One of Southeast Asia’s true 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: Phu Quoc
Ever eaten a sea slug? Beyond the standard prawn and lobster dishes at Dinh Cau Night Market in Duong Dong town are plenty of out-of-the-ordinary sea creatures, freshly caught and prepared to order. 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 South Vietnamese government. There’s not a lot to see at the prison and museum but entry costs next to nothing and they’re 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. But maybe give the seahorse-infused rice wine a miss.
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. If you're travelling in a group, you can hire your own private boat with crew.
There are still many little-explored spots in Phu Quoc. Why not grab your own wheels and discover the island's deserted beaches and freshwater streams under your own steam? There are many places you can rent a motorbike for around VND 200,000 a day and motor along the area’s red dirt roads (note that you must hold a local or international licence to do so legally).
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