Sihanoukville is the uncontested third most popular destination after Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and it lays claim to the best beach life in Cambodia although many backpackers find they prefer the islands of Koh Rong. Like the rest of the country, the city is in the process of rebuilding and is a lot less developed and picturesque than other beach destinations in Asia.
Undoubtedly the main attractions in Sihanoukville are the beaches. They are often unfairly compared to the stunning beaches found elsewhere in Asia, dismissed as dirty and littered with rubbish. However, the water is warm, the sand is soft, and the weather is ambient.
Popular beaches include Occheutal Beach and Sokha Beach, but Otres is the beach to head for. White, clear banks are lined with minimal but thoughtfully designed lounges, and local women walk along the beach offering spa treatments like massages and pedicures. Many restaurants offer cheap bungalow accommodation in the back or across the street, making Otres a relaxing home base for exploring the rest of Sihanoukville.
Otres also has a night market every Saturday that is the spot for expat nightlife in Sihanoukville. This weekly party is unlike most night markets you’ll find in Asia and definitely worth checking out if your schedule aligns. The main stage is worked by talented musicians all night, surrounded by booths with cheap but delicious aperitifs (go early because they sell out!) and craftsmen selling handmade jewelry and clothes. True to the stereotype, you can expect dreadlocks, tree climbing, and a great time.
If you’re itching for the beach, and especially if Cambodia is your only stop in Asia, give yourself a couple days for Sihanoukville. Relax at Otres Beach, savor fresh seafood, spend a couple days meditating at a yoga retreat, feed families of monkeys bananas, and enjoy a consistent, unique nightlife.