I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of Phu Quoc until about three weeks into Vietnam. I was in Dalat and met a few girls planning on heading down to the island after Saigon, and since we were all on the same route down Vietnam over into Cambodia I figured I might as well join them. Plus, it was impossible not to go after searching “Phu Quoc” in Google images…
We left our hostel in Saigon at 7:30pm Sunday night, and after two minivans, one sleeper bus, another minivan, and a ferry, we arrived on the island at 10:30am Monday morning. Excited for a few days relaxing in paradise, we stepped off the ferry to find a very ordinary-looking beach littered with trash.
“I hear there’s a good side and a bad side of the island,” Maud said. “This must be the bad one…” We hopped in a taxi to our hostel, where we chilled by the pool until check-in at 2pm. The hostel was average, basically an extension of someone’s house with a tiny pool that seemed uncleaned for weeks. “How’s the beach?” we asked a guy who’d just walked back to the pool. “Terrible,” he replied. “Don’t even bother going to this beach. Head south to Sao Beach.” But by the time we checked in, it was too late in the day to make it to Sao, so we ended up just going to Long Beach right outside the hostel.
It wasn’t as bad as people made it sound, but the water wasn’t as blue as Google images, and there were piles of trash outside of the resort areas. We decided to go for a swim in the ocean, but that didn’t last long, as every few seconds a piece of trash would brush against our legs. Thinking that we’d made a mistake coming to the island, we all considered heading over to Cambodia early.
The next morning we figured we’d give Phu Quoc another shot by checking out the “good beach” that everyone raved about. We were going to rent motorbikes, but apparently there had been a tragic motorbike accident earlier in the week resulting in a tourist’s death, so all the rental companies were being very strict and only renting out to people with international drivers licenses. We ended up getting cabs instead for only about $15 (not bad for a half an hour drive).
Arriving down at Sao Beach, we discovered that it wasn’t as secluded as everyone had described it to be. Our taxi was one of about ten others pulling up alongside motorbikes and big tour busses. But the tourists getting out were all Vietnamese instead of foreign, as Phu Quoc is a popular luxury vacation spot for them. We stepped onto the beach to find white sand and aqua water, just as all the pictures had shown, but the beach (and sea) was extremely crowded.
However, just a five-minute walk down to the left, we came upon a private beach with only two other people there. With no resorts or anything built up, this untouched part of the island had a natural beauty that is hard to rival.
Only one family had a house nearby, and though their drinks were vastly overpriced (for Vietnam), we were happy to pay to use their hammocks overlooking the ocean. We spent the day floating in the clear blue water, swaying in hammocks, sipping on coconuts, and building sand castles. Life was perfect.
So Phu Quoc Island… is it worth the time and money? I think it’s absolutely worth a visit if you have some spare time, especially if you’re into diving, but I wouldn’t necessarily include it in a Vietnam itinerary of less than four weeks. Sao Beach is stunning, and is literally what comes to mind when I imagine “paradise,” but it probably won’t be like that for long. The entire island seems to be under construction, and there are long-term plans to make it into an international tourist destination (similar to Bali), so unfortunately the untouched beauty may not last forever… If you’re looking for a true island experience that’s beautiful but not too built up yet, I’d recommend Koh Rong instead (post coming soon)!
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌