Why Phu Quoc Island?
Phu Quoc is a rustic and remote island in Southern Vietnam that is actually located in Cambodia territory. It’s a top-notch tropical destination with a plethora of coconut palm tree speckled beaches; the water is both crystal clear and vibrantly turquoise; the afternoons are peaceful and quiet and the evenings are lively and fun.
What really sets Phu Quoc apart is the warm and friendly hospitality of the locals. Nearly every person we came across went out of their way to befriend us, and provide some sort of assistance.
Phu Quoc Vs. Phuket
In terms of size, Phu Quoc is actually quite large. It’s similar in size to Phuket in Thailand, but other than that I don’t see many similarities in the two Islands, and yet so many people compare them to each other. I’ve read people post on TripAdvisor so many times “which should I go to? Phu Quoc or Phuket?” as if they are actually similar enough that a simple ‘one or the other’ decision could be made.
Many articles claim Phu Quoc is what Phuket used to be before tourism and over-development ruined it. “The next Phuket” they call it.
If you harbor similar feelings of distaste towards Phuket as I do, then this is a disappointing prediction.
Why You Should Visit NOW
Somehow this island has been flying under the radar, remaining something of a secret. It regularly sees far less visitors per year compared to other beach towns in Vietnam and has long been overlooked by tourists and locals alike. All this is about to change though.
Phu Quoc is getting a major facelift. Construction is well underway at every turn and corner. Seriously, is there even a road that doesn’t have a new building going up?
They’ve already upgraded from a smaller domestic airport to a larger international one. Mega resorts like Vinpearland complete with a golf course, water park, and amusement park have already been dropped in.
Mark my words: in the not so distant future there will be clusters of resorts popping up everywhere, probably overcrowding the beautiful and empty beaches, removing the feeling of remote seclusion that allures ones here in the first place.
For now it retains the laid back charm I love, but if the end goal is to transform into a tourist destination resembling Phuket, then my love may eventually fade.
I’d recommend planning your visit here before it transforms into a beach vacation tourist hot spot. Not only so that you can see the island in it’s off-the-beaten-track glory, but also because once all the construction commences there’s a good chance that prices here will sky rocket.
Getting to Phu Quoc Island is as easy as hopping on a plane. We took the one hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City. The actual time in the air was more like 25 minutes, the rest of the time was spent taking off and landing. Super quick.
At the time of writing this, 4 different airlines offer direct flights from HCMC, Hanoi, Can Tho, Singapore, and Siem Reap.
Some friends who met us here arrived by taking a bus down from Cambodia and a ferry boat with the awesome name of “Super Dong”. Super Dong ferries run to and from Rach Gia and Ha Tien.
How Long to Stay For
Due to the size of this island, we wanted to allow ourselves enough time to properly explore, so we chose to stay for a week. We could have easily stayed longer, and part of me wishes we did.
I would recommend a minimum 3 or 4 day’s stay in order to leave enough time for beach hopping, island exploration, and a day trip activity or two. Allotting any less time than that and you would be doing yourself and this place a disservice.
Hotels are more expensive here than in other places in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find budget accommodation. There are fan bungalows near the water on Long Beach or small hotels right in Duong Dong town.
We stayed at Blue Paradise Resort for $50 CAD a night (booked through Agoda). It was not quite on the ocean, but Long Beach was only a 3-minute walk away, just down a side road and across a picturesque bridge.
When we were booking accommodations, the ocean front hotels we found were either too rustic for our liking (no pool or A/C) or way out of our price range ($200+ a night).
Our hotel was close enough to the beach that it didn’t matter much anyways, and our hotel and staff were so amazing that, in the end, we feel we made the right choice.
Speaking of beaches, Phu Quoc has a lot of them. It was my intention to visit 12 different ones during my one week stay (I like variety, okay?). I figured an average of 2 per day was not overly ambitious but turns out it was.
Ultimately I did not see all that I had intended to, but I did see enough to get a true feel of the beach culture and beach life here.
There’s an endless array of tranquil and uncrowded beaches to choose from, so it can be hard to elect which ones to see if you’ve got limited time.
To help with your decision, I’ll be writing a Phu Quoc beach guide soon. Stay tuned. (UPDATE: The Phu Quoc Beach Guide is now complete and up on the blog! Click the link below to check it out.)
Related Post: Phu Quoc Beach Guide
Main Town: Duong Dong
Duong Dong is only a few minutes drive North from Long Beach. There’s some really great cafes, and some very interesting restaurants (a plate of “eel discharge” anyone?).
The majority of the island’s budget hotels are found within town, as are the banks, pharmacies, and bars. Colorful fishing boats dock on the Duong Dong River day and night, and it’s a pretty sight.
It’s the main and biggest town on the island, but don’t expect too much from it. It’s still a relatively sleepy town, and you won’t find many tourists around.
It is illegal to drive a motorcycle in Vietnam without a Vietnamese driver’s license; an international license will not suffice, not even on the island.
No one in our travel group wanted to hang around in HCMC long enough to go through the process of obtaining a VN DL (we read it was about 6 or so days), and so we were at the mercy of taxi’s most of the time.
This could have easily become expensive; as everyone knows cabs aren’t the cheapest methods of travel. Fortunately, we were able to share and split cabs amongst 6 or 8 of us at a time, significantly bringing down the cost. We also learned it’s cheaper to rent a driver for a full or half day than it is to pay for multiple one-way trips.
Taxis aren’t that easy to flag down unless you’re right in the middle of Duong Dong town. You’re better off asking someone at the reception of your hotel or a restaurant to call a cab for you.
Many of the drivers don’t speak much (or any) English, so make sure they know where you’re going before you take off. I carried around a notebook with a map taped inside as well as addresses of locations I wanted to go to. This saved us soooo much hassle, I can’t emphasize this enough.
Meals & Nightlife
If seafood is your thing, you’ll love the night market in Duong Dong. We ate some of the best seafood dishes, and largest prawns we’d ever seen.
Related Post: What To Expect At The Phu Quoc Night Market
One evening after lounging at Bai Sao Beach all day, we continued up the East coast by taxi to Ham Ninh fishing village, the place that is known for having the best and cheapest crab around. I was expecting jumbo king crabs for some reason, and was definitely surprised when our dinner arrived.
We’d never had crab quite like this before. Their legs are small and frail and often fall off during the cooking process. You won’t get much meat off of them; the main part of the crab you eat is actually their bodies. To open up their shell is a bit of a process, but one that a friendly local will be more than happy to show you how.
The nightlife was a bit hit or miss for the first part of our stay. One night, in particular, we went back to The Pirate Cove (an underground bar/club in Duong Dong town) on 3 separate occasions, but it was never open.
Each time we showed up we were sent away and told to return in an hour or two. A prime example of island time right there.
Coco Bar (also in Duong Dong Town) was alright for an evening. Probably the best (and worst) feature of this bar is the giant paddle of homemade rums in various flavors. It’s definitely a gamble if you’ll get a delicious or vile one.
Once we finally discovered Bar P.Q. Pub (conveniently located across the highway from our hotel on Long Beach), we didn’t have a need to go anywhere else. Some of our fondest memories of the whole Vietnam trip involve Bar P.Q. Pub and it’s owner, Simon. It’s seriously the best bar on the whole island!
Day Trips / Tours
So many choices and never enough time.
There’s a vast list of options like sunset & night squid fishing, national park trekking, North island snorkel tours, An Thoi archipelago island hopping, Vinpearland amusement park & water park, Duong Dong city tours, etc.
Good luck choosing just a few.
Buy bug spray!! // Half the time you won’t even see or feel the bugs, but in the morning you will see and feel the aftermath. Sand flies are notoriously evil at night after the sun has gone down. A two-hour nighttime walk along the seashore resulted in over 40 bites from my knees to my toes. I wish I was exaggerating.
Crossing the street can be slightly terrifying // Not in the same way that walking into a sea of motorcycle traffic in HCMC is terrifying, but more in the sense that the roads are relatively empty and windy and large trucks can come flying around the corner at any given moment. Vehicles won’t slow down for pedestrians here, so you have to dash across the street with urgency.
Bring your own sunscreen // For a tropical island comprised of so many beaches, Phu Quoc has a surprisingly low quantity of sunscreen available. Unless you like SPF 15o.
Visit the An Thoi Archipelago islands // You can hire a local with a boat to take you on a tour of them. The beaches and the water are even more stunning just a short distance from the main island.
Related Post: Island Hopping in the An Thoi Archipelago
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