With a relatively short coastline, and often overshadowed by the overwhelming popularity of Angkor as a visitor destination, Cambodia’s beaches are often overlooked, but their situation on the Gulf of Thailand holds the promise of warm waters and its lesser known status, at least for now, assures the prospect of finding quietude, especially on its islands which play host to its very best beaches.

Mainland Sihanoukville is the country’s most developed beach resort and has a number of fine stretches, the best and most popular of which are Otres and Ochheuteal beaches, others being Victory Beach, popular for its sunset views, the narrow Independence Beach and Sokha Beach, owned by a hotel and accessible for a fee, well worth paying if you want to avoid the inevitable beach vendors. At the end of Ochheuteal, Serendipity Beach is a backpacker party zone.

Though things are changing, the area is somewhat marred by its backpacker heritage and the consequent availability of drugs and the seedy edge of sex tourism.

Offshore from Sihanoukville, however, Koh Rong is the jewel of Cambodia’s islands, with beautiful archetypal white sand beaches set against the vivid blues of sea and sky. Long Set Beach and 7km Beach are the most developed choices of its stunning 43 kilometres of beach. For those seeking luxury and refinement, the Song Saa Private Island Resort ably provides.

Neighbouring Koh Rong Samloem has several golden sand beaches of which Lazy Beach is the star. The island, with its populations of Sea Eagles, Macaques and Iguanas is also a good spot for enjoying wildlife. The otherwise peaceful air can be disturbed by the dance raves of The Beach Resort in Saracen Bay during its Full Moon Party.

Back on the mainland, the coastal fringe of Ream National Park, aside from its wildlife attractions, has some beautifully serene and largely empty stretches of beach. Also within the park, the islands of Koh Thmei and Koh She also have remote beaches for those wishing to almost entirely escape civilisation.

Elsewhere on the mainland, close to the Vietnam border, the town of Kep is Cambodia’s original beach resort and formerly a French colonial enclave, the remnants of which lie in ruins. While not one of Cambodia’s best, it has been rejuvenated with sand from Otres and other beaches in Cambodia and is very popular with Cambodian weekenders. Nearby, the rustic island of Koh Tonsay has three beaches and serves as an additional diversion to the mainland.