Find the best beaches in Vietnam on Phu Quoc Island, one of South-East Asia’s few remaining unspoiled gems
Now is definitely the time to visit Vietnam’s largest island – a no longer well-kept secret – as a rapid increase in tourism may soon mar what is an idyllic Vietnamese fishing island blessed with heavenly beaches.
A few flash resorts have sprung up in recent years, meaning that for better or worse, sipping mango mojitos on the beach is now a reality. But one can still get that back-to-basics island feel thanks to the enduring presence of USD $25-per-night beachside bungalows and USD $1 oysters at the night market.
Snorkel the island’s coast, bask in the sandy isolation, get a taste of local life and, of course, feast daily on fresh seafood and quaff ice-cold beer after dark. However you choose to spend your time here, you’ll definitely need at least a few days.
Things to do
Ever eaten a sea slug? Beyond the standard prawn and lobster dishes at Dinh Cau Night Market in the centre of Duong Dong town, there are plenty of freshly caught, out-of-the-ordinary sea creatures that are prepared to order. The market is a tourist attraction during the high season, so come equipped with price recommendations from your hotel, pick a stall packed with locals and then point your way to what is sure to be a delicious, inexpensive meal.
Peace of history
Given the tranquility of Phu Quoc Island, it’s easy to forget that thousands of Vietnamese revolutionaries were once imprisoned here by French colonialists and later by the American-backed government of South Vietnam. There’s not a lot to see at the prison and museum but given that it costs next to nothing to enter, they’re well worth a look.
The deep end
About 20km north of Duong Dong town is Ham Ninh fishing village. Here you can see how members of the local fishing community live and sample tonics that are said to be good for you, such as fermented ginseng and seaweed water. You can also give the not-so-healthy seahorse-infused rice wine a try.
To dive for
At most bungalow-style accommodations and resorts, guests can rent snorkelling gear. However, the coral on the seashore has been exploited so an insider’s knowledge is necessary to get to the underwater delights located a little offshore. Sunny Phu Quoc opens in new window is a Vietnamese-owned tour company offering snorkelling and fishing excursions to the north or south side of the island for about USD $15 per person – including lunch. Travelling in a group? You can hire your own private boat with crew for about USD $140.
There are many as yet little-explored spots in Phu Quoc. Motor along the area’s red dirt roads but note that you must hold a local licence to do so legally. For USD $5-$10 a day, you can rent a motorbike at Phu Quoc Sunrise opens in new window on which to explore the area’s deserted beaches and freshwater streams.
Travel time 15 minutes
Taxi Approx VND 106,000 - 212,000 (USD $5-10)
Motorbike taxi VND 50,000 (USD $2.40)Back to top
When to go
Phu Quoc has a tropical climate defined by wet and dry seasons. High season, when temperatures range from 25–28°C and skies are clear, runs from November to March. This is the best time to go, but hotels tend to get booked up fast so plan ahead. From April to June and during late October, conditions are also fairly good but temperatures can reach 35°C in April/May, when humidity is high. If you like your holidays soggy, muddy and quiet, then monsoon season - July to September - it is.Back to top
If you’re staying at one of the resorts, just about everything you could want is within easy walking distance. Long Beach stretches on and on, so kick off your flip-flops, feel the hot sand on your soles and get out there and explore. Discovering Phu Quoc Island is best done on a motorbike - though care and insurance are a must! Motorbikes can be hired for USD $5–12 a day at your hotel or any shop with a sign that says “Motorbike Rental”. Motorbike taxis can be hired for about VND 200,000–400,000 (USD $10–20) for a day trip and come with a free tour guide (assuming your driver speaks English). There are also regular taxis but these need to be called in advance and can be more expensive than in other Vietnamese towns and cities.Back to top