For the longest time, the temples of Angkor left other destinations in Cambodia in the shade, but in recent years, the beaches and islands of the South Coast have become a major attraction in their own right.
With countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as close neighbors, beach lovers are spoiled for choice, but Cambodia can compete with the best of them when it comes to powdery sands, swaying palms and turquoise waters.
The islands off the coast near Sihanoukville have something for everyone, from die-hard party people to folks seeking sun-kissed solitude. All you need to do to find beach perfection in Cambodia is pick your island, select your beach, and sprawl on the sand surrounded by warm, clear waters. There's a reason many visitors to Cambodia check in and decide to never checkout!
Whether you crave a crowd or a calm escape, here's our guide to the best beaches in Cambodia.
Long Beach, Koh Rong
Best for serene sands
Hugging the western shore of Koh Rong, Long Beach is the island's finest escape, an almost empty stretch of beyond-beautiful sands running for 7km (4.3 miles). The powder-like sand is so squeaky soft you might be forgiven for thinking there had been an explosion in a baby powder factory. It's sometimes known as 7km Beach thanks to its length, and it's also confusingly known as Sok San Beach or Royal Sands Beach in honor of the resorts that lie at the northern and southern ends of this castaway dream. In case it looks familiar, the strip was used as a key filming location for the popular US television series Survivor.
Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Sanloem
Best for an easy escape from Sihanoukville
Blessed with endless sands and teeming jungles, Koh Rong Sanloem is a vision of tropical perfection. The island has three main settlements, each with its own distinct personality, but there's no doubt that crescent-shaped Saracen Bay is the most beautiful, with a graceful curve of white sand wrapping around the island’s eastern shoreline. There are resorts to suit every budget strung along its 2.5km (1.5 miles) of sand, and this popular bay is well connected to Sihanoukville on the mainland by high-powered speedboats.
Long Set Beach, Koh Rong
Best for a low-key island experience
Also known as 4km Beach thanks to its ample proportions, this is a stunning stretch of sand on the south coast of Koh Rong. It takes its name from one of the first resorts to set up shop here, but it's still relatively undeveloped compared to neighboring Koh Tuch. You'll find a handful of hostels and boutique resorts lined up behind the greenery-backed sands, but it's still pretty peaceful. At the extreme east end of Long Set Beach, behind Koh Rong Hill Beach Resort, a short path leads to nearby Nature Beach, another pretty spray of sand. To the west, Long Set is connected to busy Koh Tuch via a short forest walk, passing the rather lovely Treehouse Bungalows.
Otres Beach, Sihanoukville
Best for a quick mainland beach trip
Skip the overdeveloped beaches in Sihanoukville City and head out to Otres Beach, a seemingly boundless strip of casuarinas and blinding white sand. Despite some mega-developments inland from the sand, the beach itself is still very beautiful, and the 2km (1.2 mile) stretch between Otres 1 Beach and Otres 2 Beach remains relatively undeveloped. Keep your eyes looking out to the infinite horizon so the tropical bubble won't be burst by the construction underway onshore. This is a light and easily accessible version of the Cambodian beach experience for those who don’t have time to chill out on the islands.
Ream Beach, Sihanoukville
Best for wildlife and boat trips
Ream National Park may not be one of Cambodia’s most celebrated protected areas, but it is home to some of the country’s finest beaches, many of which remain relatively undeveloped. Travelers who make the effort to visit Ream can take boat trips through coastal mangroves and wander along long stretches of unspoiled sand. The park is home to breeding populations of several endangered birds of prey and there are sometimes dolphins or porpoises frolicking in the waves where the river meets the sea. When it comes to choosing a strip of sand, Ream Beach has its charm marred slightly by lines of barbecue shacks – if you're planning to take a chill pill for the day, head for Prek Chak Beach and Koh Sramoch Beach.
Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Sanloem
Best for a family getaway
On the southwest coast of Koh Rong Sanloem, this idyllic hideaway is home to one of the most stunning beaches you’ll find anywhere. There is only one place to stay here, Lazy Beach, the agreeably rustic resort that gave the beach its name. The basic bungalows have balconies and hammocks to take in the splendor of the sands, and the combined restaurant and common area is well-stocked with books and board games, making this beach a good fit for families.
Lagoon Beach, Koh Kong Island
Best for crystal waters
Cambodia’s largest island towers over seas so crystal-clear you can almost make out individual grains of sand in the shallow waters. The island has seven beaches, lined up along the west coast, and backed by coconut palms and lush vegetation, just as you’d expect in a tropical paradise. Several of the best beaches are at the mouths of little streams – we strongly recommend the sixth beach, known as Lagoon Beach, where a narrow channel leads to a hidden lagoon.
Koh Ta Khiev, Sihanoukville
Best for a low-key island getaway
If your dream beach escape involves switching off and tuning out, then the little island of Koh Ta Khiev, off the coast near Ream National Park, will tick all the right boxes. Although developers are circling, for the moment the southern tip of the island retains its castaway mood, with a clutch of delightfully bohemian and eco-friendly budget digs and the impressive Long Beach to sprawl on. This is where the backpacking vibe of Otres Village lives on under the watchful gaze of high-rise Sihanoukville.
Koh Sdach Islands, Koh Kong
Best for secluded snorkeling and diving
Just off the southwest tip of Botum Sakor National Park, the Koh Sdach Archipelago is a castaway cluster of 12 small islands, many of which have good snorkeling and scuba diving. The main island, Koh Sdach (King's Island), lacks beaches but it's a great place to experience island life without the crowds. From here you can hire a boat to explore nearby islands with blissfully empty beaches, including Koh Totang, the sand spits of the Koh Ampil islets and the long white beaches on either side of Koh Smach. This is definitely one for adventurous beachcombers.
Lonely Beach, Koh Rong
Best for sustainable living
Lonely Beach is an idyllic traveler bolthole hidden away on a private beach at Koh Rong's northern tip. There is a strong commitment to sustainability at this low-key resort – the cute bungalows and open-air dorms are breeze-cooled and all water is dispensed via coconut-shell scoop. High season brings excursions to other islands, snorkeling trips and nightly banquets on the beach. Don't be surprised if you never want to leave; some travelers who end up here extend their stay by months.
You may also like:
See Cambodia on two wheels on these must-do motorcycle trips
Here's how to get around Cambodia: your guide to one of Southeast Asia's great adventures
Cambodia's best national parks offer wild adventures