Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s top coastal destination, but with so many spots to choose from it’s wise to do a bit of research.
It has some of the most stunning sandy stretches in Asia, but also some of the seediest hangouts.
Randomly booking on the Internet could lead you to beach hut envy, inadvertent immersion in 24-hour partying or feeling like a “sexpat” when you just wanted to enjoy some alone time over dinner.
At first glance, the area can look like a jumble of questionably rampant developments peppered with casinos and fast encroaching condos, but if you scratch the surface you might find paradise.
Here are some tips on great places to chill out, party hard or simply avoid.
If thumping beats, tropical two-for-one cocktails and late nights are what you’re after, then Ochheuteal Beach is your jet away gem. This white sand once-oasis is backpacker central with a refreshing dose of mid-range options at tiny Serendipity.
Monkey Republic is perfect for hyperactive holidaymakers with a penchant for a happy hour. You’ll even find elusive vegetarian fare at Falafel and Dao of Life. Don’t be disheartened by the string of “happy pizza” joints and endless dodgy Chinese restaurants on the main road. The beach itself is beautiful.
Run from ‘The Hill’
Let’s not beat around the bush: Victory Hill is a less than salubrious spot. Unless hostess bars filled with scantily clad, bored-looking young ladies with unenviable bald, fat male companions is your barrel, then it’s probably not the locale to frequent. This was the original backpacker hangout gone awry.
However, if you want a couple of days on the cheap, beer costs less than water, you’ll get a bargain chicken cordon bleu at one of a dozen dazzlingly inexpensive restaurants and Victory Beach itself is quiet and reasonably clean.
The odd venue out with a lovely upstairs bar to catch a sunset with a decent glass of vino is the just opened Harbour Boutique Hotel.
Save the best for last
The two beaches at Otres are some of the prettiest you’ll encounter in Southeast Asia without forgoing running water and electricity. Otres 1 is the liveliest to luxuriate with a mixture of open air hammock hangouts and boutique retreats.
Papa Pippo does cracking pepperoni pizza. Otres 2 just a soupçon south is a teensy bit more upmarket and the perfect pick for those who like chilled and cheery without the need of ear plugs for a decent night’s sleep.
The beach here is beguiling and there’s plenty to do. Kayak out to one of the tiny islands nearby or hire a catamaran for a couple of hours cruising the crystal clear waters.
Pull up on the silvery sands for a Singapore sling at Boat Bar then enjoy an enormous seafood platter at the superlative Secret Garden. Feel your worries slip away as you enjoy a shoreside massage, knowing you’ve picked the best of a brilliant bunch.
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