Sea Festival bike race. Image courtesy of Ministry of Tourism Cambodia, used with permission
After all the temple-hopping in the enchanting ancient ruins of Angkor, let Cambodia captivate you even more with its sprawling sandy coastline. Stretching to 450 kilometres, it covers the provinces of Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Kampot, and Kep—places that have been steadily gaining recognition (and more visitors) as beach getaways.
To further promote tourism in Cambodia’s beaches and mark the country’s inclusion in the 1,000 Most Beautiful Bays in the World back in 2011, the Sea Festival was established that same year. Held annually in one of the four coastal provinces, the festival gives the host province more reasons to show off each of its own charm.
From Sihanoukville’s bustling beaches to Koh Kong’s long undeveloped coastline, Kampot’s lively backpacker scene or Kep’s family-friendly appeal, any of the four provinces offers a seaside holiday with many different possibilities. During the Sea Festival, you can watch a number of thrilling beach and water sports activities, cultural performances, fireworks display, and even Khmer kickboxing.
In 2015, the relatively new festival attracted over 300,000 domestic and foreign visitors to Kampot and generated $15 million in revenue for the local community. Scheduled in early December, the festival coincides with the country’s peak tourist season as November to January are relatively monsoon-free, cool months. For Cambodia’s coastal provinces, this season also means gorgeous sunshine and calm turquoise waters.
Sea Festival surfboard competition. Image courtesy of Ministry of Tourism Cambodia, used with permission.
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For similar festivals that honor nearby bodies of water, visit Indonesia’s Lake Toba Festival; Myanmar’s Hpaung Daw Oo Festival; and Thailand’s Loi Krathong Festival. For other festivals in the month of December, visit the respective Christmas celebrations of the Philippines and Singapore.