Phu Quoc is unrecognizable today as the poor fishing village it once was. It is a top tourist destination – the only locality in Vietnam offering 30-day visa-free entry.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The ideal time to visit Phu Quoc is from November to April, when one is reasonably assured of calm waters and warm sunshine, ideal for a range of outdoor activities, including the most relaxing of all – sunbathing.
This period coincides well with the winter holiday escape that many Western tourists plan, so Phu Quoc has become a favored destination for them.
While some also take advantage of the rainy season on the island between May and October, others are a bit worried about getting stuck on the island if the weather deteriorates.
WHAT TO EXPLORE
Phu Quoc is divided into four main areas: the center (Duong Dong Town) and the southern, northern and eastern areas. Either way, it will take at least two days to tame the island, so an extended stay is ideal.
At the southern tip of Phu Quoc, Sao Beach stretches over seven kilometers and its turquoise waters and white sand never fail to charm visitors.
Those who want to burn off some energy on the beach can jet ski or kayak, windsurf, fish, snorkel and dive.
Renting a jetski costs between 350,000 and 400,000 VND (14-16 USD) for 15 minutes, and windsurfing costs 800,000 VND.
Kayak rental services cost between 100,000 and 150,000 VND per person.
Diving excursions are highly recommended here as the coral reefs and diverse marine ecosystem are easily accessible and not very expensive, between 300,000 VND and 1.5 million VND per person.
The longest beach in Phu Quoc, Bai Truong (Long Beach) has a coastline of about 20 km from Dinh Cau Port.
Parallel to the beach runs the famous Tran Hung Dao street.
Many restaurants, motels, resorts, shops, restaurants and other entertainment services are concentrated here.
Perched on an oddly shaped rock formation overlooking the ocean, 200 meters west of Duong Dong town, Dinh Cau is the most visited temple in Phu Quoc. Fishermen pray there regularly for a good trip.
According to historical records, the temple was built in 1937 and underwent restoration in 1997. Winding stone steps lead up to the sacred site.
A highlight near Dinh Cau is the Phu Quoc Night Market which opens from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends, making it a hub of nightlife on the island. As in other markets of this type, local culinary specialties, including seafood, spices, condiments and handicrafts, are sold by dozens of vendors.
The Phu Quoc Prison and Ho Quoc Pagoda are important cultural and historical attractions of the island.
Covering an area of 400 hectares, the prison was once the largest facility in the south and held more than 32,000 political prisoners during the war.
First built by the French colonialists, the prison was rebuilt in 1967 and expanded to 12 main areas with 500 barracks.
With the advent of peace after decades of war, the prison now serves as a historical museum. It has a two-story gallery with two separate spaces.
A screening room gives a brief introduction to the history of Phu Quoc Island and an exhibition room features 43 artifacts, over 100 documentary illustrations and camp archives.
With an English description and narration, the prison is a welcoming historical monument for foreigners.
Meanwhile, Ho Quoc Pagoda is the largest spiritual complex on the island with its design inspired by the architectural styles of the Ly-Tran dynasties.
In the courtyard of the temple, a monolithic marble Buddha statue blesses devotees.
At the southern tip of Phu Quoc, Thom Islet has seen a tourism boom in recent years, dominated by luxury resorts and water sports services.
The Eco Beach Diving & Water Sport Zone offers a 950,000 VND package trip that includes a 20-minute snorkeling experience.
You can also scuba dive with an air bottle (650,000 VND per person) and have an underwater video recording done (600,000 VND).
To get to Hon Thom Islet, visitors must take a three-wire cable car with a total length of 7,899 m.
From the cabin, the view of clear blue waters with boats is one to capture and remember.
Visitors can also book a VND 1 million combo package to visit four lesser-known islets off An Thoi Island: Hon May Rut Trong, May Rut Ngoai, Gam Ghi and Mong Tay (Fingernail).
For this tour, visitors will be picked up from hotels in Duong Dong town. After reaching the port of An Thoi, the islets are accessible by canoe. Diving and snorkeling services are available. Those prone to seasickness may consider missing this excursion.
A squid fishing trip usually starts in the afternoon and ends around 10:00 p.m. Visitors can rent their own boat if they are in a large group or join other small groups. Tickets cost around 330,000 VND ($14.20) per person, with the price varying by company and season. Freshly caught seafood will be cooked and served directly on the boat.
WHERE TO STAY
Most accommodations are located in Duong Dong Town.
Famous five-star hotels include Saigon Phu Quoc Resort and Eden Resort where stays can be enjoyed at over VND 1.5 million per night.
Three to four star hotels charge between 1 and 1.5 million VND while two star establishments like Gold Hotel, Lavita Hotel, Sea Star Resort and Kim Hoa charge between 600,000 and 800,000 VND per night.
Unlike Nha Trang where the beaches are easily accessible from the main road, visitors have to travel some distance to get to Phu Quoc beaches from the city. Those looking for a quiet, relaxed, and tranquil stay should look to resorts, villas, or bungalows near the beach.
The northern tip of the island is home to several famous resorts including Vinpearl Phu Quoc, Nam Nghi Coral Peninsula Phu Quoc and Fusion Resort Phu Quoc.
In the east of the island, the Rocks Beach Boutique Phu Quoc opened its doors at the beginning of this year in Ham Ninh commune.
WHAT TO EAT
Raw herring salad can be found in nearly every restaurant on the island, from upscale establishments to budget establishments.
The salad, made with fresh vegetables, herbs, coconut and peanuts, is wrapped in rice paper and served with fish sauce as a dipping sauce. The natural sweetness and sweetness of fresh fish, the tartness of vinegar and lime juice, the minty flavor of herbs, the crunch of vegetables, especially coconut, and a hint of saltiness from fish sauce make it a tasty, very popular dish.
The dish can be tried at 262 Nguyen Trung Truc Street in Duong Dong City or 217 April 30 Street.
Grilled half-naked pen shell is another popular local dish, grilled with scallions and other herbs with a garnish of oil or with salt and chili flakes.
Unlike being boiled or fried, grilled pen shell retains its much-loved chewiness.
The dish can be found at stalls in the Phu Quoc Night Market.
Bunken (ken noodles) in Phu Quoc is distinct from the versions found in Chau Doc and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta.
Fish cooked in a savory curry seasoned with lemongrass and coconut milk is garnished with little bread and a layer of fermented papaya salad. Not as common as other foods, little bread can only be found in two places on the island: Dinh Cau Night Market and Ut Luom, a street stall on April 30th Street.
Another specialty of Phu Quoc are sea urchins – grilled, served in sour salad, roasted or boiled.
HOW TO GET HERE
Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways and Vietjet Air offer direct flights from Hanoi and HCMC to Phu Quoc with return fares ranging from VND 2-3 million ($80.68-$121).
Phu Quoc International Airport is about 15 minutes from the city center. Some luxury hotels and resorts offer free shuttle services to and from the airport for guests.
In addition to direct flights, visitors can reach Phu Quoc by motorbike, coach, speedboat or ferry.
Speedboat services from the mainland Ha Tien and Rach Gia to Phu Quoc take about two hours.
The most popular means of transport on Phu Quoc Island are taxis and motorbikes.
Car rental services offer packages to explore the southern and northern tips of the island for 500,000 to 700,000 VND per person.
Motorcycle rental costs between 100,000 and 150,000 VND per day. Tenants usually collect the customer’s ID (passport, etc.).
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