Sihanoukville is a coastal city along Cambodia’s southern coast. While Sihanoukville itself isn’t a particularly inspiring city, it’s a great jumping off point for the neighboring islands and beaches.
Exploring Sihanoukville Province is by no means one of the “important” things to do in Cambodia. However, if you’re traveling through Cambodia for an extended period of over two weeks, it can be a welcome break.
In Siem Reap, you’ll likely explore Angkor Wat and the neighboring ruins. This is why most people come to Cambodia, to visit the famed UNESCO archeological sites.
In Phnom Penh, you’d have probably visited the Killing Fields. In fact, I’ll stress that visiting the Killing Fields is a necessity, even if it’s a harrowing experience.
While exploring Angkor Wat can be physically tiresome, visiting the Killing Fields can take a lot from you emotionally.
As such, most people punctuate these travels by visiting Sihanoukville. There’s nothing of “importance” here, but it offers a much-needed respite.
Parts of Sihanoukville can be quite restful and leisurely. Meanwhile, there are also parts of Sihanoukville that act as something of a center of Cambodia’s backpacking universe. Consequently, these parts are often loud and busy.
However you like to unwind — lounging on a beach or boozing on a cruise — you’ll find it in Sihanoukville.
In this article on Sihanoukville activities, I’ll bring you the best of both worlds (lol). And I’ll give you a brief look at all the things to do in Sihanoukville.
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To be honest, there’s not a whole lot to do in Sihanoukville City.
Sihanoukville city has entirely been turned into a “backpacker haven”. However, most backpackers simply use it as a bouncing point to explore the beaches or the islands.
The city features a number of bars, casinos, and other attractions. However, apparently, they’re not “attractive” enough for people to wanna’ actually stay in Sihanoukville city.
Regardless, there are two things you can do.
There’s a fairly expansive market at the center of Sihanoukville city. You can explore it, buy some souvenirs, and maybe eat some fresh seafood.
If you enjoy temples, then you can check out Wat Leu. It definitely doesn’t live up to the temples in Angkor. However, it’s a lot less crowded. You’ll have to climb up a hill in Sihanoukville city to reach the temple. You can take great sunset pictures overlooking the city.
There are various Cambodian beaches lined along the southern coast of the country. These are clubbed under the umbrella term of Sihanoukville Beaches as they belong to the Sihanoukville Province.
The most popular Sihanoukville beaches are Otres 1 Beach, Otres 2 Beach, Sokha Beach, Serendipity Beach, and Ochheuteal Beach.
All of these Sihanoukville beaches offer a unique vibe all their own.
Serendipity Beach, for example, is quite popular amongst backpackers as it’s lined with several bars and restaurants. It can also get quite busy as this is where most people like to get drunk and party. However, you should avoid swimming here because sewage leads directly into these waters. Ew!
Otres 2 Beach was my personal favorite, especially because it was right next to a quaint little coastal town. It’s usually pretty deserted. You’ll only find a handful of people on the beach. Furthermore, it’s a white sand beach so it looks great in photographs, especially under slate-grey skies.
Even Sihanoukville city has beaches but they’re not really worth exploring as they’re overly crowded and littered.
The most popular Cambodian islands are Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Thmei, and Koh Totang.
Of these, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem are the primary tourist islands. These are also the most accessible. They can be thought of as sister islands. You know, if one of the sisters is “the Wild One”, and the other is “the Sensible One.”
Koh Rong is definitely “the Wild One”. The coast is lined with make-shift hostels, bars, clubs, and other backpacker venues. And, for some reason, it seems to attract an overwhelmingly large number of white guys in dreadlocks and man buns. At night, the entire coast comes alive with music, booze, and sounds of retching.
Koh Rong Samloem is the sister island to Koh Rong. She’s “the Sensible One”. She sits in quiet contemplation, perhaps penning poetry on existential malaise. When hungover visitors from Koh Rong come over, she holds their hair back as they puke out their guts. She then offers them a hangover cure and soothes them back to their senses.
(Just to clarify, I don’t support the arbitrary and misogynistic dichotomy of the Wild One and the Sensible One. Women can be both wild and sensible at the same time. Just FYI.)
On a personal note, I had to hop on a ferry back to Sihanoukville after a single day. You see, I got bit by a stray dog and had to rush to get a rabies shot. Whoever knew it wasn’t wise to pet sleeping stray dogs!
Let sleeping dogs lie! Literally.
A lesson learned the hard way… if only there was a popular maxim about that…
You can go on snorkeling tours from pretty much any of the islands. The further off-coast you go, the clearer the water gets. Snorkeling tours happen during the mid-noon time, last a few hours, and cost about $15 to $20.
You can also rent paddle boards or kayaking gear on any of the islands or beaches. This can be an extremely relaxing activity. Furthermore, even if you’ve never done any of this before, it only takes a few minutes to learn. These will cost you between $4 to $10, depending on where you’re getting it from and for how long.
If you want something more exciting, you can rent a jet ski. After you rent one of these, you’ll be told where you can or can’t go. Follow the guidelines and don’t get carried away as you might end up injuring yourself or someone else. These will cost at least $30.
Sihanoukville Province offers a lot of opportunities to embark on motorbike tours. These can be pretty fun if you’re in a group. The motorbike tours are cheap and they take you through the countryside which you otherwise wouldn’t get to see.
I’m quite wary of recommending this as one of the things to do in Sihanoukville.
I’m not being a prude here. Even though I personally don’t drink, I don’t have anything against people getting shit-faced if they so please.
However, I didn’t personally go on one of these booze cruises. And I’ve heard extremely mixed reviews about it. So I’m cautious about recommending it.
But in the interest of honesty, I’ll simply offer the good and the bad of what I’ve heard.
For just $10, you get the following things:
A number of things can (and do) go terribly wrong:
To be completely fair, I’ve met people who testified on either ends of that spectrum. So I suppose it’s just about being cautious and taking calculated risks.
Kampot and Kep are both small towns not far from Sihanoukville Province. Getting a minibus to either of these towns shouldn’t cost you any more than $6.
Kampot is a small coastal city in southern Cambodia famous for its quiet and rustic atmosphere. Backpackers usually come here to chill and explore the waterfalls, pepper farms, and the quiet beaches.
You can find affordable Kampot accommodations in Booking.com.
Kep is an even smaller coastal town. It’s popular for its archaic aesthetic featuring crumbling French colonial villas, juxtaposed against clear beaches.
You can find affordable Kep accommodations in Booking.com.
Well, that’s about all I can say for the things to do in Sihanoukville! However, if you’re on a tight deadline, I’d suggest you only do two of these things.
Explore the Sihanoukville beaches, and take a ferry from the Sihanoukville pier to go island hopping!
I hope you have a great time exploring Sihanoukville. If you have other suggestions on things to do in and around Sihanoukville, mention it down in the comments!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…