Beautiful beaches, lush forest and mountain scenery make Phu Quoc one of Vietnam’s prime destinations for travelers. As a place to kick back and relax or take off into the wilderness, the island has it all, and given its location, it’s a seafood lover’s paradise.
Now, signs have come regarding the reopening of Vietnam’s tourist industry. And the first destination earmarked to welcome international travelers is Phu Quoc Island. To mark what we hope will be a return to a more normal world, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this special part of Vietnam below.
About Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc Island is actually made up of 28 separate pieces of land, although most are uninhabited. The main region is 574 sq km. Tourism is the biggest industry, but Phu Quoc has over 100 fish sauce factories, and exports more than 400 tons of home-grown pepper every year.
Above from left Vin Pearl, Grand World, La Verandah Resort dining and cultural style
The island is a popular getaway for both locals and foreigners. Although there are some seriously large resorts there now, Phu Quoc hasn’t completely been overrun by the money-makers. It’s still possible to find small hotels and quiet spots simply by going further afield.
Where is Phu Quoc located in Vietnam?
When looking at the map, many are surprised to discover that the island lies just 15km off the coast of Cambodia, rather than Vietnam, but we’ll come to that little oddity later! Phu Quoc can be found in the Gulf of Thailand, 45km west of Ha Tien on the Vietnamese mainland.
Things to do in Phu Quoc
Most visitors go to Phu Quoc to relax, and it’s the perfect destination to do just that. The island is encircled by gorgeous golden sands, it’s easy to get around by motorbike, and you’ll find countless restaurants and bars surrounding the main resorts.
If you fancy a break from all that luxury however, try these outings below.
Above:Tranh Waterfall in Phu Quoc forest
Suoi Tranh Waterfall
One to save for the rainy season (or after a downpour), Suoi Tranh is found within the Ham Ninh Mountains and is just 10 minutes’ drive from Duong Dong. Make a picnic and take a half-day to hike around the area – there’s forest to explore, caves and plenty chance for peace and quiet. Call in at Duong Dong market on your way back!
Anyone who’s visited Hoi An with children will likely know Vinpearl Land already. There’s an equally great day out to be had in its Phu Quoc setting. The entertainment park has shopping, an aquarium, indoor arcades and a wonderful outdoor water park.
Phu Quoc National Park
Making up 50% of the island’s northern region, Phu Quoc National Park is a wonderful area for outdoor and nature lovers alike. Although some of the park is closed off to visitors for research purposes, anyone wanting to visit the area can do so via Ganh Dau fishing village. Here you’ll find the Khu Rung Nguyen Sinh forest, with designated hiking trails and camping available.
Phu Quoc beaches are pristine
Phu Quoc beaches
All of Phu Quoc’s most famous resorts are situated close to a beach, and given the region is an island, you’re never too far away from golden sand and clear blue waters. But if you’re looking for something a little different, or just fancy exploring the coastline, the following come highly recommended.
Rach Tram beach
Rach Tram is remote compared to many of the island’s beaches and is predominantly used by fishermen from the village close by. It’s not a place where you can jump under an umbrella and order an ice cream, but it’s a beautiful area for a stroll and some peace. Although there are plans to open up the tourist market there, it remains one of Phu Quoc’s most untouched regions at present. Find Rach Tram to the north of the island.
Ganh Dau beach
Ganh Dau deserves special mention. It’s not just a lovely beach and quieter than those found close to the main resorts, but you’ll get to see a fishing village and experience a taste of Phu Quoc before the mass development took shape. Look for Ganh Dau beach to the north-west and stop at the village’s fishing market and harbor en route.
Vung Bau beach
Also to the north, Vung Bau is not the quiet destination it once was. Recent developments have changed all that, with the major Fusion hotel taking over the center of the bay. However, the region remains quieter than much of the south, and it’s worth including here given the sheer beauty of the coastline and its rocky headland.
Above Phu Quoc old port area and Cable car
History of Phu Quoc
Many visitors to Phu Quoc are curious about its history, given its closeness to Cambodia, so here’s a brief insight into how the island became Vietnamese.
After being a part of the ancient Funan and then Chenia empires, the islands were home to the Khmer people for centuries. Vietnamese mainlanders didn’t reach Phu Quoc until the early 17th century. A major change in the island’s identity began in the 18th century, when civil wars were occurring across the country and Nguyen Anh of Vietnam’s last royal family used the island as a refuge.
French influence across the region in the mid-19th century saw the Cambodian royals attempt to win favor with the Europeans by offering Phu Quoc as a gift. An agreement was later reached, which annexed the island into French hands, albeit with local governance.
A complex set of agreements followed until the region was formerly attached to Vietnam under the French in 1949. And despite the end of French influence in the country, the treaty remains in place today.
Phu Quoc Ridgeback
Meet the Phu Quoc ridgeback
We can’t leave Phu Quoc without mentioning one of its most-famous inhabitants – the Phu Quoc ridgeback. Dog lovers around the world may have heard of these rarities, when the first pair were purchased and taken back to Europe in 2015. Whether you’re dog-crazy or not, visitors to the island can consider themselves to have seen one of the rarest species in the world – just 800 are registered.
Their introduction to the island is a mysterious one, but they likely descended from a French ridgeback and later developed their own unique characteristics. They’re easy to spot, given the Mohawk-esque ridge that grows along their spine.
How do I get to Phu Quoc?
The best way to get to Phu Quoc is on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City. You can also cross the Gulf of Thailand from Rach Gia or Ha Tien on a boat.
How do you get around Phu Quoc?
By motorbike! You’ll find some taxi services running on the island, but renting your own transport is the best option for those wanting to go beyond the confines of their resort.
How big is Phu Quoc?
The largest island is approximately 574 km sq. In total, Phu Quoc is made up of 28 separate islands, although most of these are uninhabited.
How many people live in Phu Quoc?
As of 2019, 179,480 people live on Phu Quoc Island.