Snorkeling on Phu Quoc. By Aaron Joel Santos
Vietnam's largest island is home to a beautiful coastline as well as a far more peaceful atmosphere than Nha Trang, its beach party capital. Even the main drag, known as Long Beach, is relaxed and affords travellers easy public access to the water, even for those without beachfront accommodation. Toward the island's southern coast, Bai Sao is equally famous for its scenery and comes with the added adventure of navigating Phu Quoc's dirt roads to reach the eastern coast. Further north, several beaches represent the island's more secluded shores, from Ong Lang beach to the long, empty stretch of Bai Dai.
Beyond the beach, Phu Quoc's snorkelling and diving are popular aquatic sports and most tours take visitors to the An Thoi Islands just south.
Back on shore, natural sights like the inland Suoi Tranh and a handful of hiking trails on the island – over 50% of Phu Quoc's land area is protected national park – add to its charm. Hire a motorbike and find your way around the island, stopping off to explore Phu Quoc's independent hiking trails and freshwater springs.
To get a better sense of local life on Phu Quoc, pay a visit to Dinh Cau, the modest temple at one end of Long Beach, which serves as protection for all those who travel by sea. Curious foodies can also swing by the handful of fish sauce factories in Duong Dong, the island's main town, to learn how Vietnam's most important condiment is made. On the opposite side of the island, Phu Quoc's Coconut Tree Prison reveals its more troubled history, while Vinpearl's many attractions up north signal a new age in the island's development.
Begin your stay by getting your bearings in Duong Dong, the island's main town. Be sure to get a glimpse inside one of the island's fish sauce factories before passing by Dinh Cau, the temple which punctuates one end of Phu Quoc's main beach. For more on-land activities, pay a visit to the Coi Nguon Museum, a privately run outfit celebrating the history of Phu Quoc, or lay down a towel on Long Beach for some R&R. In the evening, make a point of visiting the local night market for fresh local seafood.
For your second day, hire a motorbike and head south to Bai Sao, an equally popular stretch of sand whose location manages to whittle down the number of beachgoers in the area. Have lunch on the beach before heading to the nearby Coconut Tree Prison for a Phu Quoc history lesson. Round out the day by taking a wander through An Thoi, the southernmost fishing village on the island, before heading back to the Long Beach area, where most accommodations are.
For an extra beach day, hire a motorbike again and travel north of Duong Dong to the more peaceful Ong Lang beach. You can grab lunch in the sleepy Cua Can village before heading on to Bai Dai, arguably one of Phu Quoc's most beautiful and secluded stretches of coast, and Ganh Dau. Once you've had your fair share of beach time, turn into the forest for more outdoor adventure. Even Phu Quoc's northern roads run through lush forest and branch off onto a handful of do-it-yourself hiking trails, allowing you to explore on your own
Phu Quoc is best visited between November and April when rainy season is not yet in effect. Peak season for foreign travelers typically occurs in December and January.
Daily flights to Phu Quoc International Airport depart from Ho Chi Minh City, while high-speed boats travel between the island and the Mekong Delta towns of Rach Gia and Ha Tien.
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