If Philippines has Palawan and Boracay, Indonesia has Bali, Malaysia has Langkawi, Cambodia has Koh Rong and Thailand has Ko Phi Phi, Vietnam boasts of Phu Quoc Island. It’s a remote island in the Southwestern province of Kien Giang, near the border to Cambodia. I went there during a long weekend for 3 days 2 nights and had an ample amount of adventures without missing on beach bumming, and watching-the-world-pass-by moments. I know, I know. Your idea of an island getaway is to sunbathe, read a book while sipping champagne on ice. However, adventurous wanderlusts like me whose feet always itch when in a new territory can’t resist the urge to explore around. So if you got the Itcy Feet Syndrome, too, you can trust this Phu Quoc itinerary to satisfy you.
1. Stay in a Beach Front Resort.
Let’s settle first where you can stay for your first day. Long Beach is a strategic home base location when visiting Phu Quoc. Although it could get touristy because of its numerous accommodations and restaurants, the convenience (presence of local stores and services) and proximity to other points of interest (being in the middle part of the Island) are tie breakers. The best part of it? You can watch the sunset everyday! I and my friend Lovely didn’t regret sharing for $27/night for an air-conditioned double room in Lien Hiep Thanh Resort , as it includes a delicious buffet breakfast for 2 and a cozy beach front with ample beach beds- perfect for sun bathing and chilling! There are also cheap hostel rooms such as in Bao Kim Guesthouse where you can get a decent double room for $10/night (don’t expect to be wowed, though).
2. Put your driving skills to work
Right upon arriving in Long beach, grab a motorbike for 200K VND per day. You will need it to explore the central, southern and northern part of the island, which is pretty flat in terrain with the presence of occasional dirt paths. Phu Quoc is on the verge on commercialization due to the developed main roads that are promoting more resorts to be developed. The good effect, though, is the convenient drive along wide main roads.
3. Eat all you want in Phu Quoc Night Market
Of all activities in this Phu Quoc itinerary, this one got not just my feet and eyes happy, but most especially my tummy. While most other night markets specialize in clothing and other items, this one overwhelms you with interesting food and cuisines, from fresh seafood, to tempting street food and irresistible desserts. You can even get full for dinner by just taking your pick while walking along the main market road.
4. Chase the sunrise and observe local trade in the fishermen’s village of Ham Ninh.
I highly encourage you to wake up early to start your second day Phu Quoc itinerary catching the sunrise by the Ham Rach port in Ham Ninh village. You can stroll to the far edge of the docking lane and find interesting things such as fishing structures, rest area, sea pond and seafood restaurants (closed during breakfast hours, though). There’s a lot to do there aside from taking pictures of the rising sun, such as observing the fishermen dock and launch their boats (you can even try to hop on a boat!), and watch vendors sell their live and kicking lobsters and crabs!
5. Stroll the white sand of Sao Beach
Sao means Star in Vietnamese and those who head to Phu Quoc should not miss its pristine blue waters and white beach that shimmers bright under the sun. Head south after breakfast, making sure you have a full gas tank, and follow the main road until where your map says “Bai Sao.” It’s a public beach which means you don’t have to stay in any resort to enjoy it. However, it may be a challenge to find a cheap place to hide when the sun gets too hot. There are beach beds offered for a touristy price of at least 150K. Being the budget traveler that I am, I just spread my beach blanket under a tree shade in te vicinity of Paradiso Beach Resort, which you can also book if you are the luxury type of traveler.
As this beach is the star of the island, you would find a lot of local and foreign tourists here. However, of you walk up north to the end of the shore, you will find less people and further passed the rocks, an old docking port where you can take photos.
6. Hike a little to Suoi Tranh Waterfalls
After soaking into the sun and seawater, and if you’re visiting during the monsoon (rainy) season, you can go for a hike that rewards with some freshwater from Suoi Tranh waterfalls. The falls is not that marvelous, and a little dry during our visit because it was the summer season. However, I still enjoyed the 30-minute hike into the forest-like trail. We visited during a nationwide holiday, so the locals are literally swarming every possible picnic spot in the area.
7. Take the coastal dirt path Northwest of the island to find hidden local gems.
This was probably the most adventurous thing I did from my Phu Quoc itinerary. I was originally intending to solo hike Mt Chua, the highest peak in the island on early morning of my third day in Phu Quoc. But having met Cyril, another traveler who was also up for the adventure, we set forth together on one motorbike using the route that Google Maps suggested, Road TL48 which turned out to be an unforgiving dirt path, made worse by that morning’s rainshowers. Thankful that Cyril was willing to drive the entirety of that bad road. Given the road condition that allowed us to run only on 10-20 kph, and the late start due to the rains, we decided to skip hiking. It was a good decision after all because the road that leads to the jumpoff was guarded by military… a clear sign that permits maybe necessary. The difficult road though led us to discover a couple of non-touristy spots that only locals may seem to know about.
First is this stilt path that leads outwards the shore. We parked our motorbike and walked the path to its far end. With the ocean to the east and the mountain to the west, it was a great spot for photos. We also almost had it to our own! If you dare this route, turn right when you see the sign in the picture below.
Moving a little further north, there’s another path to the shore (not for swimming though) that has a stilt walkway, and a few meters from it, there is a tiny island which you could cross using a wooden pathway. The dirt path ends when you reach Bai Thom.
Towards the end of TL48 and somewhere before turning left to Duong Duong – Bai Thom road, you will also find a well-maintained beach front. Although the sand here isn’t white, and the water is not really for swimming, the serenity and peace of the area was really inviting. There’s also a set of swing located right in the waters where you can easily pass time. Since it’s on the almost northernside of the island, you could already see Cambodia on the far end.
8. Make Vung Bau Beach your playground
You can drive the nature-surrounded road of Duong Duong – Bai Thom, which connects the two districts. I have to say that this road is my most favorite in the island because of the rich forests and hills that sandwich it. Finally aim towards Vung Bau beach, where the sand has steep drops, and the waters are wavy, therefore fun for swimming. We parked in the beautifully-designed beachfront garden of Bamboo Cottages and Restaurant, ordered a couple of lemonade and played in the water. It’s easily a tempting place to stay overnight as there not a lot of tourists here and it’s also sunset-facing. If you walk by the shore a little to the south, you could also find an interesting restaurant with a tire swing to play on.
9. Drive in an (old) airport runway
As you head back to the Duong Duong town, make sure you pass by Vo Van Kiet street, which is a wide and long road that used to be a plane runway for the old airport (Duong Dong Airport), before it was moved to Phu Quoc International Airport. Take pictures!
10. Beach bum while watching the setting sun.
And if you get tired from the adventures, just head back to your hotel’s beach front, grab a fresh coconut juice or lemonade, and watch the world go by as the sun fades away. Don’t forget to tag your camera along as sunsets in Phu Quoc can be so stunning!
Getting there by ship
If you want a different kind of adventure and time is on your side, you can take the ship from Kien Giang port (reach it by bus futabus.vn) to Phu Quoc, It’s less expensive, although would take at around 10-15 hours to complete the journey. We took this option because flights were ridiculously high during the holidays.
Phu Quoc Itinerary Summary
I have traveled extensively in Vietnam and I would agree with many that indeed, Phu Quoc is ranking among the islands. Since it’s one of the sough-after destinations in the country, and due to the remote geographical location, prices here are higher as compared with the city. I spent a total of around $150, including mid-end accommodations, shared bike rental, food and transportation. It was all worth it! Whether you are an adventure-lover or just seeking to bask under the sun and swim in the beach, Phu Quoc is definitely the island of choice!