Sihanoukville, often referred to as the gateway to serene islands like Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samleom, and Koh Dek Koul, has much to offer in its own right. Situated on the southern coast of Cambodia, approximately a 5-hour drive from the capital city of Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is rapidly emerging as a must-visit tourist destination in Southeast Asia.
What was once a tranquil beach town is gradually transforming into a vibrant party hub with a wide range of amenities. Backpackers are drawn to Sihanoukville for its diverse selection of international cuisine, affordable accommodations, sandy beaches, and consistently lively nightlife.
Now, let’s delve into the best things to do in Sihanoukville:
1. Serendipity Beach
Serendipity Beach stands as the primary beach in Sihanoukville, impossible to overlook. Situated adjacent to the pier, a boardwalk graces its shores, adorned with beachfront restaurants and accompanying shaded umbrella stalls. Each restaurant offers indoor seating with captivating views of the ocean, along with beach chairs where you can enjoy a fruity cocktail while basking in the sun.
As night falls, the boardwalk transforms into a vibrant scene with blaring music, dazzling lights, and a younger crowd comprising both travelers and local Cambodians who revel in the nightlife.
Exercise caution with your belongings; the resourceful street children are adept at swiftly snatching bags.
2. Independence Beach
Independence Beach lies directly in front of you, yet it often goes unnoticed by tourists. This enchanting little bay is located to the right of the primary pier, featuring crystal-clear waters and rocky shores that are entirely unique to the area.
Follow the unpaved trail beneath the towering, shaded trees to explore this peaceful hideaway. While not particularly large, this charming cove is adorned with delightful restaurants, small fishing docks, and boulders that beckon to be climbed upon.
You can either get takeout from a nearby restaurant or purchase a beer from a local store for a picnic by the seaside.
3. Otres Beach
Arrange for a tuk-tuk from the town center to transport you to Otres Beach, which lies just beyond Serendipity Beach. You’ll discover that Otres Beach is notably cleaner, quieter, and offers a slightly more upscale range of accommodations. The beach is ideal for building sandcastles, the water is refreshing, and the locals are exceptionally friendly.
Otres Beach is adorned with small restaurants, some run by locals and others by expats, all serving a variety of Cambodian and Western dishes. With hanging swings, beach umbrellas, and palm trees providing shade, Otres Beach is an excellent destination to spend a few days enjoying the good life.
4. Kbal Chhay Waterfall
After spending a few days at the beach, it’s refreshing to diversify your activities. Make your way to Kbal Chhay Waterfall, where you can cool down in the freshwater streams. Relax under the falls for an invigorating back massage and lounge in the rejuvenating pools of crystal-clear water as the streams cascade over you.
When you’re ready to dry off, you’ll find traditional Khmer bamboo huts providing shade. Swinging in a sturdy hammock and enjoying a picnic on the straw mats below is a delightful option. As you cross the bamboo bridge, local vendors will be selling snacks and beverages to help you replenish your supplies.
5. Go Sailing
Sail Sihanoukville offers mini catamarans for rent. These small white boats with vibrant green sails are prominently displayed along Otres Beach, making them easy to spot. You don’t need to possess any sailing expertise or prior experience to embark on a catamaran adventure in Sihanoukville. You can enjoy a leisurely ride, taking in the stunning coastal views, or opt for sailing lessons to acquire navigation skills. For those comfortable with the catamaran, you even have the option to take it out on your own for a day or even two.
Regardless of your choice, you will be accompanied by an experienced sailing professional named Mickey, who provides straightforward instructions with safety as the top priority. You can trust that you’re in capable hands.
6. The Led Zephyr
The Led Zephyr has long been the preferred venue for live music and delicious food. Traveling musicians and comedians frequently make appearances in Sihanoukville, gracing the stage multiple times each week. With its impressive sound system and professional lighting setup, this venue offers an authentic live entertainment experience.
And if the live performances were not enticing enough, you can also savor local draft beer on tap, relish delectable pork ribs, unwind in comfortable seating, and enjoy a game of billiards. The Led Zephyr provides the perfect setting for a relaxed evening with your friends. Even better, prices are budget-friendly, and the portions are generous.
To nurse your hangover after a night of great music and flowing beer, make sure to drop by on Sundays for a $5 roast and more enjoyable moments.
7. Gamble at the Casino
If gambling is your passion, you’ll be thrilled to discover the Kampongsom City Hotel & Casino in Sihanoukville. Located right in the heart of the city, this expansive casino, adorned with vibrant lights and distinctive decor, is impossible to miss. Just head in the direction of the Golden Lion, and you’ll spot it without a doubt.
This establishment also serves as a hotel and spa, making it a favored choice for avid casino enthusiasts who prefer to stay in one of the reasonably priced rooms, putting the ultimate poker experience right at their fingertips. Inside, you’ll find all the usual casino games: blackjack, Texas hold’em, slot machines, and more.
The casino boasts a fantastic restaurant, and there’s a dedicated staff ready to ensure your drinks are replenished throughout your visit.
8. Island Hopping
The most popular island destinations off the coast of Sihanoukville are Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samleom, two islands that offer distinct experiences while being in close proximity to each other.
You can reach both islands via a high-speed ferry, which takes approximately 45 minutes. Several boat companies operate scheduled routes multiple times a day. Consider spending a peaceful, low-key evening with stunning sunset views on Samloem for one night, or head to Koh Rong for a night of partying and access to some of Cambodia’s finest beaches.
If you have the time, plan a week or more for island hopping between the two, where you can enjoy activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and jungle trekking.
9. Top Cat Cinema
Have some spare time before catching a bus or checking into your guesthouse? Maybe you’re looking to escape the Cambodian heat for a few hours. Top Cat Cinema provides a comfortable space to relax and pass the time while enjoying a unique experience.
This cozy cinema, located at the top of the hill near Serendipity Beach, resembles more of a private movie room than a traditional theater with set movie showtimes. You can enter at your convenience and select a movie of your choice. You and your small group will then be accommodated in a private room with comfortable couches and air conditioning, where you can enjoy films by the hour.
And do not forget, you can even order pizza right at the cinema.
10. Yoga Retreat and Classes
After indulging your soul with late nights of partying and treating your body to adventurous water activities, you might want to take a break and unwind for a few days at Vagabond Temple.
Located in Sihanoukville, this yoga center offers a variety of retreats tailored to different spiritual goals. Some retreats concentrate on self-discovery and self-empowerment through ceremonies and life coaching, while others focus on detoxifying your body and balancing your energy with Reiki sessions and meditation. Visit their website to find the retreat that best suits your needs.
Q: Is Sihanoukville safe for tourists?
A: Sihanoukville is generally safe for tourists, but it’s essential to take standard safety precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and being aware of your surroundings.
Q: What is the best time to visit Sihanoukville?
A: The best time to visit Sihanoukville is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is pleasant and ideal for outdoor activities.
Q: Are there vegetarian and vegan food options in Sihanoukville?
A: Yes, Sihanoukville offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants and street food vendors.
Q: How do I get to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh?
A: You can travel to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh by bus, taxi, or domestic flight. The most common and affordable option is by bus.
Q: Can I rent a scooter or bicycle in Sihanoukville?
A: Yes, you can easily rent scooters or bicycles in Sihanoukville to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace.