The beaches at Sihanoukville are in a state of flux, as developers move in to cash in on the tourism boom. The best all-rounder is Occheuteal Beach; the northern end has emerged as quite a popular traveler hang-out nick- named Senndipity Beach, while further south it is popular with Khmers and midrange tourists staying in the nearby hotels. Serendipity Beach is a cool place to chill out with a drink, but it gets very crowded these days and has rocky waters. It may also be given a new name by the time you read this, because, as we write, there is a comical court case unfolding about the rights to the name. Chuck, the American who coined the name, claims he owns rights to it and is suing anyone who uses it in their marketing! Lining the back of Occheuteal are pine trees, which provide useful shade in the heat of the day. The sand stretches on southwards for a couple of kilometers and it’s worth trekking down here if you want a bit of privacy. A new resort is slowly under construction in the central part of the beach.
Just around a small headland at the southern end of Occheuteal Beach is Otres Beach, a seemingly infinite strip of empty white sand. Government officials are eagerly dividing up land behind the beach, but for now there are still no bungalows and fewer visitors make it here than to other beaches around town. To get to Otres Beach, follow the road behind Occheuteal Beach before branching left then right around a small headland or follow Ph Omoouy east out of town from Psar Leu for about 7km: both are rough tracks.
Sokha Beach is perhaps the prettiest and most popular beach at Sihanoukville, but it has been privatized with the opening of the huge Sokha Beach Resort. Guests get to enjoy the privacy, but for everyone else, the small slither of beach at the eastern end isn’t enough.
Victory Beach was the original backpacker beach and remains a favorite with budget travelers due lo its proximity to Sihanoukville’s most popular guesthouses. It’s arguably the least appealing of all the beaches, as the port is located at its northern end – hardly making for the perfect tropical moment – and the beach itself is narrow and scruffy. South from here, around a small headland, is another small stretch of sand, usually also known as Victory Beach, but also signposted as Lamherkay Beach, after the old hotel near here.
Further south on the western tip of Sihanoukville’s headland is tiny Koh Pos Beach, which has been taken over by Treasure Island Restaurant. This is a nice, shady beach, but with rough waters. Finally, there is Independence Beach running southeast from here – it’s a good stretch of clean sand, but lacks shade and facilities. Above the northern end of the beach is the old Indepandance Hotel, soon to reopen its doors as a four-star hotel after extensive renovations.
The marine life off the coast of Sihanoukville isn’t as impressive as that of Thailand or Indonesia, thanks in part to dynamite fishing. However, further afield around the islands of Koh Tang and Koh Prim and nearby reefs, there are some interesting dive sites, although most remain relatively unexplored. Unfortunately, this area can’t be reached in a day using the slow fishing boats and so requires an overnight trip, which pushes up the costs.
There are currently three dive operators in Sihanoukville. In theory, they are open 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, but in practice hours are completely random.
Tel 012 824570 – Add:Chez Claude
Claude has been exploring the waters of Sihanoukville for more than a decade now, and specicialises in longer trips to distant reefs.
Tel 012 654104 – Add: Ph Ekareach
One of the newer outfits offering Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) courses, fun dives and snorkelling.
Scuba Nation Diving Center
Tel 012 604680 – Add: Weather Station Hill
The first Professional Assosiation of Diving Instructors (PADI) centre to open in Cambodia. The multilingual instructor; offer classes in English, Dutch, French and German.
There are lots of dodgy massage parlours in Sihanoukville, but or a legitimate venue, head to Seeing Hands Massage 3 (Tel 012 794016 – Add: Ph Ekareach - per hr US$3). Massages are administered by trained blind masseurs. It raises money to assist Cambodia’s visually impaired community.
Kbal Chhay Waterfall is a popular excursion for Khmers visiting Sihanoukville, as it was used as a major location for the filming of the popular movie Pos Keng Kong (The Giant Snake; 2000), the most successful Cambodia made Film in the post-civil war era. The multiple falls are attractive, but not as spectacular or isolated as those near Krong Koh Kong. There is also a litter problem here that rather detracts from the natural beauty. Anyone who has seen or is planning to see the falls at Krong Koh Kong can probably give Kbal Chhay a miss. For anyone who has seen Pos Keng Kong, it’s a must. The falls are located about 17km from the centre of Sihanoukville. The turn-off is signposted on the left from NH4, about 9km out of town. It costs around US$4 for a re- turn trip by motor, but it’s easy enough to navigate yourself on a rented motorcycle.
Just 2km north of the main port is a fishing port, which offers good photo opportunities at sunrise or sunset. Another 20km up the coast is the small Fishing town of Stung Hau, where the rusting remains of Cambodia’s communist navy lie abandoned