Sometimes still described as Vietnam’s “best-kept secret”, Phú Quôc is an island in the Gulf of Thailand that sits not far from the coast of Cambodia. The city of Phú Quôc is the main urban area and center of tourism for the island. Out of Vietnam’s 40 islands that are scattered throughout the country, Phú Quôc is perhaps the most famous.
While the island was once relatively unheard-of, once tourists discovered the Phú Quôc’s stunningly beautiful landscape, the crowds began to grow. Now, the island is one of Vietnam’s top-rated destinations where tourists convene to escape into paradise.
Island and City in the Kiên Giang Province
While the name Phú Quôc refers to both the island and city, the majority of visitors prefer to travel around the island’s urban sections first. Some travelers don’t even venture to the remote areas of Phú Quôc because they prefer to relax at the resorts. Luckily, Phú Quôc has a little bit of both as it is a mix of both ultra-touristy areas and remote escapes.
View of the main town in Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Photo by: David Ackerman.
The urban areas of the island are a part of Phú Quôc City. Local officials have created nine subdivisions in Phú Quôc City, which include two large urban districts and seven rural districts. Duong Dông and An Thói are the main areas for tourism. As a whole, the island is located 22 nautical miles (40 kilometers) from Vietnam’s coastal city, Hà Tiên in Kien Giang Province.
Traveling to Phú Quôc City is a little more complicated because of its island location. However, one benefit is that Phú Quôc City does have its own airport, Phu Quoc International, which is interconnected to other airports around the country including Noi Bai International in Hanoi and the Tan Son Nhat International in Ho Chi Minh City.
Tourists who aren’t flying directly to Phú Quôc City may decide to travel by land instead. From Saigon, tourists can travel to the coastal cities of Ha Tien (6 and ½ hour drive from HCMC) or Rach Giá (4 and a ½ hour drive from HCMC). Both Hà Tiên and Rach Giá are connected to Phú Quôc Island and City by hydrofoil, taking 1 and ½ hours from Ha Tien and 2 and ½ hours from Rach Giá.
Phu Quoc. Photo: David Ackerman
Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phú Quôc City only take about an hour, which makes flying the fastest and most convenient way to travel to the island. From the airport or port, travelers can then hail a cab to take them to their accommodation on the island.
Early records of the island’s existence are acknowledged by Cambodian references from the year 1615. In sealed royal documents, the discussion of Phú Quôc Island and the Cambodian governor’s power is debated as the island was officially a part of the Khmer Empire.
Fishing village in Phu Quoc in 1968. Photo: manhhai
In 1689, a Cambodian king gave a Chinese explorer the authority to explore, settle, and develop large portions of the Cambodian coast, which led to the development of cities like Hà Tiên. When the Chinese explorer changed allegiances to the Nguyen lords of Vietnam, the land became a point of dispute between the two countries.
In 1739, Cambodia tried to invade Hà Tiên, but the forces were ultimately defeated, and Vietnam claimed the land and Phú Quôc Island. The debate about the island’s ownership began again centuries later in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge tried to claim the island and take it from Vietnam.
Only one year later, Cambodia would give up all claims to Phú Quôc. However, the damage had already been done and the Cambodian-Vietnamese War started just four years later in 1979. Before 1975, French colonists also tried to claim the island by occupying the land. Using the island to detain political dissidents, the French used Phú Quôc as a base for their prisoner of war camps.
Guard towers at Phu Quoc Prison. Photo: Cha già José
The Phú Quôc Prison was Vietnam’s largest camp, and it was built by the French in 1949. After French colonization ended, American forces took over the camp and used it during the Vietnam War. Today, there are many historical sites that have been turned into tourist attractions.
Many of the camps, including the infamous Phú Quôc Prison, have been opened to the public, and tours run daily. In addition to the old prisons, the architecture around the city reflects both the island’s occupation by French and American foreign forces.
- The total area of the island is 222 square miles (574 square kilometers)
- There is a permanent population of approximately 179,480 people living on Phú Quôc
- Phú Quôc City was the first island city to be established in Vietnam
Planning a trip to Phú Quôc can be overwhelming because of how many activities there are for tourists. At a minimum, travelers are encouraged to spend at least 3 days exploring the island. Though, day trips from Hà Tiên or Rach Giá can be arranged if you’re short on time.
Tourists who have the time to explore will be able to enjoy everything that this charismatic island has to offer including exploring the local beaches, touring the city, learning the history, and hiking in the national park.
Hit the Beaches
Remote beach in Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Photo by: Binh Huynh.
Most of the beaches in Phú Quôc are located on the north and west coast. However, there are dozens of sandy spots that are scattered along the island’s coastline. Beaches that are closer to towns will be more crowded, while those that are located outside of urban areas will mostly be empty.
The longest beach in Phú Quôc is called Bai Truong and it is located 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) outside of Duong Dông. Bai Truong is a well-developed beach with resorts, restaurants, and bars set up on the sand. Crowds at Bai Truong can be rather sizeable, but because of its sheer size, travelers should be able to find their own quiet spot on the sand.
Lined with coconut trees and quiet resorts, Ganh Dau Beach is one of Phú Quôc’s more remote areas of sand. Divided into two parts, the second part of the beach is spectacular with clear water and fine sand. Sections of the beach are a part of the Peppercorn Beach Resort, but a few spots are open to the public too.
For travelers that want to break away from the crowds, Cua Can Beach is the place to go. Somewhat difficult to access, not many people venture to this beach. The vast empty sand is a great place where you can relax in private. One downside to the beach is that there aren’t many trees, so shade is hard to find.
One of the best beaches for swimming is Ong Lang. Located just 15 minutes outside of Duong Dông, the beach has gentle waves, which are perfect for youngsters. Another plus is that not many people visit this beach, so there aren’t many crowds. Although, people should remember to pack the sunscreen because shady spots are hard to come by.
Tour the Prison
Phú Quôc Prison and Museum on Phû Quôc Island, Vietnam. Photo by: Hotel Kaesong.
For the history buffs, a trip to the Phú Quôc Prison is one way to learn more about the country’s violent past. Once a place where thousands of people were held as prisoners of war, the prison has been converted into a museum. Phú Quôc is the main prison, but there are smaller camps on the island too.
Tours are given daily and displayed inside are various exhibits depicting the wartime atrocities.
Visit the Markets
There are numerous markets in Phú Quôc, but the most famous is the Dinh Cau Night Market. A must-see for travelers, the market features a plethora of shopping and dining experiences. While some stalls are open during the day, the crowds begin to form once the sun has set.
Another night market called Bach Dang is less crowded than Dinh Cau. Both markets are within walking distance to many hotels and are highly recommended by fellow travelers.
Ride the Cable Car
Phú Quôc is also home to the world’s longest non-stop three-way cable car at Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park Ken Giang, which goes between Phú Quôc and Hon Thom (Pineapple Island). Traveling over water, riders will have an exceptional bird’s eye view of the islands and sea. Large windows provide a 360-degree view to ensure that everyone gets a chance to see the sights.
Ride the cable car in Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Photo by: David Ackerman.
Measuring in at nearly 5 miles (8 kilometers) long, the ride between the islands gives you sufficient time to observe the landscape.
Hike the National Park
Covering the northern part of Phú Quôc Island is the Phú Quôc National Park. A mix of untouched nature and luxury resorts, the park is one of the most visited conservation areas in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region. However, with the popularity come the crowds.
Solo travelers, families, and couples all converge in Phú Quôc National Park to stay at the resorts and explore its wild side. Joining a tour group can make it easier to navigate throughout the park as local guides will be able to show you the area’s best spots.
Take a Safari
Owned by Vietnam’s billionaire Vingroup, the Vinpearl Safari Phú Quôc is a conservation park and zoo that houses some of the country’s rare and exotic species. Boasting 380 acres, the zoo is also the largest in the country. Designed to be like a safari experience, the park is highly rated amongst families who have enjoyed spending the day viewing the animals with their children.
Connect with the Locals
Local fishermen and their boats in Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Photo by: Jennifer Yin.
One experience that tourists love is visiting the Ham Ninh Fishing Village. Mostly local, the village gives visitors a chance to observe the daily life of Vietnam’s fishermen. Visitors can arrange for a homestay, which would allow them to learn traditional fishing techniques and spend time cooking with a local family.
Keep the fun going with more of the top things to do in Phu Quoc.
Hotels and lodging:
As one of South Vietnam’s most recognized destinations, Phú Quôc boasts an abundance of accommodation options. From mega resorts to boutique hotels and guest houses, there is a spot for everyone on the island.
InterContinental Phu Quoc. Photo: InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort
InterContinental Phú Quôc – Located on Phú Quôc’s Bai Truong Beach, the InterContinental Phú Quôc is one of the best resorts on the island. Grandiose, the resort has a total of 459 rooms, suites, and villas. Guests will enjoy the open design and large windows, which give them exceptional views of the ocean.
The onsite Harnn Heritage Spa is an award-winning and “must-do” experience at the resort. Additionally, the InterContinental Phú Quôc has 4 restaurants and one bar. Attractions around the resort include 3 outdoor pools, a wellness center, business facilities, and private beach access.
Vinpearl Phú Quôc Resort – Another famous name in Phú Quôc is Vinpearl. Whether you recognize it from your day at the safari or another resort location, the Vinpearl Phú Quôc is an elegant property with a little bit of everything. Property features include a private beach, outdoor pool, 3 restaurants, a bar, business center, and 24-hour front desk.
Guests have the option of booking a room or villa and some packages include tickets to the Vinpearl Safari.
Peppercorn Beach Resort – The Peppercorn Beach Resort is one of Phú Quôc’s smaller resorts that comes at a more affordable price. Located on the quieter Ganh Dau Beach, this resort is family-run with a friendly staff. Featuring a more compact property, guests will have access to a private garden, outdoor swimming pool, onsite restaurant, and beach access.
The hotel has single and family rooms, which all come with a balcony, TV, safe, wardrobe, minibar, and Wi-Fi.
Balcony view. Photo: Seashells Phu Quoc Hotel & Spa
Seashells Phú Quôc Hotel and Spa – A top pick by booking.com, the Seashells Phú Quôc Hotel, and Spa is located in town and on the beach. Just steps away from multiple attractions in Duong Dông, the hotel has a few special features of its own. Located on the property are an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and spa center.
All rooms at the hotel are private and have their own bathroom attached to the unit.
With luxury resorts comes fine dining, restaurants in Phú Quôc are top of their class, serving only the freshest ingredients. Renowned chefs cook tasty meals and visitors can relax as they enjoy the tropical views.
The Spice House – The Spice House is a part of the Cassia Cottage Resort and its quality service has earned a strong reputation amongst tourists. Serving fresh seafood and unique cocktails, the restaurant is expensive but worth every penny. The idyllic setting is beachfront, so dinners get a front-row seat to epic sunsets and ocean breezes.
Crab House Phú Quôc – Reservations will be needed at the Crab House Phú Quôc because this restaurant is normally packed. A paradise for seafood lovers, the Crab House serves a variety of your shellfish favorites with sides like jasmine rice and a homemade house sauce. Portions are large, so guests can easily share one dish between two people.
Saigonese Eatery – More laid back than the resort restaurants, the Saigonese Eatery’s casual atmosphere is perfect for low-key travelers. The owner is very passionate about her food and the staff is friendly. Most dishes on the menu are Vietnamese, but there is a small section that has a few Western dishes too.
Grab a drink with a view. Photo: INK 360
Ink 360 – A part of the InterContinental Phú Quôc, Ink 360 is the highest bar on the island. Featuring a glamorous design, the bar doesn’t have an extensive food menu, but it does have a master mixologist that serves fine cocktails and drinks. Visitors who are feeling hungry won’t have to travel too far as there are a few restaurants located just steps away on the resort grounds.
On top of an already never-ending list of activities, tourism becomes more frenzied in Phú Quôc during festivals. An excellent way to get immersed in the culture, tourists may choose to visit the island during a time of celebration. Popular festivals in Phú Quôc City include the Nguyen Trung Truc, Ba Ong Lang, and Boat Racing Festival.
Nguyen Trung Truc Festival – First held in 1996, the Nguyen Trung Truc Festival has become an annual celebration in Phú Quôc to celebrate the local people and Vietnamese traditional values. Held in late August, the festival is centered around the Ganh Dau commune, which is 25 miles (40 km) outside of the city. Part of the celebrations includes a ceremony, performances, and games.
Boat Racing Festival – Occurring on Reunification Day, which is the 30th of April every year, the Boat Racing Festival takes place at Dinh Cau Beach and features men and women from the local communes who race in longboats. Word has spread about the festival and many tourists choose to travel to Phú Quôc City just to watch the race, so expect to be in a large crowd.
Ba Ong Lang Festival – The Ba Ong Lang Festival is held on the 18th and 19th of Vietnam’s first lunar month. The celebration is held at the Ba Ong Lang Temple, which is in the Ong Lang Hamlet – about 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) away from Duong Dông ward. Locals use the festival as a time to pray for a good harvest and happiness in the coming year.
Phú Quôc City and the island is rather large in size, so tourists won’t always be able to walk to their next destination. However, there are a few different transportation options for travelers to safely and efficiently get around Phú Quôc. This includes walking or taking a taxi, bus, boat, bicycle, or motorbike.
Bai Sao Beach. Photo:
After arriving at Phu Quoc International Airport, most will opt for a taxi or hotel shuttle to get to where they are going. Once at their hotel, walking, taxis, bicycles, and buses are the easiest way for tourists to get around Phú Quôc’s urban areas.
This includes the northern ward of Duong Dông and the southern ward, An Thói. Travelers who want to go between wards or to different points on the island will need to arrange to take a taxi, boat, or motorbike.
Taxis and boats are easy and affordable. Various companies with affordable rates operate throughout Phú Quôc to transport tourists to their desired location. However, some tourists choose to drive themselves by renting a motorbike, which is also cheap and easy to do.
Travelers should keep in mind that foreign driver’s licenses are not accepted in Vietnam, so all motorbikes must be less than 50cc in order to be legally driven by a tourist.
Phú Quôc City’s location in Southern Vietnam means that the area has two seasons – wet and dry. The wettest months of the year are June, July, August, and September. This is when monsoon season is in full swing and most days are cloudy with high temperatures. Travelers tend to avoid the rainy season, which makes the summer months the low tourist season for Phú Quôc City.
The highest volume of tourism occurs from November to January, which is when the end of the monsoon season. The end and beginning of the year months are also popular because of numerous holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. Weather during the dry season isn’t too hot and most days are free from clouds or rain, making it perfect for participating in outdoor activities.
Enjoy the palm-lined beaches of Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Photo by: Jennifer Yin.
Phú Quôc is one of Vietnam’s outstanding destinations, but what makes it special is that even amongst the crowds, you can still find untouched landscapes and unspoiled beaches. While there are some mega-resorts, and there is a tourist boom, Phú Quôc is still growing and it is on the cusp of becoming the next Bali.
Travelers who want to go should plan a trip in the near future and see the island before it becomes tainted by mass tourism.
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