For a great end to any Cambodia Itinerary, head to the beautiful beaches and Islands in the South West of the country. I recommend that you tag the Cambodia beaches on the end of your trip, because the extensive temple seeking at Angkor Wat and exploring the capital of Phnom Penh can be tiring. A few beach days are a great way to recover and re-cooperate before you head home or move on to the next country.
Cambodia’s beaches are slowly increasing in popularity. Although they are as beautiful as the popular Thai islands, many are still less crowded and less discovered by Western tourists than the likes of Phuket and Krabi.
As Cambodia’s biggest and most developed island, Koh Rong tends to get the majority of the attention, with most travellers heading straight to Koh Touch. Although, peace remains easy to find, due to the island’s 28 beaches. Long Beach (also known as Sok San Beach) is undoubtedly one of its finest, with the four-mile stretch of blindingly white sand that crunches under your feet flanked by refreshingly clear waters. A true tropical heaven, the coastline offered the setting for the 32nd season of the reality TV show Survivor. It is home to a scattering of guesthouses, the recently opened, luxurious five-star Royal Sands Koh Rong and upmarket Sok San Resort.
The clue of this is in the name, with Lonely Beach sitting at Koh Rong’s remote northern tip. Lonely Beach is your unique opportunity to practice true beach life. It’s located in a remote bay in the North of Koh Rong, many miles away from the party beach in the South. It is so isolated, that you can reach us only by using the Lonely Beach boat. Development is yet to hit the area and there is only one resort there, meaning guests have this secluded paradise to themselves. If you’re lucky, a late-night dip could light up the waters, as bioluminescent plankton can be found here. However, make sure you remember to pack all the essential items because there isn’t a shop nearby.
Situated just off the beaten track, Sner Beach possesses isolation and wild beauty, away from the crowds. Mainly used by Cambodians, the strip of sand is kitted out with hammocks to laze the day away on. There are several beach shacks and small eateries serving the catch of the day, as well as fresh prawns, crab and fried squid, dished up with piles of rice and vegetables. Seafood barbecues can be seen flaming along the shore at sunset, washed down with a cold pint obtainable from one of the beach huts.
Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Samloem
Although the island of Koh Rong Samloem is a long way off from becoming over-run by common tourists, if you really want to escape, then head to Lazy Beach. Located on the west side of the island by a 40-minute walk through the jungle or Lazy Beach resort guests can take a motorboat from Sihanoukville from the main tourist beach of Saracen Bay. The long stretch of immaculate beach provides the perfect remedy to follow the beach’s namesake so just kick back and immerse yourself in tropical life. Lazy beach is a squeaky-clean sand set in a gorgeous bay surrounded by tropical jungle. The calm sea provides safe swimming and cool snorkelling straight off the beach in two dive sites either end of our bay.
Koh Ta Kiev remains the faultless and almost untouched paradise, with palms wafting gently in the breeze, deserted beaches interrupted only by wooden fishing boats, the odd bunch of bamboo huts and crystal-clear waters alluring visitors to swim. It is one of the most picturesque beaches, with multiple places providing accommodation and food and drinks. The views allow trading in modern life for basic facilities and limited Wi-Fi and electricity more than worth it.
Otres Beach, Sihanoukville
Unfortunately, Otres is becoming progressively built-up, with concrete accommodation that includes AC and swimming pools. These buildings nearly outnumber the bamboo huts which line the sand. Otres used to entice the more laidback traveller, but now seems to be attracting those who want big Chinese Hotels and Casinos. The beach is edged by shacks selling drinks and food, along with cheap places to chill out, but is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for rubbish. Sadly, I would side-wipe this one.
The speedy pace of development of Otres beach is causing some travellers to turn to the shores of adjacent Otres 2. Wrapping itself as a more boutique version of the originals Otres, eating and drinking options on this stretch of sand are more flashpacker rather than backpacker, with a smidgeon of mid-range options thrown into the mix. It is about a 30-minute walk along a desolate part of the beach from Otres — not advisable to walk at night — or about five minutes away in a tuk tuk. It’s still an option, but I would recommend the islands over the mainland beaches of Sihanoukville anyday.
Koh Tonsay, also known as Rabbit Island, sits around a 20-minute boat ride from Kep. Development is sparse on the small island, with accommodation in the form of a few basic wooden huts on the shoreline. The majority of visitors stop off at the island for the day to wade in the shallow waters, enjoy the local food served from the few plain restaurants and chill in the hammocks that swing under the palm trees.
The sleepy coastal town of Kep is a popular getaway with the Cambodian crowd and will often be packed on weekends, with families picnicking in the shade, splashing about in the sea in their jeans and T-shirts and gorging on freshly caught crab from the nearby market. Starting as a small stretch of beach, it underwent an upgrade in 2013 when white sand was shipped in from other parts of the country. A shaded promenade is peppered with small stalls, selling food and drinks and hiring swimming tubes, parasols and seats.
Okay, okay, so technically this isn’t a beach, but it’s such a beautiful spot, we didn’t want to leave it off the list. Plus, there’s a makeshift beach at the resort that lines a small stretch of the river, complete with sun beds, tables and chairs, so we’re not entirely cheating. Since opening in 2017, Sabay Beach has become a popular spot to take in the tranquil riverside life that’s just a few kilometres (about one mile) out of town along the Kampot River. Go paddle-boarding, take a boat trip through the mangroves, take a dip in the river or simply chill on the beach and relish the panoramic views.
What to Pack for Cambodia
Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.
Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.
Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot — this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.
Originally published at https://www.templeseeker.com on February 29, 2020.