Photo: Otres beach bar.

Otres Beach

Our rating:

Long gone are the days when Otres was a deserted beach, haven-of-tranquillity type destination and these days it’s frankly just a bit of a lower-key version of Ochheuteal.

The beach is lined with cafes, albeit less aimed at locals, while the beach road sees non-stop dive shops, tour agents, minimarts etcetera squeezed between the backpacker A-frames and flashpacker poolside resorts.

Take a sleepy wet season wander. Photo taken in or around Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Take a sleepy wet season wander. Photo: Mark Ord

You still have the choice between partying all night—for JJ’s and Sessions read Otres Corner Bar and Otres Market—or a quiet candle-lit sundowner with Otres 2 replacing Serendipity. Sure there isn’t the Thai style bar complex a la Sihanoukville Square (yet) but around half the beach is marked out for development with mega-resorts on the cards and land being cleared for another golf course.

Land title and ownership issues, compulsory purchase orders, Chinese funded construction projects and lack of local authority transparency create an air of uncertainty and while that’s been ongoing for as long as we’ve been going to Otres it’s definitely intensified of late. In this climate, many Otres business owners (or licensees) have shifted operations down the road to the up and coming new locations of Otres 2 and Otres Riverside. Otres 2 beach, separated from Otres 1 by a long strip of vacant, casuarina-lined sand, (never a good sign in these parts), lies at the far southern end of the same beach on a tongue of land squeezed between the ocean and the Prek Toek Sap River.

Pick a deckchair any deckchair. Photo taken in or around Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Pick a deckchair any deckchair. Photo: Mark Ord

Otres 2 is cute with a certain village feel and possesses the major advantage of being probably too small to permit any large-scale development. With the exception of backpacker outpost Footprints it is a resolutely boutique—flash to mid-range—enclave with the more budget operations having relocated to what is known as Otres Village or Otres Riverside. We’d assume plots in the latter district—squeezed into a leafy bubble between the main road and mangrove-lined river—go for a lot less as it’s not on the beach but it does come with a certain charm. With land on the tiny strip of Otres 2 being at a premium then more upmarket establishments are moving in, aiming at those who like a dash of comfort to accompany their dose of tranquillity. Otres Riverside’s leafy lanes are now in full boom and Otres 2’s remaining gaps are rapidly being boutique resorted-in.

The main village section, aside the principal through-road, is also rapidly growing with budget guesthouses down the side tracks and cafes along the main strip as well as general service outlets such as hardware stores, minimarts, phone shops and so-on meeting everyday needs. There’s a growing selection of cafes and eateries in the village as well as Riverside and we’ve recommended various places in our eat and meet section.

Here comes lunch. Photo taken in or around Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Here comes lunch. Photo: Mark Ord

If you don’t peer around many corners, the beach itself is still very attractive and kept clean by the adjacent cafes and the sand is white and the sea shallow. As the ocean is a bit more free of Khmer families bathing in their t-shirts and jeans it’s a good spot to take up one of the array of water sports on offer, be it kite or windsurfing, kayaking, paddle-boarding or sailing Hobie Cats for instance. The large Queenco Palm Beach Resort at the northern end of the beach proposes a variety of activities, as well as owning a useful mini-golf course if you’ve got bored kids in tow while you can also try the Otres Sailing Club down on Otres 2 for Hobies and kayaks. Both are rented either hourly, ½ daily or daily with prices varying according to period as well as size of craft. Kayaks go from $3 (single kayak 1 hour) up to $15 (full day, 2 person kayak) and Hobie Cats between $10 (1 hour, 3 persons) and $50 (full day, 6 persons). Instruction is available and indeed for those lacking confidence an extra $5 will secure the presence of an accompanying staff member.

Many of the resorts also have selections of activities available to keep guests happy and spending including again kayaks and various forms of boards as well as the ubiquitous snorkelling and/or island hopping boat tours. Something a bit different though is the well-organised Liberty Ranch, just north of the main village area, which offers a range of hourly, half-day or full-day horse rides exploring Otres and the surrounding countryside. These guided rides on their Khmer and Vietnamese ponies can be adapted for beginners or experienced riders and a highlight for most is taking your mount for a swim in the sea at Otres Beach.

All up there are a variety of activities on offer at Otres with a good choice of both accommodation and food. There’s some pleasant countryside once you get past the construction sites and most of the beach remains, for now, relatively unspoilt. We’ve got serious concerns as to what Otres 1 will be like in a couple of years’ time but Otres Village can only get better and we’re more optimistic for Otres 2 and Riverside.

Liberty Ranch Otres Village T: (097) 257 1087, (016) 339 774 Open Mo–Fr: 07:00–11:00 & 14:30–19:00
Otres Sailing Club Otres Beach Rd, Otres 2, T: (087) 891 778
Queenco Palm Beach Resort Otres Beach Rd, Otres 1, T: (097) 732 4236

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