Holidays to Phu Quoc let you break up beach-hopping with forest hikes, diving and fiery food.
Floating in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s top spot for beaches. This prime slice of island real estate is knocking it out of the park with its textbook-tropical beaches and untouched forest. It’s bang on for diving, too.
For such a tiny island, this place has beaches by the bucketload. And they’re some of the best in the country. White sands nudge up to an all-green backdrop of palms and grass. And, while restaurants and bars are usually part of the scene, there are still plenty of people-free plots to go around.
It might be big on beaches, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Phu Quoc National Park clocks up more than 31,000 hectares of forests, mountains and waterfalls. Here, you can ditch sunbathing in favour of exploring. Hit the trail by foot or scooter – just remember to bring your camera for a chance to snap monkeys, slow lorises and flying squirrels.
Things to See and Do in Vietnam - Phu Quoc
The shorelines here come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got everything from long, all-action stretches to completely secluded curves, where fishermen are more common than sunbathers. Head north for the most peaceful patches.
Size-wise, aptly-named Long Beach is a cut above the rest. It racks up a total of 12 sandy miles, all backed by palms and a grassy verge. When you’re not soaking up the rays, there are hotels, bars and restaurants to hit up.
Cua Can Beach is a two-for-one kind of deal – it’s got the ocean to one side and a river on the other. The sandy arc in between is blissfully quiet during the week. You can spy traditional stilt houses from your sunbathing spot, as well as rickety wooden bridges leading to authentic fishing villages.
Souvenirs and seafood – those are the main reasons people come to Duong Dong’s night market. It’s the place to snap up handicrafts and cheap jewellery. Plus, you can get all sorts of seafood – we’re talking octopus, squid, giant clams and lobster. Swing by after 5pm for a dinner with a difference.
You’ll find the lion’s share of shops in the big, beachfront hotels, so souvenirs and beach essentials are easy to come by. If it’s bits like snake wine, black pepper or pottery you’re after, try the shops along Long Beach. You might see cheap pearls for sale, too – just don’t expect the real thing.
You won’t find big-name boutiques here, but there is the glossy Long Beach Center. It’s a real mixed bag – you can go from picking up some pearls to singing your favourite karaoke number. There’s also a fancy seafood joint and a 24-hour spa for round-the-clock massages.
Duong Dong is your best bet for a relaxed evening out. The bustling town is chock-full of sports bars, cosy pubs and rooftop haunts for cocktails. There’s even a Czech-style microbrewery, where punters are drawn in by the just-brewed beer and salmon sashimi.
Party-hard bars are ten-a-penny along Long Beach. Things start off nice and civilised with cocktails by the ocean. Post-sunset, the atmosphere’s ramped up with beach bonfires, live DJ sets and full moon parties.
Banh trang nuong
This street food has been dubbed Vietnamese pizza. It’s made from roasted rice paper, traditionally topped with egg, shrimp paste and pork. You can hunt down western alternatives, too, using cheese and hot dogs as toppings.
Fish sauce is a huge deal in Phu Quoc – they’ve even gone to the bother of trademarking it. The top-quality sauce here uses the anchovies caught in the surrounding waters. It makes a tasty addition to curries, soups and salads.
You’ll find this all over Vietnam – it’s practically the national dish. That said, its contents can change, depending on where you are. In Phu Quoc, it’s made with vermicelli noodles, pork, prawns and, of course, some of the island’s prized fish sauce.
For cheap eats on the go, banh mi is a good shout. Typically, baguettes are filled with pork, salad, chilli and sauces, but you can make your own with stuff like scrambled eggs, onion or cheese. It’s cheap as chips, too, at around 40p.
An ice-cold nuoc mia, or sugarcane juice, is one of the island’s favourite, non-alcoholic tipples. Street vendors usually mix the juice with calamansi – a mandarin-like citrus fruit. It’s a healthy option, since it’s loaded with vitamins.
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Ganh Dau Beach
Ganh Dau Beach barely registers on Vietnam’s tourism scale, and that’s what attracts in-the-know globetrotters to this sand-skirted corner of Phu Quoc island. Unlike some former fishing villages, this place still makes a living from plundering the Indian Ocean’s seafood larder. And when you’re not munching on just-caught snacks, there’s some history to get your chops around – Vietnamese fisherman-turned-revolutionary Nguyen Trung Truc has a temple dedicated to him here.
Duong Dong’s top of the pile when comes to tourism in Phu Quoc. It’s the island’s capital, and balances its love affair with fishing with a handful of swanky beach resorts. Bluey-green boats bump together along the riverbanks, and a web of marketplaces twists and turns all the way to the seafront. Rainbow-like temples pop up along the way, and the beaches themselves are up there with the best on the island.
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