Sihanoukville in Cambodia is mainly known as a beach extension to a Cambodian round-trip, and as an emerging destination for Chinese casino visitors. Few are aware of the massive infrastructure and hotel projects that are under development or being currently constructed, and that these (developments) will position the islands in the Kingdom as a quality beach destination in Asia.
There are 17 small-scale casinos in Sihanoukville today, but there are plans to elevate the city as a major casino destination in Asia. While it is difficult to get reliable information on these projects, one can feel the vibe and sees the enormous influx of Chinese money into this coastal city. Within the next 3 to 10 years there will be skyscrapers, huge hotels with casinos, as well as entertainment and shopping venues. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that a new Macao is in the making.
Currently most travellers looking for beach holiday extensions in Cambodia opt for the boutique hotels located at Otres Beach 1 and Otres Beach 2, a 15- minute drive south from Sihanoukville. There are some nice hotels, mostly of 3 star standard with 10-30 rooms, located at the beach or just opposite it across a small non-tarred road with pleasant beach restaurants and a range of sport facilities.
Sokha Beach Resort in Sihanoukville is the only large hotel of international standard and, for groups, one of the few options to stay at a Cambodian beach. Asian Trails Cambodia can help you chose the right property for your clients.
The beauty of Cambodia’s beaches, however, lies in the outer islands. About 15 years ago, when I first visited Koh Rong, I was stunned by the beauty of the beaches and the amazing water quality. It reminded me of beaches in the Maldives with its white powdery sand and crystal clear blue water – a paradise for beach lovers.
In recent years there has been some development on these islands. Koh Rong now has its own backpacker beach, Koh Toch, with small local bungalow resorts and its own full moon party.
Most of you may know the Sok San Beach Resort on Long Beach, as it was the venue for the TV series ‘Koh Lanta’. Song Saa Resort on a small island off the coast of Koh Rong was the first high class beach boutique resort to open in Cambodia.
Koh Rong Sanloem, the neighbouring island of Koh Rong, has seen some small-scale beach resort developments on the southern part of Saracan Bay in the last 18 months. There are a few really nice resorts that we can recommend to travellers seeking a quiet beach and 3 star bungalow resorts.
Within the next few years major developments will take place on the outer islands. Royal Sands will open on Koh Rong’s Long Beach this October. This will herald the start of many more quality resorts to come on this beautiful seven-kilometre long white powdery beach. Alila will soon open its first beach resort in Cambodia on Bamboo Island. Six Senses is building a resort on Koh Krabey scheduled to open at the end of 2017.
I heard that beaches are being bought by or leased to entrepreneurs, linked to major international hotel brands, who have big plans in quality developments.
Otres Beach will soon see substantial expansions, with its third section of the beach open for investors. Piling work of large buildings is taking place behind the present boutique resorts of Otres 2, and they will add hundreds of rooms to the area.
Also under construction is a new road, which will link Sihanoukville’s airport and Otres Beach in just 10 minutes. Piers at several locations are being built at the same time, and speedboats from here will whisk travellers to the outer islands between 15 minutes to an hour.
Sihanoukville’s International Airport is still a small building with few facilities, but an extension is being planned that will increase the capacity. Currently domestic flights bring travellers from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, and the first international scheduled flight was launched last year by Vietnam Airlines to Ho Chi Minh City. Charter flights regularly connect Sihanoukville to cities in China. Thai Air Asia, Thai Smile and Cathay Dragon have also shown interest in adding the city to their network.
Most travellers leave Sihanoukville overland to Phnom Penh airport for their international departure flights. This is a four- to five -hour journey on a good road with heavy traffic. A nice option is to drive north to Koh Kong for a few nights’ stay, and then cross the border to Thailand near Trat to continue with a journey to the Thai islands of Koh Chang, Koh Kut or Koh Mak. It is also possible to drive south to the beach resort town of Kep, cross the border to Vietnam in Ha Tien, and then continue overland into the Mekong Delta or take a boat to Phu Quoc.
I believe that product managers of tour companies, who are seeking quality beaches and hotels in Sihanoukville, should include the current and upcoming resorts on the outer islands into their collateral. As they say, “seeing is believing”, so take the time to travel to Sihanoukville and inspect the locations and hotels, both new and under construction.
Asian Trails will be most happy to assist with recommendations and arrangements.