Phu Quoc Island

 
Fringed with white-sand beaches and with large tracts still cloaked in dense, tropical jungle, Phu Quoc rapidly morphed from a sleepy island backwater to a must-visit beach escape for Western expats and sun-seeking tourists. Beyond the resorts lining Long Beach and development beginning on the east coast, there's still ample room for exploration and escaping. Dive the reefs, kayak in the bays, eat up the back-road miles on a motorbike, or just lounge on the beach, indulge in a massage and dine on fresh seafood.
The tear-shaped island lies in the Gulf of Thailand, 45km west of Ha Tien and 15km south of the coast of Cambodia. It's no lightweight: at 48km long (with an area of 574 sq km), Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island – about the same size as Singapore. It's also politically contentious: Phu Quoc is claimed by Cambodia who call it Koh Tral and this explains why the Vietnamese have built a substantial military base covering much of the northern end of the island. It was only granted to Vietnam by the French in 1949, as part of the formal annexation of the Mekong Delta.
Phu Quoc is not really part of the Mekong Delta and doesn’t share the delta’s extraordinary ability to produce rice. The most valuable crop is black pepper, but the islanders here have traditionally earned their living from the sea. Phu Quoc is also famed across Vietnam for its production of high-quality fish sauce (nuoc mam).
Despite development (a new international airport, a golf course, new roads and a planned 'casino eco-tourism resort project'), much of this island is still protected since becoming a national park in 2001. Phu Quoc National Park covers close to 70% of the island, an area of 31,422 hectares.
Phu Quoc’s rainy season darkens skies from late May to October, when the sea gets rough and a lot of diving stops. The peak season for tourism is midwinter (December and January), when the sky is blue and the sea is calm, but it can get pretty damn hot around April and May.
 
Phu Quoc's pure white beaches, clear waters and laid-back vibes are now a common fixture on many visitor itineraries. The influx of travelers flocking to southern Vietnam’s picturesque island destination has sparked a string of new resorts and attractions. Almost overnight, it seems, new hotels, restaurants and tour groups have sprouted across the island to welcome the droves of travelers who arrive by boat or by air on a daily basis.
Hit the Beach
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.
 
Into the Wild
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.
 
Local Life
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.
 
Itineraries
48 hours in Phu Quoc
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.
 
72 hours in Phu Quoc
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
 
When To Go
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.
 
How To Get There
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.
 
Source: vietnamtourism