Are you setting up your Vietnam itinerary and wondering where you can visit sun-kissed beaches and just relax for a few days? We’ve got just the place. Phu Quoc! With amazing natural surroundings, the beaches are beyond beautiful and there are plenty of things to do! You won’t want to miss it!
Before living in Ho Chi Minh, I had never heard of vacationing on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc. Jim and I are not big beach people, and when we travel, we lean toward cultural and historical destinations rather than a place to relax. However, Erika talked us into it, and we’re glad she did.
Like a lot of places, we get a picture in our mind of what to expect, and when I thought of Phu Quoc, I only thought of sunbathing on the beaches. I never really considered the other things that might be available to us. If it weren’t for Erika, I think I would have completely passed it by.
What we found is that Phu Quoc has a little bit of everything. The beaches, as advertised, were fantastic, well set up, and a great place to unwind from the chaos of the city. However, we also enjoyed the scenery, doing a little snorkeling, and yes, some cultural activities as well.
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In this article:
- Why Go to Phu Quoc?
- Where is it Located?
- Phu Quoc Map
- Best Time to Visit
- How to Get Around
- Best Things to Do in Phu Quoc
- Where to Stay in Phu Quoc
- Where to Eat
Why go to Phu Quoc?
Phu Quoc is known for its laid-back island vibe, pristine beaches, and a place to take a few days, relax and enjoy the sun. This is exactly what we went for, except I wanted to do a little of the cultural sights as well.
Where is Phu Quoc Located?
A tropical island off the mainland closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, Phu Quoc is easy to get to. It’s a quick flight from either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, and once there you have plenty of options for getting around. The island itself is about 47 kilometers long and 17 kilometers wide, easily driven in one day.
Phu Quoc Map
Best Time to Visit Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a place for having fun in the sun, so the best time of year to go is when you have the least chance of rain. Rain in Vietnam can really slow things down, but if you are staying at a resort, you really don’t have to worry about going anywhere.
As you can see from the graphs the temperature varies just by a few degrees no matter what time of year it is, but the rainfall changes dramatically. The absolute best time to go is between December and March, or even April, to maximize your time in the sun.
However, for the most part, even on rainy days the showers don’t usually last that long, maybe an hour. There is still plenty of time during the day to go to the pool or beach and catch a few rays.
How to Get Around Phu Quoc
Just like mainland Vietnam, one of the most popular ways to get around the island is by using the Grab App where you can rent a motorbike or car ride. We used this extensively during our trip and had no issues.
In Phu Quoc City, there are some taxis that look like squatty buses and they hold at least ten people. We hailed them a couple of times to get back to our resort after dinner and after walking around the night market. The cost was slightly higher than a Grab, but they were there and it was easy. Plus, since they don’t have sides, it was a cool ride at night.
Another great option, if you are so inclined, is to rent a motorbike. There are scooter rentals all around the island, especially in the tourist zones near hotels and resorts. They’re cheap and easy to ride, however, if you don’t have experience on a motorbike, this can be a dangerous plan.
Best Things to Do in Phu Quoc
When I started researching Phu Quoc, I got a little panicked. I didn’t realize how many things there were to do on the island. I had booked a four-day trip, traveling on the first and fourth days, so travel was cutting into my time.
Luckily, all the sights can pretty much be done in one day. However, if you really like to find those special beaches, go hiking in the jungle, or enjoy the water park and other amenities at SunWorld, you might need another day or two to get in the required relaxation time as well.
Here is our list of the absolute best things to do while visiting the enchanting island of Phu Quoc:
- Visit the Beaches
- Temple of Dinh Cau
- Island Boat Tour
- Visit the Prison
- Cable Car Ride
- Phu Quoc Night Market
- Rent a motorbike
- Visit Ham Ninh Fishing Village
- Visit Truc Lam Ho Quoc
- Taste Fish Sauce
- Visit a Pepper Farm
- Watch a Sunset
Soak Up the Sun on a Sandy Beach
Island = Beach! And in Phu Quoc, you are hard-pressed not to find a fantastic one. We spent a good amount of time at the well-kept beach at our resort and then we trekked up to the north of the island to take a look at Starfish Beach, which was more impressive than I was expecting. We loved it.
Explore the Temple at Dinh Cau
The Temple at Dinh Cau is right there in Phu Quoc City and easy to get to. With a quaint blue and white lighthouse, this little rocky outcropping and Buddhist temple is really worth at least 30 minutes or so. It’s also located on a beach, so you can extend your time by watching the fisherman, wading in the warm waters, or just enjoying the sun.
Take an Island Boat Tour
This was one of the best things we did on our Phu Quoc trip. We jumped on a full-day boat tour for some snorkeling, lunch in a fishing village, and stunning vistas.
The snorkeling was some of the best we’d done in Southeast Asia, with colorful coral and plenty of different fish. There were some very small jellyfish that stung a few of the guests, but the stings were not severe and didn’t stop anyone from entering the water.
It was a great day full of sand castles, sea shell searching, and a nice shrimp lunch.
Tour the Phu Quoc Prison
Called Coconut Tree Prison by our driver, the Phu Quoc Prison is a must-stop on your itinerary. The abandoned prison now has clay figurines depicting what life was like for the prisoners. Built in 1967, its main purpose was to imprison the Communist soldiers during the Vietnam War.
As usual, it was very hot the day that we were wandering around the prison grounds, and there is little to no shade, so we didn’t spend much time there, maybe 30 minutes. We visited the barracks, the kitchen, the lavatories, and the escape tunnel.
Many of the scenes depicted here are of struggle and torture and humans being kept as animals in cages. It’s a somber story and one that you will have to decide whether it is appropriate for kids.
Munch your Way Through Phu Quoc Night Market
If you love wandering around a night market, looking for local goodies to try, or interesting souvenirs, don’t miss the Phu Quoc Night Market. Famous for its ice cream and seafood, there are plenty of stalls worth a stop and a nibble.
Get High with the SunWorld Cable Car Ride
The SunWorld Cable Car is the longest in the world at almost 8 kilometers long, traversing between islands. We went mid-morning and shared the cable car with only six other people which was great because each car can hold up to 30 people. We had plenty of room to move around and get some fantastic photos.
The cable car ticket includes entry to the water park on the other side, but Jim and I are not really into water parks. We just wanted to experience the ride and the views. I would say, if you are planning on doing this, bring your swimsuits, especially if you are traveling with kids, and have a go at the water park. That said, it did look like a ton of fun from above.
Rent a Motorbike and Explore on Your Own
Our plan to see all the sights on Phu Quoc was to rent a motorbike for the day, so Devon, Jim, and I all headed out first thing in the morning to go get some bikes and explore the island. We were soon thwarted by the rental man, though. He knew right away that neither Devon nor I were experienced riders, and refused to rent the bikes to us.
To be honest, we were okay with that. The bikes were a bit bigger and more powerful than we were expecting, and the idea of driving them in traffic was nothing short of daunting. Switching gears, so to speak, the guy called a friend of his and we negotiated a price for having him drive us in his air-conditioned car to all the places we were interested in going. It came to about $40 US for the day, which was more than the $15 we would have spent renting motorbikes, but we were quite happy with the arrangement.
I read a lot about people renting bikes, and it is cheap and easy. However, if you, like me, have little to no experience I’m not sure it’s worth it. Either way, you can visit everything on the island relatively easily.
Eat Seafood at Ham Ninh Fishing Village
One of the places we’d read about was Ham Nihn Fishing Village and how quaint it was. Of course, this is popular so there are some island-famous seafood restaurants there that served up a fantastic lunch.
We stopped, and wandered a bit, but mostly ate a scrumptious lunch of shrimp, scallops, salads, and french fries. We certainly didn’t have the more expensive items on the menu, but what we had was yummy.
Revel in the Peacefulness of Truc Lam Ho Quoc
Probably the most beautiful temple on the island, Jim and I really enjoyed Chua Lam Ho Quoc. Just like many temples, it’s set on the side of a mountain, and before you even enter, you must climb a long set of steps.
Then once you get in, you realize to see the majority of the buildings, statues, and reliquaries, you need to continue climbing. It’s good for the heart and the soul, right?
Try the Amazing Fish Sauce Nuoc Mam Hung Thanh
If you love Vietnamese food, whether you are in Vietnam or anywhere around the world, you are taking in lots of umami fish sauce. It’s a key ingredient in sauces and many dishes. I don’t think you can even have one meal without having fish sauce in it somewhere.
At any rate, Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce, and the foodies that we are, we had to go see where and how it’s made and try some. Spoiler alert! The sauce we tasted, on the end of a tiny wooden stick, knocked us over the head with flavor! Pretty amazing.
Learn about the Famous Pepper Farms
All along the road to the northern part of the island, the other foodie thing to do is visit a pepper farm and buy some peppercorns. This stop doesn’t take long. We spent a few minutes out in the fields where peppers were growing, then a few minutes tasting the red, white, and black peppers before buying more than my fair share to take home. We love to make a peppercorn sauce and put it on our traditional schnitzel or on a nice London Broil.
Watch a Sunset
Of course one of the most indulgent things to do while on the island is hang out at the beach bar with a sundowner cocktail and watch in amazement as the yellows and oranges of the sunset put on a great show.
Do you know how sometimes you go for a sunset, you get your cocktail, and whoosh it’s all over in a matter of minutes? Well, thankfully, that was not the case in Phu Quoc. It seemed like it took forever for that sun to sink down into the murky depths of the slate gray ocean, and watching while drinking a fruity cocktail…well, it’s a highlight for sure.
Where to Stay in Phu Quoc
As you can imagine there are plenty of accommodation options on the island of Phu Quoc, and there is everything from Luxury to Budget. However, one of the main reasons you go is to relax, maybe be pampered. This was our idea when we were making plans, and folks told us the absolute best bang for our dollar was Salinda Resort. Guess where we went?
As mentioned, we were told over and over this is THE place to go, and after having spent four days there, I wholeheartedly agree.
Immediately we were greeted with not one welcome drink, but an entire tray of local liquid tastes in a rainbow of colors. We also had a welcome snack waiting for us in our room. Yes, we definitely felt welcomed.
Like most resorts, it’s set up so that you never want to leave, and admittedly I felt this way a little. Why go explore when the pool and beach are pristine and smiling attendants wait on your every whim? Well, we had to overcome that feeling, because Phu Quoc has a lot to offer. I have to admit, though, the resort was phenomenal.
What and Where to Eat on Phu Quoc
With so much fresh seafood, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Seafood for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! OK, maybe not, but you definitely could. Most of the accommodations on Phu Quoc are resort hotels offering some kind of breakfast.
The breakfast at Salinda Resort was amazing, with Western and Vietnamese options that were all delicious. Lunch and dinner in the resort, while also looking quite delicious, were a tad expensive for our taste and not really offering a true taste of the island.
Luckily, this is Vietnam and you don’t have to go far to find the freshest food being cooked and served pretty much everywhere. One of the best places to go for dinner is the Phu Quoc Night Market. Choose your fish from the stacks of live tanks, and have it grilled or fried right there.
One of our favorite meals was in the fishing village of Hàm Ninh. We dined at a seaside restaurant opening out to the bay and the colorful fishing boats moored out in the water. Stunning views, the freshest seafood perfectly prepared, and a cool beer. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Final Thoughts on Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a perfect mix of getting your inner peace on while being able to explore the island and see some different and engaging sightseeing activities. We loved every day we spent on the island, and if you can, we encourage you to definitely include it on your Vietnam itinerary.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.