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 stand to skyrocket now that flights from Siem Reap have been initiated.
For the time being, despite the boomtown rents, the city and its sandy bits remain pretty laid-back. While backpackers continue to flock to the party zone of Serendipity Beach, more subdued Otres Beach, south of town, has made a comeback. 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-king, 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.
Best places to stay in Sihanoukville
Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled Cambodia itinerary
Kick off in bustling Phnom Penh to experience the dichotomies of a city on the brink of a boom, where cyclos creak past Hummer dealerships, and ramshackle markets nudge glistening new developments with names like 'Elite Town'.
Partying in Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville destination guides
Island hopping in Cambodia
While their Thai counterparts heave beneath the weight of Identikit bungalows, dreadlocked revellers and full moon parties, the 60-plus islands that dot the southern coast of Cambodia have been largely ignored…until now.
Cambodia & Vietnam on a Shoestring
Begin in Bangkok—a city that never sleeps—and end by braving Hanoi's bustling streets. Plug in to Cambodia and Vietnam on this electric journey with breaks to bliss out on white sand beaches. Get a history lesson exploring Angkor Wat or walking Ho Chi Minh City’s streets.
Cambodia on a Shoestring
Marvel at the incredible Khmer ruins of Angkor Wat and the clear turquoise waters at Sihanoukville. This journey packages Cambodia’s treasures into 10 well-paced days. Brave Ho Chi Minh City’s jam-packed streets with other travellers your own age—you can be sure they’ll keep pace with you—or check out the more laid back waterways of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.