Vietnam’s Island Paradise: The Best Things to Do in Phu QuocBy James Taylor
Phu Quoc Island, nestled in the Gulf of Thailand just off the coast of Vietnam, remains a delightful paradise. Conveniently reached by a 40-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, this jungle-covered isle is home to pristine beaches, quiet villages offering tantalizing cuisine, warm and welcoming locals, and a rich but tragic history.
Another draw for travelers is Phu Quoc’s visa-free policy: As long as you’re staying for fewer than 30 days, you don’t need a visa.
There’s plenty to keep you busy on a trip to verdant Vietnam; here are the absolute best things to do in Phu Quoc.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Enjoy Pristine Beaches
Phu Quoc and the surrounding smaller islands have more than 90 miles of stunning coastline with plenty of jaw-dropping beaches to spare. On the main island, Khem Beach stands out as an exquisite gem. It’s home to the sublime JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa and is the perfect place to collapse under a palm tree and gaze out at the calm azure waters.
Elsewhere, Sao Beach, with its fine white sands, is also regarded as one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches. And perhaps the most famous is Long Beach, which stretches for more than 12 miles along the island’s western edge, where you’ll find the Sheraton Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. With plenty of water sports to enjoy, fine food and colorful sunsets, Long Beach has rightly earned its spot as one of the best beaches on the island.
Turn Up Treasures at the Duong Dong Night Market
Across Vietnam, countless vibrant night markets come alive as the sun sets. A tradition that dates back centuries, night markets were initially places where farmers could sell their produce after a day’s toil. Today, the night markets of Vietnam are bustling and dynamic places to experience the local culture, practice your bartering, sample the local cuisine and generally have a great time.
Phu Quoc’s night market is in the middle of the main town, Duong Dong, and offers a treasure-trove of delights. Vendors hawk everything from souvenirs to jewelry to clothing. Street food stalls sizzle, and tables and chairs filled with people trying unique dishes spill into the walkway.
Restaurants in Phu Quoc’s Night Market might be more expensive than those in other places around town, but the spirited energy of the market makes it that much more fun — and memorable.
Snorkel on Uninhabited Islands
Phu Quoc also happens to be a thriving center of colorful marine life, harboring expansive stretches of coastal ecosystems. Within its waters, you’ll be able to admire a staggering 108 species of coral, 135 varieties of coral reef fish, and a remarkable 132 different types of mollusks. The surrounding marine environment also attracts migrating fish and marine mammals, creating a tempting place to dive in and test the waters — snorkeling gear attached, of course.
For a chance to see fish, dugong and turtles, join a snorkeling tour that departs from the An Thoi Port at the southern tip of the island. From there, it’s a short journey by boat to several other islands in the archipelago, many uninhabited and home to pristine coral reefs.
Discover Fish Sauce, Pepper and Pearls
Fish sauce is to Phu Quoc what olive oil is to Italy. It’s big business on the island, and fish sauce from Phu Quoc is widely regarded in Southeast Asia as the best you can get your hands on. And that’s a big deal, since fish sauce is one of the major ingredients used in dishes across the region.
Vietnam has even designated Phu Quoc’s fish sauce as part of Vietnam’s “intangible cultural heritage,” recognized for its authenticity by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. In Phu Quoc, a handful of producers offer tours of their facilities. Visitors can learn how fish sauce is made and hear the stories of the families who own the businesses, whose history stretches back generations.
Fish sauce is not the only thing offered up by the sea surrounding the island, though. Pearls, too, are harvested and used to create souvenirs, sculptures and more.
And when it comes to land-based agriculture, black pepper is grown on farms across the island. Pepper farms offer more places to stop and discover a bit of the local culture — and the tantalizing aroma of one of Phu Quoc’s major exports.
Join a Nighttime Squid Fishing Tour
Being that Phu Quoc is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, it stands to reason that seafood plays a big role in the local cuisine. From street food stalls to restaurants, there are myriad types of seafood to try, including ever-popular squid.
Squid fishing in Phu Quoc is big business, taking place usually in the evening when the squid are most active. Tours are open for visitors to tag along with the fishers and learn how to use bamboo fishing rods and lures. With the sun setting over the ocean and the gentle lapping of the waves against the boat, it’s a truly immersive, enriching experience.
Visit Vinpearl Safari Park
Phu Quoc is also the home of the Vinpearl Safari Park. This is the largest wildlife conservation park in the country and home to 150 different species of animals. The park is also dedicated to preserving the indigenous flora and fauna of Phu Quoc, as well as more than 1,200 species of plants from around the world.
Spread over 940 acres on the northwest coast of the island in Bai Dai, the park is also Vietnam’s first semiwild zoo. This means the animals have free rein and the visitors are just that — visitors in the animals’ habitats, confined to a bus driven through the park.
Take the World’s Longest Cable Car to a Water Park
From the port at the southern tip of Phu Quoc you can jump aboard a nearly 5-mile-long cable car ride that whisks you over the ocean toward Hon Thom Island. On the way you’ll be treated to 360-degree views over the archipelago’s fishing boats, coral reefs visible in the waters and golden sand beaches backed by small fishing villages.
It takes 15 minutes to reach Hon Thom Island, which is also known as Pineapple Island. There, you can decide to return immediately to the main island, but it’s much more tempting to make a day of it and visit the Aquatopia Water Park that takes up much of the island. With thrilling waterslides, roller coasters, lazy rivers and beach areas, it’s a great choice for a family day out.
Delve into the Phu Quoc National Park
Phu Quoc Island has seen a tourism boom, with new developments sprouting up to accommodate the influx of visitors. However, amid these modern attractions, the true allure of the island lies in its pristine natural beauty. In the northeast of Phu Quoc, you’ll find Phu Quoc National Park, a captivating expanse spanning 74,000 acres of lush forests.
This magnificent park boasts plenty of natural treasures, including stunning white sand beaches, enchanting jungle trails and picturesque waterfalls. Nature enthusiasts will be delighted to encounter rare creatures like the slow loris, playful monkeys and a diverse range of wildlife thriving within the park’s boundaries.
Whether you prefer exploring by jeep or motorbike, or embarking on guided hiking adventures, Phu Quoc National Park offers opportunities for all to immerse themselves in its natural wonders.
Visit Sunset Town
On the southern end of Phu Quoc, you’ll find Sunset Town. There, you can wander the streets of what feels exactly like a small Italian village on the shores of the Mediterranean, complete with fountains and mosaics, sculptures and pastel-hued homes with wrought-iron balconies overlooking it all.
On the beach, the Kissing Bridge is the star of the show. It was developed by the same company behind the Golden Hands Bridge in Da Nang. Curving out over the water and not quite meeting in the middle, the Kissing Bridge has been designed so that couples can meet in the middle and kiss each other from the two sides, not quite together. Add in a sunset right behind, and this is surely a magical destination.