing nothing at the hut, the clear waters around Sunset Beach is so inviting to go paddle boarding. Koh Rong Samloem is just lucky to have possessed so many attributes that make a peace lover happy.
How to get to Koh Rong Samloem
As Koh Rong Samloem is nearer to Sihanoukville than Koh Rong, to get there you can take a ferry departing from Ochheuteal pier in Sihanoukville. Many ferry companies will stop at Koh Rong Samloem to drop off passengers here before heading to Koh Rong and will dock at main pier in Saracen Bay. The roundtrip ticket fare is approx. USD21.
**For Koh Rong Samloem’s ferry schedule, please refer to the same schedule shown above as for Koh Rong.
Traveling from Koh Rong to Koh Rong Samloem or Vice Versa
The ferry ticket between these two islands can be purchased at the ferry companies listed above. The one-way ticket is approx. USD5. The ticket counters are available on Koh Rong/Koh Rong Samloem and Serendipity beach. Cruising time is around 15 minutes.
Another traveling option is to hire a private long-tail fishing boat, which costs around USD25-40 depending on the stops at Koh Rong Samloem. However, it’s often possible to find other interested travelers to share the cost with.
Back to Sihanoukville
Life on the coast of Sihanoukville still has to do with beaches. There are six main beaches dotted Cambodia’s borders, each boasting different charms to suit travelers’ specific preferences. Here are the top six:
- Sihanoukville’s most beautiful and private beach with limited access. This white, long-stretch beach is mainly under the care by Sokha Beach Resort. That’s why it’s always in a good condition.
- For tourists looking for a one-stop accommodation, staying at Sokha Beach Resort provides all its guests 1) Private beach to unwind and 2) Five-star resort to stay.
- As a visitor, you may consider following options to access Sokha Beach:
1) At the southern end of Sokha Beach, a humble ‘Malibu Bangalows’ is located and is offering also non-guests to enter with some Cambodian hawker food available all around the area.
2) Just head to the reception counter at Sokha Beach Resort and inform them your request to access Sokha Beach with small entrance fee USD10/half day and USD20/full day inclusive of some resort’s facilities and swimming pool. **Children under the age of 12 pay half the price.
- Probably the most visited beach in Sihanoukville, Ochheateal beach is where the well-known Ochheuteal pier (aka Serendipity pier) is located. To travel to Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, this is where people come to embark/disembark a ferry.
- Bustling beach scene with bars, seafood restaurants lined the coast is what Ochheuteal beach is famous for, not to mention a golf-course development at the southern end.
- Ochheuteal beach exemplifies tropical beaches in Southeast Asia with thatched beach umbrellas and beach chairs dotted the curved stretch.
- To put it simply, Serendipity beach is Ochheuteal beach’s northern end. Here comes a reason why people often mistakenly interchange the name between Serendipity and Ochheuteal beach.
- One of the liveliest beaches in Sihanoukville, Serendipity beach is where Westerners flock and imbue with a relaxing vibe of beachfront bars and seaside restaurants with a few steps away from the sea.
- Serendipity beach features various accommodation grades, from unassuming huts to wooden bungalows among green lushness overlooking the sea.
- A sharp contrast to Serendipity beach, Otres beach delivers a more laid-back vibe, left you undisturbed by hawkers trying hard to sell you.
- The shallow warm seawater, apart from taking a dip, is offering a plethora of activities such as windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, jet skiing to catamaran sailing. Other activities include buggy riding, cycling, napping in a hammock and getting a massage.
- The whole Otres beach is in absolute serenity at night as nearby bars have agreed to close after 10 p.m. onward. Now you can make sure you will get a good night’s sleep
- Otres beach is particularly renowned for sunset spotting location. Some said it has to be Southeast Asia’s most spectacular sunset phenomenon.
- Independence beach exudes peaceful, tranquil vibe for those wishing for an undisturbed getaway with clean beach and clear azure water.
- The relaxing, quiet ambience is perfect for sunbathing, sea bathing and watching the sunset.
- Independence beach was named after ‘Independence Hotel’ at the northern end that was once abandoned, however, the hotel has now fully resumed service.
- A true getaway from bustling downtown scene of Sihanoukville, Ream beach is tucked away in Ream National Park and is 30 km southward out to the border.
- The faraway beach is away from crowds, providing untouched nature of Cambodia with no man-made intervention like vast hotels, massive factories or huge fishing vessels spoiling the location.
- Its narrow stretch of beach, set in front of the lush jungle backdrop, offers secluded destination and solitude vacation you can have all to yourself.
- Ream beach’s unique selling point lies in the activities around the area. As part of Ream National Park, you can enjoy these activities all at once; that is, touring mangrove swamps organized by the tour company, bird watching and feeling gratitude to see those animals have been kept from extinction as they are able to live freely and safely in our planet’s ecosystem.
Golden Lions Roundabout
Golden Lions Roundabout is Sihanoukville’s very own iconic landmark. The city’s icon and monument, here too is the main roundabout where it is centrally located and each road separately leads to major tourist spots around the town. Some of them are Serendipity, Ochheuteal and Sokha beach. Around the Golden Lion Monument is teemed with coolest hangout places, karaoke bars and gathering places for Cambodian teens and party tourists.
The gold gilded lion and lioness statue standing side-by-side looks new still to believe that it was built in 1996. The mighty young lion is standing and roaring in majestic appearance while the lioness is crouched, showing benevolent and calm expression.
Sihanoukville might not be one of Cambodia’s cities like Siem Reap for an authentic cultural experience, however, the city has got you majestic temples to soak up its rich cultures and Wat Krom is one of the city’s most celebrated temples. Nestled in a small valley overlooking the city, Wat Krom provides scenic view of Sihanoukville’s flat terrain. The architecture is as exquisite as typical Buddhist temples Southeast Asia has to offer.
Locals have it that Wat Krom was built to worship the legendary Cambodian heroine, Yeay Mao. Only 1.8 km away from downtown, Wat Krom is frequently visited by Cambodian meditators thanks to its peacefulness and shady corners.
Another must-go temple with a view is Leu Pagoda, a gold-hued Buddhist temple tucked away on a tranquil, forested hilltop 3 km northeast of the city center.
In terms of architectural point of view, Wat Leu seems to have been built for practicing a peaceful state of mind purpose. The complex is hemmed by a high stone wall with three statues of Buddha on the three heads of the elephant. It is a significant religious site to visit when in Sihanoukville.
Kbal Chhay Waterfall
Have a refreshing dip in Sihanoukville at the city’s most famous waterfall, Kbal Chhay waterfall located 20 km northeast of downtown. Kbal Chhay is 14 meters high and its surrounding cliff is perfect for some sweat-inducing activity: rock climbing. For those seeking out a relaxing afternoon moment, here is the time to take a dip in natural outdoor pool and experience the cool freshness of a mountain waterfall.
You may consider having a delightful picnic at its surrounding picnic spots with multiple local food cooked by villagers. Kbal Chhay waterfall also was once the clean water supply source delivered to neighboring cities and districts.
Cruising along Sihanoukville’s Longest River
Wrapping up the trip with a cruising excursion along Ou Trojak Jet, Sihanoukville’s longest river where two sides of the riverbank show authentic Cambodian way of life, their traditional abodes and luxury waterfront properties with yacht moorings. Best of all, there are daily-caught seafood restaurants you wouldn’t dare to miss!
One more place to go for partygoers is Otres Market, a market that’s not resembling typical market as it seems to be a hangout place where Westerners flock and celebrate the night as if every Saturday was a festival. Think of festive vibe, live music, mouthwatering dishes, fire show and your fellow backpackers. In one sentence, Otres Market is the coolest hipster neighborhood in this port city. The market is open every Saturday from 5 p.m. onward. Save the date and enjoy!
How to get around Sihanoukville
It’s pretty common that public transportation in Sihanoukville don’t have a meter so all the price has to be negotiated, of which should be agreed by both ends.
Popular modes of public transportation are as follows:
- Motorcycle Taxis
This is Sihanoukville’s most common mode of city transportation. As traditionally done, the driver would prefer 2 tourists on a motorcycle, which means it’s up to 3 people on a ride including the driver himself. Average fare should be in between USD2-15. For a charter rate, it’s approx. USD15 per day plus fuel surcharge.
- Tuk Tuks
Applied to longer distance than motorcycle taxi around the city radius, Tuk Tuks offer quite a fixed price so there may be little room for negotiation. A charter rate is approx. USD20.
Traveling as a group or family, taxi is your most convenient public transportation. Surprisingly that it is rare to find on the streets, taxis in Sihanoukville are available upon request, which can be contacted through the hotel you’re staying. You may ask the hotel receptionists to call for a taxi and arrange this for you. Taking a taxi is also suitable for a long-distance trip just in case you’re looking for a side trip to neighboring cities such as Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong etc. Average fare from downtown Sihanoukville to Sihanoukville International Airport should cost around USD20-25.
How to get from Bangkok to Sihanoukville
Bangkok Airways, Thailand’s full service airline, will be operating daily direct flight from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) – Sihanoukville (Flight schedule: 11.55 – 13.40 hrs.). Flight time is 1.45 hrs. Starting from 10 January 2020 onward. Booking is available from today. To view the ticket fare, please click Bangkok Airways