Phu Quoc Island Travel Guide
When you think of Vietnam, grass-green rice fields, the karst cliffs of Halong Bay and grinning Asians who cultivate the fields with their cone hats and water buffalo immediately come to mind. But Vietnam has a lot more to offer: In the south-west of the country, directly in front of Cambodia, there is a previously underrated paradise – the island of Phu Quoc. It is the largest island in Vietnam and extends over 568 square kilometers.
Most backpackers travel from Hanoi to Saigon (or the other way around) and miss this gem – but that should change soon! The government of Vietnam recognized the beauty of Phu Quoc a few years ago and would like to expand the small island into the next Phuket. For this reason, it is worthwhile to get to know the island in its natural diversity now.
How to get to Phu Quoc
Generally there are two ways to get to Phu Quoc. If you have a little more time and want to see as much of Vietnam as possible, you can take the ferry to Phu Quoc from the mainland. First you have to come to Ha Tien or Rach Gia, the port cities on the west coast of Vietnam. The ferry from Ha Tien takes about an hour and a half, from Rach Gia it takes about two and a half hours, although the trips can also be canceled depending on the weather. The costs are 7 to 10 euros.
If you want to get to the island as quickly as possible, you should arrive by plane. The international airport on the island, which offers flights from Saigon, Hanoi, Can Tho, Rach Gia, as well as Singapore and Siem Reap, was only expanded a few years ago. The advantage is that this route is mostly flown by low-cost airlines such as VietJet and Jetstar, so that there are direct flights from 40 euros. Back then we flew to and from Saigon with Jetstar for 50 euros each, the flight taking just an hour.
Getting around the island:
The best way to get around the island is by scooter, which you can rent at every corner. You can easily cover the whole island in one day. For example, if you stay overnight on Long Beach, you can be on the north or south tip of the island in about an hour. Depending on where you are going, the route can lead directly along the beach or through the middle of the jungle. The road conditions are very different and range from dusty, red bumpy slopes to newly built highways. With the expansion of the infrastructure, the roads are generally getting better and better. If you don’t want to drive a scooter yourself, you can also take a taxi or a driver. There are also buses, but they only go from city to city. Most tourists will book a transfer at their accommodation.
The beaches of Phu Quoc:
First of all, I have to emphasize that I discovered what is probably the most beautiful beach in Vietnam on Phu Quoc – including white sand, turquoise water and very lush waves. Sao Beach is located in the south-west of the island and is only accessible via a bumpy gravel road. There are some small resorts and restaurants right on the beach that offer jet skis in addition to rooms and food. The beach is mainly used for day trips, so it can get a bit dreary in the evening. Most holidaymakers then go back to the west coast, where life on the island takes place on Long Beach.
There you will find numerous resorts, restaurants and shops the closer you get to the capital Duong Dong. You definitely won’t get bored here in the evening. On the main street, the Tran Hung Dao, you can even find clubs and discos that are preparing for the onslaught of tourists. In the southern part of Long Beach you can still go swimming on completely deserted beach sections. There you can currently see kilometers of fine sandy beaches where only fishermen go into the water.
But not for long … because you can already see huge construction fences and posters of gigantic hotel complexes. And again and again you see huge hills of white sand, which are used to fill up the beach. I’m curious how it looks there in a few years.
At the southern end of the island is the city of An Thoi, on the coast of which there is a large port and a military zone. From there you have the opportunity to take a ship to the small islands that are directly in front of the southern tip. The islands to the south and north of Phu Quoc are perfect for snorkeling and diving trips. While you can unfortunately no longer find any beaches in the very south, you can still use the northwest of the island to find a few secluded beaches. North of Long Beach is Ong Lang Beach and Dai Beach, where there are also a few accommodations. In general, there is always a beach on the west side that invites you to swim. A tip in the north is the beach near Ganh Dau. Holidaymakers rarely find their way there, but it’s still worth it.
What to do in Phu Quoc
If you want to see something other than the beautiful beaches of this island, you should venture further into the interior of the island. Only a few years ago, most of the island was declared a nature park. Deserted jungle forests and numerous pepper plantations await you here. There is direct access to the jungle, for example, through a path that begins on the Suoi Cai – Ganh Dau road in the northwest. In between you will also meet other tourists and one or two forest dwellers. We had the brief pleasure with a black scorpion, who was more afraid of us than the other way around. You can look at the pepper plantations without any problems.
If you drive north-west along the main road, you will pass Phu Quoc’s new attraction – Vinpearl Land – a huge theme park in the north-west of the island. In the off-season, however, it is more reminiscent of an abandoned Disneyland Paris.
Another highlight on Phu Quoc is the local fish market, which opens its gates at the port of Duong Dong in the evening. There you will find everything the sea has to offer and some souvenirs for the tourists. If that’s not enough, you can take a boat out and catch your squid yourself. There are numerous providers in the tourist centers who offer fishing tours or snorkeling and diving courses. We went out fishing at sunset with John Tours. The only negative was that we didn’t catch anything – otherwise it was a successful trip.
Diving and snorkeling can be done either in the north of the island or in front of the small islands in the south of Phu Quoc. Both should be very nice, although we decided to go to the south. We have had very good experiences here with a local diving school. Due to differentiated rental prices, they can offer the tours a little cheaper than foreign diving schools that have settled on the island. In general, the numerous tour operators all offer similar trips to explore the island by boat or on land. A new highlight may come in a few years, when the government gives its approval. Then it should be possible to go snorkeling with dugongs. The impressive manatees can be found in the east of Phu Quoc.
When it comes to accommodation on Phu Quoc, there is now a huge selection that will probably increase in the next few years. During our stay, there was already a construction fence for a huge resort complex next to another fence. But you can also currently choose between homestays, simple bungalows and 5-star facilities, only the selection of hostels is still manageable.
Our search for a cheap hostel with private rooms was unfortunately unsuccessful, so we had to look for other accommodations. But if you have no problem with dorms, then I would recommend the Langchia Hostel along the tourist mile. Otherwise, our best accommodations were Sirena Resort and Lan Anh Garden Resort. Here you will find beautiful rooms with pools for 35 to 50 dollars. If you want it a little cheaper, you can rent a bungalow in the Viet Tanh Resort right on the beach for $ 25. Due to the large number of accommodations, you can book the rooms directly on site – then you can still negotiate (especially in the off-season).