Lying in hammock, looking out over a glassy Gulf of Thailand glowing amber from the setting sun, consider yourself lucky to be in the know about one of Vietnam’s best kept secrets. Covering a total area of 574 square kilometres, Phu Quoc Island gets almost none of the press as those islands over in Thailand — and yet with its rugged jungle, seductive sands and sparkling waters, it more than matches them. Sadly, developers have taken notice of the island’s potential and change is afoot. With a new international airport, cruise ship port and an enticing visa-exemption scheme, Phu Quoc is being primed for mass tourism.
The island still has a few wonderfully low-key, unspoilt spots: quiet stretches of coast accessible by dodgy dirt road, set against a backdrop of dense jungle. Long Beach is the main star and the rest of the tear-shaped island can be explored in two motorbike loops — allow at least one day for each half of the island. Here’s a guide to exploring Phu Quoc beaches.
What You Expect
Long Beach is the star and it is bearing the brunt of the boom. In the dry season, the 20-plus kilometre stretch of yellow sand that runs from Duong Dong town down the central west coast of the island is the liveliest beach of the island, the entire length offering beachfront accommodation and places to play, laze and dig into seafood while digging your feet in the sand. Being one of the few beach destinations in Vietnam with a western coast, at the end of the day everyone gathers here to worship the memorable sunset.
If beach bustle isn’t your scene, it’s possible to find that wild, unspoilt feeling that first drew travellers here. Phu Quoc’s freshly paved arterial roads coupled with dramatic scenery make it a fantastic place to explore by motorbike. Ong Lang, Bai Vung and Bai Sao are just a few of the beaches you should consider staying at or at least visit. Anyone with a window seat on the plane will be struck by how staggeringly green the island is. More than half of it is national park and in 2006 the island was included in the UNESCO designation of Kien Giang as a World Biosphere Reserve. The north and east coast remains relatively untouched by tourism. If you want to experience what the island was like just 10 years ago, head out on the dirt roads that will take you past lush jungle and the island’s many famed pepper plantations.
But surf and sand is what you’re probably here for and whether you’re after PADI certification, to find Nemo through a snorkel mask or just want to splash around, a day on the water is a must. Better yet, charter a boat to discover paradise in the An Thoi islands, an archipelago of 15 islands and islets off the southern coast where you’ll find secluded coves, soft white sand, azure waters, coral reefs and no people.
If for some reason you get bored of the beach there are some minor sights to hold your interest such as pearl farms, a night market packed to the gills with seafood, an old prison, Suoi Tranh stream and a museum – they’re easy to find. You can also follow your nose to the fish sauce factories in town.
Popular attractions in Phu Quoc Island
An Thoi Islands
Secluded cove, soft white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, tropical coral reef, no people – sound too good to be true? You actually won’t find this on Phu Quoc. To discover paradise, escape to the An Thoi islands, an archipelago of 15 islands and islets just off the southern coast of Phu Quoc.
Bai Truong / Long Beach
The vast bulk of Phu Quoc’s hotels (and the vast bulk of construction sites) is on Bai Truong, also known as Long Beach, a 20-plus kilometre stretch of yellow sand that runs down the central west coast of the island. In wet season the seas here are rough and not great for swimming, but in dry season, it’s a placid pool with gentle waves. It’s the liveliest beach on the island, the entire length offering accommodation and spots to play, laze and eat seafood with your feet in the sand. It’s the type of place where you can get a massage on the beach and women sell you fresh fruit, cutting a whole pineapple to order.
Bai Vung Bau (Vung Bau Beach)
It is the next one up from Ong Lang. It’s a small cove with only a few properties and it’s a low-key beach ideal for those who want peace. Look for the signs for Bamboo Cottages and Wild Beach Resort and turn left, following the dirt road for two kilometres. When we ventured there in December 2015, it looked like the road was being graded, which may be a sign it will be paved at some point. Resorts are pretty relaxed and since only a handful of day-trippers make it here, it should be okay to park the bike and walk through the hotel to the water. From the beach you can see Fingernail Island off the coast, which has a good reef for snorkelling.
Bai Ganh Dau (Ganh Dau Beach)
On the northwest corner is a wonderful surprise. The clear turquoise waters sparkle like a jewel as it gently laps onto blonde sand. We spent an hour on a sun-lounger underneath a palm tree without seeing another visitor. There are a couple of seafood restaurants where you can quench your thirst or appetite. This is a fantastic under-the-radar spot.
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