Phu Quoc island offers a few decent things to do as an easy escape from Ho Chi Minh City or stopover when travelling to/from Cambodia. When I first travelled on the Banana Pancake Trail through Southeast Asia in 2007, Phu Quoc island was a remote backwater paradise ringed with pristine white sand beaches, red roads and dense jungle. Sadly, these days are now a thing of the past as development continues to boom across the island. That said, if you find yourself on Phu Quoc, I wrote this post to help guide you through the best things to do on the island. First, let’s cover the basics.
Should you visit Phu Quoc Island?
That depends on what you’re looking for.
Don’t go to Phu Quoc if:
You’ll be disappointed with Phu Quoc if you’re looking for the Thai islands backpacker experience with pristine beaches, incredible beach parties, and great diving. Everything feels very spread out here and it lacks the social atmosphere you’ll find in many beach areas throughout Southeast Asia. Plus, there are massive new generic developments rising across every corner of the island and garbage is rampant on many of the beaches.
Go to Phu Quoc if:
Phu Quoc is serving as a way to enter Vietnam from Kampot, Cambodia or an easy escape (1 hr flight) from the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City.
How many days should you spend in Phu Quoc?
I spent 6 nights on Phu Quoc island in early 2020 which felt like far too long. If I were given a do over I would spend max 3 nights on Phu Quoc, which should provide ample time to visit a couple of the beaches and accomplish most of the notable things to do.
Is Phu Quoc a party island?
Phu Quoc is not a backpacker party island like Ko Pha Ngan or Ko Phi Phi in Thailand. If you’re looking for cheap beer and buckets you’ll be disappointed here. The Phu Quoc Sailing Club turns into an elevated night club after dark and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the island hosted Vietnam’s largest annual electronic music festival, Epizode.
How to get to Phu Quoc
The easiest way to get to Phu Quoc is by plane. Flights are offered from numerous cities across Vietnam and several from international airports. Multiple flights leave from Ho Chi Minh daily with the sub-hour flight costing between $25-$70 dollars.
Phu Quoc is accessed by boat via the port at Ha Tien. Accommodation can be easily arranged from Kampot or Kep in Cambodia to Phu Quoc. If travelling this route, make sure you obtain a visa for Vietnam in advance.
Where to stay on Phu Quoc
The bulk of accommodation is based along Long Beach and budget options are typically located inside or close to the town of Doung Dong. Quieter stays can be found in the smaller towns and beaches and the quieter roads that snake off the main highway leading from the airport to Doung Dong.
Best value accommodation on Phu Quoc
Valley Sen Bungalows is an excellent value option with a series of air conditioned bungalows set beautifully around a pool in the hills near Long Beach.
Best luxury accommodation on Phu Quoc
Things to remember for your trip to Phu Quoc
Bring you International Driving Permit
Vietnam doesn’t recognize every country’s drivers licenses and haggling with the police over an appropriate fine isn’t a fun experience. If you plan on exploring Phu Quoc by motorbike make sure to get your International Driving Permit.
Don't forget this
From motorbike rides to scuba diving, Phu Quoc offers a variety of adventure activities. Don’t forget travel insurance! I went years without making a claim on travel insurance until a suffered a broken collarbone and racked up medical bills in excess of $15, 000. Fortunately, I had travel insurance!
Check out World Nomads* for a quote. Hopefully you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared!
Do you need a visa for Phu Quoc?
Phu Quoc offers a rare visa exemption for stays up to 30 days. If you plan on doing any further travelling within Vietnam or are going to Phu Quoc overland/by boat, a Vietnam visa will be required. Learn how to get a visa for Vietnam here.
An everyday backpack
Beach days, motorbiking and boat tours require a variety of different gear. Carry it all in the most efficient way possible with Kiri the customizable everyday adventure pack.
Best Things to do on Phu Quoc island
1. Hit the beach | The best beaches on Phu Quoc
Bounce your way down a few dusty roads on the island’s north side to find Starfish Beach. The beach retains some of the original Phu Quoc charm with local restaurants serving up cold drinks and seafood to beach loungers. The shallows are also filled with numerous beautiful starfish, unfortunately this also makes for the worst part of the beach with irresponsible tourists throwing them or lining them up on the beach simply for the purpose of a photoshoot. Walk further to the east and the crowds will thin a bit. The beach is worth a trip and is one of the least polluted on the island.
North of Doug Dong town, Cua Can is by far the island’s best beach for crowds and providing a taste of what all of Phu Quoc must have been like pre-development! The beach is nicest up towards Chez Caroles, but more remote to the south.
Phu Quoc’s major destination, Long Beach begins at Duong Dong and runs south along the bulk of the eastern coastline. Nearly the entire expanse of the beach has become blockaded/privatized by resorts making even accessing it a challenge. It’s not a bad place to spend a day renting out a lounger or for a sunset walk and beverage.
If you’re looking for Seadoos, parasailing, instagram swings, and a stairway to heaven, this is the beach for you! It’s a beautiful strip of white sand that gets quite crowded. If you proceed past the rocks to the south you’ll find some solitude, unfortunately you’ll share it with a heartbreaking amount of garbage.
2. Enjoy a romantic poolside meal
If you’re looking to enjoy a top calibre meal poolside with the waves crashing just beyond look no further than the Spice House at Cassia Cottages.
3. Explore Phu Quoc on motorbike
The spread out nature and vastness of Phu Quoc make renting a motorbike the best way to get around! The positive of all the recent development is the island’s numerous smooth, wide, and relatively quiet roads. Bikes can be rented for about 150,000 VND for the day just about anywhere. Take a trip to the islands far north on the way to Starfish Beach where a few of the original red dirt roads remain surrounded by lush jungle.
4. Visit the Coconut Prison
Near Bao Sao on the island’s south coast is the Phu Quoc Prison, or Coconut Prison. Built during the French colonial period, the prison was later taken over by the South Vietnamese and at times held over 40,000 communist prisoners. Today the prison museum houses numerous mannequins depicting gruesome representations of the torture and violence that occurred here.
5. Go for a custom cocktail at a speakeasy
Behind a clothing and leather goods shop south of Duong Dao in the Long Beach area is Phu Quoc’s only speakeasy, Bittersweet Cocktail Bar. Step through the curtain in the back to a hidden cocktail lounge. Forget about asking for the menu, there isn’t one. Every drink is custom crafted. Simply tell the bartenders a liquor and/or flavor profile you’re into and they put together something amazing. I was sceptical, but the cocktails were top notch and didn’t disappoint!
6. Go on a jungle tour with Jerry
Take a trip with the highly recommended Jerry’s Jungle Tours for everything from jungle walks, to bird watching, to tours of the An Thoi archipelago. Jerry’s been living on Phu Quoc for well over a decade and has plenty of insight and off the beaten path adventures to help you make the most of your trip and experience the real Phu Quoc.
7. Tour a fish sauce factory
Phu Quoc is known for producing some of the world’s highest quality fish sauce and the island has 80+ producers. If you’re a connoisseur and wish to get a better understanding of what goes into its production, several of the larger factories in Duong Dong offer tours sure to provide an olfactory overload.
8. Wander the Phu Quoc night market and grab a bite
From 6pm onwards Phu Quoc’s night market comes alive. Stop for a drink, dine on some seafood, or step off the main drag and find a stall with the iconic Vietnamese red stools and begin the feast. Seven Teo a block back from the main market street did not disappoint.
9. Treat yourself to a burger and a brew
If you’ve got a craving for some western fare, head to Winston’s Burgers and Beer for some classic American dishes. The burgers and fries are the best you’ll find on the island and there’s a fantastic selection of craft beer on tap. The perfect remedy for those facing a bout of homesickness. The bar owner Winston’s company only improves an already fantastic experience!
10. Take the cable car to the waterpark
Phu Quoc is home to the world’s longest cable car which stretches from An Thoi on the south coast across to Pineapple Island. Take the 15 minute trip to Pineapple Island for some captivating views. Once you get there you’ll reach the newly opened Aquatopia Water Park, Southeast Asia’s largest waterpark and another sign of the immense level of development that has happened on the island in the last 5 years.
11. Enjoy Phu Quoc’s largest selection of craft beer
If your beer palette has been worn down by endless consumption of Tiger, Bia Saigon, and 333, head to The Bench eatery and bar for the islands largest selection of craft beers.
13. Go island hopping
28 islands make up Phu Quoc District. Take a trip to a few of them for beaching, snorkeling, and swimming. Jerry’s Jungle Tours offers several different island adventures.
14. Go scuba diving on Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is far from a mecca for scuba diving, but if you’re interested in getting certified or simply would love to get back in the water it’s a great place to do it! Several shops offer PADI certification and fun dives around the island and surrounding archipelago. If you’re diving make sure to double check your travel insurance covers this type of adventure sport.
15. Watch the sunset at Din Cau temple
The temple of the sea goddess is part temple and part lighthouse and makes for a great place to watch the sunset and experience the more authentic (and less touristy) side of Phu Quoc. Locals congregate around the entrance at sunset selling snacks and cold drinks. Make a walk up the stone steps for a view over the ocean as the sun dips below the horizon.
16. Lounge poolside at your resort
17. Chill out or turn up at the Sailing Club
Take the main road south and drive into a massive new resort looking complex to experience the bougiest item on this list. The Sailing Club is a modern Ibiza style beach club that transforms into a nightclub during the dark. For a minimum restaurant tab of 500,000 VND (~$25) you can hang out at the beachfront infinity pool all day or just come for a sundowner at the bar. It has a real resort feel which you may or may not enjoy.
There you have it, 17 things to do on Phu Quoc Island. Although I highly doubt that Phu Quoc will make your all time list of favourite islands, there is still some appeal in bouncing down the island’s red roads to far flung Starfish beach or enjoying a delicious streetside meal at the night market.
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