Backpacking to Phu Quoc Island? Here’s everything you need to know about travelling to the island, a full Phu Quoc travel guide.
Nicknamed “The Pearl Island”, Phu Quoc is the largest of a group of 22 islands in the Gulf of Siam, which together make up the district of Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, with the administrative center located at Duong Dong Township. At an area of 589,23 km² (145,6 acre), it is also the largest island in Vietnam. The island is 120km from the city of Rach Gia, and 45km from Ha Tien Township. It is part of the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, which was designated as the world’s biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2006.
Best time to visit
You can visit the island at any time, but it’s best to avoid the rainy season from June to October, unless you enjoy travelling in long-lasting rains. Check the weather forecasts a few days before your trip and make sure you’re prepared for the weather conditions during the visit.
How to get there
Both flights and high speed ship trips to Phu Quoc island are available.
Flights: Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air offer direct flights to Phu Quoc from Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh, Can Tho, and Rach Gia. Round trip tickets from Ho Chi Minh cost around USD45 – 90, while tickets from Ha Noi starts at USD150.
Ships: Ships to Phu Quoc usually departs at Ha Tien and Rach Gia, and reach the island at Ham Ninh or Da Chong Wharf, their schedules heavily depend on the sea conditions. Check the bus schedule to Kien Giang for more information on how to get to Ha Tien or Rach Gia.
You can reach the tourist spots by taxi, motor bike, or bicycle.
Taxi companies operating on the island include Sasco at 077 3767676, Mai Linh at 077 3979797 and Hoàng Long at 077 3988988, price per kilometer starts at VND 17000 ($0.75). If you want to explore the island by yourself at a reasonable price, rent a motorbike for about VND 150,000 ($6.7) a day, gas price not included.
There are almost always hotels or hostels available on the island, the only problem is whether or not they’re suitable for your standards and budget. We’re offering a few suggestions here.
If you’re with your family and are looking for a place with reasonable service quality and price, check out Phu Quoc Paris Beach, Phu Quoc Eco Beach, Thien Hai Son, and Mai Spa. These are highly rated, with prices ranging from 1 to 1.5 million dong ($45 – $80). Click on the link if you want more photos of them.
The Phu Quoc Paris Beach has groups of bungalows circling a big swimming pool in the center. They also have common rooms in small buildings of up to 2 stories, with different views for your choice. A decent place with lots of trees and greens.
The Phu Quoc Eco Beach is located at the Ong Lang Beach, also covered by a lot of trees. The place is larger and offers more private space for the visitors.
Thien Hai Son is closer to the town and has more rooms, but I personally don’t find it a beautiful hotel.
If you’re a group of backpackers and a cheap price is the priority, find cheaper hotels or dorms. With a big group, it’s fun to stay together in a dorm room. To name a few: Langchia Hostel, Hotel A74, Viet Thanh Hotel (they call it a ‘resort’, but it’s like one-star). At the unbelievable price of VND 150,000 to 300,000 ($7-$10), they are quite ok. Nonetheless, you get what you pay for, so don’t compare them to the fancy beach side hotels.
Now if money is not a concern, go far from the town to the resorts where it’s more serene and peaceful. My favorite is the Mango Bay – it’s extremely environmentally friendly, with no air-conditionings and very limited utilities in the rooms. You’ll really relax to the max in this place.
Phu Quoc Cuisine
Phu Quoc offers a wide range of food choices, and it’d be a reward if you discover a place that pleases your appetite. Even if you want to stay lazy in the room, the food prepared by the hotel staff wouldn’t be a bad idea.
For your reference, we’d like to share a couple of places for breakfast.
- The Yellow Phu Quoc
- Address: 54 Bach Dang, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc.
- Phone number: 0932620779
- Offers breakfast (6:00 – 10:00) and dinner (16:00 – 21:00)
- Seafood noodles (with shrimp, squid) – 35,000đ
- Phu Quoc vermicelli with organic chicken – 35,000đ
- An Giang rice vermicelli with snakehead fish – 25,000đ
- Thick rice noodle with fish ball – 30,000đ
- Le Giang Resto – located right at the night market roundabout , the resto is familiar among group tourists. The price is 25,000 up.
- Quoc Anh Breakfast on 30/4 Phu Quoc, close to Thang Long Hotel, price 30,000 up.
- The one next to Thang Long Hotel that sells rice noodle with fish ball at 25,000. A nice place to enjoy local cuisine and watch the street life.
- Huong Bien Hotel. Make a call to enjoy the buffet they offer even when you don’t stay there. The price is about 70,000 per person.
What to do in Phu Quoc
Located at Bai Dai (The Long Beach) in the northwest part of the island, the Vinpearl Safari is the biggest of its kind in Vietnam. On an area of about 445 acres, the safari is home to 2,000 individuals of 140 animal species from all over the world. It is divided into 2 areas: the Wildlife Conservation Park and the Open-range Safari.
The Wildlife Conservation Park:
- Home to 660 animal individuals belonging to 45 species
- Visitors will have a chance to see Bengal tigers, white rhinos, African lions, giraffe, African antelopes, etc
The Open-range Safari Park:
- 1.500 individuals of 100 species, including chimpanzees, flamingoes, lofuras and lemurs.
The safari is not only a place to display the wildlife, but also where practical wildlife conservation programs are deployed to protect and breed rare and endangered species in Vietnam and all over the world.
The safari is open from 9am to 4:15pm every day. You can get there by the free bus from Duong Dong.
The Vinpearl Land
The underwater world
It’s where you can see hundreds of sea creatures from all over the word. The underwater world is divided into various zones for species living in the freshwater, seawater, and for different reptiles.
Also at the underwater world, you will be able to watch exotic performances by the gorgeous mermaids at 11:00 and 15:00, and the fish feeding activity at 10:00 and 17:00 every day.
The water park
The Vinpearl Land water park is a complex with beaches and interesting water activities for tourists of all ages. In this world of water, you will burn all your energy in the exciting games, the exhilarating experiences, the endless fun with the spiral water slides, super bowl water slide, multi racer slides, and so forth.
The outdoor game zone
Apart from the indoor games, the Vinpearl Land also has an outdoor zone with thrilling games like flying UFO, the ferris wheel, and the Merry Go Round.
The indoor game zone
The Vinpearl Land has a large area where you can play a wide variety of indoor games. In addition to the high-tech games such as The 3D Virtual World and the Fairytale Garden, there is also a 5D theater which can serve hundreds of movie-goers at a time.
The Vinpearl Land was the place where the Miss Vietnam show was hosted in 2014. With its capacity of thousands of people, its modern design and unique light setting, the Vinpearl stage is where art and music combine to satisfy your senses.
Visitors will be amazed at the enthralling shows, especially those by the cute sea lions who wave at the audience, perform handstands, jumping through hula hoops, diving to find circles. You will also see dolphin performers jumping and flipping, dancing and swimming with the trainers, painting, and compete with each other in small games to get rewards from their trainers.
Observing the corals at An Thoi
There are dozens of places on the An Thoi archipelago where you can do fishing for diving to see the corals. There are a total of 18 islet in An Thoi, among which 12, including Hon Thom, Hon Dam Trong, Hon Dua, Hon Gam Ghi, among others, have the best coral reefs.
From An Thoi, the boat will take you to places with calmer water, where you can do fishing with a rod and small squid meat pieces for baits. With a little luck, you could get a bucketful of fish!
If you’re on the island when the sea is calm, you will have a chance to experience a very interesting activity: catching squids. This unique way of squidding, to catch the squids without bait, could be an unforgettable experience to many people. Wouldn’t it be exciting to catch with your own hands the squids hunting under the water, or the swordfish and garfish swimming on the sea surface? The fish or the seafood will then be prepared right on the boat in the boatmen’s style: they’re boiled or grilled, and served with a big pot of hot porridge.
To join the 3-hour squidding trip, go to the wharf at the end of the Dinh Cau night market and find a boat The cost is VND 150,000 per person. The boat departs as soon as all seats are filled.
Kayaking at Bai Khem
Located at a relatively remote and quiet place on the island, Bai Khem used to be occupied by the army as a training site. As a result, the beach retains its natural beauty and is technically untouched by the tourism infrastructures.
The services at Bai Khem Beach are offered at very reasonable prices. The most remarkable activities are fishing and kayaking. At 400,000 for 4 persons, you will be equipped with rods and a charcoal grill to do fishing at Gieng Tien. You can buy drinks and other seafoods to add more variety to the meal.
The price for a single-person kayak is 30,000 for 30 minutes. For a 2-person one, it costs 40,000.
Riding the watercraft at Bai Sao Beach
If you’re a fan of exciting water activities, rent a jetski and explore Bai Sao.
Keep in mind, hơever, that jetskiing could be dangerous. Unless you’ve mastered the sport and are used to the vehicles, you should always be accompanied by an experienced rider. Someone died last year following an accident when his craft went out of control and crashed into a ship.
Getting around in Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is divided into the Northern part and the Southern part, with the town of Duong Dong serving as the “border”. Each part of the island has its own interesting landmarks that you would not want to miss, hence it would be more efficient if for the schedule to allow you to visit all of the important spots on one part before moving on to the other.
Below is an intro of the island’s most loved spots for your reference.
NORTHERN PHU QUOC
Ganh Dau Cape
Ganh Dau is a headland extending into the sea at the northwest part of Phu Quoc, and is a part of Ganh Dau Ward, Phu Quoc District. The cape is only 1.3km from the country’s historic external waters border and 2.5km from Cambodia’s Nang Ngoai Island. The cape was recently discovered and is still “fresh” compared to other beaten tracks.
Bai Dai Beach
Stretching 15km along the coast from Ganh Dau to Cua Can, Bai Dai is a long white sand beach lying right next to the forest, with an amazing mangrove biosystem at the estuaries.
Update: The Bai Dai is now under the management of Vingroup, which built resorts along the beach. The only way to enjoy the place is to stay at their resorts.
Vinpearl Phu Quoc
Located on Bai Dai, the longest on the island and one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia, the Vinpearl is a complex consisting of hotels, restaurant, indoors and outdoors activity centers, a safari, a golf course, and a hospital, offering all the services you need. The complex is in the North part of the island, and is an ideal destination for families with small children, or groups of playful young friends.
The Phu Quoc Ridgeback farm
Apart from the nuoc mam (fish sauce) factory, the pepper farm, and the pearl farm, the Thanh Nga Ridgeback reservation site and racing track in Cay Thong Ngoai, Cua Duong is also a tourist attraction. The site is owned by a local man named Le Quoc Tuan.
The place is where tourists can observe and learn more about the characteristics of the Phu Quoc Ridgeback, a rare dog breed. It was a unique and unforgettable experience to me as well as many others.
Here are a few criteria to judge if a dog is of pure Phu Quoc Ridgeback breed:
- It is from the island
- A ridge on its back (hence the name)
- Webbed feet (good swimmers they are!)
- Wide chest and tapered belly
- Short fur (shorter than 2cm)
- Hooked pointed tail
The tomb of Mrs. Le Kim Dinh
Le Kim Dinh is the wife of Nguyen Trung Truc, a Vietnamese hero in the 19th century. She’s sometimes called Ba Dieu, and Ba Lon Tuong (meaning ‘first lady’) as she was Nguyen’s first wife. Nguyen and his insurgents, after occupying Rach Gia, crossed the sea from Hong Chong to Phu Quoc, and decided to base at Ham Ninh. In 1867, the French landed on Ham Ninh with the intention to colonize the whole Southern part of Vietnam. Nguyen retreated to Gieng Tien, Duong Dong, and then to Cua Can, accompanied by his troops, his wife Le Kim Dinh, her mother, and her sister. The three women had been fighting against the French even before Nguyen arrived.
Le Kim Dinh’s tomb can be found on the left back of Cua Can river. It was at first a small grave surrounded by the wood, but was built with stone on April 27, 1968 and renovated on June 6 two years later. The tomb is now in ceramics and covers a relatively wider area, with a stonehead running “Le Kim Dinh first lady” . Visitors will hear numerous stories about the lady. The legend had it that on very bright moonlight nights, the villagers would see her on a boat heading to the village. The boat, covered by green parasols, moves gracefully in the river, blessing the village a peaceful and prosperous time. The locals share the stories with faith and respect. Le Kim Dinh’s death is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar year, attracting thousands of people to attend.
Phu Quoc pepper farms
Phu Quoc pepper is well-known for its thick peel, big solid corn, and the strong aroma that hardly exists in any other kinds of pepper. The local people reserves their pepper farms not only for economic, but also cultural and historical seasons. The farms have also become a must-go destinations for tourists on the island, who would usually buy some pepper as a special gift back to their homeland.
The Sim wine factory
Sim wine is a Phu Quoc’s specialty. Sim is the Vietnamese name for the rose myrtle tree, which grows naturally in many parts of the country. Phu Quoc have two special types of sims: Hong Sim (red sim) and Tieu Sim (mini sim), both having leaves with the lower side in white color and covered with thin hair, and ripe fruit in black purple, and both are of of distinguished quality. The wine in Phu Quoc are mainly made of Hong sim.
Dinh Cau (The Uncle’s Temple)
Built on on a large stone ridge facing the water where the Duong Dong river meets the sea, the temple is 200m to the west of Duong Dong Town. Nobody knows when exactly the temple was first set up, but the current one was built on July 14 of 1937, and renovated on the exact same date 60 years later, July 14, 1997.
Climbing up the 30 stone steps from the sea, you will arrive at the Thach Son Dien (English: the stone mountain hall) and a plaque with Chu Ngoc Nuong Nuong’s name written in Chinese. On the two sides are two altars for the worshipping of Cau Tai and Cau Quy, the two gods that rule the waters and help fishermen in tragic times.
Before setting out to the sea and during important holidays, the local people visit Dinh Cau and pray for peace and safety. A festival is held here every year on the 16th day of the 10th lunar month. To the left of the temple is a 11m high lighthouse, which directs the ships and boats at the Duong Dong estuary.
Dinh Cau is attractive to tourists not only for the legends and stories about the temple, but also because it is a great place to watch the sunset.
The Phu Quoc national park
The park takes up a large part of the northeast of the island. It covers the Natural Protection Area, the Ham Rong mountain, Ganh Dau, Cua Can, and parts of the communes of Cua Duong, Ham Duong, Duong To, and Duong Dong Town. The east and north sides of the park faces the sea, and the highest point is Nui Chua (603m).
The park is in an area of 31,422ha (77,6 acres), a third of which is a forest which is home to 929 species of animals and plants.
The forest ecosystem is diverse, with 470 kinds of higher plants and 140 species of wild animals, some of which are rarely seen elsewhere. With its special topographical features, including grove swamps, Melaleuca forest, alang reed meadow, lava forest and primary forest, the Phu Quoc National Park is perhaps the most amazing fauna and flora home in Vietnam. Furthermore, the sea surrounding this park also nurtures a species-diverse ecosystem with 89 types of hard corals, 19 types of soft corals, 125 coral reef fishes, 132 molluscs, 32 echinoderms, and more than 60 types of seaweeds.
The Phu Quoc National Park is along the north island tourism route, and can be observed during the 40 km car trip across the park from Duong Dong to Ganh Dau or Bai Thom. No boat tour into the wood is available at the moment.
Da Ban Stream
Phu Quoc has 99 mountains standing in a line from the north to the south, of which the Ham Ninh range is the longest, and has the tallest peak, where the Da Ban stream starts. The stream is the major source of fresh water for the Duong Dong Lake, which is 3.5km in perimeter, 20m in depth, and contains up to 5.5 million cubic meters of water. The lake supplies fresh water mainly for the Duong Dong Town, while people in other towns and villages get the water from wells.
Starting in Duong Dong Town, head up to the north and follow the direction signs to the stream. Once you reach the park, you will have to park your car outside, walk in and cross the cable-stayed bridge or the wooden one. Walk for another 15 minutes and you should reach the stream when you see large flat rocks lying in the water and hear the beautiful sound of water falling down. The scene is very different from the peaceful Suoi Tranh.
The way to Da Ban is longer and slightly more difficult to follow than that of Suoi Tranh Stream. Because of that, fewer tourists are seen there, but mainly local people and their friends. The stone boulders are very flat and are perfect for a camping or picnic site, while the stream is clean enough to jump in, play with the water, while listening to the sound of the waterfall. Most people would settle on the boulders, as it could be dangerous to go higher up to explore the waterfall. Walk and move with caution if you visit the place during the rainy days – a fall could be fatal as the stream is deep and has very strong flow.
SOUTHERN PHU QUOC
The Ham Ninh fishing village
Ham Ninh is a small village on the east shore of Phu Quoc island, facing the sea and backed by a mountain range. Most of the villagers built their homes on the two sides of the Ham River.
The simple life of the locals in their small bamboo cottages will create a nostalgic feeling to visitors. People here live mainly on hunting for pearls, catching sea cucumbers and spidercrabs.
The Ham Ninh sea is very narrow. When the tide retreats, the sand beach becomes vast. When the tide come, they covers the whole sand beach, until the water meets with the grooves trees. Standing on Ham Ninh, you will see the subtle scene of the islets belonging to the Hai Tac archipelago of Ha Tien. To the southeast, the Nghe Island stands gracefully in the sea. To the south is the Ong Doi Cape, the island’s southest point.
It would be a pity if someone misses the spider crab in Ham Ninh. The crab can be caught very easily in this place, because there are so many of them. The newly caught spider crabs are boiled, and their fresh meat is served with salt in lime juice – it will be a treat to your tastebuds!
Suoi Tranh Stream
Nine kilometers to the south of Dong Duong Town is Suoi Tranh stream, a shy darling hiding herself in the thick wood. The combination of a bunch of small brooks high up on the mountain, the main flow of Suoi Tranh goes for about 15km, passing waterfalls, large rocks, and small ponds on its way.
From the lower part of the stream, you can follow the stone-paved path up about 300m to explore the forest, find a place to set your camp, or have a stream bath. You will see the small waterfalls running down rocks in the stream bed, creating a white area on the green background of trees and grass. The scenery is picturesque, hence the name Suoi Tranh (Tranh means ‘painting’).
Bai Sao Beach
Unlike the light yellow sand on Nha Trang Beach or the dark color of Vung Tau, the sand on Bai Sao is pure white and is very fine. The Bai Sao is hugged by two mountain ranges, which makes it a more peaceful place with very fresh air. As a result, Bai Sao is the favorite destination for couples or families who come to enjoy the serenity and block themselves from the crowd and stressful life.
The Phu Quoc prison
Located in the south of the island, thirty kilometers from Duong Dong market, the Phu Quoc Prison was built by the French on an area of 20ha to detent the Vietnamese anti-French activists. In 1956, South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem renovated the area and establish the “Cay Dua Re-Education Camp”. In 1967, a prison was built to detain the communists. Nearly 40,000 thousand people were kept here, about 4,000 of whom were killed.
During the Vietnam war, the prisoners were tortured with extreme measures, including nailing on hands, feet, or head, stabbing with hot metal wires, carving their teeth, covering them in a cloth and pouring hot water onto their body, throwing them into boiling water, burning or burying them alive. During its operation time of 6 years, from June 1967 to March 1973, the Phu Quoc Prison witnessed the death of 4,000 people, and injuries of thousands of others.
Bai Khem Beach
Bai Khem lies on the south of the Phu Quoc Island in the An Thoi Commune, which is 25km from Duong Dong Town. You can get to Bai Khem from Bai Sao through a path of about 2km. Safe from the mass tourists, Bai Khem still retains its natural beauty.
Update: They have started to build resorts and hotels on the Bai Khem, so it is likely to become unavailable to the public in the future.
The Truc Lam Zen Monastery – Ho Quoc Temple
The Ho Quoc Temple (or Truc Lam Ho Quoc) belongs to a religious tourism site on an area of 11ha, of which the temple itself takes 12%. It is in the Suoi Lon Village, Duong To, Phu Quoc.
The pearl farms
Phu Quoc is associated with the pristine sand beaches full of sunlight, the primary forests, and its unique cuisine and specialities. Visitors of Phu Quoc not only to enjoy their holiday and explore the cuisine, but also to admire the famous Phu Quoc pearls.
The Phu Quoc pearl is well-known for its radiance and natural beauty, and is believed to bring good fortune to the owner. The island’s pearls are very desirable, especially to ladies. The most famous pearl brand on the island is Ngoc Hien Pearl.
Bai Truong Beach
Bai Truong is a beautiful beach in Duong To, Phu Quoc. The beach is so named (“Truong” means long) because it stretches for 20km on the seaside from Dinh Cau to Khoe Tau Ru, divided into small parts by stone boulders, fishing villages, and the wood.
The sea water on this beach is very clean and has amazing colors, it changes from blue to pink to purple depending on the depth of the seabed and the color of the weeds.. On the shore are palm and coconut trees singing as the wind approaches them from far.
Bai Truong is a beautiful place with amazing people. Tourists come here for the fresh air, a swim in the vast sea, and a walk on the sand to watch the magnificent sunrise or sunset.
As part of our Phu Quoc travel guide, we offer this recommended three-day schedule. This schedule is designed so that you can visit all of the important places on the island in the shortest time possible.
The first day
If you take the 06:05 flight from Hochiminh City, you would arrive on the island shortly after 8. Check in your hotel and rent a bike to start your amazing journey!
In the morning, you can visit Suoi Tranh Stream, followed by Ham Ninh fishing village, where you can have some spider crab for lunch.
In the afternoon, get to An Thoi from Duong Dong, and visit the Ho Quoc Temple, the Phu Quoc Prison, and Bai Sao Beach. Bai Sao should be visit last so that you can later on have dinner at the Long Beach Resto.
Tip: There are two ways to get to the south of the island, one through An Thoi and the other through Bai Truong. You should take one forth and the other back so you can also enjoy the scenery of Bai Truong.
In the evening, go to Dinh Cau Night Market to enjoy the local food. Pick any seafood and it will be prepared and served immediately. Just don’t forget to stop by the Dinh Cau Cape before that.
The second day
Explore the northern part of the island. Visit Cua Can, Nguyen Trung Truc Temple, Ganh Dau Cape, Bai Dai Beach. All of these places are on the same side of the northern road route, so you can choose where to visit and spend more time according to your own schedule. The Ganh Dau is about 40km from Duong Dong through a poorly built road, thus it’s better to keep in mind to return to the town before sunset.
The third day
Visit the pepper farm, the fish sauce factory, and the pearl farms.
Must-have items while you’re in Phu Quoc:
- Swimsuits and towels so you can swim whenever you want
- Sunscreen and sunglasses (the sunshine always feels much stronger on the beach)
- Long-sleeved shirts and face masks (some construction is going on, which produce quite an amount of dust)
- A light jacket for the early evening