Surrounded by white-sand beaches and undeveloped tropical islands, Sihanoukville (Krong Preah Sihanouk), also known as Kompong Som, is Cambodia’s most happening beach destination. Visitor numbers have risen steadily in recent years and look set to skyrocket now that flights from Siem Reap are operating daily, with more routes planned.
For the time being, despite the boomtown rents, the city and its sandy bits remain pretty laidback. While backpackers continue to flock to the party zone of Serendipity Beach, the gorgeous Otres Beach, south of town, has made an incredible comeback and is now equally popular for a more relaxed stay. That and the emergence of the southern islands as cradles of castaway cool give non-backpackers a reason to visit.
None of Sihanoukville’s beaches would qualify as southeast Asia’s finest, but it’s easy to have stretches of casuarina- and coconut palm–shaded sand to yourself, especially if you venture outside the centre.
Named in honour of the then head-of-state, Sihanoukville was hacked out of the jungle in the late 1950s to create Cambodia’s first and only deep-water port, strategically vital because it meant that the country’s international trade no longer had to pass through Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.