The Unique Charms of the Cambodian Coast

The fact that Cambodia’s southwest coast is a little less famous than its neighbors to the east and west makes the country’s beaches a tranquil retreat for well-worn sunseekers.

The fact that Cambodia’s southwest coast is a little less famous than its neighbors to the east and west makes the country’s beaches a tranquil retreat for well-worn sunseekers. With the crystal waters of the Gulf of Siam massaging golden stretches of sand, fringed by coconut palms and sleepy fishing villages, Cambodia is a coastal getaway that is truly an escape.

With the gentle arrival of luxury resorts – including one on a private tropical island – and the relative proximity of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Cambodian beaches have it all.

Slide KEP BEACH: Historically a favored holiday spot for the French colonial elite and Cambodian royalty, Kep was later the site of a number of historic battles. Nowadays, Kep is a quaint seaside town with sleepy streets lined with colonial buildings. The halcyon streets lead down to the south-facing beach and straight into the Gulf. The sands are well shaded by palm fronds and rustic crab shacks, perfect for lazy ocean-view lunches or delicious dinners of fresh seafood and locally-grown kampot pepper. Slide KOH TONSAY: Perhaps better known as Rabbit Island, Koh Tonsay's waters are an opportunity to snorkel or dive in some of the country's lesser-known waters. But, the main draw is the jungled mountains that soar up beyond the town to the ruins of the once grand villa that Cambodian king Sihanouk – kept for his frequent seaside holidays. The the villa, however, has since been usurped by a contingent of curious monkeys. Much more ancient history can be found by uncovering Phnom Chhngok, a sacred Buddhist cave temple that dates back further than Angkor Wat. Slide SIHANOUKVILLE: Sihanoukville is famed for its rolling waves, long stretches of white sand, and plenty to see and do. Days can be spent soaking up tropical rays, sampling delicious Khmer dishes, and enjoying the hospitality of the locals. Facing west out to the Gulf, the sunsets highly recommended, perhaps coupled with a cocktail from one of the many bars in the area. For a little more action, the waters have some adventurous diving, specifically the wreck diving off Koh Tang island. Slide REAM NATIONAL PARK: A little way inland, far from the beach crowds, is Ream National Park, an area where travelers will find indigenous nature roaming wild and free in the jungle. The Park is divided by a freshwater river called the Prek Teuk Sap, which flows through the Park to the ocean. Meet the monkeys and gawk at rare birds, and discover the charms of the creatrues that make a playground of the canopy. Unlike the classic beach options, travelers can journey into the mangrove forests to greet the playful river dolphins. Slide SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND: For the perfect balance of barefoot living and world-class luxury, this retreat near Sihanoukville is an idyllic, luxurious retreat. With a footbridge leading to the private resort, the beauty is untouched, the Khmer cuisine unbeatable, and the levels of pampering – massages in the jungle, yoga on the beach – border on the decadent. Those looking for adventure will find plenty in the way of kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and diving in the lively warm waters, complete with turtles and seahorses. 1 / 4

It’s true that Cambodia doesn’t have the nightlife draws of Vietnam or the Andaman sea of Thailand or Myanmar, but the country has much to offer in the way of the unexplored.

Whether it’s a getaway or a finale to a full country tour, the coasts of Cambodia are uniquely charming and far removed from most of the tourist hullabaloo that can sour a Southeast Asian holiday. From the food to the oceans, the warm waters and untouched nature of the Cambodian coast are singularly absorbing.