INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
Lying in the balmy waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island and home to some of the country’s best beaches. A halo of sand encompasses this green and forested isle, 45km off Vietnam’s southwestern-most coast. Currently undergoing major development, now is the time to visit Phu Quoc’s beaches, before the construction of big resorts, casinos and other facilities for mass tourism rob them of their tranquility and honest natural beauty (in many cases, it’s already too late).
GUIDE: PHU QUOC’S BEACHES
My Guide to 10 of the Beaches on Vietnam’s Largest Island
In this guide, I’ve written a description of each beach, including suggestions of places to stay on or near them. Every beach is illustrated with a photograph and they are all plotted on my map. Thanks to new roads, most of these beaches are now easily accessible, but a couple still lie hidden at the end of dirt tracks: a hired motorbike is by far the best way to visit them (take a look at my guide to exploring Phu Quoc by Motorbike). The best time to visit is from December to April, when the weather is sunny and dry, the colours bright and tropical, and the sea so calm and unruffled it’s as if the entire Gulf of Thailand were your own private infinity pool. Note that the following beaches are not in order of personal preference. (For more posts about Phu Quoc see Related Posts.)
1. DAI BEACH (Bãi Dài)
2. VUNG BAU BEACH (Bãi Vũng Bầu)
3. ONG LANG BEACH (Bãi Ông Lang)
4. GANH DAU BEACH (Bãi Gành Dầu)
5. SAO & KHEM BEACH (Bãi Sao & Khem)
6. LONG BEACH (Bãi Trường)
7. RACH TRAM & RACH VEM BEACH (Bãi Rạch Tràm & Rạch Vẹm)
8. THOM BEACH (Bãi Thơm)
9. CUA CAN BEACH (Bãi Cửa Cạn)
10. VONG BEACH (Bãi Vòng)
Phu Quoc Island’s Beaches:
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1: DAI BEACH
Location: northwest of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Dài
This long, long stretch of fine sand beach with turquoise water lapping at the exposed roots of casuarina trees, was for many years one of my favourite beaches in Vietnam. In the northwest of Phu Quoc Island, Dai Beach was, until quite recently, completely undeveloped, save for a handful of seafood shacks dotted on the grass under the shade of large tropical trees. However, that has changed dramatically with the opening of the giant resort-casino-golf course-amusement park-zoo complex, called Vinpearl. Other construction is rapidly taking over the entire length of Dai Beach, but there is still a small, undeveloped slither near the southern end where you can enjoy the beach. But, I’m afraid, it won’t last long: the writing is on the wall.
2: VUNG BAU BEACH
Location: northwest of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Vũng Bầu
A wide crescent bay backed by dense tropical foliage, Vung Bau Beach is just south of Dai Beach. Calm blue water, white sand, and thick tall grass growing close to the shore make this a peaceful and private beach; so much so that many foreign visitors who make the trip here don’t feel the need to don swimwear. Bring a simple picnic and a good book, and find yourself a hideout among the grass to while away the day. This is the last stand of ‘old’ Phu Quoc on the western side of the island. But it’s already starting to be developed: a large resort is being constructed in the middle of the bay, before the river crossing, which has divided the bay in two. There are a few, low-impact, mid-range resorts at the northern end of Vung Bau, all in glorious positions looking over the bay. Try Bamboo Cottages and Wild Beach Resort for a couple of very tranquil nights by the beach. Sadly, litter can sometimes be a problem, largely due to Vietnamese picnickers who neglect to take away their trash. The dirt track from Cua Can Village to Vung Bau Beach is slowly being upgraded to a paved road, so expect some construction along this route and, after it’s finished, I’m guessing the big resort developers will move in. Visit Vung Bau now, while you still can.
3: ONG LANG BEACH
Location: centre-west of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Ông Lang
Several gentle bays of glowing sand, punctuated by black rocks and lined with leaning palm trees, make up Ong Lang Beach. On the central-west coast, just north of Phu Quoc Island’s main town of Duong Dong, this pretty beach is peppered with excellent-value mid to high-end resorts. Follow the signposts off the main road to any one of the resorts, order a cocktail and have a swim in the warm sea, before retiring to a sun lounger under a coconut palm. Mango Bay Resort is particularly good – both for its sunset cocktails and for its rustic-chic accommodation. Thuy House is fantastic for budget travellers; and for anyone looking for some serious luxury and contemporary design, head to the brand new Shells Resort. If you’re not planning on staying here (or on splashing out on a cocktail), follow the signs to the ‘public beach’, where there’s access to a beautiful bit of sand next to Coco Palm Resort (the latter is also a good mid-range place to stay).
4: GANH DAU BEACH
Location: north of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Gành Dầu
On the remote northwestern tip of the island, Ganh Dau Beach is a gorgeous corner of flour-white sand fringed by palm trees. Reached via a newly paved lane from a dusty fishing village, Ganh Dau Beach is sheltered and shaded; the water is calm and shallow with a cluster of wooden fishing boats just offshore, and the Cambodian islands lying only a few kilometres in the distance. The discreet Peppercorn Beach Resort is set in an orchard of coconut palms on powdery sand. Simple, tasteful and elegant bungalows are set right on the beach, and there’s a great restaurant too. Even if you don’t stay here, it makes for an excellent lunch stop while exploring the island. Next door, the Gold Coast Resort has cheaper rooms. Continue past these resorts for some excellent portions of undeveloped beach.
Ganh Dau Beach, at the northwestern tip of the island, is quiet, remote and rarely visited
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5: SAO & KHEM BEACH
Location: southeast of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Sao & Bãi Khem
Sao and Khem beaches are both curving stretches of fine white sand backed by tropical trees, in the southeast of the island. Sao is one of the most popular beaches on the island, while Khem is rarely visited because access used to be restricted by military personnel who controlled the area, but now it’s because the huge new Marriott Emerald Bay Resort occupies the beach here. (It is still possible to access Khem Beach via a dirt road alongside the old prison, just north of the entrance to the Marriott complex.) Sao Beach, with its arcing palm trees, snow-white sand and distinctive blue-sapphire coloured water, has been increasingly developed over the last few years. There are restaurants, bars, resorts, and water-sports on offer here. It gets pretty crowded on sunny days during peak months (December to March), but this still doesn’t detract from the exotic beauty of this beach, particularly the vibrant colours of the sand, water, sky and foliage. Accessed by a red-dirt road, my favourite place for food and drink on Sao Beach is Paradiso Beach Club – their grilled fish and a gin and tonic for lunch really hits the spot. For accommodation, My Lan Guest House has decent beachside bungalows. Although Sao is still a great beach, it has lost some of its charm in recent years due to overuse and slapdash development and, once again, trash.
White sand and blue water make Sao Beach one of the most popular on the island
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6: LONG BEACH
Location: centre-west of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Trường
Aptly named, Long Beach stretches for almost 20km along the southwestern coast of Phu Quoc Island. Rows of coconut palms stand along its entire length. The beach’s yellow sand is backed by a grassy verge, and during the dry season months (November to April) the water is almost completely motionless; a liquid mirror to the sky. Most of the southern end of Long Beach is still deserted; only a few fishing shacks made of palm leaves dot the shore, served by a dusty, red-dirt road. Until recently, it was possible to ride all the way down here along the dirt road, stopping for a quiet swim whenever you felt like it. But land clearance for the construction of large resorts has made the ride far too dusty to bear, as trucks ply back and forth from the building sites. The central section of Long Beach is currently a gigantic construction site for enormous integrated resorts. The northern end of Long Beach is where the vast majority of Phu Quoc Island’s tourist industry is: dozens of hotels, resorts, guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants jostle for prime beachfront space along the paved road leading toward Duong Dong Town. Development is quickly moving southwards, and resorts are moving more and more upmarket with each year. My favourite for budget (well, relatively budget) rooms is La Mer Resort; mid-range beach accommodation is excellent at Thanh Kieu Resort, and for high-end travellers, Salinda Resort is plush and luxurious.
Long Beach is the most developed on Phu Quoc Island, but there’re still some empty patches to explore
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7: RACH TRAM & RACH VEM BEACHES
Location: north of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Rạch Tràm & Bãi Rạch Vẹm
These two, seldom-visited beaches lie in the island’s remote north. Thick tropical jungle covers the hills here, as they drop down to meet the pristine waters of the Gulf of Thailand. On each of these shimmering beaches, both accessed via meandering dirt roads (in the process of being paved) through dense foliage, there are rustic fishing villages, almost completely undisturbed by tourism. Quiet and calm, the beaches are lovely and the backdrop of forested hills is spectacular. However, these are ‘working beaches’, so there’s a fair amount of fishing-related debris around; some of which is picturesque, such as the rotting hulls of abandoned wooden boats; and some of which is unsightly, such as polystyrene boxes, discarded fishing nets and general trash. For the time being, there’s no accommodation at either beach, but I expect that will change soon, once the access roads have been paved.
Rach Tram & Rach Vem are picturesque ‘working beaches’ in the remote north of Phu Quoc Island
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8: THOM BEACH
Location: northeast of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Thơm
Thom Beach has a stark beauty. Silent, still, hot, sparsely populated, and filled with the scent of cashew fruit and the sound of midday cicadas, there’s something beguiling about this remote northern tip of Phu Quoc Island. Most of the beaches are hidden from view – reached via dirt tracks – and the water’s very shallow and tidal here. There’s not much to do yet, but the area is ripe for exploration. So far, Thom Beach hasn’t seen much development, but for a few food shacks and a couple of simple resorts and seafood restaurants. Once or twice a day, the red dust on the dirt road is disturbed by vehicles coming off the car ferry from the mainland, at Da Chong Port, just a couple kilometres to the south. But, now that the highway to Duong Dong Town is finished and they are starting to pave the road along the east of the island, from Thom Beach to Ham Ninh Village, perhaps it won’t be long before slumbering Thom Beach is awoken.
Thom Beach is sleepy, quiet and undeveloped; a perfect contrast to busy Long Beach
9: CUA CAN BEACH
Location: centre-west of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Cửa Cạn
As one of Phu Quoc Island’s short, snaking rivers empties into the Gulf of Thailand, it creates a long sweeping sand bar, lined with casuarina trees. This is Cua Can Beach, a lovely arc of sand with the choppy sea on one side and the placid river on the other. It’s possible to weave your way through the small fishing village and onto the sands of Cua Can Beach for a swim. But I prefer to experience this beach from a distance: at the bar of Chez Carole Resort, with a cocktail in my hand, looking out over the broad sweep of Cua Can Beach to the sloping, forested ridges in the distance.
Cua Can Beach is a long, arcing sandbar where an island river empties into the sea
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10: VONG BEACH
Location: southeast of the island [MAP] | Vietnamese name: Bãi Vòng
Vong Beach is a gaping bay on the southeast side of the island. It’s sandy and lined with casuarina trees, but the water here is often thick with jellyfish. For many visitors, Vong Beach will be their first impression of the island, because this is where the majority of passenger boats from the mainland dock. The large, long beach is impressive enough, especially with the forested hills of Phu Quoc National Park rising behind it. But Vong Beach is more of a port than a place to relax: at present there are at least two more long concrete piers under construction here, stretching hundreds of metres out to sea, in anticipation of the rise in tourist numbers and to accommodate boats from the mainland laden with building materials for all the new resorts that will be constructed. There are a few seafood restaurants around the pier. For boat times and fares to Phu Quoc Island see this.
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