48 Hours on Phú Quốc, Vietnam’s Island Paradise
Welcome to my very first blog post featuring a destination in Vietnam! I’ve been based in Ho Chi Minh City for almost a month now, and after doing a little bit of research, I decided to take my very first trip outside the city. I looked at a number of options, but eventually decided to check out the island of Phú Quốc, which is right off the southern coast of the Vietnamese “mainland” and Cambodia.
Phú Quốc isn’t as small as it might look on the map. Since I spent one weekend here, I only really had time to explore the town of An Thới on the south side of the island. However, I’m definitely going to be going back to see more of the island because it’s only about a half hour away from Ho Chi Minh City by plane!
Because I wanted to relax a bit while on the island, I basically only did two things per day: Bãi Sao (Sao Beach) and the world’s longest cable car on Saturday, and Bãi Khem (Khem Beach) and the fishing village at An Thới on Sunday. I’ll also let you know what kinds of dining options there are here as well as where I stayed. Keep reading to learn more about this stunning island!
This was the first place I visited on Saturday morning, and there’s not much to say other than that it’s a really lovely beach. When you first enter from the road, you’ll pass by a number of restaurants and gift shops, but my guess is that everything is really overpriced (I was parched and got a bottle of water, which cost three times as much as at convenience stores).
The left “half” of the beach is crowded. There are tons of chairs and umbrellas, but I think you have to pay or at least order something to eat if you want to lounge there. If you head to the right, you’ll pass by a section of big boulders, and the stretch of beach past has way fewer people and no restaurants or bars.
A ton of resources online claim that Bãi Sao is the best beach on Phú Quốc, but I ended up liking Khem Beach more (read about it below). However, as you can see in the pictures here, Sao Beach is still a beautiful place that shouldn’t be missed!
The World's Longest Cable Car Ride
By the afternoon, I was ready to cool down a bit, so I took a taxi to the Phú Quốc cable car terminal. This was probably my favorite part of my trip because the views are absolutely stunning. The cable car is the longest of its kind in the world, and it crosses over a number of small islands before finally reaching Hòn Thơm (Pineapple Island), where a water park is currently being constructed.
As you can see, the views are simply stunning and absolutely worth the 150,000 VND (approx. 7 USD) for a round-trip ticket. I think the ride lasted about 20 minutes each way, and the cable car offers a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and open ocean.
You have to get off at Pineapple Island before getting back on the cable car, but there’s not much to see there except a bunch of construction equipment, so you’ll probably just get right back on.
Since I had no interest in doing that, I asked if there was a public access road, and an employee of the hotel pointed me to take this dirt road (the dashed green line). I wasn’t sure if that was right, but I walked all the way down and finally made it to the beach. And I’m glad I did; take a look at how beautiful it is!
I arrived right around noon, so I decided to eat lunch at one of the two little restaurants there. I got a plate of seafood fried rice, which ended up being delicious!
Interestingly, when I walked back to the main road, I noticed that a guard was standing there. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be there, but he didn’t say anything as I walked out. There were also some other tourists and visitors on the beach, so I think it was open to the public via the dirt road. Visitors should definitely try to make it to Khem Beach, but if they’re turned away at this entrance, the only other option may be to pay a (presumably exorbitant) fee at the Marriott.
Fishing Village at An Thới
The last thing I did on Sunday afternoon was visit the little fishing village located here on the southern tip of Phú Quốc island. There wasn’t anything really unusual about the town (other than a pretty pervasive fishy smell), but there were almost no tourists here, so it’s a bit more authentic than some other parts of the island.
In addition to the docks, there are a ton of vendors on the street selling everything from dried fish to…fresh fish. There are also sit-down restaurants, cafes, and the occasional hotel here.
Meal Options: Hot Pot, Phở, and Other Vietnamese Classics
Food on Phú Quốc seemed pretty similar to meal options in Ho Chi Minh City, but with a bit more seafood. For lunch on Saturday, I tried phở at a small restaurant near my guesthouse and it ended up being really good and cheap (40,000 VND, or less than 2 USD).
For dinner on Saturday, I ended up going to Lóc Cóc, a restaurant specializing in seafood hotpot. I also tried a snail soup and a mango salad and really loved every dish here.
For dinner on Sunday, I ended up at another restaurant that served hot pot, except this time with beef. Even though it was hot on the island, hot meals were oddly satisfying (especially with a cold beer or two!). Depending on how many people share the meal, hot pot dinners appeared to be in the ballpark of about 8 USD per person including drinks and appetizers.
Where I Stayed
For this short trip, I spent two nights at Wanderlust Bungalows. I really liked their beautiful, sunny courtyard as well as the fact that they have a restaurant and cafe in the lobby (which serves some great Vietnamese iced coffee, by the way). They also only cost about 18 USD a night for a private room! My only complaint is that they weren’t within walking distance of any of the attractions listed above, but since everything was spread out enough to need a taxi to go from one area to another, this didn’t end up making too much of a difference.
An Island I’ll Be Coming Back To
A lot of my recent blog posts have ended up being really long, so I’m glad to finally publish one that’s short and sweet! As I mentioned before, two days was only enough time to explore one small portion of the island of Phú Quốc. With that said, I absolutely intend to visit again and explore even more! To read a bit more on the island and see the guide I used to decide which areas to focus on, click here.