The Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, which beckons with its white beaches and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, is only about two hours by plane from Hanoi. After a three-week trip through the jungle, it offered us the cold rivers of the caves, a somewhat cool Hanoi sun, and rest and relaxation. We had planned a vacation on the beach.
Many Ways to Phu Quoc
The island is well developed, with an international airport. A number of airlines fly there daily from different Vietnamese cities as well as from abroad. We flew with Vietjet from Hanoi. Those who want to can also take the ferry to the island from the mainland – definitely a good option for anyone traveling with a motorcycle. Motorcycles are a favorite form of transportation both here and on the mainland, and they can be rented all over the island. We also once again rented one for the week, which made it hard for us to just lie on the hotel beach.
Exploring Phu Quoc
Since our hotel was more or less in the middle of the island, we settled on three areas that would allow us to explore the whole island. Every side of the island is reachable in about an hour, but you should leave yourself enough time since the streets are often only made up of sand and holes, which doesn’t make the riding easy. And be sure to bring sunglasses and a scarf to ward off the dust. It’s also a good idea to return to your hotel before nightfall, since the street lighting is poor to non-existent and the combination of dust and poor vision due to the need for sunglasses makes for slow going. For this kind of day trip it’s also important to take along both enough water and sunscreen. While you’re on the road, the sun will rapidly attack any unprotected parts of your body, and you can’t always find a shop to buy something to quench your thirst.
The Northwestern Part of Phu Quoc
Our first tour took us to the northwestern part of Phu Quoc. There are no real streets there beyond the main roads. If you want to see one of the nearly deserted beaches, you have to ride farther across the sand, which is not exactly easy. We made a brief stop for lunch at the Bamboo Cottages before moving on to Phu Quoc’s new tourist center.
Vinpearl Land – The Island’s Tourist Town
There was once a Vietnamese man (or at least a local) who probably wondered: “How can I get more tourists to come to this island?” In the end, he built and is still building a city with an amusement park and safari complex that, even as you ride down the avenue, already reminds you of Jurassic Park. According to the website, the safari park alone is about 380 hectares in size, which meant cutting down a whole lot of forest to make way for both the safari park and a road for the car traffic, which is a good 20-minute drive through the park. On the other side of the safari park is the amusement park, which aside from a movie theater, waterslides, and much more, includes a shopping center, a fairytale castle, apartments, hotels, and restaurants. In case that’s not enough, there’s also a golf course beside it. One positive thing that it has is a modern new hospital that’s around the corner and that was also built by the same Vietnamese man.
But they’re not the only ones who are building a lot. At the moment, new resorts are springing up all over the rest of the island. During our exploratory tour, we spent part of the time riding down new roads that took us past one resort construction site after another for a good 40 minutes.
Famous Swing Pictures in the South
We wanted to spend our second day in the south, where there’s a very famous beach. Sao Beach is probably listed in every travel guide as being a beautiful beach, but once we got there, we were sadly disappointed. Because of all the debris we found there, this was the only beach on the island where we didn’t go swimming. In spite of the incredibly touristy restaurants with their terrible service, the beach and the water were littered with plastic bags, flip-flops, utensils, bottles, and other items. Unfortunately, no one cares for the environment here. But because of the debris, nobody really comes here to swim. Ironically, anyone who looks on Instagram will find plenty of pictures where the beach is beautiful and clean, the water is a great color, and visitors are sitting comfortably in a swing.
We moved on relatively quickly from that experience, this time heading west to the upper part of Long Beach, where there are several solitary coves with no trace of people. After relaxing in the water, we headed back to the hotel and later to our favorite restaurant, Mango Bay Resort, where a nice, cool beer awaited us.
Starfish in the North
We actually explored the entire island for one single reason: on Instagram, I came across some pictures of places where you could see starfish on the beach and in the water around Phu Quoc. Since I wanted to have the chance to finally see one alive and its natural habitat, we set off to find this beach. But the island locals are not fond of discussing where you can find these things. At Long Beach, tourists can pay for the opportunity to touch, photograph, and buy them, but I didn’t want to do that, so we kept looking and found our lucky chance in the north. Along with totally clean and empty beaches, there are hundreds of starfish and sea urchins lying in the shallow waters or on the beach. Those with the courage and patience to ride their motorcycles through hilly, sandy, and difficult terrain will be rewarded with a view and a great experience. At this point, though, I’m not revealing where this beach is located, since it should remain empty and clean 🙂
For us, this was a successful conclusion to our exploratory tour across Phu Quoc and our search for starfish.
The Beach in the Middle
For those moments when we weren’t exploring the island, we spent a lot of time on the beach near Elwood Resort. The hotel has a little golf cart that brings you to the beach and then picks you up again. There are three or four hotels on site, all of which have bars and ensure that the beach always remains clean. From here, too, it’s a just a few minutes by foot to Mango Bay Resort, where there are naturally also several other super street food options for a great supper.