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What we say: 4.5 stars

Phu Quoc is home to some of Vietnam’s best beaches. While Vietnam’s largest island covers 1,320 square kilometres, it’s the white sandy ring lacing it that lures the crowds. Phu Quoc is at a crossroads, with extensive plans in the works to develop the coastline — this is one of the few places where you can watch a sunset over the ocean in mostly east-facing Vietnam.

A sunset on Long Beach

A sunset on Long Beach.

Phu Quoc’s main Long Beach (or Bai Truong) runs 20 kilometres along the southwest. The northern section of this western-facing beach is home to the bulk of the island’s tourist infrastructure. Rows upon rows of palm trees share the expanse of sand with dozens of guesthouses and restaurants. Head a bit more south on a dirt road and large building sites for luxury hotels such as the Grand Mercure and Intercontinental emerge.

Walls advertising of hotels to come

Hotels to come.

This is also where you find some of the island’s pearl farms and further down the dirt road you’ll get a whiff of the island’s other industry: fish sauce. Anchovies are caught off the coast and left to dry in the heat on large wicker mats. While the smell can be strong, take a look around at one of the factories to see what goes into the country’s ubiquitous condiment.

Fish as far as the eye can see

Seems fishy.

In the southeast of the island you find a pair of stunning beaches. Northern Bai Sao has a secluded feel accentuated by turquoise water and white sands, while southern Bai Khem is part of a military base, so it’s off limits. Bai Sao is now on seemingly every traveller’s map and it may only be a matter of time before it gets overrun by tour buses. Until then, it’s not a bad place to visit and if you’re interested in spending the night, you could do worse than Beach House.

Bai Sao checks all those lovely boxes

Bai Sao checks all the lovely boxes.

Due north of the Ham Ninh ferry station along a twisty dirt road is a stretch of beach relatively untouched by tourism. Known to locals as Ap Cay Sao, this bears the full brunt of the monsoon and holds only one homestay, Kiki’s Coconut Beach House. Don’t bother heading north past Kiki’s, as it’s a very challenging road heading inland for 15 kilometres before depositing you on Bai Thom beach.

Bai Thom is the most remote beach on the island and while once off limits is now open to visitors. While there isn’t much in the way of infrastructure, a couple of beachside shacks serve drinks and snacks. This is a great place to check out the southern coast of Cambodia, which is only 15 kilometres north of the island.

Why hello there Cambodia

Why, hello there Cambodia!

To the northwest between Ganh Dau and Vung Bau beaches sits Vinpearl resort, the island’s version of Disneyland. Part entertainment complex, part hotel and part shopping mall, it also takes up one of the most stunning coastlines on the island. Unfortunately, it will cost you 500,000 VND to visit their stretch of beach so your best option is to head down the dirt road that runs along the southern boundary of the resort. To the south, Vung Bau is practically empty except for some residences and a beachside restaurant. This is as uninhabited as it is going to get on the west side of the island, so you might reserve some sand time for this beach.

Fishing boats and not much else

Fishing boats and not much else.

Cua Can is the next beach and is home to an atmospheric fishing village along with a river, which flows out to the Gulf of Thailand. The outflow has created a large sand bar lined with trees. It will take some serious motorbike skills to negotiate the road to the sand bar so it might be easier to ask one of the fishermen to give you a lift. If all of these things seem like too much effort, just head to the bar at Chez Carole resort, which is lies on an island just a minute from the resort.

Cua Can fishing village

Cua Can fishing village.

To the south of Cua Can is Ong Lanh beach, home to some of the best resorts on the island. You can stay in luxury at Chen Sea, opt to go eco with the low density huts of Mango Bay or seek some privacy at Bo Resort. All of these come with a hefty price tag. Another option is Freedomland, which while not on the beach, offers highly recommended food and a chilled out vibe.

The best way to explore the beaches of Phu Quoc is via motorbike. While the island seems large, it’s only 48 kilometres in length from north to south. Traffic isn’t as manic as the mainland but of course it’s still prudent to wear a helmet.

Last updated: 17th January, 2015

About the author:
A freelance photographer and writer from the States, Vinh returned to his homeland in 2012 after spending a short 10 year stint in Cambodia.
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Sights in Phu Quoc Island