Phu Quoc Island is a dream destination that enchants with its stunning white-sand beaches, beautiful shores, crystal waters, historical sites that stood the test of time, charming fishing villages, impressive Buddhist shrines, and a UNESCO-listed national park, among many others. In fact, Phu Quoc is the place that can please all tastes and requirements, whether you are into exploring, camping, bird watching, hiking, and living life as an endless adventure, VIP experiences that include staying at high-end resorts and eating at award-winning dining venues, or more laid-back, relaxed, and tranquil experiences away from the craziness of the modern, and often hurried, lifestyle. If you are planning a trip to this secret paradise island nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, here are some attractions that definitely worth a place in your wish list.
- Bai Sao Beach
Despite its small size, Phu Quoc has an incredibly large number of fantastic beaches; some catering to the needs of those looking for seclusion and some time away from the crowds and others in the pulsing heart of the island, offering modern conveniences and sharing a party feel. The biggest beach is the palm tree-lined Long Beach (aka Bai Truong) on the south-eastern side (stretching over 20km), which is where you will find the majority of beachfront restaurants, swanky resorts, bars, and cafes with mind-blowing sunset views.
However, the east coast has a gem called Bai Sao, which is possibly the most heavenly beach human eyes have ever seen, providing cinematic landscapes. With sugary white sand, crystalline turquoise waters, and an Instagram-perfect tropical scenery, it certainly deserves a visit. And, while there, why not take a snorkelling trip to the neighbouring beaches and islands of Phu Quoc? Rumours say that Fingernail Island on the south of Phu Quoc in the An Thoi Archipelago is a wonderful speck in the sea that looks as if it has jumped out of a fairy tale.
Other shores worth checking out are Vung Bau, Bai Dai, Bai Thom, Ong Lang, and Ganh Dau beaches. See which one steals your heart!
- Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai temple stands out from the other Phu Quoc temples not only due to its bright technicolour exterior but also for the fact that it is home to a wide array of religious symbols and relics, ranging from Islamic crescent moons and Christian crosses to Buddhist statues and swastikas, alongside several patron saints and figures of prominent people from around the world, including French poet Victor Hugo and Chinese president Sun Yat-Sen. If you want to attend a worshipping ceremony, you can visit the shrine between 6am and 12pm from Monday to Friday. The temple is open every day while a dress code should be followed when visiting any shrine in Vietnam (no bare shoulders or wearing shorts when inside the temples or other religious sites).
About Cao Daism: It is a monotheistic religion founded in the early 1900s that combines Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. The central idea is that people may choose to follow whichever religion they feel best pleases their soul, but everybody shares one true God. The religion is practiced by more than two million people, which is why you will see many Cao Daism shrines located across Phu Quoc, with the most popular one being found along Nguyen Trai Street – a fine sample of the architectural style used to build the glorious Cao Dai temple in Ho Chi Minh city.
- Cau Temple
Also referred to as Dinh Cau Rock, Cau Temple was built in 1937 to honour the goddess of the sea (Thien Hau), who was believed to protect the fishermen when they were out in the open sea. Even today, you will notice locals praying to her before setting out for the catch of the day (or the week). The temple itself is also interesting, as it is the outcome of a strange-looking natural formation in the island, featuring a Buddhist shrine and a quaint lighthouse in attractive, bright colours. If you are willing to climb the winding stone steps to the rooftop terrace, you will be rewarded with heart-pleasing panoramas and seascapes. The temple is open every day from 7am to 6pm (no entrance fee).
Note: Although generally quiet, the temple becomes a bit crowded during the Dinh Cau Festival that takes place on October 15 and ends the next day, and the New Year (Tet festivities), when locals burn joss sticks at the goddess’ altar and pray.
- Duong Dong Market
If you are close to Cau Temple, then you can treat your palate with delicious seafood at the Dinh Cau Night Market (open from 5pm to 10pm), which is less than a kilometre away. The Vo Thi Sau roadas is closed for traffic in the evenings, allowing visitors and locals alike to stroll around it, dine, shop, see fishermen drop off freshly-caught shellfish, barracuda, mackerel, and many more fish species at Duong Dong Port, and taste the fish sauce Phu Quoc Island is so famous for.
However, the largest and busiest outdoor market with a strong local flavour and a plethora of fresh produce is the Duong Dong Market. Being a spectacle in itself, the market is divided into two sections, one hosting the food stalls serving Vietnamese dishes and fruit juices and another with the souvenirs and clothes shops. You may grab some seafood, add veggies or rice and savour a mouth-watering dining experience while watching people go by. Some must-try dishes include raw herring salad and the sticky rice cake the Vietnamese call Banh Tet!
- Ham Ninh Fishing Village
A picturesque, quiet village tucked on the east coast of Phu Quoc (about a 30-minute drive from Duong Dong Town) with friendly locals selling pearls that they themselves have collected from the island’s waters and offering traditional Vietnamese tastes, including sea cucumber soup, boiled flower crab, and tram mushroom at affordable prices.
Not far from this quaint little village is the Bai Vong Port, one of the largest ports for cargo ships coming from mainland Vietnam on the island, which offers idyllic sunset views and breath-taking vistas of the Ham Ninh Mountain range and the fetching coastline with the shallow waters and expansive beaches.
Note: If you wish to spend some time by the beach, it is recommended to walk a bit further from the Ham Ninh coastline because, at times, the shores there get polluted with rubbish from the Ham Ninh village.
- Phu Quoc National Park
Occupying more than 50% of the island’s northern region (over 314,000sq.m), the Phu Quoc National Park is a primary pole of attraction for tourists seeking an adventure that excites with its supercharged splendour. Although most of the park is not open to the public (protected for research purposes), the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (declared in 2010) offers a plethora of outdoor activities, such as hiking, trekking, camping, and bird-watching, unique fauna and flora (i.e., long-tailed macaques), and evergreen forests, if you just head to the Khu Rung Nguyen Sinh Forest Reserve or Mount Heaven; both located in the National Park.
Note: Getting there could be challenging due to the bumpy roads leading to Ganh Dau Village (close to the National Park). For that reason, it is suggested to avoid renting a motorcycle unless you are comfortable riding dirt roads. The best option to reach the reserve is by booking a day tour.
- Sung Hung Pagoda
Scattered across the island, pagodas offer valuable insights into Buddhism. Surrounded by tall trees and sitting amidst a serene location along Tran Hung Dao Street (Duong Dong Town), Sung Hung Pagoda is one of the most arresting ones in Phu Quoc. Built in the early 10th century, it comprises of two shrines. Formerly known as Hung Nhan and Sung Nghia Pagodas, Sung Hung got its new name in the early 1900s and is a place of worship for devotees that want to pray for the departed ones.
The moment you step foot in it, you are instantly overwhelmed by a welcoming, peaceful sensation. As you explore the place in awe, you go passed Bodhi trees, numerous sculptures, a sanctum house, a lotus pond featuring a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, and red boards with inscribed writing, before you enter the majestic main prayer hall that houses several Buddha statues, alongside intricate paintings of Buddhist legends and mythical creatures. The pagoda is open to the public (no entrance fees) daily and maintains most of its original architecture despite the major restorations it has undergone over the years.
Note: Another equally noteworthy pagoda is that of Su Muon (aka Chua Su Moun and Long Tu Pagoda), one of the oldest Buddhist shrines on Phu Quoc sitting on the eastern side of Duong Dong Town (4km). It was built in 1932 by a local monk and houses golden statues of Buddha, colourful relics, and painted rock formations. The surrounding scenery is home to a 300-year-old Kenia tree and lush greenery. Do reach the balcony area to take in the spellbinding views of Hamn Ninh Mountain and Phu Quoc shores.
- Phu Quoc Prison Museum (aka Coconut Tree Prison)
Vietnam suffered many blows throughout its history. During the Vietnam War, thousands of people were imprisoned and tormented, and this prison now turned into a war museum and national historical site is the reminder of those dark times distinguished by disgusting acts of violence. Built by French colonists in 1949, Coconut Tree Prison is believed to have been the captivity and torture place of more than 400,000 Vietnamese soldiers, as well as everybody going against the American and French forces. It was not until the end of the Indochina War when the prisoners were released, facing serious mental and physical problems due to the ruthless and brutal tortures they had endured while they were incarcerated, including electrocution, food deprivation, and detention in the tiger cages (seclusion in total darkness and subjected to the elements for a long period of time).
Visiting the museum will give you the chance to view photographs of former prisoners, authentic torture instruments, life-sized wax mannequins illustrating graphic torture scenes, and the row of tiger cages, among others. This iconic landmark is a 45-minute drive from Duong Dong (near An Thoi village in the south of the island) and is open to the public (entrance fee required – VND 3,000) from 7:30 am to 11am and from 1:30pm to 5:00 pm. In the roundabouts, you can also find a retail outlet selling books about the Vietnamese War, local snacks, and more.
- Suoi Thanh Waterfall
Phu Quoc has two large waterfalls, and Suoi Thanh is one of them (4 metres tall). Whether you visit it during the off-season or between May and September (rainy season), when it has the most water, it will undoubtedly please your soul. Besides the natural beauty all around the waterfall (surrounded by natural caves and dense greenery), there are also several natural pools whose waters the locals find refreshing and a few smaller waterfalls that also provide nice opportunities for short getaways (even a great spot for recreational activities, such as picnics and camping trips). Now, if you feel adventurous, you could consider hiking further up from the waterfall and head to Hang Doi (200 metres high). Simply follow the 15-kilometre stream and pamper yourself with not only superb panoramas once you get to the top but also a unique set of stalactites housed there!
Getting to the Suoi Thanh waterfall is a short drive from Duong Dong to Ham Ninh (around 7km) while the entrance fee is set at VND 5,000/person. Once you pay the fee, a well wooden path leads you through the jungle straight to the waterfall within 10-15 minutes.
Note: The attraction is quite busy at the weekends so if you want a less crowded experience, do visit it on a weekday. If you go by car, you can leave it in the designated parking area in front of the waterfall, which comes with a VND 10,000 parking fee.
- Vinpearl Land Amusement Park
A water park and primary entertainment hub for those visiting or living in Phu Quoc island offering great family fun. Vinpearl features a dazzling aquarium, arcade centres (both indoor and outdoor) with over 120 arcades, a shopping street, amazing displays of water acrobatics, music, and light, and, of course, a massive section that combines amusement rides, kids’ zones, a manmade beach, a family area, mermaid shows, and traditional dances, to name just a few.
Those with a daring heart can try the Spiral, Giant Boomerang, or Tornado water slides and free-fall from more than 120 metres! And, if you get hungry, you will find foods from the likes of Asian and European cuisine, including traditional Vietnamese dishes, as well as fast food kiosks scattered all over the place. The park is open from 9am to 9:30pm and tickets cost VND 500,000 for adults and VND 400,000 for seniors over 60 years of age and children below 1.4 metres (and above 1metre) in height.
More Local Attractions Worth Seeing:
- Ganh Dau Cape – Situated at the north-western tip of the island, the rocky formation gives way to stupendous vistas of the ocean and Cambodia if you climb a bit higher.
- Nguyen Trung Truc – A beautiful temple located in the Ganh Dau village that was constructed to honour the heroes that served their nation and country.
- Hot Mot Island – Occupying a small portion of the northwest of Phu Quoc, it is an excellent place for snorkelling (the sea there is full of corals and fish). A small bridge connects it with the island and is found near Bai Thom village.
- Pepper farms – Equally famous with the Phu Quoc fish sauce is the pepper here, which is absolutely top quality. The majority of black, white and exotic pepper farms on the island are along the road leading to the north. How about having a guided tour of one to familiarise yourself with the entire process in detail?
- Coi Nguon Museum – You will come across the 4-storey museum near Long Beach. It features a lovely rooftop offering sweeping views of Duong Dong and the coastline, as well as artefacts, paintings, and other works of art from as far as the 1400s that show the history of the island. It also has a resort, gift shop, and restaurant.
- Cable Car – It is not an attraction per se but does enable you to have a bird’s eye view of the regions between An Thoi Town and Hom Thom Island.
Phu Quoc is a hidden underpopulated bliss island ready to reveal its allure and appeal to those in search of unique travel experiences infused with a local flair. With everything from evergreen forests, crisp clean ocean air, floating restaurants, idyllic beaches, romantic sunsets, and a UNESCO-listed national park to funky bars, luxurious resorts, expansive natural parks, traditional villages, Buddhist pagodas, and a vibrant dining scene becoming readily available as soon as you arrive, you will be definitely spoilt for choice.