Sitting back in a hammock, looking out over the quiet surf, you may wonder why more people don’t know about Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island. It gets almost none of the press of those islands over in Thailand — and yet with its rugged jungle, squeaking white sands and sparkling cobalt waters, it more than matches them. Sadly, with a brand spanking new international airport and progressive visa-exemption scheme, this is slated to change in the coming years.
Drive around the island and you can feel the winds of change. Roads are being widened, green construction fencing snakes around future building sites and some of the beaches seem to be getting a bit more crowded. The development isn’t all bad. The paving of roads means the northern and southern ends of the island are much more accessible and it is possible to drive from one end of the island to the other in an hour or so. Also, electricity cuts are less frequent and WiFi is pretty much standard everywhere.
The island is at a crossroads. While the days of snaring a $20 beachside bungalow are over,reasonable accommodation can still be found. While some large resorts like Vinpearl take up large swaths of beachfront property, the island’s beach line is relatively untouched on the northeast and northwest. We have a bad feeling that it won’t stay this way for long, so we suggest you head here now before it morphs into the next Phuket.
The island has something for everyone — really! Ringed by more than a dozen bays and beaches, some yellow sand, others brilliant strips of white, with an archipelago of islets off its south coast, a jungle-covered interior and a handful of fishing villages, there is enough to do for a longer stay than you may be planning. Accommodation on Phu Quoc encompasses a full range of options from affordable backpacker guesthouses through to fancy beach resorts and hotels.
The best time to visit Phu Quoc is from November to March when the temperature hovers around 30 degrees Celsius with not a hint of rain in sight – indeed, this is peak season. April to June is the dry season, when temperatures rise but it still stays relatively dry. If you go during July to October, expect rain as this is when the monsoon drenches the island.
Ideally, plan to spend anywhere from a few days to a week on Phu Quoc. Some travellers do nothing more than the daily bungalow-beach-restaurant-beach-bungalow circuit for days on end — for couples in particular, Phu Quoc is a favourite. While there are some sights to check out around the island, with good weather, it’s hard to justify leaving the sand.
If feeling adventurous, head out on a snorkelling trip, explore one of the many islands off the southern coast, or rent a motorbike and just go exploring. While prices drop during the monsoon, the island either turns into wet sand or red mud. Fair weather can still be had – but don’t expect it.
Many make Phu Quoc their final stop in Vietnam, only to find that a couple of nights just aren’t enough. As a result, flights are changed and itineraries are revised — so take it from us, allow a few extra days on Phu Quoc.