Are you ready to embark on a journey to the stunning South Coast of Cambodia? This region is a hidden gem, offering breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and a rich cultural heritage. From magnificent waterfalls to charming seaside towns, there’s something for every traveler to discover. In this comprehensive guide, Palm Vietnam Travel will take you on an exploration of the most popular places on the South Cambodia Coast, sharing insider tips and fascinating insights along the way.
1. Kbal Chhay Waterfalls: Nature’s Masterpiece
Tucked away in the Khan Prey Nup district, approximately 16 kilometers north of downtown Sihanoukville, lies the mesmerizing Kbal Chhay Waterfalls. To reach this natural wonder, follow National Road 4 towards Phnom Penh. After about 7 kilometers outside of town, you’ll come across a sign leading you to the site. Take a left turn and continue 9 kilometers along a scenic trail.
Kbal Chhay Waterfalls is formed by the convergence of three sources along the mountain range. Although only three sources are visible, many more contribute to the cascading beauty of this waterfall. Standing at an impressive 14 meters high, Kbal Chhay is a sight to behold.
Once discovered in 1960, Kbal Chhay was developed into a reservoir to supply clean water to the city of Sihanoukville. However, due to civil war, the reservoir construction was interrupted, and the site became a hide-out for the Khmer Rouge. In 1997, Kbal Chhay was marked for development, and Kok An Company was awarded a contract to construct a road and transform the site into a tourist attraction.
2. Sihanoukville: A Vibrant Coastal Town
Known locally as Kampong Som, Sihanoukville is a lively coastal town situated on the Bay of Thailand. It occupies a strategic location between Thailand and Vietnam, making it a popular destination for both international tourists and locals alike. With its picturesque beaches, diverse dining options, and vibrant nightlife, Sihanoukville offers a colorful and dynamic experience.
Sihanoukville boasts three sides bordered by tropical beaches and islands, offering visitors a variety of options to choose from. Whether you prefer a serene and secluded beach or a lively and bustling shoreline, Sihanoukville has it all. While the beaches may get crowded on weekends and holidays, they still maintain a certain level of tranquility compared to their Thai counterparts.
Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty of activities to indulge in, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and much more. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and explore the vibrant marine life beneath the surface. With its warm climate and stunning coastal landscapes, Sihanoukville is a paradise for beach lovers and adventure seekers alike.
3. Kep: Serenity by the Sea
Nestled among hills overlooking the beaches and islands, Kep is a serene and laid-back town that exudes tranquility. This quiet seaside retreat is located a mere half-hour drive from Kampot and the Vietnam border, and just two hours from Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. With its charming bungalows, villas, and guesthouses scattered along the hillside and beaches, Kep offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
While there may not be a plethora of activities in Kep, the beauty of this town lies in its simplicity. It serves as a perfect place for relaxation, savoring fresh seafood, taking leisurely walks, embarking on treks through the hills, boating, cycling, and mountain biking. Kep is also a popular stopover for travelers on their way to or from Vietnam.
Take in the breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding landscapes as you unwind in this idyllic coastal town. Immerse yourself in the local culture, indulge in delicious seafood delicacies, and soak up the gentle rhythms of life in Kep.
4. Koh Kong Province: Nature’s Playground
Located along Cambodia’s southern border with Thailand, Koh Kong province is a haven for eco-tourism enthusiasts. Its diverse landscape comprises mountains, jungles, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, mangroves, and tropical islands, offering a playground for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Koh Kong is often considered a convenient passage town to and from Thailand, making it an ideal stopover for visa runs. The province’s capital, Koh Kong city, is a sprawling area surrounded by forests, mangroves, rivers, and picturesque islands. Renowned as one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the world, Koh Kong offers a range of activities for the intrepid traveler.
Venture into the unspoiled jungles and discover hidden treasures accessible only by foot, boat, motorcycle, or even cow. Immerse yourself in the local culture, as the people of Koh Kong primarily speak Khmer, with some also fluent in Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Engage with the friendly locals and explore the natural wonders of this enchanting province.
5. Kompong Trach: Caves and Cultural Delights
Located in the district that borders Vietnam, Kompong Trach offers a picturesque gateway to rural Cambodia. Embark on a road trip through stunning countryside landscapes, passing through quaint villages and verdant fields. One of the main attractions of this area is a series of limestone caves and tubes that have been carved into a nearby mountain.
Among these caves, one stands out with its collapsed roof, creating a small enclosed jungle within the mountain. Pagodas and shrines are nestled within these caves, providing visitors with unique photo opportunities. Make sure to bring a flashlight and wear comfortable shoes as you explore the wonders of Kompong Trach.
To reach Kompong Trach, take the Kep road from Kampot and bear left at the White Horse Monument. Follow the road until you reach Kompong Trach, and after a few kilometers, the road changes to broken pavement. For a more adventurous route, you can take a side road that requires a left turn onto a graded dirt road about 7 kilometers past the White Horse Monument. It is advisable to have a guide accompany you to navigate this route effectively. Set aside a day to fully immerse yourself in the caves and experience the natural beauty of Kompong Trach.
6. Kampot: Scenic Delights and Culinary Pleasures
Nestled in the coastal mountains, Kampot is a provincial capital renowned for its stunning scenery, colonial architecture, and whitewater rapids. The town offers a range of attractions, including its central market, small caves with Buddhist shrines, and a bustling football stadium. As you venture towards the ocean on the east side, you’ll encounter the port of Kampot, vibrant Cham Muslim communities and schools, and the iconic Kampot Wat or Buddhist Temple.
Kampot is famous for its salt fields, black pepper plantations, and durian farms. Take a stroll along the riverfront, where you’ll find charming guesthouses and restaurants offering stunning views of the river. Explore the Kampot Zoo, home to lions, tigers, bears, and other exotic animals. For a refreshing adventure, head to the Kampot River rapids, Teuk Chhou, where you can enjoy swimming, eating, drinking, and playing in the water.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Kampot’s pepper plantations, renowned for their black, green, red, and white table pepper. Kampot pepper is the only Cambodian food product exported worldwide and is soon to receive the coveted “Kampot Pepper” Origin Specific label. Take a pepper farm tour to learn about the cultivation process and savor the unique flavors of this renowned spice. With its stunning natural vistas and culinary delights, Kampot is a destination that will captivate your senses.
7. Ream National Park: A Pristine Nature Sanctuary
Since 1995, Ream National Park has preserved its mangroves, wildlife, and pristine beaches, making it a rare and remarkable eco-tourism destination. The park’s 200 inhabitants continue their subsistence fishing lifestyle, undisturbed by forced relocations that have occurred in other countries. Visitors to Ream National Park can witness the Cambodian navy, which has a base in the area, but their activities rarely disrupt the park’s tranquility.
Ream National Park offers diverse landscapes, including mangrove forests, mountainside waterfalls, and unspoiled beaches. Bird enthusiasts will delight in spotting over 200 bird species, including herons and cranes. Keep an eye out for king cobras and pythons as you explore the park’s hiking trails.
To reach Ream National Park, you can hire a motorcycle or rent a motorbike and make your way there independently. The park has knowledgeable rangers, some of whom speak English, offering guided hikes to meditation mountains and Keng Kong Waterfall. For a unique experience, consider taking a boat trip down the Prek Toeuk Sap River, where you can witness flying fish and possibly spot dolphins.
Ensure you bring your own food and drinking water, as these provisions are not widely available within the park. If you want to extend your stay, basic accommodation options are available. Ream National Park offers a sanctuary of natural beauty, providing opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and encounters with Cambodia’s rich biodiversity.
8. Takeo: A Forgotten Provincial Capital
Situated between Phnom Penh and Kep, Takeo is a lakeside town that seems to have been forgotten by time. While it was once a bustling port town receiving trade from Vietnam via canal routes, modern transportation has diverted much of the trade to easier and cheaper land routes. Nevertheless, Takeo still retains its waterfront area, which faces east towards Vietnam, offering a glimpse into its history as a trading hub.
Takeo features several scattered colonial villas, some of which remain remarkably well-preserved. Exploring the town, you’ll stumble upon a charming old wooden house that now houses the Red Cross. Ta Mok’s large house, situated north of town, serves as a testament to the Khmer Rouge’s presence in the area, showcasing the paranoia of this dark era.
While Takeo may not boast an abundance of tourist attractions, its waterfront area provides an opportunity to observe the local waterside life and enjoy a few warm beers at the Stung Takeo Restaurant. If you have the time, an overnight stay in Takeo can offer a unique glimpse into a provincial capital with a rich but often overlooked history. Alternatively, consider embarking on a day trip from Phnom Penh to explore the nearby Phnom Da and Angkor Borei, accessible via a sealed and well-maintained road.
Conclusion: Unveiling the Charms of South Cambodia Coast
The South Coast of Cambodia is a treasure trove of natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, and untamed beauty. From the majestic Kbal Chhay Waterfalls to the vibrant seaside town of Sihanoukville, each destination offers a unique experience that will leave you enchanted.
Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Kep, indulge in the culinary delights of Kampot, and embark on thrilling adventures in Koh Kong province. Explore the caves of Kompong Trach, discover the pristine nature of Ream National Park, and unravel the hidden charms of Takeo.
With its diverse landscapes, stunning beaches, and warm hospitality, the South Cambodia Coast beckons you to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, this region has something for every traveler. So pack your bags, and get ready to uncover the secrets of South Cambodia Coast. Your unforgettable adventure awaits!