From remote escapes with pristine, empty strands to paradise-like beaches that are soon to be developed, to crazy and crowded party-all-night beaches, there’s a beach for your vacation-vibe in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s beaches are often overlooked for those in neighboring Thailand, but while there are more options in Thailand, the quality of Cambodia’s shores is unrivaled. More rugged and undeveloped, Cambodia’s relatively untouched coastline has everything on offer from party beaches to abandoned islands. Travelers to Cambodia’s coast can also find beautiful national parks, top-notch diving sites, and the freshest seafood on offer.
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Otres Beach, Sihanoukville
Otres beach, situated about 20 minutes from Sihanoukville, has long been the top choice for tourists who want a chilled out beach away from the town’s seedy underbelly. This getaway has become even more important as massive Chinese development projects have come to dominate the local landscape. Otres is still relatively unaffected, and visitors can enjoy a coconut or cocktail at the bars and restaurants along a strip of beach that’s cleaner and emptier than its neighbors. However, plans for expanded development into Otres are in the works, so time is running out to experience one of Cambodia’s most classic backpacker beach hang outs.
Koh Toch, Koh Rong
Despite its shortcomings, it’s impossible to list Cambodia’s best beaches and not include Koh Toch. For those looking to have a typical Gulf of Thailand party experience, Koh Toch is your best bet in Cambodia. While the village is crowded, noisy, and sometimes dirty, the beach is nice enough, although without its party scene it wouldn’t be anybody’s first choice. There are some quieter, nicer spots in the area, but if that’s what you’re looking for you’re better off heading to a different beach on the island. The real draw to Koh Toch is a party scene that won’t be topped anywhere else.
Sok San, Koh Rong
Those hoping for a more idyllic getaway on Koh Rong should look no further than Sok San beach. Just a short boat ride away from bumping Koh Toch, Sok San feels like another world. Simple bungalows that more closely resemble wooden shacks spot the white sand beach that slips into perfect blue-green waters. Budget accommodations are ever-present while more upscale travelers can stay at the beach’s luxury resort. There isn’t a whole lot to do in the area other than swim and sunbathe, but there’s no better place to recharge your batteries. For an evening out, there is (somewhat randomly) a phenomenal, authentic Italian restaurant halfway down the beach.
Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Sanloem
Koh Rong Sanloem is Koh Rong’s more relaxed, debatably more beautiful little brother. There are many options for places to stay–from party hostels to high-end resorts–and most sport their own pristine private beaches. Even notoriously backpacker-boozer Mad Monkey is a slice of paradise, free from the trash and squalor sometimes associated with party beaches. The most beautiful stretch of beach is arguably Lazy Beach, which faces west making it Koh Rong Sanloem’s best spot for the sunset. The cove in beach stretches far into the distance and is perfect for long walks. After a sundowner cocktail at the guesthouse bar, visitors can take to the waters to look for the famous bioluminescent plankton.
Ream National Park is where the jungle meets the ocean. About an hour drive from Sihanoukville, the area is rugged but still accessible. Ream’s rustic charm is also under the shadow of the ever-looming threat of Chinese development, but for now remains one of Cambodia’s best-hidden gems. On the edge of the forest and the ocean, hikers can set off on trails that wind through the jungle and local villages, while kayakers can rent a boat and plunge into the ocean.
The small seaside town of Kep was once an attempt to recreate a kind of French Riviera in Cambodia. Deteriorating colonial villas still punctuate the landscape, but Kep’s image as a luxury resort town has vanished. Often overlooked for nearby Kampot, Kep is not without its charm. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails through the area’s small national park and a visit to the sliver of beach made of imported sand from Sihanoukville. Above all else, Kep is known for its fresh seafood, most easily obtained at the Crab Market. Here, vendors will pull live crabs straight from the ocean before tossing them in sauce and Kampot pepper (the same dish eaten by Anthony Bourdain during his visit to Cambodia).
Koh Ta Kiev
Koh Ta Kiev is often rated after Koh Rong or Koh Rong Sanloem, but has plenty to offer that you can’t find anywhere else. The island’s obscurity is a bit of a double-edged sword as it has no roads, limited accommodation, and spotty electricity, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. If you’re hoping for a real castaway experience, Koh Ta Kiev can’t be missed. With virtually no infrastructure, the island’s beaches are pristine and flawless on all sides of the island. Some decent walking trails connect Kactus guesthouse’s beach with the island’s main beach, and most guesthouses offer boat trips that include snorkeling and cliff jumping.
Kiri Sakor, Koh Kong
The beaches in Kiri Sakor are quite difficult to get to but especially worth going to if A. you’re the adventurous sort who believes the journey is as important as the destination or B. you like to get off the beaten path/beach. Located in a national park in Koh Kong—one of Cambodia’s most rural provinces—the region is just starting to develop a tourism industry. The beaches are gorgeous, but there are few places to stay other than Chinese guesthouses and resorts.
INSIDER TIPIt’s worth planning your visit to Kiri Sakor around a visit to nearby Koh Sdach.
Koh Sdach, Koh Kong
Koh Sdach is the main island in an archipelago of 12 islands, and while it’s not the most beautiful of all 12, it’s one of the only islands with accommodation. The small, extremely remote little fishing village is a good base for taking day trips to the even smaller, uninhabited islands where you will find some of the most untouched beaches in the entire country. Koh Sdach should be high on the list for scuba divers, who can visit multiple dive sites throughout the archipelago with dive center Octopuses Garden (based on the main island).
Koh Tang, Kampot
Home to incredible diving sites (this is the only place in Cambodia where you can go wreck diving), a dark history (this was once the site of brutal Khmer Rouge mass executions and a battlefield between the Khmer Rouge and US Marines–but you can’t tell), and sandy beaches, the only thing Koh Tang is missing is a population, which makes it perfect for a retreat from the world. Think: lazy days and nights under the hot sun, secluded sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and utter relaxation. The most common way to visit this distant island is by overnight diving trip arranged in Sihanoukville.