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Cambodia beach holiday guide

| Words by Rachel McCombie |

Tired out after exploring Phnom Penh and the ruins of Angkor? Head to the coast for some beachside relaxation at one of Cambodia’s beach and river resorts.

Most travellers to Cambodia visit the incredible temples of Angkor, but taking a few extra days to relax on the Southern beaches is the ideal add-on to any Cambodian holiday.

Kep

Kep was founded in 1908 as a seaside retreat for wealthy French colonialists, who built beautiful villas here. Today those villas are mere blackened shells, a reminder of the mark left by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, which all but destroyed the town in the 1960s. The town has bounced back, though, and today it’s a thriving seaside town with a superb swimming beach, friendly locals, stunning sunsets and fresh seafood aplenty (try the crab). If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Kep, the lovely Knai Bang Chatt resort is the place to go; as well as an infinity pool, it has its own pier, from which you can jump into the sea.

Crab baskets off the beach at Kep

Rabbit Island

Twenty minutes by boat from Kep, you’ll find idyllic Rabbit Island - Koh Tonsay - so-called because its shape supposedly resembles a rabbit. It has a lovely swimming beach and it’s often described as a ‘tropical island paradise’, because its beautiful beaches and sense of remoteness give you a real feeling of ‘getting away from it all’. The island hasn’t yet been spoilt by mass development and tourism, so now is the time to enjoy some freshly caught crab and saunter along its palm-fringed beaches. Bring a good book with you and switch off from modern life. Accommodation on the island is very basic, so many travellers choose to visit as a day trip only.

Unspoiled beaches are the highlight of quiet Rabbit Island

Kampot

It may not be a seaside beach, but we’re including Kampot here because its riverside setting and crumbling colonial architecture make it a relaxing and picturesque waterside stop on your trip to Cambodia. Close to Cambodia’s southern coast, Kampot is just a 40 minute drive from Kep. It has a large Cham fishing community and farms producing some of the world’s best pepper. Bokor Mountain is worth a visit when you’re in Kampot; as well as being great for wildlife-spotting, its eerie ruined church and casino make for an intriguing expedition.

Riverside Kampot boasts stunning views

Sihanoukville

The seaside resort and port town of Sihanoukville is around four hours by car from Phnom Penh, or one and a half from Kep, and its beaches make a great spot for relaxation and watersports. There are several excellent hotels to choose from, each with their own private beaches for uninterrupted sunbathing (it’s said that Jackie Kennedy was hosted by the town’s Independence Hotel when she visited Cambodia in 1967). Like Kep, Sihanoukville has a troubled history at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, but it too has risen from the ashes to become famous for its delicious seafood. With Sihanoukville as your base, you’ll also be able to explore nearby Bokor and Ream National Parks, and take a boat trip to discover some of the area’s islands.

Relax on the beach at Sihanoukville

Song Saa Private Island

Half an hour away from Sihanoukville by boat, Song Saa is an exclusive private island in the Gulf of Thailand that makes the ultimate tropical island retreat. If you dream of watching the sunset from your over-water villa, taking a dip in your own private pool or indulging in a massage suspended in the rainforest, Song Saa is the island for you. Its immaculate white sandy beaches are only part of its appeal, with virgin rainforest and Cambodia’s first marine reserve just waiting to be explored. Yoga, snorkeling and diving are just a few of the activities you can enjoy during the course of your stay, and with just 27 villas on the whole island, you’re guaranteed a relaxing time free from crowds.

If you’d like to discover Cambodia’s beaches contact us for tailor-made touring in Cambodia, or see our 11-day Cambodia Revealed small group tour, which visits the magnificent temples of Angkor, along with an in-depth exploration of Cambodia’s south.