1. Dai Beach (Bãi Dài): This long, long stretch of fine sand beach with turquoise water lapping at the exposed roots of casuarina trees, has for many years been one of my favourite beaches in Vietnam. In the northwest of Phu Quoc Island, Dai Beach has yet to see any development save for a handful of seafood shacks dotted on the grass under the shade of large tropical trees
1. Dai Beach (Bãi Dài):
This long, long stretch of fine sand beach with turquoise water lapping at the exposed roots of casuarina trees, has for many years been one of my favourite beaches in Vietnam. In the northwest of Phu Quoc Island, Dai Beach has yet to see any development save for a handful of seafood shacks dotted on the grass under the shade of large tropical trees. A red dirt road runs along its entire length, with sandy tracks leading to countless secluded swimming spots. There’s currently no accommodation here, but at my last visit (2014) a large section of the beach had been taken over by cranes, trucks and earth movers, clearing the land for a gigantic new resort complex. Change is coming to Dai Beach.
2. Vung Bau Beach (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. If you get hungry there are a couple of large but makeshift seafood restaurants along the beach. Or if a day at Vung Bau Beach isn’t enough there are a few mid-range resorts here, including Bamboo Cottages ($35-60)
3. Ong Lang Beach (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 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. 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 between Coco Palm and Mango Bay Resorts.
4. Ganh Dau Beach (Bãi Gành Dầu):
On the remote northwestern-most tip of the island, Ganh Dau Beach is a gorgeous corner of flour-white sand fringed by palm trees and home to a discreet, elegant resort, called Peppercorn Beach. Reached via a bumpy dirt track from a dusty fishing village, Ganh Dau Beach is sheltered and shaded, the water calm and shallow with a cluster of wooden fishing boats just offshore, and the Cambodian islands lying only a few kilometres in the distance. Peppercorn Beach Resort ($100) is set in an orchard of coconut palms right of the beach with tasteful bungalows and a great restaurant. Even if you don’t stay here, it makes for an excellent lunch stop while exploring the island.
5. Sao Beach & Khem Beach (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 is usually denied by military personnel who control the area. 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 can get reasonably 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 here. Accessed by a red-dirt road, my favourite place for food and drink on Sao Beach is the Không Sao (‘No Problem’) Beach Bar – their grilled fish and a gin and tonic for lunch really hits the spot. For accommodation I head away from the overpriced resorts on the beach and stay at Ái Si Guesthouse (077 629 0510), a calm, simple place surrounded by fruit trees, just five minutes’ walk from the sands of Sao Beach ($25).
6. Long Beach (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 long beach is deserted; only a few fishing shacks made of palm leaves dot the shore, served by a dusty, red-dirt road. There are countless places to stop for a secluded swim. However, 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 slowly moving south, eating up the empty stretches of Long Beach, but for now there’s plenty of beach to go around. Great mid-range beach accommodation is at Thanh Kieu Resort ($50-80), and there’s excellent seafood just beyond the famous night market in Duong Dong Town (more info here).
7. Rach Tram Beach & Rach Vem Beach (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 through dense foliage, there’s a rustic fishing village, totally 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 vessels, but 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
8. Thom Beach (Bãi Thơm):
Thom Beach has a stark beauty about it. 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. Thom Beach hasn’t seen much development yet but for a few food shacks and a mid-range resort with simple, clean rooms and a seafood restaurant, called Coco Bay ($30). 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 Đá Chồng Port, just a couple kilometres to the south. There are plans for a sprawling resort here, and, now that the highway to Duong Dong Town is finished, perhaps it won’t be long before slumbering Thom Beach is awoken.
9. Cua Can Beach (Bãi Cửa Cạn):
As the Cửa Cạn River empties into the Gulf of Thailand it creates a long sweeping sand bar, lined with casuarina trees. This is Cua Can Beach, a lovely undeveloped arc of sand; 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 here 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. A night at Chez Carole is $70-100.
10. Vong Beach (Bãi Vòng):
Vong Beach is a gaping bay on the southeast side of the island. It’s sandy and lined with 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 in the coming years. There are a few seafood restaurants around the pier but no accommodation. For boat times and fares to Phu Quoc Island see this.