5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island

171

Located off Vietnam’s southwestern coast in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc has long been a popular beach getaway, thanks to its pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. 

In 2022 and 2023, Vietnam’s largest island was named the world’s leading nature island destination at the World Travel Awards.

Half of the 574km2 island is a UNESCO-protected National Park which features rugged mountains, lush forests, hiking trails, wildlife and waterfalls, offering adventure seekers and nature lovers plenty of opportunities for fun outdoor activities and discoveries.

As the island is surrounded by fringing reefs that are home to a variety of tropical fish and coral life, its surrounding waters is a haven for snorkellers and scuba divers.

Landlubbers are not left out as the island has cultural and historical landmarks and activities that offer immersive and memorable experiences.

We spotlight five experiences you shouldn’t miss on Phu Quoc island.

1. Explore the island’s beautiful beaches

Boasting a coastline that stretches for 150km, Phu Quoc is a beach lover’s dream destination! The island has 21 beaches, offering something for everyone.

Besides swimming and sunbathing, Sao (Star) Beach, known for its powdery white sand and clear waters, is great for snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing and jet skiing.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - Explore the island’s beautiful beaches

Sao Beach
Photo: Vinpearl

As its name suggests, Starfish (Rach Vem) Beach is famous for the orange starfish that can be found on its sandbank especially in the months of September and October.

True to its name, Long Beach has a coastline stretching some 20km long. The buzzy beach strip has luxury hotels, high-end restaurants, cafes, beach clubs, bars, souvenir shops and tourist services.

Located on the west coast, Ong Lang Beach boasts some of the best sunset views on the island.

On the northwestern coast is the more secluded white sand Ganh Dau Beach, surrounded by pristine forest and mountains, and also famous for its revolutionary past.

2. Spot white lions at Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc & conquer thrilling games at VinWonders Phu Quoc

Get ready for loads of close-up encounters with wildlife at Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc, the country’s first semi-wildlife park. Home to over 3,000 animals from 150 different species including rare and endangered ones, the wildlife conservation park has an Open Zoo and a Safari Park.

At the Open Zoo, you can catch animal shows and spot square-lipped rhinoceros, lemurs, white lions, scimitar oryx and Bongo antelope, among other animals.

Kids aged 5 to 12 will love Kid Zoo where they can play the role of junior zookeepers and participate in activities such as feeding giraffes and cleaning the animals’ houses.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - Spot white lions at Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc & conquer thrilling games at VinWonders Phu Quoc
Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc
Photo: VinWonders

Over at the Safari Park, you’ll get to experience the feeling of being enclosed in a bus while animals like Bengal tigers, lions, white rhinoceros and leopards roam freely around you!

For thrilling rides, high-tech games, shows and performances, head to VinWonders Phu Quoc, one of Vietnam’s largest theme parks. The entertainment paradise has six zones, each with 12 distinct themes inspired by global civilisations, fairy tales and anecdotes.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - Spot white lions at Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc & conquer thrilling games at VinWonders Phu Quoc
VinWonders Phu Quoc
Photo: VinWonders

Be transported to the picturesque streets of mediaeval Europe, filled with bustling shops and iconic brick houses with pointed roofs, at European Streetmosphere. At Fairy World, Alice in Wonderland fans can follow Alice to meet favourite characters like Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit.

At The Sea Shell, one of the world’s five largest aquariums, engage in interactive experiences like fish feeding, dining with sharks and taking photos with mermaids.

At Mysterious Viking Village, experience the life of a Viking warrior by engaging in activities like navigating challenging waters, crossing a precarious bridge, ziplining across a raging river and embracing the heroic melodies and powerful dances of victory songs.    

Typhoon World offers over 35 exciting water games including Oahu Waves where you plunge into tsunami-like splashes; Maui Twin Tornadoes where you face the fury of fierce tornadoes as you slide down Vietnam’s most thrilling spiral slide; and Serpent’s Venom where you discover your limits on the country’s first 175 metre-long slide.

3. Discover the secrets of fish sauce production & pepper cultivation

Love fish sauce or pepper? Find out how the two prized items are produced on the island by visiting fish sauce factories and pepper farms.

A major contributor to the island’s economy, fish sauce has been produced on Phu Quoc for over 200 years. About 12 million litres of fish sauce are produced every year by some 85 factories on the island. In 2021, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism officially recognised the island’s fish sauce production as a national intangible cultural heritage.

Fish sauce is made by combining anchovies, salt, water and sometimes locally grown pepper, then fermented through various stages between six months to a year. The highest quality fish sauce is nuoc mam nhi, the first liquid to come out from the barrel containing the fermented anchovies, or extra-virgin fish sauce.

Fish sauce factories that you can visit include Hung Thanh and Khai Hoan in Duong Dong town and Phung Hung in An Thoi town along the river.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - Discover the secrets of fish sauce production & pepper cultivation
Phung Hung is one of Phu Quoc’s top-rated fish sauce brands
Photo: Vinpearl

Thanks to Phu Quoc’s mineral-rich soil, its peppers have hard seeds, firm skins and remarkable aroma and taste. Two main types of pepper trees are cultivated on the island: Ha Tien and Phu Quoc (large leaf pepper and small leaf pepper).

Head to pepper farms like Phu Quoc Countryside (aka Phu Quoc Pepper Farm), Duc Ninh, Suoi Da and Khu Tuong to learn about the planting, harvesting and drying processes of peppers, and bring home fresh pepper products.

4. See scenes of past torture at the island’s most prominent historic site 

Get a glimpse of the island’s heroic history at Phu Quoc Prison, aka Phu Quoc Coconut Tree Prison or Phu Quoc Prison Camp.

Built in 1946 by the French colonialists to imprison Vietnamese dissidents during the Indochina War, the former prison is a poignant reminder of the island’s turbulent past during the colonial occupation and Vietnam War.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - See scenes of past torture at the island’s most prominent historic site
Phu Quoc Prison
Photo: Vinpearl

Covering an area of 400 hectares, it was said to be the largest prison in Southeast Asia at the time. At its peak, it housed up to 40,000 prisoners. In 1967, it was reconstructed and expanded to 12 main areas with 500 barracks.

Watch a short screening of the island’s history and check out artefacts, documentary illustrations and camp records at the Exhibition House of Relics.

Brace yourself for re-enactments of gruesome scenes of inhumane punishments including the notorious Catso Tiger Cages at the B2 Section.

A popular photo spot at the Prisoner Graveyard is the fist monument which represents the indomitable spirit and sacrifices of the prisoners.

5. Feast on street food & soak up buzzy vibes at night markets

A trip to Phu Quoc would not be complete without exploring its night markets and indulging in its popular street food.

Head straight for the famous Phu Quoc Night Market on Bach Dang Street in the heart of Duong Dong Town. The night market has over 100 stalls, a food zone and a shopping section.

5 Best Experiences in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s Largest Island - Feast on street food & soak up buzzy vibes at night markets
Phu Quoc Night Market
Photo: @benson_chiu / Instagram

Located at the start of the night market, the food zone is lined with food stalls and carts selling dried goods like fish sauce, dried seafood and sim wine, a local speciality made from the fruits of  local rose myrtle trees.

Feast on live seafood like crabs, fish, prawns, clams, scallops, oysters, snails, squids and mussels, either grilled, boiled, stir fried or deep fried, and enjoy them with local dips and sauces. Be sure to leave space for popular street eats like Vietnamese pizza, grilled skewed meats, grilled corn, Chou Chou peanuts, ice cream rolls, coconut ice cream, palm sugar honeycomb cake and stretched sugar candy.

Towards the end of the night market is the shopping area where you can shop for T-shirts, shoes, bags, handicrafts, cosmetics, paintings, jewellery and Phu Quoc’s famous pearls.