Cambodia’s Beaches are the latest, hottest trend for beaches in South East Asia and they are promised to be remote, uncrowded with white sand and warm waters – a tropical paradise. And indeed, you can still find a Robinson Crusoe paradise in Cambodia on Long Set Beach or Otres Beach – but not all beaches are created equal and some of the most popular ones are disappointing, so read my recommendations before you book your beach getaway to Sihanoukville, Cambodia!
Thailand was long the destination of choice for beach vacationers in Asia, from backpackers to honeymoon couples. But the more crowded it got, the more people were looking elsewhere and “the internet” zeroed in on Sihanoukville in the South of Cambodia as the next, hot destination. I wanted to check it out and found some vast differences between the beaches, covering everything from backpacker party beach to romantic getaway, from secluded resort vacation to trashy city beach. To make sure you don’t land on the wrong beach for your trip, here are my favorites:
Long Set Beach – romantic getaway & Robinson Crusoe escape: If you are looking for a tropical hideway, with fine, white sand and warm water, lined by palm trees and with few people in sight, Long Set Beach on Koh Rong is your best bet. It’s a beautiful crescent of white beach with an equally beautiful lagoon in the background. There are only one resort and 2-3 backpacker places spread out on the 3km beach, so you can easily pretend you are all alone on the island. It’s a 45 minute walk from the island’s town, enough to keep the crowds away and close enough to buy things you forgot. If you are looking for a romantic getaway or a Robinson Crusoe escape from your crazy life, this is it. The Long Set Resort is the best resort on the island and the closest to a luxury escape you’ll find here!
Sokha Beach – Pampered Resort Vacation: If you are looking for an easy family trip to a private beach with restaurants, bars and services at your fingertips, Sokha Beach Resort is a good choice. It’s a quick ride from the Sihanoukville airport, separate from the busy town and sits (for now) on it’s very own beach. There are three separate hotels of different categories under the Sokha umbrella, all sharing the same beautiful beach and amenities like pools, restaurants, bars and spa. If you want to have a relaxing vacation with the longest trip being from your room to the hotel restaurant and beach, the Sokha Beach Resort makes it easy. For the occasional drinks, dinner or shopping excursion, Sihanoukville is just a 10 minute taxi ride away. Unfortunately, a high-rise casino resort is under construction next door and an eyesore you’ll have to ignore. You can check current prices at Sokha Beach Resort here!
Otres 2 Beach – tropical beach paradise without the hassle: If you want the beautiful beach, without “the hassle” of taking a speed boat to the islands, and a resort feeling without being a captive like at the Sokha, Otres 2 Beach is a great compromise, especially for a shorter visit. It’s a 45 minute ride from the airport and you’ll find a number of mid-scale resorts along this clean, sandy beach. They all have restaurants, bars and a beach club, giving you all the pampering of a resort vacation, yet they are side-by-side, so you can eat or drink somewhere else every night, if you want. The hotels are doing a great job of keeping the beach clean and there are a few beach activities on offer, without the beach feeling crowded. Hotels like Tamu, Secret Garden, Ren or Naia all offer similar amenities to Long Set Resort or Sokha Beach at much lower prices, giving you great value. You can check current prices on Otres 2 Beach here!
Otres 1 Beach – same beach on a budget: On the Northern end of Otres Beach, you find a number of budget hotels and beach bars with a hip backpacker/surfer vibe. The beach is reasonably clean, but the beach clubs and bars look a little worn and the hotels are on the other side of a dirt road, a short walk from the beach. Accommodations range from backpacker hostels to new mid-scale hotels like the Good Time Boutique Hotel. If you just want access to a nice beach and don’t mind the budget feel, you can save some money on Otres 1 Beach.
I’ll close with a few beaches that I suggest you avoid, but that might come up in your hotel search. While they seem to be “right there” next to my recommended beaches, they are sadly different and disappointing:
Sihanoukville & Ochheuteal Beach: On the maps and hotel searches, these two will offer lots of hotels that are barely distinguishable from my recommendations. Sihanoukville is convenient, with easy access to the airport, the ferry pier, plenty of restaurants, nightlife and shopping. If you are arriving late and heading to the islands on the next day, the town is a good stopover and the Holiday Villa Netaya a good hotel choice.
Unfortunately, Sihanoukville is like many regional hubs in developing countries: Crazy traffic, dirty streets full of trash and lots of noise. Ochheuteal Beach is near the city center and a long stretch of sand facing the very same ocean as Otres Beach, yet it couldn’t feel more different: In town is a huge area closed off for development of which is likely to be a huge resort, giving the beach an abandoned feel. While somebody (the city?) put up seating, umbrellas and service stalls along the beach, nobody is cleaning the beach! In a world with too much plastic garbage in our oceans, an “untouched” beach is not a desirable thing, unless you enjoy finding plastic bags and broken flip flops on the beach! It’s not a nice place to lay down or even go for a walk.
Koh Rong is the original Cambodian beach paradise, described in countless backpacker blogs. This internet celebrity has turned the main beach at Koh Rong town next to the ferry pier into a crowded and overpriced dump: ramshackle bars, restaurants and shops are crammed together and every hut seems to offer rooms. The most recommended hotel consists off run-down wooden huts with fans, no a/c and occasional electricity and hot water at the same prices you’d pay for a nice resort on Otres 2 Beach. The beach is crowded and dirty and really only acceptable, if you are sleeping off last night’s drinking binge. It’s a sad excuse of a tropical beach, overpriced, overhyped and best avoided!